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About Dragonfliet

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    Salt Lake City
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    Games, books, Rock Climbing
  1. Clickbait Games Journalism: Polygon vs Kotaku

    Oh, no, I don't think I'm being down on it. It's not particularly thoughtful, or full of insight, but it's useful and/or fun stuff.It's there to serve a population of people who care about games (and the subculture surrounding them), which means that it's mostly stuff that serves that need, with occasional in-depth stuff.
  2. Clickbait Games Journalism: Polygon vs Kotaku

    I don't know. The thing about these complaints is that the desire for in-depth articles is simply too great for the supply. Like it or not, Video game news is mostly just fan-service type stuff. Hey, did you know this is coming out? Hey, isn't this neat? This is because they have to produce things all the time in order to keep readers (which takes a lot of time), and also because it's difficult to keep inventing deep dives. The thing is, the writers and the sites have already done most of the deep dive pieces that are possible. Sure, it's been 3/5/10 years, but they already wrote it, and re-writing it isn't fulfilling for the writer, and it doesn't really drive clicks for the site, so they don't revisit it. It's been nice that Kotaku has done that series of Schreier articles, but then the rest of their stuff is just the usual. It's always been like this. Partly it's because the industry is a niche, and while it has problems, they tend to be the same problems they've always had (more or less), and with the same kinds of opportunities, etc. So for me, it's just more of the same. Sometimes there is a great article on whatever site, and I"ll check it out. Mostly it's small little nothings, meant to generate clicks and provide a small piece of fandom. Sometimes Polygon is better, sometimes Kotaku, sometimes RPS, etc. Waypoint always puts their most interesting ideas into a podcast I'll never listen to. It would be nice to have deep-dive articles every day, but not even the Washington Post or the New York Times has that. And they're covering everything.
  3. This is a late bump, but I thought this was an interesting subject worth chiming in on. I would say that, on a whole, I largely agree with you and your assessment of narrative games. I disagree about many of the conclusions. This is because the conclusions are based around the idea that the narrative and the gameplay are somehow not entwined, while at the same time make a fallacious point that other "good" (or "meaningful") works of narrative are more tightly entwined. I will talk about the latter first. The idea that the the medium and the message must be tightly wound together is a well-meaning one, but also doesn't really apply very well to longer works. Look, for instance, at A Clockwork Orange, the Anthony Burgess novel (not really one of the greatest books ever written, but a marvelous one), which is gorgeously written in a florid prose of the language of the protagonist. It's honestly a difficult book to read at first because the patois is thick and alien, but the reader grows to understand it. Is the book about the evolution of language? Not at all. Is it about growing understanding of the world we inhabit? Also, no. It's a great gimmick. It's a neat thing. It's a pretty surface on which to put the story. The same can honestly be said about much of Anna Karenina, which I think is easily the best book ever written. Tolstoy is a true master of realist fiction, and yet the book lingers for the sake of lingering. It is a combat system that repeats again and again because combat can be cool, and gratifying. I will argue for a brilliant combat system (or puzzle system, etc.) in the same way that I will argue for beautiful prose. Pleasure is an acceptable reason to engage in pleasurable pursuits. We can certainly have argument about how effective x or y lingering is, but that is another conversation. Which helps to get me into my next point. In truth, Anna Karenina could have removed the entire scenes with the artist Mikhailov. They do not speak to the ideas of morality and personal choices and societal judgements, etc. that the novel is resting on. They are very much extraneous details, and largely a distraction from what the novel is masterfully trying to get at. And yet, they force us into a state of consideration about art and intent and reception that does, in turn, color the ways in which we might look at ideas of love, family, duty, etc. that permeate the novel. While largely unnecessary and there "simply" to give us more to savor (this would be an argument to make, not a fact given), the fact that it is included forces us to reconsider the work as a whole because of it. The narrative of Bioshock is about control and power, and the gameplay, just combat and exploration, is about power, and makes an important statement. While the narrative foolishly throws all of its work out the window for a mediocre meta twist (hey, you're playing a game. Get it?) that ultimately makes no sense (you are freed from the need to obey...and then immediately keep doing the same obeying actions, as that is the only way to keep progressing through the game), the gameplay continues to be about the exercising of power, and the joy in which having power brings you, and how, ultimately, the only goal of power is to completely crush your enemies. It's quite effective. The Call of Duty games continually make the point that guns and explosions are the solution to all problems--and even if they try and complicate this, but saying that guns and explosions are the source of the problems, they ultimately reiterate the idea that there is no way out, and the only way to fix those problems...is with more guns and explosions. That sounds like a pretty tightly intertwined narrative meaning, no? The crux of your argument is that the dilution of narrative scenes, of dialog and tightly controlled directorial control, somehow equates with the dilution of narrative meaning, and I simply disagree with this notion. The dilution of those scenes creates a different narrative meaning. I think that many game directors and/or writers fail to really look at their work and see how it can mean things. In the same way that writers/directors/whatever can do so (I'm reminded of Pan's Labyrinth, where del Toro thought/intended that the fantasy-land was real, only to be contradicted by the work: the young girl had to die in order to be brought to fantasy-land, and she did so in saving her brother--yet the brother, who was still alive, then appeared in fantasy-land. The rules of the world necessitated that this ending be read only as a fantasy, and not reality). And so they have combat that undoes the narrative's intent, of things that merely sit, flat, and don't do much more than exist, spreading out the narrative. This is, like many things, a simple inattentiveness to the whole. Largely, this inattentiveness is a monetary one (there is no time/money to look at the completed game, with all systems figured out, all major bugs ironed out, etc., etc. and then completely redo major sections to make it a more cohesive whole), though many times it is simply a creative failure (in the sense that most artists fail to completely live up to their work's potential, not a more pejorative sense). This is a whole lot of me being grumpy and nitpicking, even though I largely agree with your premise and illustration of ideas (with tons of games mentioned as examples). I want to reiterate my close support (minus these small nits) to your original point. I would also point out that the state of narrative in games is flawed, at best, and anemic, in all honesty. There is nothing even scraping at the feet of Tolstoy in terms of depth of meaning with mastery of execution. Not by a long shot. As to your original question, about what games meld narrative and gameplay. The easiest answer is the molleindustria game Unmanned. It is perfect in how it works gameplay with narrative to create a nuanced and thoughtful game. Shadow of the Colossus does a surprisingly good job of it, contrasting the thoughtfulness of the puzzles with the simplicity of the narrative and the barren loneliness of the world. Both The Stanley Parable, and Beginers guide do an amazing job of making actions narrative meaning (the former in a jokey, delightful way, the other in a painfully invasive feeling way), Crusader Kings II makes the game of thrones feel serious and impossible in a way that few narratives that focus more on people do, The Witcher series does a surprisingly great job of making you feel that choices must be made, while hammering down how terrible choices are--thus proving the wisdom of the non-choice the protagonist claims to wish to occupy, as well as the inherent impossibility of this. Papo & Yo captures the idea of the games/maneuvering/etc. of being the child of an alchoholic entails (though the ending is terrible, as it overexplains it's already very obvious metaphors to absolute death). Far Cry 2, as has been pointed out many a time reinforces it's political ideas (that again get overexplained) through it's gameplay (which is similarly done to death). And the Prince of Persia reboot from 2008 (I think) is the absolute perfect example of this marrying. It is a lighthearted fantasy that is easy, and with no consequences. If you die, Elika saves you, there are no problems. You are a necessary tool, but Elika is the one telling the story/driving the narrative. And pretty early on they introduce the problem, that Elika's father let the devil out (whatever its name is) in order to save his daughter. No one (neither the prince, elika, or the player probably) can believe that he would do something stupid. They kind of understand, but recognize that it is the stupid move. But then Elika is the one that defeats the devil--she has always been in charge of the narrative, and it was always her story, and she was always the one with the powers necessary to overcome death (reminiscient of her ability to save you from death, again and again). This sucks, because you have built a relationship with her, and have come to care for the character (even more so if you chose to interact with her more), and it sucks because even though it was always her story, you were involved, and wanted it to be your story. Then she just steals the ending, and beats the bad guy. And then you are forced to slowly carry her to an alter, and the game refuses to end. The voices of the devil call out to you to let him free in order to save her. And the game won't end. The only way to avoid this is to refuse to finish the game, which is essentially unthinkable for a Video game player in the same way that to leave a dead one dead is unthinkable to a kind of person with the power to bring them back, and an emotional attachment to them. And so you do what you had sworn, hours early, that you would never do, and fall into the viscious cycle, again, of bringing the dead back to life, which will bring more death, etc. Of course, PoP is also a lighthearted, not brilliantly designed, not brilliantly written, and ultimately pretty shallow game. It does this shallow thing very well, but with no real nuance or complexity to it. Because art is hard. And of course, most people that played it missed this idea nearly entirely. Even as unsublte as it was. And the game bombed. They should have, it turns out, focused more on making the combat harder (and thus longer, and more repetitive, as you died from more enemies and had to figure it out), and undermined the idea that this was the easy fantasy part, and the hard part would be the inescapable choice. I'm finishing up my PhD in a Lit/Creative Writing program (all I have to do now is get a tenure track job. In this market. LOL), and I do have the answer to the conundrum, but it's a very bad answer that won't make anyone happy: think about how the gameplay affects the narrative. That's it. Raymond Chandler just does hard boiled stuff, yet thinks about how those shackles can turn insightfully into the narrative. He doesn't change them to fit the narrative, he makes the narrative fit them. Writers and designers need to stop more and consider what they are saying with their actions/systems a little more carefully. It's hard. It's just the difficulty of art. Combat isn't a problem. Puzzles aren't a problem. In the same way that realism or magical realism isn't a problem. They are things that can either be stiffling or freeing. Mostly I think that we should talk about specific games more often and praise what they do well, and kindly point out the failings, and engage in deep thought about them. It's quite a stupid answer, but I think that it's the only one we have.
  4. Infinite Jest

    Honestly, I really liked Infinite Jest, but it's a book that I don't really recommend to people. It doesn't break new ground, and it doesn't really do anything masterfully (it does things very well, but it's also a bloated, saggy mess in a lot of ways). It follows along the lines of Ulysses, and Gravity's Rainbow, but without the stronger unifying themes, and groundbreaking aspect of them. And yet it's somehow longer. It's weird saying this, as I really, truly like the book a lot, but it's not for everyone. You're not wrong about the endnotes, twmac, there are a LOT of boring, uninteresting, and useless ones. After a bit, they start to become more and more important, but that's after a bit. The advice I literally give to everyone about the book is what I said above: read the first 50 pages. If you're having a fun time, then keep reading. It is a delightful book in so many ways (his whole scenario on videocalls is amazing, for instance). If, however, you're not having a great time, but are willing to slog through this to see where it goes: STOP. The book never goes anywhere. That's actually kind of the point. It's a thoughtful meditation on modern life, but it's also a giant prank on the reader. You will never figure out why things are happening, and you will never get plots resolved, and you won't feel like you spent your time well. Again, if in those first 50 pages you're having a lot of fun: it'll still be a lot of fun. But yeah. You might just want to bail. I had this book on my comprehensive exams for my PhD, and though I re-read a lot of very long books (Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, House of Leaves, Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow, Don Quixote), I skipped re-reading Infinite Jest, even though it has been a decade since I read it. I started reading it, and quickly realized it would be a waste of my time that could be better spent thinking about Anna Karenina (or gushing about it to poor folks who haven't had the delight of reading it), or decoding Ulysses. It just isn't worth it. I went over notes I had taken, and read a few essays about it, but it didn't have the depth or the power of these other books. It's long because it values length, not because it spends its time productively.
  5. I am Iron mAnthem

    I too, am playing. Dragonfliet on Origin. It's a broken game, in many ways, but the kind of broken I can quite enjoy. We'll see if they fix the loading screen bonanza, and add more variety of gameplay, but for now, I'm satisfied enough to fly around like ironman, and to run around with my giant Colossus shield, whacking scars.

    The internet: where people play games that are really good, and unique and thoughtful, but if you have some metahumor a poster doesn't like, they somehow lose almost all respect for you. The VR version of Superhot was so much more fun for me. Mostly because it felt much more like a puzzle. The original game was a pretty even combination between shooter and puzzler, but the VR implementation is so much more brainy, and less about your reaction times. Great stuff.
  7. I enjoy hearing stories about how video game writers get jobs in games, because they're all completely insane. It's almost never that someone submitted great work, or wrote a great story, or IF piece, or short film, or whatever, and always that they happened to be doing web design, and chatted with someone about comics, etc. It's amazing that games have as good of stories as they do, with the inane-seeming nature of recruitment. This was a great episode, and I loved hearing Webb's humble, hard working origin-story, and his thoughts on this process.
  8. The Big VR Thread

    A few helpful notes on this: You should really treat the Rift as $60 more expensive than it is. While it doesn't NEED a third sensor: it does actually need a third sensor. I don't have a huge space for my main play area, only about two steps forward and back (more to the sides), but "roomscale" makes everything better. You don't have to rely on snap turning to navigate, you don't have to remember where forward is, etc. Perhaps as a result of that, I have also never had any issues with the floor, etc. It also makes it so there are never any jitters, or sketchy tracking. It sucks that they will sell you a mediocre experience, but a great experience is really a small upgrade from that. Raw Data will benefit a thousand times over from a third tracker. LA Noire, unfortunately, runs like garbage on the Rift, as Rockstar has made no effort to make it compatible with the Rift. People have got it working, but it's still a bit of a mess. I would also recommend launching games from the desktop, rather than the headset launcher, for this very reason you mentioned. Oculus needs to work on their storefront (they are, and have a beta of a new "home" experience, but it's not quite ready yet). I would also recommend games like Lone Echo (which is, hands down, the best VR game out there, and one of the better games of 2017), Arizona Sunshine (which has a surprisingly good story), I Expect You to Die (an escape room game that's loads of fun, and works with front facing cameras only), Chronos, Edge of Nowhere, Superhot (which is actually a completely different game than the non-vr version, though with reused assets), The Invisible Hours (more of an interactive play than a 'game,' but really excellent--think of it of a game version of sleep no more), Wilson's Heart, Rec Room, Thumper, and Onward. Avoid the simulator type games (they're cute, but worthless).
  9. Destiny

    Out of curiosity, why are you still playing the first one? Destiny was a frustrating game that had some really great gunplay. Destiny 2 keeps the gunplay, and fixes the game.
  10. Crota 2Day: A Destiny 2 Forum Thread

    Sooo, how are people liking it? I have only done a little bit of end-game stuff, but I'm very, very happy so far. The story missions don't suck like before, and the world missions are well written, and way more varied. Public events are more fun, the heroic modifier is a great way to go about it, etc. I've only played a few strikes, and no pvp (I suck so bad at it), but I'm a happy dude right now. We'll see how this goes over the next month, however.
  11. Crota 2Day: A Destiny 2 Forum Thread

    So it looks like most everyone is sticking with the PS4 version rather than moving to PC? I'm still a bit torn, honestly, about which version to pick up.
  12. Books, books, books...

    Miéville is incredible, and not only would I recommend Embassytown as a great start for most people, I would argue it's his best book. What he does with language is absolutely marvelous.
  13. Infinite Jest

    Except that then the book complicates things, piles on tons of plot points, and specifically refuses to give any sort of conclusion or payoff. I mean, it's literally the point, and a kind of re-creation that the father (can't remember his name right now) is doing with his movies. Honestly? I would say that the book never really progresses from the first 50 pages. It just gives you more stuff. More characters, more details about most of them, more plot points, more observations about the world, but never in a way in which things actually add up. They are stacked on top of each other, and then the pile is given a little shove, and then the book ends abruptly. I think this is also its point, and part of how it works overall, but I would argue very fiercely about this being payoff or telling me everything I need to know.
  14. Infinite Jest

    Uh. What? Where the hell does it eventually pay off and tell you everything you need to know? During my MFA one of my advisers talked about how they stopped reading DFW entirely after finishing Infinite Jest. But you're right about the other parts. It's not a difficult book at all. It's also very fun and funny. My recommendation is always for people to read the first 50 pages, and if they're really enjoying it, then they should finish it. If they aren't loving it though, and just want to find out what is happening and why, that they should put it down and walk away very fast.
  15. RE: Destiny, Overwatch, and transmedia storytelling. I actually want to begin this by talking about the problem that this question actually gets at, which is most evident in Destiny. Destiny is a game with a singleplayer story, told over multiple hours, with the story playing into the other modes, and the story is garbage/nonsense. As pointed out in the email, a lot of it begins to make sense, but ONLY if you dig through the lore that isn't even available in the game itself (which is a bizarre choice). This is a huge problem, and the reason it is a problem is that the story drives the game, and yet it is incomprehensible, leading to a game that feels disconnected and incoherent. The lore is simply a bandaid that attempts to patch that problem. This is completely and utterly different from Overwatch (caveat: I played the crap out of Destiny, and own it, but only played a half-dozen hours of Overwatch, and I don't even own it). Overwatch is nearly completely disconnected from the tranmedia storytelling. In the outside-the-game story, good guys like the Winston and Tracer, fight against bad guys like Widowmaker and Tracer. In the game, any group of heroes fight against any other group of heroes. They can be all Tracers vs all Tracers. It's a competitive shooter. That's it. There is TONS of personality in the game, shown entirely through in-game barks, animations, and playstyle, and it makes the game fun. This personality is likewise represented in the animated shorts/comics outside of the game, but with, you know, actual narratives. Again, they are separate from the game. The game isn't made more sensible through the transmedia information, but rather, there are other, different things out there that are related to the game. Knowing that Tracer is gay neither adds to nor takes away from how she plays. Knowing her history with Widowmanker doesn't change how they play against each other, etc. There are good parts of transmedia storytelling, and bad ones. Overwatch is a multiplayer shooter. It has oodles of personality, but it's all limited to making for a fun and balanced game. Overwatch media is about telling linear narratives that have the same kind of personality as the game. This is great. Destiny the game is a singleplayer shooter (with multiplayer aspects I'm ignoring for the purposes of this) that leans heavily on its story, but is the worse for that. Destiny the transmedia experience is merely about patching the holes in Destiny the game. This is a problem. In the end, a game should have everything it needs to have as a self-contained unit. Overwatch has that, Destiny doesn't. If there is additional content outside of that game, it should be along the lines of: Oh, this is nice too! Overwatch has that, Destiny doesn't. Transmedia content should be like a Starwars toy. It should be a neat thing that is related to the movie, something that has connections to it, but you can enjoy on its own (ie: more like Overwatch). It shouldn't be something where you have to go find the toy to understand what even happened in Starwars.