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The psychology of Soulsbornes, and more from Speedrun

Finding fun in unexpected places.

Graphic grid featuring four stills from various video games and portraits of Jimmy Mondal and Mari Takahashi Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon | Source images: various
Mike Mahardy leads game criticism and curation at Polygon as senior editor, reviews. He has been covering entertainment professionally for more than 10 years.

Just when we thought we were done talking about From Software games, we once again talked about From Software Games.

After a brief hiatus, Speedrun returned this week with a new format: three episodes a week focused on thematic deep dives and journalistic storytelling. Think of it like This American Life meets The Daily meets video games.

And on a show about video games, what better theme to return with than “fun?” More specifically, the “unexpected fun” we find in our favorite titles. We talked to Respawn about the studio’s knack for magical movement. We interviewed a prominent streamer about the thrilling fear of horror games. And yes, we brought in a psychologist to dissect the masochistic joy of Nioh 2. To paraphrase Pat Gill: we talked about Soulsbornes, and you couldn’t stop us.

What’s more, we added a new member to the Speedrun crew: Mari Takahashi, better known as AtomicMari, joined the team as our West Coast correspondent, and the show is instantly better for it. Her backgrounds in improv and role-playing have already allowed us to embed with a group of cannibals in Fallout 76 (more on that next week) and her fascination with in-game communities meshes seamlessly with our own. We have no shortage of assignments for her going forward.

Following in that vein, allow me to tease Monday’s episode, which is by far one of my personal favorites since we launched the show two months (seven years) ago. Our very own Simone de Rochefort caught up with Termacious Trickocity, a group whose knowledge of the Halo series has allowed them to break into more hidden rooms and forgotten alcoves than most of us see in a year’s worth of AAA games. It’s a stunning testament to the amount of development work that ends up on the cutting room floor.

We’ll be back Monday, and I’ll be back next Friday. Talk to you then.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.