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Weak Wednesday thoughts: Love the backlog and stop worrying


Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote Black Swan. I'm pretty sure I've referred to the book earlier in my cblogs, but this time, I'll use a point made about Umberto Eco (1932-2016), a famous author, in the book as a starting point to a series of segues while keeping game libraries as an analogue.

Eco owned a large library of books. Large for one person, at least, with 50,000 volumes spread between two places. And his guests could be split into roughly two groups: those who wondered how many of these books he had read and the vastly smaller group who understood these books weren't so much for reading but for reference. Maybe this isn't quite the same, but if you watch AVGN, Pat the NES Punk or ProJared on YouTube, which side do you fall to when you think of the backgrounds of their videos? (Admittedly, I expect at least some of them have played all the games on show.)

Taleb called a collection of unread books an antilibrary. He argued that one's library should contain as many unread books as possible: the more you know of a subject, the more you realize you don't know. He also wrote, "read books are far less valuable than unread ones."

Can we apply this view to video games and if yes, how? Let's mull over it a bit.

  • If you've played through a story-centric game, is the game's value to you the same as if when you had not played it before? I'd say no, so this counts as a 'yes' to the question.
  • If you're designing a game, it would make sense to have an idea what others have done before... but this is easy to handle by digital purchases in a minute, unless you're using certain unnamed digital stores. Plus there's not many "inter-game" narratives outside the publisher's own catalogue. Castle in the Darkness (Matt Kap/Nicalis, 2015) is likely one of the closest matches there. Yes, no, maybe?
  • If you haven't tried a game series, like for instance Telltale Games post 2010 and Killzones in my case, the task of trying any game in the series becomes a task of trying them all to see their differences after you've played one. This point is a bit of a stretch. Still, I'd argue that trying one game in the genre ought to be enough to tell if you like that type of games at that time. Sounds like a 'yes' nonetheless.
  • If you're writing about a game, it obviously helps if you've played the game you're writing about. Trust me, I know what I'm saying. Experience with other similar games give context to how the game sets itself apart from the competition. The evolution of an idea over different games can let the reviewer avoid reinventing a game mechanic that would've worked far better in some position... if such comments are in the purview of reviewers. This point is just a duplicate of the second one, so this is just more weight on the 'yes' there.

One of the games I'll cover this month in my cblog series is Colony 7 (Taito, 1981). I'm lucky to have it on an old Taito Legends CD, which helped me to avoid misunderstanding a game feature I read about on various other sites. If it weren't for the cblog, I doubt I would've played it. As it happens, another game I'll cover is Bosconian (Namco, 1981). I don't have access to that game, though. I didn't find it on PS3's PSN, I didn't find it on Steam, it wasn't on my Namco Museum Remix on Wii (because Europe got only that, not the expanded Namco Museum Megamix that NA got and includes Bosconian), and it was never on Virtual Console in Europe either. In that case, I'll have to make do with what information I can find on the Internet.

I know I'm more inspired to play a game when I have some other purpose for doing that beyond removing it from my backlog, so my concusion is... shut up and just blog about videogames.

EDIT 2017-09-07: Added "after you've played one", "information"

I should try and read any of Eco's books myself. And good on you for reading this small print. Not that I expect anyone (outside Deadmoon for his duty) to reach this far.

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About Flegmaone of us since 11:34 PM on 01.17.2015

Very much unprofessional writer, don't take anything I write without a truckload of salt.

On a hopefully long-term break from saying anything.