On Comments

The first rule of Internet Club is (sing along with me) DON’T READ THE COMMENTS.  (The second rule of Internet Club is don’t ever go to WebMD, regardless of what symptoms you might be feeling, and third rule is to simply be yourself and have a good time.)

That being said, when the comments are starting to go apeshit over something that you’ve written, sometimes you can’t help but wonder what it is they’re getting so upset about.

Which brings me to the startling realization that, apparently, nobody actually reads the article they’re commenting on, or even (in this specific case) the actual headline.  They see what they want to see, and comment and yell and scream about how the article disagrees with their perception of what was written.

To wit:  I wrote a piece about No Man’s Sky for Gamemoir yesterday that seems to be doing quite well, as far as generating traffic is concerned.  It’s a bit of a relief, to be honest, because a lot of the posts I’ve written over there lately have more or less died right on the vine.

It’s not the best thing I’ve written, nor is it a deliberate, transparent attempt at click-bait.  The premise of the article is that for all the new games on the new console systems, the only game that actually seems to be “genuinely new” and “different” and “something impossible to achieve on previous generations of hardware” is No Man’s Sky, and therefore it’s the first “real” Next-Gen game.  That’s all I was trying to say.  Nothing particularly controversial, nothing particularly noteworthy.

But apparently I did generate some controversy, because on one of the portal sites the article was linked to, there’s a lively bunch of comments from people who have obviously not read the article or even read the headline fully.  The article’s headline is “Why No Man’s Sky Is The First ‘Real’ Next-Gen Game”.  The angry people are saying no, Infamous Second Son and Killzone SF were the first next-gen console games; those are the ones who seem to have glazed over the emphasis on the word Real.  Other angry people are saying that because NMS is an “indie” game, it doesn’t really count as a “real” game.  I guess their premise is that because the game isn’t being developed by 1000 people in multiple time zones with a gigantic budget, it can’t possibly be any good.

Here’s the thing – there is every reason to wonder if NMS is actually going to be fun to play.  For all its majesty and wonder and jaw-dropping vastness, the actual moment-to-moment gameplay is still very mysterious.  But even if the moment-to-moment experience is fun and engaging, there’s also the very real possibility that the game could be horrendously boring and tedious after a time, if the universe is as big as they claim it to be.

But that’s neither here nor there.  I’m excited for NMS because it’s different.  While I’m sometimes intimidated by truly open-ended games like Minecraft, I have a very easy time losing myself completely in open worlds like Skyrim and GTA, and as such I can see myself being totally immersed in exploring the vastness of NMS’s galaxy.  Moreover, it appears to be not only something I’ve never played before, but also something I’ve been wanting to play for as long as I can remember.  I’ve been wanting to explore the universe since I was a little kid wearing Star Wars underpants.   The Mass Effect games have come the closest to giving me that feeling, but the exploration was severely limited and very tightly scripted.  NMS is a completely different ballgame.


 

I did end up finishing A Story About My Uncle last week.  I sat in front of that aforementioned gauntlet, set up a timer on my iPhone, and said to myself – if I can’t get past this gauntlet in 15 minutes, I’m quitting, deleting the game from my hard drive, and moving on with the rest of my life.  I ended up getting past it in 10, and as it turned out it was the 2nd-to-last challenge in the entire game; the credits rolled about 10 minutes after I finally reached that elusive checkpoint.  Can I recommend it?  Sure, if it goes on Steam Sale again.  It’s got charm, and it’s certainly doing something different, and it’s nice to not kill anything for a few hours.  The difficulty does tend to spike unevenly at times, though, and it can be incredibly frustrating.  I am glad that I finished it, though I almost certainly won’t return to it.

I also gave Sniper Elite III a quick look-see over the weekend, and saw enough of it to know that it’s not my bag.

I’m mostly playing Stealth Inc. on my Vita, which I’m enjoying the hell out of – I’m at the beginning of Stage 8, which means I’m near the end, and it’s getting very difficult.  But it’s also a lot of fun, and it’s a perfect puzzler to play in short increments.

Speaking of the Vita, I still haven’t decided which Final Fantasy to commit to.  I’ve already played the first 6 hours of VII (though I think I’d have to start from scratch), I’ve played the first hour or so of X (and found it kinda meh), and also gave the first 20 minutes of IX a whirl (but couldn’t find a save point quickly enough).  As it happens, I’m probably not going to play any of them any time soon, being that I rented Persona 4 Golden.  I haven’t started that one yet, but I figure I might as well give it a shot first.

The Destiny beta comes out on the 17th.  I pre-ordered the game digitally a while ago on the PS4 but haven’t yet received my beta code; supposedly they’re arriving via email any minute now.  If you get in, look me up on PSN – I’m JervoNYC.

the sound and the fury

Phil Fish finally snapped on Saturday, after an[other] epic argument with an asshole on Twitter.   He announced that he was cancelling Fez II and getting out of the games business entirely before rage-quitting his Twitter account.

“im getting out of games because i choose not to put up with this abuse anymore.”

*     *     *

It can be difficult to separate the art from the artist – sometimes.  As an example, I can’t even enjoy Chicken Run anymore, such is my loathing of any and all things related to Mel Gibson; similarly, I can’t read anything by Orson Scott Card without feeling a bit sick; but I’m still as big a fan of Woody Allen now as I was when I was 13 (even if his films aren’t quite as good now as they were then).  Indeed, Woody raised this very same question about separating the art from the artist in Bullets Over Broadway, and it was seen at the time as some sort of mea culpa:  “An artist creates his own moral universe.”

This is all to say that my intense love of Fez  – a love I’ve had ever since that first GDC trailer way back in, what, 2008? – makes me more sympathetic towards Fish, even if he is the sort of person, as Ben Kuchera writes, who “never met a hornet’s nest he couldn’t improve by giving it a good kick.” 

*     *     *

On Saturday night – a few hours after this all went down – I decided to finally get around to watching Indie Game: The Movie, which had been on my to-do list ever since it came out.  I knew that Fish had a reputation for being combative and controversial, and I was curious to see if that was borne out in the film.  Sure enough, within 5 minutes of his introduction, you see a whole bunch of hateful internet comments directed squarely at him; and you also see him acting like a bit of an asshole.

The movie didn’t necessarily clear things up for me.  On the one hand, Fez is very much a personal artistic statement; it might’ve released earlier and have been a bit more polished with a larger team, but having other input would make the experience feel diluted, somehow.  Everything you experience in that game is what Phil specifically wants you to feel; the charming beauty of the pixelated world, the obscure abstraction of encoded language, the freedom of exploration without consequence.  The game itself is nothing but charm and whimsy and pure intellectual joy.

On the other hand, Phil himself is restless, intensely passionate, and quick to fly into rages; in dealings with his ex-business partner, he says – multiple times – that he wants to “murder” him; and while I doubt that he would have literally murdered this person, I wouldn’t be surprised if, at that moment, if this ex-business partner happened to walk into the room, he wouldn’t have tried to punch that man repeatedly.

I’ve followed Phil on Twitter for a while, now, and when he was active he was constantly getting into crazy arguments with crazy people, and in doing so he made himself look like a crazy person – regardless of whatever moral high ground he felt that he was standing on.

*     *     *

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Twitter.  Hell, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with social media in general; in fact, just two weekends ago, I publicly declared that I was going on a Facebook hiatus, and that ended up lasting less than 48 hours.

For small independent gaming companies that can’t afford big PR budgets – much like any small artist, be they musician, writer, etc. – Twitter is a necessary device.  It’s free public interaction with your audience, and your reach becomes wider as you yourself grow louder.  How you get louder, though, is where it gets tricky.  Because the bigger you get, the more terrible people you attract, and at some point that shit will get under your skin.  Do you hide?  Do you answer back?  Do you ignore?

I have a good friend who writes for Gamespot.  She’s a great writer, and has an insightful critical mind, and when she writes a review it is clear that she carefully considers every word.  But the only thing that matters to the commenters on her articles is that she’s transgender, and they say the most vile, awful things that have absolutely nothing to do with the words she’s written, and they come out in full force without any provocation whatsoever.  (They might argue that her mere existence writing for the site is the provocation, to which I say to them:  go fuck yourselves.)  I don’t know how she puts up with it.  These people are foaming at the mouth with rage just because she exists.

I also follow a number of prominent games writers on Twitter, some of whom happen to be female.  And they are constantly bombarded with hateful, misogynistic bile and straight-up rape threats for no other reason than that they have opinions about games and that they also have breasts.   And if they dare to suggest that there is a serious sexism problem in the games industry – not just from gamers but from the games themselves – well, just follow @femfreq for a little while and see how that goes.

What the hell is wrong with us?  Why do we allow this sort of shit to continue?  Why do trolls get the last laugh, even if nobody’s laughing?

I sincerely hope Phil takes advantage of this internet hiatus and continues to work on Fez 2.  Maybe it’s for the best.  Maybe it’s better that he puts his focus squarely on the thing that actually makes the world a better place.  Fez made the world a better place for me; he did succeed in that.

I just hope he understands that this isn’t about “winning.”  Nobody wins on the internet.  That’s the whole point; it doesn’t matter how eloquent you are; you can Oscar Wilde someone to death and some anonymous asshole is always going to come back 30 seconds later and call you a fag, simply because they can.  That doesn’t mean you give up; it just means you change the conversation.  Make the thing you have to make.