Things I Don’t Get About Gaming: Respect for One’s Time

So here’s something I’m becoming more and more perplexed by as time goes on – gaming’s relationship with time. More specifically, the relationship between time and enjoyment.

I’ve talked before about how I find it strange that “short” is so often used as a criticism of games, or something included in the negative column of a review. I’ve actually made a whole video about it. I love short games. They don’t overstay their welcome, you have less of a chance to get bored. There’s less “busy work” like fetch quests or loot grinding. If it’s a story-focused game, the narrative is usually tighter. That’s not to say I don’t like long games too – I love a lot of those but honestly I probably would have enjoyed Witcher 3 or Dragon Age: Inquisition more if I spent 50 hours with them (which is still a very long time) rather than 100+. Did looking for weapon and armor patterns or shards add anything to the game but extra playtime? Not really.

Destiny loot grind

Today there was an opinion piece about Destiny over on Polygon. My history with Destiny is quite short. I picked it up not long after release and gave it a fair shake. It looked nice – not exactly glowing praise. Are there really any current gen AAA games you can’t say that about? The shooting mechanics were solid. The story was almost non-existent, and what little there was was wedged into a phone app rather than in the game. The gameplay got repetitive and boring real quick. Playing alone was dull. Playing with a friend (who outleveled me) was dull (and full of death). Loot grinds are dull. Plus, the number one strike against games for me right now – it doesn’t end. So I quit. This was not the game for me.

Anyway, one quote from this article made me kind of sad.

I’m like many of you in that I only have an hour, maybe two, of non-working game time every night. So I tend to play games that allow me to make some forward progress in that time. Diablo 3 was a perfect game for that rhythm, as you could play a little here and there and always gain a bit of level or some loot.

Destiny actively pushed players like me away with its endgame leveling scheme, which depended on an arcane “Light” system. You were completely reliant on random item drops to level up and, while there were certain things you could do to maximize your time, if you didn’t pull any good items in your evening of playing, you were sunk. The time was all but meaningless.

It felt like a grind that ended with a slot machine that would determine whether or not you wasted your time. It sucked, and it sucked hard.

I understand that things like gears and levels serve as both goals and rewards in games. However, shouldn’t the simple act of playing the game be something worth your time? Shouldn’t playing be fun? Fun might be a bit reductive – but it should be engaging, or entertaining, or thought-provoking, or interesting. If the time you spend with a game is only worthwhile if X happens (you get a piece of gear, you gain a level, you get an achievement, you win) but is considered a waste of time otherwise, is that a good game? Does it deserve your time?

Say you play for an hour. At the 58 minute mark you get a piece of gear. Whether it’s useful or not will certainly impact your enjoyment and mood for those last 2 minutes of the game. But what about the first 57 minutes, before the loot dropped. Were you enjoying yourself? If not, why are you playing?

My thoughts on this have evolved over the years. I can think of many, many times in World of Warcraft where I spent hours in a raid and was just miserable the whole time (heroic Garrosh springs to mind). These times weren’t contained to a certain tier or xpac, there were lots times I spent in WoW that were unequivocally NOT FUN. But I did them for some larger goal – an achievement, a boss kill, a better arena ranking.

Now I’ve come to a point where if I were to play a game for 2 hours and consider my time wasted I don’t think I’d be going back to that game. Life’s short. There are a lot of games to play.

What do you think? Is it worth it to power through uninteresting gameplay, to do things you consider a waste of time, in search of some bigger in-game goal? The more work you put in, the better the “win” will feel? Or do you think games should always be fun (or at least interesting) to you in some way?

Blaugust Complete

This is day 31 of Blaugust.

Well, I did it. 31 posts in 31 days. It was easier than I thought it would be, except for one point in week 4 when I never wanted to look at another blog again.

Let’s look at the positives fist. I learned that I can put out content much more frequently than I usually do. Of the 31 posts, there are only 5 that I really consider filler that I never would have posted if not for Blaugust. That’s not too shabby. This was a really good writing exercise. Another positive is that I found more blogs to read and tried to comment more often than usual. I also got more comments than usual here (at least at the beginning of the month).

Most of the negatives of Blaugust have to do with oversaturation. After a while, the challenge was not only putting out my own posts out but also reading other people’s posts. A post a day on 50-100 blogs is a lot of reading especially since I don’t tend to read on weekends, so they pile up. I read and commented less as the month went on, and I in turn received less comments. My post links on Twitter barely got shared at all, likely because there were so many of them. Likewise, I did very little retweeting myself.

Traffic-wise, this month I received less views than 10 of the 12 previous months. So posting daily didn’t really drive traffic. My post viewed post was Breaking News, Women Play Video Games, while a number of my posts got only a handful of views (especially the ones where I just embedded a video). There were a couple posts I really liked that didn’t get much attention, I’m sure at least partially because they got buried under everything else.

Overall, Blaugust was an interesting exercise and I’m glad I did it. I won’t be making an effort to continue to post this much though.

I’d ask you how Blaugust was for you but I’m sure everyone is writing this post today.

Show Don’t Tell

This is day 30 of Blaugust.

Yesterday I played Until Dawn for 6 hours. If you’re not familiar with the game, it’s a cinematic horror game that advertises how player choice matters. A group of teenagers has gone to an isolated mountain cabin (in Alberta!) on the anniversary of the disappearance of a couple of their other friends and a whole bunch of bad shit happens. Surprise. The characters in the game can survive or die based on player decisions.

I like the game. Obviously I like it, I played it all day. It’s fun, scary, and the animation is just amazing. However, it does something that really bugs me.

Until Dawn butterfly effect

When you make a decision that’s important the game tells you, loudly and obnoxiously. Bells are chiming, text is flashing. Butterfly effect! The game really wants you to know that this decision has an effect. That you’re awesome for changing the course of the game. That it’s awesome for letting you.

This for me, is completely ineffective. If anything, it destroys immersion. Yes, I’m playing a video game. I can tell by the controller in my hand, you don’t need to remind me on-screen every time I make a decision. Explicitly telling me I’ve altered the course of events by snooping and reading someone’s text message does nothing for me. Either I’ll play the game again, make new decisions and see their outcomes, or I’ll only play this game the once in which case it doesn’t matter.

Of course this isn’t the only game that does this. I got really fed up with Telltale games when I played The Wolf Among Us. Snow will remember that, the game would tell me, menacingly. So what? If you have to tell me something I’ve said or done has had an impact on another character via a text message on the screen, you’re not doing a very good job with writing (or animation, possibly).

Life is Strange - This action will have consequences

Life is Strange (which basically ripped off Telltale’s boring formula) does this too. This action will have consequences… Shut up, game. Show me consequences, don’t tell me. I think for most games this is just a way of making the player feel in control when they’re really not but for me, it backfires. After playing The Wolf Among Us, or even The Walking Dead  I saw I wasn’t really making that much of a difference. If a character was going to die, they were gonna die. I could save them at the beginning of chapter 3, but they’d still be dead by the end of it. So this control you have over the story is really a lie, and that’s a bit of a piss off. Had I not been bombarded with messages telling me how much impact I’m having, I wouldn’t be upset at all about my choices not really mattering. I like to play the games, I like to experience a story whether it gives me options or sets me along a particular path. What I don’t like is being constantly, obnoxiously told how important my choices are when they generally really aren’t.

What do you think about these kinds of games? Can you see any positives to constant on-screen messages telling you when you’ve (apparently) changed the course of the game?

Planet of the Eyes review and giveaway

My latest video is up today. It’s a review and recommendation of the recent indie platforming game, Planet of the Eyes.

It’s a gorgeous game with a beautiful art style, standout music and great writing. The platforming is pretty fun too, and you get to play an adorable little robot (who will get brutally dismembered fairly often).

This is a game made in my home town of Toronto. I was given a Steam code from one of the developers, and I’d like to help support the game and pay that forward by giving away a code for the game to someone else!

If you want to enter to win, just leave me a comment here and tell me what your favourite indie game is. I’ll pick a random winner on Friday September 4th. Be sure to use a real email so I can get in touch if you win.

Note: You do not have to watch the video or go to my YouTube channel to enter (YouTube contests aren’t allowed and I don’t want to get in trouble). Just comment here on the blog.

Congratulations to DragonLich, who won the copy of Planet of the Eyes.

This is day 29 of Blaugust.

Nazeebo Talent Guide

A while ago a wrote some tips for making the most of Nazeebo’s abilities. Now I’ll look into his talents.

The general build I use when playing Nazeebo is:

Nazzeebo talents

I find this a good balanced build that can do a lot of siege damage, but also great hero damage.

LEvel 1

Death Ritual is a good, stacking talent. With this you’ll be very tough by the end of the game. Make sure you get poison up on any many creeps as possible before they die.

Level 4

I find this the tier that has the most good options.

Spider Cluster is what you need for a spider build, giving you more spider spawns.

Gathering Power just got nerfed (though it also doesn’t completely go away when you die anymore) but it’s still okay. If you’re expecting to be in lots of hero fights, this can be good.

Envenom can be useful in some scenarios. If you’re trying to solo cap shrines in Dragon Shrine, it can give you an edge over an enemy hero.

Level 7

Gidbinn buffs the duration of your spiders and zombie wall. I find it more useful than the others.

Level 10

Gargantuan can do a lot of damage and doesn’t leave you vulnerable like the other talent. See my other guide for tips on how to use him.

Level 13

Thing of the Deep lets you attack from further away which makes things a bit safer. I really miss the dash talent that got removed from here though.

Level 16

Leaping Spiders is the way to go for a spider build.

However, if you took Gathering Power back at level 4, Specialized Toxin is a good choice here.

Level 20

Humongoid lets your gargantuan live until it’s killed rather than only for a certain amount of time. This will really come in handy for late game siege damage.

This is day 28 of Blaugust.

Gaming to-do list: Updates

This is for day 27 of Blaugust.

Blaugust is close to coming to an end. I’ve gotta say, these last few days are going to be hard. I’m so sick of blogging. I don’t want to read or write anything online.

Today I’m going to revisit my gaming to do list I made near the start of the month to see how I’ve done

  1. Post at least 1 video a week. hmmm, sort of. Though I haven’t posted 1 video every 7 days, I have posted 4 videos in August so that’s kind of like one a week. I will likely have a 5th out in a couple days.
  2. Get back to my “Doing it Right” series. Not really. I’ve started a script for an episode on XCOM but I still have lots of work to do gathering resources and screenshots. Hopefully in September.
  3. Play some PC games. I did this! This month I played through Lifeless Planet, Sunset, Planet of the Eyes, and finished Invisible, Inc.
  4. Finish The Witcher 3. I did it! I just finished. It took me 4 and a half months. SmartGlass tells me I played for 95 hours, I’m not sure how accurate that is. It feels like twice that. It was a great game, but I have to say, I could have done with it being much shorter.
  5. Get to rank 18 in HotS. Pssh. I went the opposite direction. I ended last season at rank 30 (a quick plummet from rank 22). This season just started I’ve only gotten up to 39 so far.
  6. Find an assassin hero I like in HotS. Sort of. I found that I’m better at Nova than I thought I’d be, but I don’t play her a lot.
  7. Find a tank I like in HotS. I like Anub’arak, but I’ve still never played him in ranked.
  8. Figure out how to capture game footage from retro consoles. Yes! My boyfriend got me an AV to HDMI upscaler, allowing me to connect the retro consoles to the capture device with HDMI. It also makes the games look nicer, yay!
  9. Finish my unfinished games. Invisible Inc. and Witcher are the only things I finished.
  10. Play Journey. Nope, not yet.

Walking Simulator

This is for day 26 of Blaugust

“Walking Simulator” is pretty bad, somewhat derogatory name but for better or for worse it seems to have become its own category of games lately. These games mostly feature you walking, in first-person view, while exploring an environment. Mechanics are minimal – you may be able to jump or crouch, or interact with some objects, but other than that the games are mainly about exploring an environment.

What makes some of these games great while others can be a giant snoozefest?


Without a whole lot of gameplay mechanics to keep the player engaged, the story really needs to hold up. In these games you’re generally not interacting with any other characters directly and story is mainly told through observation or narration. While leaving things up to the player’s interpretation and being vague can work for some games, a combination of vague story and lack of any action makes for a really dull experience. Like Dear Esther. Snippets of narration were given (as far as I could tell they weren’t even in a particular order), visuals sometimes offered clues but, otherwise, there was no solid story. Just a lot of walking. In Gone Home, on the other hand, the main story is very clear. There are little mysteries around the house that aren’t explained but you do learn Sam’s story.


Stanley Parable corridor

If the story isn’t strong, there needs to be a clear goal. In Slender the goal is very simple – gather pages, don’t die. In The Stanley Parable your goal is constantly shifting based on your decisions, but you are told quite clearly what to do. In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter your goal is to find (or find out what happened to) Ethan. The games I’ve found less engaging – Dear Esther, Serena, Mind: Path to Thalamus don’t have a clear goal. While Sunset does have a goal, that goal is to clean some rich dude’s apartment.


Having good tone and atmosphere is good, and having a changing tone is even better. Again, with a lack of action or interaction you need to feel engaged in some other way. The Stanley Parable does this best. Comedy (as long as it is truly funny) is a great way to make something interesting. Then at times that comedy turns a bit mysterious and dark, things get creepy. Then, back to funny! Horror is another way to make a game that is lacking in action engaging. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter had me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. Even among the beautiful, idyllic scenery, there was always a sense of danger and occasionally the unease was broken up by actual scares. Gone Home adds some scary elements without it being a scary game which I think was a good choice.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter cemetary

On the other side of things, Dear Esther had a mildly unsettling atmosphere throughout the whole game but I was unsure why I was unsettled the whole time. Serena classifies itself as a horror game, without including any scares or creepiness factor until the very end. Sunset has a backstory of civil revolution and war but nothing in the gameplay or immediate environment ever really reflects that. It’s tonally even the entire time.

Length and Pacing

This is a big one for me. Not only do I have a love for short games, but I can also only walk around so much. Gone Home is a perfect 2 hour experience. It doesn’t overstay its welcome. The Stanley Parable can be finished in 10 minutes, but it makes you want to go back and try different things. Though Ethan Carter is on the longer side, there’s enough interaction to make that okay.

Sunset would have been a much better game at 2 hours instead of 4.

The Gone Home Factor

Gone Home VHS tapes

While I think many people enjoyed Gone Home, for people of a particular age group/culture/location, it was catnip. I fall into that group. Besides having good writing and telling an emotionally affecting story, this game hit the nostalgia sweet spot. Taped X-Files episodes on VHS! I used to record it every Friday! Lisa Frank stickers, yes! SNES carts lying around, Street Fighter doodles in notebooks, magic eye posters, the Dream Phone board game. So many references to growing up in the 90s filled every room of this virtual house, and each provided a dopamine hit.


Do you have any particular favourites in this genre? Or have you played any particularly boring ones?