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Tycho / on Mon, Dec 2 2013 at 11:01 am

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Window Of Opportunity

I was surprised to learn that Gabriel’s experience with Ghosts mirrored my own, because it’s not like he was bad at it before, yet he’s still feeling the energizing benefits of the platform shift.  There are a couple things going on, though, and I know what the other ones are now.

As I said, I’m playing the game solo, and one the results is that I feel social pressure from the strangers on my team to fucking not be who I actually am.  They don’t want to lose, and I certainly don’t want to make them lose.  I’m not the “jester” in their group; it’s not funny to them if I don’t get any kills or feed somebody’s fucking geosynchronous death platform.  I’m not part of any recognizable narrative to them, except that of the doom’d anchor, which it is in my power to ameliorate.

The other thing is that simply being in a completely different context revealed how many bad habits I just…  executed, over and over, without considering them.  Die, respawn, run fast into a place where bullets are, GOTO 10.  If I wait even three seconds, every indicator of success improves.  That is to say, if I think about what I am doing at all.  Though some can, it’s too fast for me to run this in a completely instinctual way.  I now have a very convincing hunter/trapper impression I iterate now, something in the vein of “Davy Crockett 2013,” that seems to deliver results.  It’s about controlling specific zones, and knowing when I can’t.  This is basic stuff, but having to reinvent it made a game I was playing for my friends into something I am constantly turning in my hand; a dangerous little puzzle.

I’ve been sick for a full week, so I’ve had a lot of time to “investigate” what is going on with the Xbox One.

The last time they made an entirely new user interface for their ostensible “gaming hardware,” they did it in what might be called The Shakespeare Way.  That is to say, they did it with full awareness of a bifurcated audience.  No matter what they did at the ground floor - the base OS experience, which changed several times - you could always press the Xbox symbol on the controller and be calgonned into a realm oriented entirely toward the enthusiast.  That’s what I’m used to seeing when I hit the gem, what most people are, and what happens now is that pressing it crams you into their terrifying multitasking funhouse mirror.

  This funhouse mirror is incredibly scary.  You feel like you’re suspended over the operating system somehow.  The machine’s real trick is its Hydra thing, all these crazy necks with screen faces all over the place, and it would be tremendously empowering if you were at the reins of it.  Except right now it’s mostly just a Hydra, it’s not your Hydra.  It’s just in there flipping out, and you don’t know why.

Ambiguities of the form “Xbox, On/Xbox, Turn Off” are all over the place, in every shape.  Before, you could start a party very quickly from the same menu cluster that talked about Friends.  Now, it’s a Snap that clings to the right side of your screen.  Before, when a menu item showed a specific state, like Party Chat, that meant this state was active.  Now, when it shows a state - like Mute Everyone - that doesn’t mean everyone is muted.  If means that if you select it and push a button, then everyone will be muted.  You can press B on this Snap to send it away, but other Snap panes don’t work like that.  And so on, and so on.

The App model of thinking about basic features like Friends or Parties has fucked usability profoundly.  Before, friends were almost…  ambient?  You could condense them right out of the air.  Now, the friends “app” might not even load.  A less eloquent, less professional interlocutor than myself would simply end a post like this with the truncation “smh.”

(CW)TB out.


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