Sundays are for hiking in the Lake District with people you haven’t seen for far too long. I won’t be reading anything about games, but you can, look:
Over at PC Gamer, I thought Steven Messner’s take on Green Man Gaming’s ‘Average Cost Per Hour’ metric was interesting – largely because it left me so conflicted. There’s one line in particular about how “it perpetuates the idea that games are products we consume, rather than experiences we have”, to which my gut reaction is ‘aren’t they both?’. I don’t think talking about cost per hour usually makes sense from a critics perspective, and agree that displaying the metric so prominently suggests an importance it doesn’t deserve. At the same time, I think I’d call the metric ‘problematic but helpful on a budget’, rather than useless.
As a measurement, Average Cost Per Hour is detrimental because it perpetuates the idea that games are products we consume, rather than experiences we have. It enforces the idea that a game’s value is derived from how many hours it lasts rather than how meaningful those hours are, and it invites us to unfairly compare games based on how cost effective they are. We’re already gaming in a world where concurrent user data is regularly misrepresented as the a true measurement of a game’s popularity. It’d suck to see this flawed stat adopted as an objective appraisal of quality in the same way.
Chris Thursten’s re-review of Dota 2 for PC Gamer does an astounding job of capturing the appeal of a game that’s absorbed over 3,000 hours of my life. I should probably mention that many of those hours were spent with Chris, “being the best helicopter or bear or fishmen” that we could be.
What does this mean for you as a prospective player? Principally, it means that this is a dizzyingly deep competitive team strategy game whose core design benefits from fifteen years of unbroken refinement. It was in this strategic sandbox that the basic assumptions of the MOBA were established: two teams, three lanes, five heroes per team, towers, creeps, jungles, bases, and Ancients. On paper, your job is to lay siege to the enemy base and blow up the enemy ancient. In practice, your job is to manipulate the strategic, economic and psychological tempo of the match, a challenge whose variables change every time you play.
For Eurogamer, Wesley Yin-Poole did a COLOSSAL interview with Mike Laidlaw, BioWare’s former creative director. It’s interesting to see Laidlaw’s blow-by-blow take on the history of Dragon Age, though my favourite part comes near the end.
“I’ve probably met over 100 people who’ve come up to me at PAX in particular and quietly taken me aside and said, ‘I need to tell you how much your game meant because my sibling committed suicide and it got me through that,’ ‘I had chemotherapy, I’d take my laptop in and I got out of it. It was the only thing that could pull me out of the fact that I was being injected with poison.’ ‘I felt like I could never talk about the fact I was attracted to other men until I played your games. They’ve celebrated those people. They were there for me and they made me feel like I was okay.’
“You watch that and you’re just like… people unload, in the best way possible, these stories. They wreck you, but it’s cathartic. You’re like, we did good. We did good, team!”
On Kotaku, I enjoyed Gita Jackson’s tale of how a moral quandary stumped her D&D group for two hours. I’ve already sent this link to my DM with the message ‘more moral dilemmas plz’.
At first, we were all pretty into this old lady’s argument. Her name was Gritha, and she said that nobles didn’t have the right to declare their ownership of land. Both in and out of character I think that all property is theft, so I was into that. It became clear that she wasn’t actually into liberating the keep for the proletariat, but more into the idea of taking the keep and then killing anyone who came by and also taking their shit. None of us liked that as much.
Also on Kotaku, former RPS good boy Nathan Grayson wrote about a dancing, talking banana that ultimately defeated some racist Twitch trolls. I’m tempted to leave that without context, but here you go: the banana was a robot programmed by Mike Nichols to speak aloud whatever people viewing its Twitch stream typed in. Some arseholes succeeded in making it repeat the n-word, and the best thing to come out of all of this is a powerful bit of chat filter code.
Nichols was not so naive as to put his banana on Twitch sans protection. There was a language filter in place, but the GGX gang figured out how to trick it. And while footage of the moment in question got deleted when Twitch banished the banana from the digital airwaves, Nichols had programmed it to log any text people tried to get it to say.
“It was kinda like when there’s a plane accident, and they recover the black box,” he said. “But this time, instead of the pilots saying ‘mayday’ as the plane crashed, they just kept repeating the n-word until the plane exploded.”
For New York Magazine, Brain Feldman wrote a neat ‘so how did that happen? piece on the Han Solo Jason Derulo parody in Kinect Star Wars. I dearly wish I could visit the alternate universe where the game was full of original songs performed in Huttese. Jokes aside though, I can’t argue with the reasoning below.
Ranked second in play count is “Empire Today,” which Afflack had actually expected to be the breakout hit. “They said, ‘You can have any of the effects you want, you can have laser sounds, anything from the library.’ Well, I said, ‘If I can have anything I want, can I have Darth Vader sing?’ And they said yes!”
“I had decided we should try and incorporate Darth Vader’s voice into ‘Y.M.C.A.,’” Harlin recalled. “It was going to be a song about the Empire, so why not include a hooky callback to it? If you have a chance to have Darth Vader sing ‘Y.M.C.A.,’ then why not?”’
Brian Ashcraft cheekily offloaded his journalistic duties for Kotaku onto his son, who he took with him around BitSummit. It’s an indie games event in Japan, and Ashcraft’s article is dotted with his kid’s notes on the games they played. It’s a lovely little insight into what kids find important about the games they play.
It’s fascinating to follow my son around the show. I feel like he’s looking at the games slightly differently than I would. He doesn’t care if the game has already been released or if it’s being debuted for the first time, as you end up doing when covering a show. He’s stopping at whatever catches his eye.
“This looks neat,” he says, stamping Shu on his notebook.
“Yeah, you’re an owl and you can fly around.”
There aren’t many sentences in Bennet Foddy’s look at Mirror Drop over on his blog, though that’s fine because I’m largely linking it so you can ogle the screenshots. The words that are there are pretty good too, mind.
In case it’s not clear by now, one of the things I most like about videogames is that they can have original ‘brainfeel’. Each of the levels in Mirror Drop starts with you feeling totally disoriented, then reconstructing an impossible geometry by floating around it and manipulating an object inside of it. Sometimes you find yourself in spaces where you can turn all the way around without turning 360°. Sometimes you find yourself in spaces that are inside of themselves. And your brain says: ‘alright’. That is a wonderful feeling.
Here’s a little more Foddy, this time talking about mobile games for Google. I’m told he expands on his ‘anti-philosophy’ approach to game making in this episode of Tone Control, which sounds interesting if heretical (I haven’t listened to it yet but I’m looking forward to).
Ashly Burch has a fun one of them Google vids too.
@Annemunition recorded some of the abuse she got from sexist imbeciles while playing Rainbow Six Siege. It’s uncomfortable viewing, but I think it’s important for men to see a taste of what multiplayer gaming is often like for women.
This baby brawling video makes me uncomfortable for different reasons.
EVE’s still EVE-ing.
I feel 120% more chipper after watching this.
I recommend this recommendation thread from Steve Gaynor.
Music this week is Country Joy by the Moulettes.