Sonic's darkest hour

Also: Doomers, Blood Warriors, and werehogs.

Sonic's darkest hour

EX is a research report about where culture is headed. You can learn more here. Welcome to our cranberry-stained post-Thanksgiving mini-send.

1. Lethal Company is the latest indie hit to turn players into actors

Lethal Company, the Phasmophobia-style sci-fi co-op game we mentioned last week, continues to top Steam’s bestsellers. One reason for its runaway success: it gives players room to perform. The game’s four spacemen rely on walkie-talkies and proximity voice chat to communicate as they stomp through dark monster-infested facilities. One player stays behind watching a bank of monitors to direct the others toward valuables and away from danger. All of your tools are limited in ways that raise tension (narrow camera views, tiny batteries, awkward movement). When you’re not close to the action, listening to your teammates die is a radio drama.

Lethal Company videos that get traction on social media often feature players hamming it up and freaking out. Two different Lethal Company videos topped the r/perfectlycutscreams subreddit this week. Many clips reference the viral “gamer turns into a 5 star voice actor when they’re about to die” tweet. The license to scream is also irresistible for “streamer buddies play” channels like VanossGaming and SMii7Y.

Lethal Company isn’t as freeform as something like Among Us or DayZ, which created giant stages for players with a knack for improv. But it still demonstrates the obvious value in giving your players room to shriek and melt down and crack their friends up. It’s also easier to pick up and much goofier than Phasmophobia, its closest relative; if the developer can drop more planets and challenges in at a steady pace, it’s likely to stay in the rotation of streamers like Insym and Vanoss.

2. Fallout 76’s number one fan is a horror legend

John Carpenter on Twitter.

Board-certified Master of Horror John Carpenter (director of Halloween, The Thing, In the Mouth of Madness, etc.) has settled into the kind of semi-retirement that many people dream about: making music, playing video games, and smoking weed. He recently got Twitter’s attention by paying tribute to the MMO Fallout 76. But it was only the most recent salvo in his long and enthusiastic history of game commentary:

  • 2011: Game takes on Twitter begin. Reports liking Silent Hill, Bioshock, Dead Space, Borderlands, Sonic, Crash Bandicoot, and retro arcade games. Mildly positive on Gears 3 (“pretty good”). First of many reminders to other Twitter users that he has not only played The Thing for PS2, he’s a character in it.
  • 2013: Tweet about Rayman Legends (“fun game”) seems to get industry attention for the first time. Gets interviewed by Giant Bomb and writes a Game of the Year list for them with Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag at #1.
  • 2014: Writes another Game of the Year list, this time with AC: Unity at #1.
  • 2015: Writes that Arkham Knight has “good gameplay but confusing, overly surrealistic story” in one of his rare negative game takes.
  • 2017: Likes Prey and Horizon Zero Dawn. Tells The Guardian he’s been playing Destiny 2. Tells FACT that he’s loved Sonic games since the early 90s. “I even like the one where he turns into a werewolf” [Sonic became “Sonic the Werehog” in 2008’s Sonic Unleashed].
  • 2018: Initial verdict on Fallout 76 is “a glitchathon of a game…despite its flaws, I dig it.”
  • 2021: Tells interviewer Adrian Wootton “I’m a fan of the Fallout games. There was sort of a disastrous release for Fallout 76, but I took to it…I love it.”
  • 2022: Tells The AV Club that he’s been enjoying Fallout 76, Ratchet & Clank, and AC: Valhalla.

Fallout 76’s reputation has been improving over time, though it’s not as dramatic as, like, the critical turnaround on The Thing. If you’re ever looking for more Carpenter Content, his commentary track on that film (and the others he recorded with an inebriated Kurt Russell) is gold.

3. The hater community mobilizes to attack Yakuza voice actor

The YouTuber YongYea has spent years making outraged gaming news recaps in the vein of “Things Get Worse for Reviled Game.” (What does he think of Fallout 76? Consult his 63-video playlist.) He’s also a voice actor who recently landed his “dream role” as the English voice of Kazuma Kiryu, the usual hero of the Yakuza series. For the last two weeks, online rascals have been sharing clips of his in-game singing and emoting in the upcoming Infinite Wealth with comments like “Omg it sounds horrible 💔.” The legit griping from Yakuza heads about what seems like an amateurish dub broadened into a culture war skirmish where right-wing channels, AI guys, concern trolls, and old rivals from the outrage community piled on to attack YongYea like so many Burnout Bullies. So while “Yakuza dub bad” seems like a story, talking about it on social media feels like joining a team you really don’t want to be on.

PS2 era survivors may recall that the Yakuza series began with a profane and awful dub featuring Michael Madsen, Eliza Dushku, and a notorious line about “10 years in the joint.” At least these days you can switch it to Japanese.

4. True crime podcaster drama spills into open internet

The best part of this incredibly long timeline of the drama within the Obsessed Network of true crime podcasts might be its neutral presentation of evidence from a “fan” who visited New York in the hopes of seeing one of their favorite podcast hosts, then found them, eavesdropped on them, and posted the entire conversation to Reddit. They don’t call it the Boundary Respecters Network!

YouTube Thumbnail of the Week

This TIKTOKER Scammed My SISTER.. So I Did THIS! (ROBLOX BLOX FRUIT)” by Rektway.

Chum Box

That’s it for this week. Next week we’re aiming for good wordfeel but confusing, overly surrealistic jokes.