Pipe Dream

Submitted by b on Wed, 11/28/2018 - 08:18

"You are not alone, my friend. I dream of pipes, too."

  -Ed (Ed, Edd, n Eddy, 'Ed, Ed and Away')

I understand Pipe Dream. I mean, that I understand what you're supposed to do in Pipe Dream, but I don't know why you do it. For those of you that don't know, Pipe Dream is a game that has you, as a plumber of some kind and you're presented with a grid. One of the squares on the grid contains a spigot that is going to open in a few seconds and some kind of liquid is going to start oozing out. It's your job to place pieces of pipe on the grid in such a way that the substance flows through a certain number of the pipes and you win the level. The longer the series of pipes you can make above the minimum, the more points you get, and then you get to do it all over again, but the ooze oozes faster and faster until you just can't keep up with it any more. It's probably better to see it in action to see what on Earth I'm talking about.

It's the kind of concept that I love in a video game. You're dropped into a situation where you have to do a thing. A thing not tethered to the rules of reality or even of good sense. You're doing this thing because someone somewhere though that it would be fun (and, in this case, they were probably right). And, to me, Pipe Dream represents the kind of freedom and creativity that a lot of the early video games liked to explore. Nothing had been done before so *everything* was on the table.

Since I'm old enough now that I've seen games go from these weird thought experiment games to the triple A blockbuster gobbledygook that we have today, it's kind of annoying to me that the oddball simple games are kind of falling to the wayside over games that are, essentially, interactive movies.

Yeah, there are some 'indie' outfits out there that are making the small, oddball games, and I've played a bunch of them. The thing is, though, that a lot of them aren't very good. They get the aesthetic right (mostly), but they don't get the gameplay right. Or they superficially copy the gameplay, but don't put in anything that makes it a joy to play. I too often find that I'm not playing against my own skills in order to get incrementally better and make it just a little bit further in the pursuit of a personal best time or score or whatever. I find that I'm fighting against wonky controls or bizarro physics, or a game where it doesn't even look like the people who programmed it played it.

And, I know that this sounds like I'm living in the past and I only like the things that I liked when I was a kid, and video games peaked in the 90's and et cetera. That's not strictly true. I have current consoles and a gaming-class computer, and I do play current games frequently, and I even like a lot of them. But the ones I tend to gravitate toward are the ones where I get to do things that I could never do in real life, because I'm already living a life in the real world, and it's nice to do something else once in a while.

Okay, I'm done standing on my soapbox for now.