No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #247: classic anniversary edition


Hello, everyone. Writing has slowed down for the second week in a row, which just means it will be that much longer until I get back to coding. I've also been looking around for alternative social networks: since so many are going down as of this autumn, being aware of what's out there will soon be useful. And there are plenty of options I hadn't heard of before, most of them even based in Europe. One of them even looks fun, if pointless, while another offers unusual features. That's a good thing; too many of them are just bland clones of each other. Which is probably part of why we all suffer from social media fatigue. The main reason, of course, is what I term The Machine Stops syndrome, after an old sci-fi story. With life all too often pushing us to take refuge in the digital world, we end up with a dearth of the analog experiences we need to keep things fresh, and instead end up recycling the same old memes. Adding insult to injury, it's getting harder by the day to forget even for a moment about politics, economy and climate, three horsemen of the new apocalypse.

I'm a sad, lonely, angry man as of late, and it feels like I'm betraying my readership.

In the way of extended gaming news, all we have this week is retrospectives of two classic first-person games that celebrate their 20th anniversary these days: Thief and Half Life.

It's Monday again, and K.D. alerts me to a Eurogamer piece about the historical value of the first Thief game. Not in the way of stealth mechanics, as you might expect, but theme and narrative, as expressed in the game's environments. Interestingly, I remember reading similar comments on daring level design that defies Euclidean geometry at times in a write-up about Duke Nukem 3D. What do both games have in common? A software renderer -- something considered unthinkable in 2018.

As for the game's strangeness, and how so few successors dared follow in its footsteps, I must confess that my own stories have grown less "out there" as time went on, despite a setting tailor-made to emphasize the beauty of the bizarre. Can't blame other creators whose work evolved the same way. But it's worth thinking about the reasons why.

P.S. Elevators and water-powered forges have existed for centuries. Their inclusion in a Renaissance-inspired setting isn't surreal, but simply shows that the creators did their homework. Please learn history, game enthusiasts.

It's Tuesday morning, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun reminds me that yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Half Life. Which is great, except... what is it with people automatically assuming old games don't age well? I've been told the same about the original Doom, that's still a pleasure to play, and I mean in DOS, not one of the newer, hardware-accelerated recreations. The one exception is text adventures, which are always assumed to have aged well... and more often than not they haven't.

The answer, of course, is that videogames have been completely technology-driven for such a big part of their existence, people simply cannot imagine evaluating a game on its own merits. As art. As entertainment. Whatever. We still see them as glorified showcases for the hardware they run on, and little else. That includes graphics, and it's so funny to see people amazed that blocky polygons with minimal textures can look great. Because, isn't it, an ink sketch on recycled paper can't be art. It has to be the Mona Lisa, or better yet, a photorealistic painting in acrylic.

There's a word for that, folks: snobbery. Don't be a snob.

(To its credit, the article at least acknowledges that. But apparently not the fact that you could already turn enemies against each other in the aforementioned Doom, 5 years before Half Life. So much for being old.)

Enjoy, and see you next time.