Keyboard Geniuses

A Comment Cat Chooses, A Keyboard Genius Obeys

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • July 19, 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.

BioShock And Awe

Sam Barsanti took a look back at the ending of the BioShock game that started it all (“it” being the BioShock series) for a To The Bitter End column. Sam read the rigid and dull final act as a demonstration of the game’s central theme—the illusion of choice. Pico79 took it a step further, and suggested a way for the player to take control of the story:

My only critique of this is that the only choice you really have, when it comes down to it, is turning off the console and refusing to play the game. After the Andrew Ryan twist (which is brilliant, without a doubt), the game doesn’t allow you to exercise your newfound knowledge in any way…there’s no actual mechanism by which it matters. That’s the ending’s failure, I think: You’re given a powerful new way of viewing the game, and no way to apply it.

A discussion cropped up about whether the game design was intentionally meant to reflect what Sam was talking about, and Telamon dropped in with the sayings of The Hobbitmaster himself, J.R.R. Tolkien, on authorial intent:

To join the bandwagon of this side-discussion, I’d submit for everyone’s consideration the following excellent passage from Tolkien’s preface to the 2nd edition of Lord Of The Rings:

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory;’ but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”

Push Th’ Little Coins
Coin pusher

One intrepid YouTuber has found an audience for his bizarrely watchable videos about arcade games of chance, and John Teti walked us through a few of the inane coin-pusher movies. Cornell University described the process of becoming sucked into these mundane videos:

This is a fascinating subgenre to the already mostly pointless “Let’s play ____” genre. Beyond watching people way better than you performing speedruns, no deaths, etc., I don’t entirely understand how these videos are popular…with me. Oh it starts innocently enough, “Hey, I know I have to work tomorrow, but I never played all the way through Sonic Adventure before I sold it, better check that out.” Fast forward several hours, and I’m intently listening to some Danish guy describe the combat mechanics of some Xbox game I’ll never play. That the idea of watching people I don’t know play video games would end up being more distracting than the video games themselves never occurred to me, or even my parents when they were dead set against my brother and me getting an NES as children, I’d wager. I’m not alone, either. Those people get MILLIONS of views.

Elsewhere, The Misanthrope rallied against unfair arcade games and all they stand for:

I fucking hate these machines and their ilk, all those gaudy, lit-up Skinner boxes where the only skill necessary is mindless coin insertion. They tempt and taunt with the possibility of some grand prize, but if you win anything, it’s more likely you’ll get one of the subpar prizes like a plushie from last year’s big movie franchise or some cheap toy made in a country that you never heard of that breaks after a few uses. Or, even worse, you will get tickets, which I believe were conceived to teach children the soul-crushing lessons of adult economics (if only there were someone who offered high-interest loans of tickets, the lesson would be complete).

For those of us still in favor of these dumb games, Stakkalee linked us to a thrilling Flash version of the coin pusher:

What’s more exciting than watching rigged carnival games? Playing a virtual version online. The really sad part is they list it under “Skill Games.”

I saw some of you posted your paltry scores of 300 or 800 tickets. Worthless. Your working boy netted himself over 2,000 tickets, and bought a Felix The Cat wall clock. Top that!

Citizen Game
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert

John Teti wrote a For Our Consideration op-ed response to an essay by Warren Spector, a well-known games creator who called for a “Roger Ebert of video games.” Naturally, the hunt for the “Citizen Kane of video games” discussion cropped up in the comments, which Citric thinks is a bunch of hooey:

The big problem is this weird obsession with replicating movies, and their path to being a cultural institution, rather than forging ahead trying to make games and seeing what springs up organically around that. But instead we see people trying to do movies, but interactive, or TV, but interactive (ugh, Xbone) when it should start with making games, trying new things, and working on capitalizing on a different medium.

Citizen Kane was the Citizen Kane of movies because it was trying to take advantage of the unique properties of film, rather than trying to do for films what something else did for books or theater. But in searching for the “Citizen Kane of games,” we get a lot of people who are beholden to different conventions of film. With some rare exceptions, games that try to be movies are bad games and worse movies. If, instead, the focus is on making games the best game they can be, and working to capitalize on the opportunities the medium allows that wasn’t there before, at the very least you’re going to get some great games, and maybe the whole legitimacy thing will spring up organically, as it has for all the other media.

Night Fright
Night LIghts

John Teti wrote about how his cat turned out to be a backpack in the dark of the night for his Sawbuck Gamer review of Night Lights. Naked Snake mentioned that this kind of visual trickery happens in the daytime too:

I’m not really a believer in the supernatural, but if the existence of a race of shadow-beings were demonstrated to be science, then I wouldn’t be altogether too surprised, either. How much of our daily visual input do we interpret and edit until it makes sense according to what we already understand to be true? If you’re in some new town, looking at something at night, and you’re like, “That’s a sailboat on a bay,” and then you squint and “realize” that it’s tarp on a basketball court. But you “realized” that because the basketball court makes more sense, right? The sailboat explanation was unlikely. What I am saying is that I think it is entirely possible that we witness supernatural occurrences on a regular basis, but our brain just discounts them as “you didn’t see what you thought you saw.”

Trippy! And Emperor Norton I gave us a prime example of this showing up as an actual game mechanic:

That idea, of convincing yourself that you really didn’t see what you think you saw, was at the heart of the “Sanity Points” mechanic in the old Chaosium Call Of Cthulhu game. When seeing horrible things, you’d make a sanity check. If you succeeded, you managed to convince yourself that you didn’t see quite what you thought you’d seen, and your loss would be small/zero. If you failed, it means you fully realized just what you saw, and as a result will never truly recover—you lost those points, big time.

Sanity points, representing the illusion of human agency and meaning in the world, were essential to go on, but were at the same time a measure of your character’s self-delusion. The truth would not set you free—it would break you.


We assembled a crack list of eight awful video game portmanteaus—neologisms formed when two words are jammed together to make one stupider word. While we brought you gold such as “Bewarewolf” and “Drivatar,” Crab Naga had a gem from recent history:

What about Revengeance? I wasn’t sure if it was a real word or a made-up portmanteau, and a something search is inconclusive.

This prompted a long discussion at Gameological HQ, and we decided it’s a portmanteau—a mix of “revenge” and “vengeance”—but it’s a weird case since the root is the same for both of the source words. Elsewhere, His Space Holiness graced us with a true tale of the difficulties of making a decent portmanteau:

Story time: in my one and only video game-related job, I was hired to write for a startup mobile-game company. At first, my assignment was to write dialogue for boss characters and whatnot, but it soon devolved into coming up with names for all of the Pokémon-like critters who populated the game. So I spent a good two weeks coming up with equally tortured portmanteaus for various combinations of animal and superpower. And then at the end of the day, I’d turn them in and get helpful notes like “Could be better” and “Needs more work.”

The point being, sometimes these things slip through because the creators would rather pull out their own teeth with electric pliers than work on them for another goddamn minute.

Total Clockdown
Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night

John Teti gave us the rundown on the many appearances of tough clock tower levels in the vampire-hunting, monster-slaying Castlevania series for a multi-game spanning entry of On The Level. Spacemonkey Mafia made a neat observation on how the enemies’ movements mirror their place of dwelling:

So a common anxiety dream of mine is being inexplicably adrift in the middle of a primordial ocean, teeming with creatures. And any movement I make brings me in contact with some foul, alien thing. My whole body is tense with a recoil response. The clock tower elicits some of that same feeling. My flight response kicks in and I just try to flee through to the other side, avoiding all contact with the dense population of enemies that plague the stage.

But it is interesting that apparently some of the qualities of being a precision timepiece are infused into the inhabitants. The aforementioned Medusa sine wave. The harpies perfect twirl. Even the clean pendulum arc of the cloak knight’s flamberge.

The game mythology says Dracula is an embodiment of chaos, but you’d never know judging by his clockwork minions.

And Mr. Glitch, Gameological’s resident retro gaming enthusiast, pointed us to a largely forgotten clock tower in the series:

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the oft-overlooked Genesis Castlevania game, Bloodlines, also sports a clock tower at the top of a World War I German munitions factory. However, of the tower levels in Bloodlines, I think the Leaning Tower Of Pisa is much more memorable. The whole affair sways back and forth, and spins around as you scale it, leading to an epic, vertigo-inducing boss battle at the very top.

If you’re interested in reading more on Bloodlines, Mr. Glitch gave us his own thoughtful review almost a year ago in these very comments. Well, folks, that’s it. Thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week.

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50 Responses to “A Comment Cat Chooses, A Keyboard Genius Obeys”

  1. caspiancomic says:

    As I indicated sorta breathlessly in the WAYPTW thread, there’s a new Game Theory up today, this time about Final Fantasy VII. Sometimes the universe just lines things up for you, I guess. I actually started writing this before the Steam re-release as well, so that’s two portents in a row.

    Also, fun fact: I was checking my StatPress plugin to gauge the popularity of the site, and discovered an unusual search term that lead someone to my site.

    • PaganPoet says:

      I’ll admit that the JRPG is a genre that I grew tired of after the PS1 era. After Square’s success on that platform, there was just a slew of generic, cliche-ridden, obtuse-plot having, stupid haired character filled slogs that really soured me off the genre for several years. Series like Persona and Disgaea (and one-offs like Ni No Kuni) have made me warm back up to them again recently, but I’m definitely a lot more skeptical of them these days.

      • Citric says:

        Do you have a DS? I don’t remember. If you do go get Radiant Historia right now. It’s one of the good ‘uns.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        I’m in the same boat. Between the time they take and the tonnage of cliches thrown into each one, it’s a harder genre to buy in on. I just stick to the top-tier games in the genre these days.

      • Dave Dalrymple says:

        I go into more detail in my comment on the Game Theory page itself, but far too many JRPGs substituted inscrutability for depth. It’s like M. Night Shyamalan playing Calvinball. 

    • neodocT says:

      Oops, sorry, that was me. I was trying to get down with this girl who was a total Empress, but she thought I was too much of a Hermit, so I had to find another way to show her my Tower arcana (wink wink, nudge nudge).

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

         Again, nice illustrations.  I see you’re trying to get away from hard outlines.  I still haven’t succeeded in that.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Not sure if I’ve succeeded myself, but thanks! I like to try different things out whenever I can.

        • Jackbert says:

          The linework is definitely better; the new thinner inking is to thank for that. Whatever you’re doing for coloring, you’re very much doing it right. The faces and hair drawn in the close-ups looks pretty good, but you should try drawing smaller eyes; I realize it’s stylized, but it’s still a bit much. Overall, from The World Ends With You to this, your art has improved a lot.

  2. Cloks says:

    I’m really just sad that I wasted my time doing this. The trick is to never stop clicking.

  3. stakkalee says:

    Only 3 more days left in the Steam Summer Sale.  I’ve been strong so far – will I be able to resist the siren song?  Our most-commented article this week was Sam Barsanti’s To The Bitter End article about Bioshock with 190 comments.  As for the Top 5 Most Liked (non-KG) comments, those were:
    1) @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus gets 53 likes for letting us know you can’t take the sky away from me unless I stop paying the monthly fee.
    2) With 33 likes @The_Helmaroc_King:disqus discusses the finer points of gender essentialism.
    2) Tied for second with 33 likes Eclipse Mattaru (@facebook-1327675432:disqus) isn’t satisfied by handheld devices.
    4) With 27 likes it’s @The_Helmaroc_King:disqus again, with a particularly pungent joke.
    5) And @caspiancomic:disqus gets 22 likes for dreaming of a tastefully nude future.
    There were some really great articles this week sparking some wonderful discussions so good job everyone!  And now for the plaid jackets.  We have 2 new members today, @Pico79:disqus and @Telamon:disqus!  Welcome, folks!  Come on down and try on your new jackets!  And now our returning members: @CrabNaga:disqus gets his first stud for his second mention!  @Cornell_University:disqus gets a second stud, and @NakedSnake:disqus and @His_Space_Holiness:disqus each get their third studs!  @EmperorNortonI:disqus is at four, @Mr_Glitch:disqus and @The_Misanthrope:disqus each unlock the “Lucky Seven!” achievement with their seventh stud apiece!  I have 10 studs, @Citric:disqus has 11, and @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus moves into a dangerous position, one stud behind @Effigy_Power:disqus with his 24th stud!  Well done one and all!
    And finally for the linkdump here is a list of 50 impressive case mods – I can’t decide whether the PS3 grill or the NES sneaker is more fun, but I have to say that R2-D2 multi-console mod is breathtaking.  That’s it for this week – enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

  4. Kilzor says:

    Steam Sale!  So I finally picked up FTL, and am of course, getting flat out killed to death.  Anyone have any good weapon setups or tips about best energy management?  Any thoughts at all will make me appreciate you faster than the speed at which light travels.

    • NakedSnake says:

      Conserve missiles, only take risks when you have something to gain, and visit as many planets as you can before leaving a system, especially early on. Also a boarding-focused ship has the lowest technology barrier (i.e. once you have a teleporter and crew, you’re set up).

      • Kilzor says:

        I’ve been avoiding the boarding party route, because I’ve been imagining my crew getting ganged up on and murdered very easily on the enemy ships.  Good to know it’s actually a smart option.

        • NakedSnake says:

          As long as they don’t have a medbay and you have a level 2 teleporter, you can keep beaming your folks over to wear the enemy down, and then beaming your guys back to heal before they risk death.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

       Spend on energy and shield.  Don’t bother with Engines until later.  As @baneofpigs:disqus says, teleporters are great, just don’t try to board a drone vessel.  The droids are also great!  It’s a pain to get a system set up, but a defense droid will save you a ton of missile damage, and an attack droid is worth its weight in gold if you’re weapons are a bit underpowered versus their shields.

      In battle, use a missle to hit their shields, then lasers on their weapons.  If you have Ion, use it to keep their shields down peremenantly.  Beams are great if you have something else that will knock out their shields, but you need a just-right weapons combo to make them really work.  Don’t use the fire beam if you plan on boarding, though.  Ion bombs are also great, but be careful not to over-use them, as they cost missiles.

      Always have someone at the helm, shields, and weapons.  Those make a big difference.  Keep the same person there as much as possible, as they build up experience.  Always get new crew when you can, even if it means buying one from slavers.

    • NakedSnake says:

      Oh, and there is one more thing: turn off autofire. You’re much much better off sending over salvoes, rather than just having everything fire whenever.

  5. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Weekend Prompt!
       So the number of people amassed in San Diego right now are aiding California in sinking that much deeper into the ocean.
       It’s Comic Con, where both plastic and ideas are hawked with a carnival barker’s urgency and where thousands of fans work to alchemize base cardboard and stretch fabrics into reasonable facsimiles of their fictional heroes.
       Me, I’d like to go dressed as the three-story tall second-to-last boss of Final Fantasy VI.

       If feasibility was no concern, what would be your ideal video game character costume?

    • Citric says:

      I didn’t even like dressing up during the ideal dressing up period of most people’s lives. I went as a television one Halloween because then I only had a cardboard box on my head and could still wear my regular clothes. 

      Maybe I’d go as my Saint’s Row guy, since then I’d just be me in a bathrobe and fancy jewelry.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        I hate making eye contact with people, much less drawing attention to myself with ostentatious pageantry, so I feel you.  Not literally, though, as that would make us both uncomfortable.
           I just like absurd answers.

    • mizerock says:

      Wow, if I was granted this magical “feasibility is no concern” power, I’d have to go for something impossible in real life, just to maximize that ability. A dragon? A floating Mister Mxyzptlk? Something that would make people stop, slack-jawed, or just start screaming HOLY SHIT HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?!?

      But the character I would most want to be is The Tick. I do not have the physique for it, nor is it feasible to wear what Patrick Warburton did without succumbing to heat stroke in a few minutes. But it’s still more possible IRL than that flying dragon option. I think I would do OK with the voice with a few hours of practice.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        For the purposes of this inane question, the feasibility exception includes you bearing whatever physique and elemental immunity your costume may require.

        • mizerock says:

          For real, I’ll be dressing as the Tin Man at a themed campout next weekend. It does indeed fit my physique, and there’s a river nearby if the sweating gets to be too much.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Getting a bunch of butties together to cosplay the entire boss tower from VI would be pretty rad, I could get behind that.

      If we’re really going to throw feasibility to the winds, I might choose a relatively modest character: Parappa the Rapper. In theory it sounds simple, since he just wears jeans, and tank top, and a toque. But for a 6-ish foot tall, 3-dimensional human to attempt to cosplay a 3 foot tall 2-dimensional rapping dog always tends to make people look like serial molesters. Same problem occurs when people attempt The Prince from Katamari Damacy- what’s cute at the Prince’s native scale is just disturbing when stretched to fill the proportions of a human adult.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      I’d probably go for a mostly-functional “giant” robot suit; something like a Gundam or a Jaeger shrunk down to an Iron Man-sized suit. Or an Iron Man suit in general.

      More feasibly, I’d say Viewtiful Joe, but with a normal-sized head and body. Gotta love the helmet and that long, flowing scarf.

      If we fuse the two: “C’mon, Six Majin!”

    • ShrikeTheAvatar says:

      Brotherhood of Steel suit, probably.

      Either that or the Hayabusa armor from Halo 3.  

    • Jackbert says:

      My favorite Persona from Persona 3, the ultimate form of the Death arcana, Thanatos would be cool. Outside of video games, Swamp Thing, as of Yanick Pacquette’s redesign would be even cooler. With feasibility as a concern, my natural look is already pretty good cosplay of Joshua from The World Ends With You.

    • Dave Dalrymple says:

      It would have to be King of All Cosmos for me. I could probably get one made reasonably affordably. The biggest problem is that I’d almost certainly get arrested for wearing it. 

    • Electric Dragon says:

      A man of scientific bent, and of few words? HEV suit all the way, baby. And if a Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator is in the bargain as well, so much the better.

    • zebbart says:

      I’d love to dress up Rayman if I could do the no legs/arms/neck thing.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Definitely H.R. Giger’s Alien Queen from Aliens (2). It’s such an elegant construction, all shiny and shimmering and highly polished.
      There’s a definite strange female shape to it, but at the same time it’s a nightmarish terror of monstrous proportions. And yet it’s smart enough to use an elevator, protect its offspring and sneak onto the Sulaco’s shuttle.
      That’d be some costume (in real size of course) to stalk the dark streets at night with.
      If size is insurmountable, I’d be okay with Sil from Species in her final and most alien shapes:
      Sexual horror is always terrifying and this, despite having nothing but mildly crappy movies and thus joining the Predator and Alien there, is definitely effectively done. Everything about Sil is alien and yet there’s a clearly defined human shape and face in there somewhere, which puts her straight in the uncanny valley.
      Pretty awesome designs both of them, too bad they could never find anything useful to do with either.

    • Girard says:

      I remember in high school joking with friends about going to Otakon or something cosplaying not as a Gundam pilot, not as a Gundam, but as one of the flatbed trucks on which Gundams were transported. We sure though we were clever.

      If I really want to push feasibility to its breaking point, and pay homage to some of my favorite games ever, I’d somehow dress as an AFGNCAAP from an IF game.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Wow, Zork… now that’s some RPG nerdistry to make other RPG nerds look like newbs.

        • Girard says:

          ::pushes up glasses:: Technically, Zork games aren’t RPGs, they’re interactive fiction. Though Beyond Zork does have some RPG elements.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        -puts on glasses, lets them slide down, then pushes them up-
        I’ve never played them.
        (It’s a new character I am trying, the pretentious ignoramus. Is it working?)

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Erm… I don’t know how to type.
        -scoffs again-

    • Chewbacca Abercrombie says:

      Hermaeus Mora from Skyrim. It would be fun to be a floating mass of eyes and tentacles, at least temporarily. Or the dog monster from Carpenter’s The Thing.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Gitaroo-Man. With working PS2-stick Gitaroo.

  6. Telamon says:

    I’m so honored!  That’s only maybe my fifth comment on Gameological boards, and it got picked!  I guess this means I won like 1/12th of whatever percentage of the Internet Gamelological accounts for, for one day.

    That’s a lot, right?

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