Phoenix casino guide: Talking Stick Resort and Casino

"I think I've lived long enough to see competitive Counter-Strike as we know it, kill itself." Summary of Richard Lewis' stream (Long)

I want to preface that the contents of this post is for informational purposes. I do not condone or approve of any harassments or witch-hunting or the attacking of anybody.
 
Richard Lewis recently did a stream talking about the terrible state of CS esports and I thought it was an important stream anyone who cares about the CS community should listen to.
Vod Link here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/830415547
I realize it is 3 hours long so I took it upon myself to create a list of interesting points from the stream so you don't have to listen to the whole thing, although I still encourage you to do so if you can.
I know this post is still long but probably easier to digest, especially in parts.
Here is a link to my raw notes if you for some reason want to read through this which includes some omitted stuff. It's in chronological order of things said in the stream and has some time stamps. https://pastebin.com/6QWTLr8T

Intro

CSPPA - Counter-Strike Professional Players' Association

"Who does this union really fucking serve?"

ESIC - Esports Integrity Commission

"They have been put in an impossible position."

Stream Sniping

"They're all at it in the online era, they're all at it, they're all cheating, they're all using exploits, probably that see through smoke bug got used a bunch of times"

Match Fixing

"How many years have we let our scene be fucking pillaged by these greedy cunts?" "We just let it happen."

North America

"Everyone in NA has left we've lost a continents worth of support during this pandemic and Valve haven't said a fucking word."

Talent

"TO's have treated CS talent like absolute human garbage for years now."

Valve

"Anything that Riot does, is better than Valve's inaction"

Closing Statements

"We've peaked. If we want to sustain and exist, now is the time to figure it out. No esports lasts as long as this, we've already done 8 years. We've already broke the records. We have got to figure out a way to coexist and drive the negative forces out and we need to do it as a collective and we're not doing that."

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I recently caught up to Gintama, and I think you should make it your 2021 goal to at least start it. Here's why I think that.

I know we've all seen Gintama floating around on the internet so often. People saying "watch Gintama!" and posting funny clips of the show all over reddit. I want to take a slightly different approach as to why I loved the show so much. Most of the time you hear, "it's really funny! best comedy!" with the additional "the serious moments are so good!" but I want to share my thoughts on why both aspects of it are so good, and why they work so well together. This post will not contain any major or specific spoilers.
So to start things off, how is the comedy in Gintama? I will warn you ahead of time, Gintama is not afraid to be vulgar. If you're turned off by jokes about private parts and poop, it's not the central focus of the humor but there is a lot of inappropriate humor. There is also a ton of pop culture references, by which I mean one episode may reference about 20 different things. Sometimes there will be entire mini-arcs (3 episodes) dedicated to one parody, something like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure or Dragon Quest. There is also a ton of meta humor. They are not afraid to break the fourth wall, talk about the production of the show, voice actors, filler episodes, etc.
Do you need to understand all the references to enjoy it? I would say it certainly helps if you have a somewhat strong grasp on Japanese culture, popular game and anime franchises, etc, but it's not mandatory. I've seen people go back and forth on this point, and while having a comprehensive knowledge of everything in Japanese media and growing up in Japan will definitely help the enjoyment, I found that with my limited knowledge it was still very fun. Even if I didn't get a reference it was still a silly moment for me, regardless if I knew who they were talking about or not. Plus, if you really want to, you can look up the references later to have an "a ha!" moment and learn more about the pop culture scene.
All of the characters are unique and enjoyable! Everyone has their own personality and their own dynamic with each other. You have the lazy yet (usually) dependable Gintoki, the straight man Shinpachi who's the butt of a lot of jokes, the vulgar overconfident Kagura, the leader of the rebels who is serious to a fault even in ridiculous situations Katsura, I could go on and on. Every character has their own vibe, their own appeal, their own dynamic with other characters, and their own running gags. Every time you see one of them on screen you know what to expect and it always delivers in a satisfying way, to the point where sometimes you'll see two characters interact and you're like, "oh man how will they interact?" It's really fun!
So, comedy aside, what is the plot of the show? The show takes place in Edo, specifically Kabukichō which is an entertainment and red-light district of Shinjuku in real Japan. There are host and hostess clubs, shops, nightclubs, restaurants, casinos, you name it. Aliens known as Amanto attacked Japan and took over, starting the sword ban. Samurai are far and few between and those who remain get by however they can. Enter the main character, Gintoki. A samurai who fought in the war against the invading Amanto, he still carries a wooden sword around and runs a business called Odd Jobs where he'll take on any task, from finding a kitten to stopping an invasion.
It's a very simple premise but it builds up and pays off in great ways. The more serious aspects of the plot come from leftovers of the war, rebels that defy the current government, the police force (Shinsengumi) trying to keep order, and some darker shadows behind the scenes, the truth of the Amanto, and the teacher that raised Gintoki and a few other of the main characters. It leads to some really serious and oftentimes depressing moments in the series.
So, how good are the serious portions? The action portions of the show are a little scarce early on. There's definitely a heavier focus on the comedy. At episode 58 you get your first taste of the true action and plot of the series (yes, I know, that's quite a ways in). From there, there are more mini arcs of about 3-6 episodes each that cover some much more serious topics and push the main plot along and introduce new characters and concepts. There's some really hard hitting backstories for some of the characters as well, often in ways you wouldn't expect. It makes each character feel a bit more real. The choreography, music, and voice acting are all top notch.
How do the comedy and more serious topics blend? This is the main point of my post that I want to make, and I thank you for reading this far. The serious moments really let you see the characters in a more serious light (duh), while the comedy segments let you see them in moments of peace. They're allowed to laugh, have fun, do stupid shit, but when shit hits the fan it often feels like they need to power through it to see those peaceful moments again. The show doesn't make a big point of this, but it's definitely the factor that pulled me in. You wanna see our goofy main trio get past this terrifying moment and be able to joke around again. You want to see the side characters persevere and overcome the odds so they can see tomorrow and laugh along with the rest of the cast. You get invested in the characters during the funny moments, so the serious moments have a stronger impact.
The action and serious scenes are also littered with silly moments or one-liners that make the fights or moments feel more natural. Like Gintoki will drop a one-liner or do something dumb during a serious moment and it's like "yeah that seems about right." He'll make fun of an opponent's name, complain about getting hurt, yelling at the bad guy for overreacting, make dirty distractions to get away, etc. But it always comes back to a satisfying conclusion. The comedy and the action flow seamlessly. A perfect example would be this moment where he fails to make a serious entrance. There's also this story about a dog who was abandoned by his owner. I feel those are my two favorite examples of blending serious with comedy.
Later in the series, especially the last few arcs, the comedy takes a backseat for a much more serious plot. It really makes the stakes feel high and every character feels like a part of this world. It's super well done and I won't say more than that.
Have you been convinced to check out Gintama? It's definitely a long series to get into, but it's absolutely worth it. Try sticking to one episode a day or every few days and you'll always have something to look forward to. Just make sure to skip the first two episodes because they were made as a celebration of the manga getting an anime adaptation, and it expects you to know all the characters (and also just isn't that great). Episode 3 is the proper "episode 1" of the series and begins with the characters meeting for the first time.
Don't think of it as some colossal hurdle to complete, focus on the journey not the destination. Enjoy your ride through the crazy, hilarious, fun, and heartbreaking world of Gintama and I hope you all end up enjoying it! There's definitely a reason that everyone who's seen it regards it so well and now I can confidently say I do too. I'm really excited for the final movie!
Edit: I also want to add that all of Gintama (aside from specials and OVAs) is on Crunchyroll!
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Boke and Hitch (redux)

Hitchcock is Bokenkamp’s greatest inspiration as a creator. No question.
We’ve covered a list of nods to Hitchcock we’ve seen in TBL. From time to time I like to drop in some quotes tying JB and Hitch together. That’s all this post is.
I’ve seen a number of references to films JB has been influenced by—Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, Oceans 11, Three Days of the Codor, Marathon Man, etc—but I’m aware of him referring to only two books: one that contains an interview with Hitchcock, and one about Hitchcock, and one he used as a basis for a screenplay. I think this sheds light on what kind of storyteller he is and what his priorities are.
Here are some relevant remarks JB made in a 2017 interview, which I have posted at least once previously, followed by some Hitchcock references (comments by and about) I pulled together recently. The Hitchcock references might strike a familiar note.
BOKENKAMP
“I’m not good at, ‘Ok, so these are the thematics. It’s a story about love and it’s about X’ .... I read in a book where Hitchcock was talking about movies. He said, ‘We develop a hardy plot and themes emerge as we go along.’ And I thought, Oh thank God. Somebody murdered somebody, they’re burying the body. Later you can go back and figure out, Oh, the body is a metaphor for his mother. I can’t think like that. I’m not smart enough to think that way. For me it’s the big moves. For me it’s about 4 big moves. Or 6. Or 2. Whether it’s an episode or a pitch or a script or movie, I find those moves and then fill in the details.”

Q: With Reddington and why he’s in Agent Keen’s life, what are the mythological archetypes?
A: When you say mythology, I really just mean backstory. I mean, who is —
Q: I thought you meant Joseph Campbell sort of —
A: No, I wish. Oh my God. Nah!
Q: — This is the messenger, and here are the different fairy tales that came from ...
Q: No, that feels very English 101. I’m not, I don’t know that stuff. I feel it: Ok, this is a man versus himself story, man versus nature ... I’m sure we tell those kinds of stories. What I mean when I say we go to the mythology, I just mean we dip into the larger backstory of, What’s really going on? In the X-Files: is the truth really out there? Every third of fourth episode they’d go ... Monster show, monster show, and then they’d have an episode: Here’s a story about these two people, and who are they really, what’s going on with them? So that’s kind of what we do. We flip back and forth. No, I wish we were doing full-on Joseph Campbell stuff. That’d be great.

“You’re borrowing pieces [from films you’ve seen] ... you find little touchstones, little signposts that get you excited. That you want to reference - not reference, rip off. Something like, I want to do something like that! ... look, if it’s a heist movie, I don’t know how I don’t think about Oceans 11. If we’re making a heist episode, what were some of the fun moves there? A sequence with all the people coming together and they all have a different role ... and then you try to make it as different and unique as you can.”
HITCHCOCK
Hitchcock: “I’m not concerned with plausibility. Must film be logical when life is not?”
Hitchcock: “Logic is dull.”
Hitchcock: “Plausibility for the sake of plausibility doesn’t help.”
Hitchcock: "To be quite honest, I am not interested in content at all. I don't give a damn what the film is about. I am more interested in how to handle the material to create an emotion in an audience."
Hitchcock: “Then, of course, the cleverness of the device of transvestism. I am aware that I am equipped with what other people have called a fiendish sense of humor.”
Hitchcock: “I could have made up three scenes just to give that woman a reason for being there, but they would have been completely uninteresting ... Let's be logical. If you're going to analyze everything in terms of plausibility and credibility, then no fiction film can stand up to that approach, and you wind up with a documentary ... To insist that a storyteller stick to the facts is just as ridiculous as to demand of a representative painter that he show objects accurately ... we should have total freedom to do as we like, so long as it’s not dull.”
Hitchcock: “If Pyscho had been in tended as a serious picture, it would have been shown as a clinical case with no mystery or suspense. The material would have been used as a documentation of a case history. We have already mentioned that total plausibility and authenticity merley add up to a documentary. In the mystery-and-suspense genre, a tongue-in-cheek approach is indespensible ... you have to go along with the idea that truth is stranger than fiction.”
Francois Truffaut: "In Hitchcock's personal form of cinematic storytelling, suspense ... plays an important role. [It is] the dilation of a span of time, the exaggeration of a pause, the emphasis on all that makes our hearts beat a little harder, a little faster."
New York Times: “Spinning his sophisticated yarns to create maximum tension, Mr. Hitchcock was not concerned with plausibility, which he regarded as no more important than the MacGuffin, the term he used for the device about which his suspense revolved, whether it be the secret or documents or whatever the villains were seeking or trying to protect.”
New York Times: "Detractors accused Mr. Hitchcock of relying on slick tricks, illogical story lines and wild coincidences, but he usually did not allow viewers time to ponder implausibilities because of the whiplike speed of his films."
New York Times: "Detractors acknowledged his technical expertise in entertaining, but faulted his films for lacking substance and significance, for moral opportunism and for being cynical, superficial and glib in their views of human nature."
New York Times: "Hitchcock was one of the cinema's great psychologists, not so much in his handling of character within his films, but in his handling of his audiences' responses: he seemed, in effect, to direct his audiences far more than he directed his films."
New York Times: "He was the great master of shock effects, of lulling audiences into a sense of security before hitting them hardest."
Vanity Fair:
Another myth about Hitchcock is that he was a perfectionist whose films are models of meticulous pre-production, surface plausibility, and narrative coherence. Using his celebrated storyboards (many of which are reprinted in Hitchcock’s Notebooks), he would map out the movie like an extended comic strip. The actual filming would be a faithful transference of his sketchbook to celluloid.
Hitchcock undeniably did his homework, but his homework often had a lot of holes. Reviewing Secret Agent (1936) in the London Spectator, Graham Greene noted such laughable absurdities as “the secret agent who loudly discusses his instructions in front of the hall porter of a Swiss hotel and who brandishes his only clue to a murder in a crowded casino,” and lamented, “How unfortunate it is that Mr. Hitchcock, a clever director, is allowed to produce and even to write his own films, though as a producer he has no sense of continuity and as a writer he has no sense of life.”
Hitchcock’s work was always glitchy. The critic Manny Farber cited “a speeding car in which the only thing moving is Ingrid Bergman’s overteased coiffure” in Notorious (1946); Rope has a scene in which Farley Granger, giving one of the worst performances of anyone’s career as a member of a Leopold-Loeb pair, smashes a glass he’s holding in a moment of fright and soon after sits down at the piano to play, both hands unbandaged (he would have been bleeding all over the keys); and Camille Paglia considered the New England accent of the shopkeeper in The Birds (1963), which is set in Bodega Bay, California, “a major gaffe.” In Hitchcock’s later work—papier-mâché puppetry of Cold War intrigue such as Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969)—the fakery (rear projections, tacky sets) showed Hitchcock unable to keep up a good front.
Recording such flubs is not to engage in revisionism at Hitchcock’s expense but to place his strengths and flaws in perspective. As Manny Farber wrote, “To put Hitchcock either up or down isn’t the point; the point is sticking to the material as it is, rather than drooling over behind-the-camera feats of engineering.” Hitchcock’s greatness is as a pictorial showman—a creator of billboards—not as a conscientious realist.
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Fifteen Plot Hooks for Small Towns and Villages

I wrote these hooks as part of a blog post about why I love setting quests in small towns and villages. You can find that blog post here, and the full list of plot hooks is below. Let me know what you think, and if you have other hooks for a similar setting, feel free to share!

Missing Child

A young single mother was found murdered and dismembered in her home. The mayor suspects that it was the work of dark magic. To make matters worse, her one-year-old child is missing.

Local Spirits

There is a forest near the village where no one dares to go after nightfall. Lights are seen floating between the trees, and passersby swear that they can hear someone whispering to them in the dark.

Farmer’s Crops

The Rutherfords haven’t been able to bring in a decent harvest since last year. Everyone thought that it was because Farmer Rutherford was a drunk, but now other peoples’ crops are starting to wither and die as well.

Brutes at the Inn

There’s a group of mercenaries that are running a protection racket on the local inn. The innkeeper can’t afford to pay them off any more, but if he misses a payment, they’ll burn his place to the ground.

The Plague

People in the village are falling deathly ill; a handful have already died, and more get sick every day. No one is sure why, but one of the servers at the tavern swears that the water tastes funny.

The Party

The local lord is throwing a banquet, and the party has all been invited. Everyone in town is terrified for them. No one who gets invited to the lord’s banquets ever comes back the same; some don’t come back at all.

The Land Baron

A wealthy landowner just bought up most of the local farmland and threw out the families that lived there. They’ve brought in a massive crew of laborers to start digging. The townsfolk don’t think he’s mining; they think he’s looking for something.

The Priest

The new priest at the local temple is well-liked, but they never seem to be available during the full moon. Last month, a man turned up murdered right after the night of the full moon. The guard captain is convinced that it’s not a coincidence.

The Traveling Salesman

A snake-oil peddler named Dr. Fabulam arrived in town yesterday hawking his wares. Old Gerald showed up at the tavern this morning swearing up and down that when he passed by Dr. Fabulum’s wagon last night, he heard children crying. Of course, Old Gerald says a lot of strange things, so no one’s sure what to believe.

The Pumpkin Patch

Farmer Daggett came into the village tavern yesterday with dry leaves sprouting out of his face. He said that a stranger in robes came across his pumpkin farm waving some strange metal stick the day before and cursed him with a leafy visage. Before he could do anything, the stranger’s companion showed up: a monster with three heads and goat hooves that wrecked his entire farm. Daggett himself was nearly knocked out, but he thought he saw the two of them heading straight into the woods.

Strange Meats

This village is known as the finest producer of beef and pork in the entire region, and the villagers have made a fortune exporting meat to larger towns and cities. Now that you’re here, you’ve noticed something odd: even though carts are leaving the town laden with salted meats every day, you haven’t seen a single cow or pig since you arrived.

What do You Mean, “Bigger”?

Lindy, one of the serving girls at the tavern, won’t stop talking about the rats in the basement. She’s telling everyone that they’re bigger than they used to be. No one paid her much mind, until she went down to the basement one day and never came back up. Even the innkeeper is scared to go down there now.

The Creepy Tree

The grove at the center of town goes through gardeners at an alarming rate. Every couple of months, another one has a grisly accident, and the mayor has to find a new tender for the plants. The townsfolk think it has something to do with the gnarled old tree at the center of the grove. It never grows leaves, but this year, for the first time that anyone can remember, it bore fruit: a single blood-red apple.

The Other Kingpin

Mr. Sharpe, the owner of the local casino, has been used to being the only source of entertainment in the town. Two weeks ago, however, a rich outsider moved into the abandoned building across the street and opened up another casino. It’s just a handful of card tables in a burnt-out hovel, but for some reason, everyone is flocking to it, and Mr. Sharpe is at his wit’s end.

Fortune Teller

Madame Shadowlight appears at the edge of the parade grounds once a year in her harlequin tent to read the fortunes of all who seek her out. She charges only a copper for her services, and the townsfolk revere her. This year, however, she’s scaring them. Anyone who visits her receives the same grim prediction: impending death. Most terrifying of all: Madame Shadowlight is never wrong.
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Designing addicting games

Video games are great. They’re a ton of fun to play and can be a cheap way to occupy your free time. They help people stay in touch with friends or even make new friends. Games are a far more interactive form of entertainment than just watching TV or movies. They keep your brain engaged and usually do a great job of rewarding players for their success. With all these benefits, it’s no surprise then that some people might get addicted. You could probably even make a good argument that all well designed games should be addicting in some way. For this article I want to look at the different ways that games make themselves addicting, decide if this constitutes good or bad gameplay, and finally make a decision on whether companies should make games like this.

Two types of addicting games

From a design perspective, there are two different categories of addicting games. The first category is games that have addictive gameplay. What this means is different from person to person. Some people love the “one more turn” types of games like the Civilization series. Others enjoy the “one more match” multiplayer games that can range from shooters, to MOBAs, to sports games. There’s another group of people that fall in love with MMORPGs and what they have to offer.
The second category of addicting games are the games which employ addicting behavior. In these games, it is not the gameplay itself which is addicting but the way you play the game. These games might include addicting gameplay, but more importantly, they encourage forming habits. For this article, I want to focus on this second category of games and the gacha genre specifically. To be clear, many different types of games use these strategies but the gacha genre seems to rely on these heavily. The recent release of Genshin Impact for PCs got me thinking more about this, and I would like to use it as sort of a case study. In the next sections I’m going to break down all the things that I’ve seen gacha games do to encourage player addiction. I have not played Genshin Impact and know almost nothing about it other than some gameplay videos I’ve seen. I am curious to know how many of these things the game does or will do.

Lowest possible barrier to entry

It’s very important if you want to get new players addicted to your game, you have to get them to try the game first. In the world of video games, the easiest way to accomplish this is to make your game free. What harm could there be in trying out a free game? You see equivalents like this in the real world too. Have you ever heard of a casino where you have to pay to park? What about a casino with a parking lot that is too small? Many casinos will even offer free shuttle services. The most important thing is to get them in and get them started.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Most gacha games will also start you off with one of the strongest characters. This accomplishes three things. First, it helps ensure you will have success immediately when you start playing. Most of the starting content for gacha games is laughably easy. It would almost be impossible to fail. They want to get those success endorphins kicking in as soon as possible. The second reason is that it immediately shows the player the power difference between lower tier characters and higher tier characters. Think of it like a company giving out free samples. First one is on them, but you’re going to have to pay if you want more (either with money or your time). The final reason for doing this, is to help players get over a time gap. For gacha games that have been out for a while, you will often see them enticing new players or returning players with offers for a free highest tier character if you start playing now. People who play gacha games know these characters can be very time consuming to acquire so it helps them feel like they won’t be starting so far behind other players.

Multiplayer content

Speaking of other players, including interactions with other humans is a must for this genre. The most common form of this is PvP matches. The higher your rank, the better your reward. PvP matches allow players who have been playing for a long time or spent a lot of money to feel like they are stronger or better than other players. These types of PvP matches are not set on even ground like most multiplayer focused games. Players don’t start with equal stats and have to rely on their game knowledge or experience. Instead, players with stronger or higher-level characters can straight up beat lower level players every time. It’s their reward for being committed to the game. PvP matches are also a great way to endlessly extend game time.
Multiplayer doesn’t have to mean PvP, however. This might be co-operative content where you join a guild to help chip away at strong bosses or maybe just visit other players’ bases to see what they have and compare. This results in content that you can’t access unless you join a guild or maybe currency that you can’t acquire if you don’t have in game friends. These games are essentially forcing players to join and stay with a community. You are far more likely to stick with a game when you feel like you’re part of the group. Gacha games make sure it is easy to join guilds or fill up your friends list for this reason.

Consistent and repetitive game time required

Here’s a great article about forming new habits. To sum it up, the article states new habits can be formed using a cycle of three things:
  1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
  2. Routine (the actual behavior you perform)
  3. Reward (the benefit from doing the behavior)
Does this sound familiar? What if I list it like this:
  1. Send phone notification that your energy is full or that special productive time is happening right now
  2. Get players to log in at least once daily
  3. Make sure daily quest rewards are the most productive way (if not the only way) to make progress
These games are trying everything in their power to get you to form a habit of playing. They don’t want you to play for 40 hours straight and be done with the game. They might start off with the ability to play a lot, but that doesn’t last. After a while, players end up logging in to do the same few things every day. Gacha games know this gets repetitive and maybe a little boring so they will usually include a way for the game to “auto-play” itself through these daily tasks. At this point, it’s the habit that is important. You’re actually playing the game a lot less now and just logging in to make sure you get your daily reward. It’s not uncommon for gacha games to even include a monthly reward for players who log in every day of the month. You should be skeptical of any game that gives you a reward for simply logging in daily. Chances are good they’re trying to form a habit.
If you’ve been playing one of these games daily for over two months, it’s likely that you have already formed a habit. Does the thought of not playing for a single day make you uneasy? Try it yourself. An even bigger test is to turn off alerts and stop playing for a week. Do you still have a desire to play after one week of not logging in? I find that I usually don’t.

Time limited events

Next up on the checklist are the time limited events or sales. It’s very common in these games to have events that last for maybe two weeks every other month or so. During these events, it is especially important for players to log in daily and do the limited time event quests. These events are often how new characters are introduced and added to the game. Players know that if they want these characters, their best chance of getting them is during this event only.
These types of events are the game design equivalent of the well established limited-time offer. Check out this article on ways to maximize your limited-time offer. How many of these have you seen in gacha games?
Gacha games want you to think that these are just fun, limited time pieces of content to enjoy, but they are also thoroughly designed to persuade you to spend money. By having constant limited time events, players are encouraged to continue playing the game for fear of missing out on new characters. It’s also par for the course that newly released characters or gear are exceedingly strong. This is just one more way to incentivize players to always want the newest characters. They are pretty much guaranteed to be stronger than existing characters. They might eventually get tuned back down but they always start out overly strong especially in games that have PvP content.

Are these games actually fun

I am not ashamed to admit that I love gacha games. To me, it is really fun collecting new heroes and the risk/reward nature of rolling for new characters can be quite satisfying. These types of games often have gameplay that I personally find quite enjoyable too. They can range anywhere from turn based strategy, to tower defense, to action games. It’s almost unfair to call them a genre since it is more like a common mechanic included in a game of some other genre.
“Almost unfair” is important wording here. Inevitably these games all seem to follow the same formula. The game will start on a very high note. There is almost no repetitive gameplay and players are constantly unlocking new features, characters, or areas to explore. Eventually though, you will hit a content gate. It’s impossible for any company to produce new content at a rate faster than players can consume it. Gacha games need you to keep playing forever, however, so they have devised a way to extend content almost indefinitely: the difficulty grind. Figured out how to beat a boss for the first time? Next up is beating it with 200% more health. The only way to do that is to make your characters stronger. The only way to do that is to log in every day and do your daily quests. Welcome to the end game gacha grind. The further in a gacha game you get, the longer and longer it takes to increase your characters’ power.
Some people find this type of grinding to be right up their alley. As much as I enjoy playing these games, they all lead to this same destination and this is usually when I end up moving on to the next game. I’m still waiting for the gacha game which does not try to last forever. Dragging the game on indefinitely doesn’t have to be part of a gacha game, it just fits the business model that gacha games currently use.

Is it wrong to make addicting games

I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I generally tend towards the idea that people are responsible for their own actions. I want to say there is nothing wrong with making an addicting game where people can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a game. After all, who am I to decide what they should do with their time or how they should spend their money? How is it any different than letting someone spend thousands of dollars on shoes, or a purse, or cookie jars, or a car? Something about that, however, just doesn’t sit right with me. After thinking about it more, I realized it’s not an equivalent comparison. For all those other items, there is nothing inherently addictive about the product. Someone might be addicted to collecting shoes, but the shoe itself has no addictive properties.
I’m willing to go one step further. It’s OK to design an addictive game if the results of that addiction are not an immediate and direct benefit to the company. For example, I have heard from many fans of the Civilization games (myself included) that they have on occasion played until the sun unexpectedly starts rising the next morning. To me, that definitely sounds like addictive gameplay and the impact to the player could be considered harmful. Firaxis, however, did not benefit in any direct way from me staying up all night playing the game. Maybe I’m more likely to buy an expansion or the next version of the game, but while in the middle of this activity, there were no direct or immediate steps I could take that would benefit the company. The gameplay being addictive wasn’t designed to lead to anything other than the person playing the game more. If you are a satisfied customer, the company doesn’t care if you played for 10 hours, 50 hours, or 200 hours. If there was a game out there which used every one of the addicting tactics I listed above, I would have no issue with that if there was no way to spend additional money on the game. I’ve not heard of a game like this, but it’s possible one exists.
The gacha games I know of, however, most certainly do benefit directly and immediately from players being addicted. By allowing players to spend endless amounts of money, it is in their best interest for you the player to get addicted and play the game for as long as possible spending as much money as possible along the way. It’s hard to argue they think otherwise when these types of games include pricing models that are so far outside the previously established pricing norms for video games. A fully priced AAA game typically sells for $60. Maybe there is a collector’s edition which could sell for up to $150 dollars. In that case, you know exactly what extra you are buying with your money. It is guaranteed to arrive with the product. Gacha games, however, will let you spend hundreds of dollars every single day with no guarantee of acquiring what you hope to get. Again, in theory, there is nothing wrong with a game allowing players to spend as much money as they want on the game. But how can I interpret a game designed to be behaviorally addicting while also allowing unlimited spending as anything other than malicious? It is the combination of these two things which leaves such a bad taste in my mouth.
In the end, I do think companies have a moral obligation to not take advantage of their customers. Making games like this does tell me what you think of me as a customer. You view me as a target to extract as much wealth from as possible. If the industry keeps going this direction, it will only be a matter of time before regulations are put in place to protect consumers, much like a legal drinking, smoking, or gambling age. Here’s one company that was willing to openly talk about the issue and I think they should be applauded for it. Companies don’t have to use this design and business model to make a profit, it just allows them to make a bigger profit. Ultimately, the choice is yours to play games of this nature. I know many people who’ve played games like this for years and never spent a dime. You should just know what you’re getting into. It’s the equivalent of putting health warnings on cigarette boxes. For anyone that’s played Genshin Impact, how did I do? Does the game break the mold, or does it follow the tried and proven path?

https://hexanephgames.com/2020/10/23/designing-addicting-games/
submitted by Hexadis to gamedev [link] [comments]

Gravity's Rainbow Group Read | Sections 22-25 | Week 7

Slothrop's Hawaiian Shirt by Zak Smith (2006).
I just want to begin by thanking u/Bloomsdayclock for coordinating this endeavor, for all of the previous posts thus far, and for the enthusiastic interaction and scholarship that’s been happening in the comments for each post. This group read has rekindled my love for this book and is helping me understand it in so many different ways and in such greater depth that it's honestly like I’m reading a different book at this point. Also, kudos to each previous poster for creating a coherent post! The book is complex enough on its own but once you start going down the rabbit hole, sussing out the references, reading through some of the scholarship, etc., I almost found myself paralyzed by information overload (kinda feeling a bit like Charlie Kelly trying to figure out who “Pepe Silvia” is :) ). When this reading group started, I was like, “damn, I’m trying to read this insanely complex novel and the group posts are just as long, dense, and complex” and now I’ve gone and written some super long and dense post, too. To paraphrase either Blaise Pascal or Mark Twain (or Woodrow Wilson or apparently a rather large number of dead white guys from history): I would have written a shorter post if I’d had the time! Apologies in advance!
Anyways, this post will (attempt to) cover the start of the second section of the novel, Un Perm’ au Casino Hermann Goering. The events that transpire are zany and sinister, titillating and deeply sad. There is a mix of images both gorgeous and disgusting and much of the planning and plotting that took place at “The White Visitation” during the first section are starting to come to fruition in part deux. For each “Episode”, I will provide a general summary of the “action” and then some commentary and we’ll finish this post up with a few discussion questions. Let’s begin!
Episode 22
Summary
Slothrop is on furlough/leave at a casino in Monaco (from what I’ve read...I thought it was France before, still not completely sure) that’s been renamed in honor of the big fat slob that led Hitler’s air force during the war. He’s in paradise but wakes up “...[waiting] for a sudden noise to begin his day, a first rocket” (p. 181). His friend Tantivy Mucker-Maffick and a somewhat suspicious friend of his, Teddy Bloat (“[there’s] something about the way he talks to Slothrop, patronizing? Maybe nervous…” (p. 182)), are staying down the hall. They’re talking about meeting some girls but, as the first song of the section reminds us, Englishmen can be very shy. Slothrop is happy to help his “buddies” out, but tells them not to “expect [him] to put it in for [them]” (p. 183). Classic Slothrop!
Slothrop decides to wear a hideous (or amazing, depending on your sensibilities) genuine Hawaiian shirt that he received from his brother Hogan in the Pacific. The shirt seems to emit a glow (once he steps into the sun, it “blazes into a refulgent life of its own” (!) (p. 184), so Tantivy, “friend” that he is, tries to convince Slothrop to cover it up with scratchy Savile Row coat.
The trio hit the beach and the ladies are on them already. They’ve got food and booze and are ready for a nice day on the beach. The morning seems too good even for a bit of the “early paranoia”. And then Bloat ruins everything by drawing Slothrop’s attention to the woman down the beach being attacked by “the biggest fucking octopus Slothrop has ever seen outside of the movies”. Slothrop rushes off to intervene and, left without recourse, starts trying to bash the cephalopod on the head with a wine bottle to no avail. Thankfully, Bloat just happens to have a big, tasty crab on his person, which he tosses to Slothrop with the advice, “It’s hungry, it’ll go for the crab. Don’t kill it, Slothrop.” Slothrop uses the crab to bait away the animal from its current prey, noticing that it does not seem to be in good mental health. He eventually tosses the crab, like a discus, into the sea, and the octopus follows. The damsel has been saved, Slothrop is championed as a brave hero and his first thought is where in the fuck did that crab come from.
The exchange:
“Tantivy smiles and flips a small salute. “Good show!” cheers Teddy Bloat. “I wouldn’t have wanted to try that myself!”
“Why not? You had that crab. Saaay-where’d you get that crab?”
“Found it,” replies Bloat with a straight face. Slothrop stares at this bird but can’t get eye contact. What th’ fuck is going on?” (p. 187).
The damsel thanks Slothrop. Her ID bracelet identifies her as Katje Borgesius. Slothrop feels like he knows her and “...voices begin to take on a touch of metal, each word a hard-edged clap, and the light, though as bright as before, is less able to illuminate….it’s a Puritan reflex of seeking other orders behind the visible, also known as paranoia, filtering in…” (p. 188). How does Slothrop deal with this? By dividing up his present company into a dichotomy: the increasingly drunk Tantivy, “a messenger from Slothrop’s innocent, pre-octopus past” flirting with the girls and Bloat, “perfectly sober, mustache unruffled, regulation uniform [on the fucking beach!], watching [him] closely” (p. 188). And then there’s Katje, who, with her glance, makes Slothrop think she knows something (what?), asking him “Did you know all the time about the octopus? I thought so because it was so like a dance-all of you” (p. 188). Well, fuck me! Katje then tells “Little Tyrone” to be “very careful” and that “Perhaps, after all, we were meant to meet…” (p. 189). Now that’s a “meet cute” for ya!
Commentary/Questions
  1. Is the casino fully owned and controlled by Them at this point (is César Flebótomo (Spanish for “sandfly”) a(n) (un)willing patsy in Their employ?). Is it the “lab” for this “phase” of the Slothrop experiment. Or is it just secured enough to ensure the results of the experiment aren’t tainted by some unforeseen variable/interference?
  2. Teddy Bloat seems like a purposeful pun in reference to the bureaucracy of government/intel agencies
  3. Tantivy Mucker-Maffick’s name is also filled with meaning
  4. Songs are one way that Pynchon fills his book with “the language of the preterite”, a term from Weisenburger used to describe the “slang, underworld cant, songs, games, folk-genres, and material culture” used by Pynchon to pit “open, unsanctioned, and “low” languages” against the “closed, orthodox, privileged language of a culture”. This idea is expanded on by literary critic/philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin who notes that the “heteroglossic” aspect of novels allows them to be radical, open-ended artworks filled with a variety of voices that each embody a particular time and place (his term for this idea is a “chronotope”).
  5. The whole episode is just soaked in paranoia, from beginning to end. Whatever Slothrop thought he thought he was feeling in Section 1 has been taken up a notch. He senses a plot but keeps playing along.
  6. Is “Borgesius” a tribute to J.L. Borges?
  7. “Little Tyrone” echoes “Baby Tyrone” from Jamf’s experiments and maybe is supposed to make us realize that while the antics in this episode could possibly be construed as a “loss” of Slothrop’s “innocence” that was actually taken from him as a baby.
Episode 23
Summary
Dr. Porkyevitch (“Porky the pig”?) and “Grisha” (“[frisking] happily in his special enclosure”) stare back at the “blazing bijou” of the Casino from their ship, contemplating their future now that they may no longer be of use to Pointsman, yearning for traces of the Russia they’ve been exiled from.
To the casino: Katje is a vision in shades of green and is escorted by a two-star general and a brigadier. Is it Pudding? RHIP :) Slothrop and Tantivy in the dining room. Slothrop raises the “The Ballad of Tantivy Mucker-Maffic” to get the room singing of his friend’s drunken exploits so that he can speak to Katje who uses the cacophony to invite him to her room after midnight!
Slothrop then probes his buddy to see if he notices anything funny going on. Tantivy brushes him off a bit (“there’s always, you know, an element of Slothropian paranoia to contend with…”(p. 192)) but then concedes that the bastard Bloat is receiving coded messages. Ha! And it turns out Bloat has become a bit of a different man over the last few years, something more than being “Blitz rattled”. He’s also warned Tantivy away from Katje (“I’d stay clear of that one if I were you” (p. 193)) and Tantivy feels used by Bloat (“being tolerated for as long as he can use me” (p. 193)). The encounter ends with Tantivy telling Slothrop to be careful and, should he need help, he’ll be there for him.
At midnight, Slothrop leaves for his rendezvous with Ms. Borgesius, “ascending flights of red-carpeted stairway (Welcome Mister Slothrop Welcome To Our Structure We Hope You Will Enjoy Your Visit Here)” (p. 194). Arriving, he teases her about her date at dinner and then about their slightly sinister “meet cute” while examining her closet which is absolutely filled to the brim with a variety of outfits. The “Too Soon To Know (Fox-Trot)” before they get down to it. As he is undressing her, he notices “...the moonlight only whitens her back, and there is a still a dark side, her ventral side, her face, than he can no longer see, a terrible beastlike change coming over muzzle and lower jaw, black pupils growing to cover the entire eye space till whites are gone and there’s only the red animal reflection when the light comes to strike no telling when the light-” (p. 196). Yikes! As they fuck, she wonders if his “careful technique” is for her or “wired into the Slothropian Run-together they briefed her on”. Either way, “she will move him, she will not be mounted by a plastic shell” (p. 196-197).
Then, a slapstick fight with a seltzer bottle (planted by Them?) that has Slothrop looking for a banana cream pie to toss (classic!) after which they fall asleep, lying like two Ss. In the morning, their post-coital bliss is interrupted as Little Tyrone is rudely awakened by the sound of someone robbing his pants in the room next door. He chases after the thief, first naked, then dressed in a purple satin bedsheet. As he’s chasing, from way down the hallway, “a tiny head appears around a corner, a tiny hand comes out and gives Slothrop the tiny finger” (p. 199). Haha! He chases the thief up a tree only to have the tree cut down while he’s in it. The thief escapes and Bloat and some general find Slothrop a mess.
Bloat takes Slothrop to his room where, “every stitch of clothing he owns is gone, including his Hawaiian shirt. What the fuck. Groaning, he rummages in the desk. Empty. Closets empty. Leave papers, ID, everything, taken… Hogan’s shirt bothers him most of all” (p. 201). Nobody knows where Tantivy’s gone off to. Bloat gives Slothrop a uniform (“a piece of Whitehall on the Riviera” (p. 201)) which doesn’t fit but the book advises, “Live wi’ the way it feels mate, you’ll be in it for a while” (p. 201). Slothrop ponders the meaning of the architecture and design of his surrounds, but “shortly, unpleasantly so, it will come to him that everything in this room [The Himmer-Spielsaal, no less] is being used from something different. Meaning things to Them it has never meant to us. Never. Two orders of being, looking identical….but, but….” (p. 202). THE WORLD OVER THERE. Against this realization Slothrop issues the only spell he knows, a defiant “Fuck You”. Walking, rainstorm, entertainment at the casino, no one has seen the dancing girls from the drunken breakfast, Slothrop is “finding only strangers where he looks” before freaking out in the casino, then getting wet in the rain, then returning to Katje, the only place he knew to come.
Commentary
  1. I love “The Ballad of Tantivy Mucker-Maffic” and would like to write a similar tune about the inebriated shenanigans committed by my best friend and I during college.
  2. The bit about Oxford and Harvard not really existing to educate was a nice touch (p. 193)
  3. “Snazzy” is an “Americanism” in the 40s! (p. 195).
  4. Slothrop ponders an impending loss of innocence (but, again, it seems like that has already happened). He has nothing and no one in a foreign country and the sensation that his life is being purposefully, possibly nefariously influenced by forces he can vaguely perceive. “It’s here that saturation hits him, it’s all this playing games, too much of it, too many games: the nasal, obsessive voice of a croupier he can’t see...is suddenly speaking out of the Forbidden Wing directly to him, and about what Slothrop has been playing against the invisible House, perhaps after all for his soul, all day - terrified, he turns, turns out into the rain again where the electric lights of the Casino, in full holocaust, are glaring off the glazed cobbles.” And then, “How did this all turn against him so fast? His friends old and new, every last bit of paper and clothing connecting him to what he’s been, have just, fucking, vanished. How can he meet this with any kind of grace?” (p. 205)
  5. The word “holocaust” is used quite a bit in this story
  6. Setting this all in the casino is a nice touch: there is the illusion of chance and luck in a casino but the house always wins.
  7. The juxtaposition of the comic (seltzer fight) with the tragic (Slothrop alone, trying to understand what’s happening) heightens both effects.
Episode 24
Summary
They wake up with Katje calling slothrop a pig, which responds to by oinking. At breakfast, he is taking a refresher course in technical German and learning about The Rocket. His tutor, Sir Stephen Dodson-Truck (who speaks 33 languages!) aiding his understanding of German circuit schematics by way of ancient German runes. Slothrop understands immediately that Dodson-Truck is in on the plot but not sure how (“There are times when Slothrop can actually find a clutch mechanism between him and Their iron-cased engine far away up a power train whose shape and design he has to guess at, a clutch he can disengage, feeling then all his inertia of motion, his real helplessness… it is not exactly unpleasant, either. Odd thing. He is almost sure that whatever They want, it won’t mean risking his life, or even too much of his comfort. But he can’t fit any of it into a pattern, there’s no way to connect somebody like Dodson-Truck with somebody like Katje…. The real enemy’s somewhere back in that London anyways” (p. 207).
Back in the Himmler-Spielsaal: “in the twisted gilt playing-room his secret motions clarify for him, some. The odds They played here belonged to the past, the past only. Their odds were never probabilities, but frequencies already observed. It’s the past that makes demands here. It whispers, and reaches after, and sneering disagreeably, gooses its victims.
When they choose numbers, red, black, odd, even, what did They mean it? What Wheel did They set in motion?
Back in a room, early in Slothrop’s life, a room forbidden to him now, is something very bad. Something was done to him and it may be that Katje knows what. Hasn’t he, in her “futureless look,” found some link to his own past, something that connects them closely as lovers?” (p. 208-209). “It is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola.”
No more news from London or Achtung. Bloat is gone now, too. Sir Stephen and Katje with their identical Corporate Smiles to dazzle him while they rob his identity. But! “He lets it happen” (p. 210).
Slothrop is getting hardons after his rocket study sessions and then goes looking for relief with Katje. Sir Stephen appears to be timing these erections! So, Slothrop gets the smart idea to get him drunk via a drinking game and many, many people end up getting sloshed on some high class bubbly. Half the room is singing the “Vulgar Song”. Slothrop and Sir Steve get pretty hammered and start walking through a nice sunset, where Slothrop sees robed figures, hundreds of miles tall, on the horizon. Sir Stephen informs Slothrop that he’s got “potency issues” (which makes him the perfect observer for Slothrop’s sexual misadventures… “no nasty jissom getting all over their reports, you know” (p. 216)). He’s about to tell Slothrop the secret of “The Penis He Thought Was His Own”...
...but then starts waxing nostalgic about Sir Stephen’s son and his wife, Nora and her “Ideology of the Zero”. An interlude with Eventyr, Sachsa, Leni… “but where will Leni be now? Either we didn’t mean to lose her - either it was an ellipsis in our care, in what some of us even swear is our love, or someone has taken her, deliberately, for reasons being kept secret, and Sachsa’s death is part of it too” (p. 218). More on Sachsa’s death.
Then, Sir Stephen vanishes (“but not before telling Slothrop that his erections of high interest to Fitzmaurice House”). Katje is pissed that Slothy got Sir Steve drunk enough to dish on the plot. They fight and then fuck. More rocket study sessions. The rocket taking off looks like a peacock, def pfau. Slothrop pressing for more information, Katje rebuffing, warning/advising“Oh, Slothrop… You don’t want me. What they’re after may, but you don’t. No more than A4 wants London. But I don’t think they know...about other selves...yours or the Rocket’s. No more than you do. If you can’t understand it now, at least remember. That’s all I can do for you” (p. 224).
Then, “They go back up to her room again: cock, cunt, the Monday rain at the windows” (p. 224) (Oh, Tom, you romantic!). And finally, a bit of kazoo music, a final night together, and Katje disappears, too.
Commentary
  1. Slothrop makes an important connection to his childhood and wonders if Katje knows about it/whether she’s with him because of it (ol’ Pynch even manages to work in the rocket, too!): “You were in London while they were coming down. I was in ‘s Gravenhage while they were going up. Between you and me is not only a rocket trajectory but also a life. You will come to understand that between the two points, in the five minutes, it lives an entire life. You haven’t even learned the data on our side of the flight profile, the visible or trackable. Beyond them there’s so much more, so much none of us know” (p. 209).
  2. More on the import of setting the action in the Casino: “The Forbidden Wing. Oh, the hand of a terrible croupier is that touch on the sleeves of his dreams: all his life of what has looked free or random, is discovered to’ve been under some Control, all the time, the same as a fixed roulette wheel-where only destinations are important, attention is to long-term statistics, not individuals: and where the House does, of course, keep turning a profit…” (p. 209).
  3. A beautiful passage: “‘Holy shit.” This is the kind of sunset you hardly see any more, a 19th-century wilderness sunset...this anachronism in primal red, in yellow purer than can be found anywhere today, a purity begging to be polluted...of course Empire took its way westward, what other way was there but into those virgin sunsets to penetrate and to foul” (p. 214). Always dualities in this book.
  4. “A pornography of blueprints” (p. 224). is a nice turn of phrase.
  5. Foreshadowing: “She has her hair combed high today in a pompadour, her fair eyebrows, plucked to wings, darkened, eyes rimmed in black, only the outboard few lashes missed and left blond.
  6. Connection to Nabokov: I really do think “Signs and Symbols” influenced this novel. Lines like this, “Here it is again, that identical-looking Other World - is he gonna have this to worry about, now? What th’ - lookit these trees - each long frond hanging, stuny, dizzying, in laborious dry point against the sky, each so perfectly placed…” (p. 225) remind me so much of the atmosphere in the story (itself about paranoia (“referential mania”)). This is a key excerpt from the Nabokov ditty: “In these very rare cases the patient imagines that everything happening around him is a veiled reference to his personality and existence. He excludes real people from the conspiracy - because he considers himself to be so much more intelligent than other men. Phenomenal nature shadows him wherever he goes. Clouds in the staring sky transmit to one another, by means of slow signs, incredibly detailed information regarding him. His inmost thoughts are discussed at nightfall, in manual alphabet, by darkly gesticulating trees. Pebbles or stains or sun flecks form patterns representing in some awful way messages which he must intercept. Everything is a cipher and of everything he is the theme.” Obviously this guy is, uh, slightly more clinical, but I still think the atmosphere/tone is similar between the two.
Episode 25
Summary
We begin this episode with a Pavlov lecture about the physiological symptoms of hysteria and one of Pointsman’s poems (which he never shows to anyone). Then to the “White Visitation” chaps (Pointsman, Grunton, Throwster, Groast) rumor-mongering about their future. Things are looking bleak. Pudding might cut off funding, “Slothrop’s knocked out Dodson-Truck and the girl in one day” (p. 227), and Sir Steven’s got the P.M.’s son-in-law making embarrassing inquiries. But Pointsman is calm. Very calm. In fact, “[b]y facing squarely the extinction of his program, he has gained a great bit of Wisdom: that if there is a life force operating in Nature, still there is nothing so analogous in bureaucracy. Nothing so mystical. It all comes down, as it must, to the desires of individual men. Oh, and women too, of course, bless their empty little heads. But survival depends on having strong enough desires - on knowing the System better than the other chap, and how to use it. It’s work, that’s all it is, and there’s no room for any extrahuman activities - they only weaken, effeminize the will: a man either indulges them, or fights to win, und so weiter” (p. 230). And then we find out that Pointman’s figured out how to play Pudding to keep his support (more on that in a bit…) as he’s figured out Treacle, Groast, and Throwster, how to use them and manipulate them to get what he wants. What a fucking devious guy!
Webley Silvernail sticks around after the meeting and imagines the lab animals putting on a beguine performance of a song called “Pavlovia” (right after this realization by Silvernail: “From overhead, from a German camera-angle, it occurs to Webley Silvernail, this lab here is also a maze...but who watches from above, who notes their reponses?” (p. 229)). And it’s all song and dance for a bit but since it’s Pynchon, it’s followed by an incredible poignant/tragic moment of clarity: “They have had their moment of freedom. Webley has only been a guest start. Now it’s back to the cages and the rationalized forms of death-death in the service of the one species cursed with the knowledge that it will die…. “I would set you free, if I knew how. But it isn’t free out here. All the animals, the plants, the minerals, even other kinds of men, are being broken and reassembled every day, to preserve an elite few, who are the loudest to theorize on freedom, but the least free of all. I can’t even give you hope that it will be different someday - that They’ll come out, and forget death, and lose Their technology’s elaborate terror, and stop using every other form of life without mercy to keep what haunts men down to a tolerable level - and be like you instead, simply here, simply alive….” The guest star retires down the corridors” (p. 230). What a soliloquy. [Tangent: almost 50 years later, how prescient is this passage?! This little monologue filled me with so many conflicting emotions: hope (because humans like Pynchon exist to dream this stuff up) and also dread because this paragraph describes a fundamental aspect and egregious flaw (or flaws) in human nature. Reading and re-reading this passage depresses me a little (hence my question about mental health below).
Now Pudding is sneaking about the bowels of “The White Visitation”. He heads past the cells of loonies on his way to a secret rendezvous. It seems like Pointsman may have drugged him at some point to get at hidden desires. We watch as our dear old Brigadier putters from room-to-room, finding items left for him by Pointsman that mock him and describe his descent into a personal hell (for info on the symbolism, the Weisenburger book is quite helpful).
In the final room, Pudding drops to his knees at the feet of his Domina Nocturna (with “her blond hair...tucked and pinned beneath a thick black wig”... “naked except for a long sable cape and black boots with court heels” (p. 233)). Pudding is thinking of the night they first met. He saw “her” “...through the periscope, underneath a star shell that hung in the sky, he saw her….and though he was hidden, she saw Pudding. Her face was pale, she was dressed all in black, she stood in No-man’s Land, the machine guns raked their patterns all around her, but she needed no protection. “They knew you, Mistress. They were your own.
And so were you” (p. 233).
And then he offers her a “nice” memory of a legion of Franco’s troops killing and getting killed at a massacre at Badajoz for which he is “rewarded” with her beating and then pissing and shitting in his mouth… … … …
However off-putting this may be for some (most), it does something for Pudding. He needs pain. “They have stuffed paper illusions and military euphemisms between him and this truth, this rare decency, this moment at her scrupulous feet….no it’s not guilt here, not so much as amazement - that he could have listened to so many years of ministers, scientists, doctors each with his specialized lies to tell, when she was here all the time, sure in her ownership of his failing body, his true body: undisguised by uniform, uncluttered by drugs to keep from him her communiqués of vertigo, nausea and pain. Above all, pain. The clearest poetry, the endearment of greatest worth…” (p. 234-235).
Munching down on a hot turd makes Pudding think of the horrible smells of his service during WWI: putrid mud, rot, death, “...the sovereign smell of their first meeting, and her emblem” (p. 235). After eating her shit, he jerks off (his release), in a style that Domina Nocturna has learned from watching Captain Blicero and Gottfriend (at this point, it is safe to say, Domina Nocturna is Katje. Will we ever be able to look at her the same?).
Pudding is then dismissed to “...a late-night cup of broth, routine papers to sign, a dose of penicillin that Pointsman has ordered him to take, to combat the effects of E. Coli” (p. 236). So thoughtful, that Pointsman...
Commentary
  1. The Silvernail hallucination/phantasmagoria seems like something straight out of “The Big Lebowski” had Jodorowsky had a bit of influence over the Coen Bros. art direction. Many of the songs in this section feel “Lebowski-esque” but this one especially so to me. Maybe its the detailed choreographic notes: “They dance in flowing skeins. The rats and mice form circles, curl their tails in and out to make chrysanthemum and sunburst patterns, eventually all form into the shape of a single giant mouse, at whole eye Silvernail poses with a smile” (p. 230).
  2. The Franco bit is a nice way of linking facism and death worship
  3. Pudding eating Domina Nocturna’s shit really, to quote an earlier passage, gave “de wrinkles in mah brain a process!”. There is so much symbolism there! Instead of ascending to heaven, Pudding heads down to hell. We have so many dualities linked in the act: between young and old, sacred and profane, pleasure and pain, pleasure through pain, WWI and WW2, man and woman, life and death, the general as a slave, even the food transformed through Katje into waste, all linked through the act of eating shit. For a moment they are linked so intimately, so delicately. No parabolas, a circle. And, of course, there’s also the diabolical Pointsman in the background, pulling the strings and manipulating to keep Pudding in line. I remember reading this for the first time and just being shocked and confused and now reading it again and finding so much meaning. That ol’ Pynchon is a devious bastard, hiding such loaded symbolism in such an obscene encounter. The Pulitzer committee had no idea what was coming for them!
So, if you’ve reached this point, congratulations and I am sorry! Here are my discussion questions. Looking forward to future posts!
Discussion Questions Both On Topic and Tangential
  1. Why is paranoia described as a “Puritan reflex” in Episode 22?
  2. In Episode 23, as Slothrop peruses Katje’s extensive wardrobe, what is the significance of the line, “Aha! wait a minute, the operational scent in here is carbon tet, Jackson, and this wardrobe here’s mostly props” (p. 195)?
  3. In Episode 24, what’s the significance of “the watchmen of world’s edge”? Is this an intrusion of the spirit world? Is Slothrop just hallucinating?
  4. In Episode 24, when Peter Sachsa gets the blow to the temple from Schutzmann Jöche, why is his last thought, “How beautiful!” (p. 220)
  5. In Episode 25, there’s a line in the part where Pudding is sneaking around: “A voice from some cell too distant for us to locate intones:...” (p. 231). Why us here? Why the change in perspective?
  6. How’s this book affecting everyone’s mental health (you know, given that we’re in the end times right now)? Seriously, though, there are times when this book makes me so happy to be alive and proud of humanity and also times where it depresses the everloving shit out of me and makes me think that, as a species, we’re doomed to continue making the same mistakes, over and over again, until we end up destroying ourselves.
  7. In a similar vein, do you think people as prodigiously talented and brilliant as Pynchon have any responsibility to counter the evil they see in the world? Is writing books enough or should they do more (lead, teach, etc.) to fight against the awful things they are able to see before the rest of us do?
Resources
submitted by grigoritheoctopus to ThomasPynchon [link] [comments]

Designing addicting games

Video games are great. They’re a ton of fun to play and can be a cheap way to occupy your free time. They help people stay in touch with friends or even make new friends. Games are a far more interactive form of entertainment than just watching TV or movies. They keep your brain engaged and usually do a great job of rewarding players for their success. With all these benefits, it’s no surprise then that some people might get addicted. You could probably even make a good argument that all well designed games should be addicting in some way. For this article I want to look at the different ways that games make themselves addicting, decide if this constitutes good or bad gameplay, and finally make a decision on whether companies should make games like this.

Two types of addicting games

From a design perspective, there are two different categories of addicting games. The first category is games that have addictive gameplay. What this means is different from person to person. Some people love the “one more turn” types of games like the Civilization series. Others enjoy the “one more match” multiplayer games that can range from shooters, to MOBAs, to sports games. There’s another group of people that fall in love with MMORPGs and what they have to offer.
The second category of addicting games are the games which employ addicting behavior. In these games, it is not the gameplay itself which is addicting but the way you play the game. These games might include addicting gameplay, but more importantly, they encourage forming habits. For this article, I want to focus on this second category of games and the gacha genre specifically. To be clear, many different types of games use these strategies but the gacha genre seems to rely on these heavily. The recent release of Genshin Impact for PCs got me thinking more about this, and I would like to use it as sort of a case study. In the next sections I’m going to break down all the things that I’ve seen gacha games do to encourage player addiction. I have not played Genshin Impact and know almost nothing about it other than some gameplay videos I’ve seen. I am curious to know how many of these things the game does or will do.

Lowest possible barrier to entry

It’s very important if you want to get new players addicted to your game, you have to get them to try the game first. In the world of video games, the easiest way to accomplish this is to make your game free. What harm could there be in trying out a free game? You see equivalents like this in the real world too. Have you ever heard of a casino where you have to pay to park? What about a casino with a parking lot that is too small? Many casinos will even offer free shuttle services. The most important thing is to get them in and get them started.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Most gacha games will also start you off with one of the strongest characters. This accomplishes three things. First, it helps ensure you will have success immediately when you start playing. Most of the starting content for gacha games is laughably easy. It would almost be impossible to fail. They want to get those success endorphins kicking in as soon as possible. The second reason is that it immediately shows the player the power difference between lower tier characters and higher tier characters. Think of it like a company giving out free samples. First one is on them, but you’re going to have to pay if you want more (either with money or your time). The final reason for doing this, is to help players get over a time gap. For gacha games that have been out for a while, you will often see them enticing new players or returning players with offers for a free highest tier character if you start playing now. People who play gacha games know these characters can be very time consuming to acquire so it helps them feel like they won’t be starting so far behind other players.

Multiplayer content

Speaking of other players, including interactions with other humans is a must for this genre. The most common form of this is PvP matches. The higher your rank, the better your reward. PvP matches allow players who have been playing for a long time or spent a lot of money to feel like they are stronger or better than other players. These types of PvP matches are not set on even ground like most multiplayer focused games. Players don’t start with equal stats and have to rely on their game knowledge or experience. Instead, players with stronger or higher-level characters can straight up beat lower level players every time. It’s their reward for being committed to the game. PvP matches are also a great way to endlessly extend game time.
Multiplayer doesn’t have to mean PvP, however. This might be co-operative content where you join a guild to help chip away at strong bosses or maybe just visit other players’ bases to see what they have and compare. This results in content that you can’t access unless you join a guild or maybe currency that you can’t acquire if you don’t have in game friends. These games are essentially forcing players to join and stay with a community. You are far more likely to stick with a game when you feel like you’re part of the group. Gacha games make sure it is easy to join guilds or fill up your friends list for this reason.

Consistent and repetitive game time required

Here’s a great article about forming new habits. To sum it up, the article states new habits can be formed using a cycle of three things:
  1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
  2. Routine (the actual behavior you perform)
  3. Reward (the benefit from doing the behavior)
Does this sound familiar? What if I list it like this:
  1. Send phone notification that your energy is full or that special productive time is happening right now
  2. Get players to log in at least once daily
  3. Make sure daily quest rewards are the most productive way (if not the only way) to make progress
These games are trying everything in their power to get you to form a habit of playing. They don’t want you to play for 40 hours straight and be done with the game. They might start off with the ability to play a lot, but that doesn’t last. After a while, players end up logging in to do the same few things every day. Gacha games know this gets repetitive and maybe a little boring so they will usually include a way for the game to “auto-play” itself through these daily tasks. At this point, it’s the habit that is important. You’re actually playing the game a lot less now and just logging in to make sure you get your daily reward. It’s not uncommon for gacha games to even include a monthly reward for players who log in every day of the month. You should be skeptical of any game that gives you a reward for simply logging in daily. Chances are good they’re trying to form a habit.
If you’ve been playing one of these games daily for over two months, it’s likely that you have already formed a habit. Does the thought of not playing for a single day make you uneasy? Try it yourself. An even bigger test is to turn off alerts and stop playing for a week. Do you still have a desire to play after one week of not logging in? I find that I usually don’t.

Time limited events

Next up on the checklist are the time limited events or sales. It’s very common in these games to have events that last for maybe two weeks every other month or so. During these events, it is especially important for players to log in daily and do the limited time event quests. These events are often how new characters are introduced and added to the game. Players know that if they want these characters, their best chance of getting them is during this event only.
These types of events are the game design equivalent of the well established limited-time offer. Check out this article on ways to maximize your limited-time offer. How many of these have you seen in gacha games?
Gacha games want you to think that these are just fun, limited time pieces of content to enjoy, but they are also thoroughly designed to persuade you to spend money. By having constant limited time events, players are encouraged to continue playing the game for fear of missing out on new characters. It’s also par for the course that newly released characters or gear are exceedingly strong. This is just one more way to incentivize players to always want the newest characters. They are pretty much guaranteed to be stronger than existing characters. They might eventually get tuned back down but they always start out overly strong especially in games that have PvP content.

Are these games actually fun

I am not ashamed to admit that I love gacha games. To me, it is really fun collecting new heroes and the risk/reward nature of rolling for new characters can be quite satisfying. These types of games often have gameplay that I personally find quite enjoyable too. They can range anywhere from turn based strategy, to tower defense, to action games. It’s almost unfair to call them a genre since it is more like a common mechanic included in a game of some other genre.
“Almost unfair” is important wording here. Inevitably these games all seem to follow the same formula. The game will start on a very high note. There is almost no repetitive gameplay and players are constantly unlocking new features, characters, or areas to explore. Eventually though, you will hit a content gate. It’s impossible for any company to produce new content at a rate faster than players can consume it. Gacha games need you to keep playing forever, however, so they have devised a way to extend content almost indefinitely: the difficulty grind. Figured out how to beat a boss for the first time? Next up is beating it with 200% more health. The only way to do that is to make your characters stronger. The only way to do that is to log in every day and do your daily quests. Welcome to the end game gacha grind. The further in a gacha game you get, the longer and longer it takes to increase your characters’ power.
Some people find this type of grinding to be right up their alley. As much as I enjoy playing these games, they all lead to this same destination and this is usually when I end up moving on to the next game. I’m still waiting for the gacha game which does not try to last forever. Dragging the game on indefinitely doesn’t have to be part of a gacha game, it just fits the business model that gacha games currently use.

Is it wrong to make addicting games

I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I generally tend towards the idea that people are responsible for their own actions. I want to say there is nothing wrong with making an addicting game where people can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a game. After all, who am I to decide what they should do with their time or how they should spend their money? How is it any different than letting someone spend thousands of dollars on shoes, or a purse, or cookie jars, or a car? Something about that, however, just doesn’t sit right with me. After thinking about it more, I realized it’s not an equivalent comparison. For all those other items, there is nothing inherently addictive about the product. Someone might be addicted to collecting shoes, but the shoe itself has no addictive properties.
I’m willing to go one step further. It’s OK to design an addictive game if the results of that addiction are not an immediate and direct benefit to the company. For example, I have heard from many fans of the Civilization games (myself included) that they have on occasion played until the sun unexpectedly starts rising the next morning. To me, that definitely sounds like addictive gameplay and the impact to the player could be considered harmful. Firaxis, however, did not benefit in any direct way from me staying up all night playing the game. Maybe I’m more likely to buy an expansion or the next version of the game, but while in the middle of this activity, there were no direct or immediate steps I could take that would benefit the company. The gameplay being addictive wasn’t designed to lead to anything other than the person playing the game more. If you are a satisfied customer, the company doesn’t care if you played for 10 hours, 50 hours, or 200 hours. If there was a game out there which used every one of the addicting tactics I listed above, I would have no issue with that if there was no way to spend additional money on the game. I’ve not heard of a game like this, but it’s possible one exists.
The gacha games I know of, however, most certainly do benefit directly and immediately from players being addicted. By allowing players to spend endless amounts of money, it is in their best interest for you the player to get addicted and play the game for as long as possible spending as much money as possible along the way. It’s hard to argue they think otherwise when these types of games include pricing models that are so far outside the previously established pricing norms for video games. A fully priced AAA game typically sells for $60. Maybe there is a collector’s edition which could sell for up to $150 dollars. In that case, you know exactly what extra you are buying with your money. It is guaranteed to arrive with the product. Gacha games, however, will let you spend hundreds of dollars every single day with no guarantee of acquiring what you hope to get. Again, in theory, there is nothing wrong with a game allowing players to spend as much money as they want on the game. But how can I interpret a game designed to be behaviorally addicting while also allowing unlimited spending as anything other than malicious? It is the combination of these two things which leaves such a bad taste in my mouth.
In the end, I do think companies have a moral obligation to not take advantage of their customers. Making games like this does tell me what you think of me as a customer. You view me as a target to extract as much wealth from as possible. If the industry keeps going this direction, it will only be a matter of time before regulations are put in place to protect consumers, much like a legal drinking, smoking, or gambling age. Here’s one company that was willing to openly talk about the issue and I think they should be applauded for it. Companies don’t have to use this design and business model to make a profit, it just allows them to make a bigger profit. Ultimately, the choice is yours to play games of this nature. I know many people who’ve played games like this for years and never spent a dime. You should just know what you’re getting into. It’s the equivalent of putting health warnings on cigarette boxes. For anyone that’s played Genshin Impact, how did I do? Does the game break the mold, or does it follow the tried and proven path?

https://hexanephgames.com/2020/10/23/designing-addicting-games/
submitted by Hexadis to gaming [link] [comments]

My Last Abry's Nightshift

I worked there part-time for a little over two years. During that time I've had to deal with my fair share of bullshit. However, none of it was as bad as what happened on my final shift. For the first year of my job, I had worked the day shift. That changed when my boss asked me if I wanted to try working at night.


Since I was low on funds and admittedly curious about what it was like, I agreed. For the most part, it was a pain in the ass. I'd have to work off the clock because there wasn't enough time to do everything. The only silver lining is that I got to take home the food that was going to be tossed. Plus I didn't have to deal with customers aside from the occasional one who would show up right before closing.


I will say it was an environment that could be pretty chill sometimes. When I got into a rhythm of finishing my tasks it could be quite cathartic on occasion. Although, the fact I was only getting paid minimum wage took away from that aspect. Not to mention, that eerie feeling that only comes with night shifts.


If you've worked a night shift at any fast food place or convenient store you probably know what I mean. Sure, you can get the same feeling from the night shifts of bigger places but fast food night shifts are different. For one, there are fewer people which means being more vulnerable. The other reason is that should you get in danger there aren't as many hiding spots as say a grocery store. Anyway, I'll stop with this long-ass intro and get to what happened on my last shift.


It was me and an assistant manager who I got along well with. His name was Ray. He was on drive-thru while I worked the backline. I was busy cleaning while he counted money. As I was wiping everything down he called my attention.


“Alvin, since we’re only like ten minutes from closing, you can go ahead and start breaking everything down. You don’t need to worry about customers. They usually never show up at this…”


The sound of a bell, indicating a customer in the drive-thru sounded from the speaker. Ray rolled his eyes and threw his head back. Then put on the headset and hit the button so he could talk to the customer.

“Hello. Welcome to Arby’s. I hope you are having a pleasant evening. How may we help you?”


We waited for the customer’s response over the speaker. They didn’t say anything. The next thing we knew, we heard a car speeding through the parking lot. It was too dark for us to fully make out their vehicle. Nick turned back to me and shrugged.


He told me to proceed with breaking down the backline. I was going to when the bell sound was heard again. Ray answered it, repeating the phrase he had previously. The same thing as before happened. Only this time we were able to catch a better glimpse of the vehicle which seemed to be red.


The third time this happened, Ray was once again professional, albeit with a hint of restrained annoyance in his voice. When it happened for the fourth time said restraint understandably left his voice entirely. He damn near broke the button when he pressed it. Instead of putting the headset on, he helped the microphone part of it to his mouth. Then yelled what he said next into it, loud enough to wake the dead.


“Hello. Can we help you?”


When the customer drove off again the couple moments of silence that followed were awkward, to say the least. He stood by the window, taking deep breaths in order to relax.


“Uh...Should I continue breaking down the line?” I asked.


Ray glanced at the clock. It showed we only had a few minutes until closing.


“Take out the trash for now. If any orders come in I’ll handle them but I swear if that asshole shows up again I’m ignoring them.”


Once all the trash within the building was bagged I put it into the large trash bins and wheeled them out the back door. I made sure to put down the stopper so it wouldn’t close on its own. You’d think after a year on the night shift I’d no longer get that sense of danger that comes from taking out the trash alone. That was not the case. In fact, that feeling was stronger than it had been.


I’m not psychic or anything like that but I couldn’t shake off this weird sensation in my gut. Maybe it was because of what happened with that customer. In the back of my mind, I might’ve been considering the possibility that they weren’t mentally stable and could potentially harm us. Despite this, I took the trash to the dumpster. The door leading to it let out a loud creak as I pulled it open.


As I was getting ready to wheel the trash bins back inside I saw the car. It was by itself under a streetlight. I thought if the driver was trying to be inconspicuous they weren’t doing a very good job. There was something off about the driver that I couldn’t quite place my finger on from that distance. When the door opened I realized why I got that feeling.


My throat went dry as the for lack of a better word, driver came out of the car. What I noticed first about it was its size. It was a wonder this thing could fit in the car because it had to be at least eight feet tall when standing up. The reason I say when standing is due to the fact it preferred crawling.


It crawled on eight arms. Each of them possessed claws that clicked on the parking lot. Just a glance told me they could literally tear someone to shreds with little effort. Its sickly grey skin stretched over its boney yet somehow massive frame. It focused its sunken in yellow eyes on me, letting out a low moan that sounded akin to a whale noise.


My eyes briefly shifted to the back entrance before I made a dash for it while pushing one of the trash bins. The way its claws scraped against the parking lot as it was dashing towards me grated on my ears. For its size, it was unusually fast. The reason I pushed the trash bin instead of leaving was so I had something to try and stall it with. When that thing was close enough to me I made use of it.


I pushed the trash bin towards the creature with so much force it started tipping as it rolled. Caught off guard by this, the monster didn’t have time to move away. The trash bin went over it. I could hear noises conveying frustration as it was trying to get it off. Sprinting towards the exit, I shouted for Ray.


“Alvin is something…?”


His voice trailed off and his eyes widened when he noticed it.


“What in the hell is that?”

“Close the door. Close the fucking door,” I said, once I had run back inside, having bumped into him in the process.


The creature had torn through the trash bins. Then after shaking off the pieces stuck to its claws started running towards the back entrance. Ray cursed loudly, undid the stopper with his foot, and slammed the door shut as it was leaping at us. A loud thud echoed from the door as it was slammed into The monster attempted ramming into it repeatedly until it gave up and skittered away.


“Okay that was unusual,” Ray said.


From his tone of voice, I could tell he hadn’t fully processed what he had just seen. I hadn’t either, nor did I want to. I would’ve been content to brush this off had a realization not hit me.


“Oh shit. The lobby,” I said.


No sooner then I had spoken those words did we hear pounding on one of the windows. Knowing we only had seconds until it was inside, we thought fast and chose a spot to hide. We picked the walk-in fridge. We put the holding oven in front of it to hide it from view. We would have run out the back door and to Ray’s car if it weren’t for the fact it was parked too far away.


Not only that, to reach it we’d have to pass the door. Had we tried to the creature no doubt would’ve spotted our escape and chased after us. With its speed, catching up to us wouldn’t have been a problem for it so all we could do was hide out in the walk-in fridge. We sat on some boxes, making sure to keep our noise level to a minimum.


“So what do you think that thing is?” I asked. “An alien? Demon? Escaped government lab experiment?”

“Fuck if I know. All I know is I want it as far away from us as possible.”


We could hear it making a mess while searching for us.


“Goddammit. There goes all the cleaning we did already,” Ray said.


With how frantically it was searching, we knew it would only be a matter of time before it found us. The only thing we had to defend ourselves with was a knife that could barely cut lettuce. Needless to say, our situation looked pretty bleak. Neither of us wanted to entertain the idea we might get killed. To get my mind off this, I started pondering possible reasons the monster was after us.


“Maybe it is a demon of some kind after all,” I said.

“What makes you think that?”

“Well, I know this goes without saying that this is weird but isn’t it odd that it came to our restaurant specifically? There are plenty of other places on the way here that are still open so why did it choose here?”


Ray seemed to be considering my words.


“Maybe it’s because we have the meats,” he said.


Despite our predicament, we shared a small laugh at that. This seized when an enraged scream reached the walk-in fridge and caused a tense moment of silence to fall over us.


“So uh, is there anything else that would indicate that this thing is a demon or whatever?” Ray asked after a long while.


I thought for a moment.


“Now that you mention it, what happened at the drive-thru might be another sign it was.”

“How do you figure?”

“Have you ever heard any rituals?”

“Yeah, mostly in movies.”

“And do you know how they have weird steps you have to follow?”

“What are you getting at?”

“It got me thinking, what if it driving around the restaurant was a ritual or at least part of one? I know it’s a shot in the dark. I’ve never heard of a ritual that requires someone to drive around a building but it would explain why it did all that earlier. Not mention rituals have a certain phrase or word that’s said like say...Hello/”


Ray facepalmed when he realized what I was getting.



“So you’re saying I may have caused...Wait. If it was already multi-legged and shit why did it even bother with the drive-thru. Couldn’t it have just smashed through the window and came in right away?”

“That is true. Honestly, I’m not sure why it didn’t do that, to begin with. Oh well. The answer to that is something we can worry about if we survive this.”

“Yeah, I’m feeling super optimistic about our chances. Do you want to try your phone again?”

“What’s the point? We saw it doesn’t get any service in here. Speaking of which, why don’t you try your phone?”

“I left it in the lobby.”


I stopped myself from throwing my head back against the door in frustration.


“Okay, so much for being able to call,” I said.

“Maybe not. Why don’t you try walking around? You might get a signal that way.”


Even though I had my doubts that this would work, I figured trying it was better than sitting around. By some miracle, I was able to get a signal while holding my phone up to the top content left of the door.


“Holy shit. I got it. Who do you think I should call?”

“The police might take too long. Wait, I got it. Call my phone.”

“Why?”

“The ring tone might distract it long enough for us to escape out the back door.”


I could hear the monster steadily getting closer to the door. Knowing this and that I could lose the signal at any moment, I went along with Ray’s plan. It roared upon hearing his ringtone. Then from what we could hear, dashed towards his phone.


“Go,” Ray said after pushing the walk-in fridge’s door open.


We got so close. We were almost able to escape. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly turn out how we wanted them to. We managed to hit into Ray’s car and even start driving off before the monster noticed we were leaving. Unbeknownst to us, however, it was smarter than we thought.


“Holy fucking shit,” I laughed. “I’m surprised we managed to make it out of there.”


The exit to the store was down a long hill that Ray drove along. After exiting the store he was driving along the road which the store was above. He would have of course turned left had there not been a buffer between the lanes.


“Yeah, tomorrow I’m quitting. I’ll only go back to get my phone and then I’m never going…”


The creature landed on Ray’s car, making the windows shatter and the windshield crack. We screamed and Ray jerked the wheel to shake it off. It leaped off his car. Only when it did could we see that we were headed straight for a tree. He crashed into it, causing the airbags to deploy and both of us to pass out.


“Oh fuck my head,” I groggily said upon waking later.


My blurry vision came into focus. When it did I saw that I was back in Arby’s. If that wasn’t bad enough my arms were chained to the prep table.


“Fuck,” I yelled and heard groaning beside me.


I turned to see Ray was coming to.


“Alvin, is that you? Where are we?” He shook his head and took a look around. “God damn it. Where’d it even get chains? Our store doesn’t have any.”


He yanked on his restraints in a futile attempt to free himself.


“That’s simple,” We heard a metallic and raspy voice say. “I brought them.”


My breath caught in my throat as the creature came into the kitchen. Its eyes were full of anger and also intense focus. Its breath had a strong copper smell to it.


“Wait...You can talk?” I hesitantly asked.

"No, what you’re hearing right now is an auditory hallucination. Yes, I can talk. I must admit you were almost able to escape. Almost.”

“What do you want?” Ray asked, trying and failing to keep the fear out of his voice.


The claws of its hand clicked against the floor as it scampered over to him. He shuddered as it caressed his face with one of its claws. I was on edge, knowing it could kill both of us at any moment. My heart nearly stopped when it made a move to stab Ray in the heart only to stop its hand inches from his chest.


“It’s not what I want. It’s who I want,” It said. “Where is Dennis?”

“Dennis?” I said in confusion.


He was our general manager. What this thing wanted with him was beyond me.


“Why do you want to know that?” Ray inquired.

“That is not your concern. I know he was supposed to be here now so I will ask again?” Where is he?”


It hissed out that last question, revealing its scarlet-colored sharp teeth.


“Didn’t he have an appointment?” I asked Ray.

“Yeah,” He replied. “That means he’s probably at home right now.”


The creature let out a sigh of annoyance.


“Of course he did. I’ll be back. Don’t go anywhere.”


It flashed us a smile and went into the lobby. I turned to Ray.


“Are we still clocked in?” I asked.

“Uh. I’m not sure.”


The monster came back into the kitchen, holding Ray’s phone.


“What are you going to do with that?” He asked.

“That should be obvious. I want you to call Dennis and tell him to come here.”

“What makes you think he will?”

“He’ll have to since the fryer is broken.”

“But it’s not…”


In one swift motion, it used its claws to slice into the fryer, severing the wires inside and leaving deep claw marks in it. We were too stunned to say anything.


“And remember I can easily do that to both of you so I suggest you don’t keep me waiting.”

“Okay fine,” Ray agreed.

“Good to hear. Since your phone requires a thumbprint to unlock, I’ll remove your chains. Just remember if you try and escape I’ll shred you to bits and put them in between some onion rolls with bbq sauce.”


Ray’s hands shook as he dialed Dennis’s number. The monster waited patiently as he did so. Ray’s phone rang for a while, making me worry that Dennis wouldn’t pick up. Thankfully on the eighth ring, he did.


“Ray, why the hell are you calling me at this hour?” He asked, clearly having been woken from sleep based on how he sounded.

“Sorry, Dennis, there’s been a bit of an emergency.”

“Really? What is it?”


Dennis sounded a little more awake by then.


“A bear got into the store and wrecked the fryer.”

“Ray, you do realize I can have you fired for trying to pull such an asinine prank on me, right?”

“I’m not joking. I can send you a picture of it.”


When Dennis saw the picture that Ray sent him, he went ballistic.


“God fucking damn it,” he yelled. “How did a bear even get in the store in the first place?”

“It came in through the backdoor while Alvin was taking out the trash. It made a pretty big mess in here. Neither of us were hurt, thankfully. Anyway, what do you want to do about it? If we call for repairs it might not be fixed before we open.”


Dennis sighed.


“How was a bear, able to do that much damage to it? Is that even possible? It doesn’t matter. I’ll be down in a little while.”


Ray’s phone beeped, indicating the call had ended.


“There I called him. Can you let us go now?” He asked.

“Not yet. There’s something I need to get done before he gets here. You two will help me get it done faster.”

“Why should we do that?” I asked, raising my voice to which he gave me a “Really?” look and held up one of his claws. “Oh yeah.”


I can’t really tell you much about what he made us do since I was really tired at that point. Adrenaline only lasts for so long and when it wears off after a shift that technically lasted over ten hours your eyelids feel heavier than a sack of bricks. What I will say is that it involved us writing some runic symbols with multi-colored chalk. These symbols started from the drive-through and stretched around the store to the parking lot’s exit. After this was done, we waited for Dennis in the store.


“Remember what I’ll do if either of you tries any funny business,” The creature said as we heard Dennis’s car pulling into the parking lot.


He hid in the kitchen, leaving us to do the talking.

“Okay. We’re just leading our boss to his death,” I thought. “No pressure. None at all. Oh god. There’s no way I’m sleeping tonight.”

“God fucking dammit,” Dennis yelled from outside with a toolbox in his hand.

“Yeah, the bear really did a number on the place,” Ray said, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Why didn’t you tell me it broke the window?”

“I said it made a big mess didn’t I?”


There were a few awkward moments of silence before Dennis replied.


“Whatever,” he said, walking past us. “I’ll see if I can fix the fryer. If not we’ll have to stay closed tomorrow.”


The tension was high as he pushed open the door to the kitchen, muttering some curses when he saw the mess in it. I was expecting the monster to pounce on him right away. Instead, he was able to make his way to the fryer with no trouble aside from having to navigate all the clutter. I was confused at this and exchanged a glance with Ray. His expression was similar to mine and he shrugged in response.


“I think if I can solder these wires back together, it should get the fryer working again in time for us top open. It won’t look pretty, though.”


It was when Dennis was crouching down to get a better view of the fryer’s insides did it come out of hiding. As it turned out it was hiding in the break room. How it was able to fit in there given its size baffled me. The reason we didn’t know where it had been was due to the boxes we had left on the prep table. It was only when it was standing up could we see its head over the boxes.


I wanted to yell for Dennis to run. I really did. Then I remembered what the monster said it’d do to us if we tried anything. Plus, the fact despite having worked there for two years, covering shifts, coming in on days off, and staying well past when I was scheduled to clock out, I was still making under eight dollars an hour. With that in mind, I didn’t really view Dennis as life risk worthy.


“Dennis,” it said.


He turned around. When he did I almost thought he was going to have a heart attack. He was acting as if he had a scream that wouldn’t come out. On instinct, he began swinging one of his tools in an attempt to defend himself. It grabbed the tool out of hand and crushed it using it with little effort.


“It’s been a long time since we last met,” It said.


Its face was only inches from his.


“You two know each other?” I said, wondering how Dennis could possibly know something so disturbing in appearance.


He somehow found his voice again.


“I- I don’t know this thing. Why would I?”

“Because you made me like this. Do you remember what happened in Vegas?”


Dennis’s eyes lit up with recognition.


“No...Freddy?”

“That’s right.”

“Does anybody want to fill us in here?” Ray asked.


It answered, not taking its eyes off Dennis.


“Back in the 90s he and I worked at the location in Las Vegas. What he proposed was us hitting casinos and betting the money we had saved up. We pooled it together.”

“Did you guys lose all the money?” I asked it.

“No. In fact, we won a lot. It all went great until he stole the earnings and left.”


It pointed a finger at Dennis, poking his chest.


“Wait,” I said. “Does that mean you were human before?”

“It does. After telling my wife what happened, she left with the kids. I spent the next ten years in shelters or on the streets. One night when I was sleeping in a park I woke up to him shaking me.”

“Who?”

“I’m not sure exactly what he was. All I knew for sure was that he wasn’t human.”

“How could you tell?”

“His eyes were like a snake’s. He said one thing to me. That was all it took for me to follow him. He asked if I wanted revenge. Memorizing the ritual that turned me into this wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was tracking Dennis down and waiting for the right moment to perform it.”

“Look. Freedy, I’m sorry,” Dennis protested.


He tried, moving towards the door. Freddy grabbed him by the throat, lifting him off the floor.


“Sorry would have been not running off with the money. Sorry would have been returning the money after realizing the error of your ways. Apologizing over twenty years later only when your life's on the line is a desperate ploy to save yourself from what you deserve. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised to find you working for this company again. I guess your addiction cost you most of the earnings. Isn’t that right?”

Freddy dropped him to the floor and grabbed him by his legs.


“Alvin, Ray, help me,” Dennis pleaded

“I know you need us to,” Ray replied. “Thing is, we like you know, living and Freddy here said he’d kill us if we tried anything.”


Although my opinion of Dennis was really low at that point, I also didn’t want him to get killed. With that being said, though there wasn’t really anything we could do to help him. I mean maybe we could have used the knives. However, that would be like arming ourselves with a stick while fighting a grizzly bear. We could only watch in terror at what happened next.


Dennis began protesting that we’d be fired if we didn’t as Freddy was dragging him out the back door. Dennis’s nails scraped against the floor as he tried resisting. He grabbed the door frame and promised us two dollar raises if we helped him. Shortly later after being yanked away from the door, Dennis was put into Freddy’s car. We followed, wondering what exactly was going to happen.


“Thanks for the help, you two,” Freddy grinned to which we could only nod in response, too frightened by his smile to say anything.



His gnarled and sharpened teeth unnerved the hell out of me. What unnerved me, even more, was how he fit back into his car. He started to scrunch himself up. The sound of his bones snapping and popping as they rearranged themselves was clearly audible as he did this enough for him to fit into the driver's side of his car. I suspect this is how he was able to hide in the break room without anyone noticing.


He cranked up his car and proceeded to drive to the exit starting from the drive-through. The runic symbols his car approached lit up with flame right before he drove over them. Each one was a different colored flame. We watched all of this in amazement. All the while we could see Dennis with tears streaming down his face as he banged on the back windshield as he was screaming our help.


The last we saw of him and Freddy was when the car was driving over the last symbol. Its flame was an angry red. Right as Freddy was driving over it something appeared above his car. I can only describe his thing as kite-like. Its body only vaguely resembled a diamond shape and its head was similarly shaped.


It regarded us briefly with its bright eyes. Honestly, the thing hurt to look at. It was as if we were seeing a living magic eye picture. I’m thinking it was probably a demon or something. Either way, I hope I’m never on the receiving end to whatever it did to Dennis. Its body stretched, enveloping Freddy’s car and it vanished, causing the runes’ flames to go out simultaneously as a result.


“Man, I’d hate to be wherever he is now,” Ray said after some moments of awkward silence.

“Yeah,” I agreed. Not having fully processed what I had seen not even a minute ago. “By the way, does this make us accessories to murder?”



Ray thought for a moment.



“Technically I think?”


It won’t come as a surprise to learn that we quit that night. Naturally, we had to come up with an explanation for Dennis seemingly vanishing off the face of the Earth. Thankfully, our bear explanation served well. Although it was unusual behavior for one, the police couldn’t dismiss the claw marks in the fryer or the ones on the floor which meant we avoided any legal trouble. Nobody could really blame us for wanting to quit right away which saved us the trouble having to clean up everything so that’s another silver lining in addition to not getting charged with anything I guess.


I talked with Ray sometimes about what happened after we quit. We came to the conclusion that for our safety and sanity the answers as to what happened to Dennis and what that thing was were best left unfound. Sometimes my mind wanders to the kite thing. I say demon. That’s only a guess, though. What I do know is that I will never work at an Arby’s again.


However, I will still eat there when I can because I think their food is pretty good. Solid fries and tenders.
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