The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for the same thing as every other Sunday. That’s not so bad. Let’s begin the traditions by rounding up the week’s best writing about videogames.

Apparently some people are living in vans and making videogames while travelling around. This is interesting, though these stories (person does X and makes games) are going to gradually become plentiful as a natural side effect to more people making games. Good lede:

The first person Tom Sennett told about his plan to make video games while living out of a van was the guy he bought it from off Craigslist. The second was his boss when he quit his comfortable office job in New York City. His family was, needless to say, confused when he finally got around to them.

Mark Brown made a video this past week on the return of the immersive sim, via games like Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Dishonored 2. Although personally I feel like the mechanical elements of the immersive sim, even if not the principles, have been subsumed by neighbouring genres so much that Mankind Divided and Dishonored feel like “stealth FPS” games more than immersive sims as we once thought of them.

Over at Kotaku, that Nathan Grayson chap writes about the guy with the lowest possible rank in Overwatch. It’s a shame this isn’t about a sad man who is terrible at games, although I enjoyed the observation of this person who crawled to the bottom on purpose.

“In the mid-30s, I met the angriest people in the world,” Brown said. “It’s somewhere in that mid-30s and upper 20s [area], these are just the angriest people in the world. They think they should be doing better and they’re really not good enough, or these are just people stuck on really bad streaks.”

PC Gamer published their annual Top 100 online this past week. Outcast isn’t at 57, which is a crime, but Dragon Age 2 is at 94 which is some top trolling.

Tony: In most RPGs, a town is somewhere you pass through, solve everyone’s problems, then never come back. You live in Kirkwall for ten years. You invest so much time in this setting, you build up so much history, that it becomes a place in a way few RPGs ever achieve. Somewhere you lived. People whine about the over-familiar scenery, but since when did we play BioWare games for their floorplans?

I know how much you all want more articles about No Man’s Sky, so here’s Michael Cook writing about the game in the context of how we talk about procedural generation.

That’s why I think this approach might be helpful, because by telling stories about what our generators do to make a single piece of content, it helps us ask ourselves what bits of our generator are most interesting. Most of the coverage of No Man’s Sky is focused on its planets and universe, which draws the wildest claims, but turns out not to be wildly new or innovative. Compare that with this New Yorker article about how its animal calls are generated. No wild claims. No ambiguous language. A focused story about interesting work on a cool generator, told in a way that I felt was accessible to me even with no audio background at all. Ambiguity doesn’t help anyone, and often it can lead to us brushing over the really good stuff.

I enjoyed this evisceration of Kevin Smith’s ouevre, particularly Chasing Amy, by someone who was once a fan. I don’t feel quite the same vitriol but I do now cringe at parts or all of some of those films.

Chasing Amy was always an uncomfortable movie, a film that encapsulated the worst aspects of narcissistic nerd entitlement at its late-nineties peak, but twenty years later I couldn’t even bring myself to finish rewatching it. When it was released, I begged my father to drive me to Raleigh’s Rialto Theatre and left that first showing enraptured, believing that some aspect of my privileged nerdy male “struggle” had been set to film. Kevin Smith was the first director whose scripts I had ever read; before I’d encountered his work, I hadn’t ever considered the form. It helped that Smith was such a dreadful cinematographer, a fact he admits without shame, because it meant his movies were the equivalent of ninety-minute script readings. Yet why, in the course of dreaming about becoming a “Hollywood writer”—whatever that meant—had I lingered over this material? How had it ever resonated with anyone at all, myself included?

Maybe next week I will break with tradition and change the header image. But for now, I am technically writing this on a Friday and that means it’s time to go to the Love Psych, baby.

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55 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    Gamepressure have a list of upcoming games inspired by Lovecraft. Several of them look pretty promising, but I hope they will have good writing and characters, not just adding “Lovecraft ambience” and jumpscares and calling it a day. No one is going to go “OMG cultists”! We know there are going to be cults. Make us care about their motivations, and/or their victims.

    link to gamepressure.com

    • qrter says:

      Interesting. I’ve backed both Stygian and Gibbous on that list, I’m especially looking forward to Stygian.

    • karnak says:

      Thanks for sharing the link.
      I agree with you. Very few creators managed to capture the essence of Lovecraft’s work: that humanity’s and the individual’s existence is meaningless to the Cosmos.

      Unfortunately most times the “Lovecraft approach” is more towards big, bad monsters with tentacles. When in reality Lovecraft’s “Great Old Ones” are just as evil as the regular human crushing ants on its way to the mall. It’s the ants who probably see humans as “cosmic abominations that should have no room in a sane universe”.

  2. aircool says:

    I was comfortable in the low forties in Overwatch. There seemed to be a general attitude of ‘we’re not great players, but we’re not dreadful’ and it was reasonably relaxed most of the time and dare I say it… enjoyable. Most of the players had a good sense of humour, and Reinhardt charging off the map whilst missing every player was usually the cause of much roffles between the teams.

    It also meant I could play Mei a lot without little complaint from my team.

    • Monggerel says:

      My highest Season 1 rating was 59, which was the result of pubstomping the placement matches with a friend (I reckon most people have not been zealously playing competitive multiplayer FPS games since 1998). That felt like an appropriate tribute to my skill, determination, and mental imbalance.

      Then I dropped down and evened out at 50, my friend (a slightly better player than myself) capping at 45. When we realised we would keep on losing matches no matter what we did, despite getting all gold and silver medals, we just gave up the serious effort and simply tried to come up with the dumbest, most off-kilter and straight-up improbable bullshit “strategies” (eg. double Mercy on Offense trying to cap points, etc).

      All in all, it was a good time. We wanted 60 but it wasn’t possible, so in the end we settled for dumb fun.
      And perhaps the real 60 was the people we pissed off along the way.

  3. DaftPunk says:

    Deus ex & Dishonored simulations? What the hell are you smoking RPS,seriously :D Google it out,whats stands for “Sim”..

    • Premium User Badge

      Aitrus says:

      The video explains what they mean by ‘immersive sim’. It means a simulation of particular systems and letting them play out. What you’re talking about is games that try to simulate an aspect of real life.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Before giving remonstrations akin to “Google it, LOL”, one should always, oneself, Google it.

  4. Metalfish says:

    Thanks Graham.

  5. TillEulenspiegel says:

    personally I feel like the mechanical elements of the immersive sim, even if not the principles, have been subsumed by neighbouring genres so much

    Really?! Which games? I wish I had more plausible game worlds to interact with in “emergent” ways, but I’m really not seeing that at all.

    It’s a good video btw. Explains most of the important points.

    • Cheradanine Zakalwe says:

      Metal Gear Solid V is the obvious example. I suspect Graham is referring to stuff like prison architect and rimworld though. Dwarf Fortress seems to represent how far you can push the concept.

  6. Monggerel says:

    On the Kevin Smith article;
    well, not really the article, just some of the concepts behind it:

    I *really* don’t like people casually dropping things like “toxic masculinity” and “nerd entitlement” into their readings of pop-fiction.
    These are real things (well, “social dynamics” or whatever, indentifiable, like a torus, not by the presence of concrete forms but by movement, a confluence of trends – but that’s not the important bit). The need to perform, the need to be top dog, the need to claw ahead and fight and prove your woth because if you don’t do it at least at a mediocre level, you’re marginalized, is a serious, omnipresent, and dangerous part of male socialization. It hurts men and women both. (and a part of female socialization too, but in different ways – the female version seems to me a little less Fight Club and a little more Godfather, basically, and I recognize that the inherent and overt masculinity of these two movies seems incongruous here, but trust me, it actually isn’t)

    It hurts nerds the most. I’ve been (and considered) myself one until a few years ago, and the most postive thing I can say about nerddom, aside from some excellent fiction and an odd few (I stress *few*) friendships, about “nerd privilege”, is that I haven’t *always* felt persecuted because of it. Unsurprisingly, the times this happened (it was an experience singular enough to be an event, not a temporary state) was when the more traditional group of I guess “jocks” (we appear to be in a kitschy 80s high school movie here) was willing to engage with ostensibly nerdy material that was highly competitive. Counter-Strike being the prime example; most of the nerds I know wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot halberd, and almost all male members of the more extroverted groups attended regular LAN parties with underage drinking and general misdemeanour and many many hours of CS. (Until they could get admittance into various bars and clubs once they turned 18, of course. Videogames are an exceptionally unseemly hobby beyond that point.)

    What’s the point of all this?
    I don’t like Kevin Smith or his movies. I kinda liked them when I was about 14, but didn’t hold them in particularly high esteem (action movies were always my favourite). But the idea that you could be accepted, and even cool, for your stupid shitty unpopular hobbies, was revelatory. It felt like the world didn’t personally hate me for being born. Or like I could find some kinda place among some larger group of people and be accepted by them. Until I decided that no, that’s stupid, that’s just window dressing, and coolness is exclusively a function of charisma, and that charisma is just the ability to sell people on an idea of yourself, and that it’s all just advertisement with nothing substantial benath it. Shallow charisma is the only form of charisma, basically. But again, I digress (while staring into the middle distance).

    Back on track, I get upset when a group I’ve been effectively forced into not by choice but for lack of alternative gets painted as privileged and hidebound, when I’ve lived in it and can tell anyone for a fact that being unpopular and a constant target for anyone and everyone (even teachers! I guess the least socially talented people really are the easiest to push around) is perfectly valid grounds for the development of a whole lot of resentment and even churlishness. It’s called “Revenge of the Nerds” for a reason. And I think it is not particularly high-minded to attack people who are angry because they are hurt. (casual cruelty surely has its place, after all it is one of the cornerstones of humour, but I simply cannot stand hipocrisy)
    So when a movie or somesuch comes along targeting this group, and telling them, people who’ve been informed they’re life that they’re definitely “not OK”, saying, “hey guy, you’re OK”, well, while I cannot overlook that the movie is flawed, single-minded and quite frankly insipid, I still cannot bring myself to condemn it as something cruel and hateful and label it as “evil, scummy shit”. Because it tries to make someone feel less bad.
    (I do wonder if I’d have the same feeling about an antisemitic movie for depressed neonazis. Probably not. The great thing about empathy is that you can turn it off when you’re faced with enemies. Or maybe that’s the bad thing? it’s just perverse incentives all the way down, isn’t it)

    I guess the good news is that there is a way out for the nerds!; renounce your history and learn to despise its trappings and start to live life in a markedly different way. The resentment never goes away, but at least it can be turned into fuel. (This is, incidentally, how dictators and particularly successful criminals get started, but it’s also how a sufficiently determined person can puzzle out from his or her proper clues that they are stuck and what they must do to move forward, because if they don’t, they’re toast).

    Well that was a ramble. And perhaps a futile one; nerddom, like all subcultures, has disappeared under the tendrils of our ever-expanding commercial empire. This is good, it means everybody gets and ever-expanding commercial menu and they can mix and match as they ever-expanding please. It’s also bad, because without group identities you get anomie and individual imagination is stamped out (I do believe that imagination, except in extreme cases of astonishing creative genius, requires such a group identity if it is to be manifested by any given person – the strange part here being that the group itself as a whole is never creative, but its existence is almost always a necessity for individual creativity) and blah de blah. Give it 10 more years and nobody will know what the fuck a “nerd” was supposed to be anyway, and maybe that’s for the best.

    I will re-read this post in a day and regret it. Oh well. Que será será.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Give it 10 more years and nobody will know what the fuck a “nerd” was supposed to be anyway

      Too late, we’re already there. Are you a fan of some of the most popular film franchises on the planet (Marvel, Star Wars, etc)? Congratulations, you’re a nerd!

      Chasing Amy works pretty well as a portrayal of a horribly awkward bit of reality, if you ignore Kevin Smith / Silent Bob inserting his own moral assessment. The protagonist makes all the wrong choices, is an asshole, and fails horribly. I don’t think it’s a great film, but you have to approach it from a very particular angle to morally condemn it.

      • Monggerel says:

        I think most (all?) “angles” have a significant moral dimension to them so if anything, you have to work extra hard not to condemn any given work of art/fiction/etc if they don’t roughly agree with your own views on morality. It just annoys me that I so often see that people don’t bother to make even a perfunctory effort.

    • Monggerel says:

      Actually, I already regret it. It’s like the homeless guy on the corner, shouting about the demons and the government and what they put in the water, and about the love of god and about the minorities and colorless green ideas sleeping furiously.
      I need an editor.

      • Babymech says:

        An editor would just tell you that the government demons put their peepees in the water. Nobody needs to hear that shit, man.

      • Henke says:

        No need to regret it! I liked it. Very well written. :)

    • Geebs says:

      The protagonist in Chasing Amy is pointed out in the movie to be a complete and utter shithead, and his entitlement is roundly mocked by all of the other characters throughout.

      It’s not a great movie, but it’s certainty a self-aware one – unless “hey, some of my friends didn’t completely despise me even though I was a self-absorbed dick” is now supposed to be some sort of MRA rallying cry?

      • Monggerel says:

        Everything’s an MRA rallying cry if you look hard enough.
        As a matter of fact, “Everything’s an MRA rallying cry if you look hard enough” is an MRA rallying cry if you look hard enough.

        This, I think is at least partially because plausible deniability is the essence of a dogwhistle – so this kind of paranoid aggression is, in fact, the most (only?) surefire way of detecting dogwhistles.

        Boop. What I know anyway.

    • aepervius says:

      “nerddom, like all subcultures, has disappeared under the tendrils of our ever-expanding commercial empire.”

      It never disappeared. It may sound am bit condescending , but “true” nerd never cared for the attempt of popular entertainment to attract them or emulate them. I am a nerd, don’t mind it, don’t care what popular media says, and I will continue with my hobbies however unpopular they are by the popular side of society. I do my hobby *because* I like them, and who cares who don’t like them or who cares how I am viewed by society ? I don’t.

      That’s us true nerd. We never cared that much for popularity , we never cared for the commercial empire trying to emulate us, and will never care what others say to begin with about us (well most nerd don’t). Popular stuff come and pass, mode changes, fashion moves on, we don’t care. We know what we like, and we don’t care about its unpopularity.

      Now that I said that, I am back to one of my hobby using small plastic&lead “unit” simulating big battle about a map of 1m*2m for hours to no ends, and imagine different decision leading to different outcomes for famous battle.

    • dontnormally says:

      > Revenge of the Nerds

      As a relevant aside, the protagonist of this film absolutely rapes a girl and it’s framed as a success to be applauded.

  7. Mr. Fishy says:

    I couldn’t stand the Chasing Amy article. The author is one of those people who will ridicule their own past as a way of showing how mature they’ve become. In truth, he’s still the same immature guy who needs to show how evolved and special he is. He can only see the negatives (and pretty superficial negatives) in art that once appealed to him because he’s obsessed with negating those parts of himself. In short, what a dummy.

    And for the purely anecdotal record that I have no way of proving, every gay woman I’ve talked to likes Chasing Amy precisely because it’s so cringey and we’re supposed to see how foolish the main character is.

    • Monggerel says:

      I think this kind of self-denial is, in certain cases, essential for someone to “clear the air”, so to speak. Burn the bridges you crossed, because you might be tempted back over them and that way lies nothing but bad shit.

      Freud would have a god damn field day with me, I’m sure.

      • Monggerel says:

        There’s also far less… charitable readings possible here. Mentioning that fact is basically the same as making those readings, so I won’t go further in that direction.

        It does take a specific sort of 2+2=2 doublethink to avoid condemnation once you have actual reason to be suspicious. I’m well accustomed to cognitive dissonance as a baseline, but that still doesn’t stop me from getting unseasonably upset at times.

    • Gassalasca says:

      It was sad how the article was a prime example of the kind of behaviour criticized in the article.

  8. Bobtree says:

    Arcen are pulling and refunding In Case of Emergency Release Raptor because nobody bought the EA release, and they’re going to kickstart an AI War sequel.

    link to arcengames.com

    • aepervius says:

      Interestingly enough that’s perhaps the biggest “news”/”article” for me this sunday… RPS will probably mention it on monday.

    • qrter says:

      Holy shit, that’s.. sad. The game doesn’t particularly appeal to me (and I like Arcen’s games and dev philosophy – I am one of the few people on the planet that actually enjoyed the first A Valley Without Wind..!), but that seems a bit quick for a game that’s only been out a couple of days.

      • Shuck says:

        It does seem far too quick, and if this weren’t an Early Access title, it would be downright horrifying in its implications. But I can understand it – they’ve had their marketing push, such as it is: Youtube players, press coverage, Steam front page, etc. They have a notion, from experience, as to how their sales curves go, and clearly this was their high point. Being Early Access is a promise that they’ll continue developing it – i.e. putting in more resources – and obviously the sales are bad enough that income wouldn’t pay for continued development. So cutting their losses as quickly as possible is the smart move, financially. As an EA title, the decent thing to do is remove it from sale and refund buyers if you have no intention of finishing it. This is really an example of how EA should work, in many ways.

    • Thurgret says:

      Poor Arcen. I bought Starword Rogue despite not liking the genre, mostly because I want them to keep their head above water. But they keep on hitting the wrong notes for me. I read that piece, and I guess I’ll throw money at that Kickstarter, despite that I’ve avoided Kickstarter since 2013, with the sole exception of D:OS 2.

      • Thurgret says:

        Starward. Starward. I would also join in a Kickstarter for an edit button.

    • bamjo says:

      Oh man, AI war sequel. I will be all over that. That’s a rough deal for Arcen though, I feel really bad. I hope they are able to leverage AI war the way they want to (I think it is their most popular game?) I really appreciate the way they innovate, their games are always interesting.

  9. Wulfram says:

    I don’t think Kirkwall became much of a “place”. I’d say that Kirkwall was one of its main failings, actually. The only character it developed was some 8 letter word ending in hole.

    The party was pretty good in DA2, but it couldn’t really compromise for the actual story being a mess. And similarly the actually pretty decent combat mechanics were let down by the poor encounter design and some ill chosen aesthetics.

    • Wulfram says:

      That should be compensate not compromise.

      (Also, I should mention I actually like the game)

    • avtrspirit says:

      For me, it did become a place, not so much due to the environmental design, but rather due to the evolving quests (and side-quests). I still remember the area where Hawke’s mother died, where Samson begged for money to get his lyrium fix, the residences of all my companions (and what each signified).

      I guess for me the story wasn’t a mess at all. It kept building up the feeling of tension and powerlessness (punctuated by glimmers of success, often only temporary) and culminated in an act of terrorism that came from one of the “good” guys.

      All that being said, PC Gamer was definitely trolling when they placed the game at rank 94. Because that’s the score (94%) they gave it when it came out. And they haven’t been able to live it down since.

      • malkav11 says:

        I felt like the story was pretty good up to the act 3 mark, where it seemed like everyone (especially Anders) did the absolute worst, most self-defeating thing possible and it really didn’t successfully justify them doing that as far as I am concerned. I mean, sure, evil rock and all, but…come on.

  10. Bradamantium says:

    Yeesh, that Chasing Amy article disagrees with me something fierce. I’m not a fan of Kevin Smith at all, and I fervently dislike the work his Nerd Status earned him in comics, but the article seems to have reframed the movie in such a way as to entirely miss its point and then goes a few steps further in an implicit statement that there’s no such thing as a Good Story when it comes to examining the identity of the Aloof Creative Straight White Dude.

    There’s certainly a surplus of navel gazing Bukowskian tales that mistake being a standard deviation away from a Typical Man as the height of being, but Chasing Amy doesn’t really fall in that category. The whole notion is that Holden is so wrapped up in his own romanticism that he fundamentally fails his relationships on every level and comes out the other side with nothing but his sad story of that failure. There’s something to that, and it speaks to the experience of a broad range of people (many guys I’ve known fall into this category) who don’t even make the step of considering and exploring their own narrow engagement with a world beyond their own.

    • nindustrial says:

      Hear hear.

      I broadly agree with you, and also found most of the prior comments concerning the Chasing Amy piece interesting; you get the approval post having been the last one read.

      While I think the article makes some potentially useful points I do on the whole agree that I think the author missed the point of the movie. If the article was meant to critique how *some* people take the movie and apply it to their own lives, it would have been better. But I think the author misinterpreted how some might take and use its story as *the message* of the movie and then wrongly condemns it for having supposedly adopted that mistaken message.

  11. Unsheep says:

    Rated Top-X lists containing different genres are absurd; how can you possibly compare a racing game to a 4X strategy game for example ? Every gaming genre offers a unique experience, not accessible through other genres.

    Unrated lists or lists limited to a specific genre are more acceptable to me.

  12. Premium User Badge

    InfamousPotato says:

    For those of you interested, William Pugh wrote a 100% factual investigation as to why the developers at GDC tend to be on the younger side: link to twitlonger.com

  13. sabrage says:

    White nerd apologetics are even worse than unapologetic white nerds.