GWJ Conference Call Episode 756

Games: Outriders (PC), Dorfromantik (PC), Disco Elysium Final Cut (PC) Dark Souls 2 (PS5).

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Amanda, Rich, and Glendon talk about spoilers and the people who love them.

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00:01:10 Outriders
00:15:20 Dorfromantik
00:23:55 Dark Souls 2
00:30:38 Disco Elysium
00:42:20 Spoilers
01:04:20 Your Emails

I’m 5 minutes into the cast and the hosts are talking about how good it would be to get to some “utopian” future where we could describe games without making reference to other games ... there goes my formula for The Week Ahead

Felix Threepaper wrote:

I’m 5 minutes into the cast and the hosts are talking about how good it would be to get to some “utopian” future where we could describe games without making reference to other games ... there goes my formula for The Week Ahead

That's a DYStopian future, where we stop using analogy and comparison as linguistic shortcuts.

To whit, which is a more useful description of Monster Train?

1: Slay the Spire in a four story building.
2: Well you start out with a deck of cards which you can play to summon monsters on the first level of this four story building and then your monsters will attack the enemy monsters which go up a floor if they survive, and you have to kill them before they reach the fourth story where your life points live. Then there's a map after each fight where the deckbuilding happens.

Sure, the second description is more specific, but if you have familiarity with StS, pretty much the entirety of the second description is captured by the first.

This to me feels like an argument against the use of genre, which is one level up from using specific games as a shortcut. Which I think is bonkers, it's like insisting that we stop using any adjectives that start with the letter D. It's entirely arbitrary and only serves to make communication less efficient.

I totally agree with Jon. I don't see what the problem is with describing a game through comparisons, and 99% of the time I find those comparisons very helpful. I suppose you need to keep those to games that are well known by most people, but I feel like most of the time that's the case. It's also not like the description of the game or the discussion about it ends with the comparison to other games. It's just a tool to start the discussion on a common ground.

I think the word "useful" is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. Because how useful something is depends on the situation. A hammer is useful if I have a nail that I would look to be inserted into wood. Probably not as useful if I need to remove a splinter.

Similarly, having a quick comparison handy is useful if I need to rapidly and succinctly describe a game's broad mechanical concepts to people familiar with the reference. There are lots of circumstances where that isn't useful however, or where its utility is mostly marginal. Having a broader, more nuanced linguistical tool set available for those circumstances would be nothing but a net positive. (The good news here is these things develop over time. As mediums evolve, so too do the critical tools with which to engage with them.)

And, as a bonus, comparisons and categories can still exist. None of this is zero-sum. Having a robust critical engagement toolset as developed as the one used in literature or in film would not remove the idea of comparisons. You can be in favor of both of these things existing pretty easily! I don't think Meebs, Staygold, or myself are anti-comparisons. We use them a lot, after all.

I obviously speak only for myself but I wonder whether the way Jon presented two options made it look like it was advocating for one resource vs the other. I don't think that's the point, or at least not that one I wanted to make. To me, the issue is that if (like Rich said, and I agree) this is not a zero-sum game, then there can be no benefit from getting rid of one of these resources. I see that what was said in the podcast was more nuanced than that, it was more like "I wish we did not need this resource" or "I wish we did not keep coming back to this resource" of comparisons, but I guess I just don't have a problem with that.

Just to frame it from my perspective, the way this sounds to me is like you have the problem of inserting a nail into wood. There's probably many tools you can use other than a hammer. But if you tell me "I wish I didn't have to use a hammer," I guess you are free to enjoy whatever you like, but I don't see the point in going down that route when there's a simple tool that does the job. It's like when you're hungry... why would you go prepare a supper difficult recipe from Martha Stewart when you can put a banana on a hot dog bun with peanut butter and jelly. But I digress.

Lastly, I also think part of the issue is that what we (or rather you, on the podcast) are trying to do something that does not have an objective success state (e.g. the nail has been inserted into the wood) but are rather trying to accomplish something way more complex like describing a videogame to an audience using only spoken words, and communicating your experiences and feelings about it. You're obviously not going to achieve much if you just compare things to other videogames.

Do Skyrim chickens dream of electric sheep?

Haven't finished the podcast yet, but this seems like the Dark Souls of philosophical topics.