I’m in Boston. I have a cold.
I spend Thursday afternoon dislodging the Hyundai rental from one of the four-foot snowdrifts framing my driveway.
Sweating. No hat. The wind blowing hard off the corn field across the road.
PAX East 2015: I fall into Boston.
I choke on its wind.
Same hotel. Same time of year. A different state:
2014. I am ready to give up on games. Everything feels hollow.
Everything feels bored.
Everything is hype and money.
Exhausted and numb: I find Tim Rogers.
I see Videoball. It pulls me back.
I start writing again for the first time in three years.
I gut my political blog.
I write about video games for the first time ever.
I write my first post about Videoball.
It stays with me. It sticks to me. I think about the game at least once a day for a year.
PAX East 2015 and I only need two days.
The panels are uninteresting.
I am curious about the booths on the show floor.
Friday night I walk with my wife through the park.
She takes pictures of fat, red squirrels.
We work our way to Chinatown.
We try shabu-shabu for the first time. We drink bubble tea.
It’s quiet. The streets are quiet.
The snowbanks glow from neon signs.
Caked in trash.
I think about Saturday. I don’t miss PAX.
I miss Action Button.
I miss Videoball.
Pax East 2015.
I wake up. Shower.
I don’t sleep much. The walls are thin.
Exhausted, I step into the city. Buy some coffee.
I love the city.
I miss Madison. Chicago. LA. Beirut. Paris.
We walk through Chinatown again. We find our way to the convention center.
The foot traffic stops. The security line is two blocks long.
Stuck on a bridge. I stare down into the small pools of broken ice.
I have always had a fear of deep, complex water – A horror of it.
We make it in. We burrow into the display.
There is a muted excitement.
It feels familiar. It feels off.
Bethesda doesn’t make a showing for the first time in three years.
Evolve is buried away from the main entrance. No giant monster to display.
Alienware brings back the opulent spirit of the late-90’s PC hardware fever.
The manipulative pre-order systems of 2014 are gone.
I wander into independent games.
I wind through rows of small developers: Frenzied innovation and a consuming boredom.
Iron Galaxy cuts into view.
I find Videoball.
I greet Tim. We talk with joy and excitement.
He introduces me to Michael Kerwin, programmer for Action Button Entertainment.
And I feel like I’m home.
Videoball is still stunning.
I watch it played on an enormous screen.
It has grown in the past year. It has matured.
It feels less like a video game. It feels like a court.
2014 Videoball felt new. It felt vigorous.
It was a geometry problem stuck in the mind of a squash player.
It was a system brimming with friction and momentum.
2014 Videoball caressed urgency.
Videoball has now learned how to breathe.
This past year the game has evolved in small, intelligent ways.
Touching the ball no longer freezes the player: The player is pushed away.
The punishment is still the inability to move, but now the field is more active.
Nothing stands still.
This rejection system still requires the player to correct trajectory however much they can.
It’s a punishment that still involves the player.
It’s a punishment that involves losing field position.
2015 Videoball has adjusted the timing and features of the three shots.
The level 1 shot can now be used repeatedly with quick button taps.
The (persistent) level 2 shot is able to push the ball in a straight line.
The level 3 (slam) shot feels hot and alive.
Now when the ball is hit with the level 3, it creates a thick, rubber-banding color trail behind it.
The level 4 blocks actively deconstruct themselves with each hit.
One hit and the block splits into nine squares.
Two hits and the squares spin and disappear.
Tim explained he got this idea from the visual flourishes in Destiny when breaking down items.
The ball and the stages themselves feel more involved.
The ball contorts when manipulated with force like a soccer ball in the feet of Captain Tsubasa.
The stages absorb energy and ripple with soft, Mario 3 curves.
The stages have also become more complex.
Some involve the goals being split in the center.
Other stages are littered with small blocks around the center of the field.
The stages are diverse and shifting. Creative and challenging.
In 2014, Videoball was aesthetically cohesive.
Its visual language was clean and deep.
In 2015, Videoball is whole.
It’s completely awake.
It is a living, breathing world of systems and cues.
A world comprised solely of sunsets and city nights.
A year ago Videoball felt complete.
It inspired me then.
It showed me how much some people still care about games and vision.
2015: That passion hasn’t receded.
Last year, it was Midnight City.
Now it’s Iron Galaxy:
Showcasing games that pull on the flesh.
Games that rip open sweat and spine.
Videoball has found the right kind of new home.
The right kind of stable.
Videoball is ready to run.
It’s powerful. Beautiful. Lean. Heavy. Fast.
In 2014, Videoball was a game I needed:
2015: Everything and nothing has changed.