Max Mallory, Remembered…

Max Square Selfie

From Chuck Mallory: we are continuing this site to memorialize my son, Max Mallory, a gamer, writer, businessman, friend to many and all-around good guy who often looked out for the underdog. He passed away suddenly on May 20, 2016, at age 22, from a brain hemorrhage as a result of advanced cancer.

Max was a writer for Game Zombie, hired before graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (May 2015), and also a writer for several gaming websites. In October 2015 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and endured chemotherapy, two major surgeries, and numerous procedures.

While there will not be posts on games here, there will be updates on other things about his life–writings about Max, his own writing, and the Max Mallory Foundation, which will promote testicular cancer awareness and provide awards and scholarships for gaming students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

For further reading now, here are some short pieces related to Max Mallory and his life:

Across Two Aprils

The Son of Someone Famous

Life as We Knew It

What to Suspect When You’re Expecting

2015 Games of the Year

Better late than never! Thanks to an illness that’s recently come about, I haven’t been updating my site, let alone showing up on social media or doing my usual long-form games talk. These are my top video games released in 2015, across all platforms for all prices. Just like last year, these aren’t chosen because they’re the closest to flawless, or because they’re the most fun, but because I think they’re the most important games I’ve played, and they have stuck with me the longest. So, in no particular order:

Life is Strange

Life is Strange

I love just about everything that Life is Strange has to offer. Focusing on the life of Max (hey!) a new boarding school attendee returning to her hometown, Life is Strange presents a surface-layer story about time travel and teenage angst. On the deeper (and more coherent) level, the story is about relationships, self-harm, and making some pretty serious sacrifices. What’s most important about this game is how it dismantled the narrative game–since players can rewind time, they can see the outcomes of their choices before rewinding and choosing the outcome they desire. Whether people are taking a liking to it or not, the game has some pretty big implications for narrative, and that impact is not lost on me, either.

Her Story

Her Story

When Sam Barlow, a narrative designer whose most famous games credits are two Silent Hill games, released Her Story last year, it quickly became the most notable title in the recent renewal of FMV games. It deserves it, too. The core mechanic is a search engine! There’s hundreds of videos portraying actress Viva Seifert as the main character, and using this database, players literally piece together the narrative from fragments. It’s a gorgeous, adventurous, and risky title that has an extremely great payoff. It’s very hard to forget how much Her Story stands out this year on a background of sub-par AAA titles.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Keep Talking

I can say without a second thought that Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the single greatest gaming experience I’ve had in my adult life. It’s a shame that the gameplay doesn’t stay fresh, because I would be addicted to the dopamine rush this game releases. Keep Talking is an asymmetrical experience, with one person defusing a bomb while viewing it through an Oculus Rift and the other walking them through the defusal with a paper manual. It’s an extremely unique experience, and one that I will never forget, but it gets stale once you and your partner begin to remember the manual. Nevertheless, for that brief, fleeting first few games, it’s magical.

Splatoon

splatoon

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a “Games of 2015” list without Nintendo’s attempt at a squad shooter, Splatoon, listed near the top. Any new IP or series that Nintendo creates nowadays is subject to some serious scrutiny, and Splatoon had plenty of that during its lead-up to release. However, critics were proven wrong when the game actually released and brought a whole new concept to shooters: What if the target wasn’t the other players? It’s a daring act to defy something so deeply engrained in both developers and players of FPS games alike. If any company could do it, Nintendo can. They did an amazing job creating a new IP in a competitive genre and it stands as last year’s main proof that innovation pays off.

Rocket League

rocket league

While it isn’t the best example in games history, Rocket League is the best example in 2015 of “Easy to learn, hard to master”. You’ll learn just about everything there is to learn in Rocket League in the first few months you play it, but everything after that is what really separates the amateurs from the pros. Combine that with some gorgeous looking cars & arenas, an air-tight physics engine, supportive and communicative developers that have updated the game heavily since launch, and you’ll end up with a clean, solid title that deserves its spot on this list.

Conventions – Attendance is Mandatory

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At this point in the year, graduation has advanced from the background to the foreground like a tidal wave appearing on the horizon. My undergrad schedule is about to end. My daily routine—keeping track of five classes, two jobs, and an internship—is about to be distilled and filtered into a new daily routine, one where I only have to keep track of a singular career instead of the amalgamation of “what do I have to get done tomorrow?” that I’ve been facing most weekday nights for the last few years.

Sure, it’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s all the emotions that people have been experiencing at the edge of college graduation for decades. And like those people, I’ve been job searching and thinking of where I’m going to live and how I’m going to eat. On the contrary, there’s a lot of things I’m not thinking about during this time. Every so often (if I’m having a rough evening) these thoughts get really taxing, and I’ll spiral down into the endless loop of “Oh god I have no skills” or “Nobody will ever want to make games with me blah blah blah”. It’s in those times that I have to bring myself back up and reflect on all the Awesome Stuff! I’ve done to get here.

During those times, it’s not the positions I’ve held that make me feel good about myself. It’s not the classes I’ve taken, or the skills I’ve learned that make me feel confident that I belong in this industry. It’s not even the articles I’ve written (at least, not on an individual basis). If there’s anything that makes me feel skilled, purposeful, and hopeful for the future, it’s the experiences.

It’s working with a journalism startup in its infancy, helping build a web presence with my talented, passionate, just-graduated friends. It’s meeting my first dedicated writing team and befriending them. I admired their work, and promoted it not just because they’re fantastic people but because they too produce Awesome Stuff! It’s looking at a huge problem in mobile games, brainstorming what can be done about it, and dedicating my senior capstone to fixing that problem. All of these things weren’t done by myself. They were done with other people.

There are two main ways that I gained the connections, friends, and opportunities that I did. One was college, which is expensive and clunky if you’re going into game design. The other? Conventions. It’s not University or Twitter that did this for me, it was Consumer Electronics Show, Penny Arcade Expo, and Midwest Game Developers Summit. I am always at my best before or after these conventions. I’m excited to be attending a place full of people with the same passion as me. I’m motivated to show them my best work, and once the convention is over I feel like I’ve gained all the knowledge I need to make my creations even better.

A gaming convention, professional or passionate, is the place to meet those people. It’s a gathering where everyone is their for the same purpose: to increase their knowledge and experience in the gaming world. Everyone has the same schedule. Nobody has anywhere to be but the expo hall. As long as you present yourself properly and act professionally, you’re treated as an equal to people that you’ve looked up to for years. And still, even during my final year of school, I meet people at my school majoring in game development that don’t go to conventions. They don’t even have good reasons, either. Things like “I can’t get a ride there” when people have publicly offered them, or “I can’t afford the ticket price” when a one-day pass is $20. I understand that sometimes it is impossible, but for so many opportunities to have come and passed, it’s not hard to tell there’s something else going on other than a stroke of bad luck.

This coming weekend, I’m going to be at GlitchCon in Minneapolis, and I’m working on my projects harder than I have this entire year. I already know that once this is over I’ll be hyped again to be working on things and preparing for life-after-graduation. A lot of my fellow students won’t be getting that burst of motivation that spurs them into action, and that’s saddening. If you’re a chronic convention-skipper, now is the time to break it. Trust me, it might be tough to gather up the funds, or find the time to attend, but it will advance your career in games further than anything else you’d be doing in the meantime.

Print some business cards. Pull out your good shirt. Prepare to show off your Awesome Stuff. There are literally hundreds of these gatherings a year. Opportunities won’t always land in your lap, but they’ll probably land near your city. If you’re really serious about making your games the best they can be, then I’ll be seeing you at a convention this year. Game developers don’t just learn from games, they learn from other developers. Luckily for you, they’re just a road trip away.

To Put it Simply – My game for #JamForLeelah

Tonight, I’m publishing my #JamforLeelah game on itch.io. The game is titled To put it simply, and I hope you enjoy it.

http://maxpmallory.itch.io/to-put-it-simply

To put it simply, is a Twine game I made over the course of a month for a game jam in honor of Leelah Alcorn, a young girl who committed suicide in late 2014 due to being unaccepted by society as a trans woman. Her death caused tons of outcry for transgender rights, and renewed the discussion about one of the most controversial “medical” practices, conversion therapy. You can read more about Leelah’s death and the reaction to it with a quick Google search, but I definitely recommend you play To put it simplyand read the story I put together.

I took the term “interactive fiction” that is applied to most Twine games and combined that genre with my passion for telling stories around events that have actually happened (no offense to fiction—I’m an avid IF reader). A big thing to keep in mind when you’re discussing issues in the LGBT community is that you should be very aware of personal experience, and know that someone’s personal experience is generally more important in context than what you think the experience is like, or what you have heard it’s like. I’ve had very little contact with trans people in my life, so I decided to tell the only story I thought had enough coverage and perspectives to be told fairly by someone who isn’t trans—Leelah’s. And to be honest, I don’t even tell it much. Most of what I did was arrange various news articles and postings online to tell the story in a non-linear fashion.

I did my best to respect the topic and treat it with the care it deserves, but I also made sure that everything included in To put it simply, is there to prove a point: Leelah’s death is a tragedy, and the fact that we still aren’t helping trans people in these types of situations is disgusting. I used various articles on the web, quotes from significant people related to this issue, experiences of the family and friends of Leelah’s that they’ve been quoted as saying in interviews…all of these sources contribute to the truth, the root of it all, and the call to action that we must spread in order to help trans people feel safe.

So, I hope you learn something from my game, and I hope you gain a better understand of what Leelah went through. If you have any feedback at all, please feel free to let me know on here or Twitter: @MaxPMallory.

Woes – Why Molyneux and RPS Both Have Work to Do

Let’s talk about something in games journalism today, and I promise I won’t use the GG-word.

Rock Paper Shotgun just published a pretty heavy interview with Peter Molyneux, one of the most famous game developers in the world who is currently working with his indie studio 22Cans on the god game Godus. I highly recommend reading that interview in full (settle in, it’s a long one) before reading this, since I won’t be quoting too much of the actual content here, just looking at the overall message.

It went okay. Here’s the first question:

liar

Alright, maybe it didn’t go okay. Throughout the duration of the interview, both RPS writer John Walker and Peter Molyneux get very passionate about their goals. Walker’s goal is to expose how wrong it is to take the money of Kickstarter backers without delivering on the company’s promises, and Molyneux’s is to defend himself by pointing out how much work he and his team have put in (and are going to put in) to Godus. Both of these are valid sides to take; the lines are blurry in Kickstarter and many of the backers who wanted to see Godus made are very upset with the quality of what they’ve received.

And rightfully so, what they thought they were going to receive in the timeframe promised is not what they received. The problem is that we have been and still are treating Kickstarter as if it is a marketplace. It is not. Kickstarter is and always will be a website where those who believe in a product can put their money forward to see it happen. I understand that these backers are upset. Those who had faith in Godus should be.

However, it’s wrong to besmirch someone for doing their best to deliver on those promises. Molyneux very clearly has poured his heart and soul into his game, you can see that in the interview. It’s not just evident in the numbers he quotes but in the passionate way he delivers his statements:

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When game developers have a great idea, and great plans for features, they wait for the excitement to die down, then actually begin to consider all the concrete things necessary for a game to be made. How much will it cost, how many work hours will it take, when can we promise to have this by? I get the impression that, during the Kickstarter phase of Godus, Molyneux and his team did this. They were asking for people’s money, after all, and they can’t toy around with that. It’s your word as a developer that’s on the line, and when you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, it feels like a huge breach of trust to the people you put your faith in. This is why I find it understandable that Kickstarter backers are pissed. They were given heavy implication that the product they wanted would be done in the timeframe promised, and it wasn’t. By far. This really means that there’s an important lesson about funding vs. product here, and it’s what I’ve been saying about Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and Early Access for a while now:

When you give money to a company for a product that isn’t out yet, you are not buying a good, nor a service. You are funding a company. You’re paying them because you believe in them and you want them to succeed, so you’re providing a resource for them to find that success. If you’re on Kickstarter and you select a backer reward, you shouldn’t expect it. We need to avoid these types of conflicts, both on the press and development side. It’s very toxic to have arguments like this. They do nothing but pressure developers and make press look unprofessional. When Walker interviewed Molyneux as he did, he created a problematic environment between the two of them, because his main point is flawed from the beginning. The nature of Kickstarter is different than what he perceived it to be.

So that covers the consumer side. But how can we expect press to have a good understanding of what game development is like? Companies are required to be hush-hush about development lately, due to…recent events…And with the somewhat required lack of transparency from the company side (don’t want the consumers to revolt because they revealed the mistakes made before launch), both the press and developers are put in a very difficult-to-resolve dynamic with one another.

We need more transparency by game developers. We need more respect by press of the difficulties of creating games. Sometimes a developer promises something and they really mean it, and they think it’s feasible and possible and all that, but roadblocks will always happen in any industry, so why are we the ones that get outraged when they do happen? It’s unfair to those developing the game. I know that it’s not exactly presented in the clearest way possible on crowdfunding platforms, and that’s a huge problem. However, as those who invest in a product or a company do for a living, we need to understand that there will be hiccups, and be forgiving of them instead of punishing.

Let’s worry less about not getting our supposedly promised product, and worry more about creating a place where that product can be delivered without the humongous amounts of pressure developers like Molyneux have on them now.

2014 Games of the Year

In no particular order, here are five of my favorite games that came out in 2014.

Mountain

Mountain blew my mind for the entire journey I spent with it, from O’Reilly’s awkward IGF announcement for the game to the response to my IGI piece on it. It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem like a video game, and everyone I talk to about it looks at me like I’m speaking backwards. It confused the crap out of me and I loved every second of it. O’Reilly created something that breaks most of the molds that we hold about games while still providing a stimulating, controlled experience that we demand as players. I include it on this list because it sticks out in my mind as one of the weirdest games of the year, but also one that I resonated with deeply, one that I enjoyed every time I started it up, and one that I’ve recommended to most people I know this year.

Desert Golfing

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Continuing on the trend of weird games, I found Captain Games’ Desert Golfing to be another game that really messes with players’ expectations, but on a different, more game-y level than Mountain. Most mobile golfing-style games are very similar, with mechanics that focus on power and accuracy on very bizarre holes that do weird things like teleport the ball, or make the ball extremely bouncy, or some other outlandish, impossible golf thing. Desert Golfing has an infinite amount of holes. It has almost no HUD, and it has one type of terrain: sand. Just sand, for thousands and thousands of holes. The generation of the holes is great, providing easy, filler holes that can be interspersed by holes that take over twenty strokes to beat. There’s no indication of when the game is going to end, or when you’re going to get to something different, save for the leaderboards that unlock at 1000 holes (whoops, spoiler.) But the lack of stimulation in the game somehow creates stimulation in itself. The holes seem so easy to complete, why not spend another ten seconds completing it? It’s a gourmet chocolate wrapped in dollar paper towels, but it still tastes amazing.

Hearthstone

Hearthstone

Blizzard’s Hearthstone did not appeal to me when it was in Beta late last year, but after a quick introduction by a co-worker of mine, I was instantly intrigued. Best described as a simple, electronic version of Magic: The GatheringHearthstone is a simple card game that pits you against random opponents with constructed decks. On the surface, it doesn’t really bring much new to the world of collectible card games. There is a main resource used to play cards, there are attack and defense on creature cards, There is a card limit on decks, etc. etc. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before if you play card games, but the real amazement comes in two places: The technological brilliance of their cross-platform play system (which reaches across THREE platforms!), and the depth of the multiplayer. Hearthstone‘s meta-game is baffling. The importance of a single card’s effectiveness in a deck can win or lose multiple games. The cards included are balanced and still immense fun to use, and the game runs smoothly with a rapidly-approaching-zero disconnect rate. In classic Blizzard fashion, the game is one that players can see themselves sinking hours upon hours into, all while finding more and more content to harvest.

Threes!

Threes!

This Thanksgiving, my dad sat with me for a solid half-hour and showed me his infallible strategy for high scores in Sirvo’s mobile puzzle game (that actually isn’t a match-three) Threes! He showed me exactly what he does on his morning train ride to work, and told me about how he almost never gets a score below 7,000 anymore. The mechanics of Threes! are fumblingly simple, but for a puzzle game to have as much depth, possible strategy, and replayability as Threes! does seems impossible. The team behind the game released their email string after the inevitable mobile attack of the clones, and it gives a ton of insight to the development of such a simple game. This team’s passion for creating something so fantastic over such a long period of time has made me respect them just as much as the top mobile developers I know, and their game was so fantastic that it’s been on many GOTY lists before mine.

Bounden

If you met me in 2014, there’s a solid chance that we played Game Oven’s brilliant ballet game Bounden together. Never has there been a game so compelling, so flowing, so gorgeous that I feel the need to show it to people that have never played a game before. The combination of orchestrated tracks and timed dances can bring players closer than any other video game I’ve ever played. It’s an 8th grade party game for adults. It’s a game to break the touch barrier with, while still maintaining an air of playfulness and fun. It’s a game that your precious phone battery life is worth. I was fortunate enough to meet Game Oven at PAX East last April, and because of that I found something so innovative, so new, so refreshing, that it erased the chalkboard in my mind of what I thought a game was about, and I could not have been happier that it did.

The Fatal Flaw of eSports: Complexity

It's a safe bet that the vast majority of these people are players.

It’s a safe bet that the vast majority of these people are players.

I talked a bit with some folks on Twitter recently about the popularity of eSports, and I wanted to expand on my thoughts a bit about the subject. I really love the concept of eSports and I’ve watched some tournaments here and there, but overall, I’m generally disappointed with what I watch. This isn’t because the casters suck, or the players are boring, or anything like that. It’s because of how inaccessible eSports are to non-player audiences. Those who don’t play or understand the eSport being broadcasted won’t enjoy it, and I was surprised to discover that this isn’t a problem that a community can fix. This is a game design problem.

Let’s take a look at arguably the two most popular eSports right now: Riot Games’ League of Legends and Valve’s Dota 2. Both of these games draw in hundreds of thousands of viewers during their biggest tournaments, and LoL even sold out the Staples Center for one of their international finals. Both LoL and Dota have very dedicated followers, but they’re also both extremely complex games, even on an amateur level. To be considered a respectable player in LoL, you have to be level 30, which is a feat that takes hundreds of hours to reach. In both of these games, you have to have a basic understanding of almost every playable character in the game and their abilities (a roster that features over 100 characters) to play on even an intermediate level. The basic gameplay for either of these games can be explained in under a minute, which is great, but understanding the significance of this gameplay takes a while.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re watching a match of League with a friend who’s interested in the game but hasn’t played it. The match begins, and four players on one team go into bottom lane to start farming. It’s hard to explain why this is a horrible strategy to them in a way they’ll quickly understand. You’d have to explain the concept of farming to them, then you’d have to explain why champion X and Y need to go to the top lane, then you’d need to explain team composition, etc. Matches pretty much always last for at least a half hour, so there’s a lot of downtime to explain some rules to those interested, but there are always important events occurring in a professional-level match, so you’ll be spending the whole time talking to your friend instead of devoting your attention to the match. This is also under the pretense that a non-player won’t have any questions at all.

Compare that to a sport with simple rules like Soccer. (I’m not choosing a “big four” American sport here because they’re engrained in our culture, which is a much larger discussion). You can talk about how a game’s formation matchup will be one-sided, and all you have to say is “The team with X formation leaves some open spaces here and here.” You can explain why a player needed to slide tackle at a certain moment, and all you need to say is “They probably wouldn’t have gotten the penalty, and they would have the In a MOBA, it’s always a chain that leads up to major objectives. Everything needs to be explained, since the sport is so complex. This is going to be the most controversial statement in this post, but in eSports, complexity is very, very bad. The simpler a sport is to explain, the easier it is to have that sport appeal to a larger audience. If you’re a player, you already have a decent understand of gameplay and strategy. This is why the eSport with the most players is always the most popular eSport.

Complexity is the fatal flaw of eSports. Without clear strategy and rules that a non-player can understand, it’s nigh-impossible for a game to gain viewership unless the player base of the game increases. The best eSport will have a clear objective that doesn’t confuse viewers, but enough strategy to continuously challenge even the best players of the sport. One of the best eSports I’ve seen is KoalaBeast’s TagPro, which is a simple capture-the-flag game with tons of depth for professional players. Another one is Action Button Studio’s upcoming Videoballwhich is best described as “The fastest RTS ever”. Even Counter-Strike, an already popular eSport is very close to fitting this definition, but the intricacies of strategy have distanced it from non-player viewers.

It’s extremely hard to develop a game with the credo of “easy to learn, impossible to master”. That’s what eSports needs to break out, and without that, it will forever be a community by players and for players. It will be exclusive. Exclusivity is bad, but you’ve already read a thousand words from me, so I won’t make you read a thousand more. Yet.

Want to chat with me about this post? Send me a tweet: @MaxPMallory

What is $2.5 Billion Really Worth?

This morning, it was announced that Mojang, the developers of Minecraft, was purchased by Microsoft for $2.5 billion. In addition, the founders of Mojang (Notch, Carl, and Jakob) are leaving the company. Notch published a post on his website detailing his reasons for leaving and adding some somber personal thoughts on the matter.

“I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.” – Markus Persson

This comparison between Notch and Phil Fish obviously isn’t extremely accurate, but it is right about one thing: Notch has become a symbol. He is not Markus Persson, Swedish game developer. He is the guy who made Minecraft. He gets flak every day from fans, journalists, and youtubers. It’s not an easy thing to step down from the company you’ve built up into one of the most important game developers of all time. It’s even harder when millions of fans are watching your every move. Notch had to reclaim his freedom. Stepping down is the only way to do that.

The purchase of the company isn’t a mistake, but it feels very dehumanizing. To Microsoft, this is simply a step in the direction of profit. It is a large deal they made to increase their revenue for the coming years. This is not a simple business transaction in the eyes of the average consumer. Microsoft has not just purchased a game developer. They’ve purchased a cultural icon, a generation of people that will see Minecraft in the same way that baby boomers see Pink Floyd or The Doors. To Microsoft, it’s a product, a brand, and a group of people that are extremely talented at what they do. To the people, it’s something more than that. Something intangible, that can’t be bought or sold with money. $2.5 billion isn’t even close to the real value of Mojang. It’s as if someone tried to buy the internet. How does a company even begin to plan around buying something that is barely even seen as a product anymore?

They treat it as one. I’m not saying Microsoft made a bad move, or that I hate them for simply trying to increase their profits (something that every business can and should be doing). But there is a sort of defeat in this deal. To see something that’s been such an important part of my career and my life be purchased away from the original creators/owners is sad, I have to admit. It’s an even more important part of the lives a generation below me. Indie games wouldn’t be where they are without Minecraft, and to see it officially become what most would consider “not indie” (even though it hasn’t really been “indie” for a long time) is depressing. It’s the end of an era.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Notch and co. are going to create now that they’ve left Mojang. I’m not looking forward to seeing what Minecraft is going to become. I’ve been so passive about the game for years now. I barely play it anymore. That said, I recognize that millions of others do, and their hesitation on this deal is valid. But know this: No amount of money can ever buy what our culture has turned Minecraft into. That will always belong to the people.

Thoughts on Coming Out Simulator 2014

In 2010, indie developer Nicky Case participated in the most difficult conversation of his life. Four years later, for the itch.io narrative game jam “Nar8”, Case made a game about it. That game is Coming Out Simulator 2014.

COS2014

The game takes about 15 minutes to get through, so go play it right here if you haven’t.

Successes: As with a lot of games that focus on connecting players to emotional experiences, Coming Out Simulator 2014 succeeds in telling the story of someone who struggles with the same problems as the developer. Your choices in the game don’t always have the effect you want them to, and some of the choices you’re given won’t be what you really want to say. While the former succeeds in the frustration and fatigue that people face when coming out, the latter is harder to judge. From the perspective of a narrative game, barring a player from making a choice they identify with is wrong, but in the scenario of a difficult conversation, one where you might tell the truth, the half-truth, or nothing but a lie, you might not say exactly what you want to say, or what you’re thinking.

With the player limited to three choices, it makes sense that things won’t always pan out the right way. Combine that with the minimalist art and somber animations (especially the phone conversations), and the mood of the game is successfully set in a bleak, nervous atmosphere that’s perfect for what the author is trying to convey. The only constant sound effect is the ticking clock at the dinner table, while around you, your parents are breaking down, fighting, and denying their son, right in front of their son. If the game rolled with these elements, I wouldn’t have much to complain about. However, there’s some serious tone and framework issues.

Failures: The game’s humor is my biggest complaint with this game. It opens and closes with the developer talking to you, as a character, in the game. He explains what the game is about in a fourth-wall shattering intro that feels jarring. It takes you out of the experience and frames it in this weird conversation that doesn’t feel natural. The in-game character as the developer sits in a coffee shop and tells you the prelude to how he came out to his family, and at the end of the game, you have to listen to three alternate endings.

By the way, these endings are told to you, which is a clear breach of writing’s first rule: show, don’t tell. These monologues feel really out of place and very jarring against the stark reality of coming out. Many of the choices you’re given for dialogue are clearly just jokes, things that few would actually say given the situation. I understand the importance of comic relief when dealing with something serious like this, but it’s not done effectively here, and it really brings the game down with it.

Overall, I’m glad the game exists. It is giving people a perspective on a difficult subject, one that not everyone will deal with in their life, and one that must be handled with care. The game was made with the intention of helping people sympathize with those who have had to come out to their families. This is done by brave people, people under threats of heartbreak, abuse, and abandonment. Maybe Coming Out Simulator 2014 will shed some light on what they go through, but next time, let’s take it a little more seriously, eh?

A Word (or 600) About eSports, Game Journalism, and Motivation

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Robert Morris University, a college in Aurora, IL announced today that Riot Games’ popular MOBA League of Legends will become a varsity sport at the school. They’re going to compete in tournaments, hold practices, have a coach…they’re even offering scholarships for prospective students.

This is probably the biggest eSports news since Visas were granted to pro eSports players last summer. Note that I said biggest, not best. Visas for players is fantastic, as that allows people who are already deep on their career path to continue their career in America. robert Morris University adding LoL as a varsity sport is also fantastic. I’m 100% for anything that furthers the popularity of eSports. However, one of the most important parts of this is also the part that bugs me the most: Robert Morris University awarding scholarships for eSports could be dangerous.

Just like in traditional sports, there’s an extremely slim chance that one will be able to play competitive video games professionally. Not only that, but eSports are less popular, which means that there is less money in the business. The quality of life is arguably worse than traditional sports, due to how much time is spent practicing, but that’s an argument I don’t have numbers for. The point is, I think scholarships for students might encourage them to go down a very risky path, one that they should take on if it is their passion, but one they should be aware of the dangers of.

When I first got into game journalism, I knew it was something I was very passionate about. As I delved deeper into it, I realized that it was a much harder path than I thought. My motivation has not dropped; I still want to to this with all my heart. I would never wish to rob that of someone who looks up to teams like Dignitas and Na’Vi as their heroes. But, I do wish that someone had told me the realities of game journalism before I got into it. I doubt it would have swayed my decision, but for someone less passionate than me, it might have. They might have majored in a different field; filled out an application to a different university. I don’t consider it “taking the money” or anything like that, but making a more informed decision.

eSports has a long way to go until it becomes big. Things like this help a ton, but the damage it can do to those who see it as a hobby is pretty large. Does that fall upon the players, or the industry? Should we work to progress the medium of eSports/Video Games/anything not taken seriously, regardless of the cost, or should we keep ourselves aware the the damage we could be doing to those who make bad decisions, even if the decisions are their fault?

I think I’m getting a little too large in scope for this post. But my main point still remains: Make sure you’re informed about what you’re going into when you’re striving for a career. Sometimes, you won’t know until you get there (just like me), and sometimes you’ll know before you even give it a shot. Big ups to RMU for this, as it’s a huge step forward for eSports being known as something that is here to stay. The best way to make something popular is to pretend it already is.