Category Archives: Videogames

The Fate of Doom

“So if we come up on each other [in a Doom 2016 multiplayer match] and all the game is relying on from a design perspective is aiming and shooting, well there are going to be people who aim and shoot better than you and there’s pretty much nothing you can do about that. That made death a frustrating experience because it meant you were just better than me.”

– Hugo Martin, from id Software (interview with Gameindustry.biz)

Nothing you can do? What about… Practicing?

Certainly part of the pleasure of playing a game is… Getting better at it?

There are few things that make me burn in hatred. But I hate – with all my might and all my soul – this culture of facilitation, of insulation from failure, obsessive protectionism, and safety nets.

How do these people view a tennis match? A game of chess? A Jiu-Jitsu fight ?!

Not everything has to be competition. There is a place in the video game world for more sedate, more narrative experiences. But even these experiences must challenge us; if not our manual dexterity, then our intellectual acumen. If not our strategic ability, then our philosophical ability. If not our fingers, then challenge our beliefs and values!

Videogames are art, you say?! True art challenges you!

Videogames are e-sports, you say?! Sports are about the challenge, the man in the arena!

But that is not the point here. It’s about smoothing out the edges of a game that dared – dared! – to pit one player against another in a test of skill. A test that would reward the player who spent the most time mastering the principles of the game, and that could perhaps inspire the loser by giving them a glimpse of the heights they could achieve, so long as they invested their time and effort.

But no, we can’t risk hurting the fragile egos of the men and women of 2019. The horror, that your life could be irreversibly damaged, your soul traumatized, by your coming across someone who plays better than you in a competitive gameplay mode!

Everything’s wrong here.

5 Years, 10 Games

Finishing the game I’ve been playing this week, Hollow Knight, led me to conclude that it is one of the best games I’ve played in a long time. This, in turn, made me wonder which games impressed me the most in the past five years. I eventually came to this list:

  1. Nier: Automata
  2. Final Fantasy XV
  3. Persona 5
  4. Hollow Knight
  5. Super Mario Odyssey
  6. Destiny II
  7. The Witcher III
  8. Hearthstone
  9. Metal Gear Solid V
  10. Phoenix Wright: The Spirit of Justice

Of course, I haven’t played all the games that have been released since October 2014. That would be an impossible task for any human being. But I think I played a very representative slice.

In the coming days, I will write a little more about each one…

Nintendo

Playing videogames developed by Nintendo is more than “fun,” it’s a joyful experience.

I wasn’t originally a Nintendo fan, but after SEGA got away from their console business, I’ve discovered that their videogames are fun to play in a way that most others, aren’t. (And in a way that SEGA’s used to be, and to be fair, still occasionally are.)

Most modern videogames are more like glorified task-lists, where you accomplish micro-goals drip-by-drip as you play in a semi-automatic way. They are a bit like driving an automatic car VS a manual gearbox one.

(And I love my automatic car, but that’s because I don’t think there’s any inherent pleasure in shifting gears. I do know a lot of people who get that pleasure.)

Nintendo games are a joy just to play. The interaction between player character and environment is colourful and delightful and kinetic. There are goals, yes, but the enjoyment is not dependant on them – there is joy in the journey from one checkbox to another, rather than in a careful, constant dosing of checkboxes along an otherwise bland path, synthesized in the lab to ensure the optimal amount of dopamine release.

To play a Nintendo game is to delight in being a child again; to play most other modern games is to be a lab rat.

Sure, this art is not exclusive to Nintendo, but Nintendo is the brand that delivers it the most consistently. Bungie, I think might be the other example, but Bungie is a one-game studio. And for some reason, Japanese developers tend to deliver it more often than Western developers. But no-one, east or west, is as consistent as Nintendo.

I have limited time to play videogames, so I pick ones that make me feel genuinely happy as a consequence of the act of playing. 

I can get the joy from progressing on a goal checklist in other areas of my life.