The Sunday Papers

Slim pickings this week.

Sundays are for asking an old question: spaceships or submarines? Then laughing, because the answer is inevitable.

  • Tom Bramwell at Eurogamer did what I want to and wrote a review of the FIFA World beta. I’m struggling to stick with the game because the Origin overlay doesn’t work for me and I therefore have no means of buying FIFA points. You can advance without them, but I’m finding the rubbo starting team tedious to play with after only recently advancing through FIFA 14’s Ultimate Team mode.
  • But even in its current form as the bedrock of FIFA 14, it is still far from perfect. Perhaps the most fundamental issue is that it has always felt like a free-to-play game tacked on to what is already a premium purchase. Although it is possible to play Ultimate Team without spending any money, the emphasis is very much on buying packs that contain players to ease your progress, and it takes a long time to earn the in-game coins to do this, compared to a very short time to buy FIFA Points to pay for them instead.

  • This week’s Three Lane Highway over at PC Gamer is about heroism, and why being a good Dota 2 player requires you to abandon typical notions of the player’s role in a videogame. Life lessons and hot videogame chat, as is Chris’s wont:
  • It is the most human thing in the world to want to be the coolest person in the room. Competition for status is written into our society and culture. It is why we valourise the assertion of individual will and downplay collective success. It’s how teenagers figure out who they are. It’s how democracy (sort of) functions, how movies get made, how lies pass into general acceptance. It’s a process we can’t shake, a process that generates politicians and celebrities and bullies and—to the point—some really, really shitty Dota players.

  • Linked from within, this article by David Sirlin about people who don’t play to win, is also worth reading. I like anything that introduces and defines terminology.
  • In Street Fighter, the scrub labels a wide variety of tactics and situations “cheap.” This “cheapness” is truly the mantra of the scrub. Performing a throw on someone is often called cheap. A throw is a special kind of move that grabs an opponent and damages him, even when the opponent is defending against all other kinds of attacks. The entire purpose of the throw is to be able to damage an opponent who sits and blocks and doesn’t attack. As far as the game is concerned, throwing is an integral part of the design—it’s meant to be there—yet the scrub has constructed his own set of principles in his mind that state he should be totally impervious to all attacks while blocking. The scrub thinks of blocking as a kind of magic shield that will protect him indefinitely. Why? Exploring the reasoning is futile since the notion is ridiculous from the start.

  • Staying with esports for a moment, Polygon’s Emily Gera examines the lack of female pro-gamers within the competitive scene. This is a good piece that gets into the ways in which business concerns shape audiences, even if elements of Polygon’s style guide makes me feel itchy.
  • While often blamed on sexism in the pro-gaming community, the low numbers of professional gaming women is in part a result of marketing strategies aimed to encourage a much more specific demographic: men between the ages of 21 and 34, according to the research company. As companies like Intel and Coca-Cola begin to invest in eSports they do so with an eye toward connecting not with the profession as a whole, but specifically “affluent young men,” according to a study from SuperData Research.

  • PCGamesN posted the second part of their feature on Ukrainian game developers living and working through the ongoing revolution. This moves further away from games than the first part, because how could it not, but it’s still a good read.
  • “There were a couple of moments when something bad was starting to happen and they’d call a red alert, calling for people across the city to come and help,” said Oleg Yavorsky, marketing director at Vostok Games.” It would be night time and taxi drivers would take people free of charge, getting them to the centre. The police would be cordoning off the centre trying not to let anyone filter through. At some points it was really worrisome. What was going to happen?”

  • I missed this earlier in the month, but over at PopMatters Scott Juster writes about the fun and increasing rarity of getting lost in videogames. It’s for this reason that I liked Skyrim’s somewhat crappy map.
  • In classic video game fashion, Miasmata opens with you washing up on an unknown island where mysterious and ominous things are happening. You’re sick, low on supplies, and there seems to be some combination of human-made and supernatural danger lurking in the jungle. However, the most dangerous thing I’ve encountered so far is my own sense of direction. The island is uncharted until you take manual steps to fill out the map. Once you identify certain fixed landmarks either by finding scraps of other old maps or by thoroughly exploring a region, you can use those known vantage points to triangulate your position in the world and thereby fill in the map.

    The answer is both.

    Music this week is Drokk, an album of music inspired by Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One. I now badly need more chilly electronic music about future cities.


    1. Dozer says:

      Aw I LOVE David Sirlin’s writings. Thanks for the reminder!

      Incidentally, David, if you’re reading this, remember the article applying Sun Tze to project management, the ‘sheathed sword’, the two projects where Team A spent a lot of time planning and documenting and setting standards, and Team B just charged in and started coding, and Team A quietly finished on schedule, while Team B put in 80-hour weeks and ‘thrashed’ a lot and barely hacked something together at the end and won lots of accolades for their needlessly hard work? Have you put that article on your new site yet? I really liked that one. (So much so that I’ve apparently memorised it.)

      • pkt-zer0 says:

        I also remember that article. I don’t think it’s on the site, but it’s on pastebin: link to

        • Dozer says:

          Brilliant! Thanks Packet Zero!

        • sinister agent says:

          That is excellent, thank you. I disagreed with his post, but the project management one is great. Tragically, it made me think immediately of a couple of jobs I’ve had, and why I quit them. It doesn’t just apply to software design by any means – anything involving data sharing and management is vulnerable to the same thing, especially in larger or complex organisations.

          “When a project has paid too little early attention to the processes it will use, by the end of a project developers feel that they are spending all of their time sitting in meetings and correcting defects and little or no time extending the software. They know the project is thrashing. When developers see they are not meeting their deadlines, their survival impulses kick in and they retreat to “solo development mode,” focusing exclusively on their personal deadlines. They withdraw from interactions with managers, customers, testers, technical writers, and the rest of the development team, and project coordination unravels

          God, this. I have been the person who came in at this point and tried to address the problem and get everyone back together. It only takes one myopic dickhead in an important position to make this impossible. When the system is one that innocent people (say, the public) rely on, it’s enough to drive a person crazy. I once took a week off from such a place and had nightmares about going back. Brr.

          • Martel says:

            Thanks for sharing this guys, it explains my current job completely. :(

        • Shuck says:

          Oh gods, that article is the industry in a nutshell – it’s amazing it has survived. I’ve heard of periods of 80-hours-a-week thrashing that lasted as long as a year, thanks to poor project management. (And because the programmers were working 80 hour weeks to squash wholly unnecessary bugs, everyone else did, too, for “support.”) The industry actually rewards thrashing because it’s the norm.

      • Viroso says:

        I really dislike his play to win stuff. The problem is that it’s really hard to think of a video game that’s not designed to be fun, even competitive ones. Fighting games have colorful casts with unbalanced characters for a reason, and this reason is why “playing to win” can be a bad move sometimes.

        Imagine how Capcom creates a character. Things unrelated to competitive performance inevitably interferes the character’s balance. Examples, the character’s visual design influences its range, hitbox, HP, etc. The character’s theme, fighting style, defines and confines it’s capability.

        Characters are created because a fighting style is popular, to fill a perceived gap in the cast, to generate buzz, as a joke, to make the game more interesting, to appeal to a certain audience, because of other games. Reasons unrelated to gameplay add new characters and define how they play.

        The point is, from the get go, each character in the game cannot be designed strictly from the point of view of competition. You don’t need to look at it so deep to realize that, it’s obvious. A colorful cast is an interesting cast, and Capcom, or anybody else making fighting games out there, knows people play their games for different reasons. The cast is a clear reflection of that.

        Some people like the story, the characters, some like to play with friends, others like to play online. That’s why they add so many characters to the game, so people pick the ones they identify with the most, either because of the character’s look or playing style.

        All of these games are imperfect for competition, and they can never hope to be exclusively for competition. So it is unreasonable to expect people to play them exclusively for that.

        Sirlin’s “play to win” stuff completely ignores this obvious fact and comes out as saying “my way to play it is the only way to play it, if you don’t like it you’re objectively wrong”. The only reason he has to explain it so much is because he’s being an ass, honestly.

        • Arathain says:

          But Capcom put in an enormous amount of work to balance the game. It shows, too- look at the Street Fighter IV EVO 2013 tournament. This is play at its highest level with its most competitively minded players. I was really impressed by the diversity in character selection. Clearly, it’s balanced at that level for much of the cast, and that doesn’t happen by accident. That’s a deliberate part of the game.

          You can play games for any reason you like. If you’re playing with other people it’s important that you all agree to harmonise your expectations in order to minimise frustration and maximise enjoyment. Of course you should. But if you want to try to be as good at a game as you possibly can be, and you want to move into the community that has that same purpose, you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to win, and to expect that behaviour in others.

          • Viroso says:

            Yeah, I agree with that. The problem comes when people think means “moving into the community” means moving the community into other people. Like I said, people play the game for different reasons. Creating a whole philosophy and a term to dismiss people who don’t fall in line with your expectations is what’s bad. Because, as I said, the game is obviously meant to suit a wide range of different players.

            For me, that means the polite thing to do is accepting that every player, the good, the bad, the competitive, the one who’s just for the flashy side effects, can, and should, adapt to each other to have a good time playing together.

            Instantly dismissing someone as a scrub, the way I see it, is as bad as the guy who won’t accept that throws are okay, no matter what.

            Also, no matter how much polish Capcom puts into their games, as I said, the base the games are built on can never hope to be solid. Because the game was never built to be solid for competition.

            Capcom puts tons of efforts because it’s what makes their games popular, but no matter how much work they do, unless they fundamentally change the game, it’ll always be sorta broken.

            That’s why people keep finding infinites and these keep being patched out. That’s why there are character tiers.

        • pkt-zer0 says:

          Sirlin explicitly mentions that “playing to win” is not the only valid way to approach a game. Multiple times, I think.

          Of course it’s fine to play games for fun. Of course balance should not be the sole driving factor behind design decisions. It’s just that you should not expect others to conform to your made-up house rules in a competitive environment.

          I don’t see “playing for fun” and “playing to win” as a dichotomy, either. In fact, competitive games are some of the most fun I’ve ever played.

          • Viroso says:

            For me his definition of play to win sorta means “I’ll play my way to achieve and that’s what matters”

            Here’s it:
            “The first step in becoming a top player is the realization that playing to win means doing whatever most increases your chances of winning. That is true by definition of playing to win. The game knows no rules of “honor” or of “cheapness.” The game only knows winning and losing.”

            Even if he says he accepts people play it for a different reasons, when he preaches that he’s saying “fuck those reasons”.

            • pkt-zer0 says:

              I’m not sure I get your objection there. Right at the start, he says “the first step to becoming a top player”. If winning tournaments is not your goal, then playing to win doesn’t even apply. Or elsewhere:

              “A lot of people get rubbed the wrong way by this stuff because they think I want to apply “playing to win” to everyone. I don’t. It’s not that I think everyone should be on this particular peak or that everyone would even want to be.”

              I don’t think that reads as “fuck your different reasons”.

          • The Random One says:

            Define “valid”. He repeatedly says that, while “scrubs” are free to play the game their way, he and his friends who are good at the game are having more fun because they understand the game at a deeper level. It doesn’t pass through his mind that, while I’m certain that he and his friends are having fun playing the game their way, they are not having more fun than the “scrubs”, who likely don’t have any interest in the deeper, complex strategy layer and would find it extremely unfun. The “scrub” is not interested in the strategy that lies under the game, but rather in the surface level of two people biffing each other; the “cheap” strategies are strategies that are boring, and while they can be countered, it’s uninteresting to do so. In higher level play boring is desireable, since it wears on your opponents; but if you’re just trying to fool around with your friends, a flawless strategy that always wins is less preferrable to a flawed and stupid button-mashing that looks cool, and that’s OK.

            • Premium User Badge

              FhnuZoag says:


              Anyway, I think this article neatly rebuts Sirlin’s ‘Playing to Win’ stuff.

              link to

              The opponent in this article did everything right by Sirlin. He used every tool in the game. He used the voice chat to psych out the opponent, he abandoned the idea of honour, he tried his damned hardest to win.

              Who had more fun? Him, or the ‘scrub’?

          • Underwhelmed says:

            The difference, as you are implying, is that it is just fine “to play for fun” as long as you don’t also have the expectation that other players in a competitive environment are going to approach the game the same way. I very often self-handicap when I am playing with other people that are below my skill level, because honestly, punishing newbies to the point of frustration isn’t good or especially entertaining for anyone but the person doing the winning. I suppose if they had dreams of being a pro-player, putting the kid gloves on isn’t in their best interest, but most people don’t care, why be an ass?

          • gwathdring says:

            He said that at the start … but throughout the article his tone makes it hard for me to buy into the sincerity with which he said that. He spends the entire rest of the article making it clear that he thinks people who don’t play-to-win are doing it wrong.

            “This was a big moment in that scrub’s life. He could either ignore his losses and continue living in his mental prison or analyze why he lost, shed his rules, and reach the next level of play.”

            Something has to give because those ideas don’t fit very neatly together: that not-playing-to-win is a mental prison that ought to be shed and that there’s nothing wrong with it.

            Though, really, all he says at the start is that there’s no shame in *being bad at the game,* not that there’s no shame in not playing to win. The implication, and the reason for tight binding between being bad at the game and not playing to win, is that most people who don’t play to win either don’t get the game or are bad at it and construct rules as a defensive mechanism. There may be some psychological validity to this in some cases, but it ignores the very fabric of gaming–arbitrary rules.

            Is bringing a gun to a boxing match playing to win? There’s just so much more to it than the article makes out and I feel like the article is long enough and detailed enough that it ought to give more of a clue it realizes that.

            • RvLeshrac says:

              “Gun to a boxing match” is EXACTLY where his line of thought leads.

              If you’re cheating, you’re also “playing to win,” I wonder if Sirlin would defend that with the same ferocity.

        • Baines says:

          Character balance is a different issue than “play-to-win”, and Sirlin has written his fair share about that topic as well.

          Honestly, “play-to-win” is somewhat at odds with the idea of character balance, and character balance is a positive for people who just play for fun. Someone who plays to win by nature is going to gravitate to the characters that give them advantages and avoid the weaker characters. That leads to people playing only a few characters out of an unbalanced roster. With in-built advantages, those characters are probably going to on average win more than they lose to the random choices of a play-for-fun player, which makes the game less fun for the play-for-fun player. It also leads to certain characters dominating the play lists, which also leads to a more boring game for play-for-fun players. Even if you can beat them easily, it gets boring spending half your games fighting the same two characters when playing a game with a 10 or 20 character roster.

    2. Wulfram says:

      Sirlin’s article is a good illustration of why I avoid seriously competitive games

      • Geebs says:

        Although the short version of that article was, “people in the fighting game community talk a lot of shit”. I dunno if I really agree; the FGC have a bit of an image problem with IRL “playing to win”, and imposing arbitrary restrictions (that the players have agreed on) in games can make them more fun.

      • sinister agent says:

        Same here. Fighters are a particularly bad example, because they’re at their best with friends, and unless you live in a giant house with all your friends, they’re not going to have all the same games and spend the same time playing those games as you. And if you’re not on roughly level pegging in most fighting games, and you set out to win rather than have a laugh, it’s going to get boring and frustrating within about ten minutes. And he’s assuming that the game is designed to actually make everything balanced regardless of how much players abuse it.

        See also: What happened to Day Z.

      • drinniol says:

        It also denies any notion of sportsmanship, which is an integral part of, well, professional sports.

        • AngelTear says:

          I don’t think it does.
          The notion of “fair play” of the low level players comes from the fact that their low level of play leaves them vulnerable to the exploitation of certain tactics. It has nothing to do with actual fair play or sportsmanship (like kicking the ball out in soccer if one of your opponents is injured, or other instances of near-cheating or insulting), it’s simply that the weaker player doesn’t want the better player to use her skills and knowledge (that she has obtained through time and effort) to their fullest extent to her advantage.

          • drinniol says:

            “And if the move is, for whatever reason, extremely difficult to counter, then wouldn’t I be a fool for not using that move? The first step in becoming a top player is the realization that playing to win means doing whatever most increases your chances of winning. That is true by definition of playing to win. The game knows no rules of “honor” or of “cheapness.” The game only knows winning and losing.”

            That’s bad sportsmanship he’s describing.

            • Philomelle says:

              No, he is describing the use of all tools given to the player within the game to their maximum efficiency. So long as the tool is permitted by the rules of the game, it’s valid for use regardless of whether other players perceive it to be cheap or unfair. Because really, if it was cheap or unfair, then it wouldn’t be within the game.

            • AngelTear says:

              What Philomelle said.

              He is not questioning that you should respect your opponent, and not insult him, and not injure him or otherwise prevent him from having a fair chance at winning.

            • JFS says:

              You mean, like playing down the clock in football (not the American one)? It’s a tool, yeah, so why wouldn’t you use it, and if it were unfair then the referee would totally sack you at the first instance.

              What is described above is exactly bad sportsmanship.

            • Philomelle says:

              Have you missed the part where I said “so long as the move is within the rules of the game“?

              Given that Timewasting is illegal within most sports games and can ruin your record with a yellow penalty card, using it as a basis for your counter-argument is a terrible idea.

            • Viroso says:

              @Philomelle @AngelTear

              The problem with Sirlin, aside from ignoring that the game is obviously not meant exclusively for competition, is that he wants to rely only on the game for the rules. Like he said, the game doesn’t recognize cheapness, only victory.

              Well, people brought up fair play in sports to explain why Sirlin’s arguments are bad. Here’s why relying only on the game is a bad move. Fair play exists because a sport is played and moderated by people. The rules exist only in their minds, A sport can adapt quickly to people, because its “engine” are people.

              Video games are different and at least 50% of the competition is dictated exclusively by the unchanging, uncaring rules for the game. The other 50% are the people. When Sirlin’s says “play to win”, he is saying we should ignore the players. When we ignore the players, there can be no fair play.

              Yet, certain characters are banned, infinite combos are banned. These things are all in the game, so why shouldn’t they be used? If we let ONLY the game decide everything, it won’t work, because the game is inflexible, flawed, imperfect.

              Way I see it, it doesn’t matter the authority of who sets the rules. An important tournament or some random guy you’re playing with, in the end these are both cases of people interfering with the rules of the game.

              Abandoning this “play to win” nonsense means being flexible and accepting people enjoy the game differently. It means taking into account the other half of the equation, the players.

            • KDR_11k says:

              Also if the game isn’t a bad game then it’s usually designed around players using all their options to their fullest extent and no single move should be overpowered. Games with truly overpowered moves tend to be ignored anyway because they play badly as a result (unless there’s some sort of interesting dynamic arising from everybody abusing OP moves but that’s not too common). House rules run the risk of making the game dull or breaking the balance in other ways (e.g. if throws are disallowed that removes an important balancing factor). See also “no items, final destination”…

              Exploiting glitches may be more of a grey area of course since they’re not part of the game design. Though games with severe glitches usually don’t see much play anyway.

            • Philomelle says:

              Your argument is precisely why I said lower in the comments that the article linked here is a bad one because it’s only the third chapter of a 15+ chapter book that covers all aspects of “fighting to win” philosophy. The bigger book does, in fact, address the aspect of “game-made” and “people-made” rules.

              It also says smack in the introduction that people have different concepts of fun, that his book is written specifically for people who find fun in the idea of playing to win and reaching the top, and that people who play for the sake of other forms of fun shouldn’t even be touching the book. Which I believe is a very fair argument, as he makes it clear that some people won’t have any fun with playing with his philosophy, while others will have a blast.

              And if I’m very blunt, your claim that a person should be flexible and accept that people enjoy the game differently right after dismissing another player’s way of having fun as nonsense pretty much tells me I would never have fun playing with you, as your concept of fun is far too inflexible for me.

            • pkt-zer0 says:

              I have an anecdote to counter that, actually.

              I’m still fairly new to SC2, and go up as Zerg against a Terran player. He proceeds to bunker rush me, the cheap bastard. I fend off the initial attack, and keep building up behind it. The other guy refuses to give up, despite that he’s inevitably falling behind, just keeps building more bunkers and barracks in the most obnoxious way possible. After this has been drawn out to fifteen minutes or so, I move out with the forces I’ve amassed, and utterly crush him. Then I get the following message:

              “gg my frind”

              Cheap bastard? Yes. Good sport? Definitely.

            • Viroso says:

              Philomelle, I criticize his arguments for how people should play the game because at the very core play to win is about ignoring other people. My argument is, don’t ignore other people. I also bring up how fundamentally flawed, and diverse, the game is as an example of why we shouldn’t ignore people.

              That’s the gist of it. What I say is “adapt and play nice with others”, what he says is “listen only to yourself”. If I say people should be more accepting of how other people play, for obvious reasons, then I’ll criticize someone who’s way to play is not accepting how others play.

            • Philomelle says:

              Except that isn’t at all what he says. He is talking about playing the game within the specific borders of “play to win” philosophy after having made a point that this philosophy doesn’t at all apply to other ways of having fun within the game and shouldn’t be used there. His discussion is held entirely within the borders of competitive play and shouldn’t be applied to casual play because his book is meant strictly for competitive players.

              Please stop trying to stack the deck by completely ignoring multiple statements made by the author because they go against your attempt to imagine a counter-argument against their philosophy. It makes you clinically anti-fun to debate with.

            • Viroso says:

              Phillomele, when you enter a competition online with a stranger, is that within the borders of play to win?

              A result of that is in a game like Dark Souls 2, everyone using some OP bow on PvP, thus ruining it. The thing is, play to win is all nice if you have agreed with someone that’s how it is going to be. The reason why I don’t like play to win is that to me it sort of comes out as a justification of how you should play with strangers.

              Playing MvC3, I enter every match with my best team. If I’m completely obliterating the competition, either I’ll try out things that are more fun, though less effective, while the match is happening, or on the next match I’ll take a different team. Sometimes there’s completely non-verbal communication between me and the stranger I’m playing with, simply because I’m open to the idea of adapting to my playing partner.

              I’ve always had a more enjoyable game like that, instead of repeating the same sure victory tactic over and over.

              This goes for any competitive game. A shooter, an RTS, anything. Playing to win leaves no room for that, and it’s short sighted to think playing to win is what matters when, as I explained, the game itself is clearly not designed exclusively for this goal.

              Now, why would he ever even talk about play to win. In a tournament it should be obvious that everyone is there to give their best. Only players who are engaged with the fighting game community and participate in it, deeply know the game, are there. There’s no need to go in length about play to win in such an environment. It’d be too obvious and moot of an statement in an environment where becoming the top is a given.

              For me it is disingenuous to ignore when the play to win mentality is used and why it exists: Playing with strangers. It is a pre-emptive defensive argument to justify ignoring the person you’re playing with.

              “The first step in becoming a top player is the realization that playing to win means doing whatever most increases your chances of winning. That is true by definition of playing to win. The game knows no rules of “honor” or of “cheapness.” The game only knows winning and losing.”

              The game doesn’t know cheapness or honor, but your playing partner does.

            • Philomelle says:

              He talks about playing to win for people who seek to foster the mindset of playing to win but do not know where to start, or those who play the game with that mindset but are currently stumped and need a fresh outside perspective in order to figure out how to continue improving.

              He also says that any game with the “same sure victory tactic over and over” is a bad competitive game and one he wouldn’t be playing because his idea of playing to win is in the act of constantly improving, applying creativity and seeking counter-strategies against current dominant strategies, something that is impossible to do with the hard skill ceiling that is the “single dominant strategy”.

              Which, honestly, still means you’re arguing against his philosophy while not understanding a single lick of it.

            • Viroso says:

              So, Philomelle, when you enter a competition with a random player online, is that within the borders of play to win?

            • Philomelle says:

              When I play competitively or with intent of improving my competitive play, yes. But as the book states, those aren’t the only reasons why one would play the game and you shouldn’t be using the philosophy contained with it in every single match you play.

            • derbefrier says:

              I have to say i kinda agree with Phil.

              Think of it this way. ITs like in American football If a team is already winning 30-0 its considered good sportsman ship not to make it 100-0. You know you are there to win, but not to embarrass the other team.

              Both sides have good points is just if you find yourself totally owning some scrub dont brow beat them into the ground. Throw them a bone eveyonce and a while and it can turn a humiliating loss into into a fun game!

          • Philomelle says:

            I’d also like to point out that the notion of “fair play” is extremely flexible in the mind of the “scrub”, IE the player who feels entitled to win without actually trying. As soon as a scrub is presented with an easy advantage over their opponent, their definition of what is “cheap” and what is “fair” is often instantly rewritten because what was once “cheap” is now something that permits them to win.

            An excellent example is the Howling Abyss, a map in League of Legends that randomizes characters for every player within the match and thus allows for very haphazard and often unbalanced match-ups. The Howling Abyss, or ARAM, is unbalanced by its very nature because it allows for some very random team compositions without permitting the players to balance them out via .bans and “combo picks” that are used by competitive play.

            It is also very frequently played by scrubs, people who seek to win but don’t want to try and so keep queing into the game in hopes that they’ll eventually score an advantageous team composition.

            In one experience I actually went through, I was matched against the same player twice in a row while playing ARAM. The first time I matched against him, my team had an incredibly balanced team comp with some burst, some sustained damage and just the right moves that allowed us to que crowd control on our champions into a smooth combo. The player in question immediately went on a tirade about how our team is cheap and unsportsmanlike, how our plays are the peak of bad manners, then proceeded to blame everyone on his team for trolling him and keeping him from winning.

            The next match I faced that player, my team had three melees and a severe lack of burst damage. Meanwhile, his team had five rangers with powerful and very long-range burst moves, as well as powerful stuns to disengage any attempts to move against them. My team had no chance of winning and was quickly pushed back, accepting that we were outdone by the clear tactical advantage. As for that player who complained about how our team was cheap and unfair?

            He began to spam the all-chat with insults, gloating about what an incredible player he is and claiming that he is effortlessly winning what is clearly a very fair match-up.

            That, ladies and gentlemen, is the mind of a scrub. It has absolutely nothing to do with poor sportsmanship, but rather with a bad player inventing instances of bad sportsmanship to justify why they are more entitled to victory than the opponent.

      • AngelTear says:

        I don’t know why that would be the case. It’s simply a matter of managing expectations, being honest with yourself about how much it matters to you, and surrounding yourself with people like you, with similar motivations.

        You don’t play a competitive game seriously? That’s totally fine, no one will blame you for it (except idiots, but that’s a different matter). But you can’t expect to win against people who put a lot of their time and effort into training to be good at it, even though that’s a normal desire because everyone wants to win in the heat of the moment, in a competitive environment.

        It’s an easy mistake to make, and one I fall into quite often myself, for several reasons. But it would be weird if you didn’t play football with your friends because pro players in the premier league would beat you 100% of the time.

        • Wulfram says:

          Perhaps I should have said serious competitive “gaming” rather than “games”, because I will dabble in the kiddy end if that part manages to avoid too much of the Serious Business attitude.

          But often the attitude permeates the whole scene pretty thoroughly

      • kwyjibo says:

        I agree with Sirlin for balanced games with infinite skill ceilings. But scrubs have a point if the game has degenerate strategies.

        I played a lot of TFC and watched that community die when “play to win” became the only way to play. Multiple classes were rendered unplayable, and the whole thing became a game about skill jumping and movement. Here’s a piece from 2007 (read the comments too) about the evolution of TFC – link to

        Compare that to Counter-Strike, where bunnyhopping was patched out. I guess the scrubs won in that case?

        • thecommoncold says:

          This somewhat mirrors my own issues with the Sirlin article (generally good, but not allowing for nuance… That said, I haven’t read the later chapters yet), and it mainly comes in with the “group of scrubs” example. Take Street Fighter (pick your version) tournaments for example, which routinely ban “overpowered” characters like Akuma to prevent the use of a single dominant strategy. Does that make the people organizing and playing in the tournament a group of scrubs?

          I would argue that by scrub, Sirlin ought to define it better: a player who is following a rule set not imposed by the game itself or, additionally, by the collective group playing it. “Groups of scrubs” who have consensus based rule changes can still play to win, they are just playing a different game.

          • Hebrind says:

            I started playing a fair bit of Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior, and for the most part it’s a fun game. However there are exploits in the game that give whoever use them a very clear and unfair advantage – being able to glitch the animations so that the other person can’t see the swing of your weapon, aiming at the person’s feet so they can’t block anything (even when crouched), and manipulating the swing speed so that your weapon swings faster than is meant to are just 3 of these.

            I don’t mind being beaten on Chivalry, I think it’s all a part of learning. But when my only option to beat someone is, effectively, “learn to fight so dirty that you’re playing with exploits rather than timing, skill and forethought”, it makes me want to say “Oh my god, why haven’t they fixed this?” instead of “gg wp”, if I’m honest.

            • KDR_11k says:

              I think Sirlin’s logic can only apply to a good, balanced game. If the game’s broken in ways like that then it’s effectively unplayable. You can work around the problems with house rules or just give up and play something that’s not broken. Games should handle the worst case (playing against assholes over the internet) gracefully and not rely on some sort of unenforced cooperation between players of different teams (of course demanding cooperation between allies is fine but probably not too healthy for your online population).

              So yeah, how the hell do bugs like that exist in the game?

            • Philomelle says:

              As someone below points out, Sirlin does believe that any game where you can cheat your way to victory is one a player should abandon for the sake of another game. If a game has a dominant strategy that cannot be countered, it’s a poorly balanced game that cannot support his philosophy (given that his philosophy demands constantly improving a surpassing yourself, something that is impossible in a game with a hard skill ceiling formed by a single dominant strategy).

            • BlueTemplar says:

              Sirlin’s logic only applies to the very few games :
              – That have competitive multiplayer : most games don’t even HAVE multiplayer, or the multiplayer community isn’t large enough to be called “competitive”.
              – Only so far as they are still being patched : as perfect balance and bug-free games are impossible to attain, players will eventually end up discovering strategies and bugs that make one type of play much stronger than another : after that it’s in the best interest of players to go with house rules, as Sirlin himself notes about Old Sagat.

              I find it very restrictive to only play the few games that meet these criteria. And I disagree about how he tells that you should definitely use “cheap” moves and how only “scrubs=newbies” would want to restrict themselves in this way. I find it that it’s exactly when you start being experimented about a game that you start to realize that some strategies/moves might bring you victory, but might severely reduce the fun in the process. This especially applies to situations when AI’s are involved : they usually have blind spots it’s easy to exploit once you know them.

              After that point you could of course move to another game, but what if this particular game still has a specific appeal you don’t find elsewhere? I find a smarter reaction to that is just to agree to some rules before starting the game, be it with restricting yourself with very specific handicaps when playing against the AI to be forced to try very different strategies, or with other players preventing for instance moves that needlessly draw out the game. Emphasis on agreeing on the rules _beforehand_.

          • Philomelle says:

            I would argue that Akuma is a pretty rare case of a character being screwed out of competitive play by his own identity.

            Seeing as Akuma originated as an overpowered super-boss and was never really developed as a character beyond that, “overpowered” is pretty much his entire character identity from the design standpoint. This means that about the only way to get him in line with other characters from the competitive field is to remove the aspect that makes up his whole identity and thus makes him interesting for people who enjoy playing him.

            In a sense, I’d argue that Capcom’s huge mistake with Akuma’s role as a permabanned character in the competitive field is that they made him playable in the first place.

            • Viroso says:

              But Akuma is also part of the game, and by play to win’s logic, he should be used. No matter how he is, he’s there, and the player should use any tool in the game.

              Same for infinites.

            • Philomelle says:

              Akuma is also against the rules of competitive play as set by Capcom’s official tourneys. And given that Playing to Win mentions that you should be using tools permitted by the rules of the game, Akuma in fact shouldn’t be used by the book’s logic.

              As for infinites, Seth Killian once discussed them at length. Given that I’m pretty sure that Killian knows more about fighting games than everyone in this article, I believe he’s better off explaining when they should be considered as within the rules or not.

            • Viroso says:

              But see what’s happening here Philomelle, Capcom or Seth Killian, both of these are examples of people, not the game, arguing for what’s best for the game. What I’m saying is that people’s input is not bad, what’s bad is “That is true by definition of playing to win. The game knows no rules of “honor” or of “cheapness.” The game only knows winning and losing.”

            • Philomelle says:

              You are ignoring the fact that he spends a paragraph discussing the importance of people’s contributions to tactics and their evolution in high-level play, and that the whole difference between a scrub and a good player is that the latter wants to win by using everything the game has to offer, while the first one wants to win by outlawing every tactic he’s bad at using or countering. Which means his issue isn’t with people who don’t play to win, but with people who want to win without improving.

              Are you going to stop blocking out information that doesn’t suit your statements anytime soon?

            • Viroso says:

              I’m not sure if I was the one who started amping up the aggressive tone in the conversation here, but let’s tone it down.

              “the whole difference between a scrub and a good player is that the latter wants to win by using everything the game has to offer, while the first one wants to win by outlawing every tactic he’s bad at using or countering.”

              My problem with that is that the scrub is a caricature of a person, that’s exaggerated to make it sound the worse it can be. It’s meant as an insult to be thrown at anyone who says anything about how you play, when you’re playing with someone in an undefined environment.

              What I say is pretty simple, adapt to your partner, as your partner should adapt to you. Hey, maybe the guy’s not as good as you and a tactic you used completely destroyed him, he obviously didn’t have a chance to play, and you’re up for a rematch. What’s even the point of doing it again if you know it’s going to work? Why not just try communicating who you’re playing with.

              Sure, Sirlin doesn’t say that’s not a possibility, but the play to win mentality he pushes obviously does not accept this as a possibility. Because as I said over and over, the fundamental problem is that it ignores the players, and it acts like the game is a perfect competitive environment.

              Simply put, playing to win doesn’t fit the majority of situations in which people play video games.

            • Viroso says:

              You know, what I’m showing here is simply how play to win is not compatible with the reality of video games.

              It’s rude to ignore players, saying only victory or defeat exist is ignoring the players.

              It’s short sighted to ignore players, because the game’s imperfect.

              It’s incompatible with the game to believe victory of defeat is all that exist, because the video game very likely was not created for that goal.

              A majority of video games nowadays, and even in the arcade days, were created for random players to compete. Online, there’s even less communication.

              Play to win doesn’t fit the reality that most players live with, yet it’s very widespread. How many people subscribing to it even play in tournaments? How often do they play in tournaments. It’s okay to have your expectations about the game, just don’t dismiss the expectations of others.

              As I pointed out, play to win is fundamentally about dismissing people’s expectations. It is disingenuous to think when he says the game doesn’t recognize cheapness or honor, he’s not talking about the environment games are most often played. From my point of view at least.

            • Philomelle says:

              I am not adopting an aggressive tone here, I am simply stating that you are intentionally ignoring multiple statements contained within the book in order to push your argument. You are repeatedly applying the philosophy contained within the book to cases where it shouldn’t be applied. The first chapters of the book say things like:

              “Most people could care less about this mountain peak because they have other life issues that are more important to them, and other peaks to pursue. There are a few, though, who are not at this peak, but who would be very happy there. These are the people I’m talking to with this book.”

              “A lot of people get rubbed the wrong way by this stuff because they think I want to apply “playing to win” to everyone. I don’t. It’s not that I think everyone should be on this particular peak or that everyone would even want to be. There are other peaks in life, probably better ones.”

              “It is not for everyone, nor should it be. There are a great many things to be in life other than a champion at competitive games. If your interest lies in other places, I suggest you not continue with this book as it will only upset you. Think carefully if you only say in passing that you want to win, or if you deeply desire to and are prepared to make the sacrifices required. Being a fine chef, a good mother, a doctor, a political activist, or a musician are all noble pursuits that may, due to your finite time and effort, prevent you from focusing on something as trivial as winning games. I am not advising you to play to win, but I am here for you if you do.”

              And yet you ignore all of that, insisting that he wants the philosophy contained within the book to be applied everywhere when he quite clearly states that he wants it applied only in competitive play for competitive games and nowhere else.

              Ignoring statements that contradict your argument is known as stacking the deck, one of the most unfortunate logical fallacies out there. I’m not saying that in a hostile or aggressive tone, but in a very neutral one. I debate on the internet because there is “fun” in exchange of opinions and information that allow both minds to grow. There is, however, no fun to be had in an argument where one person appears to be willfully ignorant.

            • Viroso says:

              I ignored them because I’m truly ignorant of them. My contact with play to win comes from his articles on his website and people’s behavior online. I’m one of the people who get rubbed the wrong way.

              I’m coming from the impression that “play to win” is to be thrown around haphazardly for online games, and I’ve seen it even before it existed, I think we’ve all seen how players desiring only to win in a game has destroyed a few games, the less balanced games being more vulnerable to that.

              For me play to win sounded like a vindication of tactics that make a game unfun. Like spawn camping in some classic CS maps. With those passages you posted I can’t really criticize Sirlin so much anymore though.

              What’s unfortunate then is people who are exposed to it as much as I am, that is, through some articles in his website, and take it as a justification for “whatever goes” whenever you’re in an online game, ignoring other players, even though video games are not a good environment for that for reasons I brought up.

              Can’t really blame Sirlin anymore though.

            • Philomelle says:

              Which is precisely why I said that I’m disappointed about the linkage of one specific chapter in the whole book, not the table of contents which allows you to explore the book fully. One of the first arguments he makes is “There are some lessons in this book that you might find a use for in other cases, but boy are you in trouble if you’re going to try and apply this book’s philosophy outside these specific circumstances”.

              He also doesn’t believe that a player who genuinely plays to win should be abusing an unbalanced strategy at all. To him, playing to win is constantly improving yourself and seeking new strategies or else you will be quickly surpassed by other players. In that sense, the thing one should do upon discovering an unbalanced strategy that completely dominates the game is leave the game entirely, because sitting on that solitary mountain robs you of possibility to find healthy competition and continue your personal growth.

              What I don’t understand is why it took actual quotes from the book for you to finally understand that what you’re talking about has nothing to do with what Sirlin is talking about, given that I mentioned repeatedly that his philosophy should only be applied in very specific cases.

            • Viroso says:

              Because for me they still had that hint of saying something without actually saying it, and Sirlin’s passages are way very clear about exactly what’s being said.

              This impression I had I think was just colored by past experiences with the subject and other people.

            • Consumatopia says:

              If Sirlin really believes that “There are other peaks in life, probably better ones.”, then he probably shouldn’t coin a derogatory term for the people trying to climb the other peaks. He’s defined scrub as someone who “does not play to win”. Perhaps if that definition were a bit more narrow, applying only to people who think they are playing to win but actually aren’t, that chapter would be better. But as it’s written, it’s insulting all of the people trying to climb other peaks. Those other quotes from earlier chapters don’t change this–they don’t clarify the third chapter, they refute it–they’re inconsistent with the linked chapter.

            • Philomelle says:

              No, he defines the scrub as a player who claims that they play to win but don’t actually do so. Players who lie to both other people and themselves concerning their intent within the game. People who want to win but do not (or do not want to) put any actual effort into the game, so they invent a number of outrageous rules that they apply in order to explain why their loss doesn’t count and they would win if the other players only played by the rules they invented.

              Yes, the sentence “A scrub doesn’t play to win.” is stated within the chapter, but it exists within the context of the article and not in some sort of vacuum completely separate from the article. It’s disingenuous to judge it separately from the dozen paragraphs that make up its context.

            • Consumatopia says:

              No, he defines the scrub as a player who claims that they play to win but don’t actually do so.

              No, he does not. There is only one definition of “scrub” given–one who doesn’t play to win. In fact, he’s quite explicit that he will still call you a scrub even if you aren’t claiming to play to win.

              A common call of the scrub is to cry that the kind of play in which one tries to win at all costs is “boring” or “not fun.” Who knows what objective the scrub has[emphasis added], but we know his objective is not truly to win. Yours is. Your objective is good and right and true, and let no one tell you otherwise. You have the power to dispatch those who would tell you otherwise, anyway. Simply beat them.

              Let’s consider two groups of players: a group of good players and a group of scrubs. The scrubs will play “for fun” and not explore the extremities of the game. They won’t find the most effective tactics and abuse them mercilessly.

              That chapter was not about scrubs misrepresenting themselves. It only makes sense if you assume that playing to win is the only good way to play, that claiming to play “for fun” is disingenuous or pointless.

              Yes, at this point, he assumes the reader he is addressing is interested in playing to win. But when he’s talking about “scrubs”, he’s not talking about the reader, he’s talking about other players the reader will encounter whether or not their goal is to play to win.

              No, that isn’t consistent with what he said in the introduction passages you quote. I can only guess that his rational mind was speaking in the introduction, but in the linked chapter we learn how he truly felt.

              EDIT: also, note:

              The scrub would take great issue with this statement for he usually believes that he is playing to win, but he is bound up by an intricate construct of fictitious rules that prevents him from ever truly competing.

              Note that “usually”. That means that “scrub” also applies to players who don’t believe or claim to believe that they are playing to win (as he has narrowly defined “playing to win”).

            • Philomelle says:

              You’re also missing the part where he states that “the scrub is only willing to play to win within his own made-up mental set of rules”, and you ignore his expansion on what he means as “winning at all costs” and how it contradicts the expectations of the scrub.

              So honestly, the article reads to me like he is talking about the specific category of low-skill players who seek to win specifically by the rules they made up rather than the rules of the game, and the boundless hostility and disrespect you think he really feels toward people who don’t play to win is all in your head. Which it probably is, given that he spends a chapter on common losing attitudes and why they’re bad both for you and the opponent, as well as a chapter on sportsmanship and how important it is to play mind games without trying to humiliate the opponent.

            • Consumatopia says:

              You’re also missing the part

              If I “also” missed anything, you haven’t pointed it out.

              Here’s the problem. There’s a huge, huge, difference between this:

              he defines the scrub as a player who claims that they play to win but don’t actually do so. Players who lie to both other people and themselves concerning their intent within the game. People who want to win but do not (or do not want to) put any actual effort into the game, so they invent a number of outrageous rules that they apply in order to explain why their loss doesn’t count and they would win if the other players only played by the rules they invented.

              and this

              “the scrub is only willing to play to win within his own made-up mental set of rules”

              The second definition of scrub–the one you quoted from Sirlin–doesn’t match the first one. The second type of “scrub” might–might–be a totally reasonable player. It is totally reasonable to propose house rules before a match, and to evaluate play aesthetically as well as competitively. Yes, this can devolve into excuse making, as can everything involving subjective judgments, but that doesn’t mean that anything subjective is without value. It is okay to combine competition with aesthetics. Figure skating is still a sport even if the judging is imperfect.

              The problem is you’ve got this derogatory term “scrub” that applies both to disingenuous excuse makers and to anyone with a different philosophy of play than yours.

            • Philomelle says:

              I’m sorry, but you’re at the point where you’re peeling apart semantics in order to prove the presence of ill intent where is none. In fact, you are trying so hard to prove that Sirlin has some kind of severe bias against all players who aren’t interested in playing to win when all he’s doing is describing specific instances and why a competitive player shouldn’t be dragged down by them, that you have become very unpleasant to talk to.

              I’m bowing out of this conversation. Feel free to interpret a book on competitive play as a conspiracy against casual players to someone else.

            • Consumatopia says:

              All I’m saying is that anyone who defines scrub as one who does not play to win is, in fact, saying everyone who doesn’t play to win is a scrub.

              All I’m saying is that anyone who defines scrub as one who is “only willing to play to win within his own made-up mental set of rules”, is, in fact, saying everyone who wants to play by house rules or evaluates play aesthetically as well as competitively is a scrub.

              He may have said something different elsewhere, even in the same book. That just means he knows better.

              There was no tricky parsing on my part. I just read what the guy said. You the one who tried so hard to parse things in a non-obvious way. And you didn’t even succeed at that.

            • Philomelle says:

              I actually did point out that he expands on the statements of that article in other chapters, not only to you but to Viroso as well. However, you completely ignored that.

              You ignored that because if you took in the complete context of the topic being discussed here, you would no longer be capable of defending your argument of his contempt for the casual player. Something you admit, but only after you accuse me of failure.

              Seeing as you are that desperate for an excuse to insult someone on the internet, I think blocking you would be better than bowing out of the conversation. You’re clearly more interested in being an ass than holding a debate.

            • Consumatopia says:

              I actually did point out that he expands on the statements of that article in other chapters, not only to you but to Viroso as well. However, you completely ignored that.

              I ignored absolutely nothing you said. I just pointed out that those statements in other chapters don’t expand on this chapter, they contradict it. (Or they’re completely unrelated to any point I’m making, like “you ignore his expansion on what he means as ‘winning at all costs’ “, I’m not ignoring, I just never said anything about how Sirlin defines “winning at all costs”. It’s basically a non-sequitur on your part.)

              You ignored that because if you took in the complete context of the topic being discussed here, you would no longer be capable of defending your argument of his contempt for the casual player. Something you admit, but only after you accuse me of failure.

              I admit that? That’s funny, because I can’t see any relationship between those words and anything I’ve typed.

              Seeing as you are that desperate for an excuse to insult someone on the internet, I think blocking you would be better than bowing out of the conversation. You’re clearly more interested in being an ass than holding a debate.

              I disagreed with you, I don’t see why you have to take that as an insult. My tone was at least as respectful towards you as yours was to Viroso or I. But, hey, if you don’t like reading me when I disagree with you, please block me. More power to you. It’s just a bit rich to hear you talk about who’s “desperate for an excuse to insult someone on the internet”, in the same paragraph as calling me an ass. Did I call you anything?

              Look, I get it, you’ve been arguing for a long time, you’re sick of it. (Honestly, I’m sick of it too and you’ve been at it for much longer than I have today.) But you’re just taking your frustration and boredom out on me for no reason. If you don’t have time to consider my arguments, that’s okay, you don’t have to keep mischaracterizing me in a desperate bid for the last word.

              EDIT: also, just to be clear, I don’t think Sirlin’s book, or even that chapter, is wholly bad, I just think his definition of “scrub” is problematic. I think the word itself causes more problems than it solves. For some reason, you seem to take grave offense at me for thinking this.

          • Arathain says:

            Sirlin has articles talking about character bans and house rules.

            link to

            His attitude is that if a game has a truly dominant strategy that can’t be countered then you should move on and look for a game that doesn’t. One should be careful here, though: often, what looks like a dominant strategy is simply one for which the counter exists, but hasn’t been worked out, or which you are not yet capable. If the game seems otherwise worthy you should first apply yourself to try and beat the strategy before moving on.

            • kwyjibo says:

              Japan, however, does not officially ban Akuma from tournaments! They have what is called a “soft ban.” This is a tacit understanding amongst all top players that Akuma is too good to be played.

              Those scrub Japanese with their scrub attitudes ruining the beautiful game.

              [On Sagat] Why, then, would any reasonable person even consider banning him? Surely, it must be a group of scrubs who simply don’t know how to beat him, and reflexively cry out for a ban.

              [On Sagat] But this is not the case. There seems to be a tacit agreement amongst top players in Japan–a soft ban–on playing Old Sagat.

              If you’re a top tier Japanese player of SSF2TLOL, you can have scrubby attitudes in your scrubby cartel, and still not be a scrub.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        There’s a ton of scrubbiness in FPS too – all these ancient complaints about ‘camping’.

        I remember one time I was playing a duel with a buddy in UT via LAN. It was that famous Deck 17 map. I kept accusing him that all he does is run for the force field/super health power ups. He, in tun, complained how I keep running away and try to get cheap ambushes around a corner, instead of standing and ‘fighting like a man’. Even more when I figured out that one way to even out the odds is to make it to the Redeemer.

        We were both such scrubs.

        • dE says:

          That thing about camping comes from a time when Spawnpoints were entirely predictable and camping meant you were fragged the second you spawned… but yeah.

          I’ve got another one of those scrub stories. I’ll cut the background story short, I was in a year long program for IT, because of not having to do military service and as a result spend most of my days that year with people of my age but generally a far worse education than mine. It was fun, but I lost a lot of brainpower that year. So the scrub story.

          We were often playing Counter-Strike and it was quite clear there were people so much better than everyone else, so we split teams up so it seemed roughly the same. Well and we had a Pro Gamer amongst us. He actually had a sponsorship, which made me believe they were signing up everyone that could hit a barn back then. He brought his own mouse every day and required things to be set up explicitely for him. He was arrogant and an ass while playing but a cool guy otherwise.
          A friend and me, both only being average and nowhere near as good as him, were always teaming up to take him out. After all, individually we had next to no chance, but 2 on 1, things quickly changed. And since we were gunning for him, he ended occasionally ended the rounds with a negative K:D. He kept screaming bloody murder and how scrub it was of us to always work as a team and how he’d be so much better than us. The highpoint of this was the day he destroyed his mouse in a sudden outburst of rage. He was already agitated when we started playing and when he ended with 0:something, he flipped.
          He then continued whining about having to break in his new mouse and suddenly being much worse at tournaments too and it was all our fault and… we basically just teamplayed a teamplay game. Scrub indeed.

        • Joshua says:

          I remember in Battlefield 3 that people would often complain on certain maps that people used the armour on infantry heavy maps (Grand Bazaar and Seine Crossing, for example), and that people who use them lack skill, sportsmanship, life, or any of such.

          It strikes me as rather weird. Not using the armoured vehicles in battlefield is like trying to win a chess match without using the queen.

    3. AngelTear says:

      Following up on last week’s discussion on whether there are too many games, Errant Signal posted a short video/post about exposure, store curation, and how to navigate the enormous quantity of games we have.

      link to

      And if you never have read/watched his criticism of games, his latest works about Saints Row and Civilization, like everything else he does, is really worth your time.

      • AngelTear says:

        In terms of feminist criticism, I found these two articles via Critical Distance.

        The first one is horribly formatted and the language at the end could have used some work, but at its core is a sweet piece/blog post about how Saints Row 4 supports a sex-positive attitude and a queer perspective through the way you have relationships with NPCs.
        link to

        The second article points out how Watch_Dogs makes extensive use of the woman in the refrigerator trope, so that every female character in the game exists only to further the plot of the main character. (Spoilers)
        link to

        • Phantom_Renegade says:

          I’ve been playing Watch Dogs and have been incredibly surprised on how heavy the game leans on the women in refrigerator trope. Hell, even Black Flag, a game about sexist pirate ass-holes had a more positive attitude towards women. I guess I expected Ubi to move forwards and upwards in their attitude, especially for a game set in the modern era, instead of jumping off the cliff back down.

        • Gap Gen says:

          Ugh, yeah, I get that you can write everything in lower case if you want, but why. Why.

          As for SRIV, yeah, I liked that it was fairly open about sex and didn’t really genderise anything by default (I played a 50 year old woman in jumper suit and bowler hat with a male Cockney accent), and the game rolled with it. It still had some residual thug life misogynistic bullshit from previous games, but it was pretty light.

      • subedii says:

        You beat me to it.

        Generally agree with most of the things he says, however I have one thing with his ending statement, in that he states that a key part of the solution is more information, not removing games.

        In a sense that’s true, but a big part of the problem is simply information overload. With so many titles coming out it’s inevitable that things will slip under the radar. And even if you’re trying to keep abreast of interesting things now, you’re still going to be swept under a tide of titles and information.

        To be honest, I think it’s a problem that’s not easily solvable, I certainly don’t think I have the answer for it. But I also agree with him that the problem is one that the store itself should be addressing. Discoverability has always been an issue, on any major store. Addressing that is primarily the job of marketing, of the person selling the game, and it’s never been the case that simply putting your game up on Steam should be automatically all you need to get yourself noticed. That was never the case before (barring the super early days), it’s not the case now.

        I DO feel that Steam should make some improvements to the storefront, mainly removing old titles that are “new” on Steam from being highlighted at the top of the new releases.

        Other than that, personally I don’t “find” games on Steam simply by what the latest releases are. Maybe 95% of the games I look up (probably all of them really) , knowing or not knowing about a game happens well before hitting the Steam store page. What few others would be something I see scrolling past on the “featured” ticker that looks interesting from the name and cover art. Or most recently, via the tagging system (that other thing that people relentlessly whined about (and still do) for reasons that still escape me. Honestly, someone here even told me that 1/3 of the tags for every title are crappy and wrong. Does anyone even CHECK this stuff themselves before complaining anymore?).

        The “App store” problem isn’t so much of there being “too many games to find anything good”. It’s that the vast majority have basically zero knowledge or discoverability outside the app store. Typically because they’re cheap crappy knock-offs and scamware that the main gaming sites won’t even bother to cover.

        Liked his Civ video, I felt it follows on nicely from the “politics in videogames” video. Never played GTA OR Saints Row so I can’t really comment on those, they’ve never really been my style of game.

        • AngelTear says:

          I agree that more information is simply not enough, although it’s certainly one step in the right direction. Say I follow a handful of public figures who broadly share my taste (Like SuperBunnyHop and Alec Meer here on RPS), I can be sure to hear of most titles that I’ll be interested in. And of course, by following Alec Meer maybe I’ll find another person who also shares a similar taste, and so my knowledge will expand even more.

          A different problem is that of being a completionist. I will never hear of ALL the games that I would have enjoyed and loved had I heard of them, but through this method I can certainly get in contact with many of them, enough to fill my gaming time. Sometimes it’s a shame, when i think about it, it feels like a waste of potentially valuable experiences, but in reality it should be enough.

          Yet another problem, is that there is no leading platform for gaming that is akin to for music or goodreads for books. What these platforms do is discover your tastes and then recommend more stuff based on what people like you have enjoyed. I know a few websites have tried, but there isn’t one that has established itself as dominant, or that has enough users and visibility and in-depth database to make its suggestions truly worthwhile quite yet. Having that kind of platform would be a huge tool to boost discoverability of smaller titles, much like helped me find bands who have less than 1000 listeners.

          • subedii says:

            Yeah having a source you trust to point you in the right directions relative to your tastes is great if you can find it.

            Personally I tend to agree with Zero Punctuation more often than not, and when I don’t, it’s at least for reasons of taste that he’s typically clear about. Likewise with TotalBiscuit. Even if they say they really like the games they’re looking at, I can typically tell if I won’t, and for what reason. Which is the most valuable thing for me in a critic.

            • The Random One says:

              Yeah, “source” is the key word here. Steam was accidentally pushing a single centralized view of what games we should and shouldn’t like. This was good if your taste in game was like Steam’s and bad otherwise. Now everyone needs to find their own source to filter games for them – no more favourites.

          • bonuswavepilot says:

            Steam would be in a good position to add a ‘recommended’ thing like this. They have the whole ‘similar to games you play’ and will flag stuff from your wishlist, but they have a big old heap of data they could be mining for this stuff.

            Even just some kind of correlation index would do a decent job… If a statistically significant proportion of people who own 5 of the same games you have also have another game, stick it on the recommended list…

            I wrote a python script to find other users to follow along these lines back in the day (number of shared saved links for basic score, then bonus points for using identical tags, and more bonus points based how infrequently the link had been saved) which did a pretty decent job, and I am no statistician and only had access to a pretty limited data set.

      • unit 3000-21 says:

        I really liked his video about Quake being a 90’s teen angst mood piece.

        • subedii says:

          It sounds pretentious when it’s said like that, but he doesn’t cast it in a negative light as such. It’s just how Quake was a bit of a curiosity compared to Doom, a product of its time and you can see the influences (and occasional outright ripoff) everywhere.

          • pepperfez says:

            I don’t know if it even needs argumentation beyond, “Trent Reznor did the soundtrack.”

      • jonahcutter says:

        Ahhhhh thanks for that link. I had watched his Hotline Miami analysis a while ago and really enjoyed it, but could not find it again nor remember who he was.

    4. Gap Gen says:

      I played Talisman with someone who was an evil wizard, and who cast a spell every turn with the rule that it should be the funniest thing possible. It was amazing (far better than the boring people who played to win). Actually Talisman lends itself to that kind of thing because the base game is so broken you probably need to metagame to have fun.

    5. DiamondDog says:

      Slightly related to the article about getting lost in a game world, is this video talking about what makes one feel real. I agree with most of what Danny O’Dwyer says, in that what I loved most about Skyrim was the map never felt like a list of objectives, unlike AC4 or Far Cry 3. It was worth exploring just for the fun of it.

      The Point – Why Watch Dogs’ World Doesn’t Feel Real

      And if you want chilly electronic music about a future city, you might as well go straight for the best: Escape from New York

      • The Random One says:

        Earlier this week Jenn Frank said on Twitter that W_D’s Chicago doesn’t feel like real Chicago (where she lived for a long time) which prompted someone to suggest that maybe, like in a Hollywood movie, W_D’s Chicago was shot in Toronto.

    6. kwyjibo says:

      The where are women in e-sports reminds me of the women in snooker question – link to

      • Niko says:

        Yeah, I thought it was a kind of well-known thing that females and males tend to like different types of game. As Raph Coster puts it, males focus on games emphasizing the projection of power and the control of territory, whereas females select games that permit modeling behaviour and do not demand strict hierarchies. Plus, females gravitate towards games with emphasis on interpersonal relationships, narrative and empathy.

        • AngelTear says:

          Just for clarification: as always, these tastes are not
          a) mandatory for everyone belonging to a certain gender
          b) Not due to one’s biological sex, or genetics, but to the gender role society wants us to perform, pressures us into.

          Most women focus on interpersonal relationships because society teaches them that they are mothers/wives/carers first and foremost (and men cannot be maternal, because the father figure is supposed to incarnate power and authority, not because they’re emotionally handicapped by nature). Otherwise there would be an equal amount of men and women in every field.

          Just felt like getting that out of the way.

          • joa says:

            Glad we’ve got your ideological beliefs out the way. Can we focus on reality now? I know this subject has been discussed to death on this site, but from no other group would we accept such ludicrous things stated as fact, especially when there is a mountain of evidence against it.

            It is especially harmful to the discussion of representation of women in games, because people will just dismiss it out of hand because it has this nonsense associated with it.

            • dE says:

              That mountain of evidence you cite suffers from a key problem: Most of it was written two centuries ago. During a time when schoolbooks still deemed it necessary to classify people in terms of color with attached values. Written during a time when women didn’t have voting rights. It’s not exactly a contemporary mountain of evidence you’re trying to stand on.

            • Niko says:

              Erm, please don’t forget that people who believed that it’s all about nurture tried to cure homosexuality and blamed mothers for their children’s autism, for example. And there’s a lot of contemporary evidence of hardwired differences between male and female brains, if you bother to look.

            • dE says:

              Erm, please don’t forget that people who believed that it’s all about nurture tried to cure homosexuality and blamed mothers for their children’s autism, for example.

              You really want to go the road of attacking individuals based on the extreme actions of others that are losely attached to a similiar idea? Because following that argument you’re trying to make, you personally believe that women have to offer up free sex because denial of such is to cause depression and mental instability in men. What? Preposterous? But let’s not forget that people who believe in genetic determination tried to argue the correlation between quantity of sex with males in a dominant position to men’s mental wellbeing… (from one of those nutty MRA Sites).
              Do you see yet why it’s always better to argue with individuals?

              And there’s a lot of contemporary evidence of hardwired differences between male and female brains, if you bother to look.

              And there’s a lot of contemporary evidence of culturally enforced differences between male and female individuals, if you bother to look. There’s also scientific refute for the so called evidence you claim, if you bother to look.

            • Niko says:

              Of course there is, I just want to say that we can’t blame it all on either nature or nurture, it’s both.

            • Shuck says:

              “And there’s a lot of contemporary evidence of hardwired differences between male and female brains, if you bother to look.”
              Ugh, no. The differences are subtle, inconsistent, change over time and ultimately meaningless because they’re completely dwarfed by the “hardwired” differences between, say, the brains of London cabbies with “the Knowledge” and everyone else, and we know that difference is entirely the result of experiences. There is not, in fact, any real evidence for innate differences between male and female brains.

              link to

            • joa says:

              The mountain of evidence I’m talking of actually comes from more recent research in new fields of science that are uncovering how evolution has shaped our psychological make up.

              dE seems to suggest that if we accept evidence that e.g. men not having a lot of sex is a cause of depression and mental instability (which does not seem very far fetched) then we also have to accept crazy solutions like forcing women to have sex with loads of men they don’t want to. But that doesn’t follow at all. You can accept biologically deterministic arguments while also respecting individual freedom. Biological arguments simply serve to explain why people behave the way they do; not to try to force people into behaving a certain way.

            • dE says:

              No I don’t and I don’t suggest that. It was a reply to Niko that seemed to dismiss the influence of society and culture, before he backpedalled, based on the extreme ideas of some that affiliated with that idea. By that same motion, Niko would also represent the MRA nutjob arguments. Which he doesn’t seem to do, which is precisely the point.
              I brought it up to show how ridiculous it is to argue against anonymous groups while replying to an individual, instead of arguing with that individual.

            • AngelTear says:

              I had gone out after posting that comment, thank you dE for keeping the discussion going. I agree with what you wrote.

            • Gap Gen says:

              I think at some point it might be worth actually citing those mountains of evidence, because like people have said, a lot of it is outdated, ideologically-skewed or misinterpreted by the media. Here’s a review article that discusses some of the gendered toy preferences in the literature, for example: link to (with the caveat that all research is open to change to a greater or lesser extent)

              What is clear is that the issue is complex and still not completely understood, and certainly doesn’t suggest a moral imperative (heaven forbid, for example, that we’d still think of eugenics as respectable, for example, any more than the idea that if God wanted us to fly, He would have given us wings). Does the possibility that boys and girls might respond to visual cues differently suggest that individuals should fulfill a fixed social role dictated by their gender, colour or sexuality? And does the response of monkeys to objects on a statistical basis, interpreted by an underpair, overworked journalist with no training in psychology, determine the entirety of a human being’s psyche, with all our learning and ability for abstract thought? Please tell me you don’t think that.

            • joa says:

              I think it’s pretty clear from what I’ve said that I don’t believe that Gap Gen. In fact I make that precise argument in my comment above – that an ‘is’ does not imply an ‘ought’. But I think biological investigation of gender differences is very important simply to help us understand these things. It doesn’t mean anyone has to act a certain way, but it can help us understand why someone – or a group of people – are acting the way they are.

              In my opinion, the is-implying-ought view is actually held by the feminist social justice people, not by the people in favour of the study of the biological factors of gender. Feminist/social justice people seem to hold this view, that gender comes from society/culture, in order to argue against the ‘ought’ part. That is, to fight back against the ‘ought’, i.e. ‘women should behave like X, Y, Z’ they seem to fight against the ‘is’ part, i.e. they dispute that women behave like X, Y, or Z for biological reasons, or that people expect women to behave like X, Y, or Z for biological reasons.

              That’s why feminists reject scientific studies of gender with such ideological fervour. Because they’ve built their world-view on such shaky foundations of believing that X, Y, and Z can not and must not be biological in nature. Since that claim can be tested by science, it means the only option they have is to cover there ears and go “la la la not listening”. Instead they should attack the is-implies-ought part. They should respect scientific studies of gender and incorporate them into their world view. We can still respect people who are different, while still explaining why the majority of people behave the way they do in biological terms.

            • joa says:

              To give a concrete example, feminists are generally against women being judged for being overtly sexual and having a lot of sex, i.e. being called sluts. This is generally explained biologically by the fact that a woman’s reproductive capacity is lower than a man, so she should (from an evolutionary perspective) make it worth it. Basically, if she’s going to have a baby, which is very physically taxing, it better be genetically worth it and so a woman should be selective and very careful.

              Of course while those judgements were useful when we evolved, they are no longer entirely relevant due to birth control and so on (although there’s still STDs and accidental pregnancy so they’re not completely irrelevant). However instead of acknowledging the biological innateness of these judgements against women who have a lot of sex, and making a simple rational argument for why they are no longer relevant and that people should get over it, feminists go completely loony tunes and argue that all judgements and feelings about sex are products of the patriarchy and men being generally evil, and that without the influence of culture we would just be going around having casual sex with anyone and everyone, and it wouldn’t influence how we think and relate to each other at all.

            • Gap Gen says:

              I think that’s a misrepresentation of the feminist position (I’m dubious about the biological assertion without reference to the literature, but it’s not really important for the argument). Feminists aren’t arguing that women should have more sex if they don’t want it, they’re arguing that people shouldn’t be demonised for doing so. The point of the word “slut” is that it’s a demeaning word for a woman who has a lot of sex or who advertises their sexuality, and as such is a tool for enforcing repressive social roles. I don’t know why this should be controversial or unclear?

              (Also, if we’re using pejorative language here, I’ll put my cards on the table and say that people are free to self-identify and do as they wish as long as they don’t infringe on the freedoms of other people, and anyone who would deny people the right to do this through social or legal pressure is a class-A prick).

            • Nate says:

              “There is not, in fact, any real evidence for innate differences between male and female brains.”

              That’s not true, and it’s not what your source says. The tl;dr I take from it is

              ‘This finding—that brain structure correlates as well or better with psychological “gender” than with simple biological “sex”—is crucial to keep in mind when considering any comparisons of male and female brains. Yes, men and women are psychologically different and yes, neuroscientists are uncovering many differences in brain anatomy and physiology which seem to explain our behavioral differences. But just because a difference is biological doesn’t mean it is “hard-wired.”’

              And this kind of hyperbole– that there’s NO evidence, not for ANY differences; or AngelTear’s original overstatement, “Otherwise there would be an equal amount of men and women in every field”– is what drives these discussions.

              As an aside, people focus on this out of all proportion to its significance. Ask any biologist whether any specific trait is nurture or nature, and your guaranteed answer is, “No.” Because it’s “and,” not “or.” (Yes, even your London cabbies’ Knowledge.)

          • Niko says:

            Surely you are not saying that there are no biological differences between males and females and that stuff like testosterone levels doesn’t affect predisposition to, say, competitive/aggressive games?

            • pepperfez says:

              Not who you’re replying to, but I’m perfectly willing to deny that biochemical differences really matter that much in how people choose their hobbies. Throughout history plenty of women have played games like bridge and tennis, which are no less competitive than whatever ESPORTS!!!!! we’re talking about but are viewed as somehow more genteel or appropriate for ladies. Girls’ and women’s school sports are amply populated. So the idea that playing competitive computer games is uniquely reflective of hyper-masculine traits is…implausible.

            • AngelTear says:

              I may be willing to admit to some predispositions, but that’s what they are: predispositions. A predisposition is a fairly weak thing.

              Men are predisposed for being bald, but not all men are bald, and some women go bald because of reasons (nerves, medical issues etc). With character traits it’s an even weaker link, because we can choose, we can consciously change and adapt.

              The risk of saying that one gender is like this and the other gender is like that is that you start defining what is normal and what is not, and people who wouldn’t fit in will feel psychological pressure, no matter if they choose to defy external expectations or to “give up” and conform.

              For things like videogames, there are even more factors, like the often-mentioned self-fulfilling advertisement. You advertise for men, you get men as your core public, therefore women are not interested in games, therefore keep advertising for men.

              I’m not saying that nurture is everything and nature is nothing. I’m contesting the idea that the “sex” part of our nature inevitably implies 99% of a person’s character. Maybe nature defines our character to a very large extent, but independently from our sex at birth.

              It’s easier and better for everyone to stop thinking so much about men being all the same, and women being all the same, and whites/blacks being all the same etc. and focus more on individuals, even if they don’t neatly fit into categories.

            • Gap Gen says:

              I wonder if people are talking at cross-purposes here. So maybe there are biologically-wired gender differences. So maybe a percentage of men and women prefer different things for whatever reason. Firstly, humans are not deterministic agents whose preferences can be perfectly predicted by their gender, age, colour, etc. I’ve known women who were better athletes than me, for one thing. The BBC article cites mainly social differences – that women are still the main child carers and this interrupts careers. This is a problem that needs to be addressed (in Germany, which has bad maternity laws, this is a big problem because it’s leading to demographic issues as women choose careers over children). The other stuff is mainly Django Unchained’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s character’s race science bull, not research (which is still an open field).

              Regardless. I think it’s fine to say that there are biological and social reasons why some people prefer things over others, as long as you have evidence and aren’t just making stuff up to fit your own agenda (which is hard to avoid sometimes, granted, and science is a process of overcoming your own prejudices to figure out how the universe works, not how you think it might on first sniff). It’s a problem to say that those differences should exist and be enforced. So 60% of FPS players are men, even in a hypothetical ideal society. Whatever. This doesn’t suggest that women should be persuaded away from FPS games, or vilified if they choose to play. Again, taking a physical argument and making a moral one is anywhere from stupid to evil (for example, eugenics or Social Darwinism).

          • Michael Fogg says:

            The problem with the argument that goes society’s expactations force women (and men) into certain roles/hobbies/careers/ways of behaviour is that it generally assumes people to be sheep who mindlessly conform to expectations and retreat hastily when somebody does as much as furrow a brow at their behaviour.

            Whatever happened to individualism and non-conformism? Do people not listen to punk rock anymore? I try to defy societal norms at every step. I work in a financial company. I wear almost waist-long hair, ride a bike everywhere, keep talking about vidya games and just love to irritate my uptight corporate-minded colleagues.

            Maybe if people just did what interests them instead of just trying to fit in the whole problem would dissapear.

            • pepperfez says:

              It’s great that some people are willing to aggressively defy society’s expectations, but that shit is hard. It takes both personal mental fortitude and enough resources to survive when you run up against someone who wants to punish you for not conforming.
              Not to pick on you, but you’re a dude who works for a financial company: That’s easy mode. If you want to take on the disadvantage of people disapproving of your hair/interests/vehicle, that’s totally respectable, but it’s not fair to expect the same from people who have a lot more disadvantages already in their lives.

            • Michael Fogg says:

              We’re not really talking about people having to fight for a living but rather the presence of women in esports. Is it really that hard for them to defy expectations and just play the friggin’ games? What do they risk, looks of dissapointment during dinner with parents? And I don’t think I’m particularily ‘privileged’ with my ‘intellectual proletaryat’ position, with no job security and pay on the level of that of a dishwasher.

            • pepperfez says:

              If we’re only talking about women in ESPORTS!!!! then it makes even less sense to expect them to just buck expectations and ignore the haters. What’s their payoff? Playing games (except for the vanishingly small percentage of true professionals, who don’t really matter here) is a hobby. We do it for fun. For most people, being treated like a freak by the people they’re playing games with makes those games less fun, so why even bother?

            • Michael Fogg says:

              I absolutely agree that jerks who bother women in games online should be named & shamed and they sully the name of the entire games community. But the scope of the article in question was broader than just behaviour of gamers, as it said that they don’t get encouragment from the broader culture since the marketing is not targeted at them (!?).

            • pepperfez says:

              I think the point is that all those things are tied together. It’s obviously not true that women need some kind of official corporate recognition to get into competitive gaming, but it’s silly to seek explanations in brain chemistry or evolutionary attitudes toward competition or whatever when the people running the leagues are straightforwardly only interested in appealing to men (Director of a gaming league on why they don’t try to reach new demographics: “It is not authentic as it alienates the immensely large core audience in the hope that someone new might pick it up.”).

        • Arathain says:

          So men and women may have tendencies to prefer one form of entertainment over another. I’m setting aside the totally unsettled question of whether these tendencies are biologically innate or cultural conditioning because a) it’s totally unsettled and b) actually irrelevant to real people.

          These things are tendencies. Skews in the distribution curve. Not, never, general truths. If you say, as many have, that there’s no point in making the Street Fighter community more friendly to women because women don’t tend to like that sort of game you are still excluding all the women who do. Right? Lots of real actual people are being excluded from something they want to do because some people are deciding to cite statistics and they’re on the wrong side of the curve. That’s arbitrary and cruel.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Exactly. The 20th Century’s convergence of pseudoscience and social control didn’t work so well. As I said above, a) it’s not clear what sexual differences mean, if they even exist to a greater extent, b) humans are not monkeys, and c) extrapolating moral imperatives from supposed physical laws is a horrible, evil thing to do.

    7. mrwonko says:

      The Album is also on Bandcamp, for those who, like me, prefer that over spotify.

    8. Philomelle says:

      Reading the reactions to Stirlin’s article makes me feel that linking that particular article was a terrible idea. It’s the third chapter in the series of articles that make up a book on competitive play and most counter-arguments brought up here by the readers are actually addressed by him in the previous two chapters.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        It’s also about 15+ years old. I remember people trying to justify their lack of sportsmanship (usually right after they lost to us) back in the late ’90s by linking to that article. It was lame then, it’s still lame now.
        And it suffers from a massive bias towards solo multiplayer which in the modern era is very much the exception not the norm. Sure it can be applied to competitive Starcraft 2 but I’d love to see him try & justify that shit when talking about Dota 2 or CS:GO etc.

    9. Tigers says:

      Better link for the amazing music link to

      • Chaz says:

        Hmm Geoff Barrow, he of scratching for Portishead and Earthling fame.

    10. deathcakes says:

      Is that not surely Tom “Tom Bramwell” Bramwell? Or is he a different guy?

    11. Frank says:

      I think we all read Sirlin’s take like 30 years ago. Is he just a relentless rehasher?

      I respect his game design skills (that I’ve seen in Kongai) but the guy’s total human garbage when it comes to designing a website. Oh, was that too harsh? Please let me define “human garbage” …

      • Philomelle says:

        The article might appear to be a rehash because it’s actually fourteen years old. What’s linked here is one of the chapters from the book he wrote way back in 2000 and has since decided to put online for everyone to have easy access to.

    12. fish99 says:

      Imagine if the only map in Skyrim was the paper map you got with the boxed game, or the game didn’t even have that and you had to draw out your own. Also imagine you could only fast travel via the horse and carts to go between major towns, and imagine every objective wasn’t immediately and accurately marked on your hud/map but instead you had to ask for directions and clues and actually remember things (or write them down).

      In an effort to streamline the game, a lot of the mystery and sense of adventure and discovery has been lost, and not just in Elder Scrolls games.

      • Wulfram says:

        Gosh, that does sound annoying and tedious

        • Malibu Stacey says:

          Only because you’re used to having your hand held throughout every game you’ve played for the last decade or so.

          • Volcanu says:

            That’s perhaps a bit unfair to Wulfram.

            I mean I agree with almost of all of what fish99 said, but the part about not having a map and having to draw it by hand does sound tedious. Cartography is a painstaking and rather time consuming business that I have no desire to engage in myself. I’m all for having the map ‘revealed’ as I explore it – pushing back the fog as it were – but not actually having to make my own map, which lets face it would be horribly innacurate (ever seen a 13th century World Map?).

            So ol Wulfy may just be referring to that aspect, which struck me as tedious too. Despite me agreeing with all of fish99’s other points, which in fairness, seem eminently sensible suggestions for restoring that sense of discovery/ feeling of exploration that has indeed been lost in the modern ‘open world’ game.

            • fish99 says:

              I was just throwing ideas out there, it wasn’t my considered dossier on how to fix Skyrim :p

              By far the biggest thing wrong with the game is how every enemy is capped to your level. Bethesda’s idea to make the ES series more accessible and make it sell better on consoles was to make every fight winnable, but that takes away all the danger and excitement, since you will never ever meet anything that’s really challenging or even beyond you.

              Quest markers I definitely take exception to since they turn the game into just follow the icon, and they take away the sense of discovery and exploration. And personally I would limit fast traveling to major towns.

            • Volcanu says:

              Oh I thought as much. Reading my post back I didn’t mean to rant on about the map point quite so much!

              Yeah I completely agree with you about the quest markers and fast travel. It would be far more rewarding to have to do a bit of exploration rather than sprinting straight to the marker…..and some of my favourite moments in the ES series are the quiet moments when you are travelling – riding under the stars in Oblivion….climbing misty peaks in Skyrim etc.

              And I’m definitely with you on the fight scaling cap. At least they have stepped away from the horrible way in Oblivion that critters/encounters scaled up to your level, which utterly destroyed immersion when some rural bandits were bedecked in the finest armour and weapons and were more ferocious than many of the main villains. I much prefer that feeling in RPGs when you are tentatively pushing into an area you know is a bit too hard for your level, hoping the heavy risk will pay off with some snatched loot or bumper experience when you bring down a very tough foe.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Imagine you are playing the game, but have to take off a week for work shenanigans or travel or somesuch. When you return, you try to take up a goal that was mentioned to you (the character) minutes ago in the game, but is something you (the player) personally can’t recall.

        All games are filled with abstractions. It’s their very nature.

        • fish99 says:

          Ok, so forget the remembering thing, the game can record in text form what NPCs tell you, like directions, but I’m sure you can appreciate how much it takes away from the experience that every objective is pinpointed on your map.

      • timethor says:

        The first thing I did in Skyrim was disable the compass. I only looked at the map when in the presence of NPCs who could tell me where I was (in towns, farms etc), or when I myself was sure of where I currently was. I only used the horse carts for fast travel (ok, and eventually to get to the top of the main-quest-mountain, after I had walked up that thing 5 times..). So if I was in Whiterun and got a quest to visit mysterious cave X, I’d study the map, try to identify enough landmarks that I would find on my way there (a split in a river, the end of a mountain range, etc), and then set out on my journey.

        I’m convinced that my skyrim experience was much better because of it. Yes, in the beginning I got lost a lot, especially when leaving the road, but that was basically the best feeling in the game, exploring unknown territory and trying to find your way to some landmark. Now that I’m more familiar with the world map, Skyrim is a lot less interesting.

        Getting lost in the foggy marshes next to Solitude, taking hours to reach Whiterun for the first time (I got really lost, trekking across the plains, crossing the mountains..), finally seeing Winterhold after spending hours in snowstorms, walking along the north coast with the northern light shining on those walrus like creatures without any idea of how far it is to the nearest settlement.. those were the great moments in Skyrim. It’s a shame that most people missed those feelings because their spoiler-o-matic compass told them exactly where to go, since for some reason I can’t comprehend the compass can only be disabled via .ini files..

        • Malibu Stacey says:

          Now that makes me wonder whether all these “UI assistance” things should be tied to difficulty like in the old Formula 1 racing games.
          Pick Hard, everything is off by default & the game plays like you played it. Add extra things like areas you haven’t visited yet aren’t visible on the map so exploring is an actual thing, fast travel is limited by cost or cooldown or something so you have to make a decision on when to use it etc.
          Pick Normal & you get a few things to help like whole map being visible, fast travel is always available but there’s no UI assistance like quest pointer arrows etc.
          Pick Easy & you get default Skyrim with all the bells & whistles to hold your hand & let you finish the main storyline in under a week so you can brag to all your e-friends how you “beat” the game already.

          Choices for all play styles. A game which appeals to the casual console player & to the hardcore.

          • fish99 says:

            Yeah kinda like hardcore mode in Fallout New Vegas, but with more focus on making the exploration more challenging. Honestly though you won’t get anything like that from Bethesda, they’re so risk averse. They’re just focused on streamlining the core ES experience.

    13. Wedge says:

      Oh jeese. Why did you post a decade+ old Sirlin snippet? Now there’s a bunch of people rambling with no idea what they’re talking about ~.~

      • Steven Hutton says:

        A better, more interesting conversation to have regarding Sirlin is about how all of his games are incredible, beautifully balanced near-masterpieces. All of which are distributed with transparent pricing (no CCG random booster packs bullshit) and with excellent long term support. Seriously, Playing 2 Win is this footnote that is always being talked up when instead people should really be focusing on his amazing games.

        His credits include the second best deck-building game. The actual best deck building game. The best balanced asymmetric game ever made (yeah), Chess 2 and most recently a version of poker that is fun and interesting every hand instead of mostly being about folding. With Pandas.

        I’m expecting to see Puzzle Strike (third edition + shadows), Yomi and Flash Duel all show up somewhere in Rab’s top 20. (And in I’ll be really disappointed if at least one of them isn’t in the top ten).

        • Malibu Stacey says:

          Can’t tell if serious or sarcasm. Leaning towards sarcasm but considering the number of genii I’ve came across on the internet who actually believe the stuff Sirlin writes as gospel, it’s not always clear cut.

          • Steven Hutton says:

            Why would that be sarcasm?

            • Malibu Stacey says:

              Because no one can have their tongue shoved that far up someone else’s arse, especially David Sirlin’s, without needing to seek medical attention.

    14. The Random One says:

      I offer to thee a brilliant article by Ian Bogost on Mario Kart’s blue shell, for certain values of brilliant: link to

      • RobF says:

        It’s amazing. And even more amazing when coupled with the comments entirely ignoring it.

        • pepperfez says:

          I love it. They literally saw “Blue Shell” in the headline and immediately wrote their comments.

        • Geebs says:

          I imagine the commenters stopped reading when the pain became unbearable, and decided to write about something fun instead.

          Sometimes a blue shell is blue because red and green were taken.

      • LionsPhil says:

        It’s…certainly for “certain values”, alright.

      • Lemming says:

        I read it, but still just want to talk about the blue shell, is that ok?

        I never get the issue with the blue shell, as it’s only a factor if the first few places are hotly contested (it has an area effect as well, if I remember). If you’re 1st, and I mean really 1st then it merely slows you down for a moment. It doesn’t matter to the good players vs the mediocre ones, but it may just be the thing that ‘shakes up’ the players of similar skill. I like the anarchy that it brings, even if I’m the one getting hit with it.

        That said, everyone should calm the hell down about it anyway, as last I checked Mario Kart isn’t an eSport.

        • Philomelle says:

          From reading the argument, it sounds like the most common issues are either that the blue shell doesn’t help enough or that it’s an unfair frustration for the leading player. What neither side realizes is that the blue shell is exactly as Bogost describes it – a force of chaos spawned by an indifferent universe that really wants to dick someone over and simply prefers the leading guy because that would give it maximum dick points.

          In fact, I can’t help but feel that Nintendo could easily solve the argument by releasing a Mario Kart controller that has a huge blue button taped on right in the middle, labeled LULZ and with “press to dick someone over” engraved around it. The button would be used for absolutely nothing except launching the blue shell.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Conversely, look at the hornets in Sonic Racing Transformed So Many Titles. They seek out the lead player, but “only” surround them with a minefield of hazards, thus allowing them to avoid an actual hit with enough skill. They might lose a little speed in dodging, but much less than from an impact.

          The drone which does lock on and persue a target only does so for players immediately before or after you, and even that isn’t relentless: manage to boost enough, and you will outpace it until it gives up. About the only attack I can think of offhand which is nigh-impossible to react to and dodge is a snowball, which has to be aimed manually. (There’s probably some assist to that, but it’s certainly not an automatic “screw the leader” button.)

          Personally, I find this a much better design. You still have all the interesting chaos of power-ups, and they can be effective, but they’re also not the Complete Bull that blue shells supposedly are.

        • Volcanu says:

          @ Lemming

          I think the problem people have with it is that it is pretty much impossible to be “really, first” in any Mario Kart since at least Mario Kart 64. Super Mario Kart (the first one) was still quite strongly a racing game, where items were important but not really decisive – as such the best driver would almost always win. In Mario Kart 64 this was largely true too, although items played a greater part.

          Subsequent Mario Kart’s have had a much more pronounced dual handicap system where the max speed of players is reduced the further up the field you are, and the better items are awarded the further back you are. This works to keep the pack very close together and means that even not very good players can have fun and still have a chance of winning- with Mario Kart being aimed at family fun this makes sense, but it does mean it’s very difficult to build up an insurmountable lead, even through skill.

          The Blue Shell factor means that the best tactic is actually to hold back in 3rd/4th for most of the race before making a final sprint when inevitably the leader is taken out by multiple blue shells on the final lap. This has the weird effect where experienced players don’t really want to be first at all.

          For better or worse, Mario Kart isn’t really much of a racing game anymore – which means people who have played it since it’s origins probably find less to like….

      • Steven Hutton says:

        It is pretty amazing that he managed to cram that amount of bullshit into so few words.

    15. minstrelofmoria says:

      This is going to sound pretentious as hell, but I think Miasmata got bad Metacritic because it did exactly what it should have. Here’s this game that’s about a plague victim stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere. You’re weak, you’re frail, you have no idea where you’re going, and you’re constantly falling down hillsides and hurting yourself. You FEEL like you’re half-dead and struggling to go on, and that creates an incredibly tense experience, so of course reviewers marked it down for things like “awkward controls.”

    16. Bobka says:

      Reading those kinds of things by Sirlin is, to me, like listening to people speak a language similar to mine but not actually one I can understand. I can tell that something’s going on, and clearly there are lots of people who grok this, but it’s so alien to me that people play games like that. It’s nice that there’s such diversity in what draws people to games, I suppose. I’ll stick to my non-competitive single-player games, though.

    17. Gothnak says:

      I’ve played thousands of games over the years, but i hate playing against other people, they are generally unpleasant, rude and to be truly competitive you need to put hundreds of hours into a game (Something i don’t fancy doing when there are so many games and experiences to enjoy in life). Therefore i tend to play most games single player or co-op or asynchronous strategy games. My partner is exactly the same, she also loves the same games i do, but the attitude, language and general behaviour of large % of men online is so unpleasant, you don’t want to face it.

      I’ve been in a number of gaming videos over the years (i’m a successful developer after all) and when i scan down the comments, i always see a few comments insulting me because i’m (god forbid) overweight, or have a beard (oh no!), and it’s unpleasant but sadly expected from the lovely gaming community we have.

      However, consider being a woman, and instead of just having a go about your weight, facial hair, lack of hair, silly voice or whatever, all the comments are about how they want to rape you or do a cornucopia of sexual acts, or perhaps that you should be killed.

      Women get a different amount and a different intensity of abuse to men online, and I for one can completely understand why they weigh this up (consciously or subconsciously) when deciding to spend enough time to be good enough at a game. So maybe they just play a game to have fun, rather than to appear online and be insulted.

    18. Misha says:

      Staying with esports for a moment, Polygon’s Emily Gera examines the lack of female pro-gamers within the competitive scene. This is a good piece that gets into the ways in which business concerns shape audiences, even if elements of Polygon’s style guide makes me feel itchy.

      OK, I’ll bite. Which parts of it makes you itchy?

      And I wish you’d included a trigger warning. Companies shaping their campaigns according to the makeup of their demographics? When will this cisgendered, heteronormative, microaggressive patriarchal tyranny END????

    19. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

      I guess I am a dirty scrub then. Defeating a good player, without the use of cheap tactics, is incredibly satisfying, beating a weakling is worthless and I try to avoid them altogether. I just don’t see the how watching your win number go up can be the sole motivation, sorry I guess??
      But I do enjoy studying the spamming “non-scrub”, “play-to-win” types for a couple of matches, figuring out the key and then utterly embarrassing them till they pull the ethernet cable out of the system (a beloved tactic of any self-respecting non-scrub who values the number of wins above everything else)

      Thing is, all the best players I encountered online didn’t in fact, spam or pull any other tired crap, and fighting them was incredibly entertaining and enlightening, even though I didn’t have a slightest chance of winning.