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Worth Reading: 01/31/2013

Like the slow march to the end of the world in Minecraft, it's the end of the week.

I've never considered myself bad at playing games, but the opposite is hardly true, either.

What I'm starting to suspect is that I haven't given myself much of a shot. When you play a game once, especially most modern games, there isn't much time to grasp more than the basic learning curve. You might have some competency by the end, but the traditional difficulty level of most games is crafted to encourage you see the content of the worlds, not the nuance of the mechanics. More than anything, Spelunky has taught me the value in learning from repetition.

The proof is on this very website. When I started playing Spelunky, it was a joke. My first few hours on the couch with my Vita resulted in death after death after death. It wasn't pretty, and it was hardly what one would describe as fun. But a genuine landmark moment would come--say, making it to the caves--and suddenly the spark was there. Then, of course, hours of crushing disappointment. Run after run with no results. Seemingly no advancement, nothing to show for your time. These are mental calluses.

Yet our most recent adventures have resulted in back-to-back defeats of ye mighty Olmec and trips through Hell. I managed Hell and showed up at Yama's doorstep on my first encounter with Spelunky's secret world, and if it hadn't been for a lack of caution around a bunch of enemies I barely understood, I might have beaten him. But I'm within spitting distance of a monstrously challenging Spelunky achievement, and it comes from bashing my head (and fingers) against the same challenge over and over.

And you know what? I'm pretty good! Yeah! I'm comfortable admitting that. But there's no way to cheaply earn progress in a game like Spelunky. It comes through patience, practice, and a serious time investment. That's not something I'm usually dedicating to a single game, and I'm not sure how often I'll have an opportunity to do that with many others. But on some level, I better understand the joy some derive from playing games on extreme difficulty levels or mastering a fighting game character.

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

What I love about Simon Parkin's work at The New Yorker is how he locates interesting stories about subjects covered a million times over. In this case, Parkin spoke with a person trying to find out the theorized end point of Minecraft, where the procedurally generated algorithm falls apart. There's a humanizing nature to this piece, which makes some of the comments below the story ("These people should try stepping outside their front door ... an entire *real* world awaits.") a tad disappointing. That's not entirely true, though. I actually find it encouraging: even The New Yorker deals with jerks in the comments section.

"By one measure, Mac’s endeavor is motivated by the same spirit that propels any explorer toward the far reaches of the unknown. Today, we live in a world meticulously mapped by satellites and Google cars, making uncharted virtual lands some of the last places that can satisfy a yearning for the beyond, as well as locations where you are simply, as Mac puts it, “first.” “My viewers and I are the only people to ever see these places exactly as they are,” he said. “Once we walk past, we will never see them again.'"

***

It's not often we compliment people on what we like. More often, we complain about what we don't. Vlambeer is only two people: Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman. It's a company that punches above its weight both creatively and financially, which has lead to Vlambeer dealing with a shift in customer service. Ismail writes about how he constantly deals with players who pair their request with a threat of never buying another game or demanding a refund. He offers some advice on how to talk to a game developer when you're upset, and how to remember there are humans on both sides of this exchange.

"I’ve often said the same thing at developer conventions around the world, but there’s a difference between saying that to emphasize our thankfulness for and dependance upon people who love our games and literally implying we are not worth anything beyond the opinion of somebody on the internet who happened to play a game we made. We could literally decide to stop making games tomorrow and find a better paying and stable job—but we don’t, because we love making games and we care about the people who invested money and time in our work."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

  • Horse World Online probably won't get funded, but I'm glad it exists, you know?
  • To the Death is a multi-genre action game from lots of industry vets, including Call of Duty.
  • Patreon, a different kind of crowdfunding, has lots of different gaming-related folks to support.

Whoa, Here's Some Race the Sun Steam Codes

  • F?NGP-R25RT-78A02
  • ER?L7-6R2EQ-96RE5

And There's a Few Broken Age Codes, Too

  • WP0?M-Y52HN-ZKEZ4
  • JDJ5?-PVCVF-7AQG8
  • 4RFHJ-?I64Z-G45KV
  • MHJ7J-5?33F-MR6ZF
  • Z96ZI-BI?9K-A305Y

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
56 Comments
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Posted by TheCitizenKaneOfThings

I enjoyed the Minecraft article and looked up the guy's youtube stuff, but I don't like his commentary style at all. Shame.

Posted by bgdiner

Patrick, I'm wondering what your opinion is on the points raised in the Evan Tongotti piece. Personally, I found both arguments to be too generalized to really be of use to anyone, as the two seemed intent on invoking grand concepts about reviews that seemed too lofty to really be of use to a person writing a real review.

For instance, the user repeated the term 'credibility' over and over, but failed to really make a case for how this credibility is earned. He seemed to imply that a reviewer is credible if the review is based in fact over opinion, but in his own review injected several subjective points that somewhat diminished the veracity of his argument.

On the other hand, I feel that Tongotti is decently effective in getting his point across, but his argument seemed to be all over the place. First he issues a satirical 'objective' review of Beyond--something that strikes me as a big 'no-no' for game critics, as this re-do implies, to me, a lack of faith in the reviewer's original piece--then offers to hear out the user's argument in a long-form interview, asking questions that seemed to imply a change of mindset when it comes to review methodology. Yet he turns around after that review and states the user is full of shit, and doesn't seem to take anything away from the experience. Maybe something's changed vis a vis the reviewer's writing process now, but from this limited selection of sources I feel as though the reviewer really didn't do much to help his case. Maybe you saw something here I didn't, but I'm curious to hear your opinion, given that you not only review games for the site but post opinion pieces frequently.