From foot races to competitive cooking, there's just something inherently intriguing about watching experts perform everyday activities much faster than you ever thought imaginable. Thanks to the incipient popularity of boisterous events like Awesome Games Done Quick, many gamers around the world have taken up the mantle of speedrunning, applying the exacting shadow of a ticking stopwatch to their favourite games. But while droves of players young and old flow through the virtual turnstiles of Twitch to watch noted runners take shot after shot at famous events, like Ocarina of Time "any percent," or collecting all 120 stars in Super Mario 64, some smaller runners are carrying the brutal second-by-second logic of the perfect run into games that do little to encourage such a competitive atmosphere.
Mornings have taken a weird turn in the Eurogamer office. My bus drops me in half an hour early, which gives me time to have a few runs on the Fortnite challenges. Then Tom Phillips is generally next in, often a little bleary-eyed because he likes to play Fortnite long into the night. Chris Tapsell turns up, and he and Tom will talk about what they got up to in Pokémon Go the evening before, and by that time a few other people will be at their desks, maybe having a round of Hearthstone.
Animal Crossing is, like Tetris, a game that is constantly evolving in quiet ways while seeming - superficially and to outsiders - to be a game that never changes at all. Holding a piece, the instant drop, even the number of pieces visibly queued up ahead: these are all elements that have fundamentally changed the way Tetris plays. Equally, in Animal Crossing a new type of store, a new focus for your collecting, a subtle tweaking to the economy can transform the overall experience of living in a village and trying to get Spike to come back home.
I am going to get straight to this. No preamble. Spike is returning to Animal Crossing. Possibly, he's back already. If you downloaded the very recent update that was launched to coincide with today's Nintendo Direct, you may have him rattling around in your 3DS right freakin' now. He will be grumpy in there, maybe even angry. But all of that is a front. Beneath the bluster, Spike is someone special. Reader, hold onto him. Cleave to him! Take it from me. I lost him once already.
Several Christmases ago, I went to Guildford to interview Peter Molyneux. Towards the end of our conversation, I asked him what I thought was a pretty sneaky question in order to get him to spill the beans on his next, as yet unannounced project. "I know you can't tell me what you're working on at the moment," I said, laying a trap so elegant that even a canny panther might find himself caught within its snare, "but can you tell me about the problems with games that you're currently interested in solving?" I sat back and complimented myself on my underhand brilliance. Maybe after this interview, I should apply to the CIA.
It's often tough to say goodbye. But when only eight games come out for a system in a whole year, it's probably time to bid our farewells. The last GameCube release - the last one ever, I think it's safe to say - was Ratatouille, and God knows where the shops put that. Hidden amongst the three pre-owned copies of Luigi's Mansion at the back of the shelf, probably.