This post is both a reaction to the excellent essay “Discipline and Pleasure” by Willie Osterweil on The New Inquiry, and a follow-up to my own “On defending myself from videogames.” It’ll take a more personal approach than the average essay, so much so I’m still not sure it entirely fits this website as opposed to my personal blog. But while the details of my circumstances may be unique, I also believe that enough similarities can be found to draw connections and analogies between my life and other people’s.
Hello lovely people,
I’m a little late reporting this here, but last week I published my second article for my Haywire column, on SOMA. It’s called Human Machines and… it’s not terrible?
Some background info after the break. Continue reading Human Machines (Haywire)
The great people at Haywire asked me to write for them and I accepted!
Since I’ve been having trouble keeping up with my writing, this will also allow me to write regularly, but not feel like I have to write too often and feel overwhelmed.
My first article went up already: it’s about Final Fantasy 14 and how MMOs have failed to develop storytelling techniques that really make us of their “massive” number of player. You can read it here. If that article is written better than my usual ones, it’s all thanks to the two editors that helped me out. (and that I’m honoured, not to mentioned embarrassed, to be working with. It’s as if I wrote a novel and it turned out my editor was Stephen King)
Some ideas that didn’t make it into the final draft:
- Multiplayer games’ systems are held back by their very players: everything has to be designed by taking into account the worst that humanity can offer, and every possible exploit. This limits what can be done immensely. Take MOBAs for example: not only there can be no friendly fire whatsoever, but you cannot design champions that interact in interesting ways with their allies, because some troll could use those champions to ruin the game for everyone else, and willfully put their own team at a disadvantage. This goes for *every* system, including narrative ones.
- I think there’s an interesting comparison to be made with board games and Pen&Paper, but having a very limited experience of board games and no first-hand experience whatsoever with Pen&Paper I didn’t want to go out of my depth. My ideas are that, for one, a human game master can make stories more replayable and adapt them better on the go; a videogame has to repeat the same words every time, and can only work within the parameters the writers and designers anticipated and implemented. Secondly, playing with friends removes a lot of that conflict of motivation that afflicts online multiplayer. Then again, online multiplayer is popular precisely because few people have enough friends, or can regularly bring them together at the same time to play a game.
Aside from that, I think I’ll be playing Final Fantasy 14 as my go-to game for quite some time, while I play some shorter, more focused games on the side. (I’d have a lot to say about the good things FF14 has given me, but this is not the place) I’m also second in command in my guild on one of the EU servers. If you want to play together, by all means let me know! ^_^
Thanks for reading! Meow ❤
Perhaps you’ll guess where this is going when I say that I feel the need to start this post by pointing out that I like Squinky as a creator. Quite a bit in fact: I praised their Quing’s Quest for Haywire, and more recently I really enjoyed 36 questions.
Unfortunately, I like them much the same way I like Tale of Tales: I find their lectures and talks extremely interesting, and I admire the intentions and ideas behind their games a lot more than I end up enjoying most of their actual games. (That’s where the similarity ends, by the way. The ways in which they ‘fail’ differ greatly) And Conversations We Have In My Head is one of the clearest examples of that trend.
Leigh Alexander was very kind on the game, dwelling more on the setup than on how it plays out in practice. Or maybe it just worked better for her than it did for me, I don’t know. (Edit: Mattie Brice also seems to have got more out of it than I did. I like her post more than I like the game.) But she’s not wrong when she describes how interesting and ripe with possibilities the idea is: the protagonist Quarky – a transparent avatar of Squinky themself – talking to their ex after years since they last saw each other. Although it’s mostly a one-way conversation, from Quarky to ex, the player can roleplay the latter and interrupt the monologue by offering his thoughts.
As with all games with such simple gameplay – if it can even be called gameplay – it lives and dies by its writing. And Conversations mostly just dies.
The biggest issue is that it fails to make its subject matter at all interesting for the player, and it’s not the subject matter’s fault: Quarky-Squinky obviously lived a unique life, and has a lot to tell. But the way they tells it comes across more like a shopping list of bullet points about their life.
“Turns out I’m actually genderqueer. Figured it out about four, five years ago?” …good for you? There are so, so many things they could tell us about that experience (How did they find out? Were they immediately ok with it, or was it a rocky road to accepting it? How did their friends and family react?), and to be fair you can get a little more information if you press Quarky about it, or if you find the one or two slightly more interesting “routes”, but for the most part everything is still presented in that awkward, shopping-list kind of way.
To be clear, I don’t mean to belittle their experiences. On the contrary, I think that, if anything, the game doesn’t do their experiences justice. For an autobiographical work, even as small as it is, there is so little insight, so little earnest opening-up, and almost no effort seems to have gone into making the player care about that story. And I know that because Squinky themself has told roughly the same story in multiple different occasions (for instance at GDC last year, and in 36 Questions—in fact their entire work, both fiction and non-fiction, tends to revolve around those two or three subjects that marked their life) and it’s always resulted in a far more powerful, energetic or captivating narration.
This time around, while it may have been cathartic for them, it left me cold. Even the ending is awkward and abrupt: it’s almost as if they had run out of things to say, and recognized they had been rambling on a bit anyway, so better stop there.
And it’s a shame, because the setup for the game is promising, and the way it is structured could easily lead to interesting results, with just some more space to better explore the subject matter. But this is not it. Just go play 36 Questions, it does a much better job at pulling off the same idea. Instead of letting us imagine whatever relevant past experiences Quarky and the boy share and why we should care, we get to create those memories and develop that attachment as we play.
I wrote something about what has been going on with me on my personal blog, in case you’re interested.
If you don’t care, the short of it is: I’m feeling a little better, and I’m working on a couple of posts. I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish them and publish them, after all it already took a lot to get that short post done, but I’m doing my best.
p.s.: you won’t find me on Twitter these days, but if you want you can always add me on Steam.
It’s hard to really explain, even to people who know me well, let alone to strangers on the internet, so I’ll be quick. I’m not feeling well, although the precise nature of what is going on is complicated, and unclear even to me, to an extent. (I’m not even sure if it’s a physical illness, a psychological problem or a mix of both)
As you may have noticed I have not posted much lately, and I’m afraid this will continue for a while. I don’t know for how long, maybe a week, maybe a few months, it may be that i never come back to this blog, although I certainly don’t want that to happen. It’s impossible for me to say at the moment, and I’m doing my best, but games criticism is not high on my list of priorities right now.
I do hope that I can come back sooner rather than later and keep writing. Thank you for reading my stuff, and thank you for all the support I’ve received so far. I never even imagined I’d get more than 0$ on Patreon.
I’m doing my best to make sure this isn’t goodbye, though, and I hope I can delete this post as soon as possible.
Raiden is confronted about the legitimacy of his actions. It’s time! Continue reading Revengeance Data Storage – #11 Freedom & Despair, Empathy & Moral Responsibility