Clams and Kierkegaards

Who is that icycalm guy?

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:

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.

4 thoughts on “Clams and Kierkegaards

  1. Von Tchekovski II July 17, 2015 / 8:22 pm

    You’re underestimating him. It’s very clear to me, too, that you have not read him beyond a few random posts, so of course you have no idea of how much thought and work went behind these handful of conclusions you happened to come across in his forum. Of course this shit will sound crazy if you have no background on why it is being said. But this is why he has published a book with over 400 pages explaining in detail how these “crazy” conclusions were arrived at.

    Read his On Why Scoring Sucks And Those Who Defend It Are Aspies essay (gotta love the title lol) if you haven’t, and everything should start making sense. Really, all your objections are answered there. Even your “sophisticated, intellectual challenge” objection is shown to be a very weak one (for the vast majority of videogames of today, anyway, and this includes all your 2D fighting games examples).

    As for his claim of being the best videogame player, he has also explained this. The point was that a videogame “champion” would play many genres, not just one. It is based on this reasoning that he claims to be the best videogame player: because he is confident he could beat, say, a Daigo at every racing, STG, side-scroller, sports, FPS, and whatever game he picks up that is not a 2D fighting game.

    But, anyway, definitely check the essay I mentioned above. Can’t find it online right now, but I’m sure someone posted pictures of every page online some time ago.


    • Chris Wagar July 17, 2015 / 9:39 pm

      I have the essay bookmarked. I think it’s probably the perfect representation of his madness really. It was really the defining thing like 5 years ago that made me say, “This guy’s a moron.”

      I’ve read a LOT of his posts, and I have plenty of background. This ended up being a dismissal of his more recent nonsense because it’s what pissed me off at the time, and do you really think I want to bother with all his earlier bullshit too?

      The line of logic that he’s the best because he’d beat a given person at the most games is inane. Assuming it was true, he’d be like the type of fraud on the new Twin Galaxies with 250 “World records” under his belt in games nobody else competes in. Competition against other people acts as a selective pressure on strategy that brings out more involved strategic thinking. You can’t get this versus computers because computers don’t learn, computers don’t adapt, computers can pull random numbers out of a hat, humans can be trained, read, and manipulated.

      It’s easy to be best in the world at the most games because there’s hundreds, or thousands of games which nobody cares enough to play, because it’s easy to dabble in a ton of things and make a useless category of competition that only dabblers would be good in that can’t be quantified on any scale. It’s telling that he posts articles to his forum about how it’s bad to use numbers to judge success, because he wants his brand of success to be impossible to judge so he can always hold onto it. I mean shit, I could come up with any random game on earth I had gotten even a baseline level of competency in, pull it out of my back pocket and challenge you to it and I’d win, what’s that supposed to mean or say? The type of championship he’d prefer is akin to the recent Nintendo World Championship at E3 or the blind random game races that pop up occasionally on speed runs live, which, lets be honest, are a complete crapshot.

      If you never focus your understanding on any individual games, if you just dip your toes in and never go any deeper than that, then you won’t come to understand why the games are assembled the way they are. Of course if you read his Scoring for Aspies essay, you’d notice that he refers to looking at the actual code of a game an abomination. He derides counter strike players for “reducing” Counter Strike to a mere competition about who is the best at understanding and manipulating its systems instead of the “immersive art experience” of being a counter terrorist. They’re the top competitors in their category rather than the top counter-terrorists.

      He forbids himself from learning about game systems, because it would break the illusion of the virtual reality, because he doesn’t care about games (systems of rules that challenge). He cares about simulations, which is what he thinks art is, and if something isn’t in some way simulating something else, he refuses to accept it as art. Becoming the best in a field that involves interaction with a simulated artifice involves understanding the abstractions made to build the artifice. This is “AN ABOMINATION” to him.

      My objection isn’t a weak one, it’s one that’s outside his reasoning. He disregards it a priori, without thinking, because it doesn’t occur to him that challenge, the understanding and manipulation of complex systems might be something people enjoy inherently. Which is why people go on to be engineers, programmers, lawyers, doctors, or study those fields or countless other trivia for fun.

      His reasoning is nonsense, because he has the wrong definition of art in the first place and a simple failure to understand human psychology. The brain produces dopamine in response to achieving irregular favorable results in order to motivate us to pursue things that are difficult because this was a favorable trait to possess in the ancestral environment. Humans are one of the only animals with brains capable of abstracting favorability into stimuli which is not directly related to food or mating, eg our desire for money. Games exist to please our sense to achieve things that are difficult, where favorable outcomes are irregular. They’re a form of supernormal stimuli.

      Art is a manipulation of our aesthetic sense. We are naturally attracted to certain color patterns, tonal patterns, and so on. This type of behavior is exhibited in more simple animals too, like the attraction of some types of birds to larger and more spotty eggs. This aesthetic sense can be manipulated far beyond what it was originally evolved to find pleasing, and we do so to make ourselves happy, much like all the junk food we’ve made, taking advantage of taste buds evolved to prioritize fats and sugars

      Many types of art involve no simulation, for example abstract art, or typography, as well as music, which does not reflect or mimic any element of the natural world (except I suppose bird song? The songs of other humans?).

      His objection to digital games along the lines of a comparison to sports, and defining the “objective” worth of sports as how many muscles they engage is equally ridiculous. Swimmers can’t beat track and field experts, those players can’t beat football players, who can’t beat basketball players, who can’t beat soccer players. None of them have the coordination or skill at any of the others sports (unless they practice those too). Is the greatest athlete the one with the highest distributed muscle mass across his body now? This is along the lines of the madness that might be invoked in claiming piano players have no skill, because all they do is press keys on a keyboard, put noise canceling headphones on and that’s all it is. Or even more crazy, that composers have no skills except writing on a piece of paper. Lets go into full lunacy and claim programmers have no skills except depressing buckling springs or silicon domes with plastic coverings.

      And of course he says that nobody engages in physical sports out of love of the game, they only do it because it makes them stronger, because he doesn’t understand what it means to love a game, or at minimum he’s extremely confused on it.

      He doesn’t have any type of background on this. He’s like an old greek philosopher who would rather say heavier objects fall faster than actually go out and try it. He’s more content to come up with insular theories to himself and an echo chamber of his forum than actually learn every part of how games are put together, or attempt to devise, guess, test, or reconsider how they can be assembled in a way that is more engaging or deep. He’s ready to disqualify anything and everything that contradicts any point he makes on special pleading, much like how he claims scoring mechanics are bad mechanics because they don’t increase “in-game” pleasure, they increase “out of game” pleasure, therefore they are reducing the pleasure of the game, and since this must be absolutely abundantly objectively clear to everyone, he is definitely correct on the matter and not simply insane and abnormal.

      I’m underestimating him, because he’s demonstrated quite clearly that he doesn’t want to try. His only interest is in escapism, and escapism is a lousy foundation for a game. He’s never done a good critique of a game in his life, he could never manage a good critique of any type of artwork known to man in his life, because doing so, understanding a work’s assembly well enough to actually devise a means of improving it, is something he has forbidden himself from learning, because it would shatter the tiny joy he takes in pretending in his fantasies.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yujiri April 12, 2019 / 11:16 pm

    I honestly was laughing pretty hard when I was reading the first couple excerpts. I was fairly sure the guy was joking. Maybe not?


    • Chris Wagar April 12, 2019 / 11:19 pm

      Haha, pretty elaborate and long running, internally consistent joke to tell.


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