that time we worked for a clickbait site

Fresh off of the collapse of Testicles, our Grecco-Roman JRPG that we’d overdesigned and didn’t want to do any real work on, my brother and I were in dire need of funds. Real funds for serious business, which at the time included eating $5 rice plates and cherrypicking games from Steam sales. This is where came in.

Of all the stupid, underpaying jobs that I’ve had after college, working for a clickbait site was probably the best. While it only paid $12 a list and a list took about 90 minutes to put together, I could at least do it from home and not deal with crazy Bay Area people. And what’s more, I could split the working time in half if I worked with my brother.

At the end of that first day, we looked at what all we’d accomplished and hung up our keyboards. We were tired, and frustrated by constantly negotiating our works with group of editors who grew increasingly wary of our tendency to snipe primo topics and ruin them with over-the-top verbiage, and who constantly warned us to stay on the straight and narrow in fear that we would offend the religious/moral/slavering-celeberity-worship desires of their financial backers and audience, and who were just generally committed to telling us to stop fucking up their lame linkbait site. And not only were our efforts to undermine and mock their jobs unappreciated, it was really boring work. It’s mind-numbing to look through thousands of Ryan Gosling pictures and find 15 that are different enough to warrant a Top 15 of the guy.

It’s been a couple years and has gone through the inevitable series of transformations that all internet companies do, splitting some of its content across and/or, and deleting a number of our top 20 lists. It’s hard to say exactly what happened/what’s left, as lolzparade wasn’t that interested in publishing the authorship of its lists, which makes figuring out which of literally hundreds of “Ryan Gosling Hottest Pics” google results is ours a matter of remembering an exact phrase we used in a caption.

Actually, the same problem extended to remembering the name of lolzparade itself:

(20:57:56) cleaverdarkness: do you have links to our buzzfeed articles?
(16:18:29) ebimcdonalds: i might have them in an email
(16:18:36) ebimcdonalds: what was the site called?
(16:18:37) cleaverdarkness: k
(16:18:39) cleaverdarkness: idk
(16:18:41) ebimcdonalds: it was something really stupid
(16:18:46) ebimcdonalds: like iheartmemes or something
(16:18:51) ebimcdonalds: or lollists
(16:18:58) ebimcdonalds: lolmemes?
(16:19:03) cleaverdarkness: that sounds right
(16:22:51) ebimcdonalds: memeparty?
(16:23:00) cleaverdarkness: sure
(16:30:11) ebimcdonalds: memetown?
(16:38:06) ebimcdonalds: do you remember any key phrases or wordings?
(16:38:12) ebimcdonalds: i can’t remember anything here
(16:38:59) cleaverdarkness: nope
(17:01:28) ebimcdonalds: ryan gosling baby duck?

The following are the few that survived. I remember our “Top 20 Faces of James Franco” and “Hottest Kate Uptons” (nee “Sexiest Kate Uptons”, lest the investors be offended by the statement that Kate Upton’s sexualized body is sexy) being a couple of our other more successful lists. If you should happen across these while navigating your own personal clickbait hell, drop us a line. We’d love to see them again.

Picture credits go to whoever we poached the images from, text by us.

15 Cutest Ryan Gosling Pics

Nicki Minaj: Fashion Icon or Disaster

15 Most Hilarious Dilbert Strips
I should note that this list was the last we did, where we were so desperate to stop that we just took the first 15 random Dilberts from and captioned them with whatever the first person to speak said. I mean, after “fuck”, “shit”, “fart” or “what the fuck is this.”

Top 20 Faces of James Franco

Hottest Kate Uptons

The Legend of Sid Meyers’s

Welcome to the offices of Sid Meyers’s as they stand today. On the right, you can see the sales figures for our latest game, Joystick Madness. It is our first flight sim and potentially will go on to be the best selling flight sim ever.

As you can clearly see, we’ve been in business for almost 59 years and have earned close to 2 billion dollars, all while remaining independent of publishers and releasing games almost exclusively for PC. Yes, we are titans of industry, but from humble beginnings…

Continue reading

originally posted in the depths of a Destructoid news item’s comment section


Lit by a dim spotlight, Bill Gates raises his absurdly large revolver and empties all six chambers into the Xbox One. Behind him, 3 giant screens flash black and white, cycling through phrases like:



My other topical joke is:

1. Turn one degree and walk away.

Bad Boys: Miami 2 – The Game

This is so perfectly from another era of cross-promotional movie-to-game cashgrab magic. Everything about this is just so totally not right, from the way the morality mechanics seem to work, to the voices, to the one-liners that are both terrible and non-sensical and longer than one line, to the placeholder HUD elements, to the chintzy new age jazz.

Which isn’t to say it’s bad. Even the inane can triumph from time to time.

woah, check me out!

update: Nightmare Mode went down, so I’ve reposted the essay here.

Hey, I wrote an essay about Modern Warfare 2. You can read it here:

It is titled:



It is safe to read at work.

GrindQuest 2012: The Faux Grind

Costume Quest (2010)
Double Fine Productions
Genre: Nostalgia via RPG
Played on PC

Not much new in gameworld. I’ve been playing Costume Quest and a bunch of Playstation 1 games to pass the time. Dunno if I’ll say much about CQ; it’s a light RPG that is not bad. Not great, but very aesthetically pleasant, well-written and playable. It’s mostly a kids’ game that serves as a sketch of what could be a bigger/better game. Case in point: the central RPG mechanic is very similar to the FFTactics/DQ6 job system, where each costume you equip a kid with will give her different stat boosts and powers, but the difference is that having a particular costume equipped doesn’t have any lasting effects; the party members can’t learn the costume’s skills, and so won’t carry them over into their next costume.

In some ways this makes sense with regard to the traditional(ly false) notions of the innocence of childhood, where experience slides off a kid’s brain until something clicks and start putting all of those formerly slid-off pieces together; but until then, casual experience isn’t something that has the power to go to the very core of that person’s being.

This translates into gameplay by there being nothing to differentiate your party’s characters. They all start with the same stats, they experience zero growth (aside from the basic xp leveling, which just provides the illusion of increased power vs. the game’s enemies increasing stats), and the only thing that sets them apart from each other is their turn order, which cannot be modified. In practice, this means that turn order dictates what roles they need to play in battle, i.e. should the 1st person have the costume with the area attack special? Should they be the healer? The assassin? The basic question the game asks is: what is the most optimal turn order, and how should they be equipped? Answering that is simplistic exercise in creating a linear death machine, one that has no reason to change once built and perfected.

Which was kind of a bummer until I put the game back into perspective: it’s for kids, sort of. It isn’t trying to be on some crazy RPG min-max shit; the game’s sole goal is to be a snapshot of the excitement and mystery that children feel towards Halloween, and videogames, and costumes, and it does all that with aplomb. Whether kids would really benefit from a fictional-fantastical-nostalgical representation of a time in their lives that is still very real is another question, but again: it’s only sort of for kids. The game’s real goal is to create an interactible pocket of fantasy nostalgia (are the two different? The game doesn’t ask, but perhaps it shouldn’t) for adults who miss that non-existent but seductive version of their childhood moments that they wished existed; the ones that were pristine, idyllic, and unspoiled.

And no matter how much I reminded myself that it’s all a filthy fuckin’ lie, there was still a part of me that genuinely enjoyed the game’s knowing innocence. If nothing else, it was a nice place to be for a few hours.

GrindQuest 2012

Sims 3 (2009)
The Sims Studio
Genre: Simulator/Grinder

I was sitting in a car with Liz Ryerson and Andrew Handsome and they were talking about the death of jRPGs and how them games just don’t got it no more; that they’re long and demand too much time, that the whole grinding mechanic is tedious, and how neither of them felt that they could safely recommend many of the genre’s classics to anyone simply because there are games that do similar things, have similar funs, but are less of a time commitment.

Perhaps this is a skewed way of viewing Sims 3, but I think that its core mechanics revolve around similar ideas of grinding and time dilation. Even if you don’t care about the dollhouse aspect of the game, its actual meat is the same kind of obsessive micromanagement and stat leveling which drove the best of the last few generations’ 99 hour RPGs. It even manages to one-up them by creating several tiers of simultaneous micromanagement (fulfilling the Sims’ needs, doing mini-quests to acquire Life Points that are used to unlock bonus attributes, raising their skill levels, and optimizing their home so that it maxes out their Mood Bar in the shortest amount of time) that need to be taken care of in real-time, and then pits the tiers against one another by making time the game’s limiting factor. If you don’t optimize your sim’s eat/pee/shower/socialize/fun/work routine and squeeze the most out of every day, they will be dead before you know it and they’ll never have achieved that Life Goal of theirs, which means you missed out on big-time Life Points, which usually means that you missed out on getting some sort of hyper-efficient household appliance that future generations can benefit from.

I don’t know how a more casual crowd/who I imagine the target audience is responds to these Life Points reward inducements, but at least for me there was never a moment when I wasn’t thinking about how to eke out more stat gains for my little avatars while keeping all of their Needs bars green, and trying to get the optimal timings down for their mood boosts.

On the one hand this is really fun, and conducive to obsessive and extended gaming. The only time when I thought about stopping was when I began to worry that maybe I was playing for too long. And by too long, I mean that I could see dawn breaking outside my window and I needed to pee, and I’d known that I needed to pee for at least two hours.

I know this is “good”, that a good entertainment should entrain its audience into an alternate dimension of pure fun, but it’s just…after about three days of this, I realized that I would probably end up living in a dumpster where all I did was eat dumpster food and play Sims 3 on a dumpster laptop.

I’m willing to admit that this might just be a personal problem and not indicative of the game’s effects on a larger audience. But then again, how else is EA able to push six expansion packs, five packs of objects, as well as an online store that sells new objects a la carte. I’m talking a minimum $310 investment to get the complete Sims 3 experience, and that’s before whatever forthcoming expansion packs there are and the odds and ends from the site. I mean, who else is going to spend that much money on the Sims? Casuals? People who play Sims 3 for maybe an hour every three days? I suppose if it’s the only game a person plays, sure, but… I only played for three days and literally had to force myself to stop, out of the fear that I ruin my life by spending too much time playing a game that was about helping people who weren’t me.

Ghost sims and a fat sim have a swimsuit party

And it’s not like the game isn’t aware of its own nature. Probably the most Sims-qua-Sims moment was when, after I’d filled my house with ghost sims and got distracted by micromanaging every single one of them, one slipped through the cracks and stayed up all night playing a videogame. She was dead tired, smelled terrible, was on the verge of peeing the couch and had to go to work in an hour, but there was a little icon next to her Fun meter that said she was “having a blast” from all that gaming.

I deleted it pretty soon after. Some things are just too good.

this looks like it could be the best game ever
Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch (2011)
Genre: jRPG parody

I feel bad saying that this game is “vaguely” misogynist and — worse — kind of dumb, because I really wanted to like it. I like dinosaurs and kites and stuff, and I’ve played a lot of jRPGs, and I certainly have a fondness for parodies, so there wasn’t much working against it as far as I was concerned.

I mean, aside from the unfortunate subtitle. But who knows! Maybe it’s a more abstract kind of bitch, like when people say a situation is a bitch, or like when middle schoolers call something gay. It isn’t literally gay. It’s some sort of metaphorical, non-literal, not-quite-homosexual kind of gay that has more to do with something sucking (no homo) than it does with any particular reality of gender-on-gender hotgayaction (no fishsticks). So maybe it’s that kind of bitch. Or something. You know?


In any case, after a few minutes of wandering around aimlessly, the titular Bitch shows up and boooyy is she a bitch! Here are the qualities that the game uses to define her as an unsavory bitch: she has a unibrow, dresses in kArAzy clothes, has INEXPLICABLE MOODSWINGS, and ~loves~ Mark Leung/Title Character way too much. The last one is probably because she’s his girlfriend, and the inexplicable moodswings are probably related to how much he inexplicably hates her. Why are they dating if he hates her? If he didn’t want to date her because she had a unibrow, why didn’t he decide that before dating her? Was he unaware of her personality before he dated her? Given that she is so up-front with her personality, how is that possible? If so, why didn’t he just break up with her earlier? Why does he break up with her after she saves him from getting mauled by a bear? All answers point towards MALE SELF-OBSESSION… or maybe I’m just having trouble seeing that it is an ironic gesture, and am in the wrong about this.

Either way, these two issues dovetail into the same series of questions: Is this supposed to be a parody of the self-obsessed masculine hero that videogames tend to champion? The Duke Nukem of silent/autistic RPG heroes? Or are these two just another pair of depressing examples in a long line of tedious charicatures of male/female social dynamics?

Well, let me put it this way: when’s the last time you encountered a Crazy Bitch character who wasn’t one dimensional? The Bitch exists for the sole purpose of making the player go, “wow, what a bitch! I sure hope that dumb bitch gets what’s coming to her, or at least stops being shoved in my face!” and as a plot device around which some sort sub-plot will revolve. I’ll go further to guess that she’ll show up at inopportune times and do something that is the equivalent of saying I’M A BIIIIIIIIITCH before disappearing in a puff of smoke, like some kind of evil genie.

But then this wasn’t even the whole game, so who knows. I mean, I didn’t even play the whole game. I went for about 30 or 40 minutes and quit out of boredom. The constant barrage of endless jRPG battles (which comprise at least 80% of the play time. The battle system is your standard Square-Enix turn-based affair, with the menu options consisting of Fight, Special, Item. There is a thing on the side of the screen that shows you the turn order of your party members and the enemies for the next few rounds, which is a good idea but doesn’t help how absolutely awful and tedious the opening is. The sounds are clever but get irritating, and combat animations take forever. Why jRPGs suck in 201X: it’s the moneyfact that the whole format is stale and nobody who is alive and kicking in the year 201X would actually want to waste their precious lives sitting through a console-styled RPG that isn’t hyper-optimized, or at the very least constantly engaging), combined with the dismal writing made it unbearable to go any further, so who knows what happens with this whole Bitch character. Maybe she isn’t really a bitch? Maybe the whole thing gets subverted?

All of this “latent” misogyny isn’t to mention the other worry I had going into the game: is this going to offend by delicate aesthetic sensibilities by being a bunch of wackypants monkey-cheese-silly-willy jokes? Is this game going to be like sitting in my high school computer lab, listening to people trade HeHeHe quips from Monty Python? Will it be something that does not fulfill my subjective taste in humor???

Ohhhh….yes and no. After I stopped playing, I browsed the wikipedia entry to see what I missed and couldn’t even get through it. I tried power skimming both paragraphs and my eyes just bounced off of things like “Canada, a country suspected to be the origin of Vegetology” and “Mark and Dick were sent on a mission to Ireland to retrieve Hong Kong’s lost pirate navy.” Most of the game is this kind of word salad. The protagonist is a wandering ginseng farmer. The save point is a red camelback couch that is just sitting around various parts of the countryside. The protagonist is perpetually in a state of infantile nerd-rage about everything, which roughly translates to “you! Bear!! You took my ginseng!!! Fuck youuuuuuuu!!!!!” in a way that is so in love with its own wacky-doodle way of expressing itself that it forgets the part where a joke is crafted and humor is born.

There was actually a good one, one which briefly gave me some hope. As I adventured, I encountered a pair of women who are running away from pirates and hiding behind treasure chests. I did the obvious thing a player should do when playing an RPG and finding a chest: I opened them. Each time the chest disappeared, causing the women say things like, “what are you DOING? Go away!” and “STOP following us! You messing everything up!” Yeah yeah, I know that cheevo rpg flash game had a similar gag, but it is better here because other characters in the game world notice and are affected by it, allowing me to go heheheheheh as I continue to do it.

Aside from making me laugh, though, the greater thing here is that this sequence is doing something worthwhile with the medium, something that very few games are able to explore without some form of cheevos (the best of these are esoteric in their granularity, like the animal ranks at the end of Metal Gear Solid 3, or the titles you can earn in Way of the Samurai), or taking it to the extreme and becoming open world. Most importantly, this one works in a way that doesn’t require the player to have ever played an RPG before. They’ve already seen a couple chests in the game, so there is already the ingrained desire to open more chests for more loot, one that is probably a lot stronger than helping these two people out.

In other words, this is a pretty interesting exchange and it almost makes me want to go back and see if there are more like it. I know Mark can be a very clever writer, as College Saga is both smart and funny, but… well…

Ah well. Maybe next game, Uglysoft.

this looks like it could be the best game ever
Serious Sam: The Random Encounter (2011)
Genre: jRPG-esque

An oasis from the post-jRPG inferno that is world market of RPGs right now. It takes the basic principles of Serious Sam and applies them to console RPGs. This translates into a game that has minimal level design, dialogue, characterization and grinding in favor of maximal combat.

Random encounters abound. The combat revolves around a turn-based action phase, where you select your weapons and aim them, and then watch as your party fires into the oncoming mass of enemies. This lasts for three seconds before the action freezes and you choose what to do again. It’s an oddly tactical experience because while the basic mechanics are simple, every battle is a challenge in figuring out how three guys can stop an avalanche before it crushes them. You need to set up crossfire zones, look at the mass and figure out where it’ll be in a couple turns, balance mowing down the small fries with focus-firing on the heavy hitters, and protect your two most vulnerable guys from bullets, all while your dudes are backpeddaling away from this ever-approaching ball of death.

Grinding is also pretty much non-existent. There is exactly one thing to grind, and it’s the item bar. At the end of every battle is a little bar that fills. When it reaches the top, you get a randomly selected item, one which tends to have a fairly dramatic effect on battles.

In theory the bar is very grindable, but the battles are so tense and the unit compositions of the horde so unpredictable that grinding ends up becoming a very slippery slope. If you die in a fight, you respawn on the tile you were on before you entered the battle. You get three lives a stage and if you run out, you have to start over from the entrance. And it is so easy to die in this. In the game’s relentless desire to kill you, it regularly makes bosses into mini-bosses, and then mini-bosses into regular enemies.

In a way it’s an even better application of the Serious Sam design principles than Serious Sam 3, since underneath the simplicity of the mechanics is a very good strategy game, one that plays unlike anything I’ve played before.

E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy

E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy (2011)
Streum On Studio
Genre: FPS/RPG

Consider this an emergency broadcast: buy this game immediately. It costs $5 until January 2nd and is literally the best thing I have played in the past two years. Every awful thing you’ve ever read me say about contemporary AAA FPS design has been minimized, eaten, digested and shat out into the cold void of space, leaving nothing but hard diamonds that reflect the brilliance of ten million suns.

I’m not even going to attempt to describe it. The best description of it I’ve heard is that it’s like Shadowrun, with all the swords, guns, hacking, cybernetics, psionics, warring corporations, mythical creatures and technological mysticism that comes with that kind of association. EYE is balls nasty. EYE is fucking awesome. EYE lets you make any kind of character build you want and they will never become useless or unbalanced. No matter how you build your character (hacker, tank, melee assassin, psionic shitstormer, small arms bullet spitter, etc), you’ll never wind up at the end of the skill tree and be like “this dude is totally useless. Should’ve made a [whatever overpowered class or set of skills is best.]” Combat is always an electrifying combination of tactical prowess, raw skill, and a bit of luck. Which is to say, it’s always good. The very basic things you do in this game, moment to moment, are always good.

I’m not even going to get into EYE’s plot. I’ll say that it’s perfect, ingeniously so, and that it’s wed so well to the gameplay that the whole thing ascends and reaches the kind of obsessive Valhalla of playability that Disgaea, Mario 64 and Left 4 Dead 2 have attained.

EYE is like a wet dream’s wet dream. You know what I’m saying? EYE is not only a love letter for every pure-hearted, hot-blooded gamer out there, but also the warm hand, body, and brain that wrote it.

Fredward Bound, a novel in 25 parts

Dear friends,

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been working with an associate on retranslating and annotating Twilight for the past two years. I’ll save you the tears and give you the smiles: it’s finished. It’s online. It’s for you to read and cherish, perhaps forever. It’s, and it’s updated with a new chapter every Monday and Thursday.

Read it in good health. Shit, read it in bad health and be healed. Read it out loud in a cemetery and find yourself being countenanced by the risen corpora of centuries past. Read it to your children and they’ll live forever. Just read it, and feel the blinding light of love between a young woman and her immortal beau.

Duke of Earl

3D Realms/Triptych Games/Gearbox Software/Piranha Games
Genre: FPS

Like a movie that’s been media blitzed so hard that you wake up one day fully prepared to eat shit out of someone’s hand to see it, jazzed to such a degree that you feel like a part of your soul has broken off and become attached to the thing’s release date and you spend years idly wondering when it’s going to come out, and what it will be like, and if it’ll have missed you too, and you’ll wind up buying a multi-year calendar just so you can mark the release date and hang it next to your computer, where it sits untouched but carefully maintained for years until one day God smiles down and it really is The Big Day, and your heart swells, and your loins uncurl and you feel like maybe the last decade of hopes and errors and longing is finally, finally going to come together, that your failures have added up to more than just failure, that it all is finally going to mean something because your beloved movie is finally going to come out.

And so it comes out and you wait a couple more months for a good screener-rip to show up on Piratebay, and you sit down (in front of your computer (potentially this very one)) with a bowl of popcorn, and a large-size soda, and a foam #1-sports-finger mitt, and you double-click the file, and your favorite media player pops-up and the video plays and you sit there, smiling and feeling happy. It opens explosively, or hilariously, or dramatically, or whatever else you might like, and you sit there hooting in pleasure and then some more time passes as the film settles into its plot, and you are smiling because it has earned your trust by doing a good job in the first ten minutes by having an overture that delivers on everything you’d hoped for. You sit and you watch and the movie continues to unfold and people talk, maybe someone shoots another person, maybe there are some good graphics, but you’re waiting for the big hook. You’re waiting and without knowing, your expression begins to settle, sinking lower until it eventually fades into that slightly angry look that everyone’s face has when they aren’t making any expression at all. Eventually you realize that everything you wanted to see had already happened in the first ten minutes, and that all the things following are the desperate efforts of the cast, crew, creative minds and financial backers to deliver on that ingenious and immensely pleasurable opening, but having absolutely zero inspiration and just slogging it through, grabbing the easiest and most adaptable elements from similar movies that have come before it in a no-holds-barred effort to simply get to the end of the film and be done with it. It’s the kind of depressing, self-loathing failure that threatens to ruin everything you just experienced unless you disengage with it immediately, hand shooting for the mouse to X out the window and delete the file before you’ve even finished seeding it.

So, it’s sad to think about the implications of DNF opening with a re-creation of the final level from the first game, a game which came out fifteen years prior. I know it’s meant to be a nostalgic awesomifier, a sort of “look how much better this is than your memories” move, in which no matter how much you embellished the original in your own mind, you would never have gotten this far with it. But having played five hours of the game, I think it’s safe to say that it’s also the best part.

Jorge Luis Borges, an esteemed colleague of mine, once wrote an essay about re-creations, reworkings and revisions having a high potential to be successful pleasures, and perhaps even greater works, than the original that they drew from. Whereas an original spends most of its energy being conceived, gestated and birthed, re-iterations of its formula have a foundation upon which they can build a more aesthetically suitable house, replete with all of the due flourishes and curlicues of style.

And for what it’s worth, the opening sequence is a pretty cool display of current-gen aesthetics: glossy surfaces, swinging lights, ironically stupid dialogue, AI allies running around and getting shot, rain effects, big budget sound design, awesome scale; it’s cool. I will absolutely say that: the opening is cool, and probably even cooler if you’ve played the original incarnation. It’s a love letter to the Duke of yesteryear, and it is an amazing example of what’s possible with revision.

The game then transitions into new material and we, being pleased by a pleasant opening, are willing to go with it for awhile. The screen fades in on two women lifting their heads from Duke’s lap and making giggling sounds, word-sounds that I remember sounding like “oh Duke! That was fun teehee giggle giggle,” to which Duke responds with a more articulate version of “yeah ladies! Duke likes getting his dick sucked!” The game goes on to have you walk through the world of Duke post first-game and some revelations are made.

  • Duke now lives in a penthouse on top of a casino, which is also named after him.
  • There is a museum dedicated to Duke on the 69th floor.
  • Duke is celebrity and people ask for his autograph.
  • These people don’t seem to be literate.
  • I got no reaction from the AI when I signed someone’s autograph book “FUCK YOU.”
  • Duke is invited to speak on talk shows.
  • Duke has a fast-food franchise which is called “Duke Burger.”
  • When shit goes down and the aliens show up, Duke travels to his sci-fi-futuristic-esque underground command center, which is under the casino.

It sort of plays how I describe it, with bizarre jokes about Duke’s national influence continuing to unfurl well past the half-hour ramp-up into action, and there is a pervasive emphasis on parodying American meathead excess. Every AI buddy is a macho douchebag that says something really, skull-clutchingly bad before getting gunned down. Duke’s health bar is his ego, which is lowered every time he feels pain, but is extended whenever he does one of the several flavor-interactions the game features for the first time; things like peeing in a toilet, winning at slots, or slapping these alien wall-objects that look like breasts. It’s a permanent -~=“ego boost”=~- when you do any of these things, as if it were the first time Duke (or the player) had ever sipped from a water fountain or boggled some wall-tits.

To be sure, the whole DNF experience is meant to draw out and then coddle the part of you that wants to rumble a pair of breast-like things. Feedback systems of a permanent health boost encourage you to seek these tidbits out, and Duke’s funny-stupid comment upon successful interaction and ironically rockin’ guitar riff help the player acknowledge that the whole thing is stupid before taking pleasure in it anyways.

These things are fine, just fine, and I was actually somewhat eager for a game that was an extended ironic guitar riff on Ugly Americana Machismo/Players/Me, but there’s a point in the game where it stops being funny and takes on weird, disturbing dimensions. Much ado has been made about the naked, boobtacular and alien-impregnated women that you have to shoot until they explode into a pile of bloody teeth, and Duke’s strangely unpleasant, “Sorry ladies, not even I could save you,” bit of apologetic, event-triggered dialogue, but I posit that the problem came way earlier in the game, and is of an even more pernicious kind of exploitation.

If such a thing is even possible.

At about an hour and a half in, right around where you leave the Duke HQ exhaust vents and enter the casino proper, the player is hit with a shrink ray and then forced to drive an RC car around some Las Vegas hallways, dodging exploding set-pieces and driving over ramps to clear hazards, before they’re unshrunk and have to backtrack through those hallways at a normal size.

I know this kind of thing happens in a lot of videogames, that it’s become so common for a game to drag you through its tedium that it’s almost overlooked, but it must be said: issues arise.

1. Reseeing something can be illuminating.
a) A common way of reseeing that people experience is visiting a childhood haunt.
b) Duke simulates this by turning you into a child and then an adult within the span of ten minutes.
c) I honestly couldn’t see a difference.
d) Maybe because I’m more or less an adult in real life.
e) I guess given the current limitations of technology, I can hardly blame Duke for failing to make The Same Hallway Twice interesting.
f) It’s not like any other game has solved the tedium of re-traversal yet, you know?
2. There’s this obsession that FPS developers have with inserting really tedious minigames because they feel constricted by the conventions of the genre.
a) Ex: Physics puzzles.
b) Ex.2: Vehicles with really poor physics.
c) Oddly enough, usually both in the same game.
d) I’m not going to point any fingers, but people tend to eat this shit up.
e) I will leave my opinion of people’s eating habits out of this essay.
f) I’m just alarmed that eating shit is no longer a fetish-level activity.
g) Like, I’m going to be playing the latest military shooter and after it tricks me into shooting a bunch of unarmed civilians, it will then lead me to a table with two heaping plates of shit and the lead bad guy. Text will display along the bottom, something along the lines of PRESS X TO EAT SHIT, and it will be a race between me and the bad guy to see who can eat the most in 30 seconds. Then when I win, he’ll shoot me in the stomach and laugh.
i) What I mean to say is that I think there is a major trend in major game development that is geared towards hating the player. Since a certain amount of player antagonism is inherent to game design, it almost seems natural for a game’s meta-narrative to basically be, “fuck you, you can’t do this! You’ll never do this, you fuck!”
j) What I don’t understand is how that kind of reverse psychology motivation has turned into long one-note screeds about how stupid the player is for wanting to play videogames. I’m talking Persona 3 (a game that takes at least 80 hours to beat) telling you to not spend all day playing games, CoD:MW2 (a game that features a level in which you attempt to convince a bunch of terrorists to like you by mowing down civilians in an airport) sucker-punching you for doing what it forces you to do if you want to keep playing it, Assassin’s Creed 2 forcing you into a game-long tutorial because it thinks both you and your avatar are idiots, Kane & Lynch 2’s whole thesis being one long piss in the player’s face regarding the prospect of fun.
3.Could there be a link between how unpleasant shooting the alien-infested babes is and this incredibly boring driving/double-back segment?
a) Well, both of them are quite the miscalculation of what I think is acceptable.
b) Although one makes me feel bad for being helpless to help fictional people, the other makes me feel irritated that the designers think it’s okay to waste my time.
c) Maybe the game has an empathy problem.
d) Which isn’t so far out of character for the game, if we accept that its central theme is a particular kind of American self-interest.
e) Which, unfortunately, we can’t, since it is about a lone man putting it all on the line to save the planet.
4.So then what is the point of traversing this same hallway twice and having it not be fun?
a) Well one time I was driving and the other I was shooting.
b) Oh.
c) Also I was going through it backwards the second time.
d) Oh right.
e) Not to mention that I was on foot that second time.
f) A whole other mode of locomotion.
g) That’s right! So you see, it’s almost as if you were going through a whole new hallway.
h) Almost.
i) Well, part of the pleasure of the conceit that it isn’t actually a new one. For all intents and purposes, though, it is.
j) But it wasn’t fun.
k) It wasn’t supposed to be fun.
l) It was a videogame that wasn’t supposed to be fun?
m) It was meant to deliberately cause unrest in the player.
n) To what end?
o) <unintelligible>
p) What?
q) <unintelligible>
r) Ah, I see.

I wonder what the source of these problems is, what combination of forces allowed a game that was in development for fifteen years and by four sets of developers to fall apart at the two hour mark, and I think: who can be held accountable for this? Gearbox? Piranha? The publisher, 2K Games? 3D Realms? George Broussard? You? Me? Duke?


Does Duke Nukem Forever have a soul?

There’s something to be said about a game that won’t stop being developed for fifteen years. I would go so far as to say that maybe it even exhibits some element of divine grace; has there ever been a game so unworthy of continued development? How many hours of how many lives have been spent toiling on some aspect of this game’s birth, including: modelers, coders, texture artists, writers, designers, voice actors, producers, marketers, quality assurers, executives, secretaries, concept artists, press agents, press writers, the countless number of people who had to write Top 10 Vaporware articles over the years (of which DNF always occupied the number one spot), podcasters, diehard fans, casual fans, detractors, sneerers, idlers and people who simply held a passing interest in what was happening with it.

If there was ever a game that had deserved so little of the attention and care it got, this was it. There is no need for a Duke Nukem Forever. Millions have been lost, thousands of hours in human effort have been squandered, and the game isn’t even passably fun. It was a fifteen year spectacle that culminated in little more than a series of set pieces that lost their juice to awe in two hours. And perhaps I’ll be damned, but there’s an aspect of grace in such a thing seeing it through.