In What Are You Playing This Weekend? we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.
Thorin Klosowski is a Denver-based staff writer for Lifehacker, where he writes about creative ways to improve life. Prior to joining the site, he wrote about music and culture for Village Voice Media. He’s also an experimental musician whose work includes a number of unreleased soundtracks for what he calls “quirky, surrealist, Dada-ist games” that you can find at his personal site, The Republic Of Thoronia.
The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?
Thorin Klosowski: I’m bouncing between three things. Sleeping Dogs, Sound Shapes, and this weird iOS game called Escape. [Sleeping Dogs] is a GTA-style game set in Hong Kong that’s basically the same Rockstar formula of underground story, but with a Hong Kong cinema action flair. I’m a total sucker for open-world games, and I will play every single one of them no matter how good or bad they are. So that’s the first one.
Second one is Sound Shapes, which is a PS3 game that is kind of like a musical platformer. It’s got a phenomenal soundtrack with I Am Robot And Proud, Jim Guthrie, and Beck. You play through these musical compositions, and those are platforming levels. It’s a beautiful-looking game, fantastic little thing. I love rhythm games as much as I love open-world games.
The third one was Escape, which is this weird little iOS game that’s essentially Endless Runner meets—kind of just Endless Runner, but in space. It has reverse controls where you touch the screen to stop it from moving.
Gameological: Do you have a favorite open-world game? One that you would consider the pinnacle of the genre?
Klosowski: It depends on which direction I would go with it. If I was going to pick one favorite, leaving it wide open, I would definitely say Fallout: New Vegas. If I was going to go with an action style, probably Assassin’s Creed II or Deadly Premonition.
I thought New Vegas was the only game I’ve ever played in my entire life where I hatched this ridiculously ludicrous plan of how I was going to beat this game, and it actually worked out for me in the end. There are 10 endings that are possible or whatever, but I feel like I came up with the idea on my own. It made me feel like it was my story more than theirs.
Gameological: What was your plan?
Klosowski: There are three different factions you can go with. There’s a slave-trading group, a California Republic, and you can kind of branch out on your own, or you can go with this killer robot guy. I pitted everybody against each other, and walked away on my own being the king of New Vegas. It played out right at the end of the game, like “Congrats! You own Vegas.” Wow, it was pretty ridiculous.
Gameological: It was deep enough that you were able to believe in the illusion of freedom.
Klosowski: If I’m totally honest with myself, I play games mostly for escapism, and being able to get into a world and feel like you’re a part of it, meshing with it entirely is a really powerful feeling.
Gameological: You called Sound Shapes a music platformer. What is that?
Klosowski: You know those amazing moments in Mario where it feels like Nintendo actually nails it properly, and you’re jumping in rhythm with the way the music’s playing out? Sound Shapes is built on that idea entirely. You build the song by collecting little glowing things, and the song makes them take shape. The platforms are disappearing and reappearing in beat with the song. It’s really well done.
Gameological: How important is music to gaming experiences?
Klosowski: I would almost say it’s 50/50. It has to be completely non-existent, and fine and never draw attention to itself, or it has to be really fucking good and nail the tone properly. One of my least-favorite soundtracks of all time is the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack, because it mashes this techno-y, ’70s-era electronica with these big orchestral movements. It sounds jarring to hear the two mashed up together. In that case it was just like, choose one or the other, and go with the tone, which they ended up doing in the third one. It’s kind of like a movie—if it draws your attention to it, it’s almost worse because it’s taking you out of the moment it’s trying to put you in.
Gameological: With regard to your day job, there’s been a lot written about games as lifehacking tools. Is that something you have any experience in?
Klosowski: We’ve written a little bit about gamifying exercise with Run Zombies Run. I think three or four of us on staff are huge gaming dorks, but it comes down to figuring out the work-life balance of like, “Okay, I’m a 30-year-old adult, how can I fit time in to play games? How can I do it where I don’t feel guilty and awful wasting an entire afternoon as an adult, playing a game?” And then managing that in a way that you can still enjoy what you’re doing.
One thing that I do—it’s weird, but I’ll say it—if I’m sitting there on a Sunday afternoon, and I don’t want to do anything, I’ll force myself every hour and go do some little micro-chore. Take out the trash, or do the dishes, and get off my ass after one hour. Back into the world briefly, and back into my somewhat lazy ways of playing games all afternoon.
Gameological: You’re charging yourself a chore for the privilege of playing games.
Klosowski: Yeah, like when you’re a little kid. And I don’t know, but maybe you have to treat yourself like a little kid sometimes to actually get shit done. You have to reward yourself in these micro-ways.
Gameological: Were you part of the Nintendo generation? Was that your first system?
Klosowski: Technically, it was Atari. My first gaming memory is when my dad brought home the Atari 2600, plugging it in, and him and I played Asteroids for hours and hours and hours. That ended up leading on to 12 years or whatever after that of playing games with my dad. Which was great.
Gameological: You still play video games with your dad, years later?
Klosowski: Yeah, I did all the way. We liked football, he could always wrap his head around football. Starting with Tecmo Bowl, and then on to Joe Montana’s SportsTalk Football, and then up through the Maddens all the way to ’98 or ’99.
Gameological: Are you an NFL fan yourself?
Klosowski: I’m not an angry football hater or anything, but I’m not a football fan. Oddly, I will play fantasy football once in a while. [Laughs.]
And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.