Desert Golfing is a simple 2D drag and release golf simulator. The terrain is procedurally generated and the play consists of pulling your thumb on the screen to indicate the force and direction that you will launch your ball in. That’s it. Just endless orange dunes and hole after hole. It keeps track of the total number of strokes you have taken and submits your score to the Game Center after a thousand holes. You will occasionally see a cactus or a rock. There is no celebration if you get a hole in one, and there is no reward besides another hole.

“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”
– Alan Watts

In Desert Golfing there is only the hole of golf that you are on. There is a hole coming up, and one you just completed, but they are meaningless in the context of the immediate game you are playing. There is some form of connection to the past via your score and the fact that the holes are numbered, but even that doesn’t really matter much in the course of play. The hole you are on doesn’t much matter, it is just this one shot in this one moment. No fanfare, no special treatment, just a continuous offering of the experience itself.

“If you’re doing poorly, the temptation to hit the reset button would always be lurking over you. But with no way to restart, the player feels a sense of freedom and reconciliation with life’s past mistakes.”
– Justin Smith, designer of Desert Golf

There are no menus and no restarting the game short of deleting it from your device and reinstalling it. There is just the game. No explanation needed or given. You gradually get better at playing it, but even then you are at the mercy of the terrain generator. Some holes are straight shots, some complicated negotiations trying to get on top of a tiny table-top or over a giant hill. The fact that the game seemingly doesn’t care for or about you is dramatically liberating. It leaves you the freedom to just play.

Pick up Desert Golfing for iOS or Android.

I was MC’ing Monsterhearts for an all star crew, and the Infernal and the Witch had sex on an altar in the creepy apple orchard. She took her sympathetic token from him (his pentagram necklace) and the Infernal’s dark power gained swapped a string from him to her. Then the dark power offered them each an XP to sacrifice the teen they had in the trunk of the car on the altar.

And they gladly took it up on that count, the Witch even adding insult to injury, Withering the kid on his way to the altar.

They both then leveled up and both took the “rest of the spells” option from their playbooks.

The whole thing really made me appreciate the beautiful symmetry between those playbooks. The Witch powers her hexes through taking strings, the Infernal through giving them away. The Witch’s darkest self is about having too much power and the Infernal’s DS is about having his credit extended beyond his ability to pay.


So the Super Smash Brothers short is out. I’m really happy with it. Kind of funny to see 16 hours or so (plus training/rehersal time) boiled down into three and a half minutes. It was fun to work with such a great cast and crew and to see my training from the last two years pay off. Bonus thanks to Aaron Alexander, Richard Hancock, Ann Wolfe, the good people of Blue Goggles, and everyone else that has supported me through the years.

Also funny to see the intersection of my game life and my stunt life. If we had filmed in a bar, it would have been the complete Nathan experience.

Check out the behind the scenes video for a little about the training for this role.


I’ve been playing a lot of Spelunky lately, and the more I play the more parallels I see with Buddhist practice. The Four Noble Truths form the core of Buddhist and are the framework of Buddhism.

One of the first things that any player realizes in Spelunky is that life is suffering. You throw yourself endlessly to your own doom. As you continue to play you come to realize Damsels, Dude-sels and Pug-sels, Cavemen, Shopkeepers, and even lowly spiders, snakes and frogs are all subject to the same rules and casual cruelties you are. Which brings us to the First Noble Truth: All beings suffer. This isn’t pessimistic, it is just an acknowledgement of how things are. We all suffer. This knowledge allows us to have compassion and connection to others. Any time you have a conversation about playing Spelunky with a fellow player, it will be a recounting of your shared suffering.

And Spelunky provides plenty of ways to suffer. Blind jumps, spikes, spiders, misplaced bombs, angry shopkeepers, the rock you threw that falls back onto your head, traps you didn’t disarm or avoid and the combinations of all of those and more. In his interview with Roguelike Radio, Derek Yu states that “when greed kills you in a game, I think it’s a good thing”. The Second Noble Truth is that suffering has a cause, and that cause is desire (or longing, or craving, or attachment). Desire is occasionally broken down into the Three Roots of Evil: greed, ignorance and destructive urges. Spelunky will promptly kill you for any of these poisons.

I think what makes all the suffering enjoyable (in a game sense) is that you are almost always the architect of your own suffering. I never feel cheated by the game. These are all my mistakes. As I learn and play and repeat I get better. I start to make the jumps, I learn how far I can fall, I can use a rat to disarm that arrow trap, my bombs and rocks start to find their targets. The Third Noble Truth is that there is a way to break free of the cycle of suffering. Nirvana is described as the state of cessation of suffering. By working to free yourself of the illusions presented in the Three Roots of Evil, you can achieve Nirvana.

The Fourth Noble Truth is that there is a middle way that can be applied to achieve Nirvana, and that is the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is the core prescription of Buddhist practice and consists of the following pieces: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Awareness, and Right Concentration. The pieces do not require an order, but are parts that support each other, like spokes on a wheel. By studying the Noble Eightfold Path, you can come to understand the patterns in your world and in your life that are at the root of suffering, and by studying you can over come the Three Roots of Evil.

So, in short, Spelunky and the Four Noble Truths:

  1. Spelunky is suffering
  2. There is a cause of suffering, and it is our attachments
  3. There is a way to the cessation of suffering
  4. That way is the Noble Eightfold Path

The good news recently is that I’m working on a “De-Pixelated” short with the good people at Blue Goggles Films. They do a monthly short that is their live action interpretation of a video game. It will be all brawling too. It was great working with them and a great reminder that I really do enjoy the physical training that goes into stunt work.

I can’t wait to show y’all the short. It is looking awesome!

I’m seeing more video game kickstarters offer “beta testing” as a part of their rewards. As an occasional professional game tester, I see this as a further degradation of an already weakly regarded profession.

Video game QA is a hard road. Your work is downplayed as “playing games for a living.” People discount your long hours and late nights as just playing around. “That must be fun!” they say, not understanding the frustrations of broken levels and gameplay, the careful diplomacy of pointing out flaws in other people’s work, or just the banal repetition of spending 40-60 hours a week on the same unfinished game over the course of months or even years.

Even within the game industry QA is often considered a lesser position, something your neighbor’s kid can be brought in to do for minimum wage. Just as good programmers are significantly more productive and effective, so is it with QA. A skilled quality assurance technician will be able to find more and better issues, and write them up in a clear, consistent and unbiased manner.

And this brings us to the problem. By offering beta testing as an “award” you further reinforce that it is not a job that should be paid for, and doesn’t require any particular skills. You also put yourself in the hands of untrained testers, and can have no confidence in the results of their testing. Without a proper vetting and testing process, you will be swamped with poorly written opinions masked as bugs. Also, because they have put in the time and work writing the bugs and having paid for the privilege of doing so, they will expect those issues to be addressed, even if they are not actually bugs.

So I urge you, hire competent testers, pay them appropriately, and I look forward to playing your game when it comes out.

I am also available for contract QA, by the way.