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Worth Reading: 02/28/2014

Horses, dinosaurs, writers, and existential crises are just what the weekend ordered!

My first week with The Binding of Isaac has been...interesting.

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When the first video was published on Monday, the reaction was mixed. In part, The Binding of Isaac is less entertaining to watch than Spelunky. That much is obvious, as Spelunky play often leads to hilarious and unexpected deaths over and over again. That happens far less in The Binding of Isaac, even during runs where the items just aren't spawning the way you want them.

But it's more than that. Some folks couldn't stand to watch the game, turned off by the game's look. The Binding of Isaac is gross. I'm not a huge fan of its humor, nor its aesthetic. It doesn't particularly offend me, but it doesn't do much for me, either. This is, on some level, slightly surprising to me, since it reminds me of Ren & Stimpy, which I used to love. The mechanics are what's keeping me interested, balanced with the randomness approach to items.

At least in my first few days with the game, the way an individual run might play out is much more slower and more methodical than Spelunky. There doesn't seem to be the equivalent of finding a jetpack in The Binding of Isaac, a single item that completely transforms your approach to the game. But I'm still very early, and I haven't seen much of the game has to offer. (Please don't spoil anything in the comments about the game, as I'm trying to remain somewhat pure.)

These thoughts are both incomplete and, most likely, incorrect. I know that. For the folks that can't stand to watch the game, I'm sorry. That sucks. We'll move onto another game at some point, and hopefully you can jump back on the train. There are plenty more to play in the future.

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

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There is a list of features that I'm planning or working on in my notes. One of them has been to write a review for The Novelist, a game that's hardly perfect, but one that raised all sorts of harrowing existential questions for myself. It's (partially) a game about a writer, so it's not shocking it would have a profound impact on someone who spends much of their time writing. Jill Scharr had a similar experience, especially struggling with the concept of trying to making everyone happy, and realizing it might not be possible.

"Almost immediately my resolve slackened this time too: I decided that, instead of giving Dan every choice, I would make him compromise in every other level, and give either Linda or Tommy the choice. That way Linda and Tommy would get something, and maybe my ending wouldn’t be quite so bad.

In my first playthrough, a tableau at the end of the first month showed Dan and Linda laughing and cuddling. In my second playthrough, the first month ended with a tableau of the couple sitting uncomfortably in a restaurant, while the accompanying text told me they could find nothing to say to each other. I felt a frisson of dread when I read those words. Could I really go through with this?"

***

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When someone has success, it's difficult to feel bad for them, regardless of circumstance. That's what empathy is for, but it's not hard to see why this is a challenging concept. The Stanley Parable designer Davey Wreden found himself emotionally distraught and confused over the loads of acclaim his game received last year, acknowledging how weird it was to find one more distressed after achieving a goal. To express this contradictory set of emotions, Wrenden wrote a deeply personal comic around the time game of the year was happening.

"But if I go posting on the internet about how awful I felt receiving all these Game of the Year awards, no one is going to take that seriously. "Oh, yeah, we get it, real rough life you've got there. Sounds pretty miserable to be loved for your art. Maybe go cry about it into a pile of money?" And then of course I'm back in the problem I was trying so hard to avoid in the first place, where I'm stressing out about peoples' opinions of me and forgetting simply to feel good about myself. I want to be able to like myself and my work, but it becomes SIGNIFICANTLY harder once people on the internet start asking you to feel ashamed of yourself. It's really really hard to ignore."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

  • Lost Levels is an excellent (and free!) "unconference" that happens around GDC.
  • GaymerX2 is an LGBT-focused games conference raising funds for a second year.
  • Classroom Aquatic is just the right kind of crazy that I can get behind.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

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Patrick Klepek on Google+