The Sunday Papers

I'm back whether you want me or not.

Sundays are for whatever you please. Don’t let me tell you what you can and can’t do. You’re free and the world is your lobster.

  • Richard Cobbett’s Patreon work is getting into swing. This past week he posted a video review of Heroine’s Quest, before doing something a little more unusual and writing a personal piece in Hearthstone, Anxiety And Me.
  • The whole experience is just so beautifully handled. It’s such a small thing, and I’m aware how ridiculous this is probably going to sound, but I adore that from the very first second it feels inclusive. “Welcome to my inn!” “Look who it is!” “Pull up a chair!” “It’s good ta see you again!” It hits right at the thing I detest most in online games – the way that other players so often try to act like you shouldn’t be there with their cries of “Noob” and whatever, as if they emerged from the womb knowing how to juggle with Sand King. Hearthstone instead carries… on a micro-scale, naturally… the thing that I loved most about the Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon books – that no matter what your problem, or how broken or fucked up you might feel, that you can always hope to find a Place.

  • Brendon Keogh looks at Jane McGonigal’s latest project and discusses the dangerous temptation of being videogame evangelist:
  • Uncritical evangelism is unhelpful, and it only benefits those who are evangelising. “Play, don’t Replay!” is, on the surface, a grassroots online activity to raise awareness. I don’t doubt that this is exactly what McGonigal, with the best of intentions, sees it as. But it is also a means to crowdsource research via the free labour of trauma sufferers while drastically overstating the results of a single study in order to advance a personal agenda. Like any project, it demands scepticism and criticism; its positive intentions don’t exempt it. But dare ask a question about the methods or the science of the project and, no, you are merely a games naysayer.

  • Hobby Game Dev states what should be obvious, but often isn’t: don’t run before you can walk, don’t bite off more than you can chew, don’t try to make Call of Duty for your first game.
  • There is a certain amount of fearlessness, unreasonableness, and boldness that successful entrepreneurs, innovators, and cultural leaders of all kinds have had at their core. However, the fact that some amount of fearlessness is a factor in success does not automatically mean that an even greater amount of fearlessness linearly correlates to greater success, nor that it’s the only factor. Bold leaders still need a viable strategy, considerable experience and connections in the relevant domains, and a certain dose of patience and discipline underlying their persistence and determination.

  • Adam round up some goat opinions last week, but then goat farmer Angelina Bellebuono wrote a review for PC Gamer. Does it, ahem, get her goat?
  • As we destroy this virtual world, I gradually drift away from the violence and am lulled into watching the shadows follow Mayhem Goat so perfectly, and admiring the texture of his fur and his divine squash-belly body. What a lovely specimen of goat he is, I think, even as he does things no goat would ever do. I laugh deliriously at his ridiculous lolling tongue and heaving breath as he rests between goat missions. I wonder if the game developers know that in my pasture, a lolling tongue means the most rudimentary of goat romance awaits. Of this, Dolly might indeed be envious.

  • The Guardian riles up some die hard fans by aiming for Sonic. Which, yes, was always shit.
  • Come to think of it, revisiting the old games is actually a wildly disappointing endeavor. Here’s a confronting idea: what if the Sonic franchise was never that good to begin with? As he wheels through golden loops and collects rings in our memory, the real-life classic Sonic gets stuck on invisible pixels, makes frustrated leaps endlessly upward among spinning columns that loom just out of reach. The irksome sounds of his repetitive, fruitless jumping – woop, woop, woop – join the rough hiss of his “spin dash” engine revving, weep-weep-weep-weep, in an impotent sound collage.

    I used to play a Sonic game to help me fall asleep, because it was so boring. I don’t remember which one, because it doesn’t matter. They were all rubbish.

  • I’ve had this open in a tab for weeks and only just got round to reading it. The New Yorker on the pointlessness of unplugging from the technology that surrounds us.
  • Unplugging seems motivated by two contradictory concerns: efficiency and enlightenment. Those who seek efficiency rarely want to change their lives, only to live more productively; rather than eliminating technology, they seek to regulate their use of it through Internet-blocking programs like Freedom and Anti-Social, or through settings like Do Not Disturb. The hours that they spend off the Internet aren’t about purifying the soul but about streamlining the mind. The enlightenment crowd, by contrast, abstains from technology in search of authenticity, forsaking e-mail for handwritten letters, replacing phone calls with face-to-face conversations, cherishing moments instead of capturing them with cameras. Both crowds are drawn to events like the Day of Unplugging, and some members even pay premiums to vacation at black-hole resorts that block the Internet and attend retro retreats that ban electronics. Many become evangelists of such technological abstinence, taking to social media and television, ironically, to share insights from their time in the land of innocence.

    What could be more enlightened than what you find on the internet?

  • Maxwell Neely-Cohen writes about the intersections of a life spent loving books and games, and how both mediums could do better to serve the audience of the other.
  • By the time I was in high school, I was confused as to why such a small collection of books were explicitly influencing games. When I first read The Handmaid’s Tale, I could not understand why there was not a video game version lurking somewhere in a dark corner of the digital universe, or even vague homages in the totally unrelated omnipresent sci-fi dystopias that were the setting for so many games. In what can only be described now as adolescent naivety, it was unthinkable to me that male-dominated, technologically-centered works like Ender’s Game or Snow Crash were so in sync with the video games being developed, but As I Lay Dying and Pride and Prejudice were somehow unworthy.

  • Build your own asteroid terrarium. I hope one day a videogame lets me do this.

Music this week is a good time with Bad Times. Update: It’s sunny outside my window this morning, so music is now Intelligent Hoodlum’s Grand Groove.

129 Comments

  1. Ibed says:

    The link to the second article about game evangelism doesn’t work, it’s missing an “h” at the start (http instead of ttp).

  2. dangermouse76 says:

    Just in case anyone is interested ( and I understand you may not be ). I made Beer Butt Chicken for the first time yesterday. Can of Bud in the cavity with a rub of fennel seeds, cumin seeds, smoked paprika,chilli powder, salt ,pepper and garlic with olive oil. Shoved some thyme in there to and had it with corn on the cob…… amazing.

    On a gaming related note I opened up skyrim last night to check the in-game time, it was exactly the same as the “real world. ”
    I felt like I had found a glitch in the matrix spooky.

  3. jstanf36 says:

    “sonic is shit”

    and this is how I know you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    • RedViv says:

      And this comment is how we know you haven’t read the article at all. Everyone wins!

      • Philomelle says:

        He’s not commenting on the article, but on Graham’s addendum to the article. Which really is rather ugly and unnecessary, given the purpose of the article it comments on.

        • Mman says:

          Both the comments in the article and the comments on the article are “ugly and unnecessary”, especially when the article’s attempt to make it sound bad is mostly reductionist trolling of the game’s concept that you can do about just about any game, and a mention of “polygons” in a 2D game.

          • LionsPhil says:

            It’s a hilariously bad article, and I say that with no nostalgia for the game in question.

            When I woke up this delightfully sunny Sunday morning, The Grauniad linking to furry fetish images was not something I expected to see, though.

          • Premium User Badge

            Capital-T-Tim says:

            Rectangles (commonly used by 2D sprite-based games for collision) are polygons, yo

      • Premium User Badge

        SuddenSight says:

        Might as well be. It was an awful article. I never played the original Sonic, so I have no love for it. But after reading that article I don’t understand how anything in the article means the original Sonic was a bad game. No idea why the article was linked, except maybe that Graham Smith really dislikes Sonic? If so I wish he would write his own thoughts on the subject, anything would be better than the Guardian article.

    • EPICTHEFAIL says:

      Angry fanboy alert, repeat, angry fanboy alert!

      • Om says:

        If a film critic turns around and dismisses Metropolis out of hand as “shit” then they either don’t know what they’re talking about or are being deliberately contrariety. Either way, disagreeing with this doesn’t make someone an “angry fanboy”. Obvo.

        • maninahat says:

          You’re comparing Sonic to Metropolis? Is Frogger, like, the Citizen Kane of gaming as well? Besides the ridiculous comparision, it is perfectly acceptable for a critic to not like a “classic”, and treat them as something other than beyond reproach.

          What, are we saying his opinion is wrong, and that Graham secretly enjoyed Sonic?

          • Jackablade says:

            I’ll bet he keeps a Tails plush toy in a locked desk drawer and snuggles it when he thinks no one is looking.

        • dE says:

          You’re not seriously suggesting that crappy little Sonic has even remotely the cultural impact of Metropolis, are you?

          • Xocrates says:

            And you’re not seriously suggesting an hyperbolic comparison is reason enough to dismiss an argument, are you?

            Either way the point remains, dismissing out of hand something remembered as a “classic”, regardless of actual quality, is not exactly a demonstration of professionalism. At the very least you’re wilfully ignoring or disregarding the context that made the thing liked in the first place.

          • Om says:

            You could substitute any classic film for Metropolis and the analogy holds: a critic who simply dismisses a near-universally loved classic as “shit” has some explaining to do.

            Now do I particularly care if someone wants to play Armond White? Not particularly. But I do find it ridiculous to jump down someone’s throat with calls of ‘fanboy, fanboy’ just because they call the critic out on this.

            [Edit: And no, the idea that I was broadening my analogy beyond a particular medium (ie drawing comparisons as to “cultural impact”) is mistaken]

          • dE says:

            It’s part of the reason to dismiss an argument, but the lack of an actual argument was the real killer of the “argument”. Sonic’s popularity is in huge parts owed to an overly aggressive image campaign gearing up for a console war between Sega and Nintendo. There is no real merit in Sonic and it’s cultural impact is owed to the marketing campaign, not any strength of its own.
            Case in point, you’ll still hear most sonic fans praise the speed of the original game, which was the target of the advertisement campaign, when the game wasn’t really about speed and even went out of its way to constantly break the speed.

          • Mman says:

            “There is no real merit in Sonic and it’s cultural impact is owed to the marketing campaign, not any strength of its own.”

            Yeah, no. It’s not a series with a clear line of influence like some but Sonic’s momentum based mechanics and aesthetic design (including aspects like music) has influenced many games made since.

          • Paul.Power says:

            Put it this way, when he said “Metropolis” my mind immediately leapt to Metropolis Zone.

          • Philomelle says:

            I wrote up down in the comments what exactly Sonic brought into video games when it comes to good game design, and why it’s still remembered so fondly by many of the gamers (as opposed to just mascot lovers).

            Dismissing its influence on the platformer genre because you can’t see the game past the mascot doesn’t speak well of your ability to uphold this argument.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            “Case in point, you’ll still hear most sonic fans praise the speed of the original game, which was the target of the advertisement campaign, when the game wasn’t really about speed and even went out of its way to constantly break the speed.”

            Wrong. Maybe that’s the case with the people who only played Sonic Adventure and after, but it was the platforming physics that was most notable to people who cared about the early games. In fact, the vast majority of the complaints that the modern incarnations of 2D Sonic (especially Sonic 4) is that the physics are horrible (particularly his lack of momentum.)

          • Universal Quitter says:

            “There is no real merit in Sonic and it’s cultural impact is owed to the marketing campaign, not any strength of its own.”

            Right, because people only like things because they’re told to. As someone that was a child in North America during the time in question, I assure you that I liked Sonic because I liked the Genesis and Game Gear Sonic games, not because of TV ads or that TV show on the Disney Channel that I never watched.

            Just because there was a huge ad campaign at the time, that doesn’t make the ad campaign responsible. Maybe that’s enough correlation for an advertising department to justify all of they money they spent, but it’s not enough to establish a true cause and effect relationship.

            Now, once Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 06 came rolling around, money could be made on the IP alone, but that was not the case with the original games at all. If you want to say they sucked, have fun with that, but the original popularity is because kids enjoyed playing the games.

        • Tams80 says:

          This is all subjective. Other than on technicalities (new filming techniques etc.), a critics opinion is no more right or wrong than anyone else who has experienced the media.

          I think Citizen Kane and Metropolis are pretty rubbish films as I find them incredibly boring. A critics opinion on that matter is no more right or wrong than mine.

          • Philomelle says:

            The influence of Citizen Kane has absolutely nothing to do with its quality as a movie. In fact, I am kind of tired of seeing people use the “Citizen Kane of video games” line without having even a remote understanding of the line, thinking Kane was important because it was good.

            No, Citizen Kane is influential because it changed cinematography as we know it. It is the first movie to have used deep focus (a filming technique where the entire scene appears in sharp focus) and low-angle camera shots, the first to have filmed miniature models to present them as large interior spaces (the technique later used extensively in Star Wars to film space combat) and the first movie to have used an unreliable narrator. On top of it all, it was the first movie that had actual sound design with a soundtrack composed for the movie and designed to flow alongside its narrative, not just some music that played in the background.

            As a movie, it invented and defined so many techniques that it completely changed people’s approach to film-making. For that reason, it doesn’t actually have to be good in order to be influential.

          • joa says:

            I think film criticism goes a bit beyond whether the critic finds the film boring or not.

          • Jim Dandy says:

            Tams, you’re wrong. Some opinions are more valuable than others. That value is conferred by formal study and/or hard graft, tested and validated by processes such as peer review. Being entitled to a worthless opinion is a meagre privilege indeed.

        • Bradamantium says:

          Hoo, I love the notion that Sonic is anywhere near Metropolis, except maybe in the Metropolis Zone. The games aren’t complete shit, I’d say, but they’re very much a product of their time, an incredibly mascot-ified game pushed endlessly by Sega as Mario’s direct competitor. Gameplay-wise, they’re enjoyable, but they aren’t terribly special.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but that’s because I have no idea whether he knows what he’s talking about or not. He gives exactly zero information about why he thinks the games are bad in his pointlessly inflammatory comment.

      As for the article, I was expecting a reasoned argument on the quality of early Sonic games, but what I got was 1.5 paragraphs about that, while the rest of the article was dedicated to the creepy fan art that every animated property with at least moderate popularity has.

      And even that small amount of criticism was of questionable quality. There are no invisible pixels to get stuck on. The rough sound was a product of the Genesis/Mega Drive sound chip. Criticizing that he had a jump sound is odd, since that was a platformer standard in those days. Tails can easily be switched off if his understandably basic AI that does not affect gameplay (unless you plug in a second controller) is such a detriment to her experience.

      The last sentence is the most baffling, since it makes me question whether she actually played the games. How do you not get that the guy named Robotnik is turning small animals into robots? The robots are supposed to be jarring against the natural landscape, since they are a direct representation of Robotnik’s evil deeds. I’d say Sonic’s world makes a lot of sense, at least compared to other platformers of that era.

  4. amateurviking says:

    Aha! A timely reminder now that I have been paid to send some money in the direction of Mr Cobbett. He Do Good Stuff.

    I’m liking the move towards direct support for creatives from consumers rather than through advertising. I don’t adblock but I don’t think I’ve ever ‘clicked through’ (deliberately at least) but I *am* perfectly happy to pay for good content – especially when it’s on my terms and convenient. Which is why I subscribe to RPS. Baffles me that a lot of sites don’t even at least have a wee paypal donate button or something, even if they don’t draw any attention to it.

    • Geebs says:

      I’ve been agonising over “sponsoring” Richard (and Spoiler Warning, too) some money via Patreon, but I just find their payment model a bit off. I just want to send them some cash, I don’t want to make them an employee!

      I don’t think internet security is good enough in this day and age to just give somebody your credit details and let them take from your account monthly. Now I feel bad :-(

      • Simes says:

        You could always drop them a note asking if they have a Paypal account you could send money to.

        Although Paypal’s not always that brilliant either.

        • MichaelGC says:

          There’s one of those on the Twenty Sided website, at least, for those as don’t mind PayPal.

      • The Random One says:

        You are absolutely right to think this way, of course, but the whole point of Patreon is that you’re making these people your employees, that is, you’re letting them know they’ll get a certain amount of money every month and can plan ahead like people with regular jobs. You could become their patron for a month and then cancel it, of course, unless you mistrust Patreon’s credit card security.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        I actually have a PayPal donation page made, but I’ve been far too British so far to actually activate it. Will probably do so in May once I can feel comfortable that there’s some Patreon content up there. It’s probably me being dumb, but in my head Patreon feels more like a “I will give you money to do stuff” deal, whereas PayPal is more “I like what you did, so here’s a tip” one that didn’t seem fair to ask after when there wasn’t any content up.

        • Geebs says:

          Good stuff. I’m not really in a situation where I can make any ongoing financial commitments right now but I will totally put in to a tip jar for all of your great writing when you’ve got it set up.

        • Zafman says:

          No content? To have all the lovely Crapshoot articles listed up nice and neat is already worth a tip!

    • LionsPhil says:

      That video is trying to overheat my mental demultiplexer, though. I’m simultaneously trying to listen to Richard, read the asides he’s superimposing over the footage, and read/listen to the character dialogue he’s showing. It’s like trying to hear someone in the midst of a noisy pub conversation.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        Oh, you’re absolutely right. Like I’ve said, I’ve done a couple of videos for PCG before, but I freely admit to not really knowing what I’m doing when it comes to video, so regularly apologise for the many mistakes I’m making :-) It’s all about feeling my way through and trying to get better by doing, with things like not using as many cuts, learning things like audio processing on the fly and all that. I suck at it at the moment. I’m a complete amateur at video content and very much learning even the basics on the fly. I’m just lucky that my audience – particularly the Crapshoot readers without whose patience I’d never have dared release any videos ever – have been supportive and tolerant of my messing around. And in the words of Ed Wood, the next will be better.

        (Well, I hope so. Guess we’ll find out next week!)

  5. GameCat says:

    We should be making novels into video games, video games into novels.”

    Oh God, why do you hate literature so much!?

    Although game adaptations of novels sounds like good idea.

    • Geebs says:

      Press “X” to marry

    • tossrStu says:

      > KILL PAWNBROKER WITH AXE

      • GameCat says:

        Well, if I had to make Crime and Punishment videogame adaptation it would be something like poor student survival sim mixed with bit of stealth (and axing old women to death) and sophisticated L.A Noire reverse gameplay, where you must act as nothing happened while you’re interrogated by police officers.

        • MichaelGC says:

          In The Idiot: The Game there’d be a minigame where you’d have to navigate a drawing room without breaking a priceless vase.

          Scripted to be impossible, of course.

      • Jeroen D Stout says:

        “You will remember this.”

    • EPICTHEFAIL says:

      Explain? Video games and novels can be adapted into one another without being crap. Mind you, most of those are official tie-ins and as such garbage, but that does not mean the idea itself is bad, but what people do with it.

      • GameCat says:

        Uhm, I don’t think that there’s a movie/game novelisation that goes beyond beign medicore at the best.
        You would need to have really skilled writer to make good adaptation of videogame and these people will rather write their own stuff (unless someone went crazy like all these famous writers writing Cthulhu mythos fanfictions).

        Second thing – can you imagine translating Dark Souls sense of discovery, challenges, minimal exposition etc. into prose? You would kill the heart of this game and its story. And good adaptations always manage to capture that heart of original.
        It could work as a movie, but not really as a novel.

        • pakoito says:

          You could but it requires effort, like having inline images by a good illustrator to put those onirical images on your head. It was quite tastefully done last century and it’s kind of lost this days.

        • PsychoWedge says:

          Legend’s Wheel of Time FPS with the Unreal engine back in 99 was a pretty good game. Fantastic level architectures and such.

        • malkav11 says:

          You might be surprised at the caliber of writer that can be found writing tie-in novels these days. Oh, you’re unlikely to see your massively rich and successful authors like Stephen King or whoever doing it, because as you say, they make plenty of money working on their own stuff. But there’s still some real talent involved, and in the case of several of the videogame-related books, they actually end up being a lot more interesting, at least narratively, than the original videogame.

          Brandon Sanderson wrote a pair of Infinity Blade tie-ins.

          Peter Watts wrote the Crysis 2 novelization, which is not as sharp and brutal as his own stuff but way better than the game.

          I know some people disagree on Karen Traviss’ merits and as far as I can tell despite her actually being involved in writing Gears of War 3, the story on that turned out rubbish. But her Gears of War novels actually somehow manage to make one of the meatheadiest stories in gaming powerful and evocative and I actually cared about the big manslabs of the Gears games (and indeed, the games themselves) about 500% more after reading them. Also I’m not sure whether her Republic Commando novels are supposed to be related to the Republic Commando game, but those are some of the best Star Wars writing I’ve seen.

          Matthew Stover is phenomenal and has written a God of War tie-in, not to mention a bunch of Star Wars stuff including a novelization that -almost- makes Episode III work. It doesn’t actually get there, but you can only do so much with the dumbass prequel plots, so it’s a credit to Stover that it’s even close.

          Etc.

          • Rovac says:

            ahhh.. You forgot The Fall of Reach. It was quite good despite being a promotional tool for the first Halo (released couple of months before launch)

          • malkav11 says:

            I’ve never read any of the Halo novels so I don’t feel qualified to pass comment on them (though Greg Bear, who’s a pretty respected SF author, has done a Halo prequel trilogy). Admittedly, I also haven’t read Stover’s God of War novel but he is amazing and Kratos is exactly the sort of character he writes about in his own fiction so it seems like a good fit.

    • altum videtur says:

      I really hope they adapt Blood Meridian into a side-scrolling beat-em-up one day

    • Gap Gen says:

      We should be making novels into films into Happy Meal toys into giant swimming pools full of money for aging white men. Art should be bled of its narrative worth until nothing is left but a dry husk. After all, why invent new worlds, new ideas, when we can wallow in the familiar repackaged and fed back to us like cows raised on the offal of their slaughtered parents?

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        I like when people claim to be defending creativity whilst proscribing whole swathes of art because they are uncreative. Just let people do what they want and read/play the stuff that interests you already.

        • Horg says:

          ”proscribing whole swathes of art because they are uncreative”

          Uncreative art. You have made my day.

      • EPICTHEFAIL says:

        Translation of post: I do not like what you like, therefore you are wrong. If someone wants to make a tie-in for a game or a movie or whatever, let them. And if you feel that the mainstream these days is uncreative, well, there is nothing stopping you from writing something fresh and original yourself.

    • sinister agent says:

      Reply retry/abort/fail

      >F

  6. Philomelle says:

    I loved Sonic 3. It’s the very first game I truly perfected, being capable of beating it with all seven Emeralds unlocked in 50 minutes maximum. It’s a very zen experience for me at this point, as I play it mostly to unwind and keep my senses sharp. I have obtained everything else I could from it.

    Sonic 2 was also pretty good, though its attempt at non-linear level design often ended up high on life and confusing. Also, bonus levels were laughably bad.

    You’re right about the very first Sonic, though. It was total rubbish and buggy beyond all recognition. People love it for the wonderful things that followed it, not for its own qualities.

    • Rich says:

      Yeah, Sonic 3 with Sonic & Knuckles is probably my favourite game of all time.

      Sonic was not shit, just as Mario was not shit* and fucking Pac-Man was not shit. These games would not have been so popular if they were shit.

      *Personally I reckon the Mario franchise is shit, but I recognise that I’m biased by my own childhood. I also suck at its pinpoint jumping.

      • AngelTear says:

        In a world where Justin Bieber and 50 shades of gray are a thing, I’d be careful with that argument.

        I actually find that, in most mediums, the more niche something is, the better it is on average. It’s a gross approximation that doesn’t account for a lot of exceptions, but I find it to be a good rule of thumb.

        • Philomelle says:

          I agree that the best works are ones that pick a core identity regardless of how niche it is and stick with it, not try to dilute it with attempts at mass appeal. Thing is, I think this argument applies to Sonic series as well.

          While the original Sonic still lacked focus (and, again, had a very infuriating collision bug that ran rampant all over its gameplay), 2 and 3 defined “speed platformers” as we know them. They were things defined by speed and skill, with non-linear levels that had to be traversed very quickly. They were also incredibly fair – you had just enough time to beat the level and go through a bunch of its secrets, and there were very few obstacles where you couldn’t improvise your way back to the road if you made a mistake.

          Sonic opened the doors to speed-based platformers like SpeedRunners, Electronic Super Joy and Dustforce. Unfortunately, none of them so far managed to recapture its gameplay ambience. All of them are too tied to perfecting a single linear track without making a single mistake, with FLY’N (which everyone should play because it’s beautiful and smart and fun) being the only one that opens up doors for improvising your way out of danger the way early Sonic did.

          If Sonic still stuck to that formula of high speed, high skill and subtle freedom, it would have been wonderful. But no, it just had to go and try to attract a large fanbase.

          • pepperfez says:

            Is the paraphrase, “Later Sonic games peeled off the rewards for high-level play while the indie challenge-platformers dropped the accessibility and rewards for non-optimal play,” fair? Because I just typed that comment and I think you beat me to it.

          • Philomelle says:

            Yeah, that sounds about right. I wouldn’t say “non-optimal play”, though, because the problem isn’t that you’re punished for making a mistake. The problem is that you don’t have multiple ways to approach the part that makes you make those mistakes the way Sonic 2-3 did.

            As for Sonic games themselves, they didn’t have high-level play at all for a very long time now. They’re too busy cramming themselves with mini-games and cuddly animals that can be sold as toys later. I mean, sure, there are level ratings, but those are as buggy as 3D Sonic games themselves. And most of those can give Skyrim a run for its money.

        • Skull says:

          Bieber and 50 Shades are popular today. Will they still be remembered fondly in 20 – 30 years time by the next generation? Time puts everything into perspective and I doubt Sonic would be so culturally relevant if there wasn’t initiative and fun in the original.

          • Philomelle says:

            I really dread the possibility that 50 Shades might be remembered because its popularity led to it introducing BDSM to a large part of the 2010’s generation of young adults. It’s a terrifying thought when you consider that its depiction of BDSM has about as many similarities with BDSM as the depiction of Sonic the Hedgehog has with actual hedgehogs.

      • Moraven says:

        While Mario 1 was a solid but difficult game, it was not until Super Mario 3 established its infamy and most Marios after that are based on it.

  7. Lambchops says:

    McGonigal’s project, as pointed out, is well intentioned but highlights a weakness in science education in teaching the facts of science without perhaps putting enough emphasis on the essential principles of scientific rigour. Without this grounding it’s no surprise that well intentioned people can veer unknowingly into not just a lack or rigour but also what is clearly unethical territory.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yes, conducting freelance psychology research on trauma patients strikes me as being hugely unethical and irresponsible. It’s possible that they’re right, but how they’re going about it is pretty bad.

      • Geebs says:

        Yeah, it’s just a step below “maybe if we all just believe really hard” magical thinking.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          I can’t help it. There are just certain people that press my “keep the f**k away from that person” button, and which usually turns out to be right. McGonigal has pressed that button right from the off – there’s just something of the glib, superficially charming yet manipulative potential sociopath about her. I may be wrong, but she makes my alarm bells ring pretty badly.

          • TWChristine says:

            Every time I see that name I think of the lady in Harry Potter.

    • TWChristine says:

      After reading the article, I kind of had the same feeling as I do about all the videos on Youtube of people coming up with situations to put people into and then at the end going “Teehee! It’s just a social project!” While they’re probably not much different from the What Would You Do show (which I kind of have issues with as well), I would atleast think in regarding that, there are people looking it over more closely than just someone who comes up with a cool idea to make a video of and get lots of hits. There’s a lack of understanding, and I would even say respect, for the fact that you are dealing with other people’s lives and you are neither trained nor qualified to cope with the ways that they might respond. I appreciate the attempts at good will, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can cause more harm than good.

    • P.Funk says:

      You’re off the case McGonigal!

  8. HiFiHair says:

    The rolling raccoon was the highlight of my week too.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Is that a poo it leaves back there?

      • TWChristine says:

        I’ve wondered the same thing.. and if it was rolling because it was trying to lick it’s butt. Do raccoons lick their butts? After it stops rolling it looks like it is about to scoot, but then starts rolling again..

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          Yeah I dunno. Whenever you see these humourous animal videos, a while later some animal expert comes out and says that its a sign of severely disturbed behaviour or stress or something. So we’re all going “awww” and its going “F**KING HELP ME YOU SODS”. Or it wants to lick crap off its butt. I don’t know ;~;

  9. steviebops says:

    Anyone else find Leigh Alexander a bit too grating?

    • Gap Gen says:

      I am a carrot and my wife is a block of cheese, and I found Leigh’s writing to be traumatic to read.

      • pepperfez says:

        It may be difficult, but she’s just trying to help you both become your best selves.

        • steviebops says:

          If our ‘best selves’ are cynical and joyless, then maybe so.

          • pepperfez says:

            No, their best selves are (respectively) vinegary and delicious on a banh mi, and the only way to make a grilled cheese sandwich turn out right.

      • Geebs says:

        TW: mandolins

    • altum videtur says:

      Didn’t even realise she was linked to in this article

      • Baines says:

        Leigh Alexander wrote the Sonic article for the Guardian. If you didn’t read it, then you didn’t miss anything. Its a rather bad article, bad enough that I’ve a feeling it managed a Sunday Papers link more for its author than its contents.

        EDIT: I should not that I’m not even a Sonic fan. I’m not defending Sonic. It is just a poor article, not worth promoting.

    • bill says:

      I usually like her writing, but I found this one rather pointless. It didn’t really say or achieve anything… and that’s ok if it’s written with style and interesting. But this one wasn’t really.

    • soul4sale says:

      She has always had a taste for writing poorly executed clickbait … at length. This was a woman who moaned the the eroding popularity of 20-button controllers in the face of touch and waggle controllers, because gaming might get too accessible. She also burned hundreds of words on how it’s hard to get non-gamers interested in gaming without once addressing the fact that the cinematic quality of most AAA games is stuck in a comic book summer blockbuster ghetto (this was written before the Great Indie Surge).

  10. Gap Gen says:

    2312 is an interesting book, but the ending is utterly terrible. All the way through the book the story is positioned to say something interesting about where society is going with a revolutionary change in how human society works, then it takes those ideas, throws them out of the window and stutters to a meekly conservative conclusion. I’d still probably recommend reading it for the technical stuff, but how the story arc wound up disappointed me a lot.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That’s all mediocre sci-fi in a nutshell.

    • Gormongous says:

      It saddens but does not surprise me that Kim Stanley Robinson is less prepared to say radical and interesting things a quarter century after the Mars trilogy. Perhaps he has none left to say.

  11. spacedyemeerkat says:

    Thank you for drawing attention to the Hearthstone, Anxiety and Me article; wonderful read.

    • AngelTear says:

      Wonderful read indeed. I also suffer a lot from social anxiety in the form he describes (and with all the attached issues of depression and lack of self-esteem), and sometimes it gets in the way of games I really would like to play. Like League of Legends, which I often want to play but which part of me wants to avoid just as often.

    • Iceman346 says:

      I second that.

      As someone who also suffers from social anxiety (albeit not quite as dramatic as described in the article) many of the thoughts are well know to me. I’m an avid MMO player and I just love tanking dungeons. But despite having years of experience in doing that, knowing most of the mechanics and I having tanked in a high tier raid guild during my WotLK days I often sit in front of the opened dungeonfinder not quite ready to click the button.

      And while most times when I finally take the plunge it’s absolutely fine as most people nowadays just keep to themselves and try to finish the dungeon the few experiences where there are problems just stick out in memory.

      I have so far not shied away from a game I wanted to play but let’s say I’m quite happy that basically every current MMO is mostly playable solo.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Thanks all! The biggest surprise/pleasure of that one was how many people I’ve now heard say “Shit, you mean it’s *not* just me? I thought I was crazy.” Not even close.

      • malkav11 says:

        I don’t know that I quite hit the same lows as you describe, but I can definitely recognize the trend (Facebook has been so bafflingly alien to me with its culture of just randomly declaring folk “friends” in the dozens or hundreds, and I don’t generally feel comfortable enough with anyone I haven’t known for ages and ages to interpose myself on their time), and it’s definitely a huge part of why I really, really don’t like multiplayer games and game modes. Much more competitive than cooperative, but even coop isn’t likely to find me soliciting anyone outside my immediate friend base to play with me and certainly not random strangers; nor have I made friends through a game in over ten years despite a great deal of time spent in MMOs and similar. I hear about people making fast friends, and even meeting their future spouse that way and just…what? How would you even?

        And yeah, the lack of chat and the lack of salt in the wounds of loss are huge factors in why I’ve been willing to dip my toes into Hearthstone’s competitive multiplayer. It helps that it’s a CCG, which I may not be amazing at, but still have skills and instincts built up as someone who’s been playing these things casually since 3rd grade (when Magic came out. God, I can’t believe it’s been that long since Magic came out), while twitch games like shooters and MOBAs require constant honing and a skillset I’ve never even started to master. But mostly it’s that there’s not much difference between playing against the AI and humans, except humans offer more variety, can be less stone dumb (no guarantees), and are a little slower. Somehow that just removes so much pressure and anxiety.

    • bill says:

      I don’t know if I suffer from social anxiety. Maybe. But I do know that voice chat sounds like a horrible thing.

      I too tend to stick to single player, and it’s often the mention of voice chat (which i have never tried) that puts me off. I’ve never really liked telephones either, usually preferring to text or email if possible. Somehow it seems much more intimidating than face to face communication for me.

      I don’t do much multiplayer, but I never had a problem dropping into games without voice chat and blasting a few polygon folks. But, much as Battlefield / DayZ etc.. sound interesting, it’s partly the voice chat idea that puts me off.

  12. Earl-Grey says:

    I really like this new format for the Papers.
    Good show!

  13. Spacewalk says:

    There’s a long review of Daikatana up on Ruthless. It’s pretty awful but it was an awful game.

    • bill says:

      Thanks. I actually read all that. (it is very very long).
      I’ve often been tempted to pick up Daikatana on GOG as I’ve always wondered if it got better after the awful opening levels/enemies/weapons. But I dreaded ending up wasting lots of my time. So reading through that allowed me to experience all of Daikatana without having to experience the annoyance myself.

      It really sounds like you could improve the game 10 fold by simply removing all the frogs/rats/dragonflies and making it so none of the player’s weapons can hurt the player. Very strange design decisions those.

  14. sinister agent says:

    Maybe sometimes people “unplug” (without capitalising it, because for fuck’s sake) because they just want to be left the hell alone for a while.

    • Meusli says:

      A thousand times this, when you have a mobile phone you are never truly free of harassment.

      • El_Emmental says:

        Airplane mode !

        Turn it back on once a day, like when you check your emails. People will learn to send messages and make phone calls when you’re actually available at home.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Sure you are, if you keep it turned off except for when you need to make an outgoing call, for example to a car breakdown service.

        Civilization managed just fine right up into the 1990s without everyone constantly being on a GSM leash.

  15. sinister agent says:

    I think it’s important to note that Sonic was tied into fanboyism, as he was the icon of the Sega platforms, as Mario was for Nintendo’s funsquares. Like Lloyd Grossman and his power armour is to the xbox, he WAS the console to some. And his games were defended to the hilt by tedious people with no sense of perspective, who’d pinned a machine to their chest in lieu of an identity, and consequently took any criticism as an attack on their very being.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      “Lloyd Grossman and his power armour”.
      Made my day.

    • Mman says:

      Or many people just liked a videogame?

      • sinister agent says:

        NOT ALL MEN

        Edit: Sorry, that was a bit opaque. I basically mean “obviously I don’t mean everyone who liked it, but there really shouldn’t be any need to specify this”.

    • Philomelle says:

      I grew up on Sega Mega Drive until I was about sixteen. To me, it was defined by Beyond Oasis, Landstalker, Pirates! Gold, Comix Zone, Mega Turrican, Mickey Mouse’s Illusion series and Shadowrun.

      Sonic was still fun as hell, though.

    • Grygus says:

      Platformers are not really my thing, but I liked Sonic because it was the only video game I owned at the time that my girlfriend liked. No idea whether it was actually good; I had fun anyway.

  16. derbefrier says:

    The First 2 or 3 sonic games were very good. Sonic 2 was my favorite, after 2 I think the series started going downhill. The first two were awesome though and fuck that clickbait article.

  17. Radiant says:

    You only dislike the 2d Sonic games if you are bad at videogames.
    When your mind clicks it fucking clicks.
    It was joyous.

    Whatever happened to the franchise after the fact is… what it is.

  18. The Random One says:

    Speaking of Jane McGonigal being wrong, I watched this rather interesting video presentation yesterday which hits some of these points. Sadly I couldn’t find a transcript and her accent made it difficult for me (a very fluent speaker of English as a second language) to understand some of the sentences. But the concept itself is definitively worth a watch.

    • TWChristine says:

      It might just be me, but I’m not coming up with a link. It shows red but nothing is actually clickable..

  19. bill says:

    My issue with sonic, as a kid, was that there always seemed a clash between the idea of going fast and the idea of exploring/collecting. Going fast was fun, and seemed to be what you were supposed to do, but if you did so then you missed 90% of the level and the secrets/rings/etc..

    • BooleanBob says:

      This is the problem I had with it too. Running as fast as possible also makes it much more likely that you’re going to die suddenly and without any real chance to react, so it’s all risk and no reward.

      Maybe the sheer momentum is a reward in itself, shaving seconds off your best time is the real objective and it’s more of a ‘destination’ than a ‘journey’ sort of a game. If you played the game over and over, working out the optimal routes and improving your muscle memory, you’d probably have a great time-trial game on your hands. I’ve played games like that before, and I know what it is to be a kid. We all had less games and more time to share between individual titles back then. It would give the game depths that aren’t immediately apparent to the first time player – or even the tenth-time player.

      I can see this being a very real dilemma for games critics. If there are games which need tens of hours of dedication to really appreciate – not because they’re padded out with thirty hours’ worth of cutscenes and turret sections, but because there is an experience barrier which has to be met before the mechanics start to make sense, speak to you, ‘click’, whatever – how can a writer account for that possibility when it might just as easily not exist? And when, on the other hand, you can feel a different (probably much more negative) way about a game after a shorter time with it, have a very real deadline you’re pressing up against and a really good, withering opener already forming in the back of your mind?

      Leigh’s written about games with massive experience barriers and not-immediately-intuitive mechanics before – Dyad, Nethack – so I’m maybe a little surprised to see her closing the door on this possibility, that these early Sonic games might be widely regarded as classics for a better reason than concentrated nostalgia. But it seemed to me like she was offering her opinion as a starting point for thought and discussion, not a final judgement on the series. Turning her criticism into something more, not less generous – allowing it to move in both directions. Part of the exercise, as Kieron would say. Well, it’s been useful for me at least.

  20. Universal Quitter says:

    Obligatory snark and hatred