Other Ten Percent 1/31/2014

Jan 31 2014

I talked too slow and this one lasted forever so if you don’t have 10 minutes to spare just read the transcript. Otherwise…Here’s a video of stuff.

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So in honor of some stories I’ve been reading this week and the Superb Owl which due to some Texan part of my DNA I’m still fascinated by despite barely ever catching an NFL game, I decided I was going to do a list post this week because those seemed like a common and popular enough thing that I ought to give them a try. So, I present a quick top list of the top 5 games that are more fun to watch than to actually play.

5. Skyrim
Skyrim is actually a pretty fun game in its own right which is why I kinda resisted putting it on the list but while playing Skyrim is entertaining watching Skyrim is an entirely different beast. The modding community around Skyrim hasn’t just made it into one totally different game it’s turned it into way too many games to possibly play with additions to every corner of the map and multiple new storylines created by amateurs with full voice acting that rival the amount of content in the original game. There’s also a whole community devoted to pushing the game’s graphics engine to it’s limits creating ridiculously good looking screen shots and videos by tweaking every setting they can and finding the exact right spot in the game for those settings to look their best. I’ve got a link to multi-thousand word article about their techniques in the newsletter but I also have some comparison footage here to show how different things look once they’re done optimizing everything.

4. Day Z
I’ve wanted to enjoy Day Z because everything about it sounds so cool. It’s an incredibly detailed block of world that’s been overtaken by zombies that you’re dropped into. From there you have to scavenge supplies and try and survive as long as you can against the undead, other players and your own injuries and hunger because if you die once you’re totally dead and have to start over with no equipment. Every play through seems to generate stories of unlikely survival and bleak, sudden death that rival some of the best zombie stories and videos from the game which can sometimes last for hours on end manage to remain gripping throughout since, like the best horror movies, anything can happen at any moment. The problem is that actually playing that game kinda just means dying a lot. I don’t want to paint the game as a frustrating parade of annoying deaths but it does quickly seem a lot more fun to watch other people’s foibles than experience your own.

3. Starcraft II
This is relatively low on the list both because Starcraft II is an actually entertaining game for a lot of people (though it always ends up stressing me out too much the actually enjoy it) and because it’s actually the closest thing to the way I feel about football in the world of video games. On a Micro level playing Starcraft II feels a lot like playing football (badly) as a kid. You’re constantly splitting your attention between multiple tasks trying to make sure you’re not missing anything and if you do make a mistake, misdirect your attention for even a few seconds you can ruin the whole thing effectively wasting the 30 minutes you WEREN’T screwing up in a single moment. This experience is not fun. Watching other people do it turns into a wholly different spectacle though. On a macro level, watching Starcraft players correctly build units, expand their bases and scout out their enemy for weak points feels an awful lot like watching a professional football team work in pe rfect unison. And, like football, if you don’t have a full handle on the strategic game there are commentators who are willing to cover the major turning points in any game in exhaustive detail.

2. Minecraft
Minecraft is a sandbox game, everything in the world can be broken apart, picked up, and reassembled into structures of awesome scale and ability. The problem is that there’s not much of a game around your sandbox. Once you get the hang of the basics Minecraft really is like playing in a gigantic sandbox. You remember how making sand castles was KINDA fun but it was never as cool as the guy down the beach who was making sandcastles with like, archways and towers that defied gravity? Playing Minecraft often feels like trying to make a cool sandcastle with half a pail while all your friends constantly text you winning contest entries from the world championship sandcastle competition which would totally be my metaphor getting away from me if that wasn’t an actual thing.

1. EVE Online
Epic double crosses effecting hundreds of people in the real world! Gigantic virtual space battles that destroy ships with real world values in the hundreds of thousands of dollars! An unrestrained virtual economy that can not just pay for itself but actually serves as a real world income for the best players! And here is what it looks like when you’re actually playing it yourself: BORING FOOTAGE. It’s telling that while I know multiple people who play EVE it’s basically the only game I’ve literally never had anybody try and recruit me to it. EVE is more of a calling than a game, a graphical front end for people who love the pure mathematics of high end MMO playing more than the game itself that’s only entertaining due to the insane scale unrestrained libertarian economic systems allow in a made up Galaxy.

If you really enjoy any of the games on this list, good for you! Obviously this list is highly personal and says a lot about what I personally look for in a video game. If you don’t like video games at all…I’m sorry. Maybe watch some of these and see if you at least like that?

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