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Worth Reading 08/23/2013

Some thoughts on the subjectivity of value before PAX, and two weeks worth of your usual avalanche of links.

Even when it becomes vitriolic, I’ve enjoyed the ongoing discussion about how we value video games, a heated conversation prompted by Gone Home. It’s one of those conversations that helps expose the gaps between critics and players, a gap we sometimes forget actually exists.

I don’t regret not talking about length, nor failing to make a call about the game’s $20 price point. Gone Home is worth $20 to me, and two hours I spent exploring a stranger’s house was worth the price of admission. That’s just me, though, and how other people interpret value is a incredibly subjective. Value is more than quality. Value is personal, a combination of factors--what you’re in the mood for, one’s bank account, etc.

I wrote this comment in an article by Ben Kuchera at Penny Arcade Report. (I also stand by my assertion on Twitter that starting a conversation by calling people “assholes” is ridiculous. It didn’t work last time, Ben, and I don’t think it works here. It distracts from the sentiment within.)

“I've been thinking about this quite a bit, since there was lots of conversation about the game's price vs. value in my own review at Giant Bomb. I don't regret not mentioning the price in my review, nor do I regret leaving out how many hours it took to finish. Those were irrelevant factors to my incredibly subjective review of Gone Home. But I do think it's important for game reviewers especially to check their privilege. Many of us are in incredibly unique situations, able to play many, many games without forking over a dime. Thus, paying $20 for an experience like Gone Home isn't a big deal. Not all critics receive every game for free (I sure don't), but we're definitely getting more than your average consumer, no matter whether you're at the top of the writing heap or at the lowest totem pole. That's privilege, and it's worth, at least, acknowledging what that means about your perspective.”

Kuchera left out the word privilege, but I think it’s important, despite the baggage that comes with it. Someone asked me about my commentary on privilege on Tumblr, and here’s what I said:

“It means recognizing that you have inherent “privilege” due to one characteristic or another. That can be being a games journalist who has access to free games, being white in a society that provides invisible bonuses just for being white, being straight in a world where only non-straight people are asked to justify their sexuality, etc. It’s not easy to recognize your own privilege, but it’s always worth considering what you get for being who/what you are that you might not take into consideration all the time.”

Some food for thought. See you at PAX next week? Please say hi! Don’t be shy.

Worth Playing

And You Should Read These, Too

There will never be easy answers to the question of what it means to be a commercial artist, or if dabbling in the first part automatically disqualifies you from the second. This conversation actually happened a few weeks back, but it remains as pertinent as ever. Elizabeth ofth Woods wrote an essay on the fifth anniversary of Braid about another independent game designer, Michael Brough, one who's seen immense critical success but hasn’t exactly seen it translate into a financial windfall. What ensued was a heated, fascinating discussion about appealing to the mainstream, finding a way to be successful without selling out, and more.

"Not only have Blow and other well-known devs failed to understand that these subtle aesthetic choices are actually an integral part of the experience of playing Corrypt - they've actually completely missed what the game is trying to communicate in the first place. The more I think about it, the more the gap in perspective and intentions between designers of "polished games" like Blow and more self-expressive, experimental types Brough seems to widen. Maybe this also explains Brough's seeming indifference about how he priced Corrypt in the app store."

I hope more people read this exchange between Anita Sarkeesian and Spelunky creator Derek Yu. Sarkeesian had previously used Spelunky as an example of the “damsel in distress” trope that has been core to some of her arguments about problematic game design, and when asked about this, Yu responded patiently, thoughtfully, and with empathy. This is the kind of dialogue that sparks change, even if it doesn’t result in any meaningful change to Spelunky itself. It’s about listening to other people and hearing them out.

"I don't think it's crazy to say that the 'helpless damsel' trope is pervasive and hurtful."

Let this stand as a pristine example of what I’d like to see more if in games journalism. Chris Plante not only dissects the long history of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified’s messy development history, but Polygon dropped this story at the very same moment the embargo was up for the game’s review. At the very moment that you’re reading what Polygon thinks about the game, you’re reading the context for its creation. Maybe it plays into your decision to play The Bureau, maybe it doesn’t, but it was a great decision and should be applauded.

"This is the story of the definitive 2K game: a project given ample creative freedom, an exceptionally talented staff and — for better and worse — minimal corporate oversight. A game that has been in development, in some capacity, since the studio's founding and which has only just now come to light. After nearly eight years, at least three names, three genres, three lead studios and innumerable reboots, that project is finally complete".

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Gone Home Has Produced Some Great Commentary

  • Danielle Riendeau had found that Gone Home spoke to her due to a very personal experience.
  • Merritt Kopas also saw themselves in Gone Home in a way a game had never done before.
  • Claire Hosking with six lessons on crafting believable female characters in a video game.
  • Zoe Quinn, designer of Depression Quest, is now dying her hair red because of Gone Home.

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
140 Comments
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Posted by TruthTellah

Thanks for the article, Patrick! Will be great for the weekend. Can't wait to check out the new Worth Playing. :)

Posted by Hailinel

Kuchera is a hypocrite. He feels justified in starting conversations by calling people names, but do in kind to him and he becomes dismissive and offended.

Posted by TruthTellah

@hailinel said:

Kuchera is a hypocrite. He feels justified in starting conversations by calling people names, but do in kind to him and he becomes dismissive and offended.

To be fair, I'd say it's reasonable to be dismissive and offended by anyone starting conversations by calling people names. So, it's reasonable for people to be somewhat dismissive and offended at Kuchera's comments just as he was to the responses. You're right that he's still a hypocrite for not seeing that others are doing the same as he is doing, but the larger point is that they're both in the wrong.

Posted by SatelliteOfLove

@Spelunky:

When the loudest arguments are about cartoon titties or harranguing a guy who's went the farthest in inclusiveness in his design both for the protags and the damsels in his games, we have officially wandered away from the original targets (equality in the workforce and squelching those being assholes to women on-line) and are now engaging in petty social banditry upon the ripest marks. The battles that can be won, not the ones needing winning.


And it was going so good for a while, too.

Edited by MrMazz

Yea I've finally taken the PA Report out of my Feedly stream. It's worth a couple of well thought out pieces every now and again and a solid aggrogate for content I might not have seen but I've just gotten to annoyed with his style.

As always love this feature. And ooo goody Anita had a conversation with someone, always wish she'd do an interview and talk about her criticisim more, just to explain it to people so they can stop being bros about it even existing. EDIT: Ok not quiet a conversation but hey it's a solid use of storyfiy and points out some of the more insane thoughts behinde the extreme anti-Anita bent.

Posted by Parsnip

That kasavin video is great.

Posted by BeachThunder

I think you'd really dig Planescape:Torment. Just put everything in CHR, WIS, and INT.

Edited by cooljammer00

Wait, so did the enemy in Spelunky teleport to where Spelunky Guy was standing as they were being hit by an arrow, therefore teleporting itself and the arrow to Spelunky guy and killing him instantly?

Posted by MildMolasses

Wait, so did the enemy in Spelunky teleport to where Spelunky Guy was standing as they were being hit by an arrow, therefore teleporting itself and the arrow to Spelunky guy and killing him instantly?

That video was confusing as hell. It looks like he telefrags the player, but I have no idea what the normal behaviours are for that enemy, so I can't really peace together what is happening.

It probably doesn't help that even the slow-mo replay still seems way too fast to try and figure out what happened

Posted by cooljammer00

@cooljammer00 said:

Wait, so did the enemy in Spelunky teleport to where Spelunky Guy was standing as they were being hit by an arrow, therefore teleporting itself and the arrow to Spelunky guy and killing him instantly?

That video was confusing as hell. It looks like he telefrags the player, but I have no idea what the normal behaviours are for that enemy, so I can't really peace together what is happening.

It probably doesn't help that even the slow-mo replay still seems way too fast to try and figure out what happened

It's probably like when FGC videos come out of awesome parries and I have no idea what is happening but I GUESS it was cool.

Posted by cooljammer00

Heh, I almost took that NYU games writing class. The write up about it seemed very interesting, but it led me to one of those age old issues of writing a character: you don't want to make them too interesting or else they just become a series of traits instead of a character, and then they become a Mary Sue who is more awesome than everyone else in the story and will save the world.

Posted by WMWA

Hey, Patrick, I was reading the Corrypt thing and I have to ask, what is with the people who don't want to capitalize things? It's obviously a deliberate decision when the grammar is correct. I generally see it used on twitter a lot by people trying to seem like they "don't care." Do you know if its some kind of movement or just some inane "quirk" that I should just gloss over?

Edited by Hells

Wait, so did the enemy in Spelunky teleport to where Spelunky Guy was standing as they were being hit by an arrow, therefore teleporting itself and the arrow to Spelunky guy and killing him instantly?

The Croc Man (Green headed dude) triggered the arrow trap. The arrow hits him and he takes damage. When he takes damage he teleports and if he teleports. If he happens to teleport into you it is a insta-death. Though when you do see that enemy the best tactic is to move away from him as soon as you see him. This sort of thing occurring at the beginning of the level is highly unlikely.

In my opinion, the random elements of Spelunky make it one of the best 2D platformers ever made.

Posted by MormonWarrior

@mildmolasses said:

@cooljammer00 said:

Wait, so did the enemy in Spelunky teleport to where Spelunky Guy was standing as they were being hit by an arrow, therefore teleporting itself and the arrow to Spelunky guy and killing him instantly?

That video was confusing as hell. It looks like he telefrags the player, but I have no idea what the normal behaviours are for that enemy, so I can't really peace together what is happening.

It probably doesn't help that even the slow-mo replay still seems way too fast to try and figure out what happened

It's probably like when FGC videos come out of awesome parries and I have no idea what is happening but I GUESS it was cool.

Yeah, the alligator priest guy straight-up automatically telefrags him because of the arrow trap. That's incredibly unlikely to happen anyway and the fact that it happened right when he spawned into the temple...it's amazing. And terrible.

Posted by WMWA

Fwiw, I bought Corrypt twice. Once on iPhone, once on iPad just to support that guy. I stink at it, but it's an amazing game nonetheless. I've been plucking away at Corrypt and Rydmkampsel at the moment. I wish I were better at Corrypt, though. ;(

Posted by Nicked

I thought the Gone Home review was excellent, however I do think the length of a game has a place in a review. E.g. Brad's review of Asura's Wrath does a great job of couching statements about length/price inside his more important arguments about the game as an experience. The length:price ratio shouldn't dominate a conversation, but I think it's relevant in the context of a review as purchasing advice. The reader him/herself can pass their own value judgment on what a 3/6/9/40 hour game means to them, and I think that's often useful information to have. Again, Patrick's review was great, Gone Home is just in a really tricky scenario since it is not a traditional game and would be worse off if it did try to conform to perceived length:price standards.

I also didn't care too much for Kuchera's article. It didn't seem to have a meaningful thesis and I'm not sure what he intended with it, though maybe I ought to reread it.

Edited by GrantHeaslip

Nice to see Meine Meinung getting a shout out. I ran into one of their performances a while back and subscribed. I haven't played most of the games they're doing covers of music from, but it's really well performed and charmingly earnest. I love watching live music where the performers are obviously having fun. Here's another good one:

I take some issue with the way the Spelunky damsel conversation was framed, which was essentially to presume the damsel mechanic was sexist and focus purely on the manner in which Yu fell on his sword. What if it wasn't sexist? What exactly makes Sarkeesian (or, say, a dude on Kotaku) uniquely qualified to define facts and frame conversations like this? The game came out last year and there was practically zero controversy until a couple of weeks ago -- are we all so bad at sniffing out sexism for ourselves that we need someone to tell us what is and isn't hurtful?

People are obviously free to say what makes them uncomfortable, but they shouldn't expect others to accept that as a new baseline. A significant portion of the world thinks an aspect of Gone Home is deviant and/or ungodly, but Fullbright would never be expected to say "oh, good point, food for thought!" if someone went after them for it. It's not exactly the same thing, but if you set aside your personal (and I'd argue correct!) beliefs about said aspect, it's not all that different.

Edited by iragequit

After that second last link, I am also looking for a new and habitable planet.

Posted by SatelliteOfLove

@cooljammer00 said:

Wait, so did the enemy in Spelunky teleport to where Spelunky Guy was standing as they were being hit by an arrow, therefore teleporting itself and the arrow to Spelunky guy and killing him instantly?

That video was confusing as hell. It looks like he telefrags the player, but I have no idea what the normal behaviours are for that enemy, so I can't really peace together what is happening.

It probably doesn't help that even the slow-mo replay still seems way too fast to try and figure out what happened

Sobek acolytes teleport when hit; usually it's into a wall, but that time as every time, Temple Has No Fucks To Give, Only Death. :P

Posted by planetfunksquad

@patrickklepek The Spelunky thing is interesting. On the one hand, shouts out to Derek for taking it seriously. He's a nice dude, obviously he doesn't want to offend anyone, and he's gonna look at that more closely in the future. Thats great.

On the other hand I'm not sure if Anitas argument holds that much weight. You can swap out the Damsel for a dude, or even a dog if that's your thing.

Is it the fact that you can choose who is in danger that makes it sexist? Like, a lot of guys will just automatically want to save the girl because thats how things are, men saving women? If so, yeah I can see that argument (and making it random who you have to save would solve that entirely. Everyone needs saving sometimes), but I really don't think a man like Derek Yu needs to be called out here. Games like Spelunky aren't the problem, are they?

Posted by Hailinel

After that second last link, I am also looking for a new and habitable planet.

In all honesty, it was only a matter of time. You make virtual reality a possibility, and someone will take that possibility and turn it into porn.

Posted by flasaltine

I would uh... I would play that Oculus Rift game...

Edited by Typhus733

@patrickklepek You should absolutely play Planescape, check out gog http://www.gog.com/game/planescape_torment and this modding guide http://www.gog.com/news/mod_spotlight_planescape_torment_mods_guide and I swear you will not be disappointed. There are a few things to know to get the most out of it like that you'd want to focus on the Wisdom and Int stats. But it's a game that's just so full of wonder and interest that I'd call it goddamn art and you of all people on the GB staff would adore it for what it is.

Posted by Shivoa

On access to games: I think it will be interesting to see how this changes when someone manages to get a worthwhile unlimited package working for games. As we see movies, TV, and music go to this on-demand subscription, you own nothing, model without changing the product, it is interesting to note games have pushed hard for a you own nothing model (cheats are paid DLC not a right to poke at the thing you purchased, at the extrem end the game is just a link to a server which you need to be tied to to do anything with the product) while inserting more and more paywalls between content visible from the game and the player while also trying to maintain the $60 sticker price. Right now there is no hint of an all-publishers subscription system and the bundling of more content than you can possibly consume as the reward for embracing a you own nothing model but it has to come because the other industries have realised this is the service answer to the piracy problem (even beyond Steam's half-way house to solving the service issue, including deep sales).

At some point the access games press have to games today will be considered horribly limited for a general member of the public. Waiting several hours for a download rather than starting instantly, waiting for a disc of data to be sent in the post after it was ready to ship: what a backwards way of doing things. Luckily the new consoles seem to be interested in digital profit margins and making instant starting (or at least small initial download) games from something that has been the exception for the past 10 years (often in the MMO space) into the norm for almost all titles available digitally.

And then we will all life fulfilled gaming lives of unlimited instant consumption for a low low monthly fee that everyone can afford (because when your market is everyone, the numbers are astronomical).

Edited by LikeaSsur

Patrick, what's your problem? You'll defend Anita's ridiculous claims to hell and back, but one guy makes a sex machine with his own time, money, and in his own living space and you snark with "I don't know if I want to live on this planet any more?"

Seriously, what is that guy doing wrong, exactly? He has the time, the funds, and the will to do what he wants with the things he paid for. Why get down on him for it? Is he hurting anyone? Is this perpetuating sexism in any way, shape, or form? Seriously, check yourself, Scoops. You're looking a little high and mighty there.

Edited by planetfunksquad

@likeassur: What the fuck are you talking about? When did he say it was sexist?

Edited by Milkman
Posted by SSully

Derek Yu is an adult.

He actually listened, internalized, and respectfully responded to criticism of his work. Why can't we all be like this?

Thanks for sharing this as well as everything else here Patrick.

Posted by LikeaSsur
Edited by Phished0ne

@planetfunksquad said:

@patrickklepek The Spelunky thing is interesting. On the one hand, shouts out to Derek for taking it seriously. He's a nice dude, obviously he doesn't want to offend anyone, and he's gonna look at that more closely in the future. Thats great.

On the other hand I'm not sure if Anitas argument holds that much weight. You can swap out the Damsel for a dude, or even a dog if that's your thing.

Is it the fact that you can choose who is in danger that makes it sexist? Like, a lot of guys will just automatically want to save the girl because thats how things are, men saving women? If so, yeah I can see that argument (and making it random who you have to save would solve that entirely. Everyone needs saving sometimes), but I really don't think a man like Derek Yu needs to be called out here. Games like Spelunky aren't the problem, are they?

Its especially crazy because most of the internet community(people who lets play the game on youtube and such) have taken to the pug as a damsel. I didnt watch the Tropes Vs Women video because i dont enjoy being told im sexist for enjoying video games, so i dont even know if Anita talked about the whole idea of the selectable characters being women too. doesn't that fact basically fill her argument with more holes than swiss cheese? Its just more flame baiting. Even if there was some sexism behind female damsels, the fact that you can choose to be a female character would negate any of that.

Posted by planetfunksquad

@phished0ne: I'm not closed to the idea that the trope of the damsel is sexist in someway. Like I said, could be about the choice you're given about who you think should be in distress and what that says about the individual making that choice but honestly I just don't think Derek Yu should be a target for a discussion on sexism, know what I mean?

@likeassur: Then why did you mention it? What is your point exactly? That Patrick made a dumb comment about something dumb? To ask my original question, what the fuck are you on about?

Posted by LikeaSsur

@planetfunksquad: My point is that Patrick has a problem with what this guy did, for some reason. The guy isn't trying to sell it, or do anything with it but tell people how he did it. It's literally a random thread on the internet that he included with a snarky meme.

Yes Anita Sarkeesian calls Spelunky a "damsel in distress" game, which is blatantly untrue and frankly, just shows that she never actually played the game, and he says nothing about it? His focus is a little biased and lopsided.

Posted by RadixNegative2

The "Greg Responds to Fable Criticism" video is the best :D

Posted by FrostedMiniWheats

All right! How long have Occulus Rift dev kits been floating around? Two months? Three? It took us not half a year to have a full on occulus porn experience with a special penis peripheral made.

Edited by planetfunksquad

@likeassur: Y'know what? I can see your point, kind of. Wanting to have sex with a machine shouldn't be a cause for public ridicule. But the fact that he didn't call Anita out doesn't mean a thing.

He posted that thing with Derek Yu responding calmly and rationally and I think that probably sums up Patricks (and mine, for the record) feelings on the matter. Doesn't matter if you agree with her view point or not, it's just something to think about. If you come to the conclusion that she's wrong thats fine too, just keep doing what you do.

Posted by bushpusherr

In Spelunky, while there are options to switch the damsel to always be a woman, man, or pug, there is an additional option to have it chosen randomly each level. If this had been the default option, would the game have ever even been brought up in this conversation? I can't imagine it would have, and it seems an incredibly minor change.

I think it's also necessary to point out that the rescuing of damsels in this game is purely mechanic, not narrative. I don't particularly agree with singling this game out for this issue, because I think they handled it very well with all the options available. However, the level headed responses from Derek Yu are worthy of praise.

Posted by Draxyle

There's nothing more emblematic of what's wrong with tying reviews to a ten point system than that Kasavin video. Not that it's the fault of the reviewer, and not that the guy emailing about the review isn't an idiot, but it's such a vague, insubstantial way to rate just about anything.

Still, that is an amusing video.

Edited by Hailinel

@truthtellah: True, there is fault on both sides, but Kuchera should certainly know better than to use childish, uncalled for insults in what is supposed to be professional writing.

@draxyle said:

There's nothing more emblematic of what's wrong with tying reviews to a ten point system than that Kasavin video. Not that it's the fault of the reviewer, and not that the guy emailing about the review isn't an idiot, but it's such a vague, insubstantial way to rate just about anything.

Still, that is an amusing video.

To be fair, GameSpot dropped categorical scores a long time ago, and apparently with the site redesign, they're dropping decimal values all together, so now the site will use a "true" ten-point scale.

Posted by Aoi
Posted by Phished0ne

@planetfunksquad said:

@phished0ne: I'm not closed to the idea that the trope of the damsel is sexist in someway. Like I said, could be about the choice you're given about who you think should be in distress and what that says about the individual making that choice but honestly I just don't think Derek Yu should be a target for a discussion on sexism, know what I mean?

Im not necessarily against the idea either, if there weren't selectable characters(including women) and selectable 'damsels'(including a pug, and a man) it would be a valid(although probably still misplaced) argument.

But the idea that she would even talk about it makes me seem like shes just reaching for arguments. Because at some point we *are* just talking about pixels here. As i stated in my first comment, the damsels in spelunky are either heart containers or items. Its not like they have developed characters or anything. I just hate the idea that people are saying 'the fact that ____ exists ___ is "(sexist, racist, homophobic, etc.) If there was some backstory about how the female damsels had frail women arms that cant climb or something along those lines i could understand it. But its not like Derek created a universe where women are viewed of as useless, there are playable female characters that are as viable as the men. It just reminds me of the whole kerfluffle about Skullgirls being sexist because of exaggerated character designs. She's making an argument where there in most people's eyes there isnt one. Sure it can be 'fun to discuss', but at some point its just flame-baiting.

Edited by planetfunksquad

@phished0ne: Yeah, I think both of our viewpoints boil down to "Hey, Anita, I hear you, sexism sucks, but it would be great if you picked better targets."

Posted by Hassun
Edited by Dan_CiTi

I love the damsel mechanic in Spelunky, as I think Anthony Burch pointed out on an old article on The Escapist years back on the original version of the game. It allows you to literally use the damsel as an object, a tool to get things in the game, like HP or a sacrifice, or you can treat he/she properly and have he/she taken care of and saved. Though I understand the problem at the core of the trope, the idea that women need to be "saved" is childish and archaic at best, but within itself it is a clever mechanic.

Edited by ThunderSlash
Posted by WobibrosfordApe

Really Patrick is there ever going to be one of these "worth reading" articles that isn't used for your personal bullshit that you think is important?

I don't know what the hell you were expecting "Worth Reading" to be. It is a collection of articles that Patrick considers "worth reading", I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that it they would be presented without personal bias.

Posted by atomic_dumpling

Really Patrick is there ever going to be one of these "worth reading" articles that isn't used for your personal bullshit that you think is important?

It is no secret that editorial stuff by Patrick is mostly about himself. "Patrick Klepek presents Giantbomb.com" is his personal outlet. You and I may not like it, but it is the way of the bomb in 2013.

In the case of "worth reading", I usually just check if he mentions sexism and/or that Anita chick, go "yup" and move on.

Online
Posted by TreuloseTomate

Kill a million faceless dudes in Hotline Miami, paint the walls with their intestines, and watch their disgusting corpses bleed out. But if a woman gets raped everyone loses their mind!

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