Praise for Insomnia


Praise and blame. — If a war proves unsuccessful one asks who was to "blame" for the war; if it ends in victory one praises its instigator. Guilt is always sought wherevere there is failure; for failure brings with it a depression of spirits against which the sole remedy is instinctively applied: a new excitation of the feeling of power — and this is to be discovered in the condemnation of the "guilty". This guilty person is not to be thought of as a scapegoat for the guilt of others: he is a sacrifice to the weak, humiliated and depressed, who want to demonstrate on something that they still have some strength left. To condemn oneself can also be a means of restoring the feeling of strength after a defeat. — On the other hand, the glorification of the instigator is often the equally blind result of another drive which wants its sacrifice — and this time the sacrifice smells sweet and inviting to the sacrificial beast itself —: for when the feeling of power in a people or a society is surfeited by a great and glittering success and a weariness with victory sets in, one relinquishes some of one's pride; the feeling of devotion rises up and seeks an object. — Whether we are praised or blamed, what we usually constitute is opportunities, and arbitrarily seized opportunities, for our neighbours to discharge the drive to praise or blame which has become distended in them: in both cases we do them a favour for which we deserve no credit and they display no gratitude.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality



* * * * *



Insomnia is the absolute best videogame website. The writing on the site is highly philosophical in nature which can be intimidating, but through persistent reading and studying you will learn not only the correct way to look at and study videogames, but also how to think properly in general.
   The quality of the site and its forum is largely due to the mammoth intellect and strict moderation of its owner and chief writer, "icycalm". This forum handle is something of a misnomer, as he is rarely ever calm. Indeed, he is enraged by the incompetence which permeates much of the writing on games. Justifiably so, as his website is the only one I have found which tackles games in such a vigorous, logical manner. Thus, if you have any interest in the proper discussion of videogames, there is nowhere else to go.

James Punshon, Alexa


I would like to congratulate the active members of this community for doing such a solid job of bitch-slapping every other game-ish forum out there into an intellectual awakening or an aneurysm of the hivemind. Godspeed.

Nervicide, Insomnia forum


I don’t join many websites, but this site being the bastion for intelligent discussion it is, it only feels natural. It certainly isn’t often I come across a site about gaming and not reach for the Johnny Walker or ibuprofen.

keelhaul, Insomnia forum


A very precise, very adroit and very unforgiving intellectual calling himself "icycalm" or Alex Kierkegaard runs this site, where more is written in the forum than on the frontpage. His ideas and views on gaming are more than enough for anyone who wants to actually know anything about what games actually are and which ones are worth playing. He has also studied (and *understood*) the writings of Baudrillard, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and probably some others, and is an authority there as well (naturally, his unusually high confidence will be seen as bluster intended to intimidate and dazzle others, but he walks the walk that he talks). Assume from the start that he is more intelligent and capable of well-founded thought than you, and that he has played enough videogames to be more of an authority on the subject as well.
   He has no time for those who don't show humility and who do not only write on what they are genuinely knowledgeable about. He treats his forum like a home rather than a public square, which is actually refreshing, and reflects his view of the zeitgeist as run over with mediocre thinking and relativism, where everyone has to get along and be "equal". So don't write anything that you haven't thought through and applied all possible criticism to in advance, or you will be verbally abused.
   He calls himself the "number one videogame expert in the world", and while this is quite a claim he certainly offers a corpus of writing (reviews, essays, forum posts) on games that really has no match anywhere else, if only in quality and depth of criticism. He is writing some collections of essays on games, which will not receive the attention they deserve (not that the author wants to be read by people who aren't worthy in his eyes).
   icycalm is simply very good at thinking well and then exhibiting this through intelligent, persuasive and efficient writing. Any complaints about (or exultations over) his particular tone and personality are completely irrelevant.

Kastanj, StumbleUpon


I count discovering Insomnia among the lucky accidents of my life. I can't recall exactly how I first found myself here, but ever since reading several of the essays on that first visit, I have been enthralled. Finally, I had found a site that is passionate about videogames not for what they could be, but for what they are. A site that treats videogames with seriousness not because they have something profound to tell us, but because they are immensely fun, and fun itself is serious business. A site with the tenacity and the intellectual rigour to expose the vacuousness of the tired old concepts and conventions of popular game criticism, and to erect in their place a standard of criticism that this highest of artforms deserves.
   The writing style didn't prove an impediment to me. On the contrary, the style was part of the attraction. What could be more entertaining than writing that is every bit as methodical as it is passionate? Every ounce of fury coming from a place of contempt, not resentment, and laced with a wicked sense of humour. Entire theories and "movements" crushed beneath a fist, and always with a grin.
   I haven't even mentioned the philosophy. Having been dissatisfied with the small amount of philosophy that I had studied at university, the Insomnia reading list set me on to reading Nietzsche. The experience proved to be immensely pleasurable and useful for me — the very opposite of the sterile scholarly chatter that the universities had told me was philosophy. I'm close to finishing reading Nietzsche's works (for the first time, anyway — I'm sure I will end up reading them many times), after which I will certainly be reading Wittgenstein and Baudrillard, and then Orgy of the Will.

David, Insomnia forum


There's no doubt this man knows what he's talking about, a great deal more so than any other individual who writes about videogames and I like his relentless attacks against all "serious" game media, since I don't really like what it has become (people putting too much emphasis on not so relevant elements like "story" and pointless ponderings on whether games can "be art").
   If you visit his forum, he doesn't come off as a very pleasant person to interact with, although that shouldn't have to matter. I must admit, he does ire me a bit and I feel like he's playing the role of one-eye in the land of the blind a bit too much, if you know where I'm getting at... but if you are interested in videogames and know about him, I think it's impossible not to have some sort of opinion on the man.

Roodwurm, TehBored


He begs for an opinion. I agree with you on this though. I might even end up buying his books. He's not so much unpleasant as he is unapologetic. He bans 90% of posters in his forum, but he's clear about his reasons and viewpoints and usually gives warnings. He has a low tolerance for cats who respond without understanding fully what he's said, or making assumptions he hasn't even alluded to, which happens all the time in regular forums.
   I can't disagree with his methods or madness because the clarity of his thought is, well, clear, if you don't mind all those philosopher quotes (which I appreciate anyway). I'd never post there, but like you said he shits on every [most] game journalist I've read.
   There was a recent 40+ page thread on rllmuk where he was getting it in with the reviewers and journalists of credential and made such asses of them they deleted the thread for no other reason.

Marvulus, TehBored


Sure, if [icycalm's] game is as ambitious and extreme as his videogame theory I'd love to play it someday.
   His videogame theory is very forward-thinking and broadened my understanding of them. It was in his writing that I first encountered the idea that all videogames are simulation — virtual microcosms based on our mathematical understanding and observation of our world — and that their primary purpose is not necessarily challenge but immersion, which can happen any number of ways. Like any other art, videogames are abstractions of reality. Sounds like a versatile theory to me.
   He's the guy on a crusade to tear down the wall between mechanics and aesthetics; "gameplay," story and graphics — there's no real barrier between them. Even cutscenes and QTEs, the long-standing whipping boy of videogames, are not something to be vilified by their nature. Story or loss of interactivity does not necessarily detract from the experience. Graphics are inseparable from the mechanics they simulate. His theories in practice give every game the benefit of the doubt.
   I don't know why some people think his ideas about videogames are narrow. They strike me as very open minded and are valuable to grasp if you like to think about the nature of videogames. His ideas about what makes a game art are liberating and practical; not entrenched in hidden meaning, budget, theme or artists' identities/authority.
   Whether or not you disagree with these ideas, you'll have at least stretched your thinking and left your comfort zone to get where he's coming from. As with all extreme ideas, they take a great deal of empathy to comprehend. Consequently, his ideas are hard to take out of context.
   It would be great if he could help develop a game that represents his fundamental ideas about games, and it doesn't surprise me that he lists Far Cry 2 and Deus Ex as influences.

justjustin, NeoGAF


I'll admit it. I have Insomnia on my RSS feeds. I flatly disagree that the site has nothing to offer; there aren't many sites that put out anything even approaching the quality of "On Role-playing Games", "The Videogame News Racket", or "Arcade Culture".

ChadMiller, Sirlin.net


He writes primarily about videogames but his theory is very psychological. The way a person plays games, the games they enjoy, are all highly related to their personality. One sentence he's talking about game design, the next he's striking out at personality defects. So you get a lot of ideas about psychology. He also writes a lot of pure philosophy inspired by Nietzsche, which is very empowering (in a way many people take issue with).
   He's about the most divisive and controversial figure I've ever seen. He's literally my favorite person ever (perhaps besides myself), and yet of all the friends I've introduced him to... none of them have liked him. I read (and re-read) his writings every day. But if I were to begin posting my favorite passages on Facebook, I would start receiving shocked comments and losing friends immediately. But, as the great Mark Twain once said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to stop and reflect".

CaptPic4rd, reddit


In any event, Alex Kierkegaard is the future of videogame philosophy, theory, and discussion, and if you can't see that then you don't deserve to.

Anonymous, philosophywithpair


Insomnia is the be-all end-all Authority on gaming, bitches.

orly, Something Awful


this guy are cool
   its like if tim rogers were a smart incisive person instead of a pretentious idiot

eat shit sexhavers, Something Awful


This guy's ego is so big it actually crashed my browser with an out-of-memory error.

MrPopo, StumbleUpon


Pure rage. Could power a war with this.

BRP, Order of the Blue Gartr


I should start by saying I enjoy your site a lot. Your commentaries really helped me shape stray thoughts I had, but could never express because I lacked experience and understanding. The stuff about artfags, RPGs, and the word gameplay really stuck out. After things started to take shape, I found myself agreeing with everything else I was able to understand.

another Riposte, Insomnia forum


He's a smart guy, there is no doubt here, but he refuses to be wrong about anything.

HateBot, Sirlin.net


Finally I'd like to say the thanks and compliments that I never did before. I'm very grateful for what you've taught me and helped me achieve, and for the amount of inspiration that every single goddamn word — both in the forum and on the main site — has given me. You're a really cool guy, man.
   Thanks, and good luck with everything.

zinger, via email


A few weeks ago I started reading Nietzsche, entirely because of your writings: it had nothing to do with those massive walls of philosophy texts you have posted but rather the easier to read bits on videogames and the cruelties you inflict on others in online forums. "Where did he learn to think like this?" Well now that I know I'd like to apologize to you and Nietzsche for considering his writings pointless. I now understand what true greatness is: a bad-ass German with a very cool mustache. Everything I ever THOUGHT that was noble was indirectly caused by Nietzsche or someone that he had controlled.
   I started with The Anti-Christ, I've read it twice over now and will probably be reading it again and again throughout my life. It's by far the easiest to get through; as a former Christian I could relate to it so much. I can barely comprehend the most basic sentences of the Genealogy of Morals and Zarathustra is all riddles. It's a very surface level understanding I'm sure. I've looked at discussions about his books, watched YouTube videos trying to explain them but by far the thing that makes it easiest is seeing how Alex Kierkegaard's frightening mind works.
   I hope to someday reach even a quarter of the level of understanding you have.
   I was never really taught good philosophy in school, and even when I went to look for it myself I didn't know where to go. Every "great thinker" I was told about seems like, at best, a footnote compared to Nietzsche.
   His (and usually your writings) bleed logic, experience, and have not the smallest drop of mercy. There's no fears or insecurities in them. That's really how the world is run isn't it? Countless religions, philosophies, morals, ethics, works of art, and political systems all made as elaborate ways for the herd to not have to face their own weaknesses? Isn't that why "slave morality" is so popular? It's much easier.
   Everything about the universe seems so much more organized now! I'm greedy for power now!
   What really got to me in the Anti-Christ was a passage, almost at the end, on 'the poisonous doctrine, "equal rights for all," [that] has been propagated as a Christian principle: out of the secret nooks and crannies of bad instinct'. That's it! That's it so much. Nietzsche wasn't just talking about Christianity, who cares about a dying institute?! He was talking of so many poisons that I have in my mind, that almost all of us have, all those falsities. The peoples want equal rights, to be called equal, to be thought of as equal precisely because they know they are inferior. That is everything about "slave morality" that is the stupidity of the Jews. "If we are all equal, all passive, no one will hurt me." And what of men so brilliant, so shining that their very presence reminds the people of their own faults? Well that's why Alex Kierkegaard is banned from so many forums, why Nietzsche is never discussed in the open, why both of them must be painted as Nazis (and also why the Nazis must be painted as "evil"). That is why there must be so much "that is an opinion", "everything is relative", and other excuses: a protective darkness so we never have to look at ourselves. This is why you are so frightening, why you are indeed a monster and your very existence is a cruelty. You burn too bright, you scorch our eyes, and melt away our skin. I disagree with so much of what you say but it's all so bright and dazzling.
   Your game criticism is extraordinary and (assuming the videogame industry does not destroy itself) will no doubt go down in history as the only thing worth reading.

J F, via email


I just stumbled across his website. I remember seeing a few of his posts at Action Button and I see a lot of familiar usernames on his site so I'm sure a lot of you are fully aware of what kind of monster this person is. I'm positively blown away by the spectacle of it all.
   He rules his website with an iron fist, demeaning anyone and everyone who comes across it. He critiques each little caveat he has with each post before insulting that poster before finally banning them. There's a subforum for submitting reviews, too. He'll tear your writing apart, insult you for wasting his time, insult you again for wasting his time rewriting your review so he can post it on his site, then ban you. I can't tell if the guy's serious or if he's another one of those post-postmodern master trolls. That little kid-with-toys avatar of his lends evidence to that — it's so fitting of his online persona. But I don't think that's the case. There's no humor here. This guy is really an egomaniac. This is extreme Comic Book Guy levels of delusion.
   This man is the abyss the very Nietzsche he parrots warned us about.

Shrugged, Atlas, Select Button


I can't even read the titles of Insomnia articles without wanting to crack up.

swag motherfucker, hipinion.com


The issues they discuss may call for harshness, because the newbs who sign up can muddle them; and mostly because they fail to understand them. I have been banned from there for that reason.
   They are not "jaded", they are actually hilarious. icy's write-up titled, "Cocksucking Videogameland" had me in tears from the middle to the end. I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe. They strike me as some of the happiest people on the internet.

Siren, ASSEMblergames


It will have been a year this coming May since I first happened upon your website, and I honestly can't thank you enough for it. Not only does it contain some of the best articles I've ever read (and likely will ever read) on both games and philosophy alike, but it acted as the final bit of encouragement necessary for me to start actually reading philosophy — starting of course with Nietzsche as you've recommended. This has, as I'm sure you can imagine, drastically improved my quality of life, not just by the explaining away of various complicated philosophical problems, but also by the unique liveliness which his wisdom imparts. Second only to that effect of enlightenment which his work has on me, which you've aptly described in your forum somewhere as "being struck by a lightning bolt", is that great sense of feeling as though I'm amongst good company. With every chapter I read of Nietzsche he continues to systematically assess and affirm all those gut feelings I've had about morality, perspectivism, the origin of value, etc. and all with such a wonderful sense of alacrity.
   Your essays on game theory and videogame culture are also undoubtedly the best that the internet has to offer, as are your reviews. You simply can't find any place on the internet that takes games even half as seriously, let alone a place that is even half as enthusiastic about them as your essays betray. "On the Genealogy of 'Art Games'" in particular has taken the whole thing to a new level and is an astounding feat in itself. Still your whole body of work is at once entertaining, educational, ruthlessly scathing, and at times downright hilarious. I've actually stopped going anywhere else to read about videogames because I scarcely need to — all that I need is right there on Insomnia. The forum is spectacular also, and I find the mockery of your detractors telling. Anyone with eyes capable of perceiving quality would realize that your supposed "short fuse" has cultivated a forum which is incredibly substantiative. I've basically combed over every forum post by now, going as far as years back and it's all still a treat to read.
   I want to thank and commend you for all the good work you've done and perhaps let you know that at least one more person out there deeply appreciates it.

Taylor Findlay, via email


icycalm is the best writer on videogames today — this accolade even feels insulting, actually, because it implies he has competition. I've been reading Insomnia for three years now and have concluded that the dude is a fucking genius. I don't give a shit about what you think of his personality or his morality or whatever it is you nitpick; look at his writing. Look at "On the Genealogy of 'Art Games'". There is no one around writing on games at that level and there never really has been. Read, guys. Don't engage in this stupid groupthink. Read the site. There are big words. But that's what happens when you read outside of h-games; you'll get used to it.

Anonymous, /jp/


Have a look at "On the Genealogy of 'Art Games'".
   Tell me one gaming website that reaches anywhere near such a level of incision, depth, sensitivity, penetration, sagacity, etfuckingc.
   Just one. No more required. Show me one case of someone on the internet who has even brought up the issues put forward in that article.
   And if you wish to dismiss that part by saying the issues are discussed incorrectly, or whatever — read it, and tell me it doesn't make sense, also showing *why*.
   See, this is how we debate things in big boy land. Not with greentext and offhand words we've picked up through years of plaguing our brain with 4chan. With reason and purpose.

Anonymous, /jp/


The dismissal likely can be attributed to a few things. His scathing, arrogant style of writing first and foremost, the length of some articles and reviews, and most people not being that acquainted with philosophy.
   So, someone sees a link to an Insomnia article, reads the first paragraph and says, "fuck this". I know I had a similar reaction when I first encountered his writing. It wasn't until much later that I actually sat down and read anything of his seriously. I'm a convert, but I don't know if all of his fans are. Maybe they got it the first time around.

Anonymous, /jp/


I actually found the site by searching for Schopenhauer material (the essays gave a hit) but I also have an interest in games. Imagine my surprise to find the two intersect in a manner that made sense.
   My experience with game sites before this has been of three distinct types. First, the enthusiast/marketing forums that consist of very stupid people arguing about which game company they like to fellate. Second, a new generation of college graduates desperate to find "meaning" in a medium that's suddenly socially acceptable because their grandmother owns a Wii. Third, a small realm of experts that have a lot to say about what makes games good but not much to say about why because they're often a pretty focused group with narrow interests.
   I think icycalm is a nice corrective to all three, and a variation to the third type because he has a more comprehensive view of pertinent theory while still catering to the expert gamers. That's interesting.
   I'm looking forward to more essays and especially in reading icycalm's book. I hope it's soon forthcoming.
   I'm not sure my gaming history is too relevant as it's been slipshod and I'm not an expert in any of the varied genres I dabble in. If anything, reading some deeper thought about gaming here has made me feel that I need to push my own abilities and experience further if I want to gain some deeper satisfaction from playing games.
   I never want to read someone square off with another dolt about some console marketing bullshit again, or about how Flower is one of the deepest emotional experiences they've ever had. I feel like I need not worry about that here outside the lol section.

Arthur'sDog, Insomnia forum


On internet forums, every now and then you might get a rant: "The fucktards have no talent, this is bullshit, let's have a hierarchy". The mods (who are likely retards because being a digital nanny attracts losers) will calmly say, "we're all equal, you're being totalitarian, this forum is about love, be quiet or leave". The ranter will either bend over, leave, or kick up a shit storm till the ban hammer smacks down. But no one thought of starting up a new forum with truth, intolerance and hierarchy clearly in mind. That alone makes icycalm a genius. In this retarded society, he alone thought, "I'll make Hitler look like a reasonable pussy".
   icycalm is a cunt. But that's okay — if he is only interested in the truth: it's true Santa Claus isn't real, but telling little kids that makes you a cunt. Telling the truth is beyond good and evil.

Anonymous, /jp/


Insomnia has pretty badass articles, they don't hold back, but their criticism is sound.

Anonymous, /jp/


And the Insomnia answer is this: there is no issue that goes deeper than those relating to videogames.
   Does that sound ridiculous? Yes, at first glance. When I found the site years back I also remember finding its vision a little far-fetched. Skip forward a few dozen or so articles, and it's pretty much complete. Seriously, I urge you to read at least the main articles if you have the time. I'm not even going to swear at you this time, I'm simply suggesting some extremely interesting material to another person who may be capable of appreciating it. If you don't, then so be it. But at least give something a chance before dismissing it outright.

Anonymous, /jp/


If you care about videogames at all, you should check out this guy’s website.
   It should take a couple of days or so to acquaint yourself with his ideas. Whether you agree with him or not — and I’m willing to bet most of you will dismiss him for his misogyny and huge fucking ego — I’m pretty sure you won’t think about videogames in the same way ever again. You might even come back to this thread and realize just how unconsidered (at the very least) most of these comments are.

Brad, HTMLGIANT


You know, just last night I realized that the whole "complexity" thing (and also "depth versus complexity", even though no one seems to be sure of what the distinction between the two is) is a really popular discussion on pretty much every gaming forum I know of.
   Anyway, it got me thinking. Before icycalm, was there anyone who even wrote any theories regarding videogame complexity? I'd never heard terms like "possibility space" and "meaningful complexity" before icy. He was also the first person I know of to state that videogame complexity could be mathematically calculated. Even if you are of the opinion that icy's ideas are stupid and your own theories about complexity are superior, it seems no one would even have their own theories if not for icy's "errors and drivel". Regardless of who "likes" him and who doesn't, it seems pretty hard to deny his impact.

Marble, shmups.system11.org


I think Kierkegaard has written the most intelligent, clearly-written articles about videogames on the internet, by far. If you can't see that, well, I don't care. It's not my job to convince you. But I think it's telling that all of you that have criticized him haven't actually deconstructed any points he's made and proved them wrong, but instead just call him an asshole.

Ryuichi Naruhodo, Eegra


If you really are looking for extremely intelligent discussion on gaming, you could do worse than the Insomnia forum, although a word of caution: it's run by an absolute ZEALOT by the name of Alex Kierkegaard, so you better read the forum rules. It is moderated heavier than any other forum I have ever seen; you post one thread or reply that rubs Alex the wrong way, or that breaks one of the rules, or that shows an ignorance in reading the site's content (which as an aside I must admit I have enjoyed quite a bit — the guy is unabashedly hardcore, bemoaning the consolification and casualisation of games, and hating on the "artfag" movement quite a bit. However, he's also somewhat of a genius when it comes to philosophy and the like, and relating high-level concepts to gamer culture. The content is almost refreshingly free of bullshit as well — although some may find it almost too much so), you will be banned instantly and most likely ripped to shreds by the community (which is incredibly small, once you factor in how many people are banned). Personally, I think this fanatical level of moderation is beneficial to the overall quality of the posts; there are no wasted pixels, as they are simply altered, sometime to the level of cutting down posts; but it is also not a very good method of constructing an easygoing and friendly environment, which is why I still pop in here.

4fromK, The Escapist


That said, based on his writing, this doesn't seem far from how Arthur Schopenhauer would run a forum.

Myrmidon, TV Tropes


Insomnia knows better than you people.

MakotoShinobi, Kongregate


I discovered Insomnia when looking for reviews of Cave shooters and I've been a constant reader ever since. At the moment, I'm slowly working my way through the essays for the second time. This is far and away the best videogame site on the internet.

Halzebier, Insomnia forum


If there is an overwhelming trait in the world of videogames, a trait that has been observable for many years in every forum all over the web, it has to be the complete docility, the astounding soft attitude that seems to affect most of the participants, who reflect in each of their posts the severe degree of domestication of modern humans.
   However, sometimes an individual rises above this shapeless mass of zombified monkeys with anesthetized brains.
   An individual willing to shake up everything, to toss away the conformist ideas and meaningless judgments that are commonly accepted without resistance.
   An individual who gets to the bottom of things, who plunges deep into the maze of secrecy, who rises high in the firmament of the ideas he develops.
   An individual with an ego out of proportion and an aggressiveness that can trigger a war.
   This individual is called Alex Kierkegaard, as his pseudonym appears on his website. And this website is beginning to be present in all the heated discussions around the web.
   I certainly already pointed you to this site in the past, if only for the excellent article on arcade culture. But now, it has been a while that I have been following this site and reading this guy's posts on his forum, a forum like no other.
   And Hell! If I were not myself my own hero, he would be my next choice without hesitation.
   What style! What accuracy! What finely implemented logic!
   What values ​​nobly defended!
   What overwhelming theories!
   I had not read such literature on the web for a long time.
   I would have liked to give some quotes, but the gentleman's every intervention is worth its weight.
   Yes, indeed, the succession is assured. [Translated from the original French by Ronan Martin.]

oedo, webzinemaker.com


I really appreciate this site. It's made me think a lot and it's very entertaining, so thank you Alex. What I love about this place is that you take videogames so seriously, something that should only be natural for a reviewer but unfortunately is very rare to find.

Joris, Insomnia forum


Lots of interesting (and well researched) articles on various aspects of gaming, games journalism, development, games history and the like.
   The main writer has a tendency to be 'quite' militant in his views (especially the 'games as art' debate) and as a result seems to have upset just about everybody in the world attached to the games industry.

xheathenx, Drowned In Sound


Just a quick note that I’ve recently found a remarkable new (to me at least) voice in the realm of game analysis and criticism. Imagine my surprise at discovering (indirectly) that this individual has been reading this blog! I do fear an incoming link prior to rolling out the welcome mat, but a proper post with full pomp and circumstance will be following shortly. Here’s hoping I can keep my cool and remain calm while struggling to meet such high standards of discourse!

Seth Hearthstone, sethhearthstone.wordpress.com


This is probably a Shmups forum faux paux, but I actually enjoy Alex's writings and if you look behind the vitriol and insults his underlying ideas are quite right. His criticism of Hawkings and physics is dead-on, and he's certainly not the only person to level similar criticisms against Hawkings for the incomplete understanding of philosophy that he demonstrates in his writings.
   His stances on morality and women, though unacceptable to the modern, democratic reader, are firmly grounded in philosophical traditions and refreshing in our society that simultaneously preaches respect for diversity and equality along with moral certitude. Nietzsche's "On the Genealogy of Morals" convincingly debunked the myth of an absolute morality in the 1880's, so I think his claim in that respect is well-founded. I have a much more difficult time accepting the arguments on women and men, but the logic is sound and he makes it clear in the forums that exceptions to the rule — women like Clare Edgeley — do not disprove the rule. Videogames, if not biologically, are at least socially an overwhelmingly masculine activity, and anyone would be foolish to deny that. I've noticed this in my own experiences in terms of the number of female gamers vs. the number of male gamers that I've met, but also in the level of investment in the hobby between the sexes. Again, it's not a hard and fast rule (and he admits this), but the phenomenon has been extensively noted and Alex has done a better job than anyone else in attempting to explain it.
   Apart from those issues, his site has some of the best and most insightful reviews of games ever written, some of them written by him and some of them not, it has some great and really illuminating writing on general gaming issues, as well as a bunch of excellent essays by some great thinkers. I had never read Baudrillard prior to visiting Insomnia, and I'm glad I've discovered him, as he's a brilliant writer. However, I can understand the hostility a lot of people have towards the site and particularly Alex in that many of his ideas, if a reader has not thought them himself or already read the earlier works underlying them, will seem threatening and, perhaps, a touch insane.
   I'll be perfectly honest, I was introduced to the site via the "Arcade Culture" article a few years back after already knowing the one-credit rule and if I had read it before learning the rule, I probably would have gotten very offended and written him off as a frothing loon. But a friend of mine introduced the rule to me and I learned that playing by that rule made games infinitely more fun; already knowing this I was able to appreciate the article much more. This may seem elementary to shooter fans, but I needed to have a basic grasp of that rule before I could appreciate the article. Similarly, if one encounters these provocative philosophical ideas on morality, gender, science, religion, or whatever topic without first having some germ of the idea in mind, or at least a mindset that makes one receptive to it, of course it will be dismissed immediately.
   Does he act like a douche? Yeah. But hell, Jesus spent the last several years of his life trolling the Jews, so I feel icy's in good company.

AraraSPAMWitch, Shmups.com


His words are caustic and he's overconfident about his own views but the reasoning beside those arguments have sensible underpinnings. It's clear he has some basic understanding about the subject and actually thinks about his ideas before he posts them, which is more than I can say about some posters...
   If icycalm had a softer tone and was a bit more open at considering alternative (non-ignorant) viewpoints, he'd be an asset in any forum. And if I had more time to spend posting my own opinions, I'd probably post at his forum to get some mental exercise and expand my world view. Plus, anyone who loves cats can't be bad!

Ganelon, Shmups.com


He is one of very few people to even attempt to look at games in any disciplined manner.

z0rly, Shmups.com


The best and only Nietzschean übermensch games critic.

Anonymous, Something Awful


[The Simulacrum Is True] article is quite incisive. Juul is given no rest. It's like watching a game of SFA2 between Daigo playing Ryu and a cat given Dan to play but more concerned about smashing some annoying fly that keeps landing on its buttons.

Stone Bytes


I'm thankful for the content of Insomnia articles and this forum. So far I have made use of it to have more fun playing games, and as a yardstick and a loupe while reading other game journalism. Should I become a developer again, I would make use of it to make better games. I hope I will eventually be able to contribute something in return.

Victory, Insomnia forum


I first heard about this site through a 300-page TIGSource forum thread about icycalm, lol. I would be lying if I said I immediately recognized Insomnia's value, but over time, after reading the posts of icy's supporters and trying to understand the site's articles, I began to appreciate the sheer amount of knowledge, work, and talent that's gone into building this site, and just how much better it is than anything else out there. I also began to realize why so many of the most prominent "indie" games I had played didn't engage me much at all, and what their true design mentality was behind the whole "retro"/"art" facade (the opposite of what many of them claim to be: "retro" games with savestates and checkpoints every 15 seconds, "art" games that are primitive in almost every way).

SriK, Insomnia forum


After seeing icycalm on Action Button, the only logical thing for me to do was to come here.

Mathis, Insomnia forum


You should read more of his stuff. I don't agree with all of it, but he actually challenges your perceptions, and says stuff from viewpoints you've never heard before, rather than the pandering almost every review site has.

Anonymous, /v/


Since the universe is constantly changing, I doubt anyone will ever have the 100% clearest understanding of it, since someone else could come along later and learn more. But Alex Kierkegaard seems to understand everything that matters.

PCoderch, YouTube


The extremely strict posting guidelines and the persona of the insane genius running the place, coupled with the fee for account activation have intrigued me tremendously, as have his passionate, pretentious articles that resonate with me. The man echoes Lyric Suite in his love for genius and true forms.

Jasede, RPG Codex


After reading more articles — not nearly enough — it turns out my initial assessment was ignorant.
   The man is brilliant, not pretentious. I can only encourage most folks here to read all the articles as I believe you should find it to be enjoyable.

Jasede, RPG Codex


I loved his article about art games. Practically the only sane opinion about games as art I've seen.

Awor Szurkrarz, RPG Codex


Last year I was introduced to the "Arcade Culture" article. I've been playing arcade games almost exclusively since then.

SpaceMonolith, Insomnia forum


I've been reading the essays here for quite some time and really can't get enough. Alex, publish a damn book already!

youonlyknowme, Insomnia forum


This is the message board for Insomnia, a site caught somewhere halfway between some of the best videogame writing on the internet and an author's inability to exterminate the human species.

Michael J. Lowell, Battle.net


Writing reviews is hard fucking work. I consider it fascinating how simultaneously crass and eloquent the style of his reviews is. He makes it look very, very easy. His earlier work (2006 and 2007) has some rough edges but he smooths them out by '08 and beyond.

Michael J. Lowell, The Ghetto


Eventually my search for arcade info on the internet led me to Insomnia, a site I thought not much of at first, but as I kept reading found to have a much greater understanding of games (and apparently philosophy as well, something I'm not too familiar with) than any of the usual boring magazines or news-blogs. The dreg I used to read for reviews and news used to cause me to almost fall asleep and often lose interest. But once I began reading Insomnia I somehow felt drawn in by every text I started to read. The writing is of high quality and the topics covered in the essays, reviews and forums can be difficult to understand, but that makes it all the more worthwhile as the challenge makes it all the more fascinating. There was this inspiring article on arcade culture on there; suddenly a one-credit clear seemed to make sense.

Antti kl., Evolving Gamer


I end [my] blog today. Why? Because it is a pointless waste of time. The more I read Insomnia and the texts of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche start to sink in, the more I realize this and actually feel guilty for posting this trash online.

Antti kl., Evolving Gamer


Haha, as if I ever thought I could fool you! But I am not writing to explain or defend, I am writing as a way to let myself move on, and as I have been slain by your hand I can finally give compliments without fear of them being mistaken as a plea for mercy.
   I have never been good at accepting gifts, and I have had a hard time dealing with my gratitude towards you. When you spared me and gave me my last warning it was like the last drop of kindness I couldn't bare, my heart broke. The initial pain that kept me immobilized lasted over three hours, but the shame of having inflicted even the slightest amount of pain upon your hand will last my whole life (and if I forget, a semi-colon will be there to remind me). I wish now that I hadn't stopped myself from asking for a ban, at least then I might have been of some use as a good example.
   The reason why I never introduced myself properly was because I was planning a surprise gift of an expert Counter-Strike review (though I am also a master procrastinator).
   A quick history of my life:

Years 0-12: Normal boy.

Years 12-18: Was schooled in the good school of Counter-Strike, also schooled everyone around me (at age 14 I started to strictly moderate all whine, and all tries to take shortcuts by just copying the elite, as I was scared by how disgusted I had suddenly become with it and wanted to remain friends with myself and those I played with (at least I had the opportunity to scream directly at them; without that I don't know how effective my efforts would have been or how long I could have endured)).

Somewhere in year 17: Kicked a guy out of the clan for insisting there was luck in Counter-Strike (we had spent 4-8 hours a day playing together for the last six months, had also traveled across Sweden to meet in person and have a LAN, all five of us in the clan were very good friends, so he lost four while I only lost one).

Years 18-20: Was clinically bored as I failed to find non-pretentious people to play with (I know it takes a minimum of months to wash whine, excuses, and posturing away, and if it's anything more than a habit the person has picked up from playing with other whiners, it will never be gone).

Somewhere in year 20: Gave up on my greatest passion in life as I couldn't bare my disgust for those I would be forced to share it with (how I envy all those who have fallen for 1v1 or single-player games!)

Somewhere in year 21 (November 2009): Clicked on a link to the arcade culture essay in the comments of some random Gamasutra article, was skipping around out of joy for the rest of the week (though I haven't played much arcade, it might as well have been written for the Counter-Strike jump maps, which are basically mountain climbing).

Years 21-22: As I read all of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and you that I could find on the site, previously unknown wells of strength start to gush, and I slowly began to realize that the world isn't as boring and uninteresting a place as I had been led to believe ("omg equality don't be mean to people").

From my log of today (the last entry), age 22: "Made the huge 'resource' post, was banned. I think I'm a bit in shock, but now I can move on with my life."

I realize there is nothing I can do to ever pay off my debt of gratitude or undo my mistakes, but maybe I can make at least one game good enough to momentarily reverse the flow, the kind of game that nobody is ready to play yet. This short year-and-a-half I have been allowed to read your forum has given me so much, and in 50 years I will still smile at the memory of it. I could go on for hours with giving you compliments (as I often do offline, and it comes easy as all I find good in me I see a thousand times stronger in you) but if you've read this far I've already taken up more of your time than I am worth.
   My gratitude is endless, you have given me the world.

David Skjutar, via email


I'd like to say that I've been reading Insomnia for quite a while and that icy along with the rest of the crew created something unique on the internet today. I hope the high quality is maintained forever and look forward to icy's book.

austere, Insomnia forum


But, really, is there anybody in game journalism — or game philosophy — who can throw him off his throne? He may be smashing his opponents like a Nietzsche-wielding Hulk, but I really have no arguments against his truths. He may be saying the simplest things, but rarely, if ever, I've seen anyone telling them as plainly. You may try to discard this guy — he really isn't pleasant to talk to — but then who you will be left with?

Chentzilla, boingboing


Getting back on track, icycalm is definitely a genius, underestimating him in any way will only give you grief. Engage him directly without any preparation and he will slaughter you, just look at the mountain of corpses behind his grinning face. If you read everything he's posted on his website, you will see he's given everyone the chance to defeat him. Literally, it's all there and he's not afraid to hide it. He wants a good fight. He needs a good fight. The fact that no one has come even close to giving him one so far, grants him the right to declare himself a genius. If you want to prove him wrong, begin reading carefully — and thinking cleanly. Correcting small facts he's stated incorrectly doesn't count though, you'll have to do better than that.

substance, The Independent Gaming Source


I'm a member of a dozen gaming sites/forums. This is an oasis if you ask me. No morons, no fanboys, no console war conversations, no new releases chasing and ass kissing. Games are forever and Insomnia makes this clear, from the first moments you spent around here. I hope this will never change.

Jedah, Insomnia forum


I am an aspiring filmmaker but have recently found myself spending much more of my time playing videogames than watching movies. I am an expert on cinema but still just a hungry student when it comes to electronic gaming, and this website is easily the most reliable and informative source for gaming and game theory I've ever come across.

immersedreality, Insomnia forum


Rarely do I get hooked on someone's random editorial website, especially for videogames. This site is an exception.
   This website illustrates the essence of videogames, and I hope viewpoints like yours are the future of videogame critique. This site makes IGN and Kotaku look like Rolling Stone magazine — outdated dinosaurs.
   This website is a beacon of sanity in an industry replete with too much money, sway, fanboys and hype.
   Please keep it up. You are analyzing a culture the same way many people view it. Yet almost no one is able to record these sentiments in a coherent, well-written manner.

Lotekx, Insomnia forum


I enjoy very much the way the site is going these days. Very interesting threads and the latest reviews are amazing (especially "Spacewar!", "Tekki" and "State of the gaming media").
   This said, the main goal of this message was to say how much I enjoy everything I read and what's going on here.
   Establishing the basics of critique and reflection on videogames is a much needed work. But it's quite a big task and takes a lot of time, dedication, and some cleverness. I was long afraid nobody would find enough money to do it, and even that the game companies would try to control it, making it all impossible (of course not counting the attempts of dumbass university salarymen not even willing to try and get to know the subject).
   I am glad I was wrong. You proved your determination. And the simple fact that this website is still running, and running forward, is just great and promising.
   If I inflate your ego, I must say it's unintentional. You'd better understand it like encouragement. And after all, with a big ego should come great self-demand.

raphael, Insomnia forum


I love what you are doing with this site and am extremely grateful for your inspiring me to read Nietzsche and Baudrillard. I have gone through the first half of the Nietzsche list, the Tractatus, and two books by Baudrillard and these are by far the most interesting books I have ever read. I am looking forward to continued study, for once one has read such brilliant writings the mind craves more and will accept nothing less. I feel it is quite similar with this site — after reading your articles the majority of games criticism seems flaccid and pitiable.

Profanatica, Insomnia forum


I want to thank those who have contributed to Insomnia for their excellent articles on videogames and their culture. Never before have I seen such clear, factual criticism of this industry. These articles made my vague disdain for some habits into clear criticism.
   For example, I knew that the popular magazines were terrible for game opinions but I never saw how they fundamentally contradicted the very concept of reviews. I did not pay attention to all of the basic information that these "journalists" lose the day after the release. And I simply went along like it was something to be accepted, and thus never thought clearly about the issue.
   So thank you guys for writing these articles and publishing them.

infernovia, Insomnia forum


Congratulations to icycalm (and everyone involved) for this site. Reading your content is a pleasure. I was trying to point one review or commentary (or even a forum post) as my favorite but I couldn't.
   I gotta admit that at first I was avoiding your philosophy-related writings (I NEVER thought I would find a gaming site with such valuable content on the subject) but now that I'm getting some time to go through them, I can appreciate them as pure gold. It's really hard to come by someone with your ability to synthesize so much with such precision.
   It's refreshing to find so many questions solved with such incisive views and it's outstanding to see this in a gaming site. Impressive what you've done here relating philosophy with games.
   I'll be waiting for your book.

Beakman, Insomnia forum


On thinking about my gaming history, a single title bears mentioning: the much lampooned Super Smash Bros. Melee. This game made concrete my then burgeoning competitive mindset. With this game I payed my dues as a casual fagot from whom one could hear vacuous rationalizations (I would have said "aesthetic justifications") for having the loser's mentality, not playing to win.
   But then competitive Melee exposed the heights of attention required to succeed, heights of attention difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain. While playing I was single-minded, willful and at the same time always observant. It was honest play and it was more fun than anything that had come before.
   The joy of play was matched once, when I found a website whose author understood what I knew and more. I wrote with reverence about an idea which now seems to be self-evident after reading Alex's essays. The best thought I ever had is joined by dozens of others gleaned from Insomnia's essays.
   That's awesome. Thank you icycalm.

sand, Insomnia forum


This has been a long time coming, so I apologize for not saying it sooner, but thank you immensely for Insomnia. This is my favorite site on the internet.
   I've tried to get other people to explore the site, but they tend to stumble onto something they're so offended by that they dismiss you and go away. Your article on "Arcade Culture" is always well received, but linking them to "The Simulacrum Is True" or the discussion of "Can Cutscenes be Art?" turns them away faster than I can stop them. Most of them can't seem to cope with your style of writing. I find their reaction unfortunate to say the least, since these people are fellow designers and developers.
   At any rate, thanks again, and keep up the excellent work!

Magnum Apex, Insomnia forum


One of my friends pointed me to this site while we were talking about how bad game review sites were. I read one article and started to click around, and before I knew it, four hours had passed.

Lord Knight, Insomnia forum


This site is amazing beyond anything I could have imagined before I found it. I dare not even start with the reading list just yet because of the impact this site has had on me in these last few months I've been frequenting it. Your commentaries, Schopenhauer's essays and Nietzsche's words that always makes me wonder how he can know me so well.
   I am blown away, and very grateful.

Qpo, Insomnia forum



* * * * *



Learning to pay homage. — Men have to learn to pay homage no less than to feel contempt. Anyone who breaks new paths and who has led many others onto new paths, discovers with some amazement how clumsy and poor these people are in their capacity for expressing gratitude — and how rarely gratitude achieves expression at all. It almost seems that whenever gratitude wants to speak, she begins to gag, clears her throat, and falls silent before she has got out a word. The way in which a thinker gets some notion of the effects of his ideas and of their transforming, revolutionary power, is almost a comedy; at times it seems as if those who have felt this effect actually feel insulted and as if they could express what they consider their threatened self-reliance only by — bad manners. Whole generations are required merely to invent a polite convention for thanks; and it is only very late that we reach the moment when gratitude acquires a kind of spirit and genius. By then, there is usually also someone who becomes the recipient of great gratitude, not only for the good he himself has done but above all for the treasure of what is best and highest that has gradually been accumulated by his predecessors.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science