Editors’ Picks 5/11: Race For The Infinite Playstations
This week in Editors’ Picks: Sony’s Customer Service is fantastic, but you would be too if you got this much practice! How to let David Foster Wallace laugh at you from beyond the grave, and get ready to race for the galaxy because let’s face it; you don’t stand a chance at winning any kind of physical race.
James’ pick: Sony PlayStation Customer Support
Earlier this week, my launch PlayStation 3, which I paid $130 to fix, broke again. I called Sony Customer Support, very levelheaded, and told them I thought this was the third time since January that my “fixed” PS3 broke. The support representative responded that, actually, this was the fourth time since November. Sony PlayStation Customer Support is very honest. Every single time I’ve called, which as the representative told me, was almost once a month since November, the experience has, oddly, been excellent.
I’m calling from the United States, and everyone who answers not only speaks English, but has an American accent. (I’m not sure if the accent changes based on the number you call, but that’d make sense and be quite smart.) Everyone also either seems like a gamer — they’re hip with the jive, if you will — or at the very least knows how to fake knowing about games very, very well. When I called the time before last for break #3, they asked what games I managed to play before it broke. I told the lady on the phone that I played Skyrim and Child of Eden. She immediately recognized Child of Eden, easily the lesser known and buzzed about of the pair, and we discussed the merits of the game as she was typing whatever it is customer support people type into their computer when you’re done complaining. This time, I was put on the phone with someone from the actual technical department, seeing as how this was the fourth time my “fixed” PS3 broke. He was extremely helpful, and seemed genuinely interested in my story. On top of that, he told me that I should not only be madder than I actually sounded (when is a customer support person ever that honest?), but that I shouldn’t give up on the technical department just yet, as he wouldn’t — and I shouldn’t — call it quits and give up my backwards compatible PS3, a feature Sony has been systematically eradicating for a while.
When all was said and done for the fourth time, he offered me any free first party game, from the oldest to the newest, for my troubles. So, at least, that $130 repair fee for a PS3 just got lowered by a maximum of $62.99 (or whatever a new game costs in your area), should I choose a new game. Yes, I’m pretty miffed that my PS3 I paid a hefty sum to repair has broken four times since November, but I’ve never dealt with a better customer support group than Sony’s PlayStation branch.
Eric’s pick: Infinite Jest
Last week I finished David Foster Wallace’s 1,079 page tome, Infinite Jest, and I have to say it was the single most difficult and single most rewarding literary experience of my life to date. Over the course of its expansive and completely insane narrative, the book touches on everything from Quebecois separatist wheelchair assassins, to the sale of year names (like 2012) for adspace, to a film that is so enthralling you’ll watch it until you die, to a junior tennis academy and a Boston halfway house. The crazy thing is how much it still manages to make so much sense, and how DFW manages to be gut-bustingly hilarious in the proccess. With a cast of probably at least a hundred characters, and at least 3 or 4 story lines unfolding in a non-linear fashion over the span of several decades, things can get a bit frenetic, but it’s so well done you won’t mind keeping a spreadsheet to try and makes sense of it all; you’ll be thrilled to be making that spreadsheet.
If you do decide to jump in, make sure you are prepared. DFW has a tendency to write sentences that can go on for a full page or two (no kidding), write paragraphs that can go on for half a dozen, write footnotes1 that are as long as chapters and have their own footnotes, switch viewpoints with no warning, and make off-handed, unfootnoted references to other languages, futuristic slang, or massively important alternate-future events that are never, ever explained in full. It’s torturously delicious. I highly recommended you check the handy “scene guide” to make sure you understood a given scene or read along with the Wallace Wiki’s supplemental annotations on the main text (and on the annotations) of Infinite Jest; there’s a lot you can miss. If you’ve ever so much as thought about peeking at Pynchon, you’re the kind of person who will love Infinite Jest and you should start reading it yesterday. Think of Infinite Jest like Gravity’s Rainbow on like 50% less drugs. This is a novel every lit snob should be able to ramble on about and it’s a masterwork to boot. Get it. Now.
1. Mandatory footnotes I might add.a
A. Kind of like this footnote is mandatory, although DFW’s footnotes are mandatory in that you have to read them whereas these footnotes are mandatory because you basically have to make footnote jokes when talking about Infinite Jest.
Max’s pick: A Militaristic Strategy for Race for the Galaxy
The card-based game of interplanetary conquest and commerce has long been a staple of Geekosystem gaming, but I have often struggled with how to win the game while focusing on military cards. Please note, in an effort to make this as brief as possible, I will assume that all of you are already extremely familar with the game. The result will surely be impenetrable for most of you, but I kinda like that idea.
As far as I can tell, the basic military strategy is to use the +5 Explore as often as possible, building up your tableau to 12 cards and ending the game before the players pursuing a production path can run their economies and make mad points. This strategy has two major drawbacks. The first is that there are only two end-game cards that reward using a military strategy, which means that you’re not too damn likely to find them. Especially if someone else is using the same, or a similar strategy.
The second is that you’re essentially throwing away two (well, three technically) of the six possible phases — produce and consume — that other players will be throwing down. Those are lost turns, and lost turns don’t help a speed-based strategy.
My moment of clarity came when I realized that the far more common blue (Novelty Goods) and brown (Rare Elements) worlds have only a few military worlds, while the rarer and more valuable yellow (Alien) and green (Genetic) worlds have a higher proportion available for conquest. What’s more, these high-yield cards open other opportunities from bonus points from cards like Alien Science Academy, and generally have higher victory points associated with them. If you need more convincing, consider that the goods from these worlds yield more cards during the consume-trade phase — giving you the opportunity to put down planets and still search the deck.
It seems to me that the most effective military strategy focuses on exploration and settling, but makes time for production and even some consume-trading on green and yellow worlds. A pure military strategy overly relies on luck, while a mixed strategy focusing on those two areas of production tilts the scales in your favor.