Discussion: Missing Moments
From this month’s newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):
I am troubled that my own play style means I am rarely able to indulge a game when it is hot and I’ll miss out on something. Even a small thing, like how I’ll never understand how truly different the launch version was to the much-patched version now on Steam.
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10 thoughts on “Discussion: Missing Moments”
Do American sitcoms seem as alien to British people as British sitcoms seem to Americans? I feel pretty BBC-conversant for an American–I was on Life on Mars years before everyone else because I was looking on IMDb one day and said “Holy hell, this show has John Simm and Philip Glenister”–but I cannot with those promo images. And I think, well, what does everyone else think of the fifty-seven indistinguishable shows about a schlubby balding guy with an unrealistically attractive wife? I swear at one point there was a network whose entire Tuesday lineup was schlubby balding guy with unrealistically attractive wife shows. (No offense intended to schlubby balding guys, among whom I may somewhat count myself.)
Anyway I will say that as far as missing out goes, it is better to encounter Cthulhu through his pop cultural goofball incarnations than through HP Lovecraft, because Lovecraft while Innovative and Important is also definitely Of His Time, by which I’m not even referring to the racism but to The Thing On The Doorstep and its chilling climactic line “glub . . . glub . . . glub; glub-glub . . . glub-glub.” (I do stan pretty hard for The Rats in the Walls, racism aside, partly because it actually describes the horrors that they see rather than leaving them Too Terrible To Name which is pretty chilling in the first three ghost stories you read but thoroughly old hat by the fiftieth. Undescribed horrors are all alike, every described horror is described in its own way.)
Matt, I’d say not alien, because we’re used to them, but weirdly almost-but-not-quite-foreign. These people speak English, but it’s the parallel universe seen in the movies. Weird, old, stiff, grimy British sit-coms aren’t exactly my real world either, but maybe they were closer 50 years ago.
I didn’t really have a response to the newsletter Joel, other than to say, “agreed” and to comment on how much I enjoy that it is a newsletter. It’s not a notification to check out your blog, it’s a gosh darn newsletter that gets delivered to me and that always raises a smile, in and of itself.
I closed yer tag and deleted yer whoops comment. Love your “John Simm and Philip Glenister” line. I actually came to Life on Mars late for a Britisher but could not get to grips with its sequel Ashes to Ashes.
British sitcoms are a funny thing. I find them, on the whole, kind of forgettable. I ridiculously went through 40 minutes of YouTube clips looking for something decent to represent Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and most of what I had once found hilarious just felt flat now. Times moved on? I’ve moved on? I don’t even find the brilliant Father Ted as laugh-inducing as I once did although I still have a hankering to rewatch a slice of Blackadder. I don’t really much domestic TV these days any how, although I did enjoy the short-lived sitcom Vicious which was worth it for some of the putdowns between Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi. One of the biggest sitcoms here of recent times is something critics like to hate: Mrs. Brown’s Boys It’s not my cup of whisked cream, but live and let live.
And, you know, as I was writing the newsletter – with the clock ticking down to UK midnight, I actually got it sent out less than a minute left in May – I knew my Cthulhu example was, er, tricky. I guess what I *really* wanted to convey is how Cthulhu is practically part of pop culture, a wacky image to that’s fun to stick in your game; when I grew up, it was impossible to encoutner Lovercraftian ideas divorced from the original context- giant, uncaring universe, cosmic knowledge that begets madness, Things That Should Not Be Seen. Now Cthulhu is just this guy, you know? I couldn’t quite make this point snappy (I was going off-piste with that note) and just fell back on Lovecraft as uber text which, frankly, is an argument with more holes a golf course. Lovecraft is not perfect; what we really appreciate is particular strain of horror he developed.
Thank you Mr. B. I actually didn’t have a clue what to put into the newsletter this month and went through the giant bag of “as-yet unwritten Electron Dance ideas”. This one was pulled from 2013!
I’m wondering what elicited the newsletter, because this seems to have come pretty soon after the announcement that Demon’s Souls are shutting the server down? Having never played the Souls games (GASP HERETIC) I was always planning to come back to them at some point. This news has made me realise there may be a time limit on that. But then, wasn’t there always? There must have been a moment when it was A Good Time to get into each game because the community was thriving, and those times are probably mostly gone now. Bah, I prefer single player anyway.
Incidentally, for most of my time growing up I was about 2-3 years behind the curve for game releases because it took that long for a decent machine to become affordable to me. So the idea that you could just wait a bit and pick it up later (or, these days, in a sale) is baked into my gaming economy.
But now that I’m more in touch with the Gaming Zeitgeist Hivemind, I’m feeling the pressure of time more and more. I mean, if I hadn’t played The Witness by this point, would there be any point? I feel like there’s no point in playing Gone Home now because I’ve already played Firewatch and, you know, those ideas have been iterated on quite a lot since that game came out. I wind up partitioning my gaming into “stuff I should play for the game design” and “stuff I want to play because I still really like them”. So that’s why I played Virginia last month and will never go back to it because it has been Consumed, but I’m thinking about installing a bunch of old games from about 2002 because nostalgia and hey, I just sort of want to play them.
I didn’t have any immediate ideas so flipped through the Electron Dance idea bank for something I could do something with. If there was anything that drove me to use this particular idea that I sketched it out in 2013, it was recent experiences with Asemblance: Oversight. I’d forgotten they’d turned off the Demon’s Souls servers recently which, er, would have been a better example than Dark Souls which just got a boost from the remaster :/
I have a ton of old games in my library, some were acquired as “press keys” and others as bargains. Some of these games I feel it is my duty to try because they are well-known touchstones or important for other reasons. I also like playing with games which haven’t quite had their moment in the sun. I’m doing Cultist Simulator *right now* for some reason which is an astonishing time sink. The funny thing is that it’s the kind of game I don’t know I want to talk to others about because the heart of the game is Starseed Pilgrim. (Totally turning up in this month’s stream.)
The only time when I play for “fun”, these days, is when I play with the children or if a game has really grabbed me. Most of the time it feels like lab work, research for words. Fun is an accidental by-product of the process. Side by Side, for example, is a ton of work, but when Gregg and I are trying out titles, the mask slips and we’re having a good time. It’s frustrating that “the job” forces us to move on to another title.
I think “missing the moment” is more important for people who write about games, less so the ordinary player, because I enjoyed Dead Space a good while after it came about. If you’re behind the curve and not following the latest developments, you might still play games in “chronological order” and thus still enjoy the progression from initial idea to improved iterations.
I’m also deep in CS right now, but this is explained by me 1) backing the Kickstarter and getting it through Early Access, so I have a bit of a leg up on you right now and 2) Alexis Kennedy is mentoring me so, you know, it would be weird if I didn’t. What I will say is that I kiiiind of got Starseed Pilgrim, but not really? It was a bit fiddly for me. Whereas for some reason my brain is more attuned to the arrange-play-pause flow of CS, perhaps because I’ve been playing Crusader Kings for years now and it’s also the basic flow of that game too. What that means in practice is that CS is “my” version of Starseed Pilgrim: same basic idea but one I can play and greatly enjoy.
Shame that you don’t have enough time to just let yourself have fun, but hey, capitalism amirite? It’s interesting that you have a lot of fun with other people, though; back when Andy and I were doing the podcast we found that playing the games was ok, I guess, but chatting about them afterwards was 100x more fun anyway.
I think, James, that’s the first time I’ve heard confirmation that the podcast is an ex-podcast. I am curious but been too polite to ask how you got AK as a Mentor.
It’s totes okay round these parts if you’re not into Starseed Pilgrim. You won’t lose your comment license or nowt. But CultSim is definitely along the same lines, it’s a “discoverable system” as droqen would call it. (I have never played Crusader Kings II.)
Tangentially on the games/talking angle: I always worry that when translating game experiences into words there always exists temptation to build it into something greater than it really is (see Jim Stirling on art games :)) It’s a fine line but I’ve definitely read my fill of hype!
Yes, we’ve let the podcast lie fallow. At first we were just going to rename and do a mini-relaunch because “Twenty dollar gaming” made it sound like a budget podcast or something and we were more interested in the talky culture whatsits. So we came up with a new name and then we were just waiting on a friend to get round to doing the art, and that never worked out, and by the time we looked round and realised we should do something if we wanted the podcast to survive we were both knee-deep in other stuff and it didn’t really fit in our schedules any more. I’d still really like to go back to it but bleh, such is life.
The short answer is “twitter”, of all things. I happened to post a super secret alpha of Spinnortality online, because Alpha Beta Gamer (a site that was willing to do a writeup) have a policy that all games featured must have playable betas. Or alphas. Whatever. So I uploaded the build and told nobody about it but still got some good feedback from the ABG readers. I also followed Alexis and commented on one of his tweets, and he messaged me back saying “Thanks, oh and also that reminds me, I’ve been meaning to write to you about Spinnortality because I played it and accidentally sunk three hours into it.” He was looking into other management/interface heavy games and was thinking about how to inject them with life when they’re so, you know, static. And he just sort of gently prodded me with questions like “So what are your longterm plans?” and “have you thought about crowdfunding?”, my answers being “well I guess I’ll sell it” and “no”, but they slowly morphed into “Wait I can do that?” and “Ok this is a real thing now.”
It also helps that Alexis has always been roughly 3 months ahead of me in the Kickstarter dev lifecycle: he did his kickstarter a few months before me, pushed out early access content before me, did a launch trailer 3 months before I plan to do mine, and he’s just launched CS three months before my planned release date. Which means I can basically just cheat and do whatever he did three months ago. Not planned that way but by golly is that ever a big advantage.
I’m now wondering if CK2 fits into the SP/CS mould. I guess they’re similar, but I always felt like with CK I was sort of expected to know everything at once. CS and SP at least know that you won’t get it all on the first try, hence baking roguelike elements in I guess (ie. each game/round is quite quick). In CK, when I started failing I would enter a slow death spiral; in CS I just die and start over. Which makes me wonder, is permadeath/short game time important for these types of games?
Yeah, I think that is absolutely right. BUT, on the other hand, there are some incredible bits of writing that could not exist without really amazing games behind them. Quintin Smith’s writeup of Pathologic comes to mind – a massive essay on the game which to me felt more like reading Diary of the Plague Year than an RPS article. But then, Pathologic is a genuinely incredible game (if hard and confusing). And I remember a piece that came out a few years ago, which said that sometimes the game is not the artefact you play, it’s the idea that is communicated? That by reading an article about a certain game, and understanding from that article how it works, you’ve kind of played the game already? I think it’s theoretically and academically wrong but practically pretty right in some cases? Hm.
In my long comment I forgot to mention that when I saw there was a DM from ALEXIS FUCKING KENNEDY who wrote FALLEN GODDAM LONDON in my inbox my eyes bulged like a toad’s and I shrieked in a kind of ecstatic, confused delirium.
I’m a bit of a fan. It was a bit of a shock.
Hah, I can imagine, James. I’ve had a few moments like that where my brain is like “act normal act normal just fucking act normal” as if I’m on a hot date but NO it’s just someone who made a game I like. I don’t how the hell I got through all those interviews of my Atari programming superheroes back in 2011 without experiencing mental meltdown. But no, that is pretty cool. I’m very happy for the two of you *sniff* does he know you abandoned my comments for *HIM*
I’m really enjoying Cultist Simulator but I’m going to write something quite ambivalent about it, probably next week (no Ouroboros). But playing this really makes me hanker after the old roguelikes where you have to go through death repeatedly to become a master of the game’s systems. But dying on level 16 to try the Scroll of Will Kill You Honest to see if it really will kill you or do something else, jesus no one wants to die on level 16.
I still haven’t played Pathologic. Play the old version? The remaster? The remake? GAAHHH Anyway, yes, I don’t want to beat down writing, it’s just that temptation sometimes to let the writing go places that the game didn’t actually, I always feel it. Sometimes the words are loosed upon the world and I have to delete them down lest write about an imaginary game.
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