Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 17:04 on 08-03-2012, valse de la lune
Well, Campbell's plots never get more striking than what's in the first book--which if I recall correctly has something to do with an evil god or possibly some man seeking revenge, or... whatever (and apparently there's some cop-out in the third book, which I didn't bother with). About the poor man's new weird, it's the general lack of imagination and the wholesale regurgitation of D&D somethingsomething (Planescape, perhaps?). Deepgate is no Ambergris or Paradys or New Crobuzon. It doesn't seem to have been constructed to breathe like a real city, or constructed by an author who's read more widely than tie-in novels.
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at 15:46 on 08-03-2012, Sister Magpie
I remember quite enjoying the Peace, but not being mad keen on the War. Which is
strange because n a videogame it'd be totally the other way round...


I think I'm the only person I've ever met who preferred the war parts.
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at 14:09 on 08-03-2012, James D
KJ Bishop is enormously superior, and she can write, too.

Oh, and thanks for the recommendation. I'll look into Bishop, haven't heard of her before.
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at 13:44 on 08-03-2012, James D
About Campbell: the first book I thought was fun if derivative and not particularly strong prose-wise (guy was a game writer; it shows). I kept wanting someone to punch Dill in the face and never stop, he's that kind of character. Then came book two, which was incoherent badly-paced crap. A poor man's new weird, with too much D&D. KJ Bishop is enormously superior, and she can write, too.

Yeah Dill is kind of annoying so far but I'm not that far in...I have the next two books and I hope you're wrong for my wallet's sake, haha. Considering the plot of the first book at least is already better than any Mieville I've read, I'll have to see about your 'poor man's New Weird" appraisal. I'm pretty underwhelmed by the New Weird in general.
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at 09:52 on 08-03-2012, Wardog
Awwww, the Stark kids singing the opening of a Game of Thrones is super adorable. Dan and I are about halfway through the series now that English people are finally permitted it without buying Sky or, err, downloading it on the internet, and the opening sequence remains my favourite part of the show.
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at 09:48 on 08-03-2012, Shimmin
I'm not sure I'd say "makes some perfectly reasonable points". I think I'd go with "is completely wrong about everything."
Disagreed, though on a general basis rather than having actually played Dark Souls. Trial-and-error gameplay that relies on losing and reloading (as opposed to thinking or non-lethal failure) is generally frustrating and just pads out play. Arbitrary elements like arbitrary resistances and vulnerabilities, or random spellcasting powers, or implausible monster placement, with no narrative basis in the game, are the kind of thing that annoy me as well, and shouting "Bruckheimer!" just excuses poor design. And you can indeed pick up vast amounts of in-game trivia or skill without them having any application in the real world (the Killingsworth response to that in particular was what irritated me).

They're rather disconnected complaints that do nothing to help his main argument, which is frankly rubbish on a fundamental level. They aren't exclusive to games either. There are reasonable rebuttals to at least some of them, which Killingsworth did not make. But the points themselves aren't nonsense, which was what I meant.
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at 09:16 on 08-03-2012, Wardog
I'm on Team Tolstoy - in the sense I've read War and Peace, I remember quite enjoying the Peace, but not being mad keen on the War. Which is strange because n a videogame it'd be totally the other way round...
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at 06:12 on 08-03-2012, valse de la lune
About Campbell: the first book I thought was fun if derivative and not particularly strong prose-wise (guy was a game writer; it shows). I kept wanting someone to punch Dill in the face and never stop, he's that kind of character. Then came book two, which was incoherent badly-paced crap. A poor man's new weird, with too much D&D. KJ Bishop is enormously superior, and she can write, too.
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at 02:44 on 08-03-2012, Sister Magpie
It's definitely the length. I remember when I was reading it on the subway and a guy next to me asked in a kind of hilarious way, "Excuse me, but...is that good?" Like the idea of it as an actual book never comes up.
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at 02:16 on 08-03-2012, Arthur B
Though honestly, I think people bring up W&P as some sort of achievement mostly because of its legendary length.

Agreed - and it's pretty silly since I'm fairly sure at this point both Twilight and Song of Ice and Fire beat it in terms of page count.
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at 01:58 on 08-03-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Also, you know that person from XKCD who plays Half-Life 2 years after it first came out? That is me. And I've just met fast zombies for the first time. FML.

Pleasant dreams, Andy.
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at 01:57 on 08-03-2012, Michal
*Raises hand* I read War and Peace. Liked it quite a bit, too.

Do I get a cookie? I haven't played Dark Souls, so I can't claim the experience was significantly better.

Though honestly, I think people bring up W&P as some sort of achievement mostly because of its legendary length. I read it because I liked Tolstoy already, and it's pretty easy-going if you don't get hung up on the names. Of which there are many.
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at 01:06 on 08-03-2012, Andy G
Also, you know that person from XKCD who plays Half-Life 2 years after it first came out? That is me. And I've just met fast zombies for the first time. FML.
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at 00:53 on 08-03-2012, Andy G
I'm sure I read that Tolstoy wrote very strongly against divisive elitist conceptions of art, so it's rather unfortunate that it's his book that is being used to stand for High Art against the uncultured video-game-playing masses.
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at 22:29 on 07-03-2012, Dan H
I have read W&P but the only advantage to reading that over reading ASOIAF is that sometimes you have the ability to say "I've read W&P" and have it sound like you mean something significant.


Were I feeling glib, I might suggest that "being able to say you've read War and Peace" is the only advantage Thomsen seems to be interested in. His chief objection to long RPGs is that they have a poor ration of bragging rights to time invested.

The moment you rephrase his question as "is doing something you enjoy a valid use of your leisure time" you realise how asinine the whole article is.
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at 21:25 on 07-03-2012, James D
As I mentioned earlier, I haven't read that one yet. Maybe he makes it better later, I dunno. Still strikes me as really unrealistic that she was able to get that far.
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at 21:21 on 07-03-2012, Axiomatic
The fact that she's wildly successful at not only Kingdom Management, but Kingdom Acquisition as well.
Are we reading the same books? Pretty much every Dany chapter in A Dance With Dragons is DAENERYS SUCKS AT RULING. THE CITY SHE LIBERATED IS FALLING APART AROUND HER AND NOBODY IS ANY BETTER OFF.

In fact, GRRM spends so much time belabouring this point that that's pretty much all that happens for the entire novel. I'll grant you that she's pretty awesome at Kingdom Acquisition, but if there's one running theme in the whole series, it's that it's much, much easier to seize power than it is to keep it.
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at 20:45 on 07-03-2012, Sister Magpie
Either this is the best typo-mutated euphemism ever or you know some really
disturbing secrets about GRRM.


Whoa! You're right. That does sound better than "hands down the pants" doesn't it? Maybe I know something without realizing it...

Also, I am always leery of an annoyed by people who namedrop great works of
literature in such a way that they carefully avoid claiming to have actually
read them.


Probably because when you have read them you realize they're just another book that you might like or might not, really. I have read W&P but the only advantage to reading that over reading ASOIAF is that sometimes you have the ability to say "I've read W&P" and have it sound like you mean something significant.
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at 20:28 on 07-03-2012, Dan H
To be fair, both the Dark Souls articles seem a bit daft, like. Thomsen complains about all the game in his game, where there should be Deep Meaningful Art and personal betterment, but despite the puzzling misunderstanding of the whole point of games, he makes some perfectly reasonable points.


I'm not sure I'd say "makes some perfectly reasonable points". I think I'd go with "is completely wrong about everything." His entire article is based on the assumption that the value of a particular activity can be assessed by looking at the other things you could have done if you took all of the time you spent on that activity *altogether* and then rearranged it in a manner in which it was convenient for you to pursue some other activity, which it was then further assumed that you would pursue wholeheartedly and with perfect motivation.

As evidence that this is *complete horseshit*, I cite the fact that Thomsen presumably does not use the 2920 hours a year in which he is neither working nor sleeping to - say become fluent in multiple languages, master complex skills, read the great works of literature (in English, and in all of the other languages he has learned in the time he has saved by not playing video games) and so on.

Also, I am always leery of an annoyed by people who namedrop great works of literature in such a way that they carefully avoid claiming to have actually read them.

That said, the rebuttal is *also* pretentious and annoying.
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at 20:25 on 07-03-2012, James D
I'm not sure what the argument about Dany being 14 and not having a degree in Kingdom Management is meant to achieve. I mean, what are you arguing against?

The fact that she's wildly successful at not only Kingdom Management, but Kingdom Acquisition as well. Breaks my suspension of disbelief up into tiny pieces, especially since it's only through incredibly contrived-seeming circumstances that she does it. I mean seriously, when she buys that slave army and turns it on the slave cities - did they honestly never plan for something like that? They mass-produce highly-trained private armies of infantry that excel in siege warfare, and they never considered that such an army might one day be turned on them? You'd think they'd be well-prepared for lengthy sieges and have a policy of never selling an army larger than their own, at the very least.
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at 20:11 on 07-03-2012, Axiomatic
I'm not sure what the argument about Dany being 14 and not having a degree in Kingdom Management is meant to achieve. I mean, what are you arguing against?
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at 19:44 on 07-03-2012, Arthur B
hand down the hands

Either this is the best typo-mutated euphemism ever or you know some really disturbing secrets about GRRM.
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at 19:22 on 07-03-2012, Sister Magpie

It's not particularly deep, though; I see it as the fantasy
equivalent of a well-made Hollywood blockbuster. It pushes some boundaries just
enough to be interesting, but stays largely within established cliches so as to
still be quite comfortable for fans of mainstream fantasy.



That's basically how I feel about it too. There are some parts that are better than others, and when it is interesting it's fun, but it's not something I think about a lot when I'm not reading it. Though I do find a lot of discussions on whether it's a Deep Feminist Work vs. rape fantasy written with one hand down the hands interesting, because neither of those things seem right at all.

I admit, I'm just not bothered by all the threats of rape since it seems like just part of the greater status quo of the world being about power. If you don't have the power, you're screwed literally and metaphorically.
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at 19:21 on 07-03-2012, Arthur B
I think the Killingsworth one is much more reasonable, but the point could have been made much more simply: if you don't feel you're getting what you want out of Dark Souls, then to continue to play it for 100 hours is stupidity pure and simple.

But then again Thomsen's article gave me the impression that pretentiousness is the only language he understands so maybe Killingsworth was trying to meet him halfway.
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