The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for exploring – not to discover Pokémon, but for the pure pleasure of going for a walk and seeing new things. Let’s first catch the week’s best writing about videogames.

A lot, a lot, a lot has been written about Pokémon Go over the past week. I haven’t read most of it, but did enjoy Austin Walker’s simple take at his new home at Vice: Pokémon GO isn’t very good but will be huge anyway.

On my way home last night, after the heat had broken, I saw Pokémon fans crossing the streets, heads down, illuminated and consumed by the game’s glow. I saw one guy sitting on the subway launching the game over and over—I’d guess it was crashing on him, too. I saw a group of four kids gathered around the darkened entrance of an old karaoke place that had been designated as a gym. They were grinning and shouting and joking. One of them had been left behind as the others moved on—more connection trouble most likely but he was committed to standing in place and staring at his phone. It was when they finally all circled back around, phones in hand, that I knew they were all playing.

Of course, the best piece of writing about Pokémon GO is technically about Ingress, the (extremely similar) mobile game developers Niantic released previously. I’ve linked it before, too, but here again is Laura Michet on her obsession with that game. Michet is now editor of Zam, by the way.

I felt like I needed a wholesome explanation for what I was doing. I did not tell anyone in my office that I’d been out on the street meeting strangers and swapping tales of municipal corruption. “I really like this triangles game,” I told them. That’s how I thought of it: the game where you go for a stroll and make triangles. Nothing too weird. Nothing embarrassing. But I was embarrassed, a little. I was meeting people in public. That’s kind of weird, isn’t it? But exciting. And I’m an adult now. I can meet internet people in the street if I want.

Also at Vice, Kate Gray wrote about game translation, what makes it hard, and why people should hate them less.

I was studying Latin poetry, and I was frustrated with every translation that I came across. There were translations that “bowdlerised” the text, taking out all the rude words and completely refusing to translate entire poems about butt-fucking (AKA the best ones). There were others that translated beautiful wordplay and clever use of double meanings into boring, blank verse. The problem with translation is that the people who do it aren’t always as interesting as the person who wrote the original text.

Kate Compton makes procedural things. She wrote this giant post about how to approach doing the same, from defining the goal to implementing solutions.

List Oriented is a blog whose writer is playing each of the games in his Steam list – over 400 – in alphabetical order and writing about each of them in turn. Here are the rules:

1. I am playing through all the games in my steam library, in the alphabetical order (1-Z) that they come listed.
2. It is desirable to play every game through to some measurable state of completion, however-
3. If I decide I am not really having a good time with a particular game, I can choose to move on at any point so long as I have already given it at least an hour.
4. I will write something down about my experiences with each game and post it on this here blog before moving on to the next one on the list.
5. Any newly acquired games only need to be played for this project if they enter the Steam list at a later alphabetical point than the game I am already up to.

At PC Gamer, Tom Senior wrote about his love of adjacency bonuses, with Concrete Jungle as the prime example.

It’s a minor but deeply satisfying mechanic. It seems to tickle the part of my brain that enjoys seeing my flat in order after a tidying session, but my chairs don’t confer bonuses to my table, and my microwave does not improve the toast my toaster makes. Life would be better if it did, so I must go to videogames for my fix. I crave only the chance to put things next to other things in powerful synergistic ways.

Robert Yang’s Radiator 2 was banned from Twitch streaming this past week, despite the three games included in the collection having been released individually long ago and depsite Twitch allowing games with more nudity, more sex, and far more violence. He has some suggestions for how Twitch might reform their policies.

1. Notify game creators when banning their work, and cite specific game features or content for why they were banned. The reasoning should be listed in a notification e-mail as well as on the banned game list. A ban is punishment for something, and Twitch needs to tell creators how to avoid that punishment in the future — unless the real message is that the punishment is arbitrary, or that nothing we do will ever avoid punishment. This is the absolute bare minimum that Twitch should do. Even faceless regulatory boards like the ESRB and MPAA explain their ratings.

At Eurogamer, friend-o-comrade Tom Francis wrote about how VR is a revolution in control more than immersion. I haven’t played Holopoint, the game he’s praising, but I agree absolutely, and it’s why it seems such a shame that the Rift didn’t ship with its motion controllers.

It’s by far the best VR game I’ve played, and it’s the one that makes the medium feel like something truly new. More immersive versions of the games we already have are cool, but they don’t make VR feel like a new world. Games you control with your head, hands and body, though, are a revelation. It’s everything we imagined the Wii’s motion controls could be: instant, exact, and so natural it feels silly to even call them controls. You don’t control a bow in Holopoint, you just shoot it.

Michael Lutz is the writer of My Father’s Long, Long Legs, a wonderful interactive fiction horror game we’ve raved about before. He wrote something unrelated to games this past week, about how in 2000 a half-seen Ally McBeal episode may have affected his life.

Music this week is Birthday by The Sugarcubes.

From this site

26 Comments

  1. Carra says:

    *Checks SteamLeft.com* – 318 days,7 hours,20 minutes of continuous playing.

    Yeah, I don’t think I’ll manage that any day soon.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      5800 hours for mine.

      Some quick counting: Average life expectancy ~80 years, subtract sleep (*0,66). Awake time from cradle to eternal sleep is then around 463 thousand hours.
      I just turned 32, that’s 276 thousand hours left awake until death if I’m lucky. Subtract 40 hours a week until I turn 75 to keep having a roof to play games under (~89 thousand hours) and I’m left with 187 thousand hours!

      I’ll probably end up wasting half of that getting stuck with pointless Skinner boxes though. :'(

      • welverin says:

        Some things are better left unknown.

        • pepperfez says:

          My very least favorite thing about Steam is its persistent, unified statistics. I’d really rather not know how much time and money games are stealing from me, thanks very much.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Don’t worry. You might get wiped out by a bus before they perfect a F2P hook that is precisely attuned to you.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          He died like he lived – Playing Pokémon Go.

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, I’m seeing 334 days, but I actually have no real backlog. I’ve hidden 600+ games I didn’t like. Among the 500+ others, the 120 adventure or local-multiplayer games don’t count, since I will probably not play those solo; and all the others I’ve played at least a little of.

      • Carra says:

        I’ve also started a shortlist of games to play. Even that list already contains about 60 games.

  2. Yglorba says:

    Kate Gray’s piece about localization was interesting. It reminds me a lot of the articles on Legends of Localization (by Tomato, who worked on the fan-translation of Earthbound and is now a professional translator.)

  3. Unsheep says:

    Concerning VR, I agree. However the current VR controls are very simplistic, resulting in games that – to me – are also very simplistic. The potential is certainly there though, for example with VR gloves and more specialized gaming tools.

    As far as immersion goes, VR is still just codes on a screen, they have no physical presence.

    Having tried VR with Project Cars the immersion did not feel significantly higher than using a regular screen, simply because the physical presence is not there: unlike when you drive a real car and feel the various forces on your body.

    • Ethaor says:

      Did you play on a google cardboard’s small phone and a Xbox controller by any chance?

      Because on an OR/Vive with a decent wheel and pedals it’s a whole other story. I don’t know nor heard anyone yet that said the VR experience was not so different from a regular screen, especially for simming (considering that’s the scenario where the real world body position and controllers (wheel, pedals, shifters, Hotas etc) are mimicking those in VR)

      • Unsheep says:

        There is no significant difference between using a VR headset and using regular screen.

        To repeat myself all over again, because don’t seem to get my point: VR is just a visual immersion, lines of code on a screen, not a physical one.

        If you manage to feel some kind of gravitational force while playing VR, I’d like to know what kind of drugs you are on.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    This is a lovely collection, especially the Ingress article.

    Merci Graham!

  5. Baines says:

    Speaking of Pokemon Go (and Ingress), I wonder how much they make from partnering with locations. I overheard a store manager talking about the partnerships, and how a different store had already seen a massive increase in sales due to the program.

    • Zenicetus says:

      There is an article on the National Public Radio web site about that:

      link to npr.org

      It looks like the developer isn’t doing this directly yet, but it’s on the way. For now, individual store owners near a Pokestop are doing things like setting up continual “lures” to draw traffic, offering discounts to people using the app, etc.

  6. cuc says:

    This reminds me of another blog about playing through one’s Steam backlog. There’s an unnecessary self-imposed restriction to play each game for 20 hours, but the blogger still managed to find interesting things to say about the games from time to time.
    link to decadentgamer.blogspot.com

  7. Freud says:

    I’ll wait for the tabletop version of Pokemon Go.

  8. malkav11 says:

    I have over 2060 games on Steam. I won’t be starting a blog of that sort. It would be madness.

    • Premium User Badge

      Grizzly says:

      Whoa.

      I mean, I have 226 games on steam. That makes me a huge outlier, and you have 9 times that. There’s many people I talk to who have more then 100 games on steam, yet the amount of people that have more then 100 games on steam amounts to about a million. This is less then the amount of people that actually read RPS each month.

      … Who are we?

      • Baines says:

        We are people that buy bundles?

        If you only buy games that you want to play, it is reasonable to end up with a hundred or even less games. When you start buying bundles, you are probably buying one or two games that you kind of want for dirt cheap, and getting another ten keys for games that you’d never have bothered buying (or already own.)

        Steam says that I’m approaching 1500 games. I’d guess that the number that I seriously bought is safely under 200. And I say that while knowing that I am a person that buys a lot of games. (I can look at my stack of console games as immediate evidence.)

        • malkav11 says:

          Bundles definitely constitute a big chunk of my library. Also, cheapo Steam sales. But I’m also kind of broadly gaming omnivorous and have trouble sticking to any given game so my third most played Steam game clocks in at around 70 hours, versus the 1000+ I’ve seen on some people’s profiles. (My top two are 115 and 330-something, respectively. But the former is Skyrim and the latter is 3-ish years of intermittently revisiting Marvel Heroes. Neither is really representative of my general habits.)

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        The Pareto demographic.

        The polygamers staring at the end of the conveyor belt to pick up anything and everything are surprisingly few.
        The large viscous mass constituting the outer 80% are monogamers (either by fleeting interest in the medium, going hardcore competitive or by being poor kids).

        They play one to three games for long periods before circulating in a new one (from the small pool of games currently enjoying critical social mass).

        That’s what I got from reading SteamSpy on Medium at least.

      • Premium User Badge

        alison says:

        This is a really interesting article, thanks. I never really saw myself as a big-time gamer – I rarely buy AAA games and I don’t buy bundles either – but I guess picking up ~20 short games a year is enough to put me in the 1%.

  9. Dances to Podcasts says:

    It’s interesting to see the difference between VR and augmented reality gaming. You see and hear a lot about VR but it all seems top down, articles on blogs like these, Steam recommending me VR games, etc. AR games, on the other hand, are rarely heard about. Until now, that is, when there’s a game everyone’s actually playing.

    • Premium User Badge

      yhancik says:

      And yet AR doesn’t get the massive amount of fervent articles that claim it’s “THE FUTURE OF GAMING”. I’m sure there are some pretty goo reasons for that, like the existence of VR as a techno-fantasy for a very long time now (unlike AR) and the fact that VR requires this futuristic-looking device (unlike AR that runs on smartphones everyone takes for granted now).
      Which is not to dismiss VR (although I’m definitely not a fan), it’s just interesting to see how new (sets of) technologies are perceived in the media and by the public ;)

  10. Lintire says:

    Maybe my two cents isn’t appreciated here, but I never see Fromsoftware, Clover/PlatinumGames, Kojima Productions, Falcom etc games catch flak for their translations.

    Xenoblade Chronicles changing the dialogue to British colloquialisms with accents to boot was considered charming.

    No, way I figure it, when Nippon Ichi, Ace Attorney, Criminal Girls/similar “give us the titties” games, and whatever games catch flak for their translations, it’s got nothing to do with a line change or two, and more to do with either mass-inserting subject matter that the outspoken demographic doesn’t desire or removing subject matter they do.

    TLDR; less memes, more anime tiddies