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Worth Reading: 10/19/12

A dose of emotional platforming from VVVVVV designer Terry Cavanagh, a view on video games from an outsider, and the usual batch of games, stories, and piles of links.

Yes, Clock Tower for SNES is a great game. Yes, I'm shocked that sentence is a true statement.

Much thanks again to the patient viewers who tuned into the second installment of Spookin’ With Scoops on Wednesday night. I’ve finally given up on this quest to play and broadcast (recent) 3D games on this MacBook Air, and the feature will be better for it. We’ll table those games until I’ve built my PC next month, and return to them in a form that better serves the games and the viewing audience.

I’m researching how to build a pretty solid PC for $800 or so, and I’ll be dropping into Tested’s second annual Oktobercast on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. PST to talk about building that box. Those guys will have been up for nearly 24 hours at that point, so I’m sure Norm, Will, and Gary will be in a great position to dispense useful advice that directly correlates to spending hundreds of dollars.

All that said, I’m happy this the turn of events prompted Clock Tower for the SNES. Had I been able to drive right into 3D games, it would have been months before I’d gone nostalgic. It turns out Clock Tower for SNES was a game well ahead of its time, from the multiple endings, convenient auto saving before death, and making the focus on running away from a monster, rather than engaging with it. It’s a game we’ll definitely be returning to a few times.

I should also point out that I’m currently reading a FAQ about Friday the 13th for NES...

Ugh.

Hey, You Should Play This

VVVVVV and Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh actually created Don’t Look Back in 2009, but as part of continued experimentation with mobile development, he’s ported Don’t Look Back onto iOS and Android. Having only learned about Cavanagh after VVVVVV, I’ve never played Don’t Look Back, but it comes highly recommended. It’s a short, difficult platformer with some action elements wrapped in a surprisingly touching story about dealing with the passing of a loved one. You can imagine why that might strike a chord. I found myself staring at my phone for a few minutes after I’d finished the game, flipping it between my fingers, considering its message. Sigh.

The less said about The Visit the better, really. Being surprised by what’s around the corner is what makes The Visit work, so rather than espousing a bunch of words about why The Visit works, I’m just going to suggest giving it a few minutes. Plus, you’ll need an emotional palette cleanser after Don’t Look Back, and The Visit guarantees laughs.

And You Should Read This, Too

We all need a good look in the mirror every once in a while, and Lucy Kellaway gives video games (and us) that chance. It’s always fascinating to read observations about our favorite medium from the outside, and Kellaway is the perfect candidate. Kellaway was tasked with judging a series of games as part of GameCity, and went down a rabbit hole that included New Super Mario Bros. 2, Fez, Mass Effect 3, Proteus, Journey, and Johann Sebastian Joust. I’m not surprised Kellaway had the strongest reaction to Journey, a game that has prompted similar “oohs” from people I’ve shown it to without an affinity for games. It’s hardly shocking the games she gave the most credence to--Proteus, Journey--are ones very distanced from video game stereotypes. Her dismissal of Johann Sebastian Joust was interesting, and makes me curious if the incredible response to that one within the industry has more to do with our little exposure to physical games, making Joust fresh air to us but not those on the outside.

As a companion piece, critic Mattie Brice provides perspective on why Kellaway reacted the way she did.

“The next game to arrive is the sort of thing I’ve always hated from afar. Mass Effect 3 is an action role-playing game: a big commercial sci-fi blockbuster about people in spacesuits killing each other. My elder son greeted the arrival with approval and got to work building a character to look like me. The result was a sleek avatar with pointy armoured breasts and two guns on her back, to whom I couldn’t relate in any way. I couldn’t make her walk in a straight line, let alone duck, aim and fire. I gave up and settled down with a glass of wine to watch my son play instead, deploying a skill that I would admire had not half his life been spent acquiring it. The amount of violence was both staggering and curiously untroubling: it was bland and empty – just like the game itself. Boring, sci-fi tosh, I wrote in my notebook. Alien both literally and metaphorically.”

If You Click It, It Will Play

I Don’t Know About This Kickstarter Thing, But These Projects Seem Pretty Cool

Valve Just Launched Greenlight, So Here’s Some Games That Don’t Look Terrible

  • Hard to argue with Crashtastic's name, or its pitch to allow you to crash shit into each other.
  • Just about everything Incredipede is pitching has me running for my wallet.
  • RGB is a platformer whose hook involves swapping between red, green, and blue colors to traverse.

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek
Yes, Clock Tower for SNES is a great game. Yes, I'm shocked that sentence is a true statement.

Much thanks again to the patient viewers who tuned into the second installment of Spookin’ With Scoops on Wednesday night. I’ve finally given up on this quest to play and broadcast (recent) 3D games on this MacBook Air, and the feature will be better for it. We’ll table those games until I’ve built my PC next month, and return to them in a form that better serves the games and the viewing audience.

I’m researching how to build a pretty solid PC for $800 or so, and I’ll be dropping into Tested’s second annual Oktobercast on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. PST to talk about building that box. Those guys will have been up for nearly 24 hours at that point, so I’m sure Norm, Will, and Gary will be in a great position to dispense useful advice that directly correlates to spending hundreds of dollars.

All that said, I’m happy this the turn of events prompted Clock Tower for the SNES. Had I been able to drive right into 3D games, it would have been months before I’d gone nostalgic. It turns out Clock Tower for SNES was a game well ahead of its time, from the multiple endings, convenient auto saving before death, and making the focus on running away from a monster, rather than engaging with it. It’s a game we’ll definitely be returning to a few times.

I should also point out that I’m currently reading a FAQ about Friday the 13th for NES...

Ugh.

Hey, You Should Play This

VVVVVV and Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh actually created Don’t Look Back in 2009, but as part of continued experimentation with mobile development, he’s ported Don’t Look Back onto iOS and Android. Having only learned about Cavanagh after VVVVVV, I’ve never played Don’t Look Back, but it comes highly recommended. It’s a short, difficult platformer with some action elements wrapped in a surprisingly touching story about dealing with the passing of a loved one. You can imagine why that might strike a chord. I found myself staring at my phone for a few minutes after I’d finished the game, flipping it between my fingers, considering its message. Sigh.

The less said about The Visit the better, really. Being surprised by what’s around the corner is what makes The Visit work, so rather than espousing a bunch of words about why The Visit works, I’m just going to suggest giving it a few minutes. Plus, you’ll need an emotional palette cleanser after Don’t Look Back, and The Visit guarantees laughs.

And You Should Read This, Too

We all need a good look in the mirror every once in a while, and Lucy Kellaway gives video games (and us) that chance. It’s always fascinating to read observations about our favorite medium from the outside, and Kellaway is the perfect candidate. Kellaway was tasked with judging a series of games as part of GameCity, and went down a rabbit hole that included New Super Mario Bros. 2, Fez, Mass Effect 3, Proteus, Journey, and Johann Sebastian Joust. I’m not surprised Kellaway had the strongest reaction to Journey, a game that has prompted similar “oohs” from people I’ve shown it to without an affinity for games. It’s hardly shocking the games she gave the most credence to--Proteus, Journey--are ones very distanced from video game stereotypes. Her dismissal of Johann Sebastian Joust was interesting, and makes me curious if the incredible response to that one within the industry has more to do with our little exposure to physical games, making Joust fresh air to us but not those on the outside.

As a companion piece, critic Mattie Brice provides perspective on why Kellaway reacted the way she did.

“The next game to arrive is the sort of thing I’ve always hated from afar. Mass Effect 3 is an action role-playing game: a big commercial sci-fi blockbuster about people in spacesuits killing each other. My elder son greeted the arrival with approval and got to work building a character to look like me. The result was a sleek avatar with pointy armoured breasts and two guns on her back, to whom I couldn’t relate in any way. I couldn’t make her walk in a straight line, let alone duck, aim and fire. I gave up and settled down with a glass of wine to watch my son play instead, deploying a skill that I would admire had not half his life been spent acquiring it. The amount of violence was both staggering and curiously untroubling: it was bland and empty – just like the game itself. Boring, sci-fi tosh, I wrote in my notebook. Alien both literally and metaphorically.”

If You Click It, It Will Play

I Don’t Know About This Kickstarter Thing, But These Projects Seem Pretty Cool

Valve Just Launched Greenlight, So Here’s Some Games That Don’t Look Terrible

  • Hard to argue with Crashtastic's name, or its pitch to allow you to crash shit into each other.
  • Just about everything Incredipede is pitching has me running for my wallet.
  • RGB is a platformer whose hook involves swapping between red, green, and blue colors to traverse.

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Edited by AlmostSwedish

Finally! Waited up for this.

Edit: Already had the quest. Sorry duders.

Edited by cyraxible

I surprised by how much good shtuff you consistently bring to these Worth Readings, must take a long time to put these together each week. Usually end up looking at most things you link to.

Those realistic Pokemon drawings remind me of Monster Hunter monster design.

Posted by TheCreamFilling

Need more Saints Row music with everything!

Edited by Giantstalker
“I couldn’t make her walk in a straight line, let alone duck, aim and fire. I gave up and settled down with a glass of wine to watch my son play instead, deploying a skill that I would admire had not half his life been spent acquiring it. The amount of violence was both staggering and curiously untroubling: it was bland and empty – just like the game itself. Boring, sci-fi tosh, I wrote in my notebook. Alien both literally and metaphorically.”

I, too, completely dismissed tennis when I first played the game. I couldn't hit the ball, let alone score any points.

Chess as well; my opponent beat me in four moves. The pieces were devoid of emotion, bland and empty.

Just to contrast this, I've seen coworkers in their forties and fifties - who have very little, if no contact with games prior - get hooked on Call of Duty/Battlefield, Rock Band, and Gears with the younger gents. Not everyone is as closed minded as Lucy.

Posted by ConstantineL

Well I did find this worth reading.

Posted by Animasta

there are plenty of SNES games with multiple endings

the Shin Megami Tensei games both had 3 endings a piece

Online
Posted by Kaowas

I enjoy watching Patrick's quest to become, basically, a Youtube horror LP-er! I'm legitimatly facinated by this.

Edited by Abendlaender

It's probably because I'm stupid but I don't get "Don't look back"

Posted by kwang2000

@Giantstalker: That article isn't particularly enlightening. Ebert already proved that if you have an old person and you shove a video game in front of them, they are going to go, "what is the big deal? i don't get it" because video games don't resemble a classic (Citizen Kane, Proust) from their preferred high culture medium. In other words, in order for video games to be culturally important they must resemble something already culturally important, i.e. movies and books. Which is kinda dumb because video games are not movies nor books.

Posted by zeekthegeek

Note Star Citizen did not in fact move to Kickstarter, they're using it as a backup/additional thing to their own site.

Posted by cyraxible

I do appreciate a view from the outside, but Kellway had already decided what she thought of games. It was an article that had words and sentences but said a whole lot of nothing. She already had a disdainful view of games and wasn't about to challenge that seriously.

Posted by Daius

If I remember correctly, Don't Look Back is an adaptation of the classic Greek myth of Orpheus, who ventured into Hades to bring his beloved Eurydice back to the land of the living, but only on the condition that he not look back to make sure she was actually following him. Just as he was about to reach the surface his faith wavered and he looked back, causing Eurydice's form to crumble to ash and her soul to be lost forever.

Posted by m2cks

The Visit is one tricky mofo- of course Tricky Scoops himself would recommend it.

Posted by natetodamax

Haha, I was watching that episode of Chopped last night.

Posted by bigevil1987

I think I actually gasped when I saw the Deviant Art page. lol

Edited by audioBusting

I was super confused when I watched the Outlast trailer thinking that it's the iOS game.

edit: Both the "Game Theory" article and its companion piece are good reads. Thanks for posting!

Posted by ApolloBob

I would say the first half of Clock Tower 3 is genuinely disturbing if you care to give that a try. One of the rare games I played through to the finish, no matter how badly the final boss fight blistered my fingers.

Posted by bigevil1987

I also loved the story about the guy playing L.A. Noire with his dad. I just beat that game last month and loved it.

Posted by Cyrus_Saren

Don't Look Back. Damn. That does get you pretty good.

Posted by TurkeyFried

The Kellaway article was frustating, as she went into this with a closed mind, and will never bother trying to understand why it is that games connect with so many people. Instead, she wrote a long article that could be summarized in "damn kids and their toys".

Posted by talljack

Thanks for sharing Don't Look Back on your feature, Patrick! I played through VVVVVV first too and loved it, but I think this game had even more of an impact on me.

Edited by ImHungry

The realistic Pokemon are interesting, but I wish the artist's preference for drawing dragons wouldn't come out so blatantly and he wouldn't try to make everything look like a dragon. Also that Dragonite scares me.

The article was also an interesting read, but the entire tone of it was coloured by the writer's existing judgment of video games. Also, Fez seems a strange choice for the contest given it's aim at game nostalgia and it's nigh unpenetrable ciphers and puzzles.

Edit: Also that text adventure is weird.

Posted by eccentrix

Maybe I should write an article like that for visual art or music. I'd like to think I'd be less dismissive; I haven't lost any boyfriends to a painting.

Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

I read the Lucy Kellaway article through Wired and I had issues! Some of my own insecurities about being an adult and "misunderstood" managed to come out as I read about her son and these play things. The importance of games in our culture was understated though, and that was through which I became skeptical about whether she was able to sent aside any pretentious feelings. Game design is influencing user interfaces for systems that track hazardous material, as an example. Displaying as much information as possible in a small piece of real estate and making it user friendly is a true challenge. Just think about the technical applications alone that we've picked up through games!

She never really convinced me that she had the ability to play devil's advocate, to try and understand what went into creating art, and physics, and music, and all of these amazing parts. One texture of spaceship is handmade and thought about.

Posted by ShadowKirby

@kwang2000: Yeah but doesn't the fact that her favorite game among the bunch is Journey, a game that is definitely not like a movie or a book, kind of contradict what you said. In fact, Journey is even less like a movie than Mass Effect 3, loading all it's expressive power into the environment and through movement of the avatar, two things video games excel at.

Posted by Phatmac

As much as I like opinions on games that people are inexperienced to I have to say that I hated Kellway's article on it. She already came into it with disdain for games and had already written most of them off as toys for kids. This kind of thinking isn't wrong to have. I just don't think it's the best way for games to be analyzed from outsiders. They have to have a clean slate or at least try to understand why games are so appealing for so many people. Give games a chance and you may be surprised. That's all I'm asking for.

Edited by aceofspudz

@kwang2000: Exactly. It isn't a failure of games when people dismiss the medium. This woman in particular seems to be full of herself. Anyone who casually mentions Ulysses in a discussion about games not only doesn't get it, but is so insecure about not getting it that they have to peacock how superior the thing they DO get is.

Edit: And for the record, what she isn't 'getting' is that games aren't just shitty books/movies. They operate on fundamentally different principles and employ different language. The part she hates--playing--is at least 75% of the medium. She came close to understanding when she intuited that her son had spent a lifetime acquiring the skills to play games. Actually appreciating Ulysses is something a reader must train themselves for years to accomplish.

Posted by Crysack

I can't imagine that there are too many fighting game aficionados hanging around the comments section here, but does anyone else find Myers' article rather insulting? The whole thing where she presents the fight night regulars as a bunch of socially maladjusted nerds who can't interact with women just smacks of passive aggression to me. It isn't at all a fair representation of the FGC at all - as one can see from simply watching events like WNF.

Posted by HaltIamReptar

That lady's article read like she spent 10-15 minutes at most with the games, which makes any kind of statement about her experience ridiculous.

Posted by cthomer5000

Really loved the LA Noire article, which I also read via Kotaku. Was hoping you would have that one in there. Everyone should give that a look.

Posted by inappropriate_touchscreen

A bit from the excerpt:

The result was a sleek avatar with pointy armoured breasts and two guns on her back, to whom I couldn’t relate in any way.

This is a weird thing to point out, but Mass Effect 3 player characters actually didn't have pointy armoured breasts. I thought the female characters were actually realistically proportioned, and desexualised (or at least, not oversexualised like in a lot games) most of the time.

I'm saying her recollection might have been a little tainted by her disdain for these 'juvenile' action toys these youngsters seem to like nowadays.

Posted by MatthewSerious

I actually remember the Friday the 13th game fondly. Once you figure out how to play it, it's kinda fun. Still ridiculous, but yeah, fun. I thought it was rather interesting at the time to have multiple characters to switch between and trade weapons.

Posted by Sevenout

I am not entirely sure I understand the Mattie Brice piece either. I get that she is pointing out that Kellaway doesn't "get" it because she is not the target demographic for video games (which I think is a bit dumb since many people who are not "16-24 year old boys" play games). But it seems that she goes on to say that in order for games to be relevant culturally people need to be able to instantly get it without knowing anything about gaming. That is what I am going to call bull shit on. As someone with a Masters in comparative literature (read totally unemployable) I can tell you that most literature is completely impenetrable to the literary uninitiated. No one would ever hand Proust to one hundred people and upon having ninety five of them respond that it was some "boring ass shit" call Proust a failure. No, they would say those people "didn't get it." So why is that ok for established mediums but not games? Oh wait, I just answered my own question, it's established.

Now I am not saying that all video games are art or even that most of them are. I don't think anyone would ever call Battlefield 3 a transcendent experience, but what I am pointing out is that all cultural niches, art, music, literature, whatever bask in the circle jerk of their own self legitimization and aggrandizement. So to call the defensive reaction to Kellaway "knee-jerky" and "myopic" is completely hypocritical.

Posted by ImHungry

@Crysack: I'm almost purely a stream monster, since there isn't much of a FGC that I know about around here, but I get what you mean. Although I think there is some kernel of truth to her article, a lot of it struck me as her walking into this community she'd been out of touch with and expecting to be treated like 'one of the guys', which seems presumptuous given that regulars at weeklies tend to know each other pretty well.

Just like with any other group of friends, it takes more than one visit to get integrated.

Posted by Glottery

That L.A. Noire article was pretty damn good read.

Posted by thebigJ_A

My new PC cost me almost precisely 800 bucks to build, and it runs the newest games on or near max nice and smooth.

i5 2500k (of course, easily overclocked) with a motherboard to match, mine's an ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3.

2 560 tis in SLI, but even one is enough, though there are pletny of good cards that top it nowadays for not too much more

8G RAM (you want eight, four's beginning to not be enough)

Corsair 750w power in a Cooler Master HAF series case with a bunch of extra fans

This was the first time I'd ever attempted building a pc myself, and it was surprisingly easy, as well as fun and rewarding. The build itself took a long afternoon, after some time watching youtube videos. Beyond that, all I needed were the manuals. I highly recommend it!

Posted by Trilogy

Wow, Kellaway is a pretentious dipshit. What a waste of time reading that garbage.

Posted by Gold_Skulltulla

@ShadowKirby: Journey is incredibly cinematic, right down to its two-hour runtime. The whole thing comes off like an homage to silent film in some ways. There's consistent progress, dramatic camera angles, and no HUD. An article like this one shines a light on one aspect that makes Journey such an incredible achievement.

In general, I thought the Kellaway article was interesting, though the results she wrote were as-you'd-expect. Clearly she wasn't going to get much out of a game like Fez, but it was a little amusing to see her try.

Posted by Zekhariah

I'm not sure there is much value in the outsiders prospective on [subject x].

Sometimes, I listen to music that crosses into electronica and metal. But I'm not going to try to pull aside people who only do country or never listen to music for their opinion. On a daily basis I use software tools that are meaningless to people without very specific knowledge, and the UI of those tools is made to only be as efficient as possible for expert users.

So I guess my question is: Why is there a strong thread in gaming seeking mainstream and parental type approval? It is not as if introducing games to people who never cared for them is an uncommon topic, and there is regular talk of bringing it to everyone. But hobbies and interests are not about that; being friendly and providing the tools for motivated individuals to get up to speed is the norm. No matter what you do, people only master things they care about through some intrinsic or external motivator (witness Ebay vs. Windows competency).

Having the player base (or enthusiast press) looking for validation from people who literally have zero interest is wearing thin.

Posted by PokeIkzai

That XCOM review was fantastic.

Posted by Legendary

I remember reading a similar article to the L.A. Noire one, but it was a dad (or maybe a grandfather) playing through MGS4. I forgot where I read it though. This piece is pretty fantastic though. I love reading the perspectives of an older generation who don't really know anything or dislike games.

Posted by mscott7426

I didn't know that Super Hexagon was Terry Cavanagh, now I'm anxiously awaiting the android release.

Thanks Patrick!

Posted by Saganomics

Even if you hate Tom Chick, this is probably the best review of XCOM you're going to read.

...What kind of terrible person hates Tom Chick?

Edited by NoelVeiga

Tom Chick's is certainly not the best review of XCOM I've read. Not only did it make me cringe at each of the little anachronisms (Dune 2 predates X-Com and Warcraft 1 is from 94!), but even as he dismisses the notion that XCOM not sticking to design tenets that are two decades out of sync with the state of the art, he manages to make his entire review about this one aspect.

Here's the thing, I don't even dislike Tom Chick (speaking of backhanded compliment, "even if you hate Tom Chick" is one of the best I've seen recently), I just happen to think that the conceit in that review is kind of pointless and needlessly flashy, even if I agree with pretty much everything he's saying in the actual review.

For instance, he casually drops the bomb that hardcore gamers killed the genres they love, from RTSs to sims to fighting games, by making them obscure, inaccessible and in the end, artistically and commercially bankrupt. That is a contested notion that most gamers will dispute. I wholeheartedly agree. I agree so much, in fact, that I believe making the review about that rather than nostalgia, and about how brilliantly XCOM attacks that problem, would have been more interesting.

Posted by CosmicBatman
Her dismissal of Johann Sebastian Joust was interesting, and makes me curious if the incredible response to that one within the industry has more to do with our little exposure to physical games, making Joust fresh air to us but not those on the outside.

It's probably because she seems like not a very fun person rather than the fact that she doesn't play video games.

Posted by BigStupidFace

if you don't mind me asking, how do you compile Worth Reading? Do you run off and find things yourself, or do people get in contact with you?

Posted by Smokey_Earhole

Maddy's story regarding the fighting game community, and experience in the basement...just ugh. It's toecurlingly embarrassing how maladjusted some people in the gaming community really are. Their social awkwardness borders on stuff from the South Park WoW skit, and that was a fucking parody. So sad.

Edited by rusmas
Posted by cikame

Regarding the Lucy Kellaway article, maybe i'm still too young to see it happen to me, but the older generations inability to understand things outside of their interest is infuriating to me.
I'm not interested in pop music or football, but i understand it and why people enjoy it.
 
Yesterday rock music came up in conversation at the dinner table and my dad asks "so what's the difference between pop and rock music?", i didn't give him an answer, at 66 you think he'd have come across music before right, music accompanies pretty much everything, right?

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