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Worth Reading: 08/18/2014

This week, essays on the dangers of trying to capture a city without generalizing, the methods behind energy systems, and much more.

I've only been to Gamescom once, and it was years ago, but I remember one story from my trip.

Towards the end of the show, we were out drinking one night. Dancing was happening, and I found myself in the thick of it. Another group got involved, and a dance-off was afoot. At some point, I decided to try a move that involved the floor, and I misjudged the distance between my feet and the guy in front of me. Rather than doing a sweet leg move, I tripped the guy.

There's a brief moment of panic, as both groups exchange glances, trying to gather what happened and determine anger levels I felt terrible; it was an accident. The guy gets up, dusts himself off, and goes "what do you want to drink?" He walks to the bar and grabs two huge beers.

I later learned he was an executive at PlayStation.

You Should Read These

There aren't many games set in Chicago, which partly explained my excitement for Watch Dogs. Even though Gita Jackson's piece was written ahead of Watch Dogs' release, it encapsulates the feeling of media--books, movies, games, whatever--trying to capture your hometown. In most cases, a city's picked because it looks iconic, which is why New York, San Francisco, and others are used so often. It's more subtle with Chicago, and Jackson's analysis of Chicago's racial divides underscores the problems of painting with broad brushes.

"When the developers from Ubisoft Montreal speak about this game, they do so with great reverence for Chicago, and they come very close to addressing some of the contradictions that I find interesting. 'Chicago is one of the world’s great cities,' says Jonathon Morin to gamestar.ru. 'From its inception to today, it symbolizes modernity and progress alongside crime and corruption.' But they veer shy of specificity, and draw repeatedly on historical references such as the Great Fire and prohibition to flesh out their view of the city. Given the distance of Montreal to Chicago, this comes as no surprise, but it belies a lack of real research into their chosen setting. They acknowledge the problems that exist, but don’t think much about what lies at the root of them.

I would not go so far as to call this racist, or even to think it was done with malintent, but it does strike me as dishonest. Ubisoft wants us to believe that they have accurately recreated Chicago in miniature, but given what we have seen from the game, I only see a set. This is a playground in which we will play. A part of the Chicago that I experience as a black woman living in it, one where the racial politics are ingrained on each block, might not make an appearance. If it does, it will be as the rungs on a ladder that a white protagonist will climb over on his tale of revenge. The more they tout how complex and interconnected the game is, the more simplistic it feels."

We've all had a marathon gaming sessions before. Mine are scheduled around my wife's business trips, and it's the only reason I've made significant process in games like Dark Souls. But when those few days are up, I need a break from video games. Like any form of binging, it's exhausting. Solon Scott recently spoke with Zoya Street, author of Delay: Paying Attention to Energy Mechanics, which provides an informative deep dive on free-to-play games with "energy" systems, a relatively new form of game design. Rather than outright condemning, it tries to understand why they're different.

"In essence, snacking is basically saying that all these free-to-play time-unlocked games are good for you – as long as you ignore the siren song of in-app purchases. It’s this restorative aspect that’s built into social games which is so substantial, allowing you to act like a human.

Whereas something like Dota 2may be built for a brain in a jar, Candy Crush encourages people to go to sleep, have jobs, get outside, exercise, hang out with friends and whatever else human beings do. Just by not playing. None of that success and failure in other games really does much to curb the common shame of overindulgence."

If You Click It, It Will Play

These Crowdfunding Projects Look Pretty Cool

  • Hard West promises XCOM + wild west and, well, I would like to play that, thanks.
  • Maya Felix Kramer wants to help independent developers who can't always help themselves.
  • Cyberith Virtualizer is the latest piece of VR equipment to get quickly overfunded on Kickstarter.
  • Kona wants to tell a story of survival and mystery in the wilds of 1970s Northern Quebec.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
53 Comments
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Posted by Y2Ken

Thanks, Patrick! Should keep me entertained for a good while.

Edited by LAMP

shout out to the mods for deleting my comment with a dumb sonic joke from the comments of an article that has a video full of dumb sonic jokes

Posted by Humanity

It seems once powerful words such as 'racist' are being eroded well past the point of their original premise.

Posted by Coldman

you forgot the waluigi of time video patrick

this is important

Posted by ptys

Nice work keeping it relevant with the Robin Williams stuff. Damn, I find him much funnier now than when I was a kid, classic!

Edited by BlazeHedgehog

Forgive me if this sounds rude, but I feel like that Resting State article is full of shit.

Those games aren't doing us a favor. Not consciously, and probably not even unconsciously. Do you know what my Mom does when she runs out of "energy" in Candy Crush? She moves on to Pet Rescue Saga. And when she runs out of energy in that, she moves on to something else, rotating around and around the same dozen games for hours.

The key thing here is that, I guess, switching between games gives you the option to rest. But you always have the option to rest. The only person making you play Civ for 13 hour binge sessions is yourself. In the last three years, I've put in almost 800 hours of Left 4 Dead 2 with my friends and I've learned how to say no so I can get work done (I put Steam in to offline mode).

Trying to pretend that F2P "rest states" are a good thing is undermining what their real purpose is: to squelch those so-called "brains in jars" for an extra $20 so they can keep playing.

Think of it another way: an increasing number of Nintendo-developed games have little pop-ups that appear every 60-90 minutes reminding you to take regular breaks. And every time I see one, it feels more like a bit of an insult than anything. Like, "thanks, grandma, but I got this."

People who want to keep playing will keep playing. People who want to stop should stop.

An argument could be made that games like Farmville don't have easy stopping points - when you finish a race or beat a boss or complete an objective, it usually gives you a clean break to say, "I should probably stop here and go to bed." Some of those F2P games don't necessarily have that; they march onwards forever and ever and ever.

But again, that's by design. They want that "You're out of energy! You can buy 10 more energy for $5.99!" pop-up to mess up your rhythm so you can grumble, pull out your wallet, and keep getting your fix.

Imagine how much worse it would be if instead of reminding you to take regular breaks, Nintendo games outright put up a message that said "You've played enough for today. Go outside. Get a life. You can play more tomorrow." People would be furious!

In short: don't celebrate what F2P games are doing just because it positively impacts your lifestyle. That's like saying, "It's a good thing McDonalds food is so gross because it means I don't get fat."

Posted by BeachThunder

If you're interested in seeing another point where Robin Williams and video games intersect, check out Disney's Math Quest with Aladin. Sadly the only game that he did voice work for.

Also "Asi Burak tried to turn the Israel-Palestine conflict into a video game, and game back with lessons."

I'm sure that should be 'came'.

Posted by jonaghan

I think I like 'Biohazard' more than Resident Evil. Seems more fitting. All the games are about viral outbreaks after all.

Posted by Parsnip

That Kojima tweet.

And that Notch tweet.

Edited by MarkWahlberg

@humanity said:

It seems once powerful words such as 'racist' are being eroded well past the point of their original premise.

Probably why she clarifies that she won't call it racist.

Posted by Cashewual

That hard west game seems neat, backed it!

Posted by Humanity

@markwahlberg: it's absurd she would even consider it much less even mention the word.

Posted by TehPickle

I didn't read the 'Resting State' article, just the wee quote synopsis that Patrick Provided. After those two paragraphs, I didn't have the spirit to dig deeper.

It takes some really backwards logic to say all this F2P energy nonsense is somehow doing the players a favour: granting access to some kind of wonderful life that they didn't know existed, but would know about if they just stopped playing those damn games and went outside for a bit. How fucking dare these players have nothing better to do with their time!?

Related aside: My mother is disabled and getting old, and has very little opportunity for 'life' as the author tries to define it. Should these people be just thrown to the mercy of the very worst F2P crap, because they should get out more, so fuck them for not trying hard enough? I hope not.

I can understand linking the article because it's 'interesting,' but even support of an interesting article (regardless of how much you may disagree with it's premise) can lend credence, and sow the seeds of doubt.

Bottom line: Everybody is different. One persons definition of 'quality of life' is not the same as another's. To lump everyone into the same boat shows just how incredibly out of touch the author is.

Just fucking gross! For shame, Solon Scott.

And somehow I'm more angry now than I was during my hours at work.

@patrickklepek I'd be interested to hear your take on this, as I noticed you didn't commit one way or another within the article. I assume you highlighted it for the purposes of discussion? It doesn't give me pause for thought, personally. It just makes me more righteously indignant about the entire concept.

Posted by EuanDewar

That Kojima tweet is the first one that has legit made me go "Hmmmmmm".

Posted by spraynardtatum

That "Resting State" article really clicked with me. I always wondered why microtransactions built around energy meters were being pushed and it was all so that people would go outside more. How virtuosic. Man, I sure had that wrong, I thought it was about making money off this IAPs....I'm such a dumby.

This brings a lot of clarity to all of those spreadsheets and graphs where publishers prove that "annoying paywalls" lead to "more time with family".

...hiiiiiiiiillarious.

Posted by KoolAid

That Thomas Henshell piece was fucking incredible. There is so much truth there. It's amazing. If anyone wants to know what it is like to make games, this guy nails it.

Posted by CornBREDX

I'm confused why you highlighted the misguided and trollish post that dusker put on the forums when there's a ton of other- better- blogs from the GB community from last week. But alright.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

That Sanic video made me laugh more than it should have.

Also, if Assassin's Creed is the Michael Bolton of video games, what does that make Call of Duty?

Edited by GaspoweR
Edited by GaspoweR

That Kojima tweet is the first one that has legit made me go "Hmmmmmm".

Really made me wonder if he's gonna do a Snatcher re-make with Ryan Gosling. 0_o

Also someone needs to do a photoshop project of this Snatcher cover with Ryan Gosling's face


Posted by Marcsman

Personally I could not locate the Sears Tower in Watch_Dogs. It's in Chicago right?

Edited by GaspoweR

@marcsman said:

Personally I could not locate the Sears Tower in Watch_Dogs. It's in Chicago right?

Yeah, its now known as Willis Tower by the way, not Sears.

Posted by Marcsman

@gaspower said:

@marcsman said:

Personally I could not locate the Sears Tower in Watch_Dogs. It's in Chicago right?

Yeah, its now known as Willis Tower by the way, not Sears.

I still couldn't find it in Watch_Dogs.

Posted by Giantstalker

So Worth Reading loves to feature the occasional stinker, but "Resting State" truly hits it out of the park in this regard. Incredibly misguided, even condescending in its appraisal and awkward reverence of shitty free-to-play mechanics.

Posted by conmulligan

@humanity said:

@markwahlberg: it's absurd she would even consider it much less even mention the word.

Why is it absurd? It seems to me that whenever black people write about race with any kind of nuance they're accused of unfairly throwing accusations of racism around (playing the race card, etc), so I thought it was to her credit that she was explicit in how she perceived the game's depiction of Chicago.

Edited by Humanity

@conmulligan: Sorry I didn't mean to be racist. OR wait, I mean sexist. Maybe both.

Posted by conmulligan
@humanity said:

@conmulligan: Sorry I didn't mean to be racist. OR wait, I mean sexist. Maybe both.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean.

Posted by CrimsonJesus

@patrickklepek

If you want wild west + XCOM consider Desperados, it's more Commandos than XCOM but it's really dang cool.

Posted by MarkWahlberg

@humanity said:

@conmulligan: Sorry I didn't mean to be racist. OR wait, I mean sexist. Maybe both.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean.

Just ignore him.There's nothing absurd about someone A) showing discomfort with a person claiming to make an accurate representation of their hometown and then apparently leaving out a significant portion of it, or B) having to explicitly say they are not making any accusations of racism because they knows people will assume they're making a knee-jerk accusation and ignore their actual argument.

$5 says most people don't even realize she's talking about how the game was portrayed prior to release, not the game itself.

Posted by Humanity

@conmulligan said:
@humanity said:

@conmulligan: Sorry I didn't mean to be racist. OR wait, I mean sexist. Maybe both.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean.

Just ignore him.There's nothing absurd about someone A) showing discomfort with a person claiming to make an accurate representation of their hometown and then apparently leaving out a significant portion of it, or B) having to explicitly say they are not making any accusations of racism because they knows people will assume they're making a knee-jerk accusation and ignore their actual argument.

$5 says most people don't even realize she's talking about how the game was portrayed prior to release, not the game itself.

I admit it was a pretty silly thing to write. I have my own issues with the article and more importantly with the way Watch Dogs is portrayed but at the end of the day it's not important enough to get into silly squabbles over in this fine community - hopefully there are no hard feelings all around.

Posted by Brodehouse

That Sanic video made me laugh more than it should have.

Also, if Assassin's Creed is the Michael Bolton of video games, what does that make Call of Duty?

Call of Duty is U2.

Posted by conmulligan

@humanity said:

I admit it was a pretty silly thing to write. I have my own issues with the article and more importantly with the way Watch Dogs is portrayed but at the end of the day it's not important enough to get into silly squabbles over in this fine community - hopefully there are no hard feelings all around.

No hard feelings on my end. I really enjoyed the article, but I also thought Watch Dogs was lousy so it was playing to my own biases.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@arbitrarywater said:

That Sanic video made me laugh more than it should have.

Also, if Assassin's Creed is the Michael Bolton of video games, what does that make Call of Duty?

Call of Duty is U2.

That is an analogy I can accept.

Posted by Hailinel
Posted by ArbitraryWater

@hailinel said:

@arbitrarywater: But who is the Bono of video games?

Well, who do we consider insufferably self-important in the world of video games?

(It's David Cage, right? Runner up being Cliff Blesinski)

Edited by Humanity
@conmulligan said:

@humanity said:

I admit it was a pretty silly thing to write. I have my own issues with the article and more importantly with the way Watch Dogs is portrayed but at the end of the day it's not important enough to get into silly squabbles over in this fine community - hopefully there are no hard feelings all around.

No hard feelings on my end. I really enjoyed the article, but I also thought Watch Dogs was lousy so it was playing to my own biases.

Indeed. For I am quite the opposite. I found Watch Dogs to be a really well made game overshadowed by an encompassing quilt of controversy. Onto this quilt I've seen new patches added over and over, ones that could have just as easily been sawn on the sleeves of many other highly regarded video games. I viewed this article as just another one of these tiny patches. Sidestepping the issue of the author not having actually played the game, I do feel she is disappointed that her own sensibilities were not mirrored in the game world rather than the game world being dishonest about what it tries to portray. From this article one might infer that to the author racial segregation is an important keystone of what defines Chicago, since she is disappointed at this aspect not being represented in the game, and thus feels it's absence makes the city feel less genuine. Whenever games talk about representing cities they always talk it up but we all know it's done with a wink and a nod. I'm from New York and I've yet to play a games that features my city which would do it justice. The point is that these are miniature playgrounds and for a long while to come they will remain as such - and Watch Dogs omittance of racial issues was simply a case of their very focused narrative about a single man trying to get justice for the death of his niece didn't necessarily need to delve into them.

That is just my 2 cents on the issue.

Posted by dusker

Does anyone know what Kona actually is? The section on gameplay is really thin. I'm mostly interested in the kind of survival mechanics that they're including.

Posted by dusker

Some good reads. I'm especially looking for to having to defend myself for another couple days on my blog post if the link here ends up getting some traction ;-) .

Posted by DEFE

Patrick spent some time last year talking about the inheritance of digital assets upon one's death. Here's an article from today about a somewhat substantial development in that realm. The short version: Delaware has granted some pretty substantial rights regarding digital inheritance. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/08/delaware-becomes-first-state-to-give-heirs-broad-digital-assets-access/

Posted by conmulligan

@defe: That's encouraging.

Posted by Hailinel
Edited by MormonWarrior

@tehpickle: Yeah that logic in the F2P article sounds eerily like people arguing that high unemployment is a good thing because you are forced to seek other things you wouldn't normally have time for, like art or poetry or something...it's very backwards and strange and doesn't really address the fact that those things are there to be scummy and get as much money off naive people as possible.

Posted by Mr_Creeper

Loved the Robin William's playing Spore vid; thanks.

Posted by ThePhantomStranger

@patrickklepek In relation to that "Resting State" article I don't think Unwinnable actually spoke to the author of the book. Although I can see why you could make that mistake considering the way the article writer keeps on using "told me" and "discussed" throughout.

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