Escapist Podcast: 029: Amy & Gaming Disappointments

029: Amy & Gaming Disappointments

This week, we discuss Amy and our other gaming disappointments. We also talk about what not to do in article pitches.

Watch Video

Very enjoyable.

Shame about your game, nothing worse than a game you want to love, sucking. Same thing happened to me with Heroes of Might and Magic VI.

Personally I always finish a movie or a book once I start it, but I will admit to speed reading, or chatting during a boring movie. I defiantly agree that a good ending does not necessarily make up for a slow start.

Susan discussing what attracts her in a pitch was very interesting. I always like hearing insight on the industry, tips on what to write are always helpful.

And Steve, your Simpson quotes always make me grin, so ignore the naysayers, they are clearly jealous.

When the topic was disappointing games and D&D was mentioned I was expecting some tearing apart of Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft or Descent to Undermountain.



The problem with stating that you can't judge something without seeing it all is that there's shining examples of consistently pure and unmitigated sewage in every medium. Movies? Let's pick an easy target. Caligula. You can't tell me anyone who sat through the first hour could possibly say "It's going to get better, let's stay for the next two hours."


I think Steve's idea of stress relating to an inability to go with fight or flight has been elaborated before. A friend of mine sums it up as something like "Stress is a result of suppressing your natural desire to beat someone's head in."


Apparently as far as dicey situations and fear of offense goes, I'm a woman. Huh. (Later.) People like to avoid conflict. Better.:)

Formica Archonis:
When the topic was disappointing games and D&D was mentioned I was expecting some tearing apart of Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft or Descent to Undermountain.



The problem with stating that you can't judge something without seeing it all is that there's shining examples of consistently pure and unmitigated sewage in every medium. Movies? Let's pick an easy target. Caligula. You can't tell me anyone who sat through the first hour could possibly say "It's going to get better, let's stay for the next two hours."


I think Steve's idea of stress relating to an inability to go with fight or flight has been elaborated before. A friend of mine sums it up as something like "Stress is a result of suppressing your natural desire to beat someone's head in."


Apparently as far as dicey situations and fear of offense goes, I'm a woman. Huh. (Later.) People like to avoid conflict. Better.:)

True, everyone likes to avoid conflict, but women are, typically, more concerned with not appearing rude or disapproving. (at least in American culture.) It's a broad generalization, certainly, but not without some merit.

The Escapist Staff:
029: Amy & Gaming Disappointments

This week, we discuss Amy and our other gaming disappointments. We also talk about what not to do in article pitches.

Watch Video

Listening to this week's podcast, it really grabbed me how often the idea of feeling came up. I think that's one of the great tragedies of our time -- so much of what we do is based on feelings, but so few people stop and really learn to understand them.

It's especially true in any art, including writing and game creation. Art itself is tapping into the emotions of your viewers/readers/audience and trying to link them to your own -- to create in them the feeling that you have in yourself. The medium, in a way, doesn't really matter. Despite different methods, all media have the same goal.

This week, you all talked about expectations and disappointments. In music, we often talk about "tension and release" in the same way. Taking advantage of our common musical vernacular to create expectations, and then either fulfilling them, delaying them, or even thwarting them to get that emotional response. And in the case of games like Amy, if we're not aware of the expectations we're creating, that emotional "path" is broken and the player feels lost and frustrated. If you're not intentionally making good choices, you're accidentally making bad ones.

That same idea really came through in your discussion of articles and pitches. The goal is communication, but not just of "information." Of ideas, of feelings. If we don't try to understand and include our audience, we're not communicating. We're the tree falling in the woods. And that's how we end up talking to strangers about our bodily secretions, and puzzling over why they don't laugh...

I know that I personally have a tendency to lapse into anecdotes. Sometimes, it's a struggle to decide whether an anecdote is truly encapsulating the idea I want... or if it's just saying, "Look what happened to me!" Am I providing an example of the idea, or am I just venting?

And the discussion of horror and scares goes straight back to understanding how the audience thinks and feels. You're setting up a very specific emotional context to exploit. And while fear is one of our most basic emotions, which might make it seem easy to access, it's also one of our most familiar. We're programmed pretty well to filter out and ignore "fake fear."

As a child (Bah! Anecdote!), the movie that really 'turned the corner' on horror movies for me was Poltergeist. The other movies I'd seen were gory and occasionally startling, but it was a killer out in some secluded wooded area or something. He could be run from (to a degree) and avoided (Why does anyone go to Crystal Lake anyway?).

But Poltergeist was different. It was in your house. No, it was your house. Your own possessions, doing awful and scary things to you. And where can you run to? You are home. And it's not helping.

Not every horror movie or game needs to be set in familiar or home-like places, of course. That would be too limiting. But the make-or-break concept, to me, is that the stuff the monster does isn't scary. Not one its own, at least. Your emotions need a context, something they can latch onto. You need to be put on edge, the experience needs to play with your expectations (set up, delay, gratify, thwart...), and then, once you're on that edge, the monster can finally push you over.

We get so caught up on the ingredients that we don't use them in a way that speaks clearly to the audience. Which, when you think about it, is silly. It would be like a writer believing there are "good letters" and "bad letters," and that simply including the "good letters" will make a word work. Or a musician believing the same thing about good or bad notes or chords.

(Incidentally, I think that's why good zombie stories need a zombie "apocalypse" to occur. Zombies aren't scary if we still have all of our usual toys and safety nets. So really, it's not the zombies we're afraid of -- it's the fact that we were, but are no longer, equipped to handle them.)

The central idea underscoring all of this is that Art is psychology. It's knowing and speaking the remarkably-common language of emotion. And, of course, it's about honing your own technique in your chosen medium so that you can then follow through on that understanding. But that technique is a tool, a means to expression.

And now I've completely lost the script. My brain is going in a hundred directions at once, so I need to go strap it down. Damn good podcast!

I'm sorry, Susan. I have no sympathy at all for your frustrations with Amy. I saw a trailer for that game and all I could think was, "Why would anyone play 'Escort Quest: The Game?'" It's the most irritating feature of any other game, so they base the whole game around that single mechanic? Might as well call it "Poke Yourself in the Eye with a Sharp Stick Craft."

Was Susan perhaps thinking about Sam Kinnison instead of Bobcat Goldthwaite? Because Kinnison IS dead (and has been for some time).

Kristian Fischer:
Was Susan perhaps thinking about Sam Kinnison instead of Bobcat Goldthwaite? Because Kinnison IS dead (and has been for some time).

Ooo, you might be right, I think that was who I was thinking of. Well done! :)

As for scary films, my original scared-me-sleepless movie was (of all things) Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers.

It's meant to be a comedy (I think), but I had nightmares about that film for WEEKS after seeing it at age 14. It just pulled at a very sensitive string or two...

Also, it just radiates cold. It takes place in a Transsylvanian castle in the winter and everything is covered in frost and deep snow. The vampires are made up bluish-grey, so that doesn't help either.

I loathed that film.

I'm really surprised at your views on the social aspect of gaming, Susan. I'm curious why you decided to have the answer you did, given the context of the question. Do you honestly believe that if you ask people nicely on the internet to stop doing something that's bugging you that they'll stop? Maybe I notice it more considering my work experience has been solely in customer service areas, however, the lack of a human face equates to far more aggression from people because they know they can get away with it.

Take the League of Legends example again. You're stuck with four random people on your team for 20 minutes (at least) per game. Sure, you can invite friends (which, consequently, matches you with more experienced players due to the "advantage" of being pre-made) to your party and play with them but you don't necessarily have enough friends to always have a full group, so you need to clock some time in by yourself. Now, say one person of those four decides to not try, or inebriate himself, or gives up half way through or leaves because something else comes up. As it was explained, this game is based around a full team of players so a winnable 4v5 scenario is often a distant dream. You have no choice before those 20 minutes before you can stop playing the game and reset. In fact, you're punished for leaving early. So, unless you enjoy being banned, you're forced to grit your teeth and take the loss. The kicker here is that as you accumulate more losses, your chance of being teamed up with worse players becomes higher (as your total skill ranking drops) which can spiral into the theory of what is affectionately called "ELO Hell".

Now, from your advise, asking these people not to do these sorts of things will more often than not make them stop? In my experience, it's been the exact opposite. I actually had to shut off the game last night because someone decided to cuss me out and blame me for our loss because they died five times early in the game and effectively narrowed our chances of victory to almost nothing. I was polite and any sort of mention of asking them not to swear and instead focus on playing met with more resistance. You're saying that this is the minority of cases? I would agree if this were face to face, but would you not agree that the anonymity of online gaming has create the exact opposite effect? Even better still, how would you approach this problem without simply quitting the game altogether? I'm interested in the answer as this seems to be a growing problem with games requiring more dedicated time to complete specific tasks such as MMO instances or MOBA styled games.

NM...

I was looking forward to "Amy". Shame it's such a letdown. The concept might have required Valve Time to do really well.

Guess I'll have to go and play Amnesia Dark Descent again.

Oh, and I LOVED the Polanksi vampire film. A bit scary yes, but mostly funny :D. Watched it as a kid. I was scared of different films. Try watching Dawn of the Dead when you're 11. Yikes!

Hitchmeister:
I'm sorry, Susan. I have no sympathy at all for your frustrations with Amy. I saw a trailer for that game and all I could think was, "Why would anyone play 'Escort Quest: The Game?'" It's the most irritating feature of any other game, so they base the whole game around that single mechanic? Might as well call it "Poke Yourself in the Eye with a Sharp Stick Craft."

Were you listening to the podcast at all? She said she was excited for the game, but became angry when the control scheme prevented her from playing it. That it was a game-long escort quest is not relevant to the discussion.

Airon:
I was looking forward to "Amy". Shame it's such a letdown. The concept might have required Valve Time to do really well.

Guess I'll have to go and play Amnesia Dark Descent again.

Oh, and I LOVED the Polanksi vampire film. A bit scary yes, but mostly funny :D. Watched it as a kid. I was scared of different films. Try watching Dawn of the Dead when you're 11. Yikes!

I can count the number of Zombie fims that have genuinely scared me on one finger. Night of the Living Dead. 'nuff said.

Susan's week in gaming:

image

HellsingerAngel:
I'm really surprised at your views on the social aspect of gaming, Susan. I'm curious why you decided to have the answer you did, given the context of the question. Do you honestly believe that if you ask people nicely on the internet to stop doing something that's bugging you that they'll stop? Maybe I notice it more considering my work experience has been solely in customer service areas, however, the lack of a human face equates to far more aggression from people because they know they can get away with it.

Take the League of Legends example again. You're stuck with four random people on your team for 20 minutes (at least) per game. Sure, you can invite friends (which, consequently, matches you with more experienced players due to the "advantage" of being pre-made) to your party and play with them but you don't necessarily have enough friends to always have a full group, so you need to clock some time in by yourself. Now, say one person of those four decides to not try, or inebriate himself, or gives up half way through or leaves because something else comes up. As it was explained, this game is based around a full team of players so a winnable 4v5 scenario is often a distant dream. You have no choice before those 20 minutes before you can stop playing the game and reset. In fact, you're punished for leaving early. So, unless you enjoy being banned, you're forced to grit your teeth and take the loss. The kicker here is that as you accumulate more losses, your chance of being teamed up with worse players becomes higher (as your total skill ranking drops) which can spiral into the theory of what is affectionately called "ELO Hell".

Now, from your advise, asking these people not to do these sorts of things will more often than not make them stop? In my experience, it's been the exact opposite. I actually had to shut off the game last night because someone decided to cuss me out and blame me for our loss because they died five times early in the game and effectively narrowed our chances of victory to almost nothing. I was polite and any sort of mention of asking them not to swear and instead focus on playing met with more resistance. You're saying that this is the minority of cases? I would agree if this were face to face, but would you not agree that the anonymity of online gaming has create the exact opposite effect? Even better still, how would you approach this problem without simply quitting the game altogether? I'm interested in the answer as this seems to be a growing problem with games requiring more dedicated time to complete specific tasks such as MMO instances or MOBA styled games.

I think you'll get that response a lot of the time, sure, but I also think there are people who would stop if you asked them nicely. You never know until you ask. If you don't let people know they're bugging you, you rob them of the opportunity to make amends. Yes, plenty of people will just be dicks about it, because lots of people delight in being jerks. But not everyone.

I have issues with leaving a movie or book or a game unfinished. Or doing things out of order and skipping things. For example when I got into Doctor Who I had to watch the series from the start. I enjoyed it, though.

Yeah, I have issues. I'm not as bad at it as I was as a kid, though, and there have been some games I left unfinished. Although I can't really get rid of them...

I tend to avoid stuff I'm not sure I'll like. Or get something out of. If the book/movie/game is bad, I can still get some enjoyement out of it by analyzing why it is bad.

As for dealing with stress, I personally don't find shooting stuff and destroying things relaxing. I like to do that kind of stuff and play games like that when I'm relaxed. If I play games like that when I'm anxious I only feel worse.

However, grinding makes me feel better. Doing some repeated motion or thing, not even necessarily game-related, helps me relax.

Dastardly:

The Escapist Staff:
029: Amy & Gaming Disappointments

This week, we discuss Amy and our other gaming disappointments. We also talk about what not to do in article pitches.

Watch Video

Listening to this week's podcast, it really grabbed me how often the idea of feeling came up. I think that's one of the great tragedies of our time -- so much of what we do is based on feelings, but so few people stop and really learn to understand them.

It's especially true in any art, including writing and game creation. Art itself is tapping into the emotions of your viewers/readers/audience and trying to link them to your own -- to create in them the feeling that you have in yourself. The medium, in a way, doesn't really matter. Despite different methods, all media have the same goal.

...

The central idea underscoring all of this is that Art is psychology. It's knowing and speaking the remarkably-common language of emotion. And, of course, it's about honing your own technique in your chosen medium so that you can then follow through on that understanding. But that technique is a tool, a means to expression.

And now I've completely lost the script. My brain is going in a hundred directions at once, so I need to go strap it down. Damn good podcast!

Well said. While the musician in me resonates with your metaphor of tension and release, the narrative and settings of games are better understood in terms of surprise vs. fulfillment. We've spoken in previous podcasts about the difference between productively using archetypes and tropes as a convenience and simply using them as a crutch for weak storytelling and world building. Whether it's the inevitable helicopter crash in the latest military shooter, or the unshaven space marine who's constantly shouting obscenities, developers seem to trot out the same old motifs again and again until the form begins to take the place of the function. And in the efforts to reach a larger, more mainstream market, those lowest common denominators are even more appealing. It's the same in pop music. You hear the 1-6-2-5 everywhere, but how often do you hear it with a tritone substitution? Even in the genres where you do hear it -- jazz and gospel -- it's become its own cliche.

Cliches are cliches for a reason, but it's a short step from being an expression of creativity to a prison for the storyteller, particularly for overexposed archetypes. Just look at elves and dwarves. When's the last time you encountered anything fantastic about either of these fantasy staples? Now the arrogant elf and surly dwarf are just techniques whose only justification is pure inertia. That's exactly where many people feel the Star Wars prequels went wrong. Lightsabers and spaces battles were cool because they were merely the package for intriguing psychological content. Lucas got so distracted with the technique that he served his viewers a meal that was all sauce and no meat.

I hope you guys get that new equipment soon. The distortion in the first segment slowly got worse as it went on. I will admit though that Susan laughing through intense reverb was funny in a surreal kind of way.

Also it looks like it's time to write and submit my "Why Video Games Based On Movies Suck" article that's been circling around my mind.

Steve Butts:
Well said. While the musician in me resonates with your metaphor of tension and release, the narrative and settings of games are better understood in terms of surprise vs. fulfillment.

Agreed! To me, the storytelling elements are the same in music and in literary narrative. Archetypes and tropes are convenient, but for a reason: They represent the common language among the listeners. If you say, "And they lived..." everyone knows what follows is "...happily ever after." If you play a major scale from the first note up to the 7th and stop, even the seemingly "uninitiated" listener will beg you to play the tonic.

It's a shared set of patterns, expectations, and artistic "terminology" that we use. It can lead to everything becoming quite... same-y. Still, it's the very existence of those common expectations that allows us to play around with them, to choose whether to surprise or fulfill. After all, you can't "twist" something unless the other end is anchored, right?

Cliches are cliches for a reason, but it's a short step from being an expression of creativity to a prison for the storyteller, particularly for overexposed archetypes.

Aside: This is why I love Skyrm's "ugly" elves.

That's exactly where many people feel the Star Wars prequels went wrong. Lightsabers and spaces battles were cool because they were merely the package for intriguing psychological content. Lucas got so distracted with the technique that he served his viewers a meal that was all sauce and no meat.

Yep. This is a situation in which we all knew the twist. So that was the expectation that Lucas could have played around with. He had to eventually satisfy it, but he could have done so in a completely surprising way. Maybe it was Obi-Wan headed for the dark side, and Anakin fell prey to it while trying to save him... maybe the Jedi Order really was getting a little corrupt, and Anakin had to play too close to the edge in order to expose them... Something.

Instead, it was a connect-the-dots through every element of the original trilogy. Every major or minor reference that could be made was made. No stone was left unground. And it was all by-the-book. The audience knew the punch was coming, but Lucas telegraphed it anyway.

In music and in storytelling, we need the common elements (tropes, cliches, standard forms, etc.) in order to establish a common language between creator and audience. That's the very thing that allows us to play with that connection (For instance, a particularly clever turn of phrase or rhetorical device would be missed by someone with only a passing familiarity with English). We need them the same way a wall needs studs and a roof needs beams. But while we can feel the effects, would we really want a house in which we could see all the studs and beams?

BTW, the podcats make my mondays. As I don't listen to it till monday morning.

Alexnader:

Also it looks like it's time to write and submit my "Why Video Games Based On Movies Suck" article that's been circling around my mind.

I will CUT you.

Susan Arendt:

Alexnader:

Also it looks like it's time to write and submit my "Why Video Games Based On Movies Suck" article that's been circling around my mind.

I will CUT you.

Lol, if any one else said that they would be perma-banned. But I am off to the craft store to by pink paper, confetti, glitter ink all to write my submission about how the prequals ruined star wars with numerous references to wang.

Alexnader:
I hope you guys get that new equipment soon. The distortion in the first segment slowly got worse as it went on. I will admit though that Susan laughing through intense reverb was funny in a surreal kind of way.

Also it looks like it's time to write and submit my "Why Video Games Based On Movies Suck" article that's been circling around my mind.

It came in today actually. It's a pretty noticeable difference. Thanks to everyone for enduring the warehouse of echos. I still have one weird issue with our audio recorders that causes some minor problems, but the new replacement mics take care of most of it.

Thumbs up for mentioning Fugazi. Quite possibly one of my favorite bands of all time.
I've read they got their name from the army slang for KIA; Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In.

Piece of nerd trivia: Apparently the character Guy from Final Fight / Street Fighter was modelled off their co-singer (can't forget Ian Mackaye) Guy Picciotto.

I juuuust thought of something about Steve's story at the start about "Ho-ing your tummy".... This is a child who appears to have seen both "Thundercats" and "Care Bears". I'm 33 and this boy is having the same childhood as me. Where's the time machine?

"Timesplitters 2 baby!"

I knew there was a reason I loved Susan Arendt... why no TS4 Gawd... why u do this?

Its a bit of a necro, sorry.

Do you always finish article you start? yes
do you always finish a book you start? yes
do you always finish a music album you start? Yes
do you always finish a movie you start? yes
do you always finish a game you start? yes (exception being broken game, like savegames corrupting, i gave up after 3 gamethouhs in clear skies)

It drives me nuts how can a person start watching a movie and not finish it? what sorcery is this? or how can you play for 2 hours and not finish a game? whatk ind of a lunatic does that? It is beyond my scope of understanding on how could it be possible to even come up with that idea.

 

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