Unwinnable Weekly – Issue 1 – Reviewed
By Marcus Estrada
Unwinnable Weekly had a severely stressful Kickstarter campaign for most of its funding period. As the last days were finally upon them, fans and the project creators pushed harder than ever before to make it a success. In the end, they made it; and now the first issue of Unwinnable Weekly is upon us. The digital magazine’s goal is provide unique takes on popular media (games, comics, books, etc) as well as non-fiction and fiction narratives. So, how does it appeal to someone mostly invested in it for games writing?
Since Unwinnable Weekly is about media as a whole, it seems only a segment of it will ever be devoted to video games. This issue provides a piece on A Dark Room (Web, iOS) by Cara Ellison. Anyone expecting a “review” will be incredibly distraught by this writing as it is anything but what we grew up reading in magazines. That’s the whole point, and the main reason I backed them. I wish to see video game writing that does not follow the standards set by an advertorial-style machine.
Back to Ellison’s writing. Her narrative begins with a diatribe against updating programs and an apparent distaste for Apple products entirely, despite her ownership of them. It has nothing to do with A Dark Room in and of itself, but serves as an interesting hook nonetheless. Once into the game discussion the mechanics are explained, but still with this unique flourish. Some people will dislike this kind of writing style because it is not what you see on IGN or Joystiq, but more adventurous readers may enjoy it.
Another game-like piece is Dungeon Crawler Part One by Gus Mastrapa, the first of his serialized young adult book “To Build A Fire”. I say game-like because he has self-described it as a roguelike. The story centers around a young, as of yet unnamed, girl who has no family or home. She explores and attempts to survive, but commonly meets death. Or does she? The big hook of the story thus far is the girl’s imaginings of her own death managing to save her from actual death. It feels a lot like the kind of memories a video game character would have due to “dying” many times before finally making it successfully through stages and puzzles.
The inaugural issue of Unwinnable Weekly also includes a creative non-fiction piece about an adult softball league, an interview with Laird Barron (sufficiently editorialized to not read like a typical interview), and an assessment of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” The mix is certainly eclectic, although none of these other pieces particularly interested me. It’s not as if I pay no attention to non-game media, but this current mish mash flew right over my head. Hell, I still haven’t heard the apparently wildly popular song “Happy” outside of my mother’s sporadic chanting of the chorus.
If you are interested in Unwinnable Weekly primarily for video game-related writing, as I am, then a subscription is probably not the best idea for you. The website still provides written content free of charge (not the same as what’s in the magazine, of course). There are also other unique gaming sites and magazines out there seeking to create truly interesting games writing. First, check out Unwinnable Weekly Issue Zero to see if this is the magazine for you. If not, The Arcade Review, Five Out of Ten Magazine, Kill Screen, and others may better suit your tastes.