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Worth Reading: 07/13/12

The return of Worth Reading, in which we discover a video game can be terrifying enough to scare you in the middle of the day. Apparently.

Welcome to the mess of chords that is the living room in my parents' house.
Welcome to the mess of chords that is the living room in my parents' house.

Yep, I’m back.

Technically, I’m still here in Chicago to help my family make some decisions, and won’t be back in the office until after my wedding. Slowly but surely I’m getting back into writing. Slowly.

I’ll probably pen something about my Dad. We’ll see.

The most difficult part of realizing I’m here for a bit is organizing a setup in my parents’ house. I’ve been going back and forth from the hardware store for the right parts to ensure the existing setup isn’t compromised, while also allowing me to play games over the next few weeks. I spent a good hour searching for a cable splitter yesterday, convinced there was one sitting around the last time I was here, but eventually gave up and decided spending $2.99 at Home Depot made more sense. I'm cheap.

Even though Worth Reading disappeared for a week, I’ve received plenty of links from you guys and gals with games and stories that needed paying attention to. Thank you for that, and thank you for this. If some of the material here is a little behind, I apologize, but Giant Bomb has never been the most timely publication in the world anyway, right?

Hey, You Should Play This

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Fuck you, Slender. This one actually produced a jump scare from me in the middle of the day, and I can’t imagine what this awful creation would elicit from my psyche at night with headphones. In short, Slender is a first-person survival game that asks you do accomplish a seemingly simple task: collect eight pages. The catch, of course, is that Slender Man is stalking you the entire time, even if he’s often out of sight. Each page ratchets up the tension, as the music and sound effects prompt you to wonder why you aren’t just hitting escape, leaving this stupid thing behind.

(It’s awesome. Please do something more with this, Parsec. And much thanks to Fobwashed for the art!)

And You Should Read These

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Tom Bissell is the most frustrating writer in games because it doesn’t make sense to write about one after he’s weighed in. His take on Spec Ops: The Line is no different, in which Bissell wrestles with a question most of us ignore when it comes to enjoying our violent shooters: why do we enjoy them? Is it okay that we enjoy them? Why is that okay? Bissell’s piece is fascinating for another reason: he’s a writer on Gears of War Judgment. Who knows how much of his personal musings on the cycle of violence in games will play out in a game he’s contributing to, but make sure to have Bissell’s thoughts in the back of your head as we learn more about Judgment in the future. I will.

Shooters are obviously some kind of power fantasy, centered, as they are, upon enacting, over and over again, one of the gravest moral steps a human being can take. They're obviously a form of vicarious experience, allowing even the yellowest among us to feel a facile familiarity with combat. They're obviously tapping into a deep and possibly even evolutionarily vital part of the human mind, in which power asserted becomes advantage gained. And unlike most of humanity's previous attempts to replicate such dynamics within rule-based confines — like, say, jousting or rugby — no one gets hurt. It's quite possible that shooters reveal that somewhere inside every human being is a shadow human being, one who kills and takes and does what he or she pleases. A lot of people who love shooters play them, they say, "to blow off steam." That's not why I play shooters. I play shooters because I like the pressure, the pressure of learning what to pay attention to in a realm where the ordinary governances of human behavior have been lifted. I like shooters, I suspect, for the same reason I used to like doing hard drugs. They allow my shadow self to emerge and play. For me, shooters aren't about blowing off steam. They're about taking in steam.
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I don’t blame anyone for being hyped about Ouya, but some researched skepticism has been in order ever since its Kickstarter backing went into the millions of dollars, and Penny Arcade Report’s Ben Kuchera does a terrific job of outlining some of the big questions marks surrounding this project. I can’t think of anyone that wants to see Ouya fail, myself included, but do remember the number of backers currently pledging to receive an Ouya wouldn’t make for a very big install base. Kuchera addresses some huge issues that remain unanswered about Ouya, including the one that rubs me the most: why promise Minecraft as a playable game when its developer is not willing to do that? It reeks of Ouya being desperate to have a big name game to hang its hat on, and it’s merely a wild assumption.

Another problem is the fact the OUYA does little except further fragment the Android market, although I was told that’s not an issue. “There will be only one chipset for OUYA and a totally standard one at that,” I was told. “This is the best way to develop Android for TV. We will work hard to make it as standard as possible.” I’m going to be blunt: That’s a ridiculous answer, and it’s akin to claiming the Kindle Fire doesn’t count as market fragmentation as long as you only develop for the Kindle Fire.

If You Click This, It Will Play

Oh, And This Other Stuff, Too

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