The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for being on holiday before Christmas! So just a quick one this week.

As the Warhammer Age Of Reckoning MMO closes down, former developer Josh Drescher writes about how he believes WAR is still everywhere, as so many of the game’s team have gone on to work on other leading MMOs, and how many other MMOs have picked up ideas from Warhammer. “If you look around the industry today at pretty much any major MMO being developed in the Western market, you will find WAR there. Sometimes, it will be in the games themselves where concepts and ideas that first showed up in WAR have been “gently borrowed”. Mostly, however, it’s in the people making those games. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a major MMORPG team whose leadership doesn’t feature someone who cut their teeth as a developer on WAR.”

CS Story is a completely daft text adventure, in which you try to squeeze in a game of Counter Strike: Global Offensive before some non-gaming friends come over. In order to play, you’re going to have to enter the mindset of someone who cares rather a lot about CS:GO. For instance, it didn’t take kindly to my opting to uninstall it right away. “Today is a terrible day. You’ve deleted Counter-Strike: Global Offensive from your computer. You are an idiot. If it wasn’t for your extremely fast internet connection, you’d be devastated.”

Assuming you’ve not already used up your Boston Globe online access quota, this story about Continue?9876543210 talks about how the game made author Jesse Singal reflect on his own fears of death. “What does it mean for a video-game character to be faced with nothingness? How should it, and we, respond to this knowledge? But the game is more than just a meditation on mortality. Playing it and corresponding with Oda via e-mail revealed that it also offers a fascinating statement on the act of playing — and making — a meaningful game.” As an aside, I find it rather sad that this article is filed under “Television” by the paper, as it has no designated space for games.

The splendid Outside Xbox team have put together a piece on their worst games of 2013. And they rightly pitch this as those games that were so bad they couldn’t stop playing. “These are the Xbox abominations that somehow kept us playing – if not until the closing credits, then until we’d recovered from our astonishment. As with a car wreck, you just can’t look away, and that makes you a terrible person.”

As someone who’s lived with anxiety disorder for many years, this article by Rhodri Marsden on Short List really struck home. It is precisely my experience, up to and excluding meditation, which I would find far too inward-looking to be even vaguely helpful. “If your girlfriend is half an hour late arriving at a party, the correct procedure is to make a mental note, carry on enjoying your evening and think about calling her in 20 minutes to check she’s OK. But this common-sense approach was not for me. Having failed to reach her on the phone, I sat sobbing with friends as I assumed she was dead. Mown down in cold blood by a juggernaut, she didn’t deserve to die so young.”

And for those without anxiety, this piece on the difference between empathy and sympathy is fantastic.

Finally, some music. And in this Christmas week it can only be this.


  1. Ultra Superior says:

    link to

    I would recommend this blog. Tis quite a story of desperation.

    • Shuck says:

      That’s the game industry. It’s depressingly familiar.

    • Lucid Spleen says:

      Well, thanks, that was pretty depressing. I’m not sure I’d survive under the sort of pressure/stress they’re under. So hats off/kudos to them for sticking with it. Since I can’t send them money I will send them good vibes. I do like what I’ve seen of their ideas and hope it all works out well. They should shorten the name to Kingdom Come, though.

    • The Random One says:

      “One of the biggest blows was being turned down by a very promising, international publishing company. Although the U.S.-based wing of the corporation seemed very excited about the project, their European representative let us know that they didn’t think the game would fly with Americans.”

      The games industry in a nutshell.

  2. Serenegoose says:

    Outside xbox really are quite good. Whenever they appear on my frequent youtube sojourns I often find myself flicking through a few videos, and I don’t even own an xbox. Pity they’re platform restricted, but that’s probably the price they pay for getting nice sets and a salary. :(

  3. kwyjibo says:

    The New York Times profiles a Clash of Clans pay to win whale. link to

    • soulblur says:

      Wow. Incredible. Although he has converted it into a job that he likes, so that’s something. But it really makes me want to stop playing. Not that I’m anything like that, but still.

    • Reapy says:

      In my house I imagine the scenario playing out differently:

      Son: “Dad I want to play this pay to win RTS game!!”
      Me: *Installs dawn of war 1 & 2, starcraft 2, call of duty*
      Son: “oh”
      Me: “Yeah”

  4. HadToLogin says:

    I so want Dark. If only it were for $5, I’d buy it straight away.

    Guess I need to cheer myself up playing Vampire Bloodlines :P .

  5. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Meditation is definitely a useful tool. As a life long sufferer of depression and anxiety I’ve had most types of therapy and medications, even many years of the much vaunted CBT. Sadly nothing has worked (rather ‘change’ is a constant work in progress), but meditation is at least something I can use as refuge when it gets severe. It solved a months-long bout of intractable insomnia too.

    • Lucid Spleen says:

      Many years ago I found meditation to be very helpful for calming down, but I could only do it when other people were around for some reason. These days, I can’t even sit still long enough to do it without wanting to scream. I, too, have tried many different approaches to combating depression and anxiety with little luck. So far, alcohol has been the only reliable de-stressor that I have come across, unfortunately I became ‘over-reliant’ (read: complete piss-head) and had to give that up in 2006. As, you say, it’s a constant WIP. I was part of a therapeutic community dealing in what they termed Mentalisation Based Therapy for 18 months. It has not eliminated the anxiety or depression but has resulted in me managing my feelings somewhat better. The lows are seldom as low as they were.

      • stupid_mcgee says:

        Not be dismissive, but I’m generally pessimistic about alternative treatment stuff. I have no doubt that meditation can be helpful, but meditation alone is NOT a form of treatment. You need to see a psychologist first and then see if they recommend a psychiatrist. IMO, only severe cases should be given to psychiatry, as I think drug regiments should really only be given in the more extreme cases.

        Anyways, go to a psychologist. Their entire job is to find the root of these problems and help you manage and work through them without the need for medication. Sometimes, there is no issue that causes/triggers this, and it is an issue of chemical imbalance. In that case, psychiatry can help. On the counter, though, some people look to taking pills and doing various alternative therapies instead of looking at their mental state, history, and working through emotional issues that still plague them. A friend-of-a-friend that has suffered through years of depression is still just as off-and-on as she has ever been, but she swears that her once-a-month all-juice detox-diets help. It’s obvious to everyone else that they don’t. But, hey, that’s the placebo effect for you.

        So, tl;dr – I’m sure meditation can be great in conjunction with help from proper and respected therapists, but I don’t think its a viable substitute for proper therapy.

        • Lucid Spleen says:

          Not sure if your reply is to meant for me or not since I didn’t mention any alternative therapies. Anyway, I tend to share your pessimism with them. I was first introduced to meditation as a (small) part of a treatment that I underwent for alcohol and drug problems at an establishment run by a qualified doctor who specialised in ‘addictive’ personalities like mine.
          I didn’t get to see a psychiatrist until much later. And they mostly just wanted to give me new drug to try out. Eventually, I was given a place at an NHS-run Therapeutic Community as I mentioned. Mental health treatment and diagnosis is still a bit hit-and-miss in this country (UK) and some people will find solace where they can, including in alternative methods. As, you say, always talk to a psychiatrist first, but I doubt they would say much against techniques such as meditation as long as it was combined with a therapeutic regime of some sort. Personally, I have had very good experiences with group therapy but I am also medicated because of my anxiety. A mixture is sometimes required.

        • Venkman says:

          stupid_mcgee: I share your skepticism of “alternative treatments”, and 2-4 years ago I looked into the research on meditation. At around that time there had been a large review of hundreds or thousands of the published studies on meditation. As you may suspect, results were inconclusive. While meditation most likely does help lower blood pressure and helps with some stress, many of the studies about greater effects had shoddy methodology.

          I looked into it again a couple of months ago and the situation is completely different. Just in the last couple of years, many well-controlled studies have been done on meditation’s benefits. One showed that effects on depression were the same as anti-depressants but lasted even longer. In total, there is almost no doubt that meditation is effective and healthy, and it arguably “should” be done by everybody regularly in the same way that everybody “should” exercise regularly. Look into it. You can start here: link to

          On the other side of things, you seem to be too accepting of mainstream psychology in general. In fact, many people believe (with studies to back them up) that most psychotherapy is nonsense. I believe some research has shown that no form of therapy other than CBT has been proven to be helpful for depression. Long-term therapy where people need to “work things out” for 3 hours a week with a psychologist for years is crap.

          Turn some of that “alternative treatment” skepticism onto the mainstream practices. You may be surprised at what you find.

          Also, bad on John Walker for taking what is basically a factually inaccurate swipe at meditation. (And I don’t even meditate). For people who “can’t meditate”, try this:

          link to

          And also remember that you’re not necessarily supposed to be able to sit there peacefully for 30 minutes when you first start. It’s like working out.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Mcgee – respectfully,there are many inaccuracies in what you have said.

      Firstly, every UK psychistrist I have seen rejects the chemical imbalance theory. It is highly contested and criticised, and was even banned for a time in advertising in the US. Secondly, meditation is a core treatment path of “respected” therapists, being central to DBT, MCBT, MBSR and increasing numbers of accepted modalities. The mentalisation mentioned above is also a respected clinical treatment path.

      Thirdly, your estimate of the ease and effectiveness of treatments is inaccurate. Therapy works for some people, meds work for some people. But there are large populations for whom neither are helpful (in fact a driver for the development of Schema Therapy was the recognition that CBT failed a wide cross section of people). It is very frustrating as an individual who has been through many years of recognised psychotherapies and medications to read attitudes that seem to underestimate the scale of the task that is overcoming these conditions. At the front lines, therapy failures are just as common as successes, no matter what the carefully controlled lab studies may say. That is coming from Clinical Psychologists within the NHS.

      Perhaps you genuinely meant well but advice on such a complex and emotive topic as this should steer clear of reductionism as much as possible. Though depressed people need hope, dashed hope is more damaging in the long term

      • Jackablade says:

        You’ve piqued my interest with the mention of chemical imbalance being disputed as a cause of depression. I thought that was effectively what depression is – you get too much of one thing or not enough of another and it starts tripping your negative emotional… thingy. Or something. If that isn’t the case then what exactly are the medications actually doing?

        I’ve gone through some rough emotional times recently (not, I think, depression, but something with some similarities) so it’d be good to get a better handle of what it all means.

        • hilltop says:

          I don’t think it is unfair to say the exact underpinnings of depression are not fully understood (as with many conditions today). It is quite possible (and maybe some would say probable) that particular brain areas are functioning abnormally (over or underactive, to be crude) and that modifying their function would help. The different brain areas connect with eachother using chemical transmitters. So changing the amount of transmitters at play is likely to be doing something. (This is an incredibly mundane comment and so vague it could apply to most neurological conditions I suppose. Sorry for that).

          But there isn’t an effective way to introduce more of a transmitter to one discrete pathway – ignoring the rest of the brain. Medications can alter the level of substances (like serotonin, let’s say) but it does this on a brain-wide level.

          The idea of a basic “chemical imbalance” (that overall levels of x, y or z are low and need “boosting”) was a tool of marketing – and a particularly successful one at that.

        • Nate says:

          The best article I know of to answer you is a free, full text US journal article at ; the tl;dr can be found on wikipedia in statements like

          ” A counterargument is that the mood-enhancing effect of MAO inhibitors and SSRIs takes weeks of treatment to develop, even though the boost in available monoamines occurs within hours. Another counterargument is based on experiments with pharmacological agents that cause depletion of monoamines; while deliberate reduction in the concentration of centrally available monoamines may slightly lower the mood of unmedicated depressed patients, this reduction does not affect the mood of healthy people.”

          As to why these drugs work? First of all, they don’t work great, and there are reasons to be suspicious of the research– but to the best of our knowledge, they are slightly more effective than placebo. “Chemical imbalances” are a likely culprit in mental illness, but that’s not saying much, because presumably, all of our thoughts and emotions are expressed in different chemicals in different places at different times, and “imbalance” is just us saying that particular expression is dysfunctional. Neurotransmitter imbalances may be part of an ultimately useful model of mental illness while still being something like one of three blind men describing an elephant.

          Really, though, we don’t have to understand why treatments work to know that they do work. It’s not uncommon that we’ll have some story to explain a treatment’s effectiveness that later turns out unfounded.

  6. Don Reba says:

    War, huh yeah
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh

    link to

    So, what Mr. Drescher is saying is that Warhammer became to MMOs what STALKER is to Ukrainian game development. Every team over there is said to have someone from GSC.

  7. Tams80 says:

    I can see why anxiety to that extent is misunderstood. I find it hard to understand how someone can think that unrealistically. I do believe it occurs, I just can empathise with it.

    That leads to the empathy/sympathy debate. That video paints sympathy as bad. If someone hasn’t experienced something similar, how can they empathise? All they can offer is sympathy. That’s isn’t to say sympathy isn’t used in ways that don’t help, but the same could be said of empathy. Sympathy also has the benefit of not requiring the sympathiser to have gone through similar pain.

    • Ritashi says:

      Empathy doesn’t actually require you to have gone through similar pain – it just requires that you can understand that pain. If you’ve gone through it then it’s easier to understand, but just listening to someone really ought to be enough, if you are good at empathy and also really care. Sympathy isn’t helpful, because sympathy is highly related to pity; I feel bad for you, way over there. As opposed to empathy, which is fundamentally about being there with someone. It’s hard to communicate empathy (I’m not great at it, certainly), but it’s not that hard to feel, or to understand what sort of things are going to be more helpful and why.

      • Tams80 says:

        Going by that definition, sympathy is when one doesn’t understand the situation. The video seems to suggest this is wrong. If so, what should people who do not understand do? Be apathetic or do nothing? Of course this depends on the sufferer, but then again, a sufferer may also not want empathy; they may see it as pity. Does that mean we shouldn’t emphasise either?

      • hilltop says:

        The video is being incredibly dismissive of sympathy.

        The worthwhile part of the video is the highlighting of how *not* to phrase comments when trying to offer comfort. Which is useful.

        As is the emphasis on what ought to be motivating comments (a desire to lend an ear rather than a desire to make someone feel better with words).

        But I don’t think setting the whole thing up as empathy vs sympathy was prudent or in any way accurate.

        Advising people to avoid trying to just cheer someone up by reminding them “it’s not that bad” is well and good. Pretending that “it’s not that bad” is the summation of sympathy is a strange tack.

  8. daphne says:

    Social phobia sufferer here… the anxiety article really hit home and hard. :(

  9. benjaminlobato says:

    Meditation is definitely one of most effective treatments for anxiety. I think you should give it a chance John.

  10. Chris Evans says:

    For anyone interested in Train Simulator and the changes the developers have made in their rebranding, there is an interview at this page.

  11. Gap Gen says:

    Re: the idea of male anxiety being related to male gender roles, masculinity really is the worst thing. The sooner we repackage the good stuff as gender-neutral behaviors and burn the rest in a bonfire, the better. Same for feminity too, I guess.

    I’ve read articles where the author is trying to redefine masculinity in a better world, and I’m like dude, no, just burn it down and start again. Seriously, not worth it.

  12. hprice says:

    Hi folks, and Happy Xmas etc.

    Just skimmed over the anxiety article. I tend not to read such things since I get too anxious reading them(!). Anyway, I’ve been a very long time anxiety sufferer (was diagnosed in 2006 with “Social Phobia” … which is not really a phobia. In fact, it may actually be a developmental disorder instead, and I’ve had it all my life. Just turned 46…). I also have depression, and probably (only my, and others suspicions … haven’t been diagnosed with it as of yet) a dash of autism too (probably Asperger’s Syndrome). A triple whammy … yay!!

    Anyhow, I have tried meditation in the past year, and it has worked a bit for me. But don’t think of it as “meditation” if you try it. Just think of it as clearing your head of all those anxieties, and all that noise you have in your head all the time, and a way of also getting your hyperventilation down. It really is just a form of “task focus”. You try to concentrate on nothing (very … Zen, that!), and doing so brings your breathing down, and gives you a bit of peace for a while. I’m not at all New Agey, and was surprised that it did some good. So have a go. It beats going to group meetings (my stress levels go through the roof with those bloomin’ things). For people with Social Phobia, other people are hell!

    I, myself have only done it a few times in 10 minute and 20 minute bursts but for me it has been quite good at just giving me a break from the noise and bustle of modern life. I’ve not done it for a while since I’ve had one hell of a year (just don’t ask …) but I am going to start again with it today. Maybe even once I’ve sent this off. Hopefully, it will help calm down the astronomical amount of adrenaline that has been pumping through me for months. Time will tell.

    Anyway … people with anxiety/social phobia … you are not alone … and if you find a coping mechanism, it’s ok. Just don’t go too far with it, that’s all (ie alchohol, Lucid Spleen! :)) Anything in moderation. I find computer games really helpful. It’s a great escape from humanity! Minecraft in particular is magnificently soothing if you play it on easy or normal, or creative. Too many creepers can seriously up the adrenaline levels significantly.

    Also any escapist tv or film is good too. Concentrate on the screen, and you will have a bit of out time from all the madness going on around you.

    Remember, you are not mad. It’s everyone else who is …

    Best wishes, and have a good 2014 (blimey, last time I looked it was 1982 … wahhh)

    Harvey P.

    • Lucid Spleen says:

      Unfortunately, when I was younger I had very little concept of the word ‘moderation’. It always seemed to be associated with other words such as normal or average; words that my ill-formed mind would shy away from as I chased the highs, rarely setting foot down to earth. Now, I know better, but I had to lose almost everything of value in my life to learn the lesson.
      Anyway, take care and all the best for 2014…

  13. RiffRaff says:

    I really didn’t like that video since whoever made it seems to have a very poor understanding of what sympathy is. And the message itself seemed to just dismiss the idea that someone who hasn’t been in the exact same bad situation can have a positive and helpful impact on a persons life.

    “you don’t know what I am going through so shut up”

    sympathy and empathy are two very closely related ideas. What the video is dismissive of, and what it mistakes, isn’t sympathy, because sympathy requires understanding and compassion.

    “there’s always a silver lining”

    that’s not sympathy, that’s not someone understanding your problems, that’s someone who isn’t interested and wants to change the subject so they don’t have to hear about how bad things are going for you. That’s not sympathy, that’s just being a selfish prick.

    You know the other week when the typhoon hit the Philippines, that twisting in your stomach at the thought of what those people were going through, the grief that struck people around the world? Well you have no idea what those people were going through, neither do I, and neither do most people. How could anyone possibly understand what happened without actually being there when it happened?

    “well at least you have your health”

    Its hard to keep these things in the main headlines of the news, but when disasters like that happen the world doesn’t just shrug its shoulders and move on, they might not still be in the headlines but they aren’t out of people thoughts.

    link to

    Merry Christmas everyone.

    • iucounu says:

      You seem to be criticizing the video based on a disagreement about the definitions of the words ‘sympathy’ and ’empathy’, and I agree: the video assumes certain definitions, which certainly aren’t the only definitions, and one could certainly stand up for a more sympathetic reading of ‘sympathy’.

      I liked it, though, in that it at least draws a clear and useful distinction between two behaviours I recognise from life; maybe let’s call it the difference between waadweo and qwpiovn or something.

      • RiffRaff says:

        I suppose that the problem I have with it might be a disagreement with the definitions. I don’t know what definition the person who made the video is going by, but it seems to be so far removed from what I understand the emotion to be that I just don’t recognise it in those actions. It paints the sympathetic person as someone who says “oh that’s sad” and moves on, but to me that’s someone who just doesn’t care about your problems.

        Its absolutely true that a sympathetic person might say similar things sometimes (I have been on the receiving end of more than one “well at least…”), but the difference is that they do actually care, and they will stick around even if they don’t understand, and that’s not something to shut away or dismiss as something lesser.

        To feel sympathy for another’s situation is a positive and human thing to do, to know that someone feels sympathy for you when you are at your lowest point is a powerful thing to hold onto. You don’t always need someone to fully understand what you are going through for them to have a positive impact on your life.

        Honestly, now that I think about it I think my real problem is that it might send out the wrong message, that only the people who have been through the same experience can provide the most valuable support.

        • hilltop says:

          I don’t like the video – because of the definitions they seem to be using. I think it is disingenious to re-define a common concept in a negative light and then argue against the new definition.

          But since the overall message and motivation (trying to improve communication and connection with people in need of it) seems to be genuine, I have been trying to understand why the speaker in the video (and presumably Theresa Wiseman, the Nursing Scholar referred to) chose this approach.

          The core message seems to be to avoid trying to cheer people up with “it’s not that bad”-isms. (Oh, English language, you sorely abused servant). So why pretend sympathy *is* taking the “it’s not that bad” approach?

          Given sympathy is a negative feeling due to someone elses suffering (feeling sorry for someone) – the authors seem to be making the leap that all comments driven by sympathy will be an attempt to rid onesself of this feeling – by making the sufferer feel better.

          They then contrast this with empathy and the vicarious experience of someone’s emotions. They assert that this type of mindset will motivate a desire to connect.

          I don’t think it is fair to imply that sympathy leads inexorably to a desire to minimise and dismiss someone’s suffering. Everything of value in the piece could have been retained if it was billed as “An Approach to Comforting” or “Dealing with Suffering” or some such, rather than an empathy/sympathy dichotomy. And perhaps this would have avoided alienating some who have commented?

  14. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    The empathy video is pretty hard viewing for people with autism.

    “Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection.” In my experience (both in the literature, and as someone with autism) I have no inhibitions with sympathy; however, empathy as experienced by neurotypicals is beyond me; the best I can do is a concious process of consideration, rather than the intuitive imagined experience of the other. So this video basically says “hey autistic people, you’re doomed to fail at creating connection and driving people away when you sympathize with them as the next best thing.” Not necessarilly untrue, but harsh.

    • Jackablade says:

      The video seems very confused as to what empathy and sympathy are and the differences between the two. I wouldn’t let it get you too down.

    • Tams80 says:

      You and your kind are worthless to those suffering and should just not bother.*

      *that’s what I got from the video

    • Nate says:

      I think it’d be better to treat the words “empathy” and “sympathy” as having specialized meanings when understood in the context of that video. They’re not the only meanings in popular use, and some popular meanings are very different, and that confuses matters, but the video’s definitions are also used frequently enough and for long enough that it’s no good just to deny those meanings.

      In the beginning of that video, it talks about three skills: perspective-taking, avoiding judgment, and recognition and communication of emotion. For those with autism-spectrum, I think it’s only the third skill that necessarily comes with more difficulty (and it could be argued that sometimes it makes the first skill come easier– certainly when empathizing with somebody on the autism spectrum!) Anybody trying to jump right into practicing these intuitively, without a great deal of practice, isn’t going to do well. Regardless of how their brain works, they’re going to think that they understand what somebody is going through entirely too often. Empathy, as described by the video, _should_ be a conscious process. Like any other skilled activity, it’s too hard to do it right otherwise. And doing it automatically, unconsciously, yet honestly, might just demand too much of one’s emotional well-being; it could be a skill to be saved for important occasions.

      I know people want to be useful, even when they have a limited experience (like if you’re male, and a friend had a miscarriage). The answer to that isn’t to shut up and go away, of course, not any more than it is to say, “At least…”. The way to be useful isn’t to fix anything– nothing is going to fix that miscarriage. It’s to listen attentively and carefully. Under different definitions, to listen sympathetically.

      PS: Not just addressing you, but other related threads here as well.

      • hilltop says:

        I have frankly never come across this idea of defining sympathy in this way. I remain of the opinion it is a misuse of the word and not a legitimate alternative definition. I have not seen a reputable source defining it any way other than the “classic” one.

        Edit: I am referring to the definition in the video as the one I am unfamiliar with. Apologies for lack of clarity.

  15. Amun says:

    I like a Minnesota band as much as anyone, but Texas has more hilarious christmases:
    link to

    (don’t bother to watch the video though)

  16. SanguineAngel says:

    I won! I got my avatar to quit counter strike! Slight anger issues though

  17. bill says:

    Wow! You mean that the generic MMO that was WAR is still around in other generic MMOs? WHo’d have thought it. ;-)