He’s nobody important. There’s your tl;dr.
He’s a nutter who’d literally play Journey over a game with bad art because he thinks games are art in the most pretentious way possible (and that the *quality* of the visual representation is of utmost importance).
Like, he’s the end-product of the immersion ideology, though twists it to endorse hardcore games (because games that are harder are more immersive he says, not realizing that things in general that are harder make you pay more attention to them), and his perspective on the matter actively prevents him from seeking knowledge. He has successively tried to dismiss people who play games for score, for time, and competitively in any fashion as an easy way to prop himself up as the “best video game player ever” by removing any sort of metric or criteria for that statement. His belief in immersion as be all and end all leads him to distrust alternate perspectives because he doesn’t understand the joy of playing games, only the joy of immersing one’s self in simulations, which he believes all art is a form of, and games are the ultimate art because they recombine (or eventually will recombine) the other media into a complete simulation of another reality.
The article on competitive gamers he wrote (it was partially reposted to scrub quotes and I heard he put up his paywall again after a fight with some other dude) highlights how limited he has forced his insight to become through his ideology. He can’t understand the mindset of the competitive player, or more specifically, because he doesn’t understand what makes good games, he distrusts the statements that they want a more balanced game, or the tendency to prefer human opponents over AI, or the way that players seek knowledge about the game in order to perform better, demanding players reinvent the wheel, and effectively play a more limited version of the game, rather than attempt to compete directly with the strongest players around in the most deep context of the game possible.
The guy doesn’t recognize that fighting game players want balance so that people who choose to play lower tier characters will not be systemically weeded out of the competition, meaning that more characters will be habitually used at the top level of play, meaning people have to learn more about the game and all its components in order to compete in it. The guy doesn’t recognize the desire to master a complex system, or to keep the complexity of the system balanced enough that all the components are relevant, because of course he’s not operating from the perspective of depth, he’s operating from the perspective of immersion. By his terms, difficulty increases immersion, recognition that there are things outside the game at all, including the other player, decreases it. He asks why people don’t go for the biggest challenge possible, not making the link in his head that it’s braindead easy to make an impossibly hard game (for example, just make a game where you need to press a button on 1/60th of a second chosen randomly across a span of 10 minutes with no visual indication of when it is coming up, and requiring you to hold the button no longer than that interval), but this won’t actually be fun to play.
On competitive bots and other nonsense.
Comparably to his lack of understanding people pursuing depth, he doesn’t realize the issue in pushing AI as a competitor. He claims it will play, “more unpredictably and more intelligently” than a human, citing a study with quake bots where they were mistaken for human players more often than the humans were positively identified as bots. The trouble obviously here is that humans are entertaining to play against versus bots precisely because they’re predictable, but not completely predictable. Humans have thought processes that remember past experiences and create dependencies on these experiences, leading to you being able to condition them, or read their future decisions based on past ones. Bots can generate a random number completely free of causality. In a versus multiplayer game, both players are each trying to gauge what the other’s next action will be based on their prior actions. I believe humans are adapted to subconsciously pick up on tells like that through their mirror neurons. I don’t have scientific backing for this, but there is backing that humans can recognize and respond to patterns that they do not consciously detect.
Furthermore, making a bot that outplays a human at a game based on reaction time or speed or rhythm in any context is trivial. SF Alpha 3 (or alpha 2, don’t recall), Akuma was known for walking up to you, and if you attacked/throwed, he would dragon punch you, if you blocked, he would throw you, and if you dragon punched, he would block. There are competitions for Brood War API (BWAPI), that pit Star Craft AI against one another. The funny thing is, the AI that win these competitions have no reactive component. They don’t scout, they don’t change compositions based on knowledge of the enemy, they don’t even bother recording the location of the enemy. One of the most effective AI in this competition format is one that plays Protoss, builds a ton of proton cannons to protect its home base, then builds a huge fleet of carriers, and attack moves each corner of the map until it has completely eliminated the enemy. Conceiving of an AI that can win in an FPS game is trivial, an FPS AI is supplied with knowledge of the entire game state typically, there is usually a high DPS weapon that is inaccurate or difficult to use, an AI can lock onto enemies, and adjust its fire, reading the random seed so it has perfect accuracy at any range and using its knowledge of the whole arena, can avoid enemies with ease, firing at them from angles that are difficult to defend against.
Of course these are not interesting to fight against, and their counter strategies (fireball trap, a specific timing push, and weapon denial/explosives respectively) are simple and repetitive. Realtime games are designed with the 215 millisecond blind spot of human perception in mind to allow tactics to be a thing at all.
On player learning and collective challenge to build the complexity of the game
Because humans exist with the limitations they do, and have the processes of thought they do, realtime competitive games are significantly more complicated than just their base most optimal strategies.
Players learn and adapt from one another, players make use of all the play elements appropriately, and a wide range of scenario specific strategies are relevant. Programming an AI that can encapsulate all of these ideas, be an interesting and complex challenge relative to a human opponent is theoretically possible, but significantly further off than tricking some low level players that the bots they’re fighting are human. Training a bot to play like it is a high level player is a significantly harder task. If you beat a bot using a tactic it can’t account for once, it will always lose to that tactic. That’s how bots work. A human will frequently realize what quirk of the game enabled that tactic, or at minimum realize how it affects the way the game is played and work around it. If you watch the now famous battle by the bay, an old Street Fighter Alpha 2 tournament, you can see Alex Valle fight John Choi, unleashing his secret Valle CC technique, a pseudo-unblockable custom combo, that he kept secret up until the grand finals just so he could use them without anyone else realizing it existed. John Choi not only works around it, he begins using the technique right back at Alex Valle. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to secure a win, but it was close.
But of course, dude doesn’t care, he just cares if the enemy is hard and “immersive”, and so on hearing people say they play for the challenge of the game, his limited mode of thinking jumps to asking why they haven’t challenged themselves against the logical extreme maximum challenge, not for a second realizing that you can’t understand everything with linear regression (which is why he made the similar error earlier in the article with Heroes of the Storm billing itself being shorter than competitors as a positive thing) and that merely being challenging isn’t the only criteria here, but also making the challenge sophisticated and intellectual (read: Deep, having a large number of differentiated outcomes relevant to the playerbase).
And of course he shuns outside connections with other players, because anything that exists outside the game is anti-immersive, which is why he gets mad at western versus game developers for not having a setting that explains the conflict, instead just using loose set dressing, and he conveniently chooses to ignore that there are currently and were in the past a large number of arcade cabinets for fighting games that had two sets of joysticks and buttons next to each other. It was the standard design for neo geo cabinets. And he diagnoses the tendency of players to seek knowledge about the game not as players trying to integrate and play the most complex and complete version of the game possible, but rather as yet another attempt to reduce the challenge for themselves and simply win.
The concept of attempting to improve at a game because the mental process of learning and integrating strategies and demonstrating said improvement in a quantifiable manner is so alien to his immersive ideology that he can only see it as an attempt to make other people miserable. He doesn’t recognize the way that victors pass on information to the losers so they can collectively build each other up, and together play a more interesting game (a more deep game), or the way that challenge, sharing of information, and competition selectively pushes innovations and drive individual competitors to refine their strategies. It’s everyone working together to collectively bring out and refine the most interesting method of playing the game.
The point isn’t just to win, the point is to play a beautiful game as put here: http://www.compete-complete.com/2013/02/making-beautiful-game.html
Of course, to someone who doesn’t understand the complexity or role of mechanics and depth, it’s a natural mistake to assume that all these efforts channeled into the goal of winning are merely to make other people miserable, to win the most, rather than understanding the more subtle point that organized competition brings out the best aspects of the game. Of course, he insists on only playing games once, on never exploring how a game works, and claims that “gitting gud” is for autists, because in any type of fair competition he knows he’d lose, so he seeks to “win” on fields where comparisons cannot easily be drawn. This is perhaps a perfect example of how immersion pushed to extremes can logically impair you.
He’s a thinker on the level of Extra Credits. I’d say Sequelitis and Super Bunnyhop are definitely way above him, as awful as those are they’ve produced tiny things that can actually be learned from in some way. He doesn’t have any type of artistic expertise or experience, yet thinks he’s the best qualified to comment on art. His ideology actively prevents him from obtaining information on this, because this would require understanding how the components of the world and all the creations of man are put together, which would destroy his immersion in works of fiction. Like Extra Credits, he throws out all sorts of statements about games with no sign of any internal reflection or that he actually thought through what he’s talking about or that he did any sort of research on the matter, or has any sort of experience in the fields he claims experience in. The game reviews on his site offer as shallow criticism as mainstream reviews, they just pick different games to give 5 stars to than the common journo.
His articles do not offer any advice for how to develop games (either in terms of the literal tools used or the more abstract theory for the structuring of mechanics). Games that are not digital are to him not even games, and therefore beneath his attention, same for abstract digital games that could be replicated mechanically. Frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t claimed that programmers have no skill of any kind since all they do is press keys, given his tendency to drive things to extremes.
He’s a narcissist, acting as though the world that appeals to him is as an extension of his ideology, and that which isn’t is “autistic.” He isn’t seeking the truth, and you won’t find any truth by following him. But hey, might get a few good single player game suggestions, even if ultimately he doesn’t endorse games on the basis of being sophisticated and intellectual to play and solve. Only if they’re “immersive.”
Oh and the guy’s a nut who checks Google for mentions of his name, so here’s a hello for when it inevitably gets back to him.
Trust me, don’t bother with this guy. He’s tiny like a gnat, and works with as obfuscated logic as a protestant.
In the competitive game quote, he makes the totally retarded jump- devoid of any logic whatsoever- that those seeking to not be disadvantaged are by default seeking an advantage. lmao, what? Anyway, towards the end, in your summary of the clown (clam?), you forgot to mention that his philolsophy site is lol.
It’s typical for him.
I didn’t feel like mentioning the philosophy site, it’s not really worth mentioning. He’s insane and his philosophy has no bearing on rationality or how to effectively do anything of use.
Oh, and probably worth mentioning is that the final form of all games for him will be things like open world mmos, worlds to escape into. Which is why he’ll endorse a game that is tactically and strategically uninteresting as long as it is difficult (because difficulty demands attention, giving the appearance that the rest of the world fades away, part of the immersive fallacy), complicated (because ostensibly he wants to pretend to be intelligent even if all the complication ends up being more simple and repetitive than a less complicated ruleset), and models an escape into another reality (shit looks good, has a setting that makes sense, mechanics all reflect rules of alternate reality, etc).
The horrifying alternative to this in his mind is that the illusion that a game is an alternate reality, and therefore the art, is stricken from games, and therefore games are reduced to simple sports, of which they would be the worst, because they are simply about twiddling your thumbs, where others are about growing physically stronger. Ignoring of course that you could similarly reduce a lot of mental activities this way, like playing music, programming, writing, drawing, many fields of science, law, etc. And that because you cannot interact with something without feedback (“turn off the screen, see it’s all just twiddling thumbs”) does not mean that the aesthetically pleasing quality of the feedback is suddenly what defines the experience over the interactions themselves (ie. we could have much simpler or less appealing representations of constructs in games, and honestly it wouldn’t make much difference as long as the feedback of information is still clear, this is why programmers use programmer art before having finalized art assets produced, especially during the prototyping phases. If fun were truly contingent on high aesthetic quality, then rapid game prototyping would be meaningless).
But hey, it’s fun to dismantle the thoughts of small minds. It helps me get my thoughts together and point to areas I have not thoroughly considered yet.