Yesterday, my rant on Curiosity was featured in the RPS Sunday Papers, and today it did the rounds on the /r/games/ subreddit. I’m amazed and bemused that it attracted attention, as it was thrown together in a bit of a hurry for a blog with a single-digit readership, and I thought the things I said had surely already been put more eloquently by established writers.
I’m thrilled that it attracted feedback, though, and particularly pleased that many of the comments were negative. No sarcasm; it’s been a useful experience to learn where and why my arguments didn’t work.
I’ve posted in the RPS comment thread; I stayed out of the Reddit thread because it’s more of a general conversation about the merits of the game, not about the article, and I’m not about to ruin a discussion (and it is a good one, worth reading) by making it about me. But I wanted to respond here, in one place, to some of the points made.
“Molyneux describes this as an experiment, so you’re being unfair judging it as a game”
I didn’t address this, and should have, but I’m really not convinced by the ‘experiment’ label. It feels like a cover story to hide a multitude of sins that we don’t accept in games. Curiosity is a game first and foremost, created by a game designer, with scoring and power-ups and potent compulsion loops; a very minimal game, but not one that feels more like an experiment than a game. I don’t buy that it’s some kind of art project. The potential addictiveness is too well calculated for that.
People have made good cases for it as a technological experiment though, returning huge amounts of useful data on server scaling and massively shared spaces. Can’t argue with that interpretation.
“Molyneux is upfront about all of this… it’s the whole point of Curiosity”
I’m not claiming any special insights. I’m just saying that what I see bothers me.
“You can’t judge whether someone else is wasting time”
It’s a good point. I can’t objectively do so. One person’s idleness might be another person’s therapy. But I still think it’s fair to point out there’s a contrast between 3 million hours tapping cubes and 3 million hours reading, or editing Wikipedia, or playing one of the many vastly better games which will never see more than a tiny fraction of the attention.
It’s also worth noting, for balance, that 3 million hours is orders of magnitude less than the annual number of man-hours the world spends watching reality TV. Curiosity is not going to destroy human productivity, but it still feels disappointing to see so much time lavished on something so mundane.
“You just assert that the game is no fun”
Yeah, I screwed this up. Mea culpa. After writing it I’ve realised there are quite a few people who do find it fun, relaxing, and pleasant. The ‘virtual bubble wrap’ analogy seems to have been coined as a snide criticism but it’s also being used as a point of comparison by people who like Curiosity because it’s satisfying and unchallenging and hypnotic. I see the appeal of that.
“Molyneux is being ironic/has something up his sleeve”
I hope so much that the people saying this are right, and that we’re being trolled. I will laugh hard and be quite relieved. But I also hoped the suspended glass box with David Blaine in it would, at the very end of the 44 days, with everyone watching, accidentally fall and smash into a wreck of twisted metal and razor-sharp glass shards, only for a spotlight to highlight Blaine stepping out of the cab of the crane and taking a bow.
I guess sooner or later we’ll learn if Peter Molyneux is a better showman than David Blaine.
“You’re being hyperbolic”
Yeah. I’m the worst hyperbolist ever.
“Would everyone please stop talking about Curiosity!”