Thursday, April 26, 2012

Playing the "Powerless"

My latest PopMatters article is now live: Playing the "Powerless"

This piece was inspired by two exploratory articles by Mark Sample over at Play the Past. The first post raised the issue and brought up some interesting examples. The second post refined his sincere questions and asked readers to contribute. Naturally, since I find the topic fascinating, I did. I do encourage you to his Sample's posts and follow up later when wraps up the series with his own thoughts on the topic.

In his upcoming posts, Sample promises to discuss the Mission US: Flight to Freedom. Like Sample, I also suggest you give this game a try if for no other reason than to check out some of the ideas coming out of the "serious" or educational games sector. Flight to Freedom is actually the second entry into the Mission US series the first of which follows a young boy shortly before the revolutionary war. Both games are relatively short and actually tell a far more interesting and evocative story than most of us have come to expect from educational games.

In Flight to Freedom, Lucy's story of escaping to from a slave plantation in the South is genuinely exciting at times, particularly when you have to make tough decisions without knowing the range of outcomes. Sure, we know slavery would meet its end eventually, but Lucy's fate is not so clear. Bumping into a stranger in an alleyway, for example, could result in her deportation back to slavery. At one point, the fate of a friend depends upon collecting enough evidence to help him during a trial. You only have a few actions. Do you try to find documents? Collect testimony from locals? If so, who do you trust? Some of the solutions are clearly telegraphed, particularly as players full aware of the realities at the time. Even so, when information is withheld and player decisions limited relative to the amount of options, you can actually feel quite powerless precisely because you know your decisions will change the story.

In Crown or Colony?, you can see a concerted effort by the designers to approach the subject tactfully, even objectively, despite the sensitive material and our collective knowledge about how the revolution "went down." For example, after a riot results in numerous dead civilians at the hands of British troops, players can hear out multiple sides to the events that took place and, armed with that knowledge, voice their opinion on the matter, even if it is a bold-faced lie. In both games, the accrual of knowledge is a gameplay benefit and, quite intentionally, an educational benefit. These games, while not perfect, put in a great deal of effort in transforming a historical period into a consumable system of information, in which success is redefined as the extent to which players can grasp the political and social systems of complex power systems.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

EXP Podcast #169: Searching for Video Game Value

Jorge and I are always going on about why games are valuable, but we're usually talking about their artistic, social, and cultural value. This week, we focus more on the bottom line. Inspired by Chris Kohler's fantastic article about game pricing and the effects of the used market, we talk about the monetary factors that influence the games we play and how we perceive the industry. It's huge topic and we touch on a host of issues that all deserve their own conversations, so I'm sure we'll come back to them in the future. For now though, we're interested in what you think about when budgeting your game purchases. Feel free to jump into the comments and share your cost benefit analysis!

Some discussion starters:

- How does a game's price factor into your purchasing decisions?

- What is your current relationship with the used game market? Has this changed over the years?

- Would more transparency in game company budgets and financial strategies impact what you would willingly pay for a game?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 41 min 21 sec
- "Videogames Can't Afford to Cost This Much," by Chris Kohler, via Wired
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cracked Walls

This post is mainly a plug for Tevis Thompson's essay "Saving Zelda." It's one of the best pieces of game criticism I've ever read (not to mention beautifully written in a more basic sense). I've written and studied the Zelda games for a long time and it is great to watch someone synthesize so elegantly the myriad problems stifling the series. It's truly a wonderful read.

My nitpicks are few, but there is one I'd like to highlight. Tevis' main critique of the Zelda games is:
"Players are constantly reminded that they’re shackled to a mechanistic land. There is no illusion of freedom because the gears that keep the player and Hyrule in lockstep are eminently legible. You read the landscape all too easily; you know what it’s asking of you. One of the greatest offenders occurred early on with A Link to the Past: most bomb-able walls became visible. What had been a potential site of mystery in the original Legend of Zelda (every rockface) became just another job for your trusty keyring. Insert here. Go on about your business.
Overall, I agree: the games have gone from adventure-focused to routine-focused. Most modern Zelda games eschew exploration in favor of rediscovering tradition and fulfilling predestined roles. However, the example of the cracked walls is a bit more complicated than it appears.

I'm replaying A Link to the Past for the first time in years (and loving it, of course). I'm remembering things about the series that had slipped my mind over time. The way cracked walls work is one such example. Like Tevis said, LttP gives you a clear visual clue in regards to what walls and floors might contain hidden passageways. Once you get the bombs and figure out they can destroy walls, it's tempting to reach for your "keyring" every time you see a suspicious crack. It's easy to remember this rule because modern Zelda games never let me forget: See a crack? Use a bomb. It's an unconscious reflex.

However, LttP poses a challenge to this behavior: sometimes, cracked walls aren't hiding anything. You can bomb them all you want and all you'll have to show for it is an empty bomb bag. Yes, the game gives you a clue, but it's a clue that suggests a possibility instead of an eventuality. Seeing a cracked wall means you still either have to use a bomb or strike the wall to see is it is hollow (something that I don't believe the game ever explicitly teaches you to do). And what if it's a cracked floor? Well, there's only one way to find out: test it! Once you find out, you'll have to remember what you learned, as the only markings delineating a hidden treasure trove exist in your head (or on your handwritten notes).

It's this balance between approachability and challenge that makes LttP a great game. It gracefully walks the line between offering the player convenience and demanding a minimum amount of effort. The map is more detailed and interactive than the NES games, but you still can't mark it or see warp points on it; you have to learn the terrain. Certain enemies are devastated by the hookshot instead of the boomerang, but you have to find that out. The dungeons have fairy rooms, but these are well-hidden and the fairies themselves only partially replenish your health. All of it feels respectful towards the player; minor annoyances are smoothed out without leveling the entire game into one long, bland recitation exercise.

Bombs still function as keys, but the world's details are not determined by the function of these keys. The cracked walls in LttP gives hint at secret passageways, but sometimes a cracked wall is simply a cracked wall and not a locked door. Regardless, this still fits within Tevis' overall point: Hyrule used to be a place you explore, now it's more of a place built specifically for you. The danger, the mystery, the respect both for the player's time and curiosity has ebbed.

I've been working on a few Zelda-related posts for a while (surprise, right?) and Tevis' great work has inspired me to keep plugging away. I don't know whether anyone at Nintendo is listening, but Tevis' piece is a great reminder of why criticism is valuable: it explains why certain games affect us and why they are (or were) important.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

'Neuromancer' and The Beauty of Sad Endings

This week at PopMatters, I connected the dots between Neuromancer and some of my favorite video games. More specifically, I talked about how some of the most memorable endings end on a down note.

It seems to me that many games end abruptly. You'll have a climactic battle (out of which you'll usually emerge victorious) and then the game will end. Triumph is a sweet sensation, but experiencing the aftermath can be more deeply satisfying. Neuromancer's climax was seemingly world-changing, but the epilogue revealed that old habits die hard and heroism can be a fleeting trait. To avoid going too deep into spoilers, I'll just say that having characters like Neuromancer's protagonist, Case, help us come to terms with what happens to extraordinary people once they settle back into ordinary circumstances.

On another note, I'm happy to report that Neuromancer lived up to the hype. I never read it before and it was a pretty glaring entry on list of shame. It's always nice to see one of the foundational works of a genre withstand the test of time. We're creeping up on its thirtieth anniversary, but the concepts it brings up still feel relevant. I especially enjoyed the constant focus on what brand of products the characters used. The companies may have changed, but corporate visibility is an ever-present force in our society (just ask Apple).

Finally, it's been nice to get back into reading. It sounds strange, but somewhere along the line I picked up the bad habit of just plain not reading books. I blame academia. In any case, I've read a couple novels over the past few weeks and have felt more creatively energized as a result. Nothing helps me improve my own skills like experiencing (and then "borrowing") techniques from those far more talented than me. The oft-neglected artistic portion of my brain is feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

It's nice to periodically rediscover pleasure in turning words into writing, even if the source of the inspiration is a bit depressing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

EXP Podcast #168: Ready Player One Debrief

As we mentioned over the last few podcasts, this week on the show, Scott and I discuss Ready Player One, a young-adult sci-fi novel that marries Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with every 80s pop-culture reference in existence. I highly recommend you give the book a read. If you have not yet picked it up, feel free to listen to the podcast anyway. Like always, we remain spoiler-free until near the end. As always, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, because I forgot to mention it on the podcast, if I were to pick a giant robot for the final battle, I would pick an Evangelion.

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 48 min 50 sec
- Ready Player One on Amazon
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cheating in Fez

The Fez train has finally pulled into the station and like so many others, I am on board. Years after the game was announced by Phil Fish, its creator, it finally sees the light of day on the Xbox Live Arcade. While I have heard the buzz, I largely entered into Fez completely fresh. The perspective-flipping vertigo and riddling took me completely by surprise. I walk away from each play session part overjoyed at the game's creativity and partly deeply frustrated. I tried hard not to spoil Fez for myself and look up cheats. I really did. I remember Jonathan Blow's attempt to dissuade the use of walkthroughs for Braid and I took his words to heart. I turned off the game entirely and walked away, giving myself time to think and come at Fez with a new perspective (pun intended). Finally, in a sudden bout of what I can only call entitlement, I cheated.

First I looked up how to get just one little cube, the one atop the lighthouse if I remember correctly. Then, while browsing some gaming forum, I saw mention of water levels. The world was even deeper than I thought! I kept poking around, against my better judgement, and saw mention hidden messages and an entirely different language. I found a copy of the Fez alphabet, and that was it. I was engulfed with a desire to learn about the hidden world I had only scratched myself. I wanted, not solutions necessarily, but knowledge. I wanted an arsenal of tricks to ready myself for the puzzles I would encounter. I fell down the walkthrough slippery slope.

Once I had the alphabet, I could easily translate the lettering in the world. But when I found a hovering obelisk filled with letters, I figured it would take too long to translate so I looked up its meaning and, I want to say by accident but I might be denying the truth, the solution. At first I wanted to the busy work of translation, then I just wanted to skip past the thought process entirely. "I would have figured it out eventually" I rationalized.

I did stop looking up walkthroughs at some point, partially because a good deal of the game is still cloaked in mystery for many of those who spend their time posting answers to puzzles online. Other aspects of the game I learned about but am intentionally avoiding, both because I want to find a solution on my own and I want to take my time with the more bizarre parts of Fez. I still find the game incredibly alluring. I have no doubt I can still enjoy the game regardless of my cheating ways. Indeed, maybe I am enjoying it more. The time it takes to go back and forth to areas, and even figure out how to retrace one's steps, is agonizing. Or I could just be rationalizing my behavior again.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Games and the Making of Ominous Architecture

My latest article on PopMatters is now life: Games and the Making of Ominous Architecture.

The inspiration for this article comes from an old article I stumbled upon recently from Damn Interesting, which actually links to a fascinating report from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant research team. Reading some of the messages the report wants to get across to people many generations from now is like reading a piece of science fiction. The lifespan of this destructive radioactive material is so far in the future that we have to plan, today, for any sort of contingency. In 10,000 years, we could be living as minor-gods or, more likely, barely surviving as a species in a Mad Max scenario. How do we warn people, potentially a civilization ignorant of radiation and its effects, that something dangerous lies buried below their feet?

Recall Arthur C. Clark's statement that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Now imagine WIPP 10,000 years in the future, discovered by a group of people who have no memory of the nuclear age. Our morbid obelisks and cryptic markers may seem like religious symbols left here by an alien race. For Hawking's sake, there are people today who believe Stonehenge was made by aliens - and that site was constructed no more than 5,000 years ago! If a future group of people stumble upon messages carved in stone that express the dangers of invisible rays that cause one to slowly die, they may think New Mexico is a land of sorcery or demonic power - it might as well be.

Designing an ominous message for the future is really an exercise in designing instantly readable architecture - something game designers attempt regularly. Look at something like League of Legends. Environmentally the game is simple, but consider all the unique champion and spell animations. If a character casts an area spell that damages opponents, players need to give the effect one look and know to avoid it. Bubbling caustic slime and spiked walls of ice must express their purpose quickly and efficiently. Similarly, the architecture of horror games, or any game for that matter, should convey its atmosphere and even lore within the curves of its walls and the look of its materials. I really wish I had the architectural background to do this topic even more justice. The art of creating visceral architecture is an amazing skill, for scientists and game designers alike.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

EXP Podcast #167: So Wrong, Yet So Right

We've all played some clunkers in our time, but what what are the roots of a bad game's troubles? Could it be the person at the end of the controller? Could we be doing it wrong? Today, Jorge and I talk about the line between a bad game and a bad player. Inspired by Sean Sands' thoughts about getting a new perspective on games he hasn't liked, we discuss the search for a clear vision. We touch on everything from Kinect Star Wars to Far Cry 2, and have a great time searching for the good in even the most tedious experiences. As always, feel free to jump into the comments with your thoughts!

Some discussion starters:

- Has there ever been a time when you realized you were playing a game "wrong?" What prompted this realization?

- What kinds of things do bad games teach us? Is "bad" more of a relative concept based on popular conventions than an absolute category?

- To what extent should developers guide players toward the standard or "right" way to play?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 35 min 14 sec
- "You're Doing it Wrong," by Sean Sands, via Gamers With Jobs
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jack Tramiel

Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore International, died last weekend. In the video game world, he was best known for bringing the Commodore 64 to market. The machine was one of the earliest examples of mass market computers. Its low price and relative accessibility introduced an entire generation of people to video games and to computers in general.

I like learning about the medium's history, but I have to admit I know less about Tramiel and Commodore than other early figures. Commodore doesn't hold the same cache as Atari or Nintendo, and Tramiel wasn't as much a rock star as Nolan Bushnell. Despite all this, Tramiel's leadership and aggressive business tactics helped video games sneak their way into millions of American homes. Ask any designer over a certain age about where they got their start and you'll hear the name Commodore again and again.

My family was a bit slow to adopt the home computer lifestyle, so I never owned a Commodore 64. Without any first hand experience, I'll have to rely on others to describe their experiences with the company and the man who ran it. A quick search reveals Brian Bagnall's Commodore: A Company on the Edge, might be a good place to start. However, I'm also interested in less formal recollections. If any of you all have Commodore-related memories, please don't hesitate to share them in the comments. Even the history of digital media relies heavily on the stories we pass down.

I have a hard time wrapping my mind around what Tramiel experienced in his life. He survived a concentration camp and immigrated to America. He grew up in a pre-penicillin world where having electricity in your home was by no means a given. He saw computers transform from room-size behemoths under military control into mass market consumer goods. He saw the birth of the microprocessor, the rise of the web, and the proliferation of smartphones. He and his contemporaries made Silicon Valley (and who knows, maybe even the world?) what it is today.

If you get a chance, read a few of Jack Tramiel's posted obituaries. By all accounts he had a long life. I hope it was a good life. It was most certainly an influential one.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In Support of Director's Cuts

This week at PopMatters, I came out in support of director's cuts.

When it comes to documenting the video games we play, I think we do a relatively poor job. Usually all we see is the finished product. Games just magically get released with little attention paid to the process behind their creation or the aspects that didn't make it into the final version. I've always found it strange that almost all DVD movie releases have director's commentaries and deleted scenes, whereas most games do not. On a side note, I love it when studios like Valve, Sony Santa Monica, and Naughty Dog ship games with extended features. These studios make great games, and any peak into the process of how they do so is valuable.

I also find myself yearning for director's cuts while playing less-than-stellar games. As the years go on, I find myself increasingly aware of games that overstay their welcome. Most people don't need to wade through a bunch of obscure side quests in Silent Hill: Downpour or suffer through cookie cutter combat in Muramasa: The Demon Blade in order to understand and enjoy those games. Similarly, most people don't need (or want) to sit through the over-four-hour extended version of Return of the King. The availability of director's cuts could satisfy devoted fans as well as those who decide that less is more.

I didn't have time to put this in the article, but one of the big reasons why I'm not expecting director's cuts to flourish any time soon is related to the way video games (especially big-budget ones) are made. Video games are highly collaborative and it's very hard to pinpoint a single "director." Even if there was a strong figure at the helm, it's difficult to draw lines as to what material should be considered relevant. Do we want more interviews? What about rough prototypes and mockups? Are storyboards and design documents fair game? Personally, I'd like to see it all, but I'm somewhat obsessive when it comes to documentation.

At the very least, I think the idea of a director's cut can help inform a general philosophy about how games are made and presented. Giving players a choice as to whether they want a streamlined versus a more sprawling experience will help people help themselves. From a game literacy and archival perspective, seeing the processes, the unfinished parts, the dead ends, the rationale behind the choices that led to the final version will help cast some light on an obscure aspect of the industry. I think it's weird that most games are released as if they were magical little toys that simply "exist." All too often, the only time we get to see the actual human effort behind are games is during a faceless credit sequence or the exceedingly rare suite of bonus features.

As I see it, the "director's cut" philosophy can make improve both bad and good games while also teaching us more about game design and the larger industry? What's not to like?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

EXP Podcast #166: Bioware Blues

The Mass Effect 3 fervor remains in full swing, and while many are already growing tired of the backlash against Bioware, it would be a missed opportunity to not discuss ramifications of player-driven protestations. Of course this is a grand subject, so we could not handle it alone. Kris Ligman of Critical Distance and Dire Critic joins us this week to discuss player entitlement, authorial intent, and all the drama surrounding the color-coded end of Commander Shepard. As always, we would love to hear your thoughts on the controversy in the comments section below. You will also find more of Kris' work in the show notes as well as pertinent articles about the Mass Effect ruckus.

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 41min 06 sec
- "In which Squaresoft wrote a Bioware game. (Spoilers.)", by Kris Ligman via Dire Critic. See her weekly roundups at Critical Distance
- "The Ending," by Cruise Elroy
- "Why the ending of Mass Effect 3 was satisfying, and worthy of the series (Massive spoilers)", by Ben Kuchera via The PA Report
- "The argument over Mass Effect 3's ending makes Ken Levine sad", by Brian Crecent via The Verge
- Music provided by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Melee and Anti-Fun

Awhile back, Matthew Gangles pointed me to a great design explanation from Riot design director "Zileas" who describes anti-fun as follows:

"Anti-fun is the negative experience your opponents feel when you do something that prevents them from 'playing their game' or doing activities they consider fun. While everything useful you can do as a player is likely to cause SOME anti-fun in your opponents, it only becomes a design issue when the 'anti-fun' created on your use of a mechanic is greater than your fun in using the mechanic. Dark Binding is VERY favorable on this measurement, because opponents get clutch dodges just like you get clutch hits, so it might actually create fun on both sides, instead of fun on one and weak anti-fun on another. On the other hand, a strong mana burn is NOT desirable -- if you drain someone to 0 you feel kinda good, and they feel TERRIBLE -- so the anti-fun is exceeded by the fun. This is important because the goal of the game is for players to have fun, so designers should seek abilities that result in a net increase of fun in the game. Basic design theory, yes?"

I love this short and simple explanation of anti-fun, a principle that can locate and illuminate design decisions that may sound interesting but lead to a net loss of fun for one or more players. Some game features, while alluring, are actually anti-fun traps. Take melee kills in first-person shooters as an example. Gun wielding heroes might eliminate their targets with bullets the vast majority of the time, but when up close and personal, a punch, kick, or stab might be their best option. These days, it is quite rare for a shooter to not have a melee attack option. But how do we balance melee combat in game that emphasizes gun play? If physically striking your opponent is too weak, players will opt to shoot each other at point blank range, which may appear silly and require ninja-like maneuvering. Too strong and players will become easily frustrated.

The reason my mind has wandered to this subject in the first place is Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. I genuinely find the game's melee combat shockingly inadequate. It embodies the concept of anti-fun almost perfectly. Raccoon City uses a stagger system that allows players to execute opponents if they time a melee strike correctly, hitting the button right when their enemy stumbles. Sounds good in concept. To make room for this, every melee hit knocks the opponent back slightly or even causes them to fall to the ground. At which point the defending opponent goes through an unbearably long standing animation, giving their attacker plenty of time to run up and melee even more. As expected, this causes chain attacks and painful "against the ropes" situations in which the player who hit the melee button a little too slowly sits there helpless, unable to do anything, just hoping their opponent accidentally misses and gives them an opening to run their melee chain. This is just one travesty among a slew of other problems. I can see precisely how a potentially good idea became garbage. In fact, I am somewhat surprised melee combat in shooters is ever managed successfully.

To use a more recent example, Mass Effect 3's multiplayer and singleplayer features melee combat. Indeed, Bioware pushed the ombiblade attack heavily in its marketing campaign. A quick tap of the melee button will damage an opponent while holding the button down causes your character to charge up and unleash a devastating blow against your opponents. The attack is well balanced by a few key elements. First, enemies are rarely alone - fighting an opponent up close might leave you open to deadly enemy fire, discouraging anything but prudent use of melee. Uncharted 3 similarly discouraged melee combat, but unfortunately locked players into tedious and suicidal fight animations. Second, some opponents wear protective armor or shields, making them nigh invulnerable to melee attacks. Getting a melee kill against an Atlas, for example, takes a great deal of effort. Third, the instant-kill animation has limited range and takes a decent amount of time, giving enemies enough time to simply move out of the way, leaving you open to attack. All of this results in a fun, albeit occasionally frustrating melee combat.

Call of Duty features far more lethal knife kills than the Mass Effect series, but manages to avoid anti-fun by implementing several key limitations. Although the combat knife generally kills opponents instantly, its range is incredibly short - roughly one to three feet. There is also a slight delay between the stab at the actual hit, giving players a brief moment to avoid the attack if quick on their feet. Additionally, the maneuver makes an audible noise, alerting surviving enemies to your location. The knife in Call of Duty 4 is incredibly lethal, yes, but bullets will easily take down an enemy who fails their "stealth roll."

Can we really talk about melee combat in shooters without mentioning Gears of War? With the chainsaw gun, Epic elegantly mastered the art of melee combat in a shooter experience. The chainsaw attack is both aesthetically satisfying and implemented wonderfully. Like the other examples mentioned, there is a delay between starting the lancer motor and eviscerating an opponent. In fact, it is often smarter to start the lancer, maybe behind some cover, before running up to slice an enemy in half. Of course there is a cost-benefit dilemmas here too. Maneuvering the game's beefy characters while revving the lancer is difficult and slow. The chainsaw also emits a loud and recognizable noise that alerts opponents to your presence. To add a proverbial cherry on top, when enemies trigger their lancer at the same time, you both enter a high-tense button mash-off. Adding fun on top of an already well designed melee system? Thrilling! In Gears 3, Epic added the retro lancer, with its own minutely balanced risk and reward system, once again proving the studio has a firm grasp on what makes melee combat fun and interesting.

Of course not all shooters can just copy and paste the Gears model into their own game. Indeed, I admire Slant Six's attempt to make melee combat in Raccoon City at least somewhat unique. Unfortunately they fell into the anti-fun trap, hard. I will always stop playing when turning off the tv is easier than playing ten more minutes of an anti-fun experience.