Sundays are for wondering how all of life’s previous Sundays slipped by so swiftly and for watching a rare Bury FC television appearance.
In my late fifties, my personal and professional life both confronted me with how very much I didn’t know about electronic games, aesthetically and otherwise. So I set out to explore, and set the arbitrary goal of getting to know fifty games (and a wide range of them). I am still at the beginning: in three months that began with casual and occasional play, I’ve introduced myself to some twenty-nine games, so far finishing or getting seriously into about ten.
Shipping Double Fine’s inaugural game was an exercise in fierce determination, passion, and perseverance. By a purely Machiavellian standard, we were resoundingly successful. The result is a beautiful and fun interactive experience published on multiple platforms to a unanimously appreciative reception by the press and fans.
By any other metric, we had a rough time of it. We learned much from our experience on Psychonauts—most importantly, to never give up. Even when we lost our publisher, or when we ran years longer than expected, or when we had to navigate around sewage to get to our desks, we never gave up.
In some ways games are a bit more like dancing, or sport. Even the ones that aren’t about dancing or sport. Because isn’t part of dancing’s fun the act of taking the impossible, indescribable whatni of music and giving them some physical outlet, some jiggy two-step catharsis? A sort of transaction with – and acceptance of – the incredible otherness of it? Just ask Zorba the Greek from.. well, Zorba the Greek, who felt some things were best communicated by dancing full stop.
Or ask the mountain climber, for whom a craggy, cloud-shrouded vista is somehow too sublime, a beauty in need of earthing through contact and conquest -via sweaty Gore-Tex and the crack of an ice-axe.
Upton recalls Clancy’s involvement as minimal throughout the process: “After the initial brainstorming session he hardly engaged with us at all. He turned my story into his book, but there was no collaboration. His agent just sent me a copy of his rough manuscript so I could work in details.” Upton shrugged, “He insisted that we include the heartbeat sensor because one of his experts had told him that it was a real device. I argued strongly against that and lost as well. Mostly he just ignored us.”
Latecomer Weinstein came in to a game in chaos and described these last few months as being disastrous. He lived mostly at the office, sleeping in a spare room that was outfitted with air mattresses for the staff. “I was even pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving during that period. They let me go because I hadn’t been drinking, but the simple fact was, I was so exhausted that I was incredibly unsafe and should never have been on the road. To this day, I’m not sure why my wife didn’t leave me during crunch.”
Okay I think I have a rule for flavor text: good flavor text makes me want to find out the context. Bad flavor text is incoherent without it. The key to being intriguing is creating a funny or sad or weird enough gem without knowing the meaning of the proper nouns that it makes you curious enough to find out what those proper nouns are.
There can be something unsettling, and even grotesque, about works that extol the effects of video games without reservation. So many games are so silly, so flippant, so bloody, after all, and so few of them are about anything beyond the old and tired story of victory over one’s opponent, of the expansion of territory, of which we get quite enough on the news. The adult world doesn’t value play much, at least outside of the realm of professional sports. But Clune’s loose and associative style allows him to avoid the trap of defensiveness or sentimentality about the medium. His self-deprecating side-eyes at his own young life offer a messier, more honest appraisal, and few clear judgments.
While you murder your way through Afghanistan, Fulton-ing away the best soldiers you can find, you’re serenaded with the gentle strains of “She Blinded Me With Science.” What’s odd about this game is not its soundtrack or its commitment to the story of chief badass, Big Boss. Instead it’s that the game presents these elements without a trace of cynicism.
This critique would surely fall flat with Kojima, who as Anthony Burch points out in Metal Gear Solid, a book-length criticism by Boss Fight Books, “injects every Metal Gear Solid game with earnest if overbearing discussions of nuclear disarmament, the morality of genetic experimentation, the nature of warfare, and the difference between patriotism and terrorism.” This is a man who earnestly begins an episode of Phantom Pain with a discussion about child soldiers in Africa. There’s a clear intent to catalogue the horrors of war within the game. Grittiness is pushed through in every syllable of Boss’s dialogue, in a world overrun by terrorists and guns for hire.
Scott Weiland always played a Chaotic-Neutral Elven Thief.
That is how I remember him. Not as the singer who could belt out sounds that vibrate down to the soul. Not as the troubled mega-rockstar of the tabloids and gossip pages. But as a 13 year-old sitting beside me at the kitchen table in one of our houses, passing me notes about what new chaos his character was going to initiate, either against the “bad guys” (orcs, goblins, etc), or not infrequently against his own team, our other friends.
The Landlord’s Game, which preceded Monopoly, was designed to illustrate the benefits of Single Tax theory as proposed by Henry George. The game’s creator, Lizzy Magie, patented it in 1904 and included two sets of rules. In one rule set, ruthless monopolists attempted to crush one another. In the other set, building property benefited everyone on the board. The goal was to illustrate the benefits of a more egalitarian economic system in which, theoretically, everyone could be a winner (or at least avoid landing in the poor house).