Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

27Apr/172

Credits Provide Closure

I didn't hire Matt W to write off-topic comments for Electron Dance, but he does it anyway and they're usually worth the pixels they're displayed on. I decided to rescue one particular neglected rant-in-the-comments from Matt and give it its own post. Actually I decided to rescue it last year, but we all know Electron Dance time is the slowest possible time. Anyway, before we get into the rant, Matt would like everyone to know Closure is good and you should play it (if you like platform puzzlers). Happy reading.

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Here’s how Closure works. For most of the game, there’s three separate sets of levels that you proceed through linearly. When you start up, there’s an in-engine level select where you walk through a door to one of those sets of levels, then walk to a set of doors to the last level you unlocked, and then a little animation plays as your character turns into the PC for this level. This is kind of annoying to go through every time you boot up especially the “turning into the PC animation” is redundant after the fifth time. But once you’re in the levels, when you finish one you just go on to the next.

When you finish all three sets of levels, another door in the level select screen unlocks, taking you to a new set of harder levels. And when you finish those a giant door in that level select screen unlocks. Therein lies the problem.

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7Nov/168

Thumper Ain’t No Flow Game

I recently admitted I didn't think I was going to play this one and I've not gone back on that. That's why Shaun Green, who has done work for RPS and ran Arcadian Rhythms for five years, has stepped in to write about that noisy new kid on the rhythm game block: Thumper. At least I think he has, because the opening line of his essay is---

thumper_flying1

How do we write about Thumper (Drool, 2016)?

Many writers have opted for hyperbole and impressionistic description, deploying jagged sentences like brush strokes and needle jabs as they attempt to portray their experience: velocity, violence, vigour. This does convey something of how the game feels, but it's not what I want to write.

Yet despite my many and various opinions about Thumper I couldn't decide what they should cohere around. The writhing, chrome-plated visuals? Its deliciously understated industrial soundtrack? What it makes of its relatively low-key gameplay verbs?

I didn't have a satisfying answer until I looked at my Twitter timeline and saw a discussion about death, about failure. The elephantine space-beetle in the room when it comes to Thumper is how hard it is. So yes, we need to talk about difficulty.

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28Jul/154

The Organization Geek

"There is no such thing as a clean or dispassionate read and what you think of a text is likely to be as much a product of your bullshit as it is of the inherent qualities of the text itself."

Reading the work of freelance critic Jonathan McCalmont is a bit like playing Russian roulette. Most of the time his writing taunts me to think more deeply about the art I enjoy but sometimes a bullet will emerge from his word gun and make me feel miserable for enjoying something like, say, A Trip to Italy.

I could reel off a long list of my favourite McCalmont essays but, instead, I present to you a recent piece titled "The Organization Geek", cross posted from his blog Ruthless Culture.

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I sometimes think that my generation got the wrong end of the stick when it came to the question of conformity. My first encounter with conformity as a theoretical concept came in my early teens when some pre-cursor to GCSE psychology mentioned Solomon Asch’s conformity experiments in which a subject was confronted with a room full of people giving the wrong answer to a simple perception test. Supposedly overwhelmed by peer pressure, over a third of Asch’s subjects chose to follow the group and give the wrong answer.

I say “supposedly” as while a lot has since been written about Asch’s experiments, most of it has been reductive, simplistic and wrong. The problem lies not in the work itself but rather in the tendency to package it up with Stanley Milgram’s experiments on obedience and Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment as part of a broad cultural narrative about the hazards of conformity.

By the time I was first encountering experimental psychology in the early 1990s, conformity was being presented as a Bad, Bad Thing that caused you to speak untruths, torture people to death and generally behave like a German prison camp guard. Indeed, a lot of the research into obedience and conformity that took place in the middle decades of the 20th Century is best understood as trying to understand the rise of Nazi Germany and thereby prevent it from ever happening again. The work of Asch, Milgram and Zimbardo may have been lousy and misunderstood science but it was great propaganda as it sold us a vision of humanity as a species wired for obedience and moral cowardice.

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9Jul/156

Minecraft Is About Transcending Minecraft

Gregory Avery-Weir is the developer behind titles such as Looming and Ossuary and wrote the following essay about the role of Minecraft mods in defining what Minecraft is. I asked Avery-Weir if I could repost it here as I thought it was an interesting addendum to "The Minecraft Industrial Revolution."

minecraft-tower-silhouette

I first played Minecraft in 2009 back when it was an Infiniminer clone being developed on the Tigsource forums. It was immediately clear to a bunch of people that it was something special but no one could have guessed what the game would become in just a few years. It may be the most popular game of all time. It’s definitely the most popular game among kids right now. Odd, then, that most of the Minecraft experience is about not playing Minecraft.

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18Jun/153

Wishful Thinking 3

escape-vectors-header

Cross-posted from Escape Vectors (follow on Twitter).

In his regular “Wishful Thinking” column, blogger Durandal muses about games that have been lingering on his list of wants. This time: Walkerman, Abyss Odyssey, StarCrawlers, Serena, The Fifth Day and Avernum: Escape from the Pit.

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27May/150

Wishful Thinking 2

escape-vectors-header

Cross-posted from Escape Vectors (follow on Twitter).

In his regular “Wishful Thinking” column, blogger Durandal muses about games that have been lingering on his list of wants. This time: Drox Operative, Vector Thrust, The Next Penelope: Race to Odysseus, The Plan, Interplanetary and Forced 2: Rush.

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6May/158

Wishful Thinking 1

escape-vectors-header

Cross-posted from Escape Vectors (follow on Twitter).

In his regular “Wishful Thinking” column, blogger Durandal muses about games that have been lingering on his list of wants. This time: Race to Mars, Knytt Underground, J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars, Doorkickers, Desktop Dungeons: Enhanced Edition and UnderRail.

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28Jul/14Off

Talent is Not a Scarce Resource

Game developer Erlend Grefsrud is working on Myriad, an abstract-themed shooter that I wrote about last year. But Grefsrud can also be painfully blunt when it comes to critique so I asked him what he thought of #warningsigns then hid under a blanket. Instead of a bullet point list of disagreements, he offered the following thoughtful response, published with his permission.

darkness-darkness-darkness

Back in 2010, I said we needed tools for the democratization of game development.

Those tools existed already, but many were in denial about it, including me. There were still questions about delivery channels (browser, mobile, console, PC?) since the whole indie thing was really born out of Flash games on Newgrounds and the more hardcore devs sharing stuff written in Allegro or whatever on TIGSource. One dominant model emerged: selling games.

The proof was in the pudding. By then, the first wave of successful indie games had already happened, with straggler Fez quasi-triumphantly emerging on the tail-end. This moment grew persistent thanks to Indie Game: The Movie and endless scribblings about how indies would change games forever.     

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17Jun/14Off

Faltering Faith in Twine’s Teaching

HM is on sabbatical for June and guest writers are filling in for him. This week it’s the turn of Dan Cox, who has previously written for Nightmare Mode and been a strong supporter of Twine. He has authored both a Gamasutra series on Learning Twine and a video tutorial series. He has also figured out how to use Google Drive to host Twine, explained how Twine authors could distribute and sell their work through itch.io and, most recently, been working on getting Twine to work on Ouya.

legoland-buck-palace

In many ways, I’ve come to think of Twine as a religion of sorts as I’ve watched the tool and its greater community grow these last two years. It has its followers, rituals, and customs. It has its saints and celebrities. There are numerous sites and people dedicated to promoting it and, of course, it definitely has its detractors. Yet, if I view my own relationship with Twine in this light, I think I might now describe myself as having lost my faith.

I am no longer comfortable with some of the community practices. I feel that Twine's two core promises, that it doesn’t require programming and is for everyone, have changed. What I once promoted as tenets of the Twine “faith” I no longer believe or celebrate. I’ve increasingly become worried that the Twine community might be headed in the wrong direction.  

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10Jun/14Off

A Girl and Her Chopper: On Goals and Sandboxes

HM is on sabbatical for June and guest writers are filling in for him. This week it’s the turn of Emilie Reed, who wrote the blackly comic twine Duck Ted Bundy and has been published in The Arcade Review. This essay has been cross-posted from her website.

simcopter3

It’s probably 1998 or 1999…ish. My pre-adolescent memory doesn’t care much for dates. Like just about every other evening that week, I’m perched on the big green chair in my dad’s computer room, where he keeps his old engineering textbooks, a filing cabinet full of stuff like our birth certificates, and of course, the family PC. It’s an HP in that ever popular mid 90s computing shade of taupe, which frequently bluescreens and whirrs like an air tunnel. This one is probably our second computer, since there’s a picture of me on the desk next to the monitor. Me: a chubby baby bald as a cue ball and butt-naked, standing up on a metal folding chair to reach the mouse and keyboard of our first PC. That one only played floppies, but now CD-ROMs are the order of the day.  

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