Phil Hartup on videogames


Just your archetypal evil horde, out for a rampage. Image: Creative Assembly
In Total War: Attila, rampaging across Europe as the Huns is the most fun you can have
By Phil Hartup - 25 February 13:27

What sets this game apart is its perspective on the past: it’s not often you get to play as the Big Bad Nomad himself.

Triumph, Football Manager style.
The clash of data and the battle of statistics: why football management games are fun
By Phil Hartup - 19 February 15:35

In real life, the magic of football lies in its unpredictability. But in Football Manager, players hate elements that undermine their years of careful planning.

Ed Miliband on a campaign stop in Salford. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Why I keep holding my nose and voting Labour
By Phil Hartup - 11 February 12:48

Alarming as it is to see the traditional major parties all trying their hardest to look the same, it comes down to who you think is least likely to make things worse.

H1Z1 from Sony Online Entertainment.
Should videogames let you pay to win?
By Phil Hartup - 04 February 17:24

Many multiplayer titles offer in-game boosts - for a price. But is it fair when someone beats you by getting out their credit card to bypass learning skills and grinding through upgrades?

Promotional image for 80 Days. Image: inkle ltd
Inkle's 80 Days is a brilliant game that isn't really a game at all
By Phil Hartup - 29 January 11:57

Is it a text adventure? Is it a puzzle game? Is it some sort of visual novel? This acclaimed gaming take on Jules Verne's classic tale is an innovative approach to storytelling.

The studio audience cheers before the start of the League of Legends North American Championship Series Spring Split round robin competition, at the MBS Media Campus in Manhattan Beach, California February 22, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
It’s OK for PC gamers to be a little arrogant – they know they've backed the right platform
By Phil Hartup - 21 January 13:18

It might be a tasteless joke, but the thousands of people proud of being part of the "PC Master Race" know they're getting the best bang for their buck when it comes to gaming.

Mass Effect 3, a rare game with interpersonal relationships between characters that don't feel redundant. Image: BioWare
The reason video games feature stabbing, shooting and starting fires: it's more fun than talking
By Phil Hartup - 19 January 12:43

The reason so many mainstream games are so violent isn't because of lack of imagination - it's just that, for now, it's the most effective way to create a compelling, competitive experience for the player.

The Twitter logo and homepage. Photo: Getty Images
Troubles with Twitter: I’m glad I couldn’t tweet when I was an idiot
By Phil Hartup - 08 January 16:58

Twitter might be here to stay. Those block lists, those grudges, those bridges we burn – we could be stuck with them. And that is a sobering thought.

Few games have been as terrifying as Alien: Isolation. Image: The Creative Assembly
The Games of the Year 2014
By Phil Hartup - 17 December 12:36

There haven't been any all-time classics in 2014, but the industry as a whole has made some promising innovations.

Workers are seen at a construction site in Doha, on November 16, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Human lives are too high a price for a World Cup in Qatar
By Phil Hartup - 11 December 18:21

What can we say about construction projects where possibly hundreds have died, but we don’t know how, who they were, or even where they were all from?

Dragon Age: Origins is a good example of how a game’s story can be moulded to a player-created character.
There’s no excuse for more boring white male game heroes
By Phil Hartup - 05 December 12:44

What’s wrong with a self-assembly hero? A player-created protagonist doesn’t just solve the problem of players feeling unrepresented by the characters in their games, it crushes it.

There’s quite a bit of “elephant-related malarkey” in this game. Image: Ubisoft
When formulas work, they really work – Far Cry 4 proves it
By Phil Hartup - 01 December 12:24

This game isn’t trying to be a serious study of life, the universe or anything else – it is its self-awareness that makes it so good.

A screenshot from This War of Mine. Image: 11 Bit Studios
This War of Mine: an unflinching game of civilian life and death in a city under siege
By Phil Hartup - 24 November 15:57

Acclaimed survival game This War of Mine gives players the chance to experience the wretched conditions of civilian life in a major city under siege.

The ethics of virtual empire-building, or: why everybody wants to rule the world
By Phil Hartup - 18 November 16:54

Empire-building games, from Crusader Kings 2 to Civilisation V, feed our desire for power and control. But if you try to replay history as an ethical god-king, guess what happens? France invades.

Kerbal Space Program has been one of the early access success stories, although not without its frustrations.
Kerbal Space Program and early access: would you pay money for a video game that isn’t finished?
By Phil Hartup - 07 November 12:45

Buying a game before the development process is finished is always a gamble – too often, it either goes very right or very wrong.

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.