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Worth Reading: 01/09/2014

2014 doesn't have many links yet. Don't worry, I've got it covered.

The beginning of a new year is strange. We feel compelled to make changes, even if it doesn't really feel like anything's changed. It's not until we're a little ways into the year that it begins to sink in. You know, around time you stop writing 2013 and start writing 2014 on a regular basis.

I've been asked by a few people if I have any plans for 2014, at least insofar as my gaming habits. That's a question that needs some more thought, but I wouldn't be upset if I simply continued with one of my resolutions from last year: try new things. It sounds simple, but our time is valuable, and learning new things is hard. For many, games are a "fun" hobby, and it might not be exactly enjoyable to wrestle with the learning curve of a new genre or franchise.

But I implore you to do that. Whenever it feels like games are getting boring, I remind myself how many games I've never tried. That's the time to expand your worldview. It's why I played 999, Monster Hunter, and Fire Emblem in the last few years. None of those game types--visual novel, teamwork, strategy--would have been in my repertoire, and each of those games have opened my eyes (and gaming) library to brand new--games.

As a result, Dark Souls and Spelunky are the first two games I'm embracing in 2014. Sure, I played enough Dark Souls when it was released to get a sense of what it was about, but not really. I'm tired of thinking of Dark Souls as "the really hard game," and I've already found the joy of victory (and defeat) that comes with beginning to master a set of strict, unrelenting mechanic that reward patience and understanding. Spelunky's much the same way, but it also violates one of my core gaming habits: a game with an ending. Yeah, there is an "ending" to Spelunky, but it's not an ending in the traditional sense, and it's not really where the game ends.

I'll have more to write about the design DNA in those games and why it's been so satisfying to play both of them at the same time, but I'll save that for a later date. What are you doing in 2014?

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

There are psychological reasons driving why some games hook us more than others, even if that's an uncomfortable way to consider why we like what we like. It's not that simple, obviously, but Maria Konnikova has a fascinating article about the underlying drivers behind the first-person-shooter genre, breaking down the elements of the genre and talking to experts about what's appealing to so many of us. Game writers tend to use the term "immersion" without considering what the definition of immersion even is, but this story takes a very close look at the idea, and figures out why shooters are able to immerse most of us.

"'Flow,' writes Csikszentmihalyi, 'is the kind of feeling after which one nostalgically says: ‘that was fun,’ or ‘that was enjoyable.’' Put another way, it’s when the rest of the world simply falls away. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is mostly likely to occur during play, whether it’s a gambling bout, a chess match, or a hike in the mountains. Attaining it requires a good match between someone’s skills and the challenges that she faces, an environment where personal identity becomes subsumed in the game and the player attains a strong feeling of control. Flow eventually becomes self-reinforcing: the feeling itself inspires you to keep returning to the activity that caused it."

Gone Home was one of my favorite games from last year. No, seriously! I put it on a list and everything. But doing holiday traveling, I read an essay from Ian Bogost about what Gone Home not only says about game storytelling but storytelling in a larger cultural context. He suggests Gone Home represents a step forward for video games, but not only is it weird and sad that it's taken video games this long to take even this small step, but is Gone Home's impressiveness part of general, mainstream acceptance of adolescent standards in storytelling?

"What if Gone Home teaches us that videogames need only grow up enough to meet the expectations other narrative media have reset in the meantime? After all, we're living in an age in which the literary mainstream is dominated by young adult fiction anyway. Adults read series like Harry Potter and Twilight and The Hunger Games with unabashed glee. Comic book film adaptations have overtaken the cinema. What if games haven't failed to mature so much as all other media have degenerated, such that the model of the young adult novel is really the highest (and most commercially viable) success one can achieve in narrative?'"

You're looking at the article that convinced me to start playing Spelunky. I didn't make it any further than the caves when Spelunky came out on Xbox Live Arcade. It didn't click, and the prospect of playing a game that had no "end' wasn't interesting. But, then, Doug Wilson wrote this incredible breakdown of a one-man eggplant run in Spelunky, an analysis easily readable by anyone who has never, ever played Spelunky before. Wilson not only makes high-level Spelunky play accessible to a newcomer, he conveys the excitement of what's happening in such a way that it makes you want to discover what's driving people to such extremes yourself. So I did.

"Once you have a Mystery Box, you must sacrifice it at an Altar. Again, luck plays a factor. Unlike most items, you can't carry a Mystery Box with you between levels. That means you need to wait until the game generates a level that contains both a shop carrying a Mystery Box and an Altar.

Only then, if all these pieces fall into place, will Spelunky reward the player with the mysterious Eggplant.

Until this summer, fans had failed to find any additional purpose behind the enigmatic item. However, with the arrival of the Windows port and the subsequent flurry of livestream activity, the legend of the Eggplant spread quickly, reviving speculation as to possible uses. Meanwhile, rumors began circulating; supposedly, the game was still hiding an undiscovered secret."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

  • Kung Fury has, uh, "robots, dinosaurs, nazis, vikings, norse gods, mutants and a kung fu-cop."
  • The Interactive Canvas wants to talk to game creators about their inspirations.
  • Cara Ellison is raising money to do embedded journalism around the world.

Where'd These (Steam) Walking Dead Season Passes Come From?

  • XRZ9N-?MZR2-IWQ59
  • PJYAY-0W86I-DK?8R
  • CQQ?I-H4ZQI-KKVMY
  • ?VZ08-CKNCI-G07KA
  • TDKL3-J6?2E-C22AJ
  • T?KMC-L7ZX3-THXBR
  • 4ZAGR-88?HM-EF7Z0
  • X8WRX-ZRHB8-T?02Q
  • KP6K4-P?XBC-YTY3Y
  • 9M?7R-7P8GQ-M88ZX

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
78 Comments
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Posted by RitzkriegRap

Patrick, the time is clearly right for a Katawa Shoujo premium stream.

Edited by Gold_Skulltulla

Is there a clue for the "?"s in the Steam keys that I'm missing?

Update: Nevermind

Online
Posted by slndr

Wow wasn't expecting to nail the ? on the second try! Thanks.

Edited by taylormadeblue

Wow, can't believe I actually got the steam key, always thought those went in like a second. Thanks Patrick, been wanting to play this since it came out!

Posted by TechSamurai

Great stuff as always Patrick, and thanks for the code!

Edited by Thello

That's what I get for reading the article :P. No comments, but keys gone.

Posted by buttle826

I grabbed code number 2! Thanks Patrick!

Edited by GorillaMoPena
Edited by Video_Game_King

Patrick, the time is clearly right for a Katawa Shoujo premium stream.

That's my line.

Posted by patrickklepek
Staff
Posted by Viqor

Thanks for the code, Patrick (grabbed code 4). Love worth reading and look forward to it and worth playing every week.

Posted by BaneFireLord

...Why did I watch the entirety of ROCK HARD COCK?

Posted by VincentVendetta

Oooof. Ooooooof.

I don't agree with both articles featured this week, but man, I really disagree with Ian Bogost. I guess I have a problem with people romanticizing about much stuff was better in the past because it's not really true. Sure there are the "classics" of yesteryear that have stood the test of time, but beyond the fact that litterature is an art form that existed for thousands, if not TENS of thousands of years, many forget about how they were still exceptions, how many works of those year were in some ways average of worse, terrible. I mean we can just look at the Game Room quick looks where an era of gaming idolised for simplicity of gameplay and design produced clunkers that nobody rememberred because why should they, or look at important works of art that are also very flawed because of their simplistic view of the world: a simplisitc autoritarian view instead of a simplisitc adolescent view. Go figure.

To me, dismissing modern art as a shadow of its former glory is not only ignorant of its actual history or of formely criticized influential works, it is ignorant to how art evolves and takes paths that no one would have even considered.

Nostalgia is an awful concept.

Posted by mrfluke

i dont know why, but i totally watched out HArd rock cock..... and i laughed my ass off.

Posted by JackSukeru

@banefirelord said:

...Why did I watch the entirety of ROCK HARD COCK?

BECAUSE LOOK HOW FAST THAT COCK WAS!

Posted by Johnyliltoe

Wow, I apparently have the worst luck with product keys. I mean, I wasn't entirely expecting to get one this late, but 7/9 of the codes I tried (thanks buttle826 for saving me a check) the missing letter was on the last row of keys that I attempted :/

Anywho, I can not confirm for any misguided hopefuls that all keys are now gone.

Posted by Flavbot

All this talk about Katawa Shoujo made me shrug off my preconceptions about japanese visual novels and actually boot it up and have a look for my self.

I sat 4 hours straight last night. The writing is really great, and I can't wait to continue playing it.

I'm scared guys...

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I have a legitimate question: Does Ian Bogost like video games?

Online
Posted by joshwent

"Adults read series like Harry Potter and Twilight and The Hunger Games with unabashed glee. Comic book film adaptations have overtaken the cinema. What if games haven't failed to mature so much as all other media have degenerated..."

What a sack of bullshit. Anyone in this age who can dismiss super hero comics wholesale despite the likes of Watchmen, Miracle Man, and even the brilliant (yes, even for us big boy and girl readers) more main stream books like All-Star Superman and Batman: The Long Halloween, is just willfully ignorant.

The point that any art geared for a younger audience is devoid of value for us smarter people is obviously false and frankly offensive to the creators and those of us, immature people I guess, who can still find value in all great art, no matter it's intended primary viewer.

And really, another Tevis Thompson article? So we're still giving credence to this hateful vitriol spewing malcontent.

Welp, I tried. But it looks like 2014 is gonna be another year of me trying as hard as I can to avoid all of this psudeo-intellectual self congratulatory divisive nonsense.

Edited by Cuuniyevo

@viqor: @buttle826: @johnyliltoe:

Thanks for posting. I read the article before scrolling down to find the steam keys, and when I checked the comments, yours weren't up yet so I thought I had a chance. Wasted a couple minutes plugging in two keys that were already taken before refreshing this page to see the new comments. Saved me the trouble of continuing. :P

Edited by Sergio

I love the look of Cuphead, but I don't know if the game itself will appeal to me. I also liked how Gunman Clive looks, but I'm not very interested in playing the game after watching the quick look.

I feel this line from Ian Bogost applies to Gone Home for me:

The problem is, Bioshock never really deserved the praise it received.

Posted by Lyfeforce

Ah, good to see Norm and Will Smith are still making it silly.

Edited by WeaponBoy

That sure was a rock hard cock. I want to watch the rest, but I feel like I should until I get home.

@patrickklepek Was this part in the intro a typo? "(and gaming) library to brand new--games." Not sure what the double hyphen is for.

Posted by DEFE

@ritzkriegrap said:

Patrick, the time is clearly right for a Katawa Shoujo premium stream.

That's my line.

Nah, but really, maybe just play it on your own. I'd love to see a writeup afterward though.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@defe said:

@video_game_king said:

@ritzkriegrap said:

Patrick, the time is clearly right for a Katawa Shoujo premium stream.

That's my line.

Nah, but really, maybe just play it on your own. I'd love to see a writeup afterward though.

"Wait, how did I get involved in this, again?"

Edited by JackiJinx

To contrast the 2014 list Patrick posted on the end, I would like to post the 2013 list from the same site. How many of these were actually released?

Also, freaky. I just started playing Katawa Shoujo a few days ago.

Posted by Sydlanel

Cuphead has such an awesome style, I hope the game is more than just a single screen shooter thingy tho..
Glad to have you back Mr. Patrick.

Posted by MormonWarrior

@sergio said:

I feel this line from Ian Bogost applies to Gone Home for me:

The problem is, Bioshock never really deserved the praise it received.

Edited by TheHumanDove

Are we still pretending that Gone Home is in anyway groundbreaking? Give me a break.

Posted by russman588
First-person shooters are now responsible for billions of dollars in sales a year, and dominate the best-seller lists of current-generation gaming consoles.

The New Yorker article put this quote in (the link is broken in the original article, fixed link is here) which seems misleading. First-Person Shooters dominate the best-seller lists of current-generation consoles, so apparently the best way to demonstrate that is linking to the all-time game sales list for the PS3? First-Person Shooters sit 5th and 10th on that list (CoD: MW2 and Black Ops 2, respectively). I'm not sure what the author's base knowledge of games is, maybe she thinks GTA, Uncharted and The Last of Us are First-Person Shooters?

Edited by Hassun

@patrickklepek

What are you doing in 2014?

Hopefully playing some actual games instead of collecting them.

And also finding something to do with my life.

Edited by TheMasterDS

Holy shit, Katawa Shoujo being mentioned in a Giant Bomb article. Wow. That was my first Visual Novel which I played after Day9 and friends played it for Metadating and came away extremely positive. Sounds like the worst thing ever but actually is genuinely great. Really well written game with great characters. I decided it was my #3 game that year. It's on my games I love list. Loved it.

For me it also fell within my goal to always look for games that speak to me no matter the genre. That's different from Patrick's try new things because it doesn't mean trying old shit that didn't speak to me but instead looking for new spins on that old shit that's more accessible or more sensible. Like Heroes of the Storm. Or Diablo 3. Or Katawa Shoujo. What I'm basically saying is I recommend Patrick give it a go maybe. I quite liked it.

Posted by Reisz

How do you redeem steam codes with question marks in them? I've seen this a bunch of time now and have never been able to get a good response?

Edited by DEFE

@reisz said:

How do you redeem steam codes with question marks in them? I've seen this a bunch of time now and have never been able to get a good response?

The idea is that there are shady internet robots that sweep for things that look like steam codes and enter them automatically, preventing the people who were supposed to get the codes from using them. People circumvent that by replacing part of the code with question marks. Generally they then say something along the lines of, "replace question marks with S." Since there's no such hint here, perhaps we're just meant to try A-Z and 0-9 until something works.

That being said, I'm sure all these codes have been used by now. I wouldn't bother with these.

Posted by GunstarRed

Sonic Generations is awesome even when Sonic is a giant dick.

Edited by Flappy

That cock knows no fear. It's willing to grind on everyone and everything in order to finish.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

I thought Gone Home's story was fairly trite and not particularly well-told. Sam's diary entries brought to mind the young adult books on tape I used to listen to as a kid. I don't think most video game stories are very good, but it's weird to me that so many people seem to think Gone Home represents a massive step forward in video game storytelling. It's novel, but novelty and quality are very different things.

I'd read Bottle Rocket Hearts in a literature class right before playing the game, and that book hits upon the same themes dramatically better than Gone Home does. Gone Home felt too grasping, too self-consciously "important", to get me suspend disbelief. It's one of those games that I think people love more in theory than in practice.

Bogost more-or-less admits this (and its uncanny resemblance to young adult novels) but seems to like it anyway because of what it represents. That's fine, but again, novelty and quality shouldn't be mixed up. His use of wording like "an overdue contribution to the cause" and "the fact of the game's very existence becomes more important than its aesthetic ambitions" says to me that he's blurring those lines. A piece of art can strive to do something amazing and not really meet that goal. That's Bogost's problem with BioShock -- and I largely agree with him on that -- but I tend to see Gone Home in a similar light.

I think he's spot on about how weirdly low the games press's bar seems to be for game storytelling. A lot of the hyperbole written about Gone Home read to me as disingenuous -- people writing things they didn't really believe because they had a sense that Gone Home was an important game that important people liked, or at the very least that Gone Home was an important event that needed to be celebrated for the good of "the medium" (a term that's always a red flag to me). "The medium" is not going to be elevated by patronizing and fawning over every game that strives at greatness, especially when that's at the expense of criticizing faults.

When the same people think BioShock Infinite, GTA V (assuming it's like IV, since I haven't played V), and Gone Home are A+ games, how am I supposed to know when a game is truly special and not just "cinematic" or "important"? What score would they give a truly exceptional narrative-based game, and what adjectives would they use to describe it that they haven't already exhausted?

I should say that I agree with most of his piece, and it's one of the more interesting and grounded pieces of games criticism I've read in a long time. There was a level of serious thought and rigour there that is pretty rare.

Posted by audioBusting
Posted by Lurkero

Pillow Castle is exactly what I like to see in the games I play. I'm not sure if there has ever been a game like that but Pillow Castle gets my vote for creativity.

Posted by Reisz

@defe: Yeah I've read about those bots before, ridiculous the effort people go through for free stuff. I was more curious how a code missing an alphanumeric get's put into Steam. Didn't make any sense to me without something to substitute. Punching in all the possibilities sounds like more trouble than just paying for it, Haha. Thanks for the run-down man.

Posted by RedCricketChase

that Rock Hard Cock is disappointingly long.

Posted by Sweetz

I got as far as the Bioshock line in Bogost's article. Saying something doesn't deserve the praise it received is literally the equivalent of saying "my opinion is right, and everyone else is wrong and too stupid to know it." I decided the rest wasn't worth reading after that.

Posted by YummyTreeSap

How is Spelunky's ending not an ending in the traditional sense? It is said twice in this article and makes no sense to me either time. You play through the levels and beat the game, just like any game ever.

Posted by Ghostiet

@yummytreesap: I understand it this way - the ending isn't there to provide any sort of closure, so it doesn't really matter. Normally, you play games to get to the end, so even if you ignore the side stuff, you've seen everything the game has in stock. In something like The Binding of Isaac or Spelunky, you can finish the game a hundred times and not get the full experience, in fact, someone who has never gotten to the perceived ending could have discovered more about the game than someone who did.

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