The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for (indoor) seaside board games. Brighton, you are good. Here's the best writing about videogames from the past week.
For Gamasutra, Wilmot's Warehouse co-creator Richard Hogg wrote up an insightful and introspective analysis of his game. It's a deep and wide-ranging look at both how it came to be and why people like it so much, and him quoting Nate's review is just the icing on the cake-like dessert object.
A common reaction to it is that people find it very therapeutic but in a way that inherently includes an element of stressfulness. I guess this is just the nature of a ‘sorting things’ game. It can be incredibly relaxing and rewarding but in a way that easily tips over into something that feels overwhelming or daunting. I don’t think there is a complete solution to this. We have done the best we can to build in systems that help people feel relaxed and content while playing the game. The fail states are very ‘soft’, almost meaningless fail states and the game is very generous in terms of giving the player all the time and space that they might need.
A similar, and perhaps more troubling issue is addictiveness. When I meet people who aren't interested in games they often tell me that they don’t play video games because ‘they are addictive’. Until recently I have been able to reassure them that I don’t make addictive games. Now I have made Wilmot’s Warehouse and am not so sure.
Nathan Grayson wrote a lovely Kotaku post full of tips for playing D&D (or any roll-me-do) when you have social anxiety. A Wisdom saving throw, if ever I saw one.
I always wanted to join a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, but I suffer from pretty severe social anxiety, especially as it pertains to people I don’t know well. For years, I sat on the sidelines and listened to friends recount tales of D&D glory and trying to be an incompetent ass-clown, and I thought to myself “Aw, that sounds like a lot of fun. I wish I could do that.” Then, last month, I more or less stumbled into an ideal campaign for somebody of my particular predilections, and though I was still heart-in-my-throat terrified at first, I’ve been having an excellent time. From this, I’ve gleaned some lessons that might be able to help other people whose anxiety is preventing them from playing this good, cool game for nerds who need some math in their stage play about what it’s like to be a wizard.
Nicholas Thompson's Wired piece compares the slow and methodical approach of civic industry to the "move fast and break things" motto embodied specifically by Facebook and generally by most tech companies. It's all interesting, though I'll confess the part that grabbed me was this bit about how engineers swear oaths and have special ring ceremonies.
More important, the collapses became an ethical touchstone. A professor named H. E. T. Haultain decided that he wanted to commemorate the story, and he called on the poet and author Rudyard Kipling, who had previously written an ode to engineers, for help. Haultain worked with Kipling and the leaders of Canada's main engineering universities to develop what's called “The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.” And for nearly a century, graduates have gone through a ceremony in which they recite their obligations to their craft: “I will not henceforward suffer or pass, or be privy to the passing of, Bad Workmanship or Faulty Material in aught that concerns my works before mankind as an Engineer, or in my dealings with my own Soul before my Maker.”
On Vice, I liked Cameron Kunzelman's review of Disco Elysium. It makes me more appreciative of a game I'm currently enjoying, when reviews normally only do that for me in retrospect.
The design is intentional, and it works, but the reality is that it also sucks complete shit to engage with a character who literally just spews 19th century race science at the player character in a game that trains you to look for something neat or special behind every dialogue choice or option. The world is full of wonder and strangeness and people with depth and detail, but the structure of this world is so similar to our own that the ideological chatter basically looks like any given Twitter hashtag with the nouns replaced.
Also for Vice, Patrick Klepek interviewed Untitled Goose Game designer Michael McMaster. Klepek's never afraid to ask the tough questions.
VICE Games: This morning, I asked my three-year-old daughter what sound a goose makes. She told me "goose goose goose." When I told her it was, in fact, "honk," she shook her head and repeated "goose goose goose." Thoughts?
Michael McMaster: I mean, I'm not the authority on geese—the meaning of art is malleable and should be in the hands of its consumers, not its creators. Can't say I totally agree, but that’s her opinion and I respect it.
Please enjoy these simulated trees.
Music this week is The Creelman/ The Normaway Inn/ The Reconciliation by Saltfishforty.