Phil Hartup on videogames


Batman: Arkham Asylum is one of the few games to create a richer story in order to have longer gameplay.
When it comes to video games, how long is too long?
By Phil Hartup - 28 October 15:07

Should a game provide “value for money” and pad out its story with as many tedious hours of fetching things as possible, or is there merit in a short, sharp ending?

The Borderlands series is one of only a handful to recognise the role that guns have come to play in games.
The real GamerGate scandal: why are videogames so in thrall to gun culture?
By Phil Hartup - 20 October 17:30

We should always be wary when outside agents attempt to co-opt video games to service an agenda - but I'm not talking about "social justice warriors", I'm talking about the gun lobby.

Fun and games in Shadow of Mordor. Image: Monolith Productions
Shadow of Mordor is Middle Earth's ode to slasher movies
By Phil Hartup - 09 October 16:11

You’ll never go too far wrong with a commercial product that makes the players feel like supermen, but this is a miscalculation on the part of the developers.

A promotional still from Assassin's Creed: Unity. Image: Ubisoft
Why are video games so reliant on violence? Because they’ve run out of other ideas
By Phil Hartup - 07 October 18:30

We have reached the point where, for games to progress as an art form, the mainstream examples needs to be about more than just killing things for the sake of it.

In “Destiny”, it is possible to spend hours just shooting things that come out of a cave.
At what point does a video game become a grindingly menial job?
By Phil Hartup - 26 September 15:16

When the balance of challenge and reward in a game gets out of sync, players can end up doing length, tedious tasks in exchange for a “win”. Do we even know what fun is anymore?

A screenshot from GTA V. Just a game, or a work of art worth critiquing? Image: Rockstar Games
Criticism vs reviews: sometimes, it’s OK to care only about how a game plays
By Phil Hartup - 15 September 17:32

If some gamers want their reviews to be reviews, and others want theirs to be criticism, why don't we accept that the two don't have to be the same thing? 

A game of Dungeons and Dragons. Photo: Will Merydith/Flickr
The evolution of the role-playing game: from table top to video games, and back again
By Phil Hartup - 08 September 18:23

The descendants of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons exist in the physical and virtual worlds, and even though they might play very differently, they're still influencing each other.

Titanfall, aka Call of Duty with robots. Image: Respawn Entertainment
Yes, gamers are angry, but why wouldn’t they be when the games industry hates them?
By Phil Hartup - 26 August 15:36

Gone are the days when you just bought a game and then played it. With the pre-orders, rushed productions and all the patches, the relationship between producers and customers is becoming ever more adversarial.  

The entire game is ahistorical anyway, so what’s the problem? Image: Creative Assembly
Why does historical accuracy only matter when a game puts women on the battlefield?
By Phil Hartup - 20 August 12:26

One of the many post-release fixes for Total War: Rome 2, Daughters of Mars, has involved the addition of female soldiers, and a very vocal minority of players are suddenly very concerned with ancient history.

Is all the time in front of that screen time wasted? Photo: Getty
I’ve probably played over 10,000 hours of video games. I could be a concert pianist by now
By Phil Hartup - 18 August 14:31

Escaping into video games is something that people have been doing since video games were first invented. But is it time wasted, or valuable escapism?

Concept art from Star Citizen, the new game from Chris Roberts, the creator of the Wing Commander series. Image: Cloud Imperium Games
From Elite to Star Citizen: the new race to revive the old space game genre
By Phil Hartup - 11 August 17:51

As a new wave of games reclaims outer space as a setting for action and adventure, we ask if we are looking at an empire striking back or just an attack of the clones.

This is a screenshot of a world map in Dwarf Fortress. No, it doesn't get simpler from here. Image: Tarn Adams
Way down in the hole: getting to grips with Dwarf Fortress
By Phil Hartup - 29 July 14:18

If you love Minecraft, you'll possibly also love Dwarf Fortress - a game with a famously complex-yet-simple graphical and gameplay style that sees the player try to mine out and secure a home for dwarfs beneath the ground of a procedurally-generated world.

A screenshot of the main character of Grant Theft Auto V hiding behind a police car during a shootout. Image: Rockstar
Cops and robbers: how the police became our new favourite video game villains
By Phil Hartup - 21 July 17:34

The breakdown of trust between the public and the police has been reflected by how comfortable we are killing them in games.

A still from Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas.
Why can’t women compete against men at video games? Sexism, that’s why
By Phil Hartup - 11 July 16:16

The International e-Sports Federation has reversed their men-only policy in favour of one competition for women, and one for everyone else including women. What kind of message does that send?

Still from video game Half Life. Photo: Flickr/Adam Messinger
The problem of the modern first-person shooter in video games
By Phil Hartup - 07 July 15:20

As the first-person shooter has evolved to be bloated in terms of costs and production requirements, its game play mechanics have atrophied over the years.

The England football team in Brazil. Photo: Getty
Who's to blame for England's failure at the World Cup? There's only one answer
By Phil Hartup - 24 June 18:27

... and it's not foreign players in the Premier League.

Spintires is less about how thinks look, and more about how they respond to the player.
Spintires: a deceptively simple game that turns mud, logs and trucks into an addictive narrative
By Phil Hartup - 19 June 15:42

In this game, driving between two points on the map in order to transport some logs becomes a gruelling, fascinating expedition.

Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Image Square Enix
By taking on mental health issues, the likes of Tomb Raider show that video games are maturing
By Phil Hartup - 13 June 13:02

Tackling ideas of sanity, darkness and fear is a welcome effort to move away from the violent and emotionally withdrawn stereotype of a video game hero.

A still from Spec Ops: The Line.
Why is it so appealing to play as a terrorist in video games?
By Phil Hartup - 06 June 16:10

In real life, we abhor terrorism and everything associated with it. So why do so many games manage to convince us that playing at it is fun?

A screenshot from Watch_Dogs, with the protagonist hacking a control panel to electrocute an enemy. Image: Ubisoft
Hack-’em-up Watch_Dogs isn’t as clever as it thinks it is
By Phil Hartup - 29 May 16:00

Ubisoft's much-hyped Watch_Dogs isn't about shooting people - instead, it's all about hacking the world around you to control the city and trip up enemies. Yet this ambitous premise falls flat.

A screenshot from Wolfenstein: The New Order. Image: Machine Games
Wolfenstein: The New Order squanders a decent idea for a first-person shooter
By Phil Hartup - 23 May 16:43

It shouldn’t need to be said, but you cannot seriously address a topic like genocide via the medium of a game where you unlock a skill for stabbing cyborg dogs.

A screenshot of a typical game of Prison Architect. Image: Introversion Software
Prison Architect and the subversion of the god game
By Phil Hartup - 09 May 15:37

The innovative Prison Architect tasks you with building and controlling a prison - and the definition of success requires choosing to harm those you're tasked to help.

Shop shelves of Grand Theft Auto video game. Photo: Getty
How do you make the perfect sequel to a successful game?
By Phil Hartup - 01 May 14:15

Much like that difficult second album, the sequels to video games are easy to get wrong, so what's the best formula for a successful remake or sequel?

David Moyes during a League Cup match with Sunderland. Photo: Getty
David Moyes, Manchester United, and the nightmare dream job
By Phil Hartup - 22 April 16:40

Of all the managers who have been sacked this season in the premier league, David Moyes can have perhaps the fewest complaints.

A still from World of Darkness.
Why it sucks that there are so few vampire videogames
By Phil Hartup - 17 April 14:22

With the cancellation of World of Darkness, the chances of a second good vampire game seem small.

A screenshot from Luftrausers. Image: Vlambeer
Why do gamers get squeamish when they might play as Nazis?
By Phil Hartup - 09 April 10:47

Plane shooter Lufthausers has players fighting on the side of a team that looks suspiciously like the Third Reich - a design choice that's left some players feeling uncomfortable.

Goat Simulator is (possibly) the best game that simulates being a goat ever made
By Phil Hartup - 02 April 17:54

It's buggy and ridiculous, but also hilarious - Goat Simulator is the best gimmick game of the year.

A blow hole.
I'd rather stick my head in a whale's blowhole than play Facebook's Oculus Rift
By Phil Hartup - 26 March 17:26

Facebook don't want to make great games. They want more users, more metadata and more adverts. Whatever the Oculus Rift could have been is now dead.

A player fleeing from zombies in Day Z. (Image: Screenshot)
A rape in Day Z: what drives gamers to go Lord of the Flies on each other?
By Phil Hartup - 24 March 13:22

In a game where players can act out any kind of sadistic fantasy on each other - from taking hostage to force-feeding poison to breaking kneecaps - what incentive is there for humans to express their humanity?

A screenshot from Alien: Isolation. (Image: Sega)
The Aliens horde: the inconsistent movie franchise with the consistently decent spin-off games
By Phil Hartup - 14 March 12:28

While there hasn't been a good Alien movie for almost 30 years, the games of the franchise have been steadily churned out for decades.