Review Section

Do end-users have a legitimate reason to complain about Earth?

Not everyone is good at playing every game. If you complain about a game to a player that’s good, he’ll scoff and tell you that you haven’t given the game a chance or you need more dedication. But not everyone has that kinda drive to devote to a difficult game.

Are most problems just noob issues that get sorted out with time? Or are there legit issues beyond beginner ignorance? Should these be addressed? Or do users even have the right to complain about a game they haven’t paid for? Maybe they should shut-up if they don’t like it? Is the game really free? Does it rely heavily on user-generated content? Are users themselves to blame? Is quitting really an option? Are complaints even addressed?

From my particular perspective, I’ve found Earth difficult to navigate. It rarely does what I want. But is that simply a misunderstanding of the interface? Well too bad I wasn’t provided with intuitive controls or an instruction manual. Is obfuscation simply part of the charm? Well I think controller-confusion is a legitimate complaint.

I’ve also found Earth too intense, my character’s too sensitive and I feel bombarded by stimuli. Yes I’ve had a relatively easy time externally, but internally I’ve been an anxious wreck. What was that!!!?? Oh. So I think over-sensitivity is another complaint. If I’m generating content from this perspective, it’s gonna suck, just sayin.

I’ve also found Earth a bit too open-ended. What the heck am I supposed to be doing? Start me off with some sort of quest perhaps — and make it obvious. It’s ridiculous the amount of time I just sit around doing nothing. So that’s another complaint: lack of goals to complete.

Yes, all those complaints could be noob issues, I’m aware of that. But that’s a legit problem then: the lack of beginner-friendly game-play. Some people are casual gamers, not grizzled hardcore elites that eat and breathe this stuff. Let me zone-out for awhile watching some in-game entertainment and then blip-in here and there, crushing whatever I come across. If this place is so great, why not make it easier?

Did I accidentally select hard-mode, over-estimating my skills? Um, that’s possible. But an even better game would adjust according to my ability. I’m in the need for some cheat-codes or power-ups right about now. Anytime devs!! Am I just bad at gaming? I didn’t think so, but apparently I am.

Oh and the matchmaking system sucks by the way. I found ONE person I legit like and they were literally born on the opposite side of the globe. I was hangin’ around for two decades in relative isolation before we met up. Again, maybe I’m the a-hole noob that has no idea what he’s doing, I get it — but I think a better ally/friend system could be devised.

Listen, this is an impressive game, no doubt. And if you’re balls-to-the-wall about it, you’ll love it and do great. But if you’re a filthy casual like myself, then it’s gonna kinda suck. It’s just too difficult and kinda dumb — character hygiene takes up a prominent portion for example — how exciting: time to shower, fix my hair, and brush my teeth — again. I’ll update this review if there’s an awesome turn-of-events that ends up surprising me — otherwise 2/5 stars. Sorry devs, I’m just not talented enough to play apparently.

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Virtual Free Will

If life is an RPG (role-playing game), what about free-will? Because it’s a game, there’s a bunch of preset missions customized for each character. And like a game, characters are of a particular type traveling an appropriate path. RPGs tend to lead characters to the correct checkpoints at the right times. Once at the checkpoint, the player can decide whether to cross or not — but if he doesn’t cross, he’s not allowed to do anything significant, he stalls and becomes depressed.

So as to maintain the illusion of control, life does allow mistakes to be made. In other words, if you try to break something, it’ll break. So yes, recklessness is possible and will likely cause your character to experience some unpleasantness. Manual-control provides the most immersive sensation possible and greatly amplifies the gaming experience — but the drawback is, you can derail your narrative.

But to remain on the rails, it’s not skill that’s necessary, it’s trust in your story — faith. Our character knows what he’s doing, it’s our consciousness that’s completely clueless. Characters are best on autopilot, it’s manual-control and mental-intervention that gets in the way, causing our character to trip over himself. It’s impossible to mentally control the complex process of existence.

Then were does free-will fit in? We enter with a preset personality and an appropriate set of goals that must be accomplished. But we do have consent in the sense that we can refuse to cross each finish-line. Our refusals come from fear or an immature devotion to an ideal. The game doesn’t force us into the next step if we’re not ready to handle it. But again, it’s not a skillset issue, it’s a trust issue — our character can handle it, it’s our consciousness that hinders.

Ultimately the game wants us to win — win in the sense that we engage enjoyably with the world we’re in. If at anytime we derail our narrative, the game is always patient and graciously waits to welcome us back. Our acceptance comes in the form of active-pursuit of the goal. We must head in its direction, doing whatever we’re inspired to do, not filled with doubt and trepidation.

Role Playing Game

At this stage, life seems most like a role-playing game (RPG), where I’m playing as a particular character-type within a specific narrative. Disclaimer: I don’t have a lot of experience with actual RPGs. There’s a bunch of preset goals that must be accomplished — and the game will lead me to those points the best it can. I think there’s time between the checkpoints where I can screw around and do whatever, but eventually the time comes to cross each finish-line.

I think this RPG does a lot of hand-holding and leads me through without much effort or necessary knowledge on my part. The resources just show up when needed, ideas just form in my head, and any skills I perform are released at the appropriate time for my character. Easy peasy. Like any game though, the most difficult part is syncing with the rhythm of the action (e.g. pressing JUMP at the right time, etc).

But in this game, in which I’m supposed to be on autopilot most of the time, “syncing” has to do with not getting in my own way. In other words, my character functions fine without mental intervention. When I attempt to manually-control and think my way through a task, I trip over myself. The game allows manual-control because that provides the most immersive sensation possible — otherwise it’d feel too much like a scripted movie.

Yet I seem to be taking the game too seriously — the total-immersion scares the heck outta me. I really feel like a fragile little creature crawling around a big rock attempting to survive while surrounded by impending doom — it’s a bit overwhelming. Because of that, I find it very difficult to trust and let go. And even though it’s impossible to mentally control such a complex process, I keep trying to do so.

Relatedly, I think I’m required to actively and purposefully cross each checkpoint. I can stall all I want — I shouldn’t, but I can. This is probably where people typically screwup their narratives — by resisting their story due to fear or an immature devotion to an ideal. If you’re not prepared for the next step, why would the game force it on you — so you’re stuck right where you are, stalled and depressed.

I suppose acceptance comes in the form of active-pursuit of the goal. I must head in its direction, doing whatever I’m inspired to do, not filled with doubt and trepidation. I have to have faith in my story. When I do stall, I think the game often forces a change in perspective by applying so much negative pressure that I’m basically forced to give up and let go. I could continue denying the change, but at my detriment of course.

Video-games are most fun when they stretch our abilities yet allow us to win in the end. I think this game really wants me to win. I was confused and overwhelmed at first, caught off-guard by the intensity, but as my perspective broadens, I can see the underlying entertainment-value of it all.

Game Pace

If I play a game very conservatively, trying to manage my damage, then it’s not very fun, especially if I’m taken out abruptly by something unexpected — all that caution and care for naught. But if I play a game too carelessly, dauntlessly rushing in with guns blazing, then it’s over too quickly, I never get to experience any depth of gameplay.

So there’s a balance to be had. I have to pace myself. But it’s difficult to pace oneself unless you know what you’re up against — how difficult are the challenges and where’s the finish line? An easy game allows you to adjust to conditions as they become known. A hard game doesn’t tolerate mistakes, but expects you to adapt to its conditions by repeatedly playing from the start.

A lot of games depend on players playing them over and over — you win some, you lose some. Whereas some games are open-ended and meander along with rules and victory-conditions that are more malleable. Maybe life is all things to all people, perhaps for some it’s a harsh game with zero tolerance for error — perhaps for others it’s an open-ended stroll through a lighthearted landscape.

It seems as though we place these conditions on ourselves. From early on I used to take the game-of-life oh so seriously, setting many limits on what I could do, believing in harsh consequences for mistakes. But now that I’ve dismissed all that super-seriousness, I’m surviving just the same. Life was only as hard as I believed it to be.

As for pacing, maybe life adjusts to whatever amount we’re willing to give. If we’re in it for the long-haul, then we have a long life with a detailed narrative to match. If we’re here for high-intensity then BOOM, we’ll get it. Like every game though, we likely play again and again, perhaps selecting different perspectives each time.

What’s frustrating about a game is not usually the game itself, but our insistence on a particular outcome. If our goal is to simply enjoy the game no matter how it proceeds, then there’s not much to stress about. But yeah, it sometimes takes maturity and creativity to figure out how to extract the fun from a certain point-of-view.

Cannon Fodder

As someone that invests in the idea of simulation-theory and the virtuality of existence, I’ve been busy doing research by playing a MMOFPS (Massively multiplayer online first-person shooter game). It took me a few weeks, but I recently reached my goal of getting into the top level. The top level is highly competitive in its own right and contains higher leagues, but I don’t care about that, I just wanted to get into the highest numbered level.

There were times when I wanted to quit because I was fed-up with being cannon-fodder for higher-powered players. I eked out an existence by capturing points for my team while they did the bulk of the fighting, and other times I hid behind stronger teammates. But as my capabilities grew, there were times when I stood out front crushing those that dared stand before me.

Overall I had a pretty quick rise through the ranks. But this resulted in me being matched against tougher and tougher opponents, usually in a league or two above me. Although I know what it feels like to be the top guy in a match, I’ve been squashed like a bug many more times.

Was it hard-work and grinding through the lower levels that allowed me to reach my lofty goal? Somewhat. But like a lot of these games, there’s a lottery system. I won things that helped me progress at an accelerated rate. I don’t know if the lottery was rigged in my favor to entice me to keep playing, I simply accepted those wins as my very own good luck.

Another factor beyond my control is the matchmaking. Why am I teamed up with certain people while pitted against others? An algorithm controls my fate. No matter how good I think I am, I get crushed when placed amongst the higher league players. But other times I do the demolishing, it simply depends on the matchmaking. Of course when I win, I chalk it up to pure skill but when I lose it’s due to terrible matchmaking (which it is).

Regular life appears as though it has lottery-like resource dispersement. It has a matchmaking system that introduces certain people into our life while fading others out. We’re pitted against opponents in regularly occuring contests. There are preset goals we’re expected to achieve. Our character even comes with a particular set of attributes.

There are times in regular life when we feel like cannon fodder — and sometimes we want to quit because of it. In games, oftentimes our character is battered and tattered and limping through the virtual-world, yet we persist. So in life we must also persist. We must find the fun amidst the turbulence and keep progressing until we collapse.

There have been times when it was obvious my team was going to lose, we were smashed from the start, yet we stuck it out — fighting relentlessly until the buzzer — and we won. What a feeling that is, to be so close to defeat yet pull out a victory at the end of a hard-fought battle. It’s intense, minutes feel like hours and the prize is so much sweeter.

Of course, sometimes my team did lose badly, but it was that context that became the foundation for the elation that would occur with subsequent wins. Every narrative must have its ebb and flow, that’s simply how it works. We can plainly observe narratives taking place all around us, which proves life’s fictional nature.

It’s silly to yell at the screen when things don’t go as expected. We watch shows and ride rides specifically because of the rollercoaster inducing effects they provide. Essentially, I wanted to lose again and again just to increase the tension so that I could maximize the feeling of triumph.

So when life feels at a low, it’s the same thing — tension is building for the purpose of an eventual payoff. But realize that the outcome only comes when we stick around to see it. If we quit, it’s over — the tension and its reward dissolve back into the aether of potentiality.

Yet why doesn’t the gameplay always align with our preferences? Why are we taking part in contests that we can’t sync with? Why are we riding rides that turn out to be too fast? Why are we involved with stories that are too intense? That’s because there’s an exploration and discovery period where we’re supposed to figure out our perfect fit. Basically we’re shopping and experimenting — and that in itself can be fun.

For instance, when I started playing the MMOFPS game, I clicked with certain combinations of weapons yet couldn’t effectively use others. Even though some weapons were clearly effective at defeating me, I just couldn’t use them myself. So to determine which weapons I was best with, I had to try them all out. It was a turbulent time when I lost a lot, obviously — yet overall, the experimenting was entertaining.

We come into this game not quite comfortable with our role, so we spend time testing things out. And we must remember that every contest seems silly when overanalyzed. We mustn’t judge a mechanism of triumph. For instance, I feel triumphant playing an MMOFPS game. Someone else might feel triumphant overcoming a disease. Every life is full of triumphant episodes, even though outside observers might not appreciate them as such.

Untainted by Paint

In the MMOFPS game I recently started playing, I regularly and purposefully select to be brutally murdered by a horde of unrepentant killers — and I enjoy it. I don’t enjoy brutality per se, I just like the tag-you’re-it, defend-the-base style of gameplay. Yet I do find the violent way in which it’s depicted a bit amusing, there’s a dark humor to it.

So it makes me think about this world, you know? If this world is just a simulation, then why wouldn’t the gameplay be similar? Some people are just gonna tear sh*t up, blastin’ with guns blazin’ — right? But the neat part of this world, I’m guessing, is that players are segregated into different themes of play. Some do relationship-drama, some peacefully farm, some strive for objectives, some holler an’ fight, and some spectate, watching it all go down (what good is a trick if no one sees you do it, right?).

There’s probably a bunch of categories that people are assigned to. And sometimes we worry we might cross into other categories, but I’m thinking we can’t. So if you’re on the peaceful track, then you’re good, no need to worry about violence. But since this world is virtual, I bet a lot more people than you’d think have the brutality option checked. After-all, it’s fun to experiment with video-game characters we control, pushing them to their limits, testing their mettle.

If people cared, the world would be a safer, less-savage place — yet we don’t care. We regularly ignore the ceaseless violence, recklessness, and abuse that goes on around us in order to focus on our mundane daily lives. Why is that? It must be that we’re not meant to care or interfere — we’re each having our own little dream, but our roommates just happen to be freaks (no judgement, they’re just into some really freaky stuff — macabre themes, sadomasochism, restraints, choking — all of it).

Some might see this viewpoint as a form of existential victim-blaming, which it is. It’s implying that individuals are experiencing the world exactly as they themselves intended, brutality and all. It’s as if at some point prior to existence, we each browsed a dossier of details and selected our character’s traits and the approximate path he’d take. But to keep it interesting, we signed-off on the introduction of unknown challenges and other surprises.

In the MMOFPS game I’ve been playing, I’ll often charge into a group of opponents, blasting away, not caring a whit whether I’ll survive because it just doesn’t matter. We’re all just pretending to be painted pixels. The underlying player remains untainted by the splattering paint of the virtual world. And that might be true of this world as well. Perhaps there’s an underlying player that remains untainted by the splatter, unrepentantly enjoying the spectacle of existence.

Tale of the Gun

Recently I’ve been playing a MMOFPS (massively multiplayer online first-person shooter) game. It counts as research into virtuality and helps me to conceptualize certain real-world topics with game-world simplicity. A first-person shooter is a genre in which you blast other players with projectiles, and in this case you compete against other players from around the globe in real-time battles. I don’t have too much experience with MMOFPS games, but I’d liken the concept to a game of tag, except everyone is “it”, so everyone tries to tag everyone else (unless it’s team mode, then two teams attempt to tag one another).

This particular game was a struggle at the start because the controls were cumbersome and took me awhile to get used to. I was getting blasted left and right. But once you get blasted, you respawn within the same game and just keep at it. I struggled at the lower levels for awhile and often leveled-up by using more non-confrontational methods such as entering arenas against slow-moving NPC (non-player character) enemies. But eventually I got better and was able to hold my own against other real-time players, if not dominate in certain circumstances.

Again, I’m explaining all this because I’ll be using it as a foundation to discuss real-world concepts using game-world simplicity. For instance, I don’t enjoy matches that are too easy, I now appreciate my opponents and the close battles. And I also wouldn’t be relishing my current dominance if I hadn’t been repeatedly squashed like a bug so many times before. The game makes it apparent that actual existence cannot be too easy or else we simply wouldn’t enjoy it, we’re only satisfied through struggle. Not in a masochistic sense, but just a perspective sense, we need to see the bottom to fully appreciate the top.

During several unsuccessful periods in the game, I wanted to quit, never to return. I hated it, yet I was pulled back and stuck it out. Eventually I found a groove and started having fun. In actual existence I don’t feel like I’ve found that groove yet, but I’d say my gaming experience helps me to understand the totality of the path. A game without obstacles is not entertaining. And the games that provide the fullest most immersive experiences are the ones that keep us on the precipice of defeat. But once mastery kicks in, we can sit back a bit and appreciate the game in a different way.

When our skill-attributes are to their max, it can be fun to turn the tide of battle with a mere flick of the wrist. Or, help newcomers that wouldn’t fare well without a guiding hand. Or, purposefully limit ourselves to weaker tools and master new ways of doing things. But it takes a self-discipline to design and maintain our own fun I think. The easier route is to lose yourself to the game and let a narrative lead the way — but this can get too intense. I tend to get too wrapped up in narratives so I’m constantly reminding myself not to take things too seriously.

For the rest of my real-world gaming experience, I think I’d like to level-up to mastery-mode. Where whatever I do just works. Where resources flow freely. Where my presence is appreciated. Where teammates always have my back. I’ve been on the losing team long enough I think. I get it. I can clearly conceptualize a broken world. I can quite easily imagine tales of lack and suffering and injustice, but now I want my thoughts filled with fellowship and fun, experiencing the greatness of what life has to offer.