Phil Hartup on videogames


In Mass Effect the player takes the role of Commander Shepard, and then the player gets to interpret that role as they see fit. Photo: Youtube screengrab.
Why games shouldn’t be like movies, and why movies shouldn’t be like games
By Phil Hartup - 31 July 12:48

It is time to drag them away from each other for the benefit of both.

A still from ARK: Survival Evolved.
ARK: Survival Evolved and the evolution of survival games
By Phil Hartup - 27 July 16:17

The survival game has climbed out of the primordial soup and after some tough times skittering around between rock pools the population has exploded.

A still from the video game that was temporarily removed from shelves, Ultimate General.
Don't dismiss history in video games as trivial – it's no less scholarly than documentaries and history books
By Phil Hartup - 06 July 17:23

After Apple temporarily banned video games that depicting the Confederate Flag, it's time to ask whether video games can handle history with accuracy.

Faith from Mirror's Edge.
The pressure to get more women in videogames is finally paying off
By Phil Hartup - 29 June 14:14

For years, games have desperately needed to get over their addiction to tedious generic white guys as their protagonists for their own sake. Now, it finally seems to be happening.

The PC version of Arkham Knight is "unplayable". Image: Rocksteady Studios.
Batman: Arkham Knight and why it’s time studios stopped treating PC gamers as second class citizens
By Phil Hartup - 26 June 10:47

The PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight has been pulled from sale within its first week for being virtually unplayable. This is a big deal for PC gaming.

As the game progresses, hero Geralt grows as a protagonist.
How The Witcher 3 created and perfected hardboiled detective fantasy
By Phil Hartup - 18 June 14:59

This game is a masterpiece, and yet it still could have been so much better.

A still from the remastered Grim Fandango.
Grim Fandango and hitting the nostalgia brick wall
By Phil Hartup - 27 May 9:55

It’s still an intelligent, heart-warming puzzle game, but replaying the re-mastered version of Grim Fandango sadly wasn’t everything Phil Hartup had hoped for.

This game is a monumental feat of design. Image: Rockstar Games.
Grand Theft Auto Online: The Completely Sublime and the Slightly Ridiculous
By Phil Hartup - 18 May 16:47

The PC version of GTA V is without any doubt the most technically accomplished video game ever made. And yet, it still has flaws.

The free creativity of mods is crucial to the world of PC gaming
By Phil Hartup - 28 April 16:49

Don't commodify the people who modify PC games.

A still from Battlefield 1942, one of a series of war games.
When will they stop setting video games in World War II?
By Phil Hartup - 07 April 16:47

It might provide the most unambiguous bad guys in history, but WWII is surely is getting a bit old now.

An in-game screenshot of Elite: Dangerous. Photo: Frontier
Elite: Dangerous shows there's a lot of fun to be had in being an interstellar delivery driver
By Phil Hartup - 30 March 17:28

It took 30 years, but the gorgeous Elite: Dangerous lives up to the game that so many players imagined the original space-trading classic to be, beyond its basic graphics.

Oh no, Hitler's back! And he's a zombie! Image: Rebellion Developments
Cooperative gaming - like shooting Nazi zombies with a friend - comes to the fore in Zombie Army Trilogy
By Phil Hartup - 19 March 18:13

From Borderlands to Payday 2, by way of Left 4 Dead and Destiny, the world is full of games that just don’t quite work when played solo.

Papers, Please is not a violent game, but is far more mature than many other games that might be. Image: Lucas Pope
Violent games may be meant for "mature" audiences, but truly mature themes in gaming are rare
By Phil Hartup - 13 March 17:02

The ratings labels on the boxes may say a game is only suitable for older teenager or adults, but that's usually only about violence or gore - real maturity in games is often rarer, and harder to define.

The Order 1886 looks amazing, but is only five hours of gameplay enough?
The games that never end: how long does a video game have to be to be good?
By Phil Hartup - 06 March 13:26

As the reaction to The Order 1886 has demonstrated, we seem to have reached a point a developer can think that five hours of entertainment justifies not just the price to the consumer, but their own efforts.

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.