Minecraft is Unrealistic and Unethical

Now, I love Minecraft. I love its look, and I've had a ton of fun playing in Hardcore Survival mode since its official release. I also love simply exploring the beautiful, procedurally-generated worlds.

Most importantly, though, I love how well Minecraft illustrates some beliefs I hold about games:

1. All games are educational

2. All games express values

I think that if you look really closely, this is absolutely true. The trouble with most games is simply that they just don't teach anything valuable and they don't express much about the world that we inhabit after turning the game off. Minecraft does, however, have some lessons in it, but they are ones that are unrealistic and, in my opinion, unethical.

When I use the word "realistic" I don't mean as it's used in the typical context of games. Using that word to talk about games will usually be in the context of bleeding-edge, photorealistic graphics and physics engines. The realism I'm concerned with is verisimilitude, how much a game resembles truth and/or reality. Very few games have much to do with the world we live in, even by means of metaphor.

On the other hand, Minecraft, as a simulation, carries a lot of real-world meaning. In the real world, humans mine, craft, build, farm, etc. It is in the specifics that Minecraft becomes unethically unrealistic.

If you consult the Minecraft wiki, you'll see that steak is the most efficient food in the game, now that you can breed animals. You can use three units of wheat to make a loaf of bread which will restore 3 hunger points, or two units to put two cows in (apparently lesbian) love mode, giving you another cow. This cow will later, when you kill it, give you between 1-3 pieces of raw beef or steak, if you kill the cow with fire. Even if you don't set the cow on fire, you can get steak by cooking the raw beef. A steak restores 4 hunger points. The cost between raw beef and steak is negligible.

So, to simplify:

3 wheat -> bread -> 3 hunger points.

2 wheat -> cow -> 1-3 steaks -> 4-12 hunger points.

So based on this, meat in Minecraft is 2-6 times more efficient to produce than (what I believe is) the cheapest vegan food in the game.

In reality, one pound of meat has been shown to be 16 times less efficient than one pound of non-meat food [Edit: Feel free to criticize this figure/source in particular, but the general concept is not that controversial]. Because Minecraft animals don't need food or water to survive, the simulation is flawed and, as someone interested in the real-life abuses of animals, I find the representation disappointing, to say the very least.

I'm a vegan in real life and try to play Minecraft without killing passive mobs like cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens. Though I do think the animals in Minecraft are adorable, I'm not so crazy as to think they have some substantive subjectivity like real sentient beings do.

If nothing else, it's a self-imposed challenge. It's not unheard of for people to try to be vegetarians in NetHack, so there's some precedent for this in a pure gameplay sense.

There is also a role-playing component to it, though. Though I won't argue about the ethical weight of digital meat, I will say that it isn't meaningless to make the decision to not kill animals (passive mobs, specifically) in Minecraft.

I'm not saying Minecraft needs to change, though I'd clearly like it to. I'm just using it as an example of how games necessarily express values by their rules. Minecraft expresses that meat is a better food source than plants, and this isn't true in real life. I'm not going to scream that Notch is a bad person for his unrealistically oversimplified model of livestock, but who knows: maybe someday I'll make a Minecraft mod that discourages meat-eating in realistic ways.

I do, however, applaud Notch and Mojang for making it so sheep drop more wool when they're sheared than when they're killed.

Edit: Here's a non-PETA article about the inefficiency of meat for those of you who simply think everything PETA says is a lie.

127 Comments

My new game is in the intercans!

HEY EVERYBODY!

If you have the internet and a computer that means you're reading this with your internet-connected computer (and your parents' permission, I hope)!!!!!

I have a new game because I make games and if I didn't keep making new ones I wouldn't be able to say that I "make" games, it'd be more like I "made" games SO HERE WE GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

It's an experimental art "game" about identity called Flagship. I think it's finished (though fireballs might be a little overpowered), but if anything seems broken let me know.

Kongregate link: Click here

Newgrounds link: Click here

Each link takes you to the same game with no huge difference. I think Kongregate makes for a little better of an experience, but feel free to rate my game highly on both sides! I won't hate ya!

Thanks friends,

Your friend,

Devin

8 Comments

I write music every day. What a weird thing to do. Wanna hear?

So, a few weeks ago I got the crazy idea to write music every day. No, EVERY day. At least two measures. People who write prose try to sit and write every day, so why shouldn't I?

If you're interested in following the results of this nonsense, I'm going to (try to) upload what I write every day to this tumblr. I may miss a day here or there (you know how things can be), or not be able to (easily) upload what I worked on depending on what software I played with that day.

Sometimes it'll be really underwhelming, but already I've come up with a few fairly listenable things. I may end up using what I get out of these daily exercises in more refined pieces of music, but I figured it'd be interesting to make this process public.

Just so you know, I'll tend to just write in TuxGuitar (or maybe MuseScore, if I can look past its bugginess) and link to the MIDI file. If I do legitimate production on all of these mini-compositions, it'll take up way more of my day than what makes sense. The stuff I write in TuxGuitar will tend to be prog metal type stuff, while I'll probably venture into other genres occasionally. Chiptune, jazz fusion, electronica (in general), string quartets...it's all on the table.

2 Comments

Why you heff to be mad? Subtitle: Spies, puppies, and dice.

I'm here to defend Matthew RorieTHE MAN IS FOND OF PUPPIES. How you gonna play him like that?
 
Well, I'm sort of defending Matthew Rorie. 
 
I'm here to argue in favor of Alpha Protocol. Admittedly, it's been a while since I finished playing it, but it comes to mind because I've been thinking a lot about interactive fiction these days, and reading Chris Crawford's awesome book about it.  Even though I've got Batman: Arkham Asylum sitting around untouched, I've had an urge to go through Dragon Age: Origins a second time (which is especially odd considering I have very little interest in the sequel), just because I'm in a really RPG'y mood. I even started playing around with Mythic a few weeks ago. Basically, I want dicerolls and choices to make about the direction of the story. Alpha Protocol has both, and it honestly compares well to Mass Effect as long as you're not expecting it to play like BioWare's sci-fi masterpiece. If you go in expecting an RPG and not a shooter, there's a great time to be had.
 
I was also reminded of the general antipathy towards the game when Chris TIlton mentioned his dislike for it in one of the E3 '11 Bombcasts. It's one thing to think it's bad having played it, but it seems like a lot of people are writing it off without having spent any time with it. I don't like that. Not in the case of other games, and definitely not in the case of this one.
 
So, it's not a great game. However, I really had no problems with it when I played through it. Well, the very end of the game sort of spikes in difficulty and is kind of frustrating, but It wasn't so bad that the gameplay in total was at odds with the greater interactive experience. Maybe if you play a different style than I did, it would have been more frustrating. I can't be certain. I've only played through it once, but I may play through it again and I doubt it'd make me think less of the game to do so. 
 
It really does seem to me like ignorant internet hyperbole has dragged this game's name through the mud, so give it a chance if you like RPGs. I finished Fallout 3 shortly before playing Alpha Protocol, and I honestly think the action in the two games is pretty comparable (except for V.A.T.S.). It's really cheap now, the story is pretty cool, and I felt like I was honestly making important decisions fairly often (which is really what I think makes a good game, essentially). You could be pleasantly surprised! 
 
Also, bonus 15x multiplier to anybody who understands the reference in the title of this blog. Not the subtitle, that's easy.

4 Comments

Please help. I promise I'll leave you alone after Friday's over.

I'll only bug you guys about this after Friday if it's simply to thank you. I really need your help, though.
 
Okay, so, if you've read my Child of Eden review, you know I'm a huge Tetsuya Mizuguchi fan. He's my game design hero (not to be confused with the upcoming Activision-published Game Design Hero). There's a game development contest over at Kongregate that I've submitted three entries in to, and the top twenty games get put in front of Mizuguchi for him to judge.
 
I'm so absurdly and cripplingly emotionally invested in this contest. It might be silly, but it really is very important to me. Even though there's a total of $15,000 worth of prizes for first, second, and third place (to put it in more meaningful terms: 1.5 million Wii Points), my goal is simply to get one or more of my games in front of my hero. So, please go over to Kongregate, make an account if you don't already have one, and help rate my games up into the top 20. Two of them are right on the edge, and I think the other is a better game than what its current rating suggests. 
 
As I type this, my highest rated game is at #25 and there are only 28 hours left to rate games in the contest before the top 20 are locked in. For the past month I've been working really hard towards this contest and it's pretty much all I've been thinking about. Like I said, it's not about the money. I just want to get a game of mine in front of my hero.
 
Even if you don't like Child of Eden, Mizuguchi, or Kongregate...surely you don't want my Friday night to be mired in disappointment, right?  So, please help me by clicking the links below and giving my games at least 3 stars to bring their ratings up. I'd appreciate it more than I can express. 
 
Thanks, guys. Here are the links:  
ffShmup (37th as of this post)
foggy fields: Play, Create, & Listen (25th as of this post)
foggy fields: Kongregate Bonus Track (26th as of this post) 
 
Note to mods: I know this is pretty much just advertising. GIve me a break, please. It's not like I've contributed nothing to Giant Bomb. I've got a good many wiki points and I've had more than one well-regarded and/or spotlighted review. I love this site and its community, and I just hope (and believe) that people here are generous enough to help me by clicking a few buttons for me.

45 Comments

Okay, Sonic Generations. You have my attention.

So, I saw on Twitter that SEGA is doing a weird thing. They're putting out a demo for Sonic Generations on XBLA/PSN for 20 days. 
 
I've downloaded and played said demo. It's Green Hill Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog.
 
Now, I grew up playing a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2. Sonic is etched into my most nostalgic of nostalgia centers in my brain. 

 Hey buddy!!
 
But not that creepy, green-eyed Sonic. I don't know him and I don't want to know him. Not really. The Sonic in my heart has black eyes and a bit of a gut on him. So, you can imagine how broken my brain was for a minute there when SEGA put out the reveal trailer for Sonic Generations and both Sonics were in the same place at the same time. I'm not a moron, though, so I assumed the game would be dumb, awful, and that it would unrepentantly piss on my memories.   
      OH CHRIST. YOU LOOK LIKE YOU WANT TO SELL ME DRUGS.
 
I'm not sure anymore. I played the demo and it's...interesting. It's definitely worth checking out. Unlike the hot mess that was Sonic the Hedgehog 4, it actually plays like classic Sonic. The experience was definitely a little strange too, though. The updated version of Green Hill Zone doesn't feel totally familiar. There are a lot of little things that are kind of off-putting about it, including how they don't let you re-enter the screen after you spin the sign at the end of the level. I mean, come on. Jumping around after you beat a level is the best part of Sonic! Okay, maybe not, but there are little inaccuracies like that that made it feel a little crazy. Sonic also doesn't take up the entire width of the snake-like tunnels in the level. What?
 
There's also the issue of the camera. Maybe my eyes suck, but I had a hard time tracking Sonic on the screen when he would move quickly and most of the screen is green (this is really an issue at the very beginning of the level). This isn't a problem on the Genesis, but when you have a polygonal game, perspective, parallax, colors, and shadows are a bit more nuanced than with strictly two-dimensional games. Sonic just doesn't seem to pop out of the screen as much.
 
If you played a lot of Sonic and have any affection for him in his black-eyed form, you really should play this demo. I don't think it'll sell you on the game, but it's something you should experience. It definitely has me looking forward to seeing what this game is (even if it might be middling), especially if it has Chemical Plant Zone. Don't even act like that level's music isn't in your top ten video game songs of all time.
25 Comments

Someone inexperienced with electronic music has an opinion of it!

So, I thought Tron: Legacy was pretty rad. I thought the soundtrack was even better. So what'd the universe go and do? It offered an awesome remix album! Isn't that awesome? 
 
Evidence: 
  

   
D-D-D-D-DIGITAL FRONTIERS ALL UP IN THIS. 
 
I haven't spent much of my life listening to electronic music, so I don't fancy myself an expert on it...but if this album doesn't have some awesome highlights I'll derez my hat.
13 Comments

I made another game!

Well, yesterday I had the brilliant idea to learn Fiixel in less than 30 hours so I could make a last-minute entry to the Kongregate Project Eden contest. 
 
I'm exhausted from coding and all that good stuff, so I'm not going to write a whole ton about it here. It's called ffShmup, it's available at the link above, and it's part of a contest that means an awful lot to me. I've submitted two other games to it, so if you want to help me get games I designed in front of my hero (Tetsuya Mizuguchi), rate all of my games 5 stars like a buddy. Tell your friends to do so, too. It'll be awesome. 
 
ffShmup is kind of a spin-off of my other game 'foggy fields' (hence the name). I think it's actually a better game than foggy fields, and I wish I'd spent a month (like i did on foggy fields) on ffShmup rather than a day or so. 
 
Thanks! Hope you like it. Feedback is welcomed. Just keep in mind that I made it in a day. Not making excuses...it's just you can only implement so much into a game in one day of work. That's why it's just one song and arcade-y progression.

1 Comments

Games that generate gameplay from music

As both an entrant in and fan of the Project Eden music game contest over at Kongregate (which I won't directly link to, because I've annoyed everybody enough with that), I've noticed something about a specific kind of game, and this blog is just going to be me getting a very strong opinion off of my chest. 
 
Games that create levels based on music are never as much fun as they seem on paper.
 
To be clear, I mean games where you import an mp3 or other audio file from your music collection and, somehow, the game analyzes it and makes a level based on it. Audiosurf was kind of the first notable game to do this (unless you want to point to Vib Ribbon, which I haven't played and can't comment on) and The Polynomial was the last one that I know of to do it well. Even The Polynomial is best enjoyed when you turn it into a non-game.
 
I love it when music is integrated into gameplay. Rez and Child of Eden are my two favorite games and I think they're really special experiences. The trouble is, most games that procedurally generate gameplay from music don't really enhance the experience of either the music or the gameplay. I always find them to be totally underwhelming and the gameplay that results from whatever music you feed into it just isn't strongly associated enough with what's going on to make it feel like it mattered what you loaded in. Most of the time it feels like I might as well have just played Asteroids while listening to my iPod. 
 
So, unless someone really figures out something neat to do with it, I'm pretty sick of seeing games with music as input. Games with music as output, on the other hand (Rez, Child of Eden, Lumines, etc), are more compelling across the board, in my opinion. A reward of beautiful music for my in-game actions can make for a much more resonant experience than any sort of competition or narrative. It also makes the connection I have to the music much stronger, as evidenced by my disinterested in Genki Rockets but love for Child of Eden. 
 
Opinion blog over! I'm going to go eat spaghetti!

9 Comments

My new iOS game (free stuff inside!)

Hey everyone, 
 
The game that I entered into the Kongregate Project Eden contest (which could still use your ratings, as the contest is still going on) is now available on the iOS App Store and I'm throwing five promo codes at you fine duders. 
 
Here's the link to the game
 
And here are the codes: 

AXXL4FWM33K9
4P4FMWY33EXH
7EETHPPP9F6F
R9734PK7TKE9
3YMWNYJ9K3LT 
 
Hope you like it! 
 
If you're too late for a code, it's just $0.99. There's also a lite version if you don't want to spend money on the thing. I'll be honest, though: I want you to spend money on the thing. I'm a brokebrokebroke college student who can't find a job outside of making these video games you kids seem to like so much.
7 Comments