It’s Friday! Or is it? Time is a social construct, so I could tell you it’s Wednesday today, and how could you prove me wrong? It’s Friday because it’s the fifth day this week, but when did this week start? Can’t prove that either, I’m afraid. Well, the calendar in the bottom right corner of the monitor says it’s Friday. Who told the computer that it’s Friday? Anyone could change that display in the settings. What I can say, for certain, is that events occurred and news transpired in this indefinable time period, and it’s been turned into bite-size chunks, here in the round-up…

Last weekend, I played A Short Hike, which is an adventure game following a girl named Claire. A city bird, she’s staying at the ranger camp at Hawk Peak Provincial Park, and as you could expect, the cellphone reception is pretty poor. Claire resolves to climb the Hawk Peak trail to reach the highest point in the area, so her phone is able to take a very important call.

Unsurprisingly, it’s a short game, but it’s one populated with comedic characters and depicted in a “crunchy pixels” art style, which creates this mellow and rustic effect. It places no pressure on following the Hawk Peak trail, and lets the player wander around this natural wonderland to their heart’s content. Fishing, seashell collecting, and returning lost belongings are all things that Claire could do on her way to the summit. I thought that the slow, purposeful interactions of A Short Hike would suit the story of one of the world’s outstanding agrostologists, Mary Agnes Chase.

I stumbled upon Chase’s biography when I was playing a different game—clicking “Random Article” on Wikipedia. An American botanist whose field works span from 1897 to 1959, she joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1906. In those times, if a woman wanted to pursue a career in science, scientific illustration is how she’d get her foot in the door. She started out as a botanical illustrator, then went from strength to strength as a scientific assistant in systematic agrostology, assistant botanist, and associate botanist, collaborating with fellow scientist, Albert Spear Hitchcock. 

However, this journey was not without its troubles. Chase struggled to fund field trips because her superiors would not support her, and was even excluded from expeditions to Panama in 1911 and 1912 because the benefactors worried that she would “distract” the male researchers. In addition, her activism for womens’ rights and equality for all races led to threats of dismissal from the USDA. In response, Chase took it upon herself to conduct her own work independently in South America, Canada, and the Philippines, and allowed underprivileged people to stay at her home while undertaking their own studies. A “liberal and supportive mentor” who authored more than 70 publications, she continued her work as custodian of the Smithsonian’s grass herbarium until she passed away in 1963.

Imagine a game where you play as one of Chase’s students, cataloguing plants, insects, and fungi, and encountering other characters on the trail who might need your sketches or cuttings. When the sun starts to set, you return empty-handed to Chase, but in both of your eyes, the trip has been a significant success. Here’s the news.

Serious The Last of Us Part 2 story spoilers have leaked online

Uploaded to YouTube, the pre-release footage offered chunks of gameplay and story of one of the most hyped and hotly anticipated games of this year. Though Sony scrubbed the video from YouTube, clips have been shared through other social media sites, and Naughty Dog said the ordeal was “incredibly difficult” for its The Last of Us Part 2 team. “It’s disappointing to see the release and sharing of pre-release footage from development. Do your best to avoid spoilers and we ask that you do not spoil it for others,” it stated. “No matter what you see and hear, the final experience will be worth it.” 

WWE 2K Battlegrounds is the new WWE game coming this year

WWE 2K Battlegrounds appears to be the “different kind of WWE game” from a “different kind of game developer” that was rumoured in April. The fact that we’re getting a WWE game this year is a surprise, given that WWE 2K20 was a shambles, riddled with bugs and glitches upon release. Publisher 2K Games admitted that the game “did not meet our expectations, both in terms of sales and quality,” but added that there is “a substantial long-term opportunity to grow our WWE 2K series by improving the quality of the game.” In Battlegrounds, the publisher hopes to deliver “arcade-style action and over-the-top Superstar designs, environments and moves.” In the trailer, The Rock throws John Cena into the jaws of an alligator, so I think they’ve hit the nail on the head there. 

Fortnite recorded over 27 million unique players for Travis Scott’s concert

This is an astonishing record, and may well mark a new era for virtual events and marketing in games. The first event of the five showings broke the game’s all-time player record, with 12.3 million concurrent players attending the psychedelic light fantastic. A giant Travis Scott hologram performed against a rainbow sky, as players jumped into the sky, danced on the stage, and swam underwater with the rapper. 

Kill It With Fire is an outrageously destructive game about hunting house spiders

From the publisher of Hello Neighbor, the game is about the identification and extermination of a spider in the house. The player must search high and low for the animal, opening cupboards, looking under cushions, checking behind potted plants. Once the creature has been located, there is a veritable and excessive arsenal at the player’s disposal. It includes a frying pan, a shuriken, a shotgun, an assault rifle, a pistol, a molotov cocktail, sticks of dynamite, and a flamethrower. Developer Casey Donellan Games assures “gratuitous chaos and destruction” in Kill It With Fire, for those who despise errant arachnids. 

Games for Carers offers free games to healthcare workers in the UK

“The UK games industry has been proud to play its part in conveying these vital public health messages during this national emergency. Now our community has united again to say thank you to the truly extraordinary people who make up the NHS frontline team,” said Dr Jo Twist, CEO of UKIE. “Games companies of all sizes and players everywhere recognise their exceptional dedication and hope this initiative goes some way to help them to understand how respected and valued they are.” More than 80,000 games will be given away to healthcare workers in the UK, to help them unwind after their shift, or to keep their families entertained while they are at work.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has been officially announced

I’m ranting and raven over the next entry to the shadowy and stabby series, which will be set in England in the Dark Ages. The protagonist, Eivor, will set sail from Norway and clash with King Alfred the Great of England. This is understandable—Alf would rather they weren’t razing and burning swathes of the country in an effort to take over. Be that as it may, the game will give its players a settlement to nurture and cultivate, like a home base to return to after exploring what England has to offer. The settlement is where the consequences of player choices will unfold, for better or worse.

“We’re obviously using the mythology,” said lead producer  Julien Laferrière. “We have found a cool way of integrating that with our lore which for today goes into major spoiler territory. But what I’ll say is their gods were part of their daily life. They were believed to be roaming the earth, involved in fights—that was part of the Viking spirituality. And that’s how we treat it in the game, which is true to beliefs and practices at the time.” Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is in development for  Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC, and Stadia.

More than 10 million players subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, announces Microsoft

Microsoft’s Q3 2020 earnings report announced that the company has seen “record engagement” with its products and services, as a result of the lockdown precautions around the world. Xbox Game Pass has surged to more than 10 million subscribers, and Xbox Live boasts almost 90 million monthly active users. Additionally, Project xCloud is said to be going from strength to strength, registering hundreds of users in betas across seven countries. Compared to the five million subscribers of EA Access and Origin Access, and the one million subscribers of PlayStation Now, Microsoft is forging ahead. 

Darkborn, the medieval monster RPG, is no longer in development

The Outsiders expressed that it was a “difficult decision” to abandon Darkborn after four years working on the project. The game was a first-person mythological RPG, set in the Viking era. The player would take on the role of a young monster seeking vengeance on the humans that hunted down and tortured their family. Abilities like flight, wall running, enhanced vision, telepathy, and takedowns were absorbed from dead creatures, and allowed the predator to ambush their prey from any angle. The developer qualified that the game is not gone forever, and the team’s new game will be shown off  “very very soon.”

Carry on the conversation on the VideoGamer forums!