Keyboard Geniuses

Bart Simpsons and the spirits of video game conscience

The Perfect Bonestorm

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • February 8, 2013

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.

Bartful Dodge

Our mini-series about video game-themed episodes of television, Games Go To Hollywood, wrapped up this week as Steve Heisler profiled an episode of The Simpsons in which Bart deals with the moral ramifications of shoplifting a game. As a parent (and possibly as a medical professional) Dr Flim Flam had mixed feelings:

This is an episode I both love and hate. I love it because it is, of course, hilarious, tapping into the culture of fear we have surrounding video games, but I hate it because of how accurately it portrays both sides of the divide, and the discomfort that comes with it. I am sure we have all had that moment when we disappointed our parents so badly that they didn’t even have to punish us; the punishment of our own conscience was so severe they couldn’t come close.

On the other side of the equation, as a parent now myself, I can attest to Lisa’s timeless wisdom and perception. “Her heart won’t just wipe clean like this bathroom countertop; it absorbs everything that touches it, like this bathroom rug.” That’s part of being a parent. Loving a child that will disappoint you, shock you, and occasionally crush you. That’s a very small part of it, and doesn’t compare in quantity to the good times, but those moments don’t ever really leave you, either. Being a parent is about taking all of that in and still loving your child no matter what, as they grow and change and both do and do not make you proud.

Mourning the end of a good run, Staggering Stew Bum kicked in his own entry for the series, and detailed an episode of The X-Files and its yarn of a sentient video game murder-bot:

Pity that this is the final installment of this feature. A show that would have been great to feature is an episode of The X-Files called “First Person Shooter” (recently reviewed over at The A.V. Club by the always awesome Todd WanDerWerff), which follows our heroes as they investigate a virtual reality shooter game. A rogue program inexplicably gets in and starts offing real-life game participants because they deserve it, probably. The rogue program, who is of course a tall busty young lady who laughably symbolizes female empowerment or some bullshit, feeds off the sweaty male testosterone exuded by the players, which she/it uses to become stronger, breastier, plot-holier, and violenter.

This episode taught me that games cause people to behave out of character, that men are naturally violent nasty bastards (ok, fair point), and also that cover in a shooter is not necessary if your name is Dana Scully, especially when you are fighting cloned amazonians sitting on tanks. It also taught me that games can be horribly dull, a fact that I refused to believe until I accidentally tried to play Yakuza 3, when that message became all too real.

Dude’s Got Mad Skulls

Ryan Smith found Skulls Of The Shogun, a tactical strategy game set in a samurai’s afterlife, too irreverent for its own good. Apparently hearing spectral warriors reference pop-culture chestnuts and utter turgid puns doesn’t make for good atmosphere. However, TheBryanJZX90 defended the game’s humor from a broader perspective:

The forgettable puns and references actually benefit the game. The review might sense a disconnect between the game’s murderous beginnings and it’s lighthearted treatment of afterlife, but there would be an even greater disconnect between the reviewer’s desired pathos and the quick, pick-up-and-play nature of the game. The best feature of this game is playing a bit on your computer, saving, and picking up your turn later while you’re on the bus. Skulls already does so much to cut away the fat of strategy games, slathering on a complicated plot would have been a true tragedy.

HIghway To The Hydrocity Zone

A discussion bubbled up about underwater games in the comments to Anthony John Agnello’s Sawbuck review of Ikachan, an submerged Metroid-like from the creator of Cave Story. In the midst of a thread about some of the worst water-based levels, Caspiancomic passed along a link to a jaunty theme from Sonic 3.

I’m gonna roll in with the opposite of ShrikeTheAvatar’s answer and call a Sonic level for my favourite, specifically Hydrocity Zone from Sonic 3. Largely because of the amazing music.

Homebrew Away From Home

Joe Keiser has been away in Nairobi, Kenya, and he found an unconventional way to stay connected to the video game world from there. In a special feature, he took us through some of the insane PlayStation 2 knockoffs he’s come across in the country. As much as we all gawked at titles such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Kirk Douglas, and a special Eddie Guerrero edition of Battlefield 2: Special Forces, Kyle O’Reilly had another, less jokey takeaway:

Weirdly enough, I think this article humanizes the people of Nairobi more than most articles about the region. Video games are usually thought of as a first-world pursuit, and so we think of Japanese games, American games, and European games. No African games, that’s for sure, right, guys? Most gamers never stop to think if the fictional Africans they’re blowing away in Call Of Duty have real-world counterparts, who don’t chase American Black Ops agents across the desert, but sit on their couches playing video games just like CoD to diddle away the hours.

Something about the idea of a 24 year old dude, chilling out in Nairobi playing Grand Theft Auto: Kirk Douglas, while I’m in America playing Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, makes me realize how similar we really are at our base level.

Despite the huge differences in our upbringings, culture and environment, we both just want to unwind playing a game where we can smash cars into light poles and run away from the police.

Staggering Stew Bum transcribed a conversation between Keiser and Gameological editor John Teti that surely must have occurred at one point or the other:

Joe Keiser: But you know what the funniest thing about Dubai City is?
John Teti: What?
Keiser: It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it’s just…it’s just, there it’s a little different.
Teti: Example?
Keiser: All right. Well, you can walk into a movie theater in Dubai City and buy a non-alcoholic beer. And I don’t mean just like in no paper cup; I’m talking about a glass of non-alcoholic beer. And in Dubai City, you can buy a non-alcoholic beer at Burger Shot. And you know what they call a Heart Stopper in Dubai City?
Teti: They don’t call it a Heart Stopper?
Keiser: Nah, man, they got the Sharia Law. They wouldn’t know what the fuck a Heart is.
Teti: What do they call it?
Keiser: They call it a “قلب سدادة.”
Teti: “قلب سدادة.”
Keiser: That’s right.
Teti: What do they call a Meat Stack?
Keiser: A Meat Stack’s a Meat Stack, but they call it “Le اللحوم المكدس.”
Teti: [in mock Arabic accent] “Le اللحوم المكدس.” [laughs] What do they call a Stuffed Pollo Todo Frito?
Keiser: I don’t know, I didn’t go in a Cluckin’ Bell.

Syrian Games: Company Of The Future

John Teti followed up Keiser’s article with an expanded gallery of more jaw-dropping covers from bootleg games, all coming from Syrian Games, the folks behind such hits as Jump Start Wildlife Safari Field Tripand Monkey Magic. However, Cloks saw the covers as more than cheap cash-ins:

I like to believe that what they’re representing here aren’t products, per se, but the direction they believe the video game industry will take as a whole. Every game becomes a rehash of existing properties to tie into established markets? Check. Games are only made for systems with a significant installed user-base, regardless of console age? Check. The concept of “video game” becomes a floating, mystical squid that deigns to delight us with psychotropic tentacles delivering a vision of “video game” beyond what those of us on the Mortal Plane could experience? Check.


Taking us through the visually confusing Antichamber, Kate Cox reviewed and enjoyed the maze’s mind and logic-bending puzzles. Merve chimed in with another perspective:

Though I don’t think the game is particularly good at teaching players its mechanics, I agree with everything else in Kate’s review. Yet somehow, Antichamber just didn’t work for me. It’s far from the worst game I’ve ever played, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it the worst game I’ve bought at or near release.

My main gripe with it is that it’s so intent on being different from typical games that it forgets to be a good game. It tries to surprise the player with impossible geometry and dissolving staircases, but they’re two of only a half-dozen or so tricks that the game employs. Because the game has so few tricks, they eventually start to repeat, and after a while, the “surprises” become mundane and, well, unsurprising.

Antichamber also tries to be different from other games in the way it’s structured. It can be difficult for the player to tell if he or she is actually making progress, because the game gives limited information in that regard. Often, you’ll spend minutes grinding away at what appears to be a tough puzzle only to realize that it’s actually a dead end. Antichamber seems to want to upend the notion of traditional reward structures in video games, but it never makes the case for why its reward structure should be considered better.

The thing is: I want games to be daring, weird, and unique. But none of those words is necessarily synonymous with “good.” That being said, “good” is entirely subjective in this context. I think Antichamber will be up a lot of people’s alleys, if only for the sheer mindfuckery of it all. It just wasn’t up mine.

Bespoke And Be Beheard

This week’s Q&A asked the readers and staff to answer the question, has it ever seemed like a game was designed “just for you”? Craig came across his perfect game a little too late in life to fully enjoy it:

World Of Warcraft, but about 15 years too late. If a game like that had existed when I was 13 years old, I don’t think I would have done anything else but go to school and then come home to fight monsters with my friends. The idea of an online role-playing game that you could play with other people was a far-in-the-distance pipe dream back when a couple of us trying to play Eye Of The Beholder 2 together was as close as we got to cooperative play of an RPG that didn’t involve actual pen and paper. But when it finally did come out, the moment had passed for me, and I’ve never had any real interest in it.

Well, that’s it folks. As always, thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week.

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86 Responses to “The Perfect Bonestorm”

  1. No mention of Gameological’s meme of the week?

    johnny boy

  2. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    “That’s a spicy meat-a-ball!”

       No, wait… shit, wait.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      My name is eight characters, so I always had to shorten it way down. Because seven characters looked dumb, and that was often the limit back in the day.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Sorry for the false original post.  Star Wars is a good choice.  I think I’d like to show my younger self something more action-oriented like Jedi Outcast, so you can really show off whipping the lightsaber around and melting the walls and cutting off Stormtrooper’s arms.
           But yeah, the story in the KoToR series would have blown my young mind. 

    • PaganPoet says:


    • PaganPoet says:

      I would present my post-high school, college freshman broke-ass self with a PS2 so he wouldn’t have to play catch up several years later with that entire generation. I’d also tell him to loosen up, party more, and have more sex.

      (I’d also tell my present day self to have more sex.)

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Lord.  Telling my younger self to have more sex would be telling a cow skull in the alkali salt flats to drink more water.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        For most boys/men, I don’t think it’s from lack of trying.

        • His_Space_Holiness says:

          Yeah, if I showed up telling my high school self to have more sex, he’d probably give me a detailed list of reasons why that wasn’t gonna happen, and I’d be hard-pressed to rebut any of them.

        • PaganPoet says:

          Well, that may be so, but in my case, I was so uptight, who knows what I missed out on.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          You underestimate the power of low self esteem and shitty religions.  I’m pretty sure I ignored at least 3 or 4 girls in high school who were actually attracted to me, because I assumed I must be imagining it, because nobody liked me, and besides I’m supposed to wait to date until I’m ready to get married.

          Yeah, I would tell my younger self to avoid all shit religions, but especially the JWs and Mormons.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus , not at all. I remember being drilled about NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE and making a promise rock when I was 12 years old to that effect. Like a 12 year old knows dick-all about sex.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

         I would’ve told my teenage self to dump the if-I-like-it-it-must-be-a-sin self-loathing and go tell that boy I had a crush on him.  Yes, he’d just laugh at me and taunt me for years (since he did grow up to a class-A redneck jerk), but at least then I’d be miserable for being myself rather than being miserable for lying to myself.

        Oh, too much?

    • I’ll deviate somewhat from the question and say that I wish “Rock Band” had existed when I was a teenager. I would have had so much fun if I’d known I could sing!

    • His_Space_Holiness says:

      When I was little I had a friend who had an NES, and I’d go over to his house and watch him play it. For whatever insane little-kid reason, I’d never play it with him, even when he offered. No idea why. So I’d like to go back and show him a picture of myself, in the future, enjoying a video game, and say “Play with your friend. You’ll enjoy it, and eventually you’ll come to realize that just sitting there watching him is probably making him feel pretty awkward. Plus, your parents would probably get you a console if you showed an interest before the age of 20.”

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

         When I was little, I thought I was earning some kind of morality points by saying no whenever some offered me something nice — like joining in on a video game.  I blame it on the Earth Pope.

        • DrunkPhilatelist says:

          i grew up with the same moral ethos. i can recall very clearly my grandmother telling me that i should say no, at least once, to everything that was offered me. this, she claimed, would show discipline and reflect well on our household.

          it wasn’t until college that i experienced the ‘joy of yes’. this inevitably led to the joys of ‘yes please’, ‘hell yeah’, and ‘no need to even ask’.

        • His_Space_Holiness says:

          The Earth Pope sucks.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        I should probably tell my younger self to stop hogging the game console and let my friends play.

    • Merve says:

      I wish I could go back in time and show Teenage Me Deus Ex: Human Revolution so I could be like, “Hey, you love Deus Ex now, right? Well how would you like to play a sequel* with ten years more of graphical technology behind it?” Teenage Me would have died of happiness.

      *I use the word “sequel” deliberately. Everyone knows there were only two Deus Ex games, right?

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Actually, there was a second game called Deus Ex: Invisible War.  It wasn’t great.  And yes, I know you’re not serious, and yet I continue to bring this up because apparently this week I like to be irritating.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I would probably go back to my 7 or 8 year old self and show him (me? I always get confused about pronouns when time travel gets involved) Sonic Generations. As I demonstrated as recently as this week, I’m something of a Sonic the Hedgehog fan, and if I could have seen Generations’ take on Chemical Plant Zone from Sonic 2, he probably would have passed out. Also, I would have given him lots of lottery numbers and told him about 9/11, and given him a haircut and some clothes, and told him which girls would have crushes on him so he wouldn’t act like such a bellend. But then due to causality he might turn out really cool, and I would have written this version of myself out of history.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Thanks, Casp.  I just had to Google bellend and now I’ve learned something today.

        • PaganPoet says:

          You also had to erase your internet history and take a long shower to contemplate your life choices.

    • Cloks says:

      I’d bring back Daikatana. I was a little shit.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Duke Nukem Forever.  “Here, me.  Don’t bother putting in a preorder for this game, because by the time it comes out the excitement of seeing pixelated boobs will be overshadowed by gigabytes of easily accessible internet porn.”

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          Duke 3D in computer class was like Sex Ed.

        • valondar says:

           @drflimflam:disqus  It so was. I still have no idea who installed Duke Nukem 3D on a school computer, but boy was there a reaction when people were throwing money at that stripper.

          @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus Given that Duke Nukem Forever’s strippers probably have more polygons than the entire game of Quake, you may still be sending the wrong message.

    • I’m a pretty shallow and easily impressed kid so i think the loud noises and constant mayhem of Battlefield 3 would impress 10 year old Kyle who only played Sonic.

      I’d have no understanding for first person shooters but I do love loud noises.

    • Fluka says:

      I’d go back and finally install Civilization II successfully on my parents’ computer.  (What could have been.)

      I’d also smack the Sierra point and click games out of my 10 year old hands and replace them with some less hurt-inducing LucasArts games.  On the other hand, those games *did* teach me an important lesson: that life is suffering!

      • Girard says:

        LIIIIIIKE. However, I imagine if I tried to do the same thing, li’l Girard playing Perils of Rosella on old 5.25″ low-density floppies would have just stared blankly at the beautiful but useless CD-ROMs I was dropping off for him, and I still wouldn’t actually end up playing them until, like, 7th grade.

    • stakkalee says:

      I think 13-year-old me would be blown away to see the Baldur’s Gate series and Neverwinter Nights.  Two very different games, with great stories, set in the Forgotten Realms.  I devoured those books as a teen and I loved the gold box TSR games, and 13-year-old me would geek out like crazy seeing those games.

    • SonjaMinotaur says:

      As someone who didn’t start playing games until college when my sister forced me to buy a gameboy so that she had someone to trade pokemon with over christmas break (…and now I have ALL THE THINGS and she doesn’t even play phone games), I suppose I’d have to go back in time and give myself an NES system. And maybe that would alter the timestream so I’d be able to play platform games with some (any) degree of skill.

    • valondar says:

       I would give my Civ 2 and Age of Empires obsessed child self Europa Universalis 2. Sure, it’s one of the older Paradox titles at this point, but it was my first and I’d still consider it a good introduction and I’m pretty sure I would have done nothing with my time besides that game. This is the kind of game I bloody well dreamed about – historically accurate Risk.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

      I’d send back something easily moddable in a genre I totally dig, so that I’d have started modding and programming when I was 12, instead of just barely discovering it as a hobby in my 8th year of grad school, when I’d already given up the chance to study computer in uni and passed on the chance to learn this stuff as a teenager, get into the PC games industry in the 90’s while it still existed, and maybe make a bit of money in the process while doing what I truly loved.  No regrets, no regrets.

      So, what would I choose?  Neverwinter Nights or Europa Univeralis 3, the two games that got me into modding. 

  3. Cloks says:

    I don’t know who this Cloks fellow is, but I sure like the cut of his jib!

  4. ShrikeTheAvatar says:

    Hey, I almost caught Comment Cat’s attention!  Indirectly.

  5. stakkalee says:

    Jumping right it: The most-commented article this week was the Q&A on ‘tailor-made’ games, which had 315 comments.  And the Top-5 Most Liked (non-KG) comments:
    1) @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus gets 32 likes with a literary reference.
    2) @JoeKeiser:disqus gets 22 likes for this assurance.
    3) @AndrewToal:disqus gets 17 likes for letting us know he’s got a thing for Kirk Douglas.
    3) Tied for third, @Citric:disqus gives us a peek at his wishlist.
    5) And with 16 likes, @ParacletePizza:disqus channels his inner Youtube commenter.
    We have 3 new members today – everyone give a big welcome to @DrFlimFlam:disqus, @twitter-85465361:disqus (TheBryanJZX90) and Craig (@FuriousGiorge:disqus)!  Plaid jackets all around!
    And our returning members: @twitter-88752419:disqus is getting a second stud for his third mention; @Cloks:disqus, a philandering horse-beater (I heard it on the Internet!) gets a third stud; @Staggering_Stew_Bum:disqus gets his sixth stud with a powerhouse comment that got 58 likes(!); @Merve2:disqus is getting his tenth stud; an @caspiancomic:disqus, with his seventeenth stud, makes it a three-way tie for second with @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus and @Effigy_Power:disqus!
    And finally, some game controversy! Does anyone have any strong feelings, one way or the other?  I’m more of a racecar man myself.  Enjoy your gaming everyone!

    • Fluka says:

      “Does anyone have any strong feelings, one way or the other?”

      YES.  That opinion is KITTY.

    • Staggering Stew Bum says:

      So does that sixth stud incorporate this week’s über rare double mention?

      As for the controversy, I always kinda liked the iron. At our house we have the Monopoly Australia version (which among the expected Koala, surfboard & vegemite jar pieces, we inexplicably have laptop, cellphone and 747 because why not), but this is still disappointing.

      Also, this is as good a place as any to say that just when you think this website can’t get any better, they drop something like that Syrian Games/Nairobi pirate games double which was just glorious. Awesome work Teti and co.

      • stakkalee says:

        Yup, you got 2 points.  Only 5 other people have gotten the double.

        I don’t particularly care for the iron myself, but it’s no more boring than the thimble.  And if you’re dumping Monopoly tokens why not discard the thematically-inappropriate battleship?  That thing just doesn’t belong.

      • PaganPoet says:

        Is Kylie Minogue’s bum one of the purchasable properties in Monopoly Australia?

    • caspiancomic says:

       Part of me is sad the robot with a moustache isn’t the new piece, but a cat seems like the appropriate choice for the winner of a majority vote held on the internet. Also, good riddance to the iron, that thing sucked.

    • PaganPoet says:

      Heh, clever joke, stakkalee. Your opinion is “racecar” one way or the other.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      I really gotta step up my game. Maybe it finally is time for that Teti/Toal slashfic…
      In any case, does anyone actually enjoy Monopoly? Like Risk, it seems designed only to create tension in harmonious families and friend-circles.
      I guess the really good change would be to make the little metal things lighter in the very likely case that someone throws one hard at their formerly best friend for clutching cards in their hand and laughing maniacally.

      • PaganPoet says:

        Monopoly is great for making mortal enemies out of friend and family members. You may as well hire a bodyguard if you’re the person playing the banker.

      • Merve says:

        Need I remind you that I wrote the original GS slashfic?

        I don’t know why I’m admitting this.

        • PaganPoet says:

          Do you watch Bob’s Burgers? There’s an episode (called “Bad Tina”) where it’s revealed one of the characters writes slash fiction about her classmates. I had a hearty laugh over it, I did.

      • stakkalee says:

        Well, the goal of Monopoly IS to leave all of your opponents destitute and homeless; it’s sort of a platonic abstraction like chess, only about capitalism instead of war.

      • valondar says:

         You know I agree with you entirely on Monopoly, it’s always been a family pastime game to me that I’d never seek out for leisure, barely a step above Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit.

        But you take that back about Risk! Risk is a really fun strategy game that I’ve loved, even if I haven’t played it lately.

        And honestly my favourite strategy games for the PC are essentially infinitely more complicated forms of Risk (I’ve heard that the Europa Universalis board game is so complex that people rarely actually finish games, which I can believe, and I would be interested in playing Imperial sometime, because a boardgame about pre-WW1 European economies is clearly the greatest thing ever…)

        • Effigy_Power says:

          While I can’t judge the game for others, for myself I can’t take it back. I have not once played a game of Risk that didn’t end with at least two of the players somehow yelling at each other or someone storming out of the room.
          And I played it quite a bit in college, when there was nothing else to do between classes.
          For me personally Risk is definitely one of the main reasons why people fight over something that was supposed to be fun.
          I am glad other people have different experiences, but for me, both Monopoly and Risk (and to a degree Game of Life, but who the fuck plays that?) are points of contention well beyond their potential for fun.

        • caspiancomic says:

           @Effigy_Power:disqus Agreed on Risk, Risk is an alien weapon designed to ruin friendships and leave humanity incapable of cooperation. This week I referred to a game night which frequently defaulted to Axis and Allies, and alluded to occasional games of Risk. We had to swear off Risk forever though, because the group of us- my very best friends in the world and I- just fucking hated each other after a round of Risk. It was honestly putting our friendships in danger, so we had to retire it.

      • Girard says:

        Monopoly is interminable and awful.

    • Merve says:

      I don’t mind that the cat is being added as a new token (provided it can stay upright), but I’m sad that the iron is gone. At least the iron would stay in the place when the dice hit the board. The ferry, on the other hand, would just fall flat on its side. They should have gotten rid of that one.

    • Pandas_please says:

      I love cats but hate Monopoly so I’m conflicted. Monopoly only brings back horrible memories of going camping and having it rain all day.

    • Girard says:

      I am extremely pro-cat, and have never owned an iron. CAT ALL THE WAY.

    • Cloks says:

      I’m a horse beater, philanderer and drug addict, but at least I’m not a drug addict!

  6. DrFlimFlam says:

    I’m going to cut the elbows out of my plaid jacket and put some sweet back pockets from my jeans there instead.

  7. AngryRaisins says:

    Unrelated to the thread, but people might be interested to know that there’s now a Kickstarter for “Dreamfall Chapters”, the follow-up to The Longest Journey and Dreamfall.

    Frankly, much as I find the series interesting, I’m a bit dubious about contributing: the two main concerns about supporting a project like this (that it’ll never be done and that it’ll be done badly) seem well justified given Dreamfall’s flaws (minimal interaction and plot resolution) and the absence of any progress since.  But the news seemed interesting.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      My girlfriend is going to be all over this, thanks for sharing.

      • Histamiini says:

        I may have already told you this in the Steam chat but your girlfriend has excellent taste.

        Dreamfall Chapters is big news for me.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          If she didn’t have excellent taste, she wouldn’t be my girlfriend now would she?
          And yes, that sentence works in several ways.