Proudly presents…

Three Months with Kratzen

with ♥ from Froge


So it’s been now… four months since I started this blog, having taken a month long vacation for no adequately justified reason. And in the thirty – one days of business I have written seventeen articles, this one included, about various opinions about video games and two diversions about furries and websites because I was either requested to or cursed to by the Evil Noise Musician’s Monthly Evil Request. That’s just over 50% efficiency. If this was my job, I’d be canned, though given I would be self – employed it wouldn’t matter.

A more clever and bold artist would say, “speaking of which, I just opened up my Patreon!”. Haha, I wish. Even if I made $20 a month, that would be enough for a week’s worth of groceries, if you subsist entirely off bananas, eggs, and oatmeal. Practically I would need to see if anybody would be willing to donate to such a thing if I were to get, and then the Patreon money would just be funneled back into advertising to make up for the g – g – g – garbage SEO of this website. Why don’t you sound off in the comments below if you’ll donate to my Internet Welfare? Or better yet, on my Neocities page, which nobody ever visits!

Remember when I intended Kratzen to be a magazine? It would consist of publishing digital copies of my work in a PDF format to online marketplaces, curated by specific topics (visual novels, furry games, and so on), kind of like those compilations film critics always release. For that, you either need a hell of a lot of time to write (I do, but I’m such a voracious reader I get distracted at any old thing), or a hell of a lot of articles (the amount I have now could only fill a small ’zine). I was hoping to use The Degenerates to find more staff writers, but currently it is just a sleeper brand for yours truly, as it has been for the past six months or so. I didn’t bother to advertise it either, because the last time I did the reaction was like that time some Statesian dude burned a Quran and there were mass protests. On the other side of the Earth. You really can’t blame them; there’s nothing to do in the Middle East but stare at camels and whine about Israel.

I think being a reviewer with an audience which only tops around fifty people a day makes me one of those “hidden gems” which I so often write about. If that’s so, I’m the most hidden of the hidden, given that my influence extends to about 10% of the developers whose review I post on their pages, about three people on Neocities, and a whopping nobody of any importance. Sorry boys: we’re officially Internet Oppressed. On the bright side, I managed to get one group to close comments on their game. If you can’t take the heat, get off the camel and walk in its shadow.

It’s hard, too, when you’re alternating between worrying that you haven’t written anything today, and then actually writing something. Don’t get me wrong: my hand doesn’t lose its cunning. But there are a few times where it’s blatant that I phoned in it, and that reflects in the quality of my writing. The way I write, simply, is to leave somebody better than I found them, making each and everything I write something of value, so that everybody may come from every article and not regret reading it. In order to do that, I practice the ideal of ever – improving quality, where once in a while I make an article that makes you go “wow!”, and want to keep reading on. The trick is to maximise the “wow!”, and earn my reputation of writing “genius – level work”.

What I’ve played

So I homebrewed my 3DS, right? Best damn thing you can do to it. You get faster speeds, free themes, no region – locking, a bunch of great emulators and built – in utilities, and even the means to download titles directly from Nintendo’s servers for free. Illegal? Of course. Morally right? Also of course. You see, when a company artificially restricts materials that anybody can reproduce forever, that company controls the marketplace with anti – customer business practices and creates a classist ecosystem where those who can afford to pay for these free materials are those who are treated better. I don’t believe in segregating people based on wealth when the very concept of wealth is irrelevant to the digital age. If it can be copied, it should be copied, plain and simple. Anything else is unjust to the masses, and those who argue against this are those who argue that companies should be able to place even more control over the lives of the customer.

Lately I’ve had too much damn fun with Super Mario Maker. I would spend hours designing courses, comparing them to whatever maps are brought to me by the magic proprietary algorithms that make this game work, and feeling like my chops as a game developer were not entirely unearned. It’s a microcosm of the entire creative process: you think to yourself “man this is dumb” and then leave the map – making function untouched in favour of the off – the – shelf pre – builts. Then you get around to building a map, and have no idea what to do, until you place a few blocks down. Then you form ideas, get some philosophy and themes going on, and suddenly you keep building and building until you have yourself a damn fine piece of work. Indeed, the surest sign of expertise is how “naturally” excellent work comes to you.

You see, Nintendo? I would have never bought your games, my 3DS would have been kept in a desk drawer for even more months, and I wouldn’t be out here recommending your products if I had listened to your nonsense about the “EULA”. Your anti – customer philosophy, screwing over the majority to kill the minority group of filesharers who are partaking in their human right to the art you create, would have killed my high praise of the products you create, meaning that customers who are willing to pay for your products will see this recommendation from someone they trust, and would then buy them. This is such a simple system to understand that I am boggled that so many people are ignorant of basic business, thinking that a company loses value when more of their product is used. Every time somebody shares something, the producer gains value, because copying is an act of love, and people don’t copy what they don’t like.

But now for some things I didn’t like. Super Mario 3D Land was baby mode, unfitting of the Mario name. Rhythm Heaven Megamix had so much junk – food plot and characters involved, with dialogue that was straight – up unfunny into the realm of being filler, that it ruined the reputation of the fine DS title which was all action the whole way through. It’s kind of sad the songs are also not very good (gay lumbercats notwithstanding). Then you had Smash Brothers Four… didn’t find that very fun, because online play is worse than Brawl’s, somehow. Of course, none of this matters in the face of the true 3DS killer app, being WARIOWARE, INC.: MEGA MICROGAME$, BABYYYYYYY. Finally, the 3DS has games.

For the non – Nintendo stuff, we got Bravely Dungeon… that’s a good game, mechanically and æsthetically. It’s a real casual dungeon – crawler, cutting out all the filler of regular RPGs such as long battle animations, a gigantic plot, and a billion different MacGuffins to collect. It’s very intuitive, fast, and simple, you see. See also: catgirls worldwide, and an enemy that is plagarisingly similar to Krystal from Stair Fax. You got Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright. Uh, the writing was just bad on that one. The first court case had this scary chick who never came up and a plot that just assumed some girl was a jewel thief, and it turned out you were right. But the voice acting and anime cutscenes were beautiful, just beautiful, especially with the 3D on, and I really enjoyed the Layton parts more than the Phoenix part I saw. I could only see one court case before I formatted my SD card, but it was really not of the calibre I was expecting from the Ace Attorney series, and it’s caused me to look back with suspicion on all those old GBA novels I liked.

Steamworld Heist is another good game, really surprisingly so. Anybody who says you can’t combine turn – based and real – time combat hasn’t seen this game. No, I’m not bringing up Undertale, bugger off. You play as a bunch of steam – driven robots who are killing each other for water and fighting the Royal Imperial Douchebags; really thick atmosphere, and gameplay that hits that sweet spot between screw – you challenging and giving the player a lot of freedom — at least on the highest difficulty. Basically what happens is you have to move to positions where you can aim and shoot at the enemy, but they can’t shoot you back, and you get a bunch of abilities and weapons that help you survive by the skin of your teeth. I highly recommend this game, but with the caveat you’ll do a bit of grinding if you want to survive on the highest difficulties.

You’ll want to avoid Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, mostly because it’s corporate propaganda that says, “remember these classic Disney® characters that you all grew up with? Here they all are! Please buy our products”. I wouldn’t mind, but the gameplay is so sluggish and stilted, with a bunch of pauses to play connect – the – dots (or just scribble on the Touch Screen a whole bunch) that any platforming or combat enjoyment is thrown into the ground. After an hour I though to myself, “Right, garbage now”, and uninstalled.

Then you got Shovel Knight, baby! But you already know it’s good, so I’ll blow your mind and say the Spectre Knight DLC makes a good game even better! Yes, say goodbye to old – fashioned traditional platforming. Say hello to the new tech of being able to dance around in the air like a rocket jumper on speed, and always with the threat you’ll just fall into a pit, you dancing bint. And there’s also Snake Eater 3D, which fans of Metal Gear continually point to as “the not – crazy one”. Seeing as The Phantom Pain had a plot as cohesive and sensible as Finnigan’s Wake (with a creator who writes about as well, highbrow satire ahoy – hoy), it sure is refreshing to indulge in a nice relaxing game of international political superpower clusterhecks and a bunch of guys who use magic and then explode. Not crazy! Not crazy, guys!

It’s funny how I only ever downloaded these games based off old, old reviews back in Nintendo Power saying they were good, or because I liked the way the screenshots looked. I’ve reverted back to the typical mindset of a consumer, where I am stuck in a digital marketplace and have to rely on outside sources to form an informed purchasing decision. Oh, the horrors! I suppose I do the same thing on Itch, where I download based off the screenshots, whether someone I’m following rated a game, or just by reputation where I have to review it to stay relevant (like FIGHT KNIGHT, whose tumblr I was jealous of for being more popular than mine). History is cyclical. It never gets worse.

On the PC side of things, it’s pretty much DOTA 2. I begrudgingly admit that it is still fun, except for when you have a bunch of people who don’t speak English on servers dedicated for English – speaking players. Dear Hispanics: can you please explain to me why your DOTA players are some of the most incompetent and vitriolic in the whole pool of players? Then there’s the problem of having a team that just generally sucks, what with feeding and all that. I’ve lost games where I was the most hilariously overfarmed player on the team, and I don’t regret those games, because that just means the enemy team was better than me. One things for sure: 95% of the time, I was the best player. Though all those accomplishments are in an online multiplayer game, and therefore nobody gives a high – flying heck about.

I’d like to make my own MOBA someday. Make it the simplest damn thing in the world. Make it less “serious” and focus more on the innate stupidity of online gaming. All multiplayer games eventually devolve into self – parody and memes, so why not take out the middleman and make something designed to be comedic from the ground – up? Is it too big of a task to make the TF2 of MOBAs? I guess there’s nobody to ask, seeing as I just gave my entire audience Terminal Seven.

Other nonsense

You hear about Cowboy Bebop? It’s good! Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an emotional tour – de – force with grand insights about the world and characters that are so shockingly wise you wish you wrote their dialogue. It’s just, simply, a good series with good action and good characters you get to know and learn about. I’m not skilled enough in animation to know how much my mind should be blown at the amount of detail put into each and every scene, though for those of you artistic types, you’ll find a lot to chew on here. Other movies or shows I’ve watched: zero! Yeah, I got caught up with my 3DS, this month.

If the purpose of art is to feel, then what do I feel with these 3DS games? Entertained, I suppose, at the challenges they provide and the manipulation of the systems they present. But in the absence of complicated emotions, such as that provided to me by more traditional art such as drawings, books, and anime, how may I justify the time spend playing this particular type of art? I find, mostly, they are an escape from thinking, where if I only need to focus on this particular Mario Maker map, or this particular DOTA 2 game, then I don’t need to focus on anything else at the moment. Certainly I don’t use it as a pancea. I’ve gotten as much into exercise as I can given the summer climate, and I often use that as a way to think things over. But why must I use games as a means to temporarily forget things that it would be good to think about?

There are certain stresses that a person should feel in order to become a healthy human being. The stress that comes from knowing you haven’t done a good days work is the same as the guilt you feel from having done a personal wrong… you need to act on these indicators that something is wrong in your life, and ignoring them by distracting yourself is just prolonging those awful, awful feelings. If one is entertained legitimately, then perhaps they will feel some joy for a little bit. But joy is a simple emotion, and the more complex ones of the satisfaction earned through making great work is much more filling, and much less addicting. Great art lets us replicate these emotions by inviting us to feel what the artist feels, whether it’s as simple as being horny or as complicated as being infatuated. We have the privilege to act on what we feel, and we shouldn’t throw that away for junk – food feelings.

Games don’t have to be fun. They typically are, because it’s easy to make fun, but it’s a lot harder to have you feel more things than just being entranced for around an hour. You should instead feel enchanted, like spending your time in the game is a privilege, like in Mass Effect or Minecraft where you’ll see new worlds and pave a path that you wouldn’t be able to in any other art form. With little exception, games are the only way to invite a willing audience into your world, and not taking advantage of this gift is one of the biggest techniques that modern gaming hasn’t yet discovered. When you waste the audience’s time with boring plots, ample cutscenes, or updates that take a half – hour to download for the smallest patches, then that shows you not only have a great disrespect for the reason you even exist, but a great disrespect for your entire medium.

And here we find the justification for what I do: reading and writing about different forms of art. I did drawings in 10kB and a bunch of stuff in Froghand, and now I’ve dedicated my ideas about gaming to this willing populace right here. In writing about these areas, I uncover new ideas that many other artists fail to understand, acting as the devil’s advocate for pointing out bad work, and understanding what could better create that work. When I see flawed work, I don’t accept it, because I don’t know these developers, and you shouldn’t forgive people you don’t know for wasting your time on a product that doesn’t deserve to be played. In calling out the failings of a particular group of people, it is not an attack on those people to offer fair criticism on those works. Rather, it is an attack on the entire cultural commons for releasing that poor work in the first place, whether they know it is poor or not.

When we review art, we have to realise we aren’t looking for perfect. Nobody’s perfect, as cliché as it is, but sometimes the most cliché statements are the truest. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and it is more prudent to go for a sure shot than to waste time speculating on what could be. Those who create the highest – quality work aren’t the ones who take the most risks, are the most controversial, and those who are so brilliantly unique that it makes everybody else think they’re on drugs. Rather, the best artists are those who create the best work consistently, for the candle which burns the brightest fades the fastest, and in the long run, you need to burn the longest to survive the war of attrition that the arts end up devolving into.

I know of artists who have created pieces so wonderful that I just want to hold on to them forever, and yet that is the only piece of theirs I like. I have known several more artists who created work that may not be the most brilliant, but it still is brilliant, and their expertise shows in being able to create these brilliant pieces on a consistent basis, to the point where everything they create is a stroke of art. If you ask me to bet on either the lazy genius who hasn’t developed a balanced portfolio, or the consistently – good labourer who puts in the time and effort to get better, then I’ll bet on the latter any day of the year. No employer wants an employee who only does their job 20% of the time. Consistency in art, as in life, is the key to making something special in your life, and being someone special having earned the right to live.

Perfect, you see, is the enemy of the good. And I get I’m not perfect. I don’t put in the work every day — just every other day. I don’t have a super – brilliant website design that makes my jaw gape; it’s just damn functional, with damn good typography, and loads in less than a second on dial – up. There’s no dancing strippers or über – intelligent discourse on anything I do. It’s good work, plain and simple, because good work is good enough, and those who aim for “perfect” are those who are throwing away perfectly – publishable work because, by some arbitrary standard, they choose to sabotage themselves by trying to gild the lily on work that is functionally complete. I have never looked at any of my drafts more than once, and it shows with the typoes I sometimes make. But your greatest enemy isn’t those who snarkily point out such typos: it’s you for worrying so much about an issue that affects less than 1% of the page’s total message. Indeed, don’t be lazy and keep in those errors you notice. But don’t worry about the existence of errors, and understand that you’re allowed to make mistakes.

In essence, it is preferable to be an honest human than to pretend to be a God. We prefer those people who act as people, as gentlemen and not as figureheads or walking brands, and are willing to put in the work knowing that it, like them, are not likely to be the once – in – a – lifetime holy – shit experience that will make troves of apostles come to them for advice on worldly affairs. They put in the work knowing that it’s likely to be something that somebody will think to themselves when they find themselves in a bind, whether caused by themselves or something else, and be in your debt when they appreciate that you had the wisdom to know what they didn’t, and even more generously, shared that wisdom with no expectation of anything in return. You can tell the size of by how much he gives away to those who cannot repay him… pithy quotes make a bad Christmas gift, but the rest of the year, it’s something nobody can do without.

It’s the duty of the artist to be read, and in being read, not abuse that privilege. As the artist who spouts poor opinions find themselves with a salty audience, so does the poorly – designed game find itself with an audience who plays it, and yet wonders why they play it. I believe that we may do better than the electronic simulations we have created, and appreciate the human right to contribute to our culture through good work that deserves to be shared, and appreciate those like yours truly who brings out that good work, explains why it’s good, and then encourages you to go out and do the same. The poor artists says, “Do as I say”. The good artists say, “Do as I do”. But it’s the very best artists, those who function as both teachers and visionaries, who say: “Do as I do, do as I say, and go forth and do likewise”. It takes bravery to be a role model. It means you’re responsible for more than your own life.

I suppose when one indulges in art that doesn’t benefit them in any meaningful way, they shouldn’t be surprised when they find their art has no meaning. Now, this is a real cliché: “The EARTH without ART is just EH”. Really, those bumper stickers should be saying, “Your life without art is ‘eh’”, though there are only so many subjects that can be intelligently discussed on a 10cm space. When one spends their days playing video games that don’t challenge them in any way beyond the game itself, ignoring the possibility for novel worlds, interesting stories, or even the beauty of the mechanics themselves, then they shouldn’t be surprised when they are unfit to deal with the challenges of reality. I come from a background where the solution to all of life’s problems can be found if one has but the drive to look them up and discover them. Art does this… they help us find our problems while ending up being the solution to those very same problems, inspiring hoards of thirsty young humans to be better people because of it.

Am I in the wrong for indulging in this type of junk? I cannot discount the existence of simple, base pleasures, such as “happiness” or “challenge”, though there are so many more dimensions to these emotions than can be found in your typical multiplayer match – up. One can’t ignore their need to breed and expect it to magically go away. Being a functional human being means cumming diamonds once in a while. The same for the need for a good life and the knowledge that they will be secure for the future and against whatever may come. True, some needs are more prudent than others, but I can’t pretend to be above it all even though I know I’m capable of more than the basics. But those basic desires exist, and one can’t call themselves human unless they act on those desires.

Desire to belong, desire to exist, desire to certify that existence and to make your mark on the world before it all fades away, even if that mark is a temporary scar on the fabric of everything that has ever existed, and indeed will exist. We’re not here forever, you know. If being human involves feeling, them we must feel, and that means feeling even the stupid emotions as well as the grand. Fulfillment comes easily to those who work for such, though sometimes you’re satisfied just acting on what you want right now. Those actions aren’t forever, and to act on impulse more than a tiny portion of your entire life means you will find your future as bleak as the present that somebody who would act on impulse feels now, but one should know they have the option.

As Kratzen grows in size but not numbers, it’s helpful to understand the philosophy of the author who makes it. Well… here it is. Pragmatism as the solutions to all ills, the freedom to whatever and the understanding that some choices are just plain wrong, and above it all the demand and desire to become a better human being than what most people even realise they’re capable of. If all of that involves putting in hard work, though still knowing that work isn’t the exclusive mark of a damn good artist, then hard work it is, though never to a fault. It is knowing that, yes, I am but a man, too! And men are supposed to be hedonistic, who act in the pursuit of pleasure and nothing more. I have the privilege to ignore those instincts, and the privilege to exploit them, and I bring the resulting blend of snobbery and sage advice to you all in a periodical that discusses an art form discredited by everyone except those playing these games themselves.

A bit silly, isn’t it, to talk about so much of so little consequence? But I know that art has changed my life in ways innumerable, and if I can help somebody change theirs, them I’m just a right silly clown. Better to be a clown than to be a liar.