We don’t know about you, but we’ve recently found ourselves with considerably more time on our hands for reading (well, that and building pillow forts, staring out of the window, and seeing how much Nutella it’s possible to eat in one sitting). The problem is, we’ve gone through that 100 Things to do on the Toilet book in the bathroom 100 times now, and our takeaway menus are wearing thin – and making us hungry.
For those of you in the same boat, we’ve put together this list of excellent PCGamesN longreads from the archives. It spans a broad range of topics including raid design, accidental brewery ownership, the realism of Resident Evil (no, really), the historical accuracy of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, jewel theft in GTA, the never-ending Half-Life 3 saga, and even Farming Simulator as an esport.
It’s a varied old offering, which we hope you will greatly enjoy. We’ll keep adding to it, too, updating the page with new articles and more unearthed gems, so check back often – especially on those occasions you find yourself so full of chocolate spread that your only remaining option is to sit down and take in something other than food.
As this list has grown exponentially since we first published it, we’ve now grouped together the long reads of any game series that appears twice or more. There are jump links below to make finding features about your favourite games even easier, and we’ll add more as the list continues to expand.
Meet the man who invented microtransactions years before Oblivion’s horse armour
It’s a familiar story for Iron Realms Entertainment founder Matt Mihaly, but not one that has percolated into industry legend: as a young MUD (multi-user dungeon) developer he launches his first game, Achaea: Dreams of Divine Lands. He lives in the San Francisco area, where he’s the leader of his small enterprise, run by a handful of people, and he needs revenue. Read the full story.
How Alien: Isolation’s retro space station was built with fear in mind
Sevastapol Station shares the Nostromo’s knack for tight corridors, ‘70s lo-fi tech, and all the grime. It’s an accurate enough recreation of the first film’s aesthetic identity that you feel like you’re peeking into a corner of the Alien universe that was left previously unexplored. Read the full story.
Alpha Centauri is still the best 4X game 21 years after launch
“For some time, Alpha Centauri was the undisputed greatest game of all time. It topped countless lists of the greats, and for many it is still unsurpassed, especially in the 4X genre. What kind of game casts a 20-year shadow?” Read the full story.
How a new wave of videogames is satirising capitalism
“Sure, Bernie Sanders may have just lost the Democratic nomination – again – and in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn got soundly defeated in a general election a few months ago. But not so long ago they would’ve never got as far as they did, and as a new generation of young socialists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez show, they’re not alone. Inevitably and necessarily, our culture has reflected this conversation, and videogames are no exception.” Read the full story.
A glimpse into the unpredictable world of Minecraft speedrunning
“I would compare it to something like Rubik’s cube speedsolving, where most speedcubers only care about average. If they get a personal best or a world record, they will still be happy even though it’s luck-based, but they usually care a lot more about getting their average down. A lot of speedrunners have the mindset of grinding world records down, which is fine, but I think you’ll have a lot more fun if you have a ‘consistency’ mindset when doing this category.” Read the full story.
From Fable to Darksiders: how to make that tricky prequel
“Though the term ‘prequel’ might still recall sand dialogue and Ewan McGregor’s fake beard within movie circles, in videogames it often has happier associations. After all, any game must be thought of fondly to receive a second instalment of any kind, let alone one that’s based entirely around a preceding narrative. Therefore most prequels come loaded with goodwill almost by definition, and their aim is to give players added context to a universe and characters they’ve already grown to adore.” Read the full story.
What it’s like to (try and fail to) play Apex Legends in Asia
“In speaker-shattering and rapid pre-recorded Mandarin, they both try to shout their sales pitches over one another, peddling their hacks to me as fast as possible. Their on-screen names are a series of numbers and characters – their IDs on the Chinese chat app QQ where I could continue the transaction. This is necessary as Chinese online shopping site Taobao has banned the sale of Apex Legends cheats. The character selection timer ticks away as I race to the main settings to turn down the volume of all voice chat, which is the only way to mute these obnoxious robots in the lobby.” Read the full story.
How Truck Simulator’s resident radio station became as big as the rigs
“Where there are traffic jams, there are radio stations talking about them – crowdsourcing info from unlucky commuters stuck on stagnant roads, and dispersing it to other drivers so they can avoid suffering. These stations mark a fundamental ebb and flow of modern life, reading out the contemporary equivalent of sea tide tables. And they do so not just all over the real world, but in virtual ones too. Specifically, the networks of dual carriageways and service stops that make up the Truck Simulator games.” Read the full story.
Ice, snow, and terrible internet – what it’s like to play PC games in Antarctica
“Within the walls of Scott Base the cold is obviously a concern, but a bigger problem for any hardware is the fact that there is almost no moisture in the air, which creates an environment where static electricity is rampant. ‘It’s fun walking up to people and poking them in the arm, seeing lightning fly out of your digits and making them jump. But when you sit down and hear the snap of static you kind of panic – “Did I just blow my PC up?”‘” Read the full story.
Frank Herbert’s Dune is still the template for the entire RTS genre
“You can even spot cool ideas that didn’t really appear in the RTS until after the Command & Conquer years. In Dune, the Harkonnen ally themselves with the Imperial Sardaukar to help win the first big battle, and the Atreides get help from the Fremen faction to beat the Harkonnen and conquer Arrakis. These are, essentially, the smaller non-playable factions that you can ally with to gain either unique unit types or a special bonus in more recent RTS games. Like the Sartes and Carnutes in Total War: Rome 2, or the Nilari Cultists and Viturak Cabal in Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion.” Read the full story.
Why mystery games like Disco Elysium took over 2019
“By ‘gamifying’ the act of research, videogames have made mysteries even more enticing to pursue. In the case of Telling Lies, it’s the entire driving force behind playing the game; once you’ve uncovered enough information, you can trigger the game’s ending whenever you see fit, or you can continue to chase leads until you’re satisfied. Mystery is elevated alongside games’ more traditional motivator, achievement, as the reason to keep playing.” Read the full story.
Monster Hunter: World gives strong women proper body representation
“Many female bodies are a result of women being designed with the male gaze in mind. Having big arms or war scars goes against creating a palatable and attractive character for the target demographic. But it creates an odd disconnect between the strength and skills these characters are said to possess and their lithe yet busty appearances. While that can make for a few comical scenarios, it’s generally a poor representation of how strong women should and do look.” Read the full story.
Last night a force feedback steering wheel saved my life
“It had been raining almost all day, that kind of fine mist that makes you question whether you’re hanging out in a cloud, or if the sky’s actually dropping liquid. And that made one particular corner I was driving around a nightmare combination of greasy, rain-slicked surface, and liberally scattered leafy residue. I turned in, the back of the car sought to overtake the front, and the traction on my drive wheels vanished entirely as we pointed on a seemingly inexorable collision course with the 4×4 coming towards us on the other side of the road.” Read the full story.
1917 is the game Hellblade’s creators would make with the Medal of Honor licence
“Trench foot, disease, injury, and death all linger like opportunistic vultures as Schofield and Blake negotiate this perilous expanse. Despite this suffering, at the other side of the hellish landscape – one that seems to extend for a miserable eternity in every direction – convenience awaits: there is another person-sized gap in the German wire, right at the point we reach it.” Read the full story.
I enjoyed Hollow Knight more when I cheated
“I felt pretty low knowing that there was more of that beautiful subterranean world that I wouldn’t get to experience due to a lack of skill. I’ve never been that patient when it comes to learning combat patterns and sharpening my reflexes.” Read the full story.
How Farming Simulator became an unlikely esports powerhouse
“[Our players] are dedicated not only to games and to Farming Simulator but also to farming. There is this connection between real life and our game that you don’t get too often. We’ve a lot of people who love everything farming. And that’s good and bad at the same time, because of course they love our game, but they also nitpick on everything because they love it so much.” Read the full story.
The Division 2 turned me into a post-apocalyptic photographer
“I soon fall into a rhythm with the wonderful mix of randomness and predictability within the behaviour of Washington’s birds and beasts. Racoons, for example, can only spawn in bins, so if I’m looking for one I skim along the pavements and back alleys like a fly looking for dung. If I see a fox making a break for it, I know that it’s heading towards a car, where it’ll take a second to squeeze itself underneath before disappearing.” Read the full story.
How historically accurate is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey? We asked a Classics professor
“The question of belief is always tricky. One way to define the difference between religion and myth is whether or not the person hearing the story believes it. Certainly not all Greeks thought these myths were real, but I imagine some did. Just the way some Christians would imagine the story of Christ as real, while others would see it as a figurative story – a figurative model to frame their life around.” Read the full story.
How Doom Eternal makes Doomguy relevant in 2020
“You might point out that a demonic invasion is not climate change, and that even the most milquetoast of today’s politicians would agree that the only solution that merits the name is to bloody kill all of the demons, but that’s satire: making a point by taking real problems to absurd extremes. And Eternal follows through, by showing other figures argue for other approaches to the apocalypse.” Read the full story.
Raid design lessons from WoW, Guild Wars 2, and Final Fantasy XIV devs
“There was definitely a realisation around that time that raids were a unique vehicle for the MMO genre. It’s one of the most powerful social experiences you can have in online gaming. It’s that sense of cooperation, doing the same thing with a dozen or more people again and again, that generally keeps people with the same group for years and years. Raiding guilds have been a mainstay of WoW and every other MMO out there for a long time, and the hours spent together in battle, arguing over strategy or whatever else – those form real friendships.” Read the full story.
Whatever happened to Half-Life 3? The complete saga so far
“So, what is Half-Life 3, especially now Half-Life: Alyx has been released? Over the years there have been two quite different answers – it’s either a collection of three short, episodic games – two of which have already been released – or it’s a full-length sequel to both Half-Life 2 and its expansions. Here’s the story of Half-Life 3 so far, leading up to the release of Half-Life: Alyx.” Read the full story.
Revisiting the KotOR 2 companion I was in love with 15 years later
“Look, I’m not ashamed. Games make you feel things; people are moved by fiction. Just look at the body pillow industry (but then please leave them to it). My fanaticism was so intense that I never even completed the game, out of some abstract belief that leaving it unfinished means it’s still alive and that there was still more Atton out there for me to experience.” Read the full story.
How Creative Assembly and Koei Tecmo bring The Romance of the Three Kingdoms to life
“Ripple effects from the clamour to access China’s huge games market are, finally, being felt in the West, from events like Overwatch’s Lunar New Year to more troubling cases of developers making unfortunate accommodations seemingly with China in mind – see Rainbow Six Siege’s acts of content censorship and Blizzard’s suspicious treatment of Blitzchung. It’s still rare, though, to see triple-A game developers looking to tell Chinese stories.” Read the full story.
How realistic is Resident Evil 2 remake? We ask a cop and paramedic
“Nature has been fucking us over more than any man-made product for a long time. Ebola, for example, is arguably more contagious than this zombie virus as it can be transferred from handling contaminated linen! But while Ebola outbreaks have killed thousands, we’ve managed with containment and stupidly brave clinicians to ensure the virus transfer is stopped in its tracks.” Read the full story.
Sim City and Cities: Skylines know that democracy is boring
“For better or for worse, we’re accustomed to games allowing us to enforce our will on their worlds. Checks and balances, vetoes, and the various other interlocking institutions of government designed to prevent autocracy are at direct odds with player agency. The answer to the question ‘why does SimCity use an autocratic model of city government’ is ‘because it wouldn’t be a fun game if it didn’t.'” Read the full story.
Ark beer: how I founded Survival Evolved’s least successful brewery
“All across the separate floors of my house, there is beer barrel after beer barrel, making my base look less like a cosy homestead and more like the basement of your average pub on matchday. Accidentally, I’ve become the owner of my very own micro-brewery, and worse yet, getting rid of the stuff is like asking someone if my pet can take a dino-sized dump on their lawn. Let’s just say they aren’t exactly biting my hands off for the opportunity.” Read the full story.
Ark leedsichthys hunt: how I killed the Jaws of Survival Evolved
“Since that fateful day, I’ve toyed with the idea of getting my own back, but have never put a plan into motion. Until now. Starting from scratch, I set about preparing to hunt down the beast, farming the usual spots for resources and pooling together all I have at my disposal. It’s a process that takes an entire day, but when I finally feel comfortable I push off again into the open waters, passing once again into danger…” Read the full story.
Ark houses: meet the master builders of Ark: Survival Evolved
“Ark has fostered a dedicated building community, even in spite of the game’s many restrictions in that area. These individuals aren’t focused on protecting themselves against griefers or the occasional toothy predator. Instead, they’re attempting to create imaginative designs, showcasing their dexterity and skill with the surprising versatility of the game’s limited building mechanics.” Read the full story.
How realistic is GTA 5’s Jewel heist? We ask a former career criminal
“One of Lawton’s main bugbears is the crew itself. When preparing for the GTA heist, Michael de Santa and Lester Crest gather a smattering of talented strangers to form their team. That is their first mistake. ‘That’s all bullshit. You’d have to know these people like you know the back of your hand. Because you don’t want to trust your life with somebody who has no idea.’” Read the full story.
Why would anyone play a cop in GTA 5 RP?
“I didn’t really think of girls as being cops, and I was always kind of thin and wiry. In addition to that, I also have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, so I didn’t think it would be manageable or possible to meet my goal. But, after roleplaying as a cop, speaking with other officers, and doing a lot of the beginning process and filling out the physical requirements, I discovered that I can do it.” Read the full story.
How on Earth did Fallout ever get made?
“There was plenty about the Fallout setting that wasn’t as intuitive. Players would have to wrap their heads around a far-future Earth and a peculiar retro aesthetic, even before the bombs started dropping. The question of how Fallout ever survived pitching is answered with a Tim Cain quip: ‘What do you mean, pitch?'” Read the full story.
Meet the roaming Fallout 4 artist sketching the Commonwealth wastes in VR
“Liz Edwards is running for her life. She ventured too far, searching for the most picturesque horizon in Fallout 4’s Commonwealth, then turned a corner and there it was: a Yao guai towering over her in virtual reality. So she did the only thing she could do and deposited herself straight into the irradiated sea. These are the perils of roleplaying a roaming VR artist in Fallout 4. People play Bethesda’s sandbox games in many different ways – as a pacifist, by sweet talking, or by taking up arms as a melee expert – but Edwards just wants to paint.” Read the full story.
Fallout 4’s Glowing Sea represents Bethesda’s best storytelling
“I have two recurring nightmares. In one, I’m inside this church that I used to visit as a child. All the lights suddenly go out, the doors lock, and I realise I’m trapped in there for the entire night. In the other, I’m standing in the street when I look up to see a passenger jet hurtling out of the sky, heading directly into the ground. These motifs are repeated in Fallout 4’s The Glowing Sea, a sprawling, unnerving desolation located in the south-west corner of what used to be Boston.” Read the full story.
How I became a prisoner of my own Fallout 4 settlement
“I sealed off half the island, blocking invasion from the river or woods, but leaving a few ruins outside of the boundary – like feet poking out from under a cosy duvet. Sometimes, at night, I would go and stand in one of these ruins and drink in the sense of danger at being outside of my defensive line, thinking about all the good times I’d spent with Shaun and Nora. Of course, so early on in the game, no real threats ever presented themselves, but the thrill was still there nonetheless.” Read the full story.
Fallout 4’s bravest roleplaying is hidden in its DLC
I found a strange serenity in the act of picking up Nuka-World and emptying out the contents, like one of its many bottles of pop. Once you start shooting up the park, the game recognises it as a quest of sorts: ‘Open Season’. And after I’d killed potential companion Porter Gage and tipped his body from the top of Fizztop Mountain, the rest came easily. Raiders poured down the artificial streets of the theme park, their health bars red and angry, no longer complex NPCs but enemies with the sole purpose of filling up my XP gauge. Read the full story.
How realistic is Fallout 76? We asked a nuclear physicist
“Actually living 25 years in a bunker would be more dangerous than coming out. If you were in a bunker for 30 years, it’s possible there would be a risk of a cancer you would not have got.” Read the full story.
Why Camden Park is the most important location in Fallout 76
“Camden Park’s inclusion in Fallout 76 is a chance to show the world that West Virginia isn’t just a statistic. It’s a reminder that the state and its surrounding regions are communities filled with real people, who’ve undergone real experiences in every one of Fallout 76’s locations – including a teensy, tiny amusement park.” Read the full story.
It’s a hard life being a travelling merchant in Fallout 76
“I stumble across someone in an abandoned town and end up chasing them four blocks just to get their attention. Another player decides to speak to me in only dramatic head movements while another tries to pay me in nothing but bullets.” Read the full story.
Final Fantasy 7 was important because it let its men be vulnerable
“As a cripplingly shy adolescent, I felt a kinship with Cloud, as I struggled to form relationships with my peers. This tender side to Cloud is developed in his relationship with Zack, one of the few characters to genuinely care for him in the cold corporate world of their employer, the Shinra Electric Power Company.” Read the full story.
Why Final Fantasy XIV’s best raid boss, Tsukuyomi, is so hard to top
“Of all the raid bosses in the game there’s one that stands head and shoulders above the rest. It’s the fight that concludes a significant chapter of the Stormblood expansion storyline – one lauded by players for how it combines story, mechanics, and music to make for an incredible whole. To understand why the encounter with Tsukuyomi has had such a resonating effect it’s important to lay out the context.” Read the full story.
Meet the people modding Skyrim to improve Tamriel’s wildlife
“While Skyrim’s wildlife may at first seem as varied as their biomes, lingering inspection betrays a number of shortcuts. Behaviour and skins are limited to only a few rotating options, with little emphasis put on recreating the creatures as they’d look and act in real life. A number of modders have been working to pick up the slack, creating a whole sub-genre of mods that focus on improving the way animal life looks, behaves and integrates into Skyrim.” Read the full story.
The absolute best way to play Skyrim
“Despite being born into royalty, unbeknownst to himself, Eslaf Erol became a pauper before he could walk. Every day he saw the kingdom of Erolgard’s richest citizens while nobody saw him: warriors clad in Ebony armour strolled through the streets, and wielders of awesome magic performed dazzling illusions for more septims he’d see in a year. From a side street in Solitude, I watched them with Noster Eagle-Eye, a fellow beggar and fierce friend. ‘If only I could do those wonderful things,’ I thought to myself, as I spent my coin down the Skeever. ‘Maybe one day.’” Read the full story.
In Skyrim, a game about shouting, ASMR players prefer to whisper
“When you think of Skyrim, what sound immediately springs to mind? Is it the sonorous chants of its soundtrack? The forceful shouts of Fus Ro Dah? Or the roar of a dragon as it appears over the crest of a snow-peaked mountain? Whatever it is, it probably isn’t quiet. But not all Dragonborns are destined to shout. There are a number of players who use Skyrim as a tool to relax not only themselves but others too, taking advantage of the game’s audio and visuals to create a soothing environment.” Read the full story.
I tried to do Veganuary in Skyrim
“After equipping armour to fulfil Skyrim’s tutorial, I immediately stripped naked. All armour in Skyrim requires leather strips to craft, and as a vegan, leather was a definite no-no. I also eschewed a steel sword in favour of Destruction magic. I would not succumb to the anti-vegan sentiments of Skyrim’s exploitative blacksmiths. This was to be the hard life of Joaquin, a high elf going vegan in a world without the online recipes and pop-up restaurants to accommodate it.” Read the full story.
Why I’m prepared to sacrifice almost anything for my Skyrim dog
“On more than a few occasions, as I’ve been earnestly plugging away at bandits with my ebony bow, the little darling’s leapt in front of my target just in time to absorb a killing blow. His 250 health sadly can’t withstand a bolt fired by my level 100 archer. Sigh…” Read the full story.
How Stardew Valley speedrun players are making it an esport
“Stardew Valley evokes a sense of therapy through its individually crafted farming routines. Despite that, there’s a movement of players blending those tenets with healthy competition. As such, besting any challenge takes all the farming, foraging, fishing, and spelunking the tranquil farming sim is known for, but doesn’t leave its competitors burnt out in the process.” Read the full story.
How realistic is Stardew Valley? We asked a farmer
“Even if you have the money for the land and equipment, there’s a ton of knowledge – most of which is informal and learned on the go through years of experience – needed to farm properly. There’s a reason most farms are generational. I remember a Reddit thread years ago cautioning people against quitting everything and moving to NYC to strike it big. The same thing goes for farming.” Read the full story.
How Stardew Valley turned me into a ruthless jam mogul
My farm is a work of agricultural menace. A blighted hellscape, purged of flora and fauna, all consumed to feed the fires of industry. Tightly-organised batches of only the most profitable of crops. Rows of warehouses, filled to bursting point with machines of production, belching forth great clouds of saccharin, cloying smog. A single animal enclosure containing a brace of pigs, forlornly scratching up truffles to supplement their master’s income. Read the full story.
How a Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy mod became a 16-year passion project
“I wasn’t a very confident kid growing up and, like most people, I had some bad times during my teenage years. It was nice that there was always somewhere you could go to lose yourself in another world for a few hours. But without being alone, I think importantly for me, it was something that I was good at playing as well. The base games saber system was just the right mix of being accessible but challenging to master. Having an intense duel with someone was always fun, and you always get a little kick when you came out on top.” Read the full story.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight II had no progression system and was better for it
“I played this game a lot. It’s probably still the most fun I’ve ever had in a multiplayer game. It was the kind of engagement that modern game designers are desperate to generate, and it didn’t take a battle pass, leveling up, or any other kind of progression system to do so. Given this setup, you might think I’m about to ask why progression systems exist, but no. I get it; they’re undeniably engaging, and they work on me every bit as much as anyone else. Rather, I wonder if we can ever go back. Does every game need a progression system now?” Read the full story.
The making of Total War: Warhammer’s Necrofex Colossus
“Perhaps it’s the slime glinting off its hull in the sunlight, but one star shines particularly brightly in Total War: Warhammer 2’s brilliant Curse of the Vampire Coast DLC – the Necrofex Colossus. A towering construct built from pirate shipwrecks and corpses, it may be made of wood, but it’s the most metal unit in the game so far.” Read the full story.
The making of Total War: Warhammer’s Royal Hippogryph Knights
“You probably don’t get how big a deal Royal Hippogryph Knights are. Not only are they paragons of chivalry who gained superhuman powers after drinking from a magic cup and then tamed a savage flying monster, but – unlike the vast majority of units in Total War: Warhammer – they never existed in the tabletop game. Until the Royal Hippogryph Knights arrived in the Bretonnia update, Creative Assembly had only ever adapted units from the tabletop game’s official rule books.” Read the full story.
The making of Total War: Warhammer’s mammoths
The Norscans are the primal people of the Old World’s far north, where chaos energy blows just as strongly as the freezing winds. They share their home with creatures from nightmare – the ice drakes and the bloodkrakens. Their bravery pales, however, when compared to that of their artists and animators at Creative Assembly. When the team added the Norsca faction to Total War: Warhammer, it faced off against one of its most feared enemies: fur. Read the full story.
How CD Projekt Red brought The Witcher from page to screen
“If you take a walk around Novigrad the team’s successful translation is immediately apparent. Novigrad, in stark contrast to the war-torn and starving Velen, is a sprawling city. It’s an amalgam of different cultures, classes, and trades, with opulent buildings sat alongside mud-splattered quarters for the poorer residents. And with so much to discover around every corner it’s easy to get lost in its streets.” Read the full story.
Out of the way Geralt, Ciri should lead The Witcher 4
“The biggest challenge was that without the benefit of having read the books, Ciri’s motivations might be difficult to understand, her anger difficult to relate to. So what we put emphasis on was her relationship with Yennefer, Geralt, and the other witchers. Seeing how deeply she cared for them made it easier for players to accept her other, less positive character traits – her utter disregard for authority, impulsiveness, volatility.” Read the full story.
Tracing the fairy tales and myths behind The Witcher 3’s unsettling Crones
“Conflating evil hags and goddesses of fate may seem strange, but The Witcher III is far from the first slice of entertainment to do so. The three weird sisters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (ca. 1606) are cackling, cauldron-stirring witches who also happen to have a penchant for prophecy. The “weird” in their name does not mean ‘strange’ (even though they certainly are that), but stems from the Old English word ‘wyrd,’ meaning fate. The Crones, too, have prophetic powers, foreseeing the arrival of Ciri from studying beast entrails and omens.” Read the full story.