I like video games. Quite a bit, actually. Perhaps... too much. I also like other things. Like noise, microtravel, root beer... you know. Completely uninteresting things. I also drive a lawnmower to work and clean my clothes with the blood of newborns.
I always pictured Everygame as an artifact. Even when I was a few articles in, it was something that I didn’t really think of as a process; it was something I wanted to look back on years after it was finished, and say, “look at that dumb thing. It exists. A thousand dumb noodly articles, barely related to some video games.”
It kinda became something else.
Originally, I gave myself the Sisyphean task of playing, screencapping and writing these thousand articles, one a day, for I guess three years. That obviously wasn’t going to play without quitting my job, probably taking a bunch of drugs and shutting the rest of my life off. But eventually, I got the idea to get other people on board, and, all of a sudden, it seemed a lot more attainable. Pretty much anyone who asked got to write (however, they didn’t get to pick what they were writing; you were stuck with what you got). So, for a year, maybe more, we happily chipped away at the stupidest pile of shit ever, forced ourselves to adhere to arbitrary deadlines, and wrote.
Eventually, it kinda fell apart. We got exhausted. Levels of effort dropped. Deadlines were missed. The cynical tone mutated into one that was downright contemptuous. Every fucking 90s sports game became a week-ruining ordeal. What can I possibly have left to say about baseball?, we each individually said probably five or sixty times.
And then there were the expectations of the audience we had accidentally built. Somehow, we were getting linked on Gamasutra and Twitter. Due to some accidental SEO I farted out, we started appearing in Google searches. Comments would pop up. Among the dozens of weird spam messages, there would be questions about what the fuck was wrong with us for hating a game that we’d spent ten minutes on. It was never the point to be fair to any game, though. The point was to create a space where a game would be a jumping off point for writing.
The point was to make an artifact.
So much has changed since 2010, when the project fell off. Most of us left our 20s and entered our 30s. Twitter went from big to massive. Google Reader died (bye, everyone who ever read this!). We’ve all learned that the word “retard” is bad and casual misogyny isn’t funny (By us, I mean those of us writing. A large amount of the world had already caught on by then). We learned new words. English invented new words.
Anyway: we’re finishing it. The current plan has us running the remaining games from August 20th to December 28th, year of our videogames 2016. Then it’ll be done. Then, when I think about it, maybe I can have that gentle, soothing sense of longing that comes from remembering something you enjoyed and finished (like, say, Chrono Trigger) and not the low-level crushing disappointment of knowing you never did (like, say, Earthbound).
Stay tuned. Or, get tuned. Or whatever. RIP Google Reader.
IN THE FUTURE THERE WILL BE A FUTURE WHERE THERE WILL BE A LONG PATH IN SPACE THAT IS A STRAIGHT LINE. THIS STRAIGHT LINE WILL BE A STRAIGHT LINE FILLED WITH VARIOUS TERRIFYING AND HUMONGOUS SHIPS! THE DEFINITE ONLY WAY TO DEAL WITH THIS IS TO GET INTO A BIPEDAL MAN-SHIP EVEN THOUGH THERE IS NOTHING TO WALK ON SINCE IT IS IN SPACE! HAVE YOU EVER PLAYED A VIDEO GAME? BECAUSE I THOUGHT I HAD BUT NOW I HAVE! BECAUSE I HADN’T BEFORE! I COULD BE PLAYING ONE ALL OF THE TIME IF THERE WERE MORE!
WHERE ARE ALL OF THE OTHER VIDEO GAMES? SO FAR AS I KNOW THERE IS ONLY ONE VIDEO GAME THAT IS IMPORTANT AND I ALREADY PLAYED IT FOR LIKE 20 MINUTES!
THERE SHOULD DEFINITELY BE MORE VIDEO GAMES BECAUSE THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH OF THEM!
Wow, this game is insane. It starts with a van with a dinosaur tail driving over a bridge. Then some sheep dudes and a hat dude and an old dude pop out. Then they start talking about all of these places that I suppose exist in this world: Vladamasco (!), Batland (!!), and Ratville (!!!). Then there’s something about zombies taking over the world or something. All right! It’s fucking GO TIME!
Or is it? It isn’t. Despite this, there’s a fair bit of exposition left. Pre-playing exposition. If there’s something excruciating in these older SNES games, it’s making me hit A and making me read a bunch of nonsense before I start playing. Come on, game.
Eventually, though, you get control. Hurray! Testing the buttons reveals a jumping button, and a spinning-and-probably-hitting button! Upon reaching the next screen, an old fairy man (awesome) makes you jump over a bunch of logs to show that you can jump correctly (not awesome). Fifteen logs, in fact. Fifteen! And when that’s done, you have to spin-hit 30 rocks! THIRTY! And then, a hat throwign thing that takes like 10 seconds — FIFTEEN TIMES! This game’s ahead of its time — stupid exposition before gameplay, then stupid tutorials before gameplay? This is Okami, decades before Okami!
Here’s the rub — the game itself seems pretty good. It looks insane, and lovely, and the player control feels tasty. But all of this junk at the beginning does NOT inspire confidence. Am I going to have to follow the poorly-translated (and it IS a poor translation) political machinations of Ratville when I just want to be spin-attacking dudes in the face? Will they slowly introduce new mechanics and make me “practice” them over and over? I think there are levels up — will I need to do that for hours upon hours?
Oops, I spoke too soon — I now have to collect cards, apparently. I guess I’m a magician or something, and they’re “card tricks.” VIDEO GAMES I AM SO MAD AT YOU!
Video games based on board games lately have been pretty okay. Like, Ticket to Ride, Carcasonne, Catan, even Monopoly basically stay true to the original title and just speed up the irritating bits, like getting/giving money to the bank, sorting through your supplies cards or whatever, lining up square pieces so you can line up more square pieces later, annoying rules conventions, etc. They even let you play online! Can you imagine?
It wasn’t always this way though, young readers. Once upon a time, a game base on a board game needed to offer more than the board game had. Why? Probably three reasons:
a) it wasn’t ‘exciting’ enough to just have a board game.
b) graphics weren’t ‘better than the real thing’
c) there was no added value with online, so what was the point? just play it with a mate in the room using the real board.
So the board games video games would be like this: utter nonsense only based in the most superficial of ways on the original. This is some sort of turn-based strategy game with boats, like Harpoon Lite or something. It also, like many of the turn-based strategy games of the era, probably requires a goddamn manual because it makes precisely zero licks of sense when you boot it up. At one point I even said “what?” out loud, to nobody, in my room, the defeated, empty, flat syllable bouncing off of the barren walls and back into my stupid fucking face.
Battleship isn’t even a very good game to begin with. Is there even skill? I suppose there is, if you believe rock-paper-scissors has skill. You’re trying to make your opponent guess wrong, and trying to guess right, or something. All I know is that a bunch of dumb kids in school would jam all of their pieces in one place and make it real easy for me growing up. Whatever. Boats.
Ahh, a game about street hockey! Virtually every recess in school was dedicated to the sport, if you had a stick to bring from home (eventually I did). Most of these kids (me included) played actual ice hockey, on a team, at least twice a week (for the real good kids who had skills even more because they were on the “rep team” and not “house league”). And, on top of that, some of us played after school, back at home. That’s crazy! So much hockey! So imagine my excitement! A game based on the street-level, kids-passion version of the sport. Hurray!
OH SHIT WAIT A SECOND. This is some insane nonsense game played with INLINE SKATES and in A SWIMMING POOL where you can TRICK OFF OF THE POOL EDGES. What the hell. Also, you can’t jsut score goals? Or there are more points for certain goals? THIS IS A FUCKING GAME DESIGN MESS. Like, hockey wasn’t insane and exciting enough? They needed to add douchebag characters and insane draconic scoring rules? WELL DONE, WHOEVER MADE THIS. I like how your game says ’95’ but you never made a ’94’ or ’96’ version. Serves you goddamn right.
God. So mad about hockey right now. I think my Canada is showing.
Yo, guys, check out Spider-Man. He looks like a juicehead gorilla guido. He looks like snooki-bait in tights. I don’t remember him looking like Ronny from the Jersey Shore on the cartoon, but, you know. Often we forget things about cartoons, glossing over the bad bits in our memories. Maybe this is one of those times.
I also don’t remember the World Trade Center getting exploded in the cartoon, but it’s happening in this game!
Spider-Man: The Animated Series: The Video Game: The Most Offensive Thing To My Sensibilities Ever On SNES: Discounting That One Final Fantasy Game
Video game nerds, not entirely unlike music or film or sports or whatever else nerds, are not without affectation. Some have more than others: the ones who unabashedly like “low” forms, like titty-filled JRPGs and generi-schlock FPSes, or are more interested in a particular title than the medium (WoW geeks, Call of Duty/GTA/Halo etc. fanatics), are often the least guilty of this, in the same sense that someone who lists The Matrix Reloaded as a favourite film is probably a lot more honest to themselves than someone who considers a typical laundry list of “important” films their favourites (keep in mind, though, that the displayed sophistication of that affectation can run the spectrum, from “I heard Citizen Kane is good so I like that because I like smart movies” to “my favourite films are those that predate and perhaps began the New Wave movements in their respective countries such as the Czechoslovakian O něčem jiném or the French Bob le flambeur). This isn’t to say that Bob le flambeur and O něčem jiném are unlikeable movies by any stretch: I’ve seen neither of them, but I know (of, Internet-wise) someone who has a very close place in his heart for the latter (side note: I don’t know if this is “a thing” but it seems that foreign language movies only have the first word capitalized in their names. Is this a normal thing? Is it only English names That Are So Important That Each Word Requires The Gravitas Of A Capital Letter?).
The thing is, some games and even genres get labeled as “important” and “relevant” and therefore a lot of people front like they like them a lot more than they actually do. Shadow of the Colossus is a great example. It’s insane how many people call this their Favourite Game Ever (the name of my new film) because it did a few things that weren’t really popular to do in games. All of the battles were boss battles! They were pretty well-made! There’s a story thing that surprises you! Here’s the thing: people blow loads about this game all over the Internet. It is one of the sacred-est cows in the Video Game World. And not in the “this is a ‘safe’ sacred cow to lambaste” kind of way, like the Final Fantasy series; it’s in a “we who know best deem this the best” kind of way. But really, there’s a lot of shit in this game that isn’t good. Riding around on the horse can be confusing, and it can be a pain in the ass to control. The story isn’t that goddamn innovative (although, yeah, I applaud the developers for, you know, doing a thing with a story, but this is akin to buying a Corvette for a four-year-old who just learned to stop using diapers). The game’s pretty at times, but at others, it’s kind of — yeah, I’m saying this — ugly.
That’s affectation for you. For all but the absolute least pretentious, Top Favourite Whatevers (script forthcoming) is a list made not to service the media that is on the list so much as it is to service the image of the maker of that list. By putting Shadow at the top of my fave video games list, I make it clear that I like art. By putting Earthbound at the top of my list, I show that I value honesty. I put Space Megaforce (although if I were to put this on a list I’d probably also be one of those folks who calls it by it’s “real” name, Super Aleste) at the top of my list, I show that I care enough about video games to really dig in and find out about things you don’t know about. I put Super Aleste not because it should be my favourite, but because I am representing myself as an obscurist. I want you to be aware that I know a lot of games and you don’t and some of the games I know and you don’t are actually pretty good and you’re missing out and my life is more full of wonder than yours because I Am A Renaissance Man (the studios refuse to pick this one up). It makes the games feel better, too, which is the purpose of games (that is, to make you feel good while playing: if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be entertainment, probably), if you don’t feel a tinge of guilt while playing them; that is to say, if you know that Shadow has some it-factor that makes it relevant you won’t feel as sheepish about playing it as you might, say, Just Cause 2. I played that recently, and I felt like I was stupid for playing it, because it had no redeeming qualities beyond being kind of fun and making me laugh a lot. Well, you know what? The time I spent playing that I think I still had a better time than the time I spent playing Shadow despite its clear “artistically irrelevant” handicap.
Don’t mistake this for some sort of Anti-Intellectual Kneejerk Reaction (Jenny McCarthy will be playing the lead role of Sarah Palin in this flick, if my agent actually gets it made like I hope) and don’t mistake it for an Extra-Pretentious I Hate What “Sheep” Love Gambit (starring Taylor Kitsch reprising his role as Gambit (fun fact: to find out that someone named Taylor Kitsch played Gambit in an X-Men movie, I had to go to a Wikipedia article called “Gambit in other media,” which was its own goddamn page)). I’m just trying to be goddamn honest, here. From one pretentious game nerd to another (that is, me, and you, the reader), I’m just trying to be honest. I’m not immune to this. I used to say my favourite genre was the shmup. I loved them, to be sure, but it was affected. I started playing every shmup in the same way that I started drinking whiskey; not appreciating them at first, and their differences, and finding them difficult to swallow (ha), but developing an appreciation over time.
That’s the real problem: we, as game nerds, are too embarrassed by our pretension to call it what it is. We don’t have two separate lists, one for the games we like the most, and one for the games we appreciate most. I like Just Cause 2, but I appreciate Shadow of the Colossus. I like Tetris 2 but I appreciate Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. I like Hackers but I appreciate Loves of a Blonde (I know, I am kind of focused on Czech new wave here). It’s like we can’t decide if enjoyment or relevance is more important, so we sandwich the two together and directly compare them to each other, but it’s impossible. It’s like comparing apples to Jackson Pollock paintings.
I know this hasn’t been about Space Megaforce, but, I promise you, it kind of is. Among a certain type of video game nerd, this game is a certain kind of Shadow of the Colossus (although that perhaps does this game too great a favour). And, yeah, for a shooter it’s kind of cool. All sorts of candy-coloured shit is going on all over the screen and you can get some neat powerups or whatever. But (and I don’t mean to get too nihilistic or existentialistic or whatever the fuck is the right word here) what’s the point? Big upping this game is just big upping yourself. It places the self above the medium. And that’s fucked up.