Jan 6, 2015
Happy New Year Subscribers,
Monument Valley is the game that confirmed a trend in my impressions of mobile gaming. What is that trend? Let's talk a bit about Valley first.
The game is a gorgeous little thing which would do better to label itself a secret box. There's no real "challenge" in it until the final level and much like Sword & Sworcery, players spend the majority of their time fondling the touchscreen in search of acupuncture points to progress.
It's beautiful and smart but, at the end of it, I was done with it. I'm not going to moan like some about how Monument Valley is a big rip-off because that plays into the ever worsening disconnect between perception of value and the actual labour involved. The truth is it left no lasting impression and I had no urge to rush out and grab the additional levels in Forgotten Shores. Indeed, that's how I feel about mobile gaming so far: it rarely leaves much of an impression. Threes is the only mobile game that has gouged out a game-shaped crater in my life so far.
But then... perhaps I'm not looking for depth. In every PC game I play, I'm looking for a seed of an idea, something interesting to write about. If I find one, I try to nurture it into a full-blown piece of writing. The problem is sometimes you're expanding something too slight and inconsequential into an essay and you can't see it because you're too close to the material. This is the problem with critics in general, right? Everyone has read at least one piece which looks desperate, words on how a pixel glitch is a metaphor for the lack of fish rights in modern society. Meaning from vapour. Tears from watching paint dry.
I only do this for PC games not mobile games. I'm reminded of Joe Martin's big post on how he doesn't need to play games for reviews and thus throws them away far more casually. Games purported to have depth no longer make a mark. Cart Life? Discarded. Chucked in the bin with The Swapper and Deadly Premonition.
My reactions to mobile games, therefore, give me some pause about the value of my own writing.
All the extra time required for Electron Dance polish gets spread pretty thinly with videos and podcasts and social media to attend to. And if I have a bad week like taking a child to hospital... the whole process breaks. Side by Side is set to continue until March, there's one more Counterweight and I also have to put together the video An Apology to Tevis Thompson.
I used to have this worry that Electron Dance, compared to other blogs by young kids with plenty of time to burn, was just too slow to keep anyone's attention. You're not blogging every day??? Get outta here. I got trapped in this view that one post wasn't good enough, especially if I was putting a podcast out that week to reach a different audience (that never came). I want to return to the days of old when articles would be ready a week early and I'd read them several times before posting, each time finding something to amend.
Hopefully this year I will contain my urges to stack up multiple posts for a single week. However, saying that, I've still got The Petri Dish lined up as "second" posts. I don't think I want rants about Twitter to be the headline act...
There are just three Electron Dance weeks in January due to the two-week Christmas break. Still not made up my mind what is going to turn up this month.
At least one Minecraft piece, tentatively titled "The Family That Plays Together" which I've written just for the funky punchline. There's a second piece that might be pushed to next month.
One week will also probably be dedicated to Verde Station, the only game that came out of the closet and called itself a secret box game, which it most definitely is. Spoiler: Not perfect, but I really liked it. Maybe we'll be lucky and I'll play The Talos Prinicple in the next couple of weeks? I'm trying to keep a lid on my Minecraft actvities which wiped out everything else over Christmas.
Sorry for rambling on for so long. You love it, really.
-- Joel Goodwin