Category: Blog

Deeds, or, Hofmeier Destroys Everything

When I met Richard Hofmeier at Indiecade East in February, literally the first thing he asked me was whether I had a Sharpie on me. Given my shabbiness, the seven piercings distributed around my ears, and the haze in my eyes, I was the most logical candidate, but unfortunately, I hadn’t planned on doing any graffiti that day.

I asked him what he needed the Sharpie for and he pointed to the little sign that the Indiecade people had set up. The branding of all of the Indiecade materials was in this weird, garish, glitchy rainbow color scheme, which seemed to fit perfectly for what Indiecade East was–a gathering of New York Hipsters into games, a convention wonderfully, delightfully, olfactorily free of the awful geeks and nerds that populated PAX East when I accidentally went to it last year. Surrounding Cart Life by Richard Hofmeier was a border of the rainbow stuff. “I wanted to black it out,” he said. “I thought it would match the game better.”

Ken Levine Does Not Need Your Money. Play Waking Mars Instead.

I spent twelve-to-fifteen hours on Bioshock Infinite last week and, sad to say folks, it’s a whole bunch of bullshit. It’s generic, bang-bang-pow shoot shoot with an irritating, faux philosophical, pretentious abomination of a storyline which wants to be about seventy different things at once because it’s a Ken Levine game and Ken Levine is our Orson Welles. Well. At least Levine is pretty.

Because I want to dance the Tarantella on Bioshock Infinite’s fucking face because of how insulted I was by that game, I’m going to have to play it again–probably on easy mode and fuck the sidequests this time–and take copious notes. Having spent a week violently shooting hundreds of sane if ideologically-troubled people in the head, I kind of need a couple of days to lick my soul. IndieGameStand to the rescue; its current game is Waking Mars. I’m a sucker for shit with “Mars” in the title, particularly if it leads to Martians, and it’s IndieGameStand so I could pay what I want, so I gave One American Dollar to the game.

Die Anstalt

It’s been ages since I’ve played this one! Back in college I worked for my school’s library, which consisted mostly of fucking around on the internet and goofing off. We had some epic Zuma championships. I showed Die Anstalt to someone and it spread like wildfire through the library staff.

Essentially, the game is Life or Death but dealing not with medical issues but with psychological issues in stuffed animals. Each of these li’l guys has some kind of deep-seated Freudian trauma and you’ve got to cure them by prescribing certain therapies. It’s adorable as hell, especially when you start to uncover what’s troubling them. They add new ones every so often–if I remember correctly when we started it was just a crock and a lamb and then they added the hippo; the roster has since doubled in size. 

I think this technically counts as an advergame because you can buy toys of all of the patients–we all would have bought one or two if they weren’t expensive as hell. I prefer to play Die Anstalt in its original German because it sounds super dour and hilarious. Freudian psychology is great fun on its own–applying it to stuffed toys that haven’t been hugged properly is great times.

10 Hours on Columbia

–Maybe I missed a memo but I didn’t realize we’d decided we wanted no control over saving our games any more. Look, I fucking love autosave. That business is something I don’t really care to think about all of the time; I love games with frequent checkpoints–I don’t miss the old gamess where you’d lose a shitload of progress if you were just feeling cocky and didn’t want to spend the time that it took to save to the memory card–or, God forbid, where you had to start over from the very beginning after losing three lives because the designers were too much of a dicks to give you any continues. I don’t really care to break up the action by having to save, and most games nowadays are very good at checkpointing you frequently.

But for fuck’s sake, please give me the “I want to quit for the evening” option. Fucking Dark Souls gave us the “I want to quit for the evening” option. I play videogames at night, usually while pretty stoned, and I’m a very explorey player. After I’ve finished a battle in Infinite, I want to poke around the corners and see what’s around. The game’s rewarding enough with that–it’s got enough stuff, both ludic and aesthetic, hidden in the crevices that it’s worth spending some time bumming around, but it’s finite and useful enough that you’re not dealing with the Skyrim problem of three billion containers with three billion items in three billion separate categories, half of which are completely useless. (Still: I’m tired of looting corpses, eating oranges, and other stuff like that in battle. I get that all health is an abstraction, but it’s really uncanny valley difficult  to reconcile the realism of the plot with the abstraction of looting corpses and applying bandaids in the middle of combat. I guess I’m saying that Gears of War style is actually kind of awesome?)  

It’s at this point, in the middle of dealing with all of these nooks and crannies, that I realize it’s past 11 and I’m passing out. I could explore this place for another ten minutes but I just want to brush my teeth and go to bed. If the game would let me “save and quit” at this point, I could just do that. But it doesn’t because fuck you that’s why. And so I either have to rush the exploration and try to get to the next checkpoint–and I’m sleepy enough that I’m probably gonna miss stuff–or I have to quit and do that whole fight again.
I have a 250 gig hard drive. Many people are playing this on PC. THERE IS NO FUCKING REASON TO LIMIT OUR SAVE GAMES. IT IS 2013.

6 Hours on Columbia

Most of the people I’ve been talking to have been looking forward to Bioshock Infinite with an almost academic detachment. Most likely, the consensus was, Infinite will be a Fine Game, but it won’t be the artistic masterpiece it desperately hopes it’ll be. It’ll be a way to kill some hours and we’ll all get a few articles out of it, but it won’t change our lives.

I’m one of those who LIKED Bioshock–but never saw why it was SO much of a deal. I felt the game’s initial promise of a terrifying experience–that bit in the bathysphere when the splicer is trying to cut it open is among one of the most defenseless moments I’ve ever had in a game and I love it–fell to just being a stylish pew pew game once you started gettign guns, and let’s face it, Big Daddies just got to be a chore after a while.

I ignore pretty much everything in the way of previews because, come on, I’ll play the fucking thing eventually and I don’t need to know everything about a game before I play it. Come on. So I went in knowing “Columbia”, “city in the sky”, “America”, and “there’s a chick”.

I’m about six hours in so far. Here’s what’s striking me:

DmC: First Impressions

I am No Fan of the Devil May Cry series–when the first one came out, I wasn’t really into brawly action games and did terribly with it and ignored the rest of the series. When I got into brawly action games with Bayonetta and Lords of Shadow, Devil May Cry had more or less been so outclassed when I revisited it that I totally lost interest in the series. It’s one of those series that finds its mythology interesting, I think, and as someone who doesn’t give a crap about the familial relationships here, I’m not looking forward to playing more recent and more refined incarnations.

But DmC is a reboot and I liked the demo and I have Gamefly so why not. My hope was to have the game on Friday–it was mailed out on Wednesday, sez Gamefly–and play it leisurely through the weekend, through Monday, through Tuesday if necessary, and then receive my copy of Bioshock Infinite and just play the shit out of that. But between the crack staff at the Bed Stuy Post Office and Gamefly’s own incompetence–I’m not particularly thrilled with their service–I didn’t get it till yesterday and only had about an hour of play time. I’ve been told the game is beatable in a few hours if I try hard enough–but I just don’t really feel like marathoning it. I’ve tried to and it just doesn’t seem to support that flow.

Anna Anthropy’s Triad: A Review

“You wanna join us?”

The man who said that did not have the largest cock I’d personally seen up till that point–that honor went to a guy I hooked up with 12 years ago who cried afterwards, obnoxious, salty tears raining down on my chest as I tried to figure out the quickest way out of his apartment–but it was in the top five. I did not expect it. All of him was big–he stood about 6’4, at least a buck fifty heavier than I was–but for some reason I didn’t think his cock would match. Well, it was a nice surprise. That I was about to have a threeway was, for some reason, a surprise too. Stupid: It shouldn’t have been. But up until the moment his boyfriend–also a big guy, though not as big–hugged him from behind, reached his hand into the guy’s shorts, and pulled out this monstrosity, giving it a couple strokes, then asking me to help out, I thought, I dunno, maybe I’m just being invited here for a platonic smoke session. Stranger things have happened.

 

***

The release of a new Anna Anthropy game puts me in mind of a stock sitcom dad. It’s Father’s Day, and his kid has given him a long thin box. Pair of boots? Tennis racket? New car? It’s a tie. Last year it was a tie, the year before it was a tie, next year it will be a tie. It will be a fine tie. Maybe it’s one of those swank Donald Trump ties he saw at JC Penny’s, maybe a Jerry Garcia one, maybe one of those which looks like cocktail molecules. But it will be a tie because his kid has only had one idea in his life–DAD LIKES TIES. And so Anna Anthropy has presented us with a long thin box called Triad, and we may make speculations about what it might be, but we know it’s going to be yet another exploration of the vagaries of queer life. Anthropy, best known for her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters–whose premise is that it’s fun and easy to make your own game about hot lesbian three-ways–”no longer [has] any tolerance for programming” and so has asked Leon Arnott to program the game for her. Liz Ryerson has done the music, and it’s wonderful.

We Don’t Need No Edutainment

I assume that New York Times Book Review children’s book editor Pamela Paul has learned a thing or two about education in all of her years spent reading kids’ books. As a man who does not have children, does not plan on having children, and has devoted approximately zero brainspace to their education, I’m not going to really comment on Paul’s clucking about whether or not videogames may or may not be horrible or awful. I don’t know what I’m talking about and, frankly, I don’t care. I have my opinions–my thoughts on how effective math worksheets really were (I need a calculator to do basic multiplication tables), how good my school’s reading textbooks were (My parents taking me to the library weekly is the only reason I made an effort to read), how much more effective simulations can be for some things (Classes on basic economics were so divorced from anything I understood that I learned nothing)–but it doesn’t really matter what I think. As someone without any investment in this space, I would consider my uninformed opinion to be useless. At worst, it would confuse the debate and mislead readers–especially if I had a respected platform such as the New York Times behind me. At best, I’d be seen as a well-meaning idiot whose contributions to the discussion were so much noise.

And yet Pamela Paul, in her article “Reading, Writing and Video Games [sic]” attempts to do just that. May I be honest? Her arguments–about the effectiveness of educational games in classrooms, on the gamification of learning (one must laud Paul for seemingly being the only writer to address this topic without acknowledging the existence of Jane McGonigal, whose name is almost synonymous with the concept), on the place of technology in the classroom–they may all be valid, strong arguments, but her willful ignorance about what videogames are, what they can teach, and even what their titles are like all serve as red flags: This woman does not know what she’s talking about.

Killing People Is Fun When They’re Zombies: A Personal Essay about Lollipop Chainsaw

I’ve been suicidal since I was nine years old, but I didn’t really seriously start considering it until I was 14. This was in the days before Columbine, you see: We didn’t shoot up our schoolyard bullies back then–especially not in New Jersey, which didn’t really have a hunting culture–we listened to sad music with distorted guitars and angsty screaming while we slit our wrists or, in my case, overdosed on migraine medication. Not that I actually overdosed ever–I’d simply calculated how many pills I’d need to take (the whole bottle, just to be sure), had the whole plan–would stay home sick from school, which I was doing a lot already because there were just too many days I could not deal with the constant torment from the ganging up, the molestation, the abuse, the verbal threats, the ignoring, would take them the second my parents left the house, an hour later put on my favorite song (the Smashing Pumpkins b-side “The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)”, yes, yes, I know, but it does have a kickass solo) and drift off into death’s embrace or whatever. So yeah. My response to schoolwide bullying was to take up smoking, get into drugs, listen to angry music, masturbate furiously until deep chafed bleeding wounds developed on my penis–I had constant oozing scabs on the head of my dick that year which, in what might be a proto form of CBT, I would pick off to bleed and scab up again, getting some weird thrill out of it–and contemplate suicide. It would have been nice to have figured out some way for the entirety of my high school class to die, painfully, agonizingly, if only there were a way of torturing an entire building of teenagers en masse!, but I’d transferred to a much better school by the time Harris and Klebold shot up theirs. And while I had much kinder, gentler jerkoff sessions to the thought of bringing a gun into my old school–I’d discovered hand lotion by this point–and while these times informed my personal theory that the pair had had erections during the entire massacre, freshman year of high school faded the older I got. Now, at the age of thirty, I barely think of it–while I hope to hear of the violent deaths of the children and families of certain people, there’s enough that I have to deal with that I don’t really go there very often.

It’s with this in mind that I played Suda51′s 2012 game Lollipop Chainsaw, an action brawler in which you play a young cheerleader named Juliet who is having the craziest birthday ever. Juliet is your typical teenage girl–she loves her boyfriend, shopping, cheerleading, and her family; she worries about her weight and about her boyfriend finding out that–omigod–she’s a zombie hunter! And one day her school is overrun by zombies, and her boyfriend is bitten, and she performs a magical ritual so that way just his head survives, and it turns out that the local goth kid was made fun of and ignored so much that he opened up a rift in dimensions and called in demons and is attempting to destroy everything. I would have loved to have opened up a rift in dimensions. It would have been nice for all of my classmates to have turned into zombies and died. Assuming that that meant an eternity of suffering and torture. If they felt no pain or enjoyed it in any way, then no deal.

A Man Obeys

It’s tedious to even summarize the event. Mattie Brice wrote an article called Would You Kindly, about violence in military shooters and whether or not it’s realistic or fantastic or just go read the damn thing yourself; it basically uses its topic of violence to go on the usual Rise of the Videogame Zinesters spiel of how Videogames Need To Include More Types Of Characters And By The Way Have You Played Mainichi. In response, Jonas Kyratzes wrote Would You Kindly Not, which is an exhaustively detailed deconstruction of Brice’s article, He calls her viewpoint “blindingly self-centered” and more or less proves his case, and yet the more one looks at his piece the more it looks like a case of using a crate of dynamite to dig a fencepost.