Keyboard Geniuses

Dungeon Defenders

All You Can Cheat

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • October 26, 2012

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Pandas In The Mist
Pandaria

Samantha Nelson reviewed World Of Warcraft: Mists Of Pandaria. The newest expansion features a playable race of asskicking panda-people who get drunk off magical beer. While Samantha saw many influence to ancient Chinese culture in the game, Boko_Fittleworth took note of the “ancient Chinese” term from a historical standpoint:

For a long time I’ve noticed there’s this odd tendency in a lot of people to engage in “ancient inflation” when talking about China. For example, referring to 16th-/17th-century Chinese novels as ancient, when that label would never be applied to something (e.g., Shakespeare’s stuff) in the equivalent period in the West. It seems to be tied into the idea that China has to be this exotic otherworldly place. This honestly isn’t meant as jab at this article (for all I know, the Pandaria setting, which I haven’t played, may truly be drawing on really old stuff) but was just something that popped back into my head.

In a reply, HobbesMkii brought up poor education as a contributing factor, as well as PBS’ Antique Roadshow. Those scoundrels:

I think that’s probably because most Westerners stop learning about China at the Three Kingdoms period (if they even get past the Warring States period) and just focus on them as they relate to European expansion (the establishment of the trading ports, the Boxer Rebellion, etc.) and then pick them back up at Mao. I honestly couldn’t tell you whether there even was a China between 300AD and 1912, that’s how lousy my East Asian history is.

Plus, all the cultural stuff gets referred to by dynasty names, and they just sound ancient that way. No one on Antiques Roadshow ever goes “Yeah, this vase is about 150 years old.” They go, “Oh, that’s a Qing Dynasty vase” and it sounds frightfully expensive and rare.

If You Can’t Stand The Cheat, Get Off Of The Server
Dungeon Defenders

Ryan Smith chronicled his journey deep into the online game Dungeon Defenders, where cheating and modding communities run rampant through the servers. Ryan used an analogy of a Wild West poker game to describe the experience trying to navigate the game, and Effigy Power used a different analogy—the stuffed bra/crotch sock—to describe cheating:

Cheating in single player and multiplayer are two completely different animals, I think, because they don’t serve the same purpose.

Single-player cheating are very clearly aimed at making the game simpler, getting through it faster or lessening the challenge. If someone wants to do that, they are welcome to do that. Maybe they want to experience the story of the game without the hassle of playing the game, I don’t know. The entire process, however, is self-serving and encapsulated in a single instance.

Multiplayer cheating, in my opinion, has less to do with eliminating challenge or accelerating the gameplay than with reputation, or what a certain strata of gamers appears to think reputation is.

In a way these cheats and hacks are the stuffed bras and socks down the pants of the virtual environment. In the mind of the perpetrator, these actions increase one’s value in the eyes of others, but they also carry the risk of falling apart under more stringent examination. “GamrGurl1995” may appear to have an amazing World Of Warcraft character and therefore has instant value and rep as a good gamer, but once it is revealed that said character was bought with money and spiced up with hacks, the reputation falls below the value prior. The stuffed-bra example works the same way.

As long as the virtual environment replaces real life superficiality with virtual superficiality, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that people will do their damnedest to enhance themselves by all possible means.

In a way you could argue that this is better than elective cosmetic surgery, even if it basically satisfies the same need to be seen as something more than one’s self-image allows.

In reply, stakkalee concurred with Effigy Power’s sentiment but also played devil’s advocate with an eternal witticism from The Simpsons:

On the other hand, there’s the Monty Burns perspective: “If you can take advantage of a situation in some way, it’s your duty as an American to do it. Why should the race always be to the swift or the jumble to the quick-witted? Should they be allowed to win merely because of the gifts God gave them? Well, I say cheating is the gift man gives himself!”

Ultimatum
Dragon Warrior

This week began with the season finale of The Seeds, our video series exploring some of the early influential games. Now known as Dragon Quest (the original Japanese title), the 1989 NES game Dragon Warrior helped bring the concepts of role-playing games to a wide audience. Many readers also pointed out the significance of Dragon Warrior’s predecessors on the PC, like Wizardry and the Ultima series. James Slone expanded on Ultima’s place in gaming history:

Ultima IV (1985) introduced (overly) complex spell-casting components to add another layer to the system. Of course, by Ultima VI (1990) they had adopted a faster-paced approach to battles, which became more simple and arcade-y as the series continued—this also puts them slightly ahead of the curve. The thing is, starting with Ultima IV, the series had relatively complicated stories, decent dialogue, sophisticated world interaction, and a great deal of atmospheric immersion for the time—all this in addition to developing an addictive (if initially slower-paced) level-based grind. Along with Wizardry and Bard’s Tale Ultima pretty much defined the turn-based, level-based combat system in video games.

And Kevin Irmiter suggested that the seventh entry in the Ultima series was the pinnacle, thanks to its attention to detail:

Ultima VII is better. You can have so much fun exploring the massive game world. To this day, I don’t think there has been a game that put so much effort into working on the little details to make the game world seem alive. You can pick up and interact with every object that isn’t too heavy for you to do so (and some that are). Every character, even shopkeepers and guards, has a daily routine they go through including a place they sleep and meals they eat. And there is soooo much detail, so much to find. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear there are still hidden things that no one has found yet.

Save The Day
Dragon Warrior

Had enough of Dragon Warrior yet? Too bad! Drew Toal wrote a To The Bitter End about that same game’s multiple endings, and the utility of its prehistoric capabilities to save your quest as you play. While Drew appreciated the ability to rewrite his ending, ItsTheShadsy thought this method cheapens the overall experience:

Any time there’s a significant choice like this in a game where you are given the option to reload and choose which one you’d prefer after seeing the results, I feel that devalues the interactive element that makes moral forks so compelling in games. It’s too easy to say, “I don’t like the outcome” and switch your decision. It defeats the point of having to make a gut choice. I appreciate when games like Heavy Rain force auto-save for those moments.

However, Girard suggested many games offer a constant save point as a hedged way of accommodating different styles of play:

In a game like Walking Dead, you’re stuck with your choices (unless you replay the whole episode), which makes sense as it is largely a game about choice and lending those choices weight.

There are other situations, though, like, say, in an interactive fiction or Sierra adventure game, where it is customary to have countless saves at every choice point so you can double back in the event you’ve condemned [yourself] with a choice at some point (and in interactive fiction games, the death text was often comical enough that you felt obliged to save and then do something stupid and fatal just to have the narrator mock you).

I would imagine many games fall in the middle, and a preference for one or the other comes down to how you play them. If you’re the type of person who like to role-play and carve a single path through a labyrinth, then you stick to your choices. If you’re more of a meta-gamer completionist who wants to experience everything the game has to offer, then it makes sense to save a game at each choice node and essentially play the game as a depth-first-traversal of the narrative tree rather than as a particular narrative experience.

Satan To The Rescue

Steve Heisler analyzed an especially ridiculous episode of the ’90s Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid Of The Dark? in which an at-risk youth gets sucked into the terrifying world of an evil pinball game. While the episode comes across as silly in its heavy-handed anti-video game message, many parents of the time (and today) were genuinely afraid of games’ mind-poisoning effects. As a child, rvb1023 came up with a brilliant solution to this problem:

While I was growing up, my mother attempted to limit my playing time as much as possible, but it didn’t help that most of my friends tended to play games a lot, too. I could see her being the type at the time who would buy into a lot of the overblown tripe. The first argument I ever “won” against my mother was convincing her to let me get Diablo by telling her you spent the entire game trying to kill Satan and not people. I still had to pay for it myself, but it is one of my more victorious moments.

Steve noted that the Are You Afraid Of The Dark? came about during a time when Drug Abuse Resistance Education—better known as D.A.R.E.—was at its peak in grade schools across the country. Colonel remembered winning what could possibly be the worst prize of all time in a D.A.R.E. contest:

“Fun” fact: I won my 5th grade DARE short-story contest which was really just a parody of “The Night Before Christmas.” My reward? Reciting my bad poetry to a full auditorium while nervously stuttering. But, to its credit, I’ve never really partaken in “drugs” mostly because of the sense-memory that went with that event.

Thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you all next week!

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

1,038 Responses to “All You Can Cheat”

  1. GaryX says:

    Shameless Plug! SORRY

    So you guys may or may not have heard, but we’ve started up an AV Club (/Gameological) Commenter Awards for end of the year stuff (including games!) I’m still fielding suggestions for categories, so if you have some, let me know either here or at http://www.avclubawards.com.

    I’ll be hosting the polls/listing awards on there at the dates listed. Just wanted to let you guys over here know too!

    • Effigy_Power says:

      As long as HipsterDBag gets the “Most obnoxious, yet occasional amusing” award I think justice has been done.

    • Ack_Ack says:

      Wait – you guys are making this a competition now?  It’s not enough that we enrich your articles with our clever and insightful comments, now you’re going to turn us against each other as a bloodsport? 

      • GaryX says:

        Well no “you guys” as this is entirely the community (hence the unofficial), but yeah, it’s a bloodsport. And it’s not like it takes that much to turn AV Clubbers against one another. Just go into any random thread and rank your favorite Radiohead albums, and then watch the madness unfold!

        • PaganPoet says:

          Too true. I find AV Club commenters generally well spoken and clever and polite, but…once somone started coming for Kylie Minogue’s Burger King crown, I was surprised at how quickly I turned.

        • NarcolepticPanda says:

          1. Amnesiac
          2. Kid A
          3. In Rainbows
          4. Hail to the Thief
          5. OK Computer
          6. The King of Limbs
          7. The Bends
          8. Pablo Honey

        • GaryX says:

          @NarcolepticPanda:disqus Amnesiac first? I might be wrong, but that one just felt like a let down.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          I would like to make a request – Anyone who has referred to “Dawes” or “Laurel Canyon sound” in the comments section in the past year should be disqualified for all other awards.  Yes, including me…I’ll take the hit if it gets rid of that supremely irritating meme.

        • NarcolepticPanda says:

          @GaryX:disqus  I only say I like Amnesiac better to annoy people. Nah, just kidding. I’d say Kid A’s songs fit together better as an album, but Amnesiac songs are better on their own. It’s really a toss up, putting out those two albums in two years is insane. 

        • GaryX says:

          @NarcolepticPanda:disqus I was just listing Radiohead song titles.

        • NarcolepticPanda says:

          @GaryX:disqus Yeah I know, but I thought you might be serious too…

        • Merve says:

          I tried ranking Radiohead albums once. Then I fell asleep.

          (Everyday I’m trollin’…)

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           When I close my eyes or stare into space my brain not only runs through whichever level I’m stuck on in perfect detail, it plays the soundtrack. That game is a brainworm. That music is possibly cursed by Satan.

          What I’m saying is, it is the best and you are correct.

        • GaryX says:

          @green_gin_rickey:disqus It has come out of nowhere to easily become one of my favorite games of the year.

        • Boko_Fittleworth says:

          @GaryX:disqus  would you say it’s time for us commenters to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside?

    • stakkalee says:

      Love the name – The Commies.  Perfect.

    • zebbart says:

      Really cool GaryX. Are there any other secondary AVClub comments things online? I’d be really interested in reading some kind of wiki about commenters, memes, notable events, etc.

  2. stakkalee says:

    Welcome to the 30th Keyboard Geniuses!  Let’s get to it, awww yeah.

    Most-commented article this week is, as usual, What Are You Playing This Week? with 157 comments.  There’s always some great conversation in the WAYPTW comment threads, and lots of good recommendations.

    Now, top-5 most-liked non-KG comments:

    1) @PaganPoet:disqus, with 24 likes on this nerdy nitpick.
    2) @Green_Gin_Rickey:disqus, with 20 likes on an Aleister Crowley joke.
    3) @Douchetoevsky:disqus, with 17 likes off of an Animaniacs reference.  Did you ever find out which CP episode had the dolphins? 
    4) @Feisto:disqus, with 17 likes on this comment, sharing a bemusement many of us felt.
    And a tie for fifth!
    5) @Enkidum:disqus, with 16 likes talking about his l337 sk1llz!
    5) @The_Guilty_Party:disqus, with 16 likes on a Spaceballs reference.  Good stuff.

    OK, now the new inductees.  6 new plaid jackets today – we’re welcoming @Boko_Fittleworth:disqus, @ItsTheShadsy:disqus, @rvb1023:disqus, @Col_Roy_Campbell:disqus, James Slone of Facebook and Kevin Irmiter of Google+.  Welcome aboard fellow commenters!  Great to have you!

    And the rest.  I somehow get my sixth pin piggy-backing off a Simpsons quote, but I’m sure Mr. Burns would approve.  @HobbesMkii:disqus gets an eleventh pin, @Effigy_Power:disqus gets a thirteenth, and @Paraclete_Pizza:disqus unlocks the “Sweet Sixteen” achievement with his sixteenth pin!  Impressive stuff.

    Finally, another video-game art link.  Gallery1988 in Santa Monica is showing some video-game-inspired exhibits this evening – check out some of the pieces here.

    To my fellow East-Coasters, be safe as you try to survive the Dracu-caine (were’easter?) headed our way.  Stock up on food and booze, and enjoy your gaming this weekend, folks!  And remember to keep it scintillating!

    • PaganPoet says:

      Nerdy, sir? I say “detail oriented” is a more apt description. Unlike the moon, you can’t faze me!

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

       Woohoo! I’ll add it to my newly minted Imaginary Commendation Shelf.

    • Enkidum says:

      They like me! They really do!*

      *returns to analyzing data & wallowing in self pity*

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      According to my wikipedia, there were at least two episodes featuring dolphins being harmed or exploited or something. This concludes my research findings.

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       No one replied to my Crowley joke, so I had no idea I was the second-prettiest girl in the comments section this week! It’s like thinking you failed algebra, and then finding out that secretly you were Carl Sagan all along.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I had some ideas for the Crowley joke, but they were all weaker and that’s not how this girl rolls.
        I post to win.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

       The local radio station has dubbed it “frankenstorm.”  Technically it should be “Frankenstein’s Monstorm” or something like that, but its still wittier than they usually are so I’ll give it to them.

    • Boko_Fittleworth says:

      I have to get a tattoo of this article on my lower back now.

  3. Colonel says:

    I’ve won!  And all I had to do was share an incredibly embarrassing moment that had nothing to do with games!

  4. Merve says:

    Since this is usually the place where we post links to interesting gaming-related things, if you have half an hour of free time and have ever tried playing a dating sim (or even if you haven’t), then watch this and prepare to laugh your arse off: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkPGaHp5KEs&feature=plcp

    Yes, the game featured in the video is actually called Don’t Die Dateless, Dummy! You can’t make this shit up.

  5. Mr. Glitch says:

    Hi everybody, Happy Halloween! My review of the PC CD-ROM classic The 7th Guest Is now up at http://mathmanmustdie.blogspot.com. Check it out, along with my review of Mr. Bones which I sort of forgot to hit ‘post’ on a couple weeks ago. Enjoy!

  6. Boko_Fittleworth says:

    Hot damn! In the big leagues now!