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Worth Reading: 02/21/2014

The impending closure of Irrational Games has given the industry much to think about.

I just finished watching expert-level Spelunky player Bananasaurus Rex finish establishing a new world record in Spelunky, having accumulated more than $3 million by the end of his lengthy run.

That might not sound crazy to you, but that's because you don't play Spelunky. And I now have a better understanding of why people get so fired up about big game tournaments like EVO or The International. Spelunky is a deeply competitive game, it just doesn't happen in a single arena.

I don't want to take too much away from the thoughts I'm starting to gather for an eventual piece on Spelunky, one I'm hoping to publish next week, but the thrill of watching a true virtuoso play at an extremely high level is mesmerizing. Bananasaurus Rex spent more than nine hours on his record-setting run, and while it's easy to look at his record as a depressing reminder of a high you will never yourself reach, I find it inspiring. It shows there's still room to grow in Spelunky.

Hmm, hmm, hmm.

This is slightly off-topic, but also want to thank the Giant Bomb community for some of the rigorous debate that's taken place in both my review of Assassin's Creed IV: Freedom Cry, and the podcast I recorded with Kotaku writer Evan Narcisse about the game's touchy content. We may not all see eye-to-eye on the matters I find important, nor the conclusions I draw about them, but that we have such varied conversations is a testament to what makes this site great. I'll cheers to that.

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

Being a reporter covering the video game industry is a weird thing. Most of the time, it's not exactly about life-or-death, leading to occasional existential crisis moments of "what am I doing this for, exactly?" Leigh Alexander touches on one of entertainment journalisms biggest issues in a nakedly honest fashion, especially as it relates to how we balance the info we gather with the info we disclose. This piece is both a form of reporting and an editorial, the mix of which does a great job of conveying some of the stressors I deal with every day, as well.

"No one talks to the games press officially. I wish they did, but I get it. They want to keep their jobs. Let's just say multiple people within a studio were willing to risk their careers to confirm to me that yes, in fact, if their game didn't sell extremely well, like exponentially more than its predecessor or "well" according to a matrix of time and cost investment and desired profit, that their studio would be closed in a year.

What good does it do anyone, the story about the conditional but likely imminent closure? Who does it help and serve? What good does it do to risk my friends' jobs and their confidence to patch together the plausible but potentially biased story about all the extra unfinished or un-implemented content from the wildly over-budget and over-scope game? The story about the high stress, the high turnover, the difficult-to-work-with creative lead?"

***

The faces we associate with the games we play are largely the result of a targeted marketing campaign. Yes, Ken Levine is the chief creative behind his games, but he didn't build them on his own, and we rarely hear from those people. Yet, those are exactly the individuals being fired with Irrational Games shuttering. Brendan Keogh's experience meeting the grunt-level developers behind Spec Ops: The Line helps reinforce points made in Leigh's piece, as well. Games are made by people--lots of people. It's easy to forget that when we only think of one.

"It’s not a problem unique to videogames. In any creative form, as we instinctively try to picture the creator behind the artwork, and it’s much easier as an audience to boil the author down to a single person: the director, the lead singer, the conductor. But this obscures the realities of how that work was produced and why it is the way it is.

Often, when we play a game and lament about an obviously terrible design decision in one stage and ask nobody in particular “Urgh, why would they design it like that?” the answer isn’t that the creators were idiots, but something much more mundane such as: two level designers worked on different floors of the studio, or a post-it note fell off a monitor."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Some Crowdfunding Projects Worth Considering

  • Treachery in Beatdown City is a 2D RPG brawler that was part of a story I wrote last year.
  • Lana Polansky is raising funds to attend the GDC talk she's supposed to give next month.
  • Tim W is hoping to spend more time writing about independently made video games.
  • Pixel V2 is an updated version of a rad-looking, smartphone-controlled pixel art LED screen.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
72 Comments
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Posted by Landon

In that GFW video, is he referring to Matt Rorie?

Posted by whatisdelicious

"Spelunky is a deeply competitive game, it just doesn't happen in a single arena."

Comma splice.

Sorry, sometimes it's really hard to turn off the grammar fiend in me.

Edited by slimepuppy

The Witness is not out 'til next year? Aw.

Edited by MindChamber

Good Lord can Leigh Alexander write. After reading her article I went on to her Infinite review and it was so incredibly visual , she needs to write a book or something.. or at least guest write on GB

Edited by cannedstingray
Edited by AssInAss

That capitalism talk is good stuff, didn't know it would get linked here.

Also, the strummerdood video, thanks for detailing the connections in a video!

Edited by GaspoweR

@chuckdenomolos: Yeah, she does not have a lot of fans on here and rewatching that old E3 with her on it reminded of why again. Man...that was pretty bad. Hahaha!

Posted by GaspoweR

@landon said:

In that GFW video, is he referring to Matt Rorie?

No, he's talking about Rory Manion.

Edited by NoelVeiga

@noelveiga: Man I got the complete opposite from the article. She seems to truly respect Ken Levine.

Seriously? Because, in simple terms, that article pretty much seems to be "he used to be cool but then he sold out, he's a pain to work with and no wonder his crappy game failed".

Maybe the "used to be cool" part would come across as respect, but I'm not sure about that.

Edited by slimepuppy

@cannedstingray: Nah, no release date but Blow mentioned in the commentary in the video above that it's coming out 'next year' and the video was published a few days ago. Sadface.

Posted by Vasper_Knight

Another great read, thanks again Patrick for the good work you do for this site.

Posted by LackingSaint

Good Lord can Leigh Alexander write. After reading her article I went on to her Infinite review and it was so incredibly visual , she needs to write a book or something.. or at least guest write on GB

Hey, this is off-topic and all but, are you the ACTUAL MindChamber? If so, I absolutely loved your animations when I was a kid.

Edited by MonkeyKing1969

"...It's a scary bellwether for triple-A that not even a team like Irrational, not even someone like Ken Levine, could aim for creative breadth and narrative depth, be well-reviewed, sell millions and still be sustainable.BioShock as a series was always about showing the inevitable dark side of imagined paradises. This is another such story. That's really all I know." ~ Leigh Alexander


Or is it? Not to be too navel gazey, but did Irrational make a great game? I do not in any way doubt their effort, I do not in any way doubt the creativity or work. Bu,t I do doubt that the game actullay hit the mark. There was an effort vs product diaprity, alot of money and a lot fo effort for what was not a very focused or engaging below the surface game.

It is possible to try your best and fail.

It is possible for some even someone like me, to aim for creative breadth and depth in a college research paper, spell every word correctly, use proper grammar, yet still fail to create a sustainable argument. Just as it is possible for even someone like Ken Levine, to aim for creative breadth and narrative depth, create a game with few bugs or issues, sell millions, and still be fail too. These are possiblities, not everything we make os good, not everything we do is priase worth, and not everything we do deserves a 'pass'.

Why is it that we accept that we will be graded and judged for the first 17 to 24 years of our life for ALL we produce at school, how well we do our chores at home, and how we deal with our life. But once we have a job somehow nobody can tell us our best effort in our work - do not measure up when they don't? Why is it that we accept that nobody can tell George Lucas, "No that is a bad idea? That's not a story? This is not focused or logical" Why is it that people dance around Ken Levine, Hideo Kojima, Suda "51" Gōichi, etc? When did our jobs start being judged by T-Ball rules where everyone get a prize even for poor planning and trying but failing?

Is not the industry doing exactly what it should be doing with a development studio that takes too long, spends too much, is sloppy with focus on what their game is about? Is not the industry doing exactly what it should when someone who is creative has their funding cut down, their staff reduced, and yet given another chance to make good? Ken and fifteen people are being given a chance. The other staff, I'd say the lucky ones, are being pink slipped yet are likely very eligible to go to better working developers. The people leaving are being given a chance to walk away from a bad situation - a painful and embarrassing situation to be sure - but a new start all the same.