trenchant.org

by adam mathes

Video Game Consumption, Q1 2016

SUPERHOT

A deceptively simple mechanic (time moves when you do) that is taken to genius levels with incredibly precise and fun gameplay, a slick and beautiful aesthetic.

I’ve unlocked like everything in this game and I’m both proud and ashamed of that.

KATANAONLY mode is impeccable and Would Play Again.

★★★★★

American Truck Simulator

ATS is a meditative experience.

What is the American Dream? What does it mean to drive? Is the open road an illusion?

What is driving, even in a world that will soon be awash in Ubers and automated drones and cars.

Why am I in virtual Bakersfield?

I turned off all the cops so I could drive as fast as I wanted and strapped into my Oculus Rift DK2 and it’s like, whoa.

★★★★

Firewatch

A first person interactive dramatic experience thing with an emphasis on conversation and a drop dead gorgeous cel shaded-ish/cartoonish aesthetic?

I should be all over this shit and yet I was totally not into it.

  1. I thought the story was boring
  2. I wanted open world adventure and exploration and got something that felt like it was on rails

Wish I liked this as much as I had hoped I would but left feeling empty and bored.

The Witness

A game where you solve constraint satisfaction problems by hand in order to unlock pretentious segments of 30 year old videos.

There’s a cool boat you can eventually unlock, but it’s stuck on rails.

Wish I could have just gone sailing instead.

Maybe if I spent another 100 hours unlocking things and uncovering “deeper secrets” of the island I’d have liked it more at the expense of hating myself? I don’t know.

I’m glad I spent the money on this game because I want to support art and auteurs in video games and Jon Blow is one of them, but this game seemed like anti-fun much of the time, like being lectured by a college freshman who just finished reading their first Nietzche assignment and I’m like, dude, shut up, there is no amount of drugs that will make this conversation fun.

I felt like I was grinding instead of exploring and learning.

★★

Life is Strange

Beautiful, emotional, and with an attention to detail in characters, moments, and cinematography rarely seen in video games Life is Strange had me in tears at the end.

Episodic gameplay and forced cliffhangers made some of it a bit uneven, but overall a huge triumph in storytelling and experiential gameplay.

Maybe I’m getting old, but I felt it was some of the most authentic displays of the challenges, weirdness, and emotionally wrenching existence of youth ever put into video games.

★★★★

36

I forgot to post on my birthday.

You probably forgot too.

Darmok and Jalad at Giphy

The increase of meme-based communication, reaction gifs, and cultural knowledge necessary to understand anything on social media makes it all start to sound Tamarian to me.

(I guess that episode was also about being old and away from the cultural moment.)

I’m no different, my references are just from different decades.

Fifteen

trenchant daily turns 15 today.

Thanks, trenchant daily, and its readers, for existing.

2015 in Gaming

I put together an overpowered gaming PC at the start of 2015 and got back into PC gaming (particularly FPS’s) big time. It was fun!

I missed doing this in 2014 (and barely played anything in 2014) and I’m a month late doing it for 2015 but whatever, here we go!

Highly Recommended

Dropsy

My game of the year 2015. Dropsy is a wordless point and click adventure game. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and magical and everything that we used to wish adventure games would turn into.

Cradle

This first-person sci-fi transhumanist adventure is one of the most memorable gaming experiences I’ve had in years. The small world it creates is so haunting, interesting, and beautiful.

It’s flawed - clearly had some gameplay issues and design decisions that weren’t great, the skippable mini-game thing in particular is awful. But it’s so daring and different than anything else - wish it had gotten more attention. One of the best and most beautiful experiences I’ve had in gaming.

Grand Theft Auto V

I’m not a big GTA or Rockstar fan but loved this game. “Did Somebody Say Yoga” is one of favorite moments in gaming.

Her Story

Loved everything about this, from the attention to detail in the interface, to the acting, writing, unique gameplay. And don’t worry, even people who don’t have a weird predilection to loving mediocre or obscure retro-FMV games think it’s good.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Basically great. It’s great. I mean it’s dumb and great. Tight gameplay, and given the expectation for writing for a Wolfenstein game, was actually not bad there either. The half assed stealth elements were garbage, need to play it by blowing shit up and it’s great.

Beast Boxing Turbo

Takes everything I nostalgically think I love about Mike Tyson’s Punch-out, makes them better, more charming, and has super great art and gameplay.

Axiom Verge

Surprising depth, innovation, and fun in this Metroidvania. Clearly is a love letter to Metroid but feels accessible, sharp, modern and stands on its own.

Ultra Street Fighter IV

I got back into Street Fighter this year, and man, it’s still so much fun.

Also I’m coming to accept that I am better on a keyboard than stick or pad due to years playing weird emulated fighting games over the past 20 years.

Divekick

Divekick is esports!

2 buttons is all you need.

Far Cry 4

Far Cry games never let me down, and actually seem to just keep getting better. Over the top crazy fun, tight gameplay, and killer graphics, the most fun I had when I initially set up my new gaming PC.

Semi-Recommended

FPS’s I played because I wanted to use my 21:9 monitor but were all mediocre / forgettable:

Weirdly I didn’t think any of the CODs I had missed over the past few years were good. I had high hopes for Black Ops 3 since I love Black Ops 1 and 2 but was pretty meh on this one.

Injustice: Gods Among us Ultimate Edition - turns out I like the comics better? I still just don’t get Mortal Kombat style gameplay. It’s kind of fun?

The Typing of the Dead: Overkill House of the Dead: Overkill on Wii is amazingly fun, this fell flat to me, but still basically any Typing of the Dead game is a good game.

Not Recommended / Abandoned

  • The Beginners Guide - high concept but didn’t connect with me emotionally at all
  • Batman Arkham Origins - the worst Arkham game?
  • Mind: Path to Thalamus: beautiful but didn’t enjoy the writing, gameplay, and felt the whole thing was incomprehensible.
  • Drunken Robot Pornography - difficulty spikes
  • Lichdom: Battlemage - not fun
  • TRI: Of Friendship and Madness - dizzying
  • Alien Isolation - way, way WAY too hard
  • In Verbis Virtus - cool voice mechanic to use spells but got annoying quickly

Episode 7

I saw The Force Awakens.

What I believe is canonical in Star Wars as of now:

  • Episode IV
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special
  • Episode V
  • First act of Episode VI
  • Kyle Katarn & Mara Jade
  • Episode VII

I enjoyed it. It was designed for me to enjoy it. I don’t know whether that makes it more less authentically enjoyable.

Everything is fan fiction now.

The Medium Is Unfortunately The Message

“You can’t expect them to read books!

You have to communicate with them in a medium that plays to their shortened attention span and need for instant gratification at the expense of any real depth — like an animated gif, TED Talk, or strings of emoji.”

Experience Based Economy

And yet, despite the odd food-court fisticuffs, the US shopping day was relatively slow. Much of this, of course, can be attributed to shoppers taking their business online, but it seems a greater movement is afoot. Even—or perhaps especially—post-recession, a bargain is no longer enough. Our values have shifted. For more than a year now, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a guide to de-cluttering one’s life, has sat on the New York Times best—seller list. Even the clothes-horses among us have embraced systems to limit our consumption and work with what we have. Some even enlist the help of psychologists.

Jenni Avins, For many people this Black Friday, a bargain was no longer enough

Feels

The entire point is how these purchases make you feel, and it’s that feeling, whether it be an appreciation for craftsmanship, status, or simply being pampered, that provides the sort of differentiation that makes all of these products profitable.

Ben Thompson, Selling Feelings

Power Animal

You’re going deeper into your cave.

And you’re going to find your power animal…

dislike

Now the only authentic way to fav something on Twitter is to delete your account.

Other Waters

On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow.

· · ·

No movie will ever be our childhood memories of Star Wars.

Intention vs. Attention

We experience the externalities of the attention economy in little drips, so we tend to describe them with words of mild bemusement like “annoying” or “distracting.” But this is a grave misreading of their nature. In the short term, distractions can keep us from doing the things we want to do. In the longer term, however, they can accumulate and keep us from living the lives we want to live, or, even worse, undermine our capacities for reflection and self-regulation, making it harder, in the words of Harry Frankfurt, to “want what we want to want.” Thus there are deep ethical implications lurking here for freedom, wellbeing, and even the integrity of the self.

· · ·

Your technologies, on the other hand, are trying to maximize goals like “Time on Site,” “Number of Video Views,” “Number of Pageviews,” and so on. Hence clickbait, hence auto-playing videos, hence avalanches of notifications. Your time is scarce, and your technologies know it. But these design goals are petty and perverse. They don’t recognize our humanity because they don’t bother to ask about it in the first place.

James Williams, Why It’s OK to Block Ads