Level 51: The Summer of Games Isn't All Sunshine

This week we cover Xbox's lukewarm event reception, explore some thought pieces of the future of gaming & VR, and learn about how one creator brought Amazon to Animal Crossing.

✏️ The Pause Button Exclusives

How Video Games Introduce Their Mechanics: Abhishek Iyer joined us to write about how video game mechanics unconsciously and consciously ease players into their worlds. Reading his piece, we’re reminded of how LoL guides players into success with faux-human multiplayer through AI — it’s one of our favorite intro flows. Here’s a hint on how to make a great game play experience, he says: Show, don’t tell. Link

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📜 This Week’s Notable News

The (Long) Summer of Games: In last week’s issue, we covered the announcement of Summer Games Fest, a three-month long series of gaming news and announcements to fill the E3 void.

Microsoft was the first to take the spotlight as part of the festivities, debuting news regarding the upcoming Xbox: Series X. The event was met with lukewarm responses from an outspoken group of fans, so much so that Xbox’s GM of Marketing even publicly apologized for the poor expectation setting that occurred. A few points of significance here:

  • The Big Bang vs. The Slow Burn: Without a condensed timeline like the one provided by E3, developers are understanding that they need to adjust their marketing. Fan expectations are set for a ton of big news at once, so how do companies like MSFT levelset without letting consumers down?

  • Avoid News Burnout: Journalists and fans will need to change their mindset when it comes to announcements. A steady stream of news over three months means that every bit of news will be less impactful. Link

  • Standing Out in the Crowd: Unfortunately, with a steady stream of announcements, capturing consumer attention will be much more difficult. Developers like CD Projekt Red are already finding ways to do unique cool things, others will need to keep up. Link

💡 Industry Content

Where Does VR Fit In: OG newsletter writer Benedict Evans writes about VR and how it holds a place in the future, but we’re not sure what place signifies. It’s an interesting piece because it juxtaposes hope with reality and, in reality, VR — in both content and hardware — isn’t in a great place right now. How can this technology emerge from a narrow and deep focus of consumerism into the more accessible mainstream? Link

The Future of Online Gaming: Want to learn more about the technical nature of online multiplayer and cloud gaming? Matthew Ball and Jacob Novak explore why exactly online gaming relies on an overly complex and archaic system. The pair dive deep into what the future may hold for cloud gaming, and to whom it might appeal. Link

Gaming = $$$: According to a report by Niko Partners, China video games revenue is expected to exceed $46 billion by 2024. For reference, the entire video games market was predicted to be around $150 billion in 2020. Link

🎮 Fun & Games

Jeff Bezos, Meet Tom Nook: Animal Crossing: New Horizons secondary markets are a new fad. Frustrated with the in-game trading systems, fans created Nookazon, a site which allows players to connect and barter for items through Animal Crossing approved funds (no real money allowed). This is a great example of fans creating awesome, community-driven alternatives to supplement their playing experiences. Link

League Champions Get a Makeover: After 10 years of history, League of Legends has a massive roster of over 150+ champions. With all those options, it’s inevitable that some will be more popular than others. The Verge spoke with developer Riot Games to understand how they bring old characters to life through a combination of lore, redesign, and a little attention. Link

The Year of the Remaster: In celebration of Tony Hawk’s birthday (and E3 season), it was announced yesterday that The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Series is being remastered for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Time to shred. Link

😎 Other Cool Reads

Mental Health in Gaming Open discussions on mental health and stress are still stigmatized. Particularly for professional esport athletes, mental wellness can be pushed aside in favor of performance. This feature follows Scar, a professional Mortal Kombat player, in his journey to fighting and coming to terms with his own mental stress, as well as publicly speaking out about his struggles. Link

Trouble With Talent: In an accidental slip up, TSM’s President Leena accidentally leaked sensitive information about one of TSM’s former LoL players, damaging his free agency prospects. A violation of NDA and a breach of personal trust, the entire situation serves as a reason why stricter rules and regulations for esports could be beneficial to its athletes. Link

A New Player Emerges: Former executives of Respawn studio announced they’re leaving to start their own remote-native studio to tackle redefining AAA games (high production, high budget). Despite the current economy, the ability to hire anyone, anywhere will allow them to hire the best talent. Link

😍 Our Current Favorites


  • Remote Social Gaming: Is anyone sick of Zoom games with their colleagues and friends? Maybe I should rephrase the question: can anyone ever get sick of playing Jackbox and Codenames? Not me. I’m there all the time. Link


  • Gaming YouTube: I’ve been manually reviewing 700+ pieces of gaming content for an upcoming Pause Button exclusive. This one video on bootleg GTA games made me laugh more than I have in a long time. Link

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