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Worth Reading: 02/07/2014

A word about one's gaming comfort zone before diving into the nuance of Madden and, yes, Flappy Bird.

29. Not exactly the age where people expect you to write a blog about how much you've learned.

But if I had to share a piece of knowledge that would be applicable here, a lesson thematically consistent with the work I've published this week, it's being able to admit you're wrong. It's not as simple as being able to admit the wrongness, either, it's doing the hard work to find out how your assumptions hold up. Perhaps it's part of my reporter DNA spilling into other parts of my personality, but it's what lead to writing my pseudo-apology to Dark Souls earlier this week.

The apologetic tone was both sarcastic and serious. See, it's so easy to slip into what's comfortable, and that's absolutely true with games. It makes sense, too, right? Why spend time with games you're not sure you'll enjoy? That's true of any hobby, and I won't begrudge anyone who wants to spend their personal time with pursuits that are guaranteed to make them happy.

This is an idea I've mentioned before in Worth Reading, but it's important enough to repeat. Push yourself, test your boundaries, and embrace the uncomfortable. It's rewarding to challenge your own ideas, even if the conclusions might surprise or upset you. I thought I didn't like strategy games...until I played XCOM. Then, I fell in love with Fire Emblem: Awakening. I thought animation priority didn't make any sense...until I played Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate. Now, Dark Souls is an all-time favorite.

This reminds me of an article I read a few months back. I can't find the specific piece anymore, but generally speaking, it explained why life seems to move faster and faster as we get older. The concept was mentioned in this New Yorker profile of neuroscientist David Eagleman:

"One of the seats of emotion and memory in the brain is the amygdala, he explained. When something threatens your life, this area seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. 'This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,' Eagleman said--why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass."

There's no reason to think this wouldn't apply to games, too. If all one does is play the same types of games over and over again, they can become less memorable. I'll never forget my recent firsts, and they've opened whole new genres that were once closed off. There are new memories to be made.

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

Outside of preparation for one of my earliest Quick Looks, I haven't touched the Madden series. Despite getting more and more interested in the nuances of football every year, I haven't had much interest in playing Madden. But in the years ahead, you can guar-an-tee I'll be reading Breaking Madden every week. Jon Bois has found ways to mangle and manipulate Madden in ways its developers never could have expected, and what Bois pulls off when pitting a gigantic team of Seahawks players against a woefully underpowered set of Broncos is...something else. There is a reason for the article is titled the way it is. The game finally just gave up.

"These Broncos were stone-cold stupid. Madden's Awareness rating, as demonstrated by previous installments of this series, is one of the very most potent skill categories. Without it, normally competent players are reduced to total knuckleheads who often don't know what they're doing, what they're supposed to be doing, where the ball is, or whether they're playing a sport at all. The Broncos' kick returner, Big Walrus, was so completely checked out that I was able to kick the ball and hit him in the ass. That was not an isolated incident. There were lots and lots of kickoffs in this game, naturally, since I was scoring all the time. When I kicked them the ball, they kinda just stood there. AND THE BALL KEPT HITTING THEM IN THEIR ASSES."

***

I haven't played, nor do I intend to play, Flappy Bird. This comes from the person who, paragraphs ago, was encouraging people to experiment outside their wheelhouse, but Flappy Bird seems skippable. What I can't get enough of, however, are people talking about Flappy Bird. Ian Bogost seems to nail the existential crisis many people are having while playing the game and trying to understand its came-out-of-nowhere popularity. Bogost explores how Flappy Bird frustrates us in our attempts to define what it is and what its creator wanted it to be. You'll read no better analysis of a seemingly terrible game.

"But Flappy Bird is not difficult because it wants to oppose any regime in particular; a fact made flesh by its deployment on the mobile platforms that have only accelerated casual play. Flappy Bird is not difficult to challenge you, nor even to teach the institution of videogames a thing or two. Rather, Flappy Bird is difficult because that’s how it is. It is a game that is indifferent, like an iron gate rusted shut, like the ice that shuts down a city. It’s not hard for the sake of your experience; it’s just hard because that’s the way it is. Where masocore games want nothing more than to please their players with pain and humiliation (thus their appropriation of the term “masochism”), Flappy Bird just exists. It wants nothing and expects even less."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

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  • Steve Gaynor offers a response (and criticism) of Walker on the public domain and games.
  • Ashton Raze proposes the humorous Octodad is actually an analogy for invisible illnesses.
  • Matt Leone has compiled an exhaustive oral history of Street Fighter II that you must read.
  • User 2xtreme does the math and comes up with Spelunky stats for myself and Chris Remo.
  • Peter Malamud Smith explores how fan-made games helped keep Mega Man relevant.
  • Flushed is an e-zine that explores the intersection of video games and, well, toilets.
  • Ryan Smith profiles a transgender player challenging expectations in competitive StarCraft II.
  • This petition for the White House wants to change our national anthem to Guile's theme.
  • Adrian Chmielarz explains what pisses him off about the people who criticize Gone Home.
  • Gus Mustrapa has the best recommendations for Nintendo's future that I've seen yet.
  • Stephanie Carmichael shows how a blind, disabled, and gay journalist deals with prejudice.
Patrick Klepek on Google+
119 Comments
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Edited by Atwa

I can't for the life of me understand how Flappy Bird exploded overnight and now seemingly everyone knows what it is. Its not good or even an ounce original. It uses the pipes from Mario and has the gameplay of a flash game from 10 years ago. Frankly baffling.

Posted by benu302000

My God, Tevis whatever-his-last-name-is is a shrill piece of work. What a tiny person.

Edited by Honkalot

@atwa: Lucky stroke of word of mouth.

Posted by Coldman
Online
Posted by jimmyfenix

Oh Tevis......

Posted by Azraden

My God, Tevis whatever-his-last-name-is is a shrill piece of work. What a tiny person.

Tevis Thompson is actually a really smart guy who puts a lot of thought behind his opinions. I disagree with most of that list (though I 100% agree with him on BInfinite), but actually reading stuff he writes shows he doesn't dislike popular stuff for cred or whatever. He's real about his opinions, unpopular as they might be, and I hella respect that.

Edited by joshwent

I respond to a lot of what Patrick writes and hosts on this site, but if there's any point ever that I can get across to @patrickklepek (aside from approaching every person and situation with reason and love) it's to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop giving Tevis Thompson an audience. His hate filled acrimonious nonsense is the prime example of the barriers being needlessly put up by games writers to their audience and vice versa.

He's a Troll. And a Troll of the worst kind, the kind that agrees with you. The kind that takes any point you may want to make, and pushes you back, screams over you, and starts a fight.

Every time you get people calling you a SJW, every time people accuse you of click-bait (claims which, yes, are all dumb), you have people like Thompson to thank. Because they approach the spark of those unreasonable, wrong attitudes, and throw some ignorance gasoline on it.

If you have any interest and hope for the important "conversations" happening in games currently, let Thompson yell alone where no one has to hear him. He justifies the hate, and stifles the reason. He has to go.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Come out of nowhere popularity? This is the first I've ever heard of Flappy Bird.

Posted by Sergio

I take it Tevis Thompson is the Armond White of video game critics.

Edited by PatODay

Breaking Madden is awesome It reminds me of how I would build teams playing sports games against my friends when I was a kid, we would build the most unbalanced players and go nuts.

Edited by KoolAid

Last week: Large public outcry over the evils of copyright. An argument is even made that games should enter the public domain after maybe 20 years.

This week: Large public outcry over scum of the earth Flappy Bird, which had the audacity to rip off the pipes from Mario. Which obviously should be copyrighted, despite being probably one of the top 10 video game objects which are in the collective consciousness.

But seriously though, it just seems like another week, another mobile game to hate for being different. Flappy Bird has no IAP or other F2P bullshit that people hate, but it still gets a lot of vitriol.

Choice quote:

"However, for a game that everybody seems to know is nefarious and represents a terrible trend in video games, you guys give it a lot of press."

What's the big deal? It's a simple, dumb game that has distracted everyone for a few weeks. Most people start to play it because they expect it to be easy but are suddenly presented with a stiff challenge, much like a carnival game. They keep playing it because they want to get better scores then their friends. There is some merit here. There are things to learn.

But it's easier to hate.

Posted by Snail

@atwa said:

I can't for the life of me understand how Flappy Bird exploded overnight and now seemingly everyone knows what it is. Its not good or even an ounce original. It uses the pipes from Mario and has the gameplay of a flash game from 10 years ago. Frankly baffling.

That part about its gameplay also perfectly describes Angry Birds. Its success baffles me too.

I guess taking gameplay from games that were once only available in niche websites like Newground, and releasing them in a mainstream, widely-used market, while wrapping them around an accessible and updated concept, can result in hugely successful games.

I guess?

Edited by Excast

@sergio said:

I take it Tevis Thompson is the Armond White of video game critics.

Never heard of Thompson guy, but reading those tweets that is the exact comparison that came to my mind. Too many people don't really have anything interesting to say, so they try to stand out by making controversial remarks just for the sake of controversy.

Posted by Tajasaurus

My God, Tevis whatever-his-last-name-is is a shrill piece of work. What a tiny person.

Yeah, that list was weird. Everything about it seemed so joyless.

Posted by Supremestupidity

Has anybody made Tevis Thompson/Jim Sterling fan fiction yet? Feels right.

Edited by cooljammer00

I said it there and I'll say it here, that AVClub article about Scarlett, the Starcraft 2 player, is problematic in that it randomly decides to quote TotalBiscuit. Dude has a history of being real shitty to trans people, and yet here he's presented as some sort of hero for being supportive of someone whose minority status he's completely disregarded before.

Cc: @patrickklepek

Edited by GasparNolasco

Wow. That Travis guy seems like the bitterest hipster I've ever seem, judging by his best/worst of 2013 list.

Posted by BeachThunder

@koolaid: They definitely don't seem ripped though. Clearly heavily inspired - yes, ripped - no. It's obvious what the reference is, but you can compare the sprites yourself.

If you want to see ripped sprites, you can check out Duke Nukem.

Posted by Roadshell

I half expect this Tevis guy to prank call Ken Levine to call him a "doorman and garbageman." He's obviously a troll, but in the off chance that he actually is sincere in his opinions than they just reveal that the guy has no idea what actual "bad games" are. He should play some movie licenced shovelware and then try to say with a straight face that Bioshock Infinite is the worst game of this or any other year.

Posted by Animasta

You know, with all this relenting on how you never gave certain games a chance and now you love them...

PLAY NIER GODDAMNIT :(

Edited by GasparNolasco

@roadshell: He has certainly skipped Ride to Hell Retribution.

Posted by Parsnip

Rhianna Pratchett also didn't write a very good story for Tomb Raider, but that's neither here or there. This Tevis guy seems like a real sunshine.

Posted by Video_Game_King

He should play some movie licenced shovelware and then try to say with a straight face that Bioshock Infinite is the worst game of this or any other year.

That would be as wrong and illogical as that fucking Zelda tweet.

Edited by MrMazz

Happy Birthday Scoop

This is still my favorite piece of content on the site

Posted by SM5240

Another excellent edition of Worth Reading, and another wonderful week of articles. Your contributions to Giant Bomb have always been something special, but it was during this past year where I feel like both the videos and the written pieces you've done for the site (as well as stuff like the Dark Souls streams that were kept separate from the site) reached a whole other level of excellence. Here's to another year of both personal and professional growth, Patrick. Happy Birthday, Duder!

Edited by teaoverlord

@atwa: I know, Flappy Bird wouldn't even be hard if it had competent hitboxes/collision detection.

Posted by Crippl3

How the fuck is Bioshock Infinite the worst game of the year?

Posted by Reisz

@atwa said:

I can't for the life of me understand how Flappy Bird exploded overnight and now seemingly everyone knows what it is. Its not good or even an ounce original. It uses the pipes from Mario and has the gameplay of a flash game from 10 years ago. Frankly baffling.

It also makes $50,000 a day in ad revenue. I am furious that it even exists. Furious.

Posted by theeasternbloc

The part that gets me is that Infinite isn't just the worst game of 2013, it's "Obviously" the worst game of 2013. I guess I'm one of the dumb plebeians who had no idea how bad Bioshock is... my bad I'll do better next year.

Posted by Huey2k2

Exactly who is Tevis Thompson?

Posted by m3ds334

Patrick, thank you so much for sharing Breaking Madden. I haven't laughed that much in a long time.

Edited by Dan_CiTi

@huey2k2 said:

Exactly who is Tevis Thompson?

A guy who once said he really wishes Zelda was basically Dark Souls with the Triforce in it, and then people assumed he discovered King Tut's tomb or something, I'm not sure how but it got a lot of attention. I mean his article had some pretty good points and was well written I guess, but overall it was nothing special or original. He's not a moron or trying hard to be "cool" for going against the grain, but I just don't really agree with him much and he seems like a huge drag with how he handles things.

Posted by csl316

@reisz said:

@atwa said:

I can't for the life of me understand how Flappy Bird exploded overnight and now seemingly everyone knows what it is. Its not good or even an ounce original. It uses the pipes from Mario and has the gameplay of a flash game from 10 years ago. Frankly baffling.

It also makes $50,000 a day in ad revenue. I am furious that it even exists. Furious.

I'm honestly just really intrigued how the world works now.

Posted by Hailinel

I get that Tevis Thompson is being extra critical of big-name games, and that big-name games shouldn't be immune from staunch critique. On the other hand, his approach comes across as stand-offish and self-promoting.

Posted by TheHT

That CeeLo remix is fantastic. Breaking Madden however, veers dangerously close to creepypasta stuff. o_o

Love it!

Posted by Mechanized

5. Tomb Raider: A very polished, faux-gritty Uncharted clone. Rhianna Pratchett didn’t write the leering camera or QTE deaths. #worst2013

Soooo, here's the thing about that. 1. Tomb Raider came first. They moved to a combat system that is relevant to any TPS. This is 2013(at the time), I see no issue there. And enemies are not bullet sponges on the level of Uncharted. 2. What the fuck is faux-gritty supposed to even mean? 3. What leering camera?

Edited by Trilogy

@excast said:

@sergio said:

I take it Tevis Thompson is the Armond White of video game critics.

Never heard of Thompson guy, but reading those tweets that is the exact comparison that came to my mind. Too many people don't really have anything interesting to say, so they try to stand out by making controversial remarks just for the sake of controversy.

I honestly thought he was just joking around.

Posted by garnsr

I believe that Patrick received his decently powered PC from someone, and he doesn't have to pay for most of the games he plays, so it makes it easier for him to try out everything that comes along. Some of the views he holds seem to follow from mostly unlimited access to everything without any sacrifice other than his time (which he can write about, that being his job.) I like Patrick's writing, but sometimes he seems a little outside of almost every gamer's experience. Which can be good for us all, sometimes.

Edited by mcain99
Posted by Strife777

I have no idea who Tevis Thompson is, but I doubt he's the kind of person I'd like. All those games have flaws, I could name them myself, but "worst" of 2013? Come on, you're just looking for attention by being hyperbolic.

I think the worst is that "obviously." So fucking smug.

Posted by Vuud

@atwa said:

I can't for the life of me understand how Flappy Bird exploded overnight and now seemingly everyone knows what it is. Its not good or even an ounce original. It uses the pipes from Mario and has the gameplay of a flash game from 10 years ago. Frankly baffling.

If it's any solace, I've never heard of it until just now. I kind of look at Worth Reading as a catalog of the bar being lowered.

Edited by AURON570

That article on Gone Home has single-handedly convinced me to buy and play Gone Home... when I'm less busy and have some more time to really delve into it.

That Bioshock Infinite critique/critique of videogame reviews was interesting.. I tried watching an LP of Infinite a while back, and just couldn't enjoy it, for some reasons that Tevis brings up. Lol I get the feeling that he read a lot of Nietzche (just judging by tone and way of speaking). Never really liked Nietzche, but I suppose it is those crazies with their aggressive style that really make us pause and think differently.

Posted by TheVeteran13

I found a picture of Tevis Thompson for those of you who don't know who he is.

Posted by JoshyLee

Why is Flappy Bird skippable? I'm not trying to say it's a good game by any means. But why, as a member of the gaming press, is one of the most popular games in months not worth your time? It would take all of three minutes to do the research on this game. Is it not artistic/obscure/"indie" enough for even a free download? Dude, I know you're all about the games no one has heard of, but what is it about Flappy Bird that has you in such a fuss that you can't even check it out?

Edited by GrantHeaslip

I'm pretty much beyond wanting to discuss Gone Home, but let me say this: I got Gone Home, but I didn't like it. I have no problem with its credentials as a "video game", its price, or its length -- I just didn't enjoy it. While there are definitely idiots attacking Gone Home for semantic bullshit, I wish more of the counter-criticism would look past them and engage with the substantive criticisms instead of beating the same tired strawmen.

@joshwent said:

I respond to a lot of what Patrick writes and hosts on this site, but if there's any point ever that I can get across to @patrickklepek (aside from approaching every person and situation with reason and love) it's to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop giving Tevis Thompson an audience. His hate filled acrimonious nonsense is the prime example of the barriers being needlessly put up by games writers to their audience and vice versa.

He's a Troll. And a Troll of the worst kind, the kind that agrees with you. The kind that takes any point you may want to make, and pushes you back, screams over you, and starts a fight.

Every time you get people calling you a SJW, every time people accuse you of click-bait (claims which, yes, are all dumb), you have people like Thompson to thank. Because they approach the spark of those unreasonable, wrong attitudes, and throw some ignorance gasoline on it.

If you have any interest and hope for the important "conversations" happening in games currently, let Thompson yell alone where no one has to hear him. He justifies the hate, and stifles the reason. He has to go.

Agreed, especially about not not supporting dicks just because they're dicks whose opinions line up with yours. Politics is also full of this stuff, and as good as it can feel to pile on, it's ultimately counter-productive. You can make a sharp, critical point without being insufferable about it.

I'll also add that the way Patrick's blindly retweeted him here is practically begging people to interpret that as an endorsement, whether or not that was the intention. I'm not a fan of the internet culture of rebroadcasting opinions without context.

Edited by GrantHeaslip

@video_game_king said:

Come out of nowhere popularity? This is the first I've ever heard of Flappy Bird.

It's legitimately big. I've seen people of varying ages playing it on the train. I don't think it's going to last, but at the moment, I'm seeing it played as much as I saw Angry Birds when it first blew up.

Edited by Milkman

@joshwent: Look, I definitely don't agree with any of Tevis' tweets in this article and generally find his tone kind of insufferable. But he is definitely not a "troll." If he had just said "this sucks, this sucks and this sucks" with nothing to back it up, then sure, obviously he could be called a troll. But Tevis has written a ton of essays about video games (some of them very good) that support his opinions. He's not just some dude farting contrarian opinions onto Twitter. You can disagree and criticize him all you want but just saying that he should be ignored because his opinions aren't popular with most people is not fair.

It's also worth noting that he tweeted a #bestof2013 list too.

Posted by KDR_11k

I suggest Tevis Thompson should widen his game library and then think about what games are really for. While I hated Bioshock Infinite I have no delusions that it might somehow be worse than Ride to Hell or Day One: Garry's Incident. If you think a single pithy criticism like that outweighs "it's a completely broken mess that is not remotely fun" then you need to check your priorities.

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