Sundays are for whatever you please. Don't let me tell you what you can and can't do. You're free and the world is your lobster.
- Richard Cobbett's Patreon work is getting into swing. This past week he posted a video review of Heroine's Quest, before doing something a little more unusual and writing a personal piece in Hearthstone, Anxiety And Me.
- Brendon Keogh looks at Jane McGonigal's latest project and discusses the dangerous temptation of being videogame evangelist:
- Hobby Game Dev states what should be obvious, but often isn't: don't run before you can walk, don't bite off more than you can chew, don't try to make Call of Duty for your first game.
- Adam round up some goat opinions last week, but then goat farmer Angelina Bellebuono wrote a review for PC Gamer. Does it, ahem, get her goat?
- The Guardian riles up some die hard fans by aiming for Sonic. Which, yes, was always shit.
- I've had this open in a tab for weeks and only just got round to reading it. The New Yorker on the pointlessness of unplugging from the technology that surrounds us.
- Maxwell Neely-Cohen writes about the intersections of a life spent loving books and games, and how both mediums could do better to serve the audience of the other.
- Build your own asteroid terrarium. I hope one day a videogame lets me do this.
The whole experience is just so beautifully handled. It’s such a small thing, and I’m aware how ridiculous this is probably going to sound, but I adore that from the very first second it feels inclusive. “Welcome to my inn!” “Look who it is!” “Pull up a chair!” “It’s good ta see you again!” It hits right at the thing I detest most in online games – the way that other players so often try to act like you shouldn’t be there with their cries of “Noob” and whatever, as if they emerged from the womb knowing how to juggle with Sand King. Hearthstone instead carries… on a micro-scale, naturally… the thing that I loved most about the Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon books – that no matter what your problem, or how broken or fucked up you might feel, that you can always hope to find a Place.
Uncritical evangelism is unhelpful, and it only benefits those who are evangelising. “Play, don’t Replay!” is, on the surface, a grassroots online activity to raise awareness. I don’t doubt that this is exactly what McGonigal, with the best of intentions, sees it as. But it is also a means to crowdsource research via the free labour of trauma sufferers while drastically overstating the results of a single study in order to advance a personal agenda. Like any project, it demands scepticism and criticism; its positive intentions don’t exempt it. But dare ask a question about the methods or the science of the project and, no, you are merely a games naysayer.
There is a certain amount of fearlessness, unreasonableness, and boldness that successful entrepreneurs, innovators, and cultural leaders of all kinds have had at their core. However, the fact that some amount of fearlessness is a factor in success does not automatically mean that an even greater amount of fearlessness linearly correlates to greater success, nor that it’s the only factor. Bold leaders still need a viable strategy, considerable experience and connections in the relevant domains, and a certain dose of patience and discipline underlying their persistence and determination.
As we destroy this virtual world, I gradually drift away from the violence and am lulled into watching the shadows follow Mayhem Goat so perfectly, and admiring the texture of his fur and his divine squash-belly body. What a lovely specimen of goat he is, I think, even as he does things no goat would ever do. I laugh deliriously at his ridiculous lolling tongue and heaving breath as he rests between goat missions. I wonder if the game developers know that in my pasture, a lolling tongue means the most rudimentary of goat romance awaits. Of this, Dolly might indeed be envious.
Come to think of it, revisiting the old games is actually a wildly disappointing endeavor. Here's a confronting idea: what if the Sonic franchise was never that good to begin with? As he wheels through golden loops and collects rings in our memory, the real-life classic Sonic gets stuck on invisible pixels, makes frustrated leaps endlessly upward among spinning columns that loom just out of reach. The irksome sounds of his repetitive, fruitless jumping – woop, woop, woop – join the rough hiss of his "spin dash" engine revving, weep-weep-weep-weep, in an impotent sound collage.
I used to play a Sonic game to help me fall asleep, because it was so boring. I don't remember which one, because it doesn't matter. They were all rubbish.
Unplugging seems motivated by two contradictory concerns: efficiency and enlightenment. Those who seek efficiency rarely want to change their lives, only to live more productively; rather than eliminating technology, they seek to regulate their use of it through Internet-blocking programs like Freedom and Anti-Social, or through settings like Do Not Disturb. The hours that they spend off the Internet aren’t about purifying the soul but about streamlining the mind. The enlightenment crowd, by contrast, abstains from technology in search of authenticity, forsaking e-mail for handwritten letters, replacing phone calls with face-to-face conversations, cherishing moments instead of capturing them with cameras. Both crowds are drawn to events like the Day of Unplugging, and some members even pay premiums to vacation at black-hole resorts that block the Internet and attend retro retreats that ban electronics. Many become evangelists of such technological abstinence, taking to social media and television, ironically, to share insights from their time in the land of innocence.
What could be more enlightened than what you find on the internet?
By the time I was in high school, I was confused as to why such a small collection of books were explicitly influencing games. When I first read The Handmaid’s Tale, I could not understand why there was not a video game version lurking somewhere in a dark corner of the digital universe, or even vague homages in the totally unrelated omnipresent sci-fi dystopias that were the setting for so many games. In what can only be described now as adolescent naivety, it was unthinkable to me that male-dominated, technologically-centered works like Ender’s Game or Snow Crash were so in sync with the video games being developed, but As I Lay Dying and Pride and Prejudice were somehow unworthy.