Electron Dance
28Jun/2013

Discussion: Charity Begins At Game

Welcome to the June newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

Many of the 1,700 items were tools (Hex Kit), assets (Kenney Game Assets 1) and PDFs outlining paper-and-pen RPG systems (The Colors of Magic). However, the strangest aspect of the bundle, which was unlikely to fly for any other bundle, was the inclusion of free games.

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  1. “You know you’ve been following games too long when you watch the The Last of Us Part II discourse unfold and can’t wait for people to talk about something else because godddd you’ve heard this conversation so many times.” But, but! BUT! There’s ludonarrative dissonance afoot in a AAA game. We have to talk about it! Do you ever do that thing where everyone else in your house is asleep but you decide to check your news sites to see if there’s anything new that’s important or good or bad going on in the world, and then it’s 2 hours past when you went to bed and you feel sleepy and stupid and terrible about everything? Yeah, me neither. But if that were to happen to me, I might’ve accidentally read through a few LoUPII reviews or think pieces or something, and yeah… I guess I’ll stick to reading about Trump scamming some immigrant coronavirus brexits. Or, I mean I would if I were the kind of person who doesn’t go to bed on time.

    On a related note, no heart for Supraland? John Walker sure raved about it and it was in a recent bundle I got, so I was considering giving it a go. I was trying to find out if it’d be fun/good to play in front of my 3 year old (probably not, right?), and got sucked into some steam forum rabbit hole. Apparently some folks are oh so offended at a bit making fun of locker room talk (politics in videogames, gasp!), and the (German?) developer was in the forums responding with righteous (mild) liberalism. I know that developers are just normal people living and fighting on the internet like the rest of us, but yikes! It was pretty amusing and depressing. What weird wonderful internet. But anyway – is it worth dipping into the time budget to try Supraland?

    On topic: If you ever wanted to pick a few itchbundle games you plan to play and (maybe) write about and encourage us passive responders to play and examine, too, that could be fun.

    Also on topic? I felt a little guilty buying the bundle given the weapons of progress-ness of it all, but I guess that market flooding/devaluation ship had sailed long before this bundle. Still, what a world.

  2. I submitted a free game before the bundle was released because there was a mention of an incident where I was being “racially profiled”. I’m not sure if I would have submitted it after it was launched, because it would have felt like noise…

    I certainly didn’t think it would become so big! I figured that it would be populated by games dealing with social issues, so it was a surprise to see just anything show up. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but I realized that the more exposure, the more money will be raised, and that’s a net positive.

    There is that question of who is actually invested in BLM? And who is just advertising? And who is just buying for the games but is apathetic about BLM (or even opposed to it)? These questions are hardly helpful, in my opinion. Only individuals know their own true intentions.

  3. Not much to add on the itch bundle but I bought it early on when it was 750 or so works and then Hai picked it up near the end when it had more than doubled, so I stuffed in a bit more money with her contribution. Incredible result and there were a crazy amount of games in there that I’d added to my itch watch list. A great many I’d already paid for as well like Quiet as a Stone, Kids, Frog Detective, Haque, Islands.

    Coming back to your previous newsletter about kids gaming, peer pressure and FOMO: my parents were very lax with me and my brother’s gaming habits but we also used to do other stuff and play outdoors A LOT as well, of our own accord. We were fortunate to have grown up with a lot of kids on the street close to a huge former colliery and railway site turned into a long rugged park with cliffs and trees to climb (‘the bankings’ we called it. I think these two things were huge drivers in pulling us away from screens (and we used to do a lot of local MP as kids as well anyway).

    But I do wonder, where you said that Fortnite or whatever is a space for them to hang out, whether that is the modern day equivalent of me and my brother playing on the street and the bankings, out of eye or ear shot of our parents. Where we live now, we’re surrounded by rolling fields, lanes, pathways and twisty woods and we (very sadly on my part) never see kids playing there and I do wonder whether that shared physical space with friends has migrated online, and perhaps mostly importantly: why? Is it the games? Is it the post-Maddy world we live where kids can’t ever play out of eye or ear shot of a parent or guardian? The latter weighs heavily on me because so much of my childhood playing was spent without oversight!

    The sorts of games we played as kids didn’t really have any kind of ongoing ‘measure’ of progress or time sunk aside from how far you’d physically got, a high-score perhaps, or whether you could beat a league or fighter or something. There was no keeping up with the Joneses as such. I will say though that the closest we got to FOMO was visiting a friend’s house and wishing we had a particular game (and possibly the system to play it!) but to be fair that still happens :-)

    We don’t have kids and I do wonder, given my upbringing and hearing the lengths parents go to to vary their kids’ recreational diet (and the resistance/grumbling they appear to get!), how we’d go about it. Hard limitations sound too draconian but at the same time I’d be really upset if my kids had a mono screen-based diet! And forcing them would feel totally wrong as well. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be!

  4. I worried about the Weapons of Progress phenomenon too. Like, am I ever going to buy a game again? I’d bought the 20th Humble Indie “wait they’re still doing these?” Bundle and had got Mutazione from the Epic Games Store and was even playing through and enjoying Mutazione and now My God The Backlog.

    Gregg tell me about Haque! I tried it a bit but can’t get into it too much… I like the writing but it seems like making progress might involve mastering crafting? I find the interface fiddly and got pretty stuck in the tutorial crafting. I have my eye on Midboss as another roguelike in the bundle.

    Besides the click/n/wiggles I talked about in the other thread I played Minit to a conclusion and dug it… somewhat to my surprise… a lot of fairly experimentation seemed required but I guess the gimmick placed a limit on how much experimentation would be possible on any given attempt. Though it also meant you had to start over a lot. A Short Hike we already discussed, it’s good! (Had already played it after getting it from the EGS.)

    Ethereal is also good, I admire the way that it makes everything reversible so you never have to use the undo it doesn’t have BUT there are a couple of places where it’s possible to get things stuck so you have to restart, which is unfortunate. There are some places where it ought to have a snap to grid thing, like everything you do works on the grid (actually this may not be true) but there are places where your movement is not precisely on the grid and you can get stuck a couple of pixels off, which can require some tedious lining things up. I wonder if this is the bug you (Joel) hit where you had to restart a level? I too appreciated the way they handled the ending.

  5. Dan

    Hello! There was a brief period where I started to ponder muting TLoUp2 on Twitter, because boredom. I’ve unfortunately part-read a lot of TLoUp2 reviews of the game recently and feel like this added little to my understanding of videogames. This isn’t to say what I read was bad, but TLoUp2 hasn’t really added much to the critical conversation that you already hadn’t seen in Far Cry 2 (your buddies all have names! what’s the point of it all) or Spec Ops (should you feel bad for killing!?!?). My feelings are summarised with this tweet. On that note, I have been thinking about turning Leon Loves Tetris into a film…

    I’ve been having difficulties. I do have a Twitter thread on Supraland which hasn’t seen an update for awhile. There’s some clever stuff in it but it’s also infuriating, particularly with all the 3D jumping in it. It has millions of secrets and the way certain areas open up is clever. But I can’t say I love it; I play it because the children like to watch it, not because I get a kick out of it. However, it is a bit addictive: once you start, it’s difficult to draw a line and say “okay, I’m done for today”.

    On the bundle, I extracted a list of around 60 titles I was interested in. The only one I’ve actually had a go at is PICO-8. I’d thought about the issue of zero pricing (as I’ve suggested before bundles are a way to reduce prices to sub-dollar levels) but this felt like such an extraordinary situation with games that I dare say many of us wouldn’t have bought anyway… there just wasn’t any economic analysis to be done here. Unless they do this again.

    daniel

    That’s a really interesting perspective. It hadn’t occurred to me that, prior to the bundle’s release, what the bundle would become was rather ambiguous. I guess it might have sounded to some like a themed jam – here are some games that deal with BLM and related issues!

    And on the point of the questions being helpful, at this point I agree. Charity events are used as personal vehicles all the time: while some celebrities use their status to focus attention on a particular issue, others will use charity to better their career. At the end of the day, provided they do a cause no harm, then who really cares. However, there was potential harm from the high influx of free games, particular on the second round. Leaf had to ponder about whether more free games were “diluting” the donation aspect of the bundle – that these developers were making real donations yet could these free games undermine that spirit. If it had been a much larger ratio of free titles, say 90%, then it would quite a different proposition from the current bundle described as “$9,484 of software for $5”.

    Sorry to hear you were “racially profiled”! This was in the videogame world or in your everyday life?

    Gregg

    On the disappearence of children’s physical lives: to be honest, the biggest thing that stops us letting the kids out is not heightened Maddy-type fears but… roads. It seems cars are much faster and more ruthless these days and there are more of them. No one has enough time to drive slowly. The narrow road we used to live on was often used to get from A to B, but it’s a street with lots of families – none of which are comfortable letting their kids play outside because of the maniacs that would drive down the road. We try to get them out all the time, but it’s rarely been on their own devices. We live on a cul-de-sac now, so it feels safer to let them out onto the street.

    The monogames that eat up kids’ attention, though, it really bothers me. I’ve had more observations and thoughts since I wrote that newsletter about Fortnite, but I didn’t want to turn every one of my newsletters into Gaming With Children :)

    My daughter has completely dropped Roblox, though. No, now it’s 100% Animal Crossing…

    Matt

    I grab every free game on the store. That’s what I do. Week after week. Free Game. “BUY”. Even if I have it already. The number of games just keep growing and I’ve given up on “completing everything I own”. This is more about just having games in my library just in case one day I decide to play them. I don’t know why I grabbed Stranger Things 3: The Game, though.

    I just realised I also have A Short Hike from EGS! I didn’t need it from the bundle at all…

    I was playing Minit on mobile some months back but I quit it, drove me mad. I found the controls a nightmare, especially when I had to do a LOT of before I died. It’s still there on my phone, quietly graveyarded.

    Ethereal: yes, the pixelly is a bit of a pain at times. This wasn’t specifically the problem I had with the restart. When I committed a rotate, I realised it led to a dead end of moves; when I tried to undo the rotate, it wouldn’t complete the reverse-rotation, because it led to piece overlap. Basically, the tolerance going into the rotate was less sensitive than the tolerance going the other way. I couldn’t fix it because the piece that was just out of alignment was on the other side of the rotation.

  6. “I have been thinking about turning Leon Loves Tetris into a film…”

    Took me a second to remember what kinds of film you make, and I was thinking of a sequel with Jean Reno playing videogames for 90 minutes. Would watch.

    I stopped grabbing every free game from the EGS… well, I guess after two games, when I realized I had never downloaded the second one even though I was kind of interested in it? (First was The Witness.) Also many of them are incompatible with my riding-the-ragged-edge-of-my-hard-drive-capacity lifestyle, like I think they had some Witcher game or something which was like 15 GB of disk space? Neeeeever going to happen. And some of them are plain incompatible with my Mac. Anyway we have all been permanently freed from the concept of completing whatever we own, good heavens.

    It sounds like you did get bitten by the pixelly! At least, one of the frequent problems I had was that I moved something two pixels too far to be compatible with the rotation and I had to spend some time adjusting it, and it sounds like you managed to do that in a way that you got stuck. I think at least once I doofed myself out of a solution to That One Level because I thought a rotation was impossible in a situation when I was just off by a pixel. One of the things about the way the game drives you through it, with a lot of things that you can figure out by experimentation, is that I was never able to verbalize the rules for which way the rotations would happen.

    Anyway one restart happened because of pixelness (I didn’t pull a bar far enough, and the game thought I could slide through it but not back), and another time I did something a bit complicated with a black square that I can’t reproduce because the “level select” is just something where you go through on rails except for a couple things that can be done in either order, and there’s no way I can go through enough of the game to remember which bit I did this in. In fact, after playing it twice I realized that there’s no reason for me to keep it on my drive–I’m starting at the beginning whether I redownload it or not! And I need that quarter-gigabyte of disk space. So it’s off the the Monuments. (For those who haven’t played, this is a positive review.)

    Minit does seem like it’d be awful on mobile. From screenshots it seems like you have a virtual D-pad? Gross. Also it’s paradoxically unsuited to bite-size play, I suspect, if you don’t play for a little bit at a time you won’t remember what you were trying to do the time before–I didn’t make any progress most minits. Also it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea!

  7. WitchWay is in the bundle, right? That’s a good game that can be finished in an afternoon.

    I stopped grabbing EGS games; my backlog has become something I actively resent and I worry it’s hurting my relationship with gaming in general. I feel a pressure to rush through and start chafing right away if a game doesn’t grab me, which is a problem when a lot of games are still really bad at easing you into them – lots of systems and inputs to learn, and a lot of proper nouns and other lumps of world building to swallow. I’m sure I was less of a fidget when a game represented a significant expense.

  8. Bundles and free games: You don’t have to claim games you’ll never play. With Humble Bundles, most of the time you can gift keys for games you don’t want.

    Backlogs: I categorize my games by Longform (games that will take more than one session of play), One Session, and Pickup (things like infinite runners, roguelikelikes, etc). Some games seem better for certain seasons, so that helps me decide what to play as well.

    Ethereal: It’s incredible despite the fact that there’s one puzzle that I just cannot complete even after 5+ sessions of attempts.

    @Gregg B: My experience growing up in the ’90s/early ’00s: I’m very introverted and prefer inside activities. Instead of making me play outside, my mom signed me up for team sports. I think kids are pushed into a more regimented type of physical activity. Can’t say for sure because I’m not a parent.

    @Joel: IRL. I stick to inclusive spaces in the video game world (namely Glorious Trainwrecks/altgames crowd). I’m fortunate to not care for AAA titles.

  9. @mattw I’ve only played the Haque tutorial and I too had reservations about the crafting menu! I feel like I lost an item or something from an innocent misclick. Ended up playing the tutorial again to try and reproduce it but wasn’t entirely sure what I’d done. The confusion did chuck a bucket of cold water over my first dabble though! Will keep you updated as and when I next fire it up.

    @Joel: ah, that’s something I’d not considered and makes a lot of sense! I’ll add that to my brain pot to stew on.

    Animal Crossing: New Horizons… my big fear following the 10 minutes I put into Pocket Camp before swiftly uninstalling it was that Nintendo would embrace the crafting grind for their next full fat Animal Crossing and… sure enough, they did. The focus shifted from the sometimes amusing and bite-sized play sessions of Wild World and New Leaf to recipes and Nook Miles and resource gathering and lots and lots of crafting. Animal Crossing’s UI/UX has always been a bit cumbersome too, and with crafting that really comes to a point, a point that burst my bubble.

    In Wild World and New Leaf if you played for too long, villagers would tell you to take a break or if you started playing at night they’d be all ‘Whoa Gregg, you’re burning the candle at both ends!’ The spirit of the game felt a lot more laid back and… I dunno, considerate? The game didn’t want you playing for hours a day. I think with New Horizons you’ve got a two pronged problem: the drawn out crafting loops and never-ending Nook Miles nag (with no ‘take a break’ comments) coupled with a social media that shows the extremes you can take your island if you just put in enough hours/days/weeks. All that is exhausting to me and I wanted a simpler experience. Perhaps even simpler than Wild World and New Leaf these days! Thankfully A Short Hike exists for that and that’s exactly why I loved it, in all its short sweetness.

    How do you feel about Roblox vs Animal Crossing?

    And despite itch bundles, EGS giveaways and my ever-expanding library of amazing new games, I go and buy Thief: Gold and The Metal Age and download The Dark Mod to play fan missions. Sigh. Follow your heart! Or something!

  10. Daniel: Sorry to hear about your real-world experiences. I’m glad that you are able to find inclusive spaces in the gaming world and also that you seem to have a *very* healthy approach to managing playing the games you want to!

    I… do not, have a lot of fear of missing out on things that I know I will like (again, I was really enjoying Mutazione! and will get back to it sometime. And then maybe I will finally finish Kentucky Route Zero though taking several years between chapters seems like part of the authentic experience! Also I want to mention that I have been hip to this stuff since A House In California. Also that AFAIK none of it is in any of the bundles we are discussing.)

    Anyway I was going to say that I have barely been playing for the last week but that’s a damned lie, I played lots of Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime with my kids and also some GNOG (some with kid, some without) and replayed Windosill with kid and anyway what has cut into my game time has been that for some reason I got into reading the SCP Foundation again, including a couple entries that were actually games.

    So from Carl Muckenhoupt’s writeup of the Yottabundle: “Adjacency: One of those abstract puzzle games with soothing ambient music. Simple mechanics, but gets very tricky (in ways other than increasing the number of parts).” That is right in our wheelhouse, is it not? The basic idea is that you have colored shapes, and when you click on one the color expands to adjacent shapes, and you have to fill in all the shapes with certain colors. It sounds like Lights Out but it doesn’t really feel like it! A lot of the time you are trying to tuck one color safely in a spot where you can expand another past it without wiping it out (wiping a color out is a loss state). Also there are more mechanics! There’s a thing where you get a star for taking the minimum number of moves which is Not My Thing At All, but it’s reasonably engaging… not sure if I have a final verdict yet.

  11. Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime is a great co-op game! Need to get round to GNOG, it looks lovely and my kind of thing.

  12. Random responses because honestly my brain is jelly after a long-ass week. The Brain is Jelly no Puzzle.

    EGS The Free: I grab every free game pumped out of EGS just in case. If there’s an urgent reason to check something out or get some footage, it saves time and money down the road. And, thankfully, with Playnite, I can just type a name in to know if a title I want to play is amongst the hordes. There have been times I bought a second copy of a game not realising… I already had it. The downside is that all my manual downloads are not catalogued very well. I have a big drive full of game downloads that have never been installed. Everything from Paratopic, to Six Gun Saga to The Desolate Hope to Tacoma.

    The Pressure To Complete I lost the pressure to “complete the backlog” a long time ago. It was over once the market began to flood with games. Around 2010, I felt like I could keep up with the cool games. I assumed, at the beginning, that it was gaining children that impacted my attempts to Stay Up To Date. It wasn’t. Everybody has the same problem.

    This basically means I don’t have much yen for “working through the itch bundle” and finding the gems.

    Minit: yes it had a virtual D-pad which meant my fingers kept slipping further and further across the screen, eventually off the D-pad costing intense seconds I didn’t have to waste…

    Stuck on Ethereal: Daniel, is that the last set of levels? Those were the only ones I found genuinely difficult.

    Backlog Categorization: Organising by length would be really useful! I’m never quite sure what the length of a game is. Some tell me Outer Wilds is a short bite of a game but I have spent hours and hours in there. I’ve played Outer Wilds longer than Bioshock Infinite and it’s still not finished.

    Animal Crossing: I was planning to respond at length about Animal Crossing but I’m so fricking tired and it might be better as a seed of a discussion another day than to get into it down here in the comments. (You wouldn’t believe I had a long weekend off a couple of weeks ago – four days in a row – but the long hours right now makes that feel so, so long ago.)

  13. HM: Nope, I’m only 34% through the game. There are many, many puzzle games where I just cannot figure it out. It’s this one: https://imgur.com/a/8cCHw4l

    I’ve done everything I’ve possibly can, even the offscreen section… well, everything, that is, besides the solution.


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