It’s time for another roundup of the best gaming writing from the past week. One piece of advice: you should probably not try to read these long pieces on your brand-new Apple Watch.
Hey, You Should Read These
There’s a particular reason I find stories like this tough, and it’s because of this line, an editor’s note at the top: “Matt’s father passed away a few weeks ago.” My father passed away a few years ago now, which is hard to fathom. It feels like yesterday. I, too, had a weird relationship with my father and video games. He didn’t look down on them or look down on me for taking such an active interest in them, but only on rare occasions could they muster his interest. He loved the basketball mini-game from Wii Sports Resort. It was the last game I played with him, actually.
One of my earliest memories of videogames is watching my father play Myst, a surrealist adventure puzzle from 1993 by Cyan games. In it you explore a dreamlike landscape and solve often obtuse and arbitrary puzzles in order to progress through the ages and solve the mystery of why you are there in the first place. I remember him sitting behind a large oak desk, a notepad and pen in his hand, exploring a library on a small island in an endless ocean. I remember feeling a mixture of mystery and pride as I watched him work, using his intellect to master this digital world.
I would come in and watch him, and eventually he’d ask me to leave. “I’m busy right now” was a common refrain. I persisted, however, and eventually he let me sit on his lap as he played. He was still on the starting island, and I helped him figure out the library puzzle and reach the second age. I felt such a rush of pride when I figured it out. I had helped my father, the scientist.
This is a interesting question: how come games are obsessed with failure? The game over screen, often trigged by killing your character, is so commonplace that it’d be cliche if we weren’t so programmed to expect it. It makes sense: failure means you have a chance to try again, to do it right. And while I don’t think Gita is proposing video games ditch death as a conceit, I can sympathize with her reaction to games that make fun of you for failing. Bloodborne is a good example. Would it be different if instead of “you died,” there was something...else? I’m not sure what, but perhaps it would help others give the game a shot, and remove some of the stigma associated with it. Who wants to be humiliated while having fun?
I wonder how seeing yourself die — because your avatar is you, in a sense — changes how we see our failures in our own life. That C on my midterm review, and every C thereafter, were not things I could learn from. They were end of that timeline. If I can’t achieve excellence, why continue to try at all? Every time I die in Persona 3 — a game where death is frequent and often unexpected — I put it down for at least a week, angry at myself for not being prepared. Last night, my sim in The Sims 4 failed to put out a fire and burned to death. It makes me wonder, should I even be playing these games, if I can’t even keep myself from dying? Do not die: The minimum thing these games are asking me to do. If I can’t achieve that, why am I even playing?
If You Click It, It Will Play
Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Raph Koster argued Jedi are evil when it comes to balanced game design.
- Leigh Harrison managed to talk about Far Cry 4 and Hellraiser in the same essay.
- Sarah Nixon explored the romance options of the latest Harvest Moon game.
- Dillon Baker observed the surprising rise of pastoral video games.
- Reid McCarter passed on his love of Bloodborne’s cryptic storytelling.
- L. Rhodes explored how games are splintering into many fractured communities.
- Jenn Bane passed on her favorite video game cliche.
- Chris Priestman looked back at the lovely world of DOOM modding.
- Modders and the modding community are still exploring Steam’s recent changes.
- Cara Ellison remarked on how she found the violent Mortal Kombat X boring.