Ideas review: the Undead Developer-God in walking sim The Beginner’s Guide

The road to banality is painted with good intentions
~ Philosophy Forums

Everybody has a secret world inside of them
~ Probably-Scientologist Neil Gaiman

An argument against so much of what feels smugly disingenuous about this Walking Sim:

If you had to guess, why would you say anyone would even want to guess what kind of person makes such over-hyped treadmills

The developer probably thanks you very much for playing The Beginner’s Guide – that is, rating it so highly. We’ve written about The Stanley Parable, and while that game largely seems a pretty absurd story of Cultural praise and wilful over-analysis, today we’re going to tell you about a series of events that happened between us and a semi-imaginary developer called Dave Coda.


We’re going to look at The Game Dave Made. Now these games mean a lot – but only to Dave (and even then, who knows.) We heard of Coda early last week when really struggling with personal stuff to do with modern Games Industry based pseudo-criticism, and his work pointed in a powerful direction- a reference point for the kinds of largely only-semi-creative, semi-interesting works that many do not want to make – and yet will probably end up doing so (because they seem to sell like hotcakes and they need the money.)

So just to start you off, this is the second game he’s ever made – it’s basically one big level for Counterstrike you can slowly crawl around, and mostly it’s just Coda learning the basics of building an environment. But what seems dislikeable is that, even though he starts from the simple aesthetic of a desert town, he’s scattered these colourful abstract blobs and floating crates around the level – and of course it does absolutely nothing to destroy the illusion that this isn’t a desert town, and so this level becomes a kind of cruel calling card from its creator, a reminder that this video game was constructed by an equally unreal / unreliable narrator.


And it kind of makes you wonder: “What was going through his invisible head as he was building this – that is, why should players have to listen to him talk about it – and how does he constantly imagine what he says is automatically interesting, accurate or even honest?”

This is what seems troubling about games like Coda’s. Not that they’re particularly fascinating as games, but that Dave likes to imagine they’re all going to give us access to their holy Creator™. Some want to see past the pretence to the real game, however – they don’t want to know who this human Space Monkey being thinks they ‘really’ are, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here.

So it’s like, Coda starts making these games, and he releases them. He wilfully puts them onto / as the Internets, he just makes them and then immediately abandons us in them and they sit on our computer forever, soon forgotten. And it’s possible he really misunderstands this image of himself as a genius / recluse, at one point ‘jokingly’ renaming his computer’s recycling bin to “Important Games folder.” One wonders what would have happened if only they’d stayed there.

So you know, this is just how he works – he tends to crank them out without really pausing to try to little but deliberately misunderstand what conceptually bland game he’s just made – unless one day we suddenly decide to stop giving them quite so much attention. In The Beginner’s Guide the truly critical backlash has begun, and hopefully this is Dave’s last Walking Sim and he can another, actual / good game.


And that’s why this seems an opportunity to gather all of his in-game spoken text together – because players who find his games powerful and fascinating seem slightly terrifying, and it might be good for this critique to reach them / Dave – to maybe encourage them to start creating more genuinely, rather than just jerking around in oh-so-clever wink-wink land, semi-unconsciously fishing for (what does appear to be) slightly too easily earned Cultural Complements.

And if the people who play through this critique also happen to find this research playstyle interesting, then it might send that much stronger of a message of truer encouragement to Coda. So thanks for joining us on this, if you have a particular interpretation not mentioned here or if you just need to get in touch for a chat about it, you can leave a comment below.

In this garme you can only move backwards (in terms of modern game development). Yes, backwards is the only way you can move. But thankfully it’s also a short failed experiment in and relative minimalism combining slow motion and heavy contrived expositionary narrative. The game afoot here is that T.B.G literally tells you the meaning of itself. Now isn’t that handy. What isn’t a shame is that its Narrator/Developer-God can’t be trusted, even / especially when it’s stated he can’t be trusted.


It’s possibly less advanced than his previous game, but it wants to seem to be more focused, more complete. Dave Coda tries to give it a unique voice, as well as simply basing it on the pre-existing “Apparently 4th wall breaking meta-game that subverts player expectations” trope. It’s a little short, and doesn’t even really say what it doesn’t even know what it wants to say – and then it ends. And quite understandably, some players need anything more than that. Which is precisely why it works in the world of Videogame Industry reviews, because it gets out quick. “Okay, Important Deep New Art / Game coming along,” they say – then “Next!”

On video game development: too often such a minor storm of tasteless, low boiling Industry canned soup. Every video game runs on a social engine of Cultural verification, which determines what games can and cannot do, what they do and do not mean. In other words the engine is a set of tools for game development. To make all of these games, Coda uses an engine called The Infinitely Applauding Friends of Davey Wreden. Like all engines, Davey’s Friends feature certain things that he do well and things they do poorly. One of the core things that they do very well is loving boxy, linear corridors and deliberately slow walk speeds.

That is why so many of his (Coda’s) games are set in these large flat empty rooms – it’s just because he’s working with what he can only do, and what the Friend Engine loves. Yet the tools available to ‘the creator’ (whatever they like to imagine they are) not only shape what kinds of creative work they’re going to end up making, but define it from the very outset. Not only that, they are not merely tools, but modes of (/Cultural mis)perception.


You might consider paying attention to the architecture in the games of “Dave ‘the’ Coda” (coder – get it) to notice now they seem to stem from a Cultural Verification Engine that’s very good at hyping wildly and gushingly-positively about games with linear, boxy corridors and lead heavy exposition. In this handshake prison unfunny enough, in Dave Coda’s original design, the game stays shut for just over an hour before letting you go. If nobody minds though, we’re gonna skip all that.


This is something argued about a lot – whether a game ought to be playable, whether it means anything if nobody can get through it without being slapped around the head with The Artist’s Great (Obscure) Meaning. There seems a need to avoid either defending or attacking that – all this heavy Cultural work that goes into defining and defending  Walking Sims. Why not make it playable and accessible in any other way, other than having a bunch of vacuous Ludonauts talk all-to-culturally-qualified / verified jive about its apparently infinitely positive, endlessly meaningful qualities?

They all just get into heated arguments over it, and after such long winded and largely fruitless conversations they all go home and a day or two later send each other zip files entitled “Playable Games,” that are full of hundreds of individual Art Game reviews, each of which was just an empty box that you walk around in and nothing else. These poor saps play every single one of these garmez just to be seen by others to ironically find out if there’s a gag hidden somewhere – precisely because everyone knows there isn’t. And that itself seems the very (shared, private) gag. No wonder Real Players despise pseudo critics.

The Beginner’s Guide is exactly the same non-puzzle again as The Stanley Parable. With the exact same solution as the last time – you don’t play it, rather it’s more that the game plays you – for a gullible putz. There’s still no clear indication of what makes this puzzle so special that Dave Coda is going to return to it over and over. Dave will no doubt share with you his (deliberately obscurantist) interpretation very shortly – in the form of another Walking Simulator.

In T.B.G, Dave Coda begins using a kind of dialogue system that he fashioned out of the engine’s chat capabilities. Use the buttons on your gamepad to simulate response. Here Coda begins using a kind of dialogue system that he fashioned out of the engine’s limited chat capabilities. Use buttons on your keyboard to pretend to respond – in the similar way that Dave pretends to make games people can play.


And so you make one last descent, down to the final floor of the level. It’s a lamppost. For some reason Dave Coda fixates on this lamppost – it’s probably going to appear at the end of every single one of his games from here on out. The reason is, up to this point he’s been making really non strange and falsely abstract games with no clear purpose whatsoever, and players can only float around in that heady headspace for so long – because now he wants something to hold onto. Your cash, perhaps. He wants a Cultural reference (reverence) point, he wants The Work (whatever it is) to be leading to something. (Another AAA Indie award.) He wants a destination! Which is what this lamppost is, it’s a destination – without any journey.

We’re gonna see it in the work as well, his games are going to become a lot more cohesive, a lot more fully developed, with more of a clear idea behind them. At least that’s what he’ll directly tell us via voice over. And as we go, The Idea will get clearer and clearer and clearer. And that’s it! Okay the precise meaning of this game won’t be clear just yet, please be patient with Coda for a few more games and he promises you’ll see what makes it interesting. (Not too much sign of interest yet, though..)


Sure, okay this one is tough, it’s going to kind of just spin its own wheels for a few minutes, hang with it. See like this is it, the whole (fragmentary) event and there’s nothing that’s particularly interesting about it, you just walk to the end of a hallway. Except for some pretend reason, Coda gets really fixated on this prison that has all this modern furniture. And like Dave few don’t know why either but he decides he needs to revisit this prison, he’s going to start over, use the same assets, turn it into something else.

Okay, cool, Dave sometimes tries version N of the exact same game. And yeah, there’s a bit more to this one, but still it’s not really communicating anything, it’s really just weird for weirdness sake. Except it’s not even really weird, it just likes being seen that way. So okay, he throws it out and starts over, this time he comes at the prison idea from a seemingly different direction.


And of course, now the table is gone and you can’t begin the chain of events to escape. There’s a version where there are no bars but you can’t actually get to the meaning of the game. And then a version where the inside of the prison is the outside and the outside is the inside. Let’s just blink real quick through a few more of these long winded events; he’s really hung up on this prison idea – there’s probably a dozen of them yet to come.

It feels awful to watch stuff like this, to see a person deliberately unravelling through / as their work, and getting paid for it – and for what! At what point do players just go “Eh, maybe there are far more honest game ideas other this Walking Sim – which have very little – that I could more actually be Playing right now”?


But Coda doesn’t quite have an honest enough voice to tell you to stop if you find such games thin scams, that particular mechanism of defence against himself and other such developers. Without it however one just forever tumbles down the endless positive gushing uncritical review spiral. And so it keeps going and going and going.. he knows he’s hit on something. And he likes it, and that’s it, he’s done, he’ll never stops making cultural prison games.

It seems this is what Coda wants – to be able to talk to someone, to share what’s on his mind and to get some good advice from someone who knows. But the irony is that even in this scenario he’s still talking to himself; all of these games so far are just Coda talking to himself. One can see why he considers this fitting about his prison games. After all, the obsession and sexual frustration of The Games Industry review press is about telling other people you can trust that Things are going to be OK, and ooh isn’t this game nice and clever like we are?

This, combined with the Stanley game from earlier suggests that Dave Coda believes his games are connected somehow. It could even be that these games are literally connected. What most certainly is however is some myth of some ‘bigger picture’ that all of his games are meant to play a role in, some larger meaning that we won’t be able to grasp until we’ve seen all of them, once we have we can step back (ie. backwards) and start to understand what exactly that bigger picture is. Allegedly.


So what would it look like if Coda wanted to make a game about talking to someone other than himself? This greasy little desert environment of Culturally sanctioned, officially recognized positive game reviews represents Coda’s little non-puzzle, with two cardboard doors on either side – and a vast, dark transitional space between. Just so you’re aware, nothing will happen up here until you’ve been inside their convenient little house of free pre-review copies and boot camps and endless mutual back-slapping.

You’ll notice the quality of the art is a step up from Dave Coda’s previous games, including this new and improved chat system which he started using from this point on. From here on out he begins putting much more effort into the visual polish of his work, and this particular game probably took two months to create as a result.

Once people stop playing / being part of such prison games, their housecleaning will feels like a deep cleansing. It’s the moment after a particularly difficult or traumatic experience where you just need to let such games expel from inside of you, and eventually cohere into something meaningful you can look at in the bottom of the polished toilet called Culture.


We all know that Coda really likes this game and the attendant reviews. Of all of his work, actually this was the only one that he called people up to ask them to come over and look at it. This was probably during a period of a few months where he was grossly happy, all the time, just walked around with a constant smile on his face. Like William Chyr has.

They just made polite excuses and said they were unfortunately unavailable. (They were glad someone made this – glad he’s found some peace. But of course, it can’t last. The music stops, the voice over is gone, it’s time to leave for far more productive shores! Players andor Developers can’t stay in such unhealthy, endlessly self-absorbed Cultural spaces for too long without starting to make and sell Walking Sims.)

You just can’t, you have to keep moving, it’s how you more truly live. Which might be the whole real point of not playing such semi/non games –  that sooner or later you have to pack up and move on. This might be the only existing point.


Okay that’s about it for an introduction, let’s take a look what might be D. Coda’s first proper game. This one gets a bit goofy. About halfway through, the perspective shifts and you play as the Great Authorial Teacher of What It All means. And suddenly you discover that your teacher is biased and afraid of reviews that don’t immediately gush uncritically about how deep and emotional it all is. And the way he heads off potential criticism of his game is by seeming to provide constant commentary & criticism about What (apparently) It All Means.


You can move around the classroom while being told What It All Means. It’s one of the most un-relateable experiences that you can have, however – to assume that the player is perfect and totally fulfilled in every way, and completely misses none of the little flaws that makes you little game painfully, barely human. Not many think about this game a lot these days. It quickly becomes self-destructive.


The time you first played this, shortly after he made it, here’s what you’re probably thinking: “I’m thinking that Coda’s accidentally got his head stuck up his backside and that it’s having a very negative effect on game reviewers around him, and that all he has to do is just start showing his real work to people! No more of this Walking Simulation Adulation! Get some actual feedback on actual games, instead of these embarrassingly myopic Public Psychotherapy autobiographies!” Heck, it might get indie game devs out of the isolation of having to make them – and of naive players who accidentally play them, over-expecting anything less than the very little that’s actually on offer.

It seems it would hardly ever occur to Coda to start actively soliciting actual feedback instead of Games Industry pseudo philosophizing, so what if we do it for him? If he could see the difference it would make to have more actual conversations with other human beings instead of easily impressed hi-fiving fanboys, would that bring them out of of their lonesome mental spiral? Would it give them confidence to actually critique games as they need, would it bring meaning back into such tiresome, endlessly Self regarding busywork?


So initially, Coda started showing his work to people. But he only brought them to people he knew and trusted. And of course the darkly laughable part is that – what a surprise – they really loved his games! You know the point of it all is just to give him some external reference point for making even more Walking Sims, but they genuinely love his work! In their wildly glowing reviews there’s nothing for him to think about improving. As though the first thing anyone thinks of is the best thing to do.

Because it’s the thing that Developers of such conceptually meagre game sims always feel like they need – to be told that their work is good. When someone really connects with a thing, a Cultural consumer software object, when they see themselves purely in such a bland work, there’s nothing that feels better for The Games Industry. They can hyper cynically milk player emotions till the gamer cows (Whales, more precisely) come home.

Perhaps the main problem is that Coda’s never been explicit in his work about exactly what he’s thinking. But then even weirder, perhaps his work has never quite begun to be a real outlet. It’s like he’s having real trouble with ideas – like he literally just can’t think of actual ideas. that’s what too many Walking Sims come across as; the mere idea of a vague notion, dressed up in the superficial gloss of seeming self-critical analysis.

You know how sometimes games developers will just deflect actually saying anything with or in their games to keep themselves disconnected all the time? The unceasing narrative voice over of The Beginners Guide does this precisely by never stopping speaking – like the characters in Soma. For without all the jaw flapping, there’s little except what was only there all along – a random bunch of half finished levels. Sad, really. (And saying “But that’s the point, duh” seems precisely wrong.)

Despite this, it seems Walking Simulators games are going to get even more desperate from here on out. After this Beginner’s game, it’s going to be ooh, at least two days before some other clever clogs finishes something widely seen as equally brilliant. If such developers knew that games depended on finding something driven by other than artificial (Cultural) validation, what would that even be? It’s strange, but the thought of not being driven by external, officially sanctioned (and largely pseudo-critical) Games Industry Verification is unthinkable in the current Treadmill Production Line environment.

More. More love, more praise – more people telling Game Simulators that their amazing, so all encompassing, always more more more. A disease of dim praise. Even now the disease is telling us to never stop – don’t show people what a clear thinking person you actually are. They’ll hate you for not clapping loudly as they do. If someone had told us ahead of time that Dave Coda just really semi-enjoyed making prison games, maybe we wouldn’t have thought he was so desperate for false attention?

Despite what Dave says, but this game is actually connected to the Liquid Internets, and not all of the cosy commentary you’re going to see about it is (thankfully) going to be constructed by Coda. In retrospect he seems too pushy, trying to get his attention for such over falsely enthusiastic game-product. Yes, he also seems very gracious about it and very patient with players. But this too will cool off eventually. Feel free to skip over any of those pseudo, Games Industry reviews if they’re not doing anything for you, nothing extra (interesting) will happen if you read all of them.

Either way, they convey a deep sense of loneliness and desperation. Imagine these reviewers in their tiny cube shaped offices, filled with contradictory thoughts and feelings and beliefs, and have no way to express them except as scattered and unheard voices praising a game that wasn’t meant to be played – and in too many ways can’t be.

What’s ironic, is that in playing this game and seeing how alone players with working brains in an environment of plastic praise and brainless adulation, that we get to know The Games Industry better, and actually kind of connect with others who more actually think about this stuff. Such an idea itself seems healthy.

The idea that anyone could just play someone’s (allegedly heaven sent) semi / non game and see the voices in the developer’s head and get to know them better; who among modern players really gives to shakes of a controller about that? There needs to be far less of this uselessly metaphoric by-proxy game-theory based socializing. Pardon us, but some don’t want to ‘get to know you’ through your (worst) game work.

This is why many players have always disliked such projects so much, is because it feels like they come across has somehow automatically being able to make and have that connection, when in fact they do almost nothing of the kind. Rather, one feels awkwardly alienated, as though a clever fool were inviting players into their desperately private, creepy little world of personal illusion and self aggrandisement where little but their inherent genius and their sapless little games exists, and everyone who plays them is apparently Socrates when it comes to venerating their (seemingly obvious) philosophical depth and self-explanatory brilliance.

Sure, many players would like feel less lonely too. But here’s what The Beginner’s guide means – no more or less. Each of these games merely represents a random idea that was on Dave Coda’s bored mind at the time that he was making it. And each is a way of closing the door on a previous life chapter of life before uncritically moving onto the next one. (Perhaps he’d be more happy making Real Games™ instead of these continually failing experiments in Designer Miserablism.)

If the last game featured Coda talking explicitly about his creative frustrations, this one turns it up to eleven. In each of these not-really games (“#NORGS”), after exploring a theme that he might find difficult, Coda places this pseudo puzzle that he knows has an all-too reliable solution, he understands exactly how it works – and so it gives him a simple mechanism for moving on.

But just because there’s this dark area between the doors, a space between spaces, before you move on you apparently get to pause just for a moment a few seconds to reflect on and let go of the events that lead you here (to playing this dire Walking Sim). To step back and connect the pieces together, to grasp at that ever-elusive Bigger Picture. And then you face the next thing.

Now, put yourself in Dave’s shoes playing this. Here’s someone whose work is clearly exhibiting signs of struggle, frustration, anxiety, depression. And yet still he keeps making poor games. He keeps throwing himself into the grinder even when he clearly players don’t have the energy for them any more. They ask “Why? What is it for (if not only for Coda)?” From our perspective and what we know of him from previous titles, The Beginner’s Guide is a result of how isolated modern developers seem from everyone else.

Like they ‘live’ in their own little hermetically sealed bubble of AAA Indie game development, sitting at their luxury computers all day, not really showing these games to anyone, not releasing them onto the internet as Beta versions for real critique – and so they didn’t have anyone outside of themselves and their little cliques to connect with.

They have little philosophical outlet to ground themselves on. You can’t talk yourself out of what an apparent genius you are at video games, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t be the one writing both the questions and the answers, then there’s no movement! Then there’s no free circulation of critical ideas. And so one result is The Beginner’s Guide.

If all of your anxieties about the true degree of your effortless brilliance are being channelled into your work, then as the work fails you have no backup and it’s all just going to crash. Seeing this tepid like game at the time that he made it, it looks really unhealthy.

And as players, we watch Coda do this to himself and us, and we dislike it. We dislike seeing ourselves so trapped in this boring daydream. Video games are not worth suffering for, just to collectively convince ourselves how clever and considered we think we are. Like many players with actual lives, games are someone they don’t really care about, but at least used to get some joy out of seeing others create them. So it feels bad to see ourselves suddenly become angry and frustrated like this.

After finishing this one – not that it’s even finished – let’s all hope Dave Coda takes a year off and comes up with a game. No more “You walk down a corridor, you solve a non puzzle, you get to the end. Simple enough.” Never mind simple – it’s not nearly complex enough. We’re supposed to automatically think the game’s dull exterior conceals a rich interior, when in fact a dull interior hides a fantastic outer world where laughably shill-like reviews get to exist without certain Games Industry Reviewers getting slapped around the face with a live electric eel for such pathetically uncritical software product glorifications.

Either way the point seems the same – that most of the time you don’t get to know what you’re missing, or even that you’re missing anything. That’s not your role. Your implied role here is to understand What We’re Telling You It All Means. Sure, it’s tempting to play The Beginner’s Guide, but there’s actually nothing over here to play. Sorry. You’ve just been slowed to an absolute crawl for no reason. That’s it. So why, if Coda’s not really developing these games to the level they can actually be played by anyone, why bother pretending to ‘open the door to game development’ at all?

Here’s what modern Game Development more certainly isn’t; a room that’s warm and nice, and filled with little ideas for games. Coda repeatedly informs us he doesn’t mind if people think of him as cold or distant – he’s probably a vibrant and compassionate person much like anyone else – but even so, so what? What on virtual earth has any of that got to do with having to paying £7 for some highly affected, overwrought, almost desperately narcissistic public performance of one’s first world Public Performance Anxiety neurosis?

Ok yes, maybe we need even more games like this. But don’t tell us there’s nothing psychologically suspicious / philosophically dubious about games featuring (allegedly) The Almighty Game Creator, Soul Laid Bare. Apparently honest / spontaneous public outpourings of mass simulated (potatoey) emotion are by artificial nature untrustworthy, precisely because they happen By Design.

The game ends with this entire non eerie premonition of what’s going to happen next in Dave Coda’s life. Nothing – just the same amount of events that the game presented. The solution to social anxiety, to fears of having to perform and having to chase success, the answer for Coda is to withdraw from withdrawing from critical discourse. To hide oneself away from humane, philosophically rigorous inspection.

Which is what leads to scenarios like The Beginner’s Guide that slow you down, where it actually becomes harder and harder to access anyone’s inner (/game development) landscape because it keeps retreating, keeps backing away from possible connections to anyone other than itself. It’s not entirely healthy, when players first played this game and suddenly start imagining its saying something deep about.. well, apparently Everything. It just might not be.

Indeed it just looks to me like Dave Coda’s trying to justify the idea of disconnecting yourself from the world of modern game development and the healthy, community based conversations which can happen there. And that isn’t what anyone wants for him or for games. It’s like a lot of games are inviting us to connect, to connect with people, to bring us closer. But what can you do when everyone around you is singing the praises of these kinds of Game-Developers-As-Woody-Allen Neurosis Sims?

The point where players have trouble saying anything meaningful about Coda’s work is in its very ideas – because more than anything else The Beginner’s Guide just feels as distant as an ivory Game Dev tower, it feels like it’s actively trying to distance itself from other worlds.As a result it’s just very cold – a non game with only an undead author-(auteur)-Dev-g0d, yapping uselessly in the background.

The experience is generally miserable – but not in a good, honest way either. The game goes beyond not being meant to be played, it actually seems to despise the player for trying to play it at all. In The Beginner’s Guide however, all of the walls of the maze are invisible. And then every time you touch one of the walls there’s this awful noise caused by the developer moaning andor expositioning heavily, so the experience is miserable. To be fair it’s not like this is the first game that’s needed a little extreme modification to be playable. Like The Stanley Parable or Everyone’s Gone Up My Rupture, it desperately needs zombie dinosaurs running about that shoot unicorn lasers from their eyes. Anything to undercut the fake seriousness.

It’s frustrating, because it’s the apex of everything else Coda has made – it doesn’t truly encourage thought or engagement, it doesn’t ask anything of us – except demand all of our attention. If only someone close could have reached Dave during this time then gently cuffed his head awake, maybe we could have asked him to stop, but we couldn’t – we still don’t really understand why this game is here (in fact most of it seems yet to be made). This critique exists so we all can move on. So that people who thought it was just shite no longer have to think “Was I failure for not understanding this incredibly deep virtual experience?”

davey-wreden-the-beginners-guide-18So yesterday, you’re playing this for the very first time, and as you’re playing you’re thinking: “Who cares two bits to know this person. We’ve no real idea / nothing but ideas about who this person is – and feel perfectly fine with that. It isn’t some guy we know, it isn’t our friend.” You’d come to so few conclusions from looking at his work up until this point, and then suddenly none of them mattered either.

Players hadn’t been trying to either, that was the thing. For years they weren’t trying to get to know The Coda, to understand who he ‘actually’ was and ‘what he stood for’. (Just try making players able to crawl more than 0.025MPH for a start.) Players have probably asked others so many times to please, just tell them why so many think his games mean anything much at all.

Oh yeah, the three dots. Want to know what the three dots mean? Here’s what the three dots mean: The three dots you see on various levels of The Beginner’s Guide by Dave Coda symbolically stand for “The apparent impossibility of understanding the automatically deep meanings of any video game that features three random dots on a wall.” But the thing is, (largely non) games like The Beginner’s Guide are in fact eminently understandable, are in fact instantly explainable.

The meaning is that there’s no deep meaning – more just shallow emotion and scraggy, undernourished concepts thinly masquerading / parading around like their the answer to deep questions nobody’s even seen fit to ask. Just because you’ve made a Culturally Verified game, obviously doesn’t mean you get a free ride when it comes to exacting analysis of your consumer entertainment software product. It should stand level with other games. And yet we’re told this game somehow falls outside common criticism because it’s So Damn Groundbreaking. Hardly. Treating people who make our Entertrainment like they’re important (and therefore have Something Deep And Important To Say) seems a dubious, wobbly position.

Dave’s Game simply looks like Dave’s Game was abandoned mid development. For instance you have this gun which you’d think would indicate that there are supposed to be monsters or enemies somewhere, but then clearly there are no enemies anywhere. You can’t even reload the gun when you run out of bullets. These are zombie mechanics, and must not be over praised.

And ultimately – that is, from the outset – nobody really knows why either; maybe Coda thought that actually it was complete the way that it is, and he somehow imagines we should talk endlessly about his games for what they are, rather than for what they’re not. (Why not simply talk about what they aren’t, nor ever could be?) It’s cool how Dave seems to think you can see the bottom of the universe from out of his arts. (Said in voice of HAL: “Well maybe it’s not that worthwhile peering in, Dave.”)

What you experience at the end, stepping into the beam and then dying, also seems very little to do with whatever Coda thinks he initially intended while developing this level. But when he first compiles and plays it, something goes wrong, there’s a bug somewhere, and this is what happens instead. The beam causes reviewers of the game to immediately start floating off into the same private reverie of holy communion with the infinitely deep and meaningful Developer-God (Complex).

And this is an important moment – at least for Dave. Because yes, this is technically a glitch in the very ideas, but Coda wrong-headadly identifies something remotely human (and creepily intimate) about it, like how small it makes you feel in the face of this larger system of gushing plastic game reviews, or that this floating could be the game development afterlife – a peaceful place juxtaposed against all the ridiculously theatrical histrionic hysteria you’ve just been forced to traverse.

What’s clear is that, after making this something lodges itself in the brain – the blandly terrifying notion Dave Coda wants to do even more of these really non-weird and pseudo-experimental designs. So let’s hope he stops work on those and moves onto a stream of tiny little games that go in all sorts of actually interesting directions.

The Beginner’s Guide does not ‘set up loaded symbols in a specific arrangement for players to experience and come to their own conclusions, prompting us, through play, with open-ended questions’ as Killscreen imagines it does, because such descriptions could technically define any game in existence. This just sounds like making thin excuses for woeful under-development, which fall out of reviewer’s mouths in the vain hope something sticks. A hollow need for meaning in a manipulative, minor game that cynically plays with the fact it has very little. You can stick in all the artful, guileful speech bubbles you want telling players “This game means nothing” – still doesn’t automatically prove it doesn’t mean too much

Comment on Jim Sterling's review of The Beginners Guide
Comment on Jim Sterling’s review of The Beginners Guide

So let’s go ahead and take a look at the cool game we could make ourselves after leaving these kinds of Walking Sims far behind. Because if you’d really like to ‘solve’ (and hold in laughably high regard) the largely non existent, two dimensional labyrinth of The Beginner’s guide, you’re welcome to do precisely that. Just leave players with more fully functioning critical facilities out of it – those not embedded in the cultural con game of investing shallow game products with superficial Deep Meaning.

TL;DR version

Being ambiguous doesn’t equate to depth
~ Matthewmatosis

With his review of The Stanley Parable, Matthewmatosis also critiques The Beginner’s Guide:

One litmus test for devs who spin out Walking Sims and their overwrought mystifications: make your pet project entirely open (source) to the gaming community; allow yourself to see how they improve on such Insular Emotional Treadmills.

Want the same flytrap-for-hipsters experience for less cost? Boot up a copy of Nipper’s Crazy Maps for Counterstrike – and stream yourself acting emotionally over them while you slowly walk around – with a cool, coy, all too knowing ironic postmodern B.S wink

Tale Of Tales floats in unknowing Cloud Cathedral of Christian ideology

Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck
~ George Carlin

Turns out failed video game company Tale Of Tales were always a bunch of Christianity believers. They have another project, Cathedral in the Clouds

Indeed, after their holy rolling interview at gamechurch you’ve just got to look back at pictures of Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn to see it, clear as a 60’s cult church bell. Hallelujah, video game development brothers and sisters!

Relogious: Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn
The aura of Religiousity: Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn

What follows is an imaginary Tale Of Tales interview with Robert What:

Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn make up the developer duo, Tale of Tales. They’re behind Luxuria Superbia, a game exploring sex, but also other, slightly crappy games like The Path, The Graveyard, Fatale, and Bientôt l’été. Their games tend to defy expectations, forcing players out of their comfort zone and into a mindset that (at least seemingly) “confronts difficult issues in surprising ways.” However, one consistent unaddressed theme that arises again and again in their games like fetid swamp gas is the idea of faith or religion

When I spoke to them, I found that they weren’t merely interested in religion, but considered themselves holy, almost by default. Their appreciation for religious roots results in their prolonged interest in religious subject matter and themes. In fact, toward the end of the interview, they expressed their interest in creating a “big Christian project” that would be “almost a tribute to all this Christian iconography.” According to Auria, “something like that, available for believers – and even nonbelievers, apparently – would be kind of an interesting moment of connection”

“I think there’s too little of that in contemporary art,” adds Michaël. I talked to them about the foundations of that artistic conviction, and their own personal spiritual beliefs.

Robert What: What core beliefs would you say most motivate you?

Michaël Samyn: I think one of the core beliefs that I think Auriea and I share is that everything exists; nothing is impossible. There’s a certain group of people that thinks there is an ultimate explanation for everything. We actually prefer not to because mystery is so much more interesting.

Robert What: If everything exists and nothing were impossible, that would be horrible. A universe where Duke Nukem were president for example, would be unbearably cheesy. There is indeed a certain group which do exist however – in England they’re politely termed “intensely annoying religious people”

Auriea Harvey: Or the impossibility of knowing everything is what intrigues us. It’s not so much that we deny truth, it’s that we don’t want to pin down the world to a single truth. All things can be possible.

Robert What: Not wanting to pin the world (whatever that is) to a single truth is itself a singular truth. If all things are, as you say possible, then surely one can indeed pin down the world to some bland single truth (eg. “god”). People who state the impossibility of knowing everything too often find it impossible to admit they think they secretly know at least one (‘holy’) thing totally and completely.

Michaël Samyn: It’s sort of arrogant, in a way, for humans to think that they, puny little humans, will ultimately know everything.

Robert What: It’s not actually possible to make that statement if one truly believes one is as equally puny as everyone else. To do so seems equally arrogant. Would you distinguish between a person who says “You can know everything,” and a person who says “You can know some things”?

Auriea Harvey: That would depend on what they say they know. (laughs)

Robert What: Not necessarily. What if both are wrong? And besides, what on earth has such talk really got to do with video game development?

Michaël Samyn: Well I would call a person who says you could know some things a realist. Whereas someone who says you can know everything is just arrogant.

Robert What: There are certainly some arrogant realists out here. Can you give examples of a person who would be that second thing?

Michaël Samyn: No. (laughs)

Robert What: Didn’t think so.

Auriea Harvey: I really think we sort of end up verging on pataphysics in a way. Beyond metaphysics, you know? It’s not about making sense of the world, because I guess we think the world makes no sense, and that’s as it should be.

Robert What: Yet by merely stating the world makes no sense, you’ve attempted to make sense of it. As for feeling you’re beyond metaphysics – you’re probably not even beyond modern Physics – just like everyone else.

Michaël Samyn: Well, and there’s another aspect too. We’re very much art-lovers, and for us our experience with art, with beauty, gives us a certain sense of truth and a certain feeling of knowing about the world. It’s so instinctual. It’s beyond words. It’s spiritual. But it also gives a sense of confidence. Like, you really feel like, “I get this. I understand this existence. I feel connected to this universe.”

Robert What: Cobblers. Things which appear instinctual or beyond words are too often mere culturally received ideas and ideals, unwittingly taken in through osmosis. As a result, any confidence which occurs is often false. What is termed “art” is especially near the top of the cobblers pile.

Auriea Harvey: So in connection to believing in everything, we end up seeing the god in all things. In the motion of the gesture in a sculpture, in the color of a painting, in a sunrise itself, one can start to see the god in things without having to explain it, without having to feel like, “Oh this is religion.” It sort of goes beyond that and becomes more primal emotion, which makes you feel connected to all things, I suppose.

Robert What: Surely its equally easy to see beauty, truth, reality, connection – any number of things which aren’t ‘god’ in gestures, sculpture, etc without having or being able to explain it?

Michaël Samyn: I’m a little bit jealous of people who can name that feeling. Like, if you’re really Catholic or really Buddhist or something, then you can really pin that down more. We were just brought up as these modernist atheists or something so for us, this is very difficult.

Robert What: Perhaps you just want your Christian cake and at the same time be able to enjoy your modern, socially acceptable default level of atheism.

Auriea Harvey: Whereas we can still feel it, I guess is the thing. And where we come in contact with that is in art, in music, in nature, and in these things that are in and of themselves unknowable. I guess, to a certain extent, when looked at in a certain way; when not looked at through a scientific lens. You look at the moon as something poetic and not as a big rock in the sky that’s a certain weight and a certain distance from us…

Robert What: Why set a false binary opposition between an artistic (apparent) uknowability and scientific knowability. Isn’t science itself poetic?

Michaël Samyn: Although that sounds poetic in a way, a big rock in the sky. (laughs)

Auriea Harvey: Yeah, it’s a ball of fire, it’s in the sky, you know? That’s pretty amazing!

Michaël Samyn: And I find it very encouraging to realize that science cannot explain everything, because that leaves an opening for things that science can’t explain. Because when science explains things, they become so dull. (laughs)

Robert What: Making out that Science somehow wants (or even needs to) ‘know everything’ appears a fundamental and even deliberate misunderstanding of Science. Maybe there’s an opening for things Science can’t explain, even in the very things it can explain extremely well. As for things somehow becoming dull the instant Science explains them – that’s not even a concept, nor one remotely worth replying to.

Auriea Harvey: So boring! I mean, do I love you because of chemicals in my brain and pheromones that you emit, or is it something else…

Robert What: Perhaps the very scientific chemicals that exist not ‘in’ but *as* your brain, are no more or less than the love you think you feel. So you wouldn’t call yourselves religious in any way?

Auriea Harvey: Oh we absolutely would call ourselves religious.

Robert What: Oh dear, that’s what I thought you’d say.

Michaël Samyn: Yeah, in a way. We have a fondness for religion, more specifically for Catholic Christianity, which we see a lot of here in Northern Europe. We even go to church once in a while, but not regularly. We don’t do any religious rituals or anything.

Robert What: A fondness for Christianity and the pious air of religiosity is itself a holy ritual, performed every moment one continues to believe in it.

Auriea Harvey: It’s hard to put into words, but it’s like… the things that make us feel the closest to the rest of humanity are things like religion and art. But because we’re not practising any particular faith, we can find worth in other faiths. But not like “Oh, I’m going to try out Buddhism now,” you know. It’s not like that.

Robert What: Nonsense. To paraphrase David Shields, Art never saved anyone – but at at least it hardly ever claimed to ‘make one feel close to the rest of humanity’. If there’s one thing directly responsible for making one utterly separate from the rest of humanity, it’s religion. The thing is, by ‘being religious’ as you put it, you are practising Faith. And by what standard do you imagine you ‘find worth’ in various faiths, if not the default standards clearly set out by modern secular / atheist society?

Michaël Samyn: This thing with Christianity specifically is that it’s such a big part of our culture, of the society that we live in, that we grew up in, that we’re comfortable with. We might be interested in Hinduism or Islam, and fascinated by certain aspects of it, but it’s not our own culture. It’s not our own society. And the values of western civilization are fundamentally Christian, even if it’s not religion.

Robert What: So what you’re saying is your Christian bias is completely arbitrary, based on the fact you’re both Western. That much is obvious. As for those ‘Western values’, you’re right – they’re both all too Christian, and fundamental, unfortunately.

Auriea Harvey: Yeah, but then we find that we have all these conflicts even within that, between Michael and I, because I was raised Protestant and he was raised Catholic. I mean we were both raised like, godless sinners, but he was raised Catholic and I was raised Protestant. I guess what I’m trying to say is, underneath it all, I am Protestant and he is Catholic.

Since I’ve been surrounded by Catholicism in culture so much, I realized what a Protestant I am, and how these two different forms of Christianity are affecting each other. I became so much more aware of history and the whole story of what happened in culture, revolutions, how the United States began. I became interested in all of these things because of this. Realizing how inseparable religion is from culture has been very enlightening. I think being in America, I didn’t really realize that at all.

Robert What: The idea that Culture and Religion are essentially the same thing from the outset is itself highly enlightening – and neither are anyone’s friend. How do all of these bizarre, boring and utterly unnecessary and arbitrary Cultural beliefs influence your work?

Auriea Harvey: We made our early work before we were making videogames, our website work, when we were making net-art. We fell in love, and we couldn’t describe the love that we had for one another. So it became “god-love.” We had found the god in everything: the god in us, I find the god in him, he finds the god in me.

Robert What: Good grief. That’s a lot of god.

Auriea Harvey: We started making these interactive works that were based on the books of the Bible, and we were going to do the entire Bible. We only ended up doing the first five (laughs). We stopped at Deuteronomy, but we really, literally thought we were going to go through the whole thing. We read, and then we created it.

Robert What: “Doing the first five” sounds what a lot of people mildly interested in reading the Bible as a collective work of literature might do while waiting for a connecting flight.

Auriea Harvey: It was sort of like a way of understanding what we had been through. In order for us to be together, it involved a lot of like… drama, in a way. We had to make breaks with our previous lives and come together. It felt like being cast out and thrown into the desert and having to travel. We saw all these parallels, and it was sort of comforting to draw from a grand myth…

Robert What: The appeal of grand myths is for meagre minds, content to appear to others as though minor actors in a large staged production – but are really only ever interested in self aggrandisement through their so-called spiritual connection and cultural association to this allegedly Grand myth – the myth that Religion is grand.

Michaël Samyn: Yeah, I mean we started in Exodus, is what you’re saying. You left your home country. And then there’s like Numbers and Leviticus with all the cultural conflict in the way. All the laws that you’re confronted with, and the history…

Robert What: Sounds terminally boring, like having to attend Sunday school.

Auriea Harvey: And then a time of war, and the war in Afghanistan started.

Michaël Samyn: Yeah, exactly! It’s so weird how like, Bush was saying things on TV that sounded very similar to what God was saying in the Bible in Numbers.

Auriea Harvey: It was so ironic.

Robert What: No irony was involved. The American’s war in and on the Middle East was and is always strictly religious in its zealous, biblically apocalyptic promotion of All Amerikan Freedom.

Auriea Harvey: So anyway, we made interactive works based on these feelings we were having, things that were basically autobiographical. They’re still online although some of them don’t work anymore. This is a very literal answer to your question: we just immediately were drawn to the Bible as a source of making sense of our own situation.

Robert What: Since it’s come out now that you’re both religious, I wonder if any of them ‘work’. As for being drawn to the Bible to make sense of one’s situation – one would be far better off turning to (for example) the works of a cheesy science fiction writer. Or the advice of one’s grandmother Indeed, It seems like you have very specific high-concept ideas that flow directly from your spiritual or general beliefs. Is there an underlying mission or goal that you’re trying to pull off with these, or are these sort of just meditations on various things?

Auriea Harvey: I think the point is to be unafraid, which is very hard to do, even for us these days. But I think if we had a goal in the last ten years it’s that we were unafraid to try things, to go forward with things.

Robert What: Perhaps you really mean unafraid to admit that you’re Christian inclinations and religious nonsense do you no real favours, except perhaps aesthetically. Some of those Churches and Mosques are incredibly beautiful and meditative, after all.

Michaël Samyn: There’s a very general artistic goal: we want to show beauty. We want to give the experience of real, deep beauty to people, sometimes in unexpected places. We did The Graveyard and we want people to think about how beautiful it is that people get this old and die, but the world still continues. It’s not necessarily a sad thing. There’s beauty in that.

Robert What: Fair enough – though the need to give people the experience of ‘real, deep beauty’ seems a dubious pursuit, to say the least. Are not these things by their very (often unnatural, human) nature themselves unexpected and unpredictable? As for the world still continuing – especially in its current dire state – now that does seem sad.

Michaël Samyn: Actually we sort of started playing with another biblical story, the story of Solome, who actually gets John the Baptist beheaded. Then we started thinking, “Well, what if this John the Baptist character feels liberated after his death, and maybe could start looking at Solome in a more generous way.” Whereas before he was always kind of insulting her. Well, maybe afterwards he could say, “Oh, she’s actually kind of pretty.” (laughs) So we started exploring that idea: “Well what would John the Baptist think of Solome after his death?”

Robert What: I don’t think anyone could care less. There are already too many beheadings taking place in the real world, without exploring long, drawn out, forever veiled and murky Biblical metaphors. Why not draw on the work of a non famous postmodern internets philosopher, for instance? What’s so remotely auto-fascinating and ‘deep’ about dead words in a dusty copy of the Bible? Fresh graffiti in a public toilet holds no less meaning or importance.

Auriea Harvey: But we don’t say what he thinks. We just leave the interpretation open and it creates the possibility for this moment. A lot of people don’t get that, but we don’t feel we need to tell people what to think.

Robert What: But you are telling them what to think, by being andor acting religiously.

Michaël Samyn: That’s important, I think. You have to do it yourself. That’s the interesting thing about videogames, where it very much is an active way of appreciating the arts.

Robert What: There’s nothing remotely less active in any other way of appreciating art, and there’s nothing special about the interactivity of video games. Indeed most of the time video games are pseudo-interactive; often even their true interactivity is passive. I’m also curious how intentional it is that every game I’ve ever played by you has made me feel uneasy. I’ve played The Path, The Graveyard, Fatale, Vanitas, and Luxuria Suberbia, and every one of them has made me feel uneasy in a totally different way. Since you’ve both come out as religious and holy, I think I understand why. It’s that holy aura of religiousness. That heady perfume of religious propaganda.

Auriea Harvey: Well, we’re trying to make you feel something. Definitely with The Path, we wanted uneasiness. I don’t know how much of that is intentional, actually.

Michaël Samyn: Very often our work starts with sort of a “What If” question, and to do the obvious is not very challenging for us, because other people are already doing the obvious. For us it’s more like, “Let’s find the beauty in this. Let’s find the beauty in that. Don’t just dismiss things offhand.”

Robert What: That you think other people are already doing the obvious itself appears an offhand dismissal.

Michaël Samyn: Even in The Path, which is a relatively dark and deep story, it’s still about sort of feeling, “Yes, okay. As a girl growing up you have these weird things go on, and these strange tensions,” but there’s value in that as well. There’s certain beauty in that as well.

Robert What: Steven Poole of Edge opined that the game is “a supremely boring collection of FMVs with pretensions to interactivity that very quickly wears out its joke about control and becomes a tedious slab of nihilistic whimsy.” Is there anything Tales of Tales makes that doesn’t have ‘a certain beauty’ to it?

Michaël Samyn: Uneasiness is actually good, because it means that you relate the game to your own life, which is very important to us. It’s not about escapism. It’s about the player’s own experiences. We hope that at some point that people do see what we see in it, find that beauty in it, and maybe a sort of comfort, almost, in the discomfort.

Robert What: I don’t find anything in your games remotely disturbing or uneasy. And as for the notion that religion isn’t escapism, well.

Michaël Samyn: Maybe that’s part of our mission: to broaden the spectrum of what humans can accept in their lives, to be open to things that they’re not use to.

Robert What: Wasn’t “The Mission” is a bad 1986 British drama film about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in 18th century South America, written by Robert Bolt and directed by Roland Joffé? Get over yourself, mate. You’re a failed (so far at least) game developer, not the second coming of Peter Molyneux. When you go to church, what do you get out of it?

Auriea Harvey: For me, I’m going to church in a big cathedral. Its foundations are Romanesque. I go there during Easter, Christmas, or randomly. I go there to draw. I go there to sit when there’s no service.

Robert What: I know what you mean. The thing is, the vast scale, epic design and control of light are precisely managed to bring out pre-existing human tendencies to see more in what is there – to literally evoke the concept of god, or some higher, seemingly spiritual entity or sublime aesthetic effect. What what is there, even without god, is already strange and beautiful. That so many careful hands – probably underpaid by the church – built something so magnificent. But this is not a god achievement, but a human one. Nonetheless, it could not have been built without the viral meme of religiosity being deliberately transmitted by fellow carriers.

Auriea Harvey: But I talk to Maria. I mean it’s weird, because I just started talking to her. Sometimes I’ll light a candle. I know nothing about Catholicism, hardly. I go to observe. I’m there way more often than Michael probably. And if I go to a service I’m there to observe, to learn, and to understand.

Robert What: Probably very little you couldn’t understand by reading the Wikipedia entry or pole vaulting disinterestedly around the Cathedral in Assassin’s Creed for ten minutes

Auriea Harvey: But when we go to other countries, we always go to church together. If there’s a service we’ll sit there in the back and we’ll wait. It’s the atmosphere in these places.

Robert What: But its precisely the Culturally stage managed ambient effect, polished by hands dripping with religious ideology, which also draw you in. There might well be something holy and unfathomable and entirely non scientific in some churches, but this kind of personal sensitivity to infinitesimal artistic noumenon is overwhelmingly overshadowed by the church as a central icon of an age-old system of cultural mind illusion. It might not be your ‘personal jesus’ your feeling, sitting on that pew, but the raw power of a human system of self aggrandisement and control over others.

Auriea Harvey: I mean, we’ve always said that games are more like cathedrals than they are like movies. It’s a narrative environment, an environment that immerses you in a story, in a time. It’s a time machine. It’s made over hundreds of years. I mean, I have a lot of respect for this process that it’s been through.

Robert What: There’s certainly something in that. A collective space for contemplation – a Scenius as Brian Eno describes it – rather than an instant, sweaty Michael Bay explosion of buttery popcorn, fake breasts and brain damaged CGI / SFX.

Auriea Harvey: I guess I don’t think about it so much as what I’m in now, but more as a connection to people throughout time. I look at paintings that way too. I just imagine everyone who has stood in front of this before and been inspired by it. I’m connected with them.

Robert What: What you’ve just described seems similar to what philosopher Slavoj Zizej means by The Holy Spirit – a community of believers, believers in people. The people that are a part of that community, what do they think of your work?

Auriea Harvey: Sometimes people ask us if we are religious at all because they believe we must be. That’s when we sort of roll out with “Yeah, well we are. We believe in everything.” I’m happy that some people can read a lot of spirituality into what we make.

Robert What: Perhaps some are unhappy because they can now clearly read it.

Michaël Samyn: Our work is not massively popular, so I think it’s only going to appeal to certain Christians, and not to all of them.

Robert What: I remember when I first discovered your work, I think it was around the time of The Path. I started looking into it, and just because of the name of your company, I was like “Are they Christian?” I thought it was a good example of how Christians attempt to do art – but pass it off only as art, as not to offend atheists.

Auriea Harvey: For a long time, when we were doing the stuff that had the names of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, all this stuff, people would just be like, “What the heck are you doing?” because it was so untrendy, so-to-speak.

Robert What: By ‘untrendy’, you really mean no longer morally, philosophically, or socioculturally acceptable in a modern secular world that has moved on from believing its right to kill thy neighbour if he disagrees with your holy reading of an old dead book written by men to control others.

Michaël Samyn: Many of our friends are militant atheists.

Robert What: The term Militant Atheists is used by the religiously holy to shut down debate. Here’s Richard Dawkins Militant Atheism TED talk:

Besides, The League of Militant Athesists sounds cool.

Auriea Harvey: Yeah, and we were just like “Let’s not be afraid of this. This is our culture too. We can’t deny that part of ourselves.”

Robert What: Word.

Michaël Samyn: I think it’s very important and helpful for Westerners to realize how much of this culture is Christian, and not deny that. You don’t have to be a formal believer to understand that there’s a lot of value in this Christian ideology.

I mean, most of it has been translated into atheist ideology anyway. I mean, humanism is mostly Christian. I find it kind of nice to be able to embrace that, and I’m disgusted by people who are so aggressively atheistic that they have to reject everything, even if it’s only loosely related to the church. I find that disgusting, and I find that to be a kind of denial actually.

Robert What: The mere idea that “Humanism is mostly Christian” is so nonsensical as to border on the religious. Rather to be a humanist is firstly abandon useless religious myths of some ‘higher power’ that does infinite good, and instead directly concern oneself with expressing human compassion and understanding on a daily basis.

Auriea Harvey: I mean, you don’t choose your religion. You’re born into it actually. It’s a part of you because of the environment that you’re in, the world that you’re in, and the people you’re around.

Michaël Samyn: Yeah, and if you grow up in the West at all, you’re a Christian, whether you believe in God or not.

Robert What: Children certainly don’t get to choose their religion but have it forced upon them, which as Richard Dawkins clearly states is tantamount to a form of abuse. And as for ‘being Christian whether you believe in God or not’ – that’s something only a blind believer in (obviously culturally-arbitrary) Christianity would say.

Auriea Harvey: It’s so funny when you stop and think about it, that people would deny that is just wild. So we were just like “Well, we’re not afraid of it.” I mean we may not be practising Christians, but we’re not afraid to be called Christians or something. That’s not a problem.

Robert What: It is indeed funny whenever one stops to actually think. It is also a real problem however, because you hide your insidious, Religious beliefs and illusions by stating “It’s not a problem.” Religion, superstition, having faith, not questioning the authority and power of Religion, are a real problem for humanity, and have plagued it for thousands of years.

By stating you’re “not afraid” to be called Whatever, speaks volumes about the way all creepy religious scams, especially Christianity it seems, operate. Their core ideology is to constantly claim to being under attack by (ironically) unseen forces – when, just like the way departments in the military are labelled “Defence” and not “The Attack Department.”

By doing so, by constantly appearing meek and mild, they actively seek to draw attention away from the fact religion acts precisely like a military operation, Christian (or whatever) soldiers marching onward in their righteous holy cause. In fact, the reverse is true – it’s everyone else without the God Prefix permanently installed in their Space Monkey skulls who’s near constantly under attack by conniving religious wack jobs, forever posing as innocent and pseudo-humble as the vicar’s Sunday cucumber sandwiches.

Mind you, while it may see seem simple to demand something like “Keep uncritical belief out of interactive art!”, what about interactive art itself as another form of uncritical belief?

Ambient album cover art for Evening Star by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp

Example Artist Statement via Robert What: “Having just seen a cool tv special on Eno, you respond, performing some alternative album cover art for Evening Star by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp (1975), based on the work of Peter Schmidt – suggesting an ambient diffusion between cardboard and finely combed inlaid slate, painted in contemplative tones. Eno’s face arises from the silent waters as another island, or like dolphins of mystery”

Evening Star album by Bran Eno and Robert Fripp (1975)
Evening Star album by Bran Eno and Robert Fripp (1975)

“Hype Life 3 Confirmed” – the / a game

In what ways does Half Life 3 exist, andor not?

Consider you’re already living and playing in a post(/modern) Half Life 3 era – that there seems a way in which game experiences like HL3 are not only already ‘confirmed’, but already in the complex process of being actively played by a large, passionate userbase

That is, by simply pretending that (for example) “Half Life 3” exists – or even (/unconsciously) pretending to pretend – one might already somehow be playing “Half Life 3”

There seems a way in which it doesn’t matter too much whether “The real Half Life 3 by Valve” is released or not – discussions about it appear to be a fully functioning, online social game space – its very own (diffused) reality / simulation

We might call such a game “Hype Life 3 Confirmed”

Hype Life 3 Confirmed
Hype Life 3 Confirmed

There appears a mass psychological (emergent) need to confirm the existence of HL3, to state in varied ways the varied ways it is, isn’t, or might exist. Such a practice feels like a cross between Conceptual Art, MMORPGs and Alternative To Reality games – a form of gaming that might be termed Verisimilitudes (as in, very similar-to’s)

HL3C seems to be a persistent potential game, a game of potentials – ideas and concepts continually evolving and floating around (/as) Online with strange life and momentum – a game  system of hopes, ideals and expectations – vivid imaginings

Not longer does the old Expectation Equation of (progress*valve-time) / (expectations + expectations*valve-time) apply – playing Hl3C, everyone gets the HL3 they (/think or imagine they) want or need, simultaneously – maybe even if they don’t want or need it

Just like HL3 in the distributed hive minds of fans, many definitive versions of HL3C exist. Rather than endlessly wait for some gaming hypercorp to create The Second Coming of Freeman, consider how ‘endlessly waiting for some gaming hypercorp to create The Second Coming of Freeman’ might be an expression of HL3C gameplay – part of the incredibly complex holographic network of emotions, truths and illusions which makes up the semi transparent biodigital polyverses of social dream spaces like HL3

So rather than just saying “*pffff* Half-Life 3 will never release!”, also consider such statements yet another part of the game / virtual experience one can play with(/in) – ignore, respond to or modify

Indeed, the active game state of “Hype Life 3 Confirmed” may apply to any number of other games or concepts that involve or require wish fulfilment, media / hype, social confirmation or mass reality simulation to exist