Obscure Steam games and digging for Hidden Gems

Every now and then someone makes the argument that all really good games eventually do well, otherwise “if there are really good games that don’t sell, how come I never come across one?”

That argument is always refuted by the statement that of course you don’t come across games that are obscure, by definition. Which is itself then easy to refute by saying yeah, but surely you’d still come across one occasionally if you went looking.

Let’s go looking.

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The Maintenance Of Everyday Things

The manual for my cordless jug tells me I must switch off the power lever before lifting it from its cradle. It doesn’t tell me why. When I lift it off, the lever actually returns itself to zero automatically. What might happen if I do it “wrong”, how bad is it, and how likely? Some engineer knows somewhere.

When Aunt Magda comes to visit and decides to make tea, will she perform this step? Highly unlikely. I guess I’m supposed to tell everyone who uses the jug, or request they read the manual. Heaven forbid someone buys it second-hand without the manual, or just doesn’t read it. I’ve lifted it without switching the level off once or twice; if something terrible happened I didn’t notice. Maybe missiles were launched in China.

I have no information to go on for how important this is, and it’s a theme I see everywhere. Use and maintenance information in the official literature is often overly strict and thorough – seemingly designed to remove all liability and responsibility from the maker, not to mention sometimes wrong or applying to some subtly different product.

We have a problem as a society with not explaining why, from maths teachers to superstition. This is just one symptom of that problem.

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The Nokia N9 Alarm Clock

I want to talk about the Nokia N9 alarm clock application because it’s a really nice example of thoughtful, functional design – and because it’s only on the N9, so a lot of people won’t have seen it. There are more important things in life than getting excited about an alarm clock app, but its nice when simple things are done well.

I don’t know how many of these ideas are borrowed from previous apps (the N9 is contemporary with the iPhone 4S), but either way it’s implemented exceptionally well.

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