Hey, hi! Welcome to Astrolabe Digest. This is a new column for paid supporters1 aimed at keeping y’all informed about the best stories in Astrolabe’s orbit. Think of it like a levelled-up version of Quest Markers.
Astrolabe Digest isn’t here to replace main Astrolabe issues (I’ve got a couple cooking and they are doozies!), but to supplement them by bringing you more goodness while the big stories bake.
With freelance games journalism becoming more and more untenable, I’m looking at diverting my time and energy toward providing more value for paid Astrolabe supporters, as a way to keep doing what I’m doing. So, if you appreciate my work here or elsewhere, consider a paid subscription.
Worker-owned websites are here to save games media
- “Welcome to Aftermath, a worker-owned, reader-supported news site covering video games, the internet, and the cultures that surround them.” Launched on November 7, 2023, Aftermath is a new media company launched—and fully owned—by Kotaku-alum Nathan Grayson, Gita Jackson, Riley MacLeod, and Luke Plunkett.
- In a games media environment slowly (or, rather rapidly, these days) drowning in capitalist interests, Aftermath is attempting to shift power away from profit-driven corporate owners towards the writers themselves, allowing them to pursue the genuine independent games journalism that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find at major sites that pursue click-based revenue and quick hit news stories over less profitable stories.
- “[Aftermath is] about the internet and everything that comes after,” co-founder Gita Jackson told The Verge. “I’m so interested in taking Aftermath and using the site to discuss the way that we live now and the way that capitalism and the internet have really intertwined and changed a lot of the ways that we find self-expression, the way that media is made, and the way that we consume it.”
- Aftermath comes hot on the heels of Remap and 404 Media. Similar to Aftermath, these creator-owned platforms explore tech, culture, and gaming, but allow owners/writers like Patrick Klepek, Rob Zacny, and Samantha Cole to take control of their work without being dragged down by profit-driven leadership wholly detached from the work itself.
- “Aftermath is intended to operate on a different and, hopefully, more sustainable business model than the advertising revenue-based model other online publications rely on,” wrote The Verge’s Jay Peters. “Aftermath wants to build its business on subscriptions and take a simpler approach to things to try and best serve readers who are paying them directly.”
- Said freelance games journalist Leana Hafer on Bluesky:
It seems like we're at the start of a mass revolt against the unsustainable business model that has been the norm in games journalism the entire time I've been doing it, which is stressful but exciting. Maybe we can save this profession. The people leading the charge are awesome.
- This on the heels of longtime (and sometimes problematic) gaming website The Escapist imploding as many staff, including prominent video creator Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, have resigned following the firing of Editor-in-Chief Nick Calandra. Croshaw has announced plans to create a new platform. (UPDATE: Alongside Calandra, Croshaw has announced a new independent games media platform called Second Wind.)
Summertime-vibes epitomized, Boku no Natsuyasumi 2 is finally, finally available in English
- First released in 2002 by Millennium Kitchen and SCE, Boku No Natsuyasumi 2 (“My Summer Vacation 2,” roughly translated) is an all-vibes lifestyle sim following a boy named Boku on his chill, rural Japan family vacation in the summer of 1975.
- Long-admired from afar, the Boku No Natsuyasumi series has been a bit of a white whale for a lot of western gamers. Its unique take on low-conflict gameplay, rural setting, and relaxed vibes was unusual at the time, but fits nicely with a lot of popular modern games like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
- Canadian YouTuber Hilltop, who has previously localized Racing Lagoon and Dr. Slump, among many other games, decided to take on the task of localizing the game. His patch for the PS2 version (the game was ported to PSP in 2010) was released in early November, 2023.
- “I would like to thank the rest of the team for helping me in making this localization the absolute highest quality possible, with no expense spared and not a single corner cut,” Hilltop wrote on their Patreon.
- The series officially debuted in the West with 2022’s Shin-chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation, a crossover with the popular (and god-ugly) Crayon Shin-chan, a Japanese manga series and television adaptation created by Yoshito Usui. Though, the semi-connected Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale was released in North America in 2013 on the Nintendo 3DS.
- “The best way I think I can describe the games to anyone who hasn’t played them is to imagine Persona 4's daily schedule and idyllic rural setting, and then picture a game where going around town talking to people and doing idyllic sidequests was all you had to do,” wrote Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett (now of Aftermath, above). “No monsters, no fighting, no RPG stuff.”
First-person dungeon crawler adds pronouns out of spite, trolls cry, creator posts beautiful response
- On October 31st, a King’s Field-inspired indie dungeon-crawler called Lunacid, launched its 1.0 version to much excitement among fans, and no small amount of bellyaching from alt-right trolls upset creator Akuma Kira added pronouns to the game—seemingly out of spite in response to the backlash Starfield received for doing the same.
- Some “fans” were predictably upset about their inclusion, period, but others were fairly frustrated by the possibility Kira (who uses they/them pronouns) added them as a stunt.
- “Version 1.0 added pronouns to character creation in Lunacid, which some people are upset about because they exist, and some people are upset because they think it’s a cheap tactic to make people mad, and that I’m hurting people who normally use them,” Kira wrote on Lunacid’s official Steam page. “If you don't like pronouns existing at all, you are going to have a tougher and tougher time coping as the world progresses without you. And if I hurt you because you feel that I weaponized your differences or your pain, then I am very sorry.”
- “I want this game to be uplifting,” Kira finished, “I want it to be a dream in which you can experience triumph over impossible odds and then wake up at the end and bring newfound confidence with you.”
- More of this, please.
- Games Journalist and YouTuber Brendan Hesse posted this fabulous interview with Kira:
There are lots of ways to support Astrolabe and my other work. Check ‘em out!
Keep In Touch
They’ll be exclusive for paid supporters on release, then opened to everyone a week later. ↩