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Worth Reading: 02/17/2012

Closing out the week, Patrick recommends some weekend playing 'n reading.

A shot from Dear Esther, included here simply so I could tell you to go on Steam and buy it.

Okay, we’re going to officially make this a thing.

Worth Reading is a Friday feature that doesn’t have a specific mandate except to broaden the scope of what’s discussed on Giant Bomb without diminishing our basic philosophy of “less is more.”

There’s a reason Giant Bomb’s news section doesn’t have many posts each day. If you want updates every few minutes, exhaustively covering every corner of the industry, there are other places to suit your needs. That said, I do read a lot, and I've wanted to incorporate what I come across in some meaningful way.

If I come across a neat little game that’s worth checking out but not deserving of 500 words of praise or criticism, you’ll find it here. If I’ve read a particularly insightful essay that has some material worth considering, an excerpt could end up here. Basically, it’s a Friday-timed dump of good stuff for you to peruse while we all enjoy the weekend.

Cool.

(And, yes, I'm aware there are things in here that aren't just about reading. Who cares!)

Hey, You Should Play This: The Love Letter

I’m still coming across interesting games from the recent Ludum Dare game jam, whose theme was “alone.” The Love Letter, made by design and programming duo "axcho" and "knivel," is an incredibly simple video game that I won’t tell you much more about, and instead ask you to just play it. It won’t take you more than five minutes (literally), and it’s a great example of what game jams often produce: short games that beautifully execute simplicity.

And Maybe You Should Read These:

The next time someone asks me “What should video game criticism look like?” I’ll point them to this article from Tevis Thompson, in which he tears apart modern Zelda games for losing what made Zelda games special. Thompson’s piece works because he knows what the hell he’s talking about, and criticism on this level is only possible after experiencing a series of works over many, many years and coming to a deep understanding of why they resonate.

“The point of a hero’s adventure (and Zelda is the hero’s adventure in gaming) is not to make youfeel better about yourself. The point is to grow, to overcome, to in some way actually become better. If a legendary quest has no substantial challenge, if it asks nothing of you except that you jump through the hoops it so carefully lays out for you, then the very legend is unworthy of being told, and retold. Death and punishment for failure are not outdated old-school notions, too demanding for the new eggshell generation. Nor are they too grim for the charm and wonder essential to Zelda’s tone (Mario proves you can be both delightfully whimsical and motherfucking hard). Meaningful difficulty, in which successes are owned and failures chastise rather than annoy, would more deeply engage the player, making her responsible, necessary, worthy of the legend. Not just the recipient of a gold star, the kind you get for showing up.”

Did you know British author Martin Amis (Money, London Fields) wrote a book about games? If you asked Amis, he’s probably deny the book ever existed, but Mark O’Connell has a piece about the mostly lost work on The Millions. O’Connell discovered the book in a library, scanned the incredibly sleazy photograph of Steven Spielberg that’s part of Spielberg’s opening to the book, and walks us the through the weirdness that is Invasion of the Space Invaders.

He is almost as enthusiastic about PacMan, although you get the sense that he sees it (in contrast to Space Invaders) as a fundamentally unserious endeavor. “Those cute little PacMen with their special nicknames, that dinky signature tune, the dot-munching Lemon that goes whackawhackawhackawhacka: the machine has an air of childish whimsicality.” His advice is to concentrate stolidly on the central business of dot-munching, and not to get distracted by the shallow glamor of the fruits: “Do I take risks in order to gobble up the fruit symbol in the middle of the screen? I do not, and neither should you. Like the fat and harmless saucer in Missile Command (q.v.), the fruit symbol is there simply to tempt you into hubristic sorties. Bag it.” Curiously, for a writer so deeply preoccupied with stylistic refinement and playful innovation — who elevates the pleasure principal to a sort of aesthetic moral law — Amis favors a no-frills approach to gaming. The following piece of Polonian advice pretty much encapsulates his whole arcade ethos: “PacMan player, be not proud, nor too macho, and you will prosper on the dotted screen.” I’m no expert, I’ll admit, but I’ll go out on a critical limb here and suggest that this might be the sole instance of the use of the mock-heroic tone in a video game player’s guide.

***

See you guys on Monday. I hear we love that day.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek
A shot from Dear Esther, included here simply so I could tell you to go on Steam and buy it.

Okay, we’re going to officially make this a thing.

Worth Reading is a Friday feature that doesn’t have a specific mandate except to broaden the scope of what’s discussed on Giant Bomb without diminishing our basic philosophy of “less is more.”

There’s a reason Giant Bomb’s news section doesn’t have many posts each day. If you want updates every few minutes, exhaustively covering every corner of the industry, there are other places to suit your needs. That said, I do read a lot, and I've wanted to incorporate what I come across in some meaningful way.

If I come across a neat little game that’s worth checking out but not deserving of 500 words of praise or criticism, you’ll find it here. If I’ve read a particularly insightful essay that has some material worth considering, an excerpt could end up here. Basically, it’s a Friday-timed dump of good stuff for you to peruse while we all enjoy the weekend.

Cool.

(And, yes, I'm aware there are things in here that aren't just about reading. Who cares!)

Hey, You Should Play This: The Love Letter

I’m still coming across interesting games from the recent Ludum Dare game jam, whose theme was “alone.” The Love Letter, made by design and programming duo "axcho" and "knivel," is an incredibly simple video game that I won’t tell you much more about, and instead ask you to just play it. It won’t take you more than five minutes (literally), and it’s a great example of what game jams often produce: short games that beautifully execute simplicity.

And Maybe You Should Read These:

The next time someone asks me “What should video game criticism look like?” I’ll point them to this article from Tevis Thompson, in which he tears apart modern Zelda games for losing what made Zelda games special. Thompson’s piece works because he knows what the hell he’s talking about, and criticism on this level is only possible after experiencing a series of works over many, many years and coming to a deep understanding of why they resonate.

“The point of a hero’s adventure (and Zelda is the hero’s adventure in gaming) is not to make youfeel better about yourself. The point is to grow, to overcome, to in some way actually become better. If a legendary quest has no substantial challenge, if it asks nothing of you except that you jump through the hoops it so carefully lays out for you, then the very legend is unworthy of being told, and retold. Death and punishment for failure are not outdated old-school notions, too demanding for the new eggshell generation. Nor are they too grim for the charm and wonder essential to Zelda’s tone (Mario proves you can be both delightfully whimsical and motherfucking hard). Meaningful difficulty, in which successes are owned and failures chastise rather than annoy, would more deeply engage the player, making her responsible, necessary, worthy of the legend. Not just the recipient of a gold star, the kind you get for showing up.”

Did you know British author Martin Amis (Money, London Fields) wrote a book about games? If you asked Amis, he’s probably deny the book ever existed, but Mark O’Connell has a piece about the mostly lost work on The Millions. O’Connell discovered the book in a library, scanned the incredibly sleazy photograph of Steven Spielberg that’s part of Spielberg’s opening to the book, and walks us the through the weirdness that is Invasion of the Space Invaders.

He is almost as enthusiastic about PacMan, although you get the sense that he sees it (in contrast to Space Invaders) as a fundamentally unserious endeavor. “Those cute little PacMen with their special nicknames, that dinky signature tune, the dot-munching Lemon that goes whackawhackawhackawhacka: the machine has an air of childish whimsicality.” His advice is to concentrate stolidly on the central business of dot-munching, and not to get distracted by the shallow glamor of the fruits: “Do I take risks in order to gobble up the fruit symbol in the middle of the screen? I do not, and neither should you. Like the fat and harmless saucer in Missile Command (q.v.), the fruit symbol is there simply to tempt you into hubristic sorties. Bag it.” Curiously, for a writer so deeply preoccupied with stylistic refinement and playful innovation — who elevates the pleasure principal to a sort of aesthetic moral law — Amis favors a no-frills approach to gaming. The following piece of Polonian advice pretty much encapsulates his whole arcade ethos: “PacMan player, be not proud, nor too macho, and you will prosper on the dotted screen.” I’m no expert, I’ll admit, but I’ll go out on a critical limb here and suggest that this might be the sole instance of the use of the mock-heroic tone in a video game player’s guide.

***

See you guys on Monday. I hear we love that day.

Staff
Edited by spree4567

Great article! Glad you continued this feature from your blog Patrick.

Posted by DHunter329

Man that Zelda instruction booklet takes me back.

Posted by FLStyle

Another good addition to the site!

Posted by Rirse

Hope this feature continues. Was upset that Jeff had a "chill out video of the week" years ago and only did one entry.

Edited by shadowthrone

Awesome article, Patrick! I actually picked up Dear Esther a few days ago and recently finished it. It was a thought provoking good time. Great recommendation.

Posted by Shinmaru007

That game was a nice way to pass a few minutes at work. Also, kids are all ASSHOLES.

Posted by Fram

Read that Zelda criticism yesterday. From the pov of a lapsed fan, I totally agree with the sentiment, even though Ocarina is one of my formative gaming experiences. The article isn't short, but well worth a read.

P.S. This feature is a great idea.

Posted by Baconbot

Yes! Hope this continues.

Posted by Phatmac

That love letter game was neat I guess. Nothing too special.

Posted by slowbird

I was so excited to read that love letter...too bad it was just a game :(

Posted by AndrewPerkins

This is a great weekend feature. Thanks for adding it!

Posted by CaLe

Dear Esther gets the attention simply for being different. Nothing more. 2/5.

Online
Posted by rempresent

Thanks Patrick, keep this stuff up, I would love getting content like this on Friday. Gives me something to do on the weekends.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

I'm very happy this is turning into a regular thing! Should be good!

Posted by Irishranger

Hells yeah Patrick! Keep this stuff coming!!

Posted by AndrooD2

Patrick, sometimes I want to punch you. Sometimes I want to hug you.
 
Hugs!

Posted by Fontelroy

very cool article dude!

Posted by HadesTimes

Thanks Patrick, great article

Posted by LiquidSwords

Great job Patrick!

Posted by zoozilla

This is great! I hope this feature is something that will actually happen every week, and not forgotten in a month or two.

Posted by Xeiphyer
@CaLe said:

Dear Esther gets the attention simply for being different. Nothing more. 2/5.

Lol. Ultimate indie hipster douche comment.
Posted by JimmyPancakes

I took a chance on Dear Esther based on your excited tweeting and went into it COMPLETELY cold. Really enjoyed it. Looking forward to going back in for the New Game + Ultra hardcore mode, if only to get the achievements. ;)

Posted by Gnome

SUP

Posted by TurboMan

Good feature.

Online
Posted by TheGorilla

The Love Letter was pretty cool. I didn't love the controls but it had a surprisingly strong sense of mystery and was pretty cute.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

Cool feature idea, Patrick. 
 
I just tried that Love Letter game, pretty cool. If only the main character would have been like me in high school, and no one wanted to talk, then it would have been much easier. In that case, I probably wouldn't have had a letter from a secret admirer in the first place anyways. So...point withdrawn!
 
Enjoy your 3 day weekend, you lucky dog. If only we all had the same luxury... :(

Edited by mdnthrvst

"Link must be allowed to enter areas he’s not ready for. He must be allowed to be defeated, not blocked, by the world and its inhabitants.

This world, dangerous, demanding exploration, must also be mysterious. This means: illegible, at least at first.

...You had to keep track of where you were, explore every corner, and fight your ass off. In fact, mastering Link’s position on screen, in the game’s gridlike space, was key to fighting effectively. It was, and is, a surprisingly coherent, unified experience. It was, unapologetically, an action-adventure game. And a fuller, more complete experience in 1987 than anything Skyward Sword, and its magic stick, apes today."

So basically Mr. Thomson wants The Legend of Zelda to be Dark Souls. Way to miss the point.

Posted by Animasta

hey it's the sunday papers!

stealing from RPS, tsk tsk

Posted by mooncake

GREAT IDEA, I love the idea of this feature! Please let us know anything that we could possibly miss in the game industry, such as obscure indie games etc. I love more reasons to not need to go on Kotaku, if possible at all. Thanks!

Online
Posted by troticielo

There’s a reason Giant Bomb’s news section doesn’t have many posts each day.

Once upon a time that reason was that gb didn't have a dedicated news guy.

Edited by Beatus

A weekly wrap up mentioning stories worth reading is a great idea. When N'Gai Croal posted a link to the millions article on twitter yesterday, I was surprised to learn someone like Amis intersected with video games earlier in his writing career. The Amis article - and others like it - need a light shined on them more often. If you look at the way games are covered by most of the publications out there, it appears that this type of story would typically fall to the wayside in the interest of generating ad bucks. Tycho over at Penny Arcade said something to this effect on his blog post titled "Exclusivity." After announcing the hiring of Ben Kuchera, he made a comment on the games press: "I want a Curator for the Internet’s gaming content. In a couple words, I want something less insulting and disposable." I couldn't agree more. This seems like a move in the right direction. A destination for that type of content has value.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Well, that love letter game was kind of dumb, but I guess it's artsy minimalism or whatever, so that makes it Klepek approved.

Also, that Zelda article was amazing...ly off target. Even as someone who is fairly jaded as far as the franchise goes knows that asking for a return to the first two Zelda games is asking for a return to the franchise before it truly defined itself, kinda like asking for Final Fantasy to return to having four player created characters with no real story to speak of and mostly involves your party running around trying to find the next place to go while grinding like crazy.

Online
Posted by ajamafalous

This seems really cool Patrick.

Edited by mdnthrvst

@ArbitraryWater said:

a return to the first two Zelda games is asking for a return to the franchise before it truly defined itself

That's what he's saying, that the way Zelda has 'defined itself' is fundamentally broken and misguided. He's not proposing that it can be undone, just calling it out for what it is.

Posted by limecloud

I LIKE THIS FEATURE.

Posted by verysexypotato

This article is exactly what I want. I'll buy you a hotdog sometime, Klepek.

Posted by Landon

@mdnthrvst said:

"Link must be allowed to enter areas he’s not ready for. He must be allowed to be defeated, not blocked, by the world and its inhabitants.

This world, dangerous, demanding exploration, must also be mysterious. This means: illegible, at least at first.

...You had to keep track of where you were, explore every corner, and fight your ass off. In fact, mastering Link’s position on screen, in the game’s gridlike space, was key to fighting effectively. It was, and is, a surprisingly coherent, unified experience. It was, unapologetically, an action-adventure game. And a fuller, more complete experience in 1987 than anything Skyward Sword, and its magic stick, apes today."

So basically Mr. Thomson wants The Legend of Zelda to be Dark Souls. Way to miss the point.

I think YOU missed the point.

Posted by pekoe212

I think this is a great feature. So many websites have such content overload every day, if you don't catch an article in the morning, by evening it will be buried under a pile of game trailers. Having interesting, easy-to-miss stuff gathered up for us here is a great idea.

Edited by Taiyo

Enjoyed The Love Letter. Nice, evocative execution of a simple concept. It really captured the feeling of urgently trying to read something quickly while trying to hide it from other busybodies. The "hold to read" mechanic felt really appropriate, I thought. And of course, the conceit of having a secret admirer makes it a bit exciting. I kind of wish they had given you the option to run out the clock--basically reject your secret admirer. I also wish there were a few students with black hair roaming the hallways; it would have made it a bit suspenseful. That way, if they let the clock run out as you waited at the locker, you'd be waiting anxiously for somebody to stop.

Posted by Toug

I'm glad to see you made this a full feature, though I am a little disappointed that you didn't name the feature "Hot Scoops".

Posted by HydraHam

To be honest when i first heard Klepek was joining the GB crew i was highly skeptical but since you have started i have seen nothing but stellar articles.

You keep bringing the heat ill keep bringing the.. i don't know, just keep making these great articles, it's stuff like this that makes me appreciate GB even more than other sites, i appreciate that this isn't just a place that spams trivial news nobody cares about or poorly written rumor articles or poorly written articles for that matter (points to that giant 3 letter site), GB brings the goddamn heat, publishes great, unique and highly informative articles that are just fantastic.

KEEP BRINGING DAT HEAT KLEPO, BRAP BRAP.

Posted by samface6

Fantastic article, most interesting gaming related post I've read in weeks.

Posted by csl316

As long as you recommend Masters of Doom at some point, I approve of this.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

Thanks for recommending The Love Letter.

Posted by Mento

Man, I was struggling for the longest time for a decent Zelda blog. As that article more or less says, it's kind of become so cookie-cutter at this point that there's so little to say about each new iteration of the same basic formula. I cycled from Fine-Tuning (a thing I did with Metroid once) to pondering what should be changed to keep things fresh (honestly no idea, short of "make it about the Four Horsemen instead") to the half-assed series recap I ended with.

I love Zelda, so it makes my heart burst into four identically-sized quadrants when I think about how hoary it's become. Then again, it might be that the whole problem (with both myself and this Tevis fellow) is that half a dozen Zelda games is probably enough for anyone. Once you hit double figures, it's simply too much of the same thing, regardless of how distantly you set them apart or how much you happen to like the familiarity.

I love that Amis got his start (or was at least early on in his career) writing about video games. I'm not too familiar with his work, but I've seen a lot of guys who used to write about video games for a living go interesting places. I don't mean becoming hype-people and producers of whatever games developer will take them. Guys like Charlie Brooker, Danny Wallace and our own Gary Whitta, who all write for TV and movies now, among other things. Not that I'm implying video game journalism is for chumps, mind. On the contrary, it's clearly as fine a start as anywhere for a young writer whether or not they make a career out of it, and "serious" writers should give it more credit.

Moderator
Posted by Video_Game_King

@Mento said:

As that article more or less says, it's kind of become so cookie-cutter at this point that there's so little to say about each new iteration of the same basic formula.

Wait until you see my blog on Skyward Sword :P.

Posted by ZmillA

I want read Invasion of Space Invaders really bad. I love that picture.

Posted by shades846

someone been reading the mid 20th century Marxist German historians of the city space. For anyone else I am talking about Walter Benjamin who i give props to the writer as really only people that did a masters in cultural history MA would really get that Arcades Project was his major work.

Posted by SSully

Yeah keep this feature up, I like it so far.

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