The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on November 30th, 2008 at 3:58 pm.

Sundays are for writing GTA4 reviews. Well, they are for me. Should be up later on Eurogamer. But when not doing that, I like to compile a list of the interesting stories I read online this week involving games, and try to avoid linking to a webcomic thing that tickled my tickler. And here it is. The list, not my tickler. What a horrid idea.

  • Tom Armitage puts his GameCity presentation online, where he muses about what if Gamers ruled the world. Because within a decade, world leaders will totally be well within those who grew up with games. One of my standard riffs is that for games to be more generally accepted, all we have to do is wait for old people to die. This is a much more positive (and smarter) take on the same subject matter.
  • Soren Johnson writes defending the much-maligned second-hand retail market. Not a major PC issue, of course – most shops don’t actually stock PC games for second hand. Of course, that does make it a PC issue. That there’s no resale market is one of the forces pushing PC games to the corner of the shop. Retailers are better off selling a console version which they can then buy back and resell for a hefty margin than a PC game, after all. Of course, all of this is a side effect of games costing as much as they do. C’est la vie. [Via Dubious Quality]
  • And talking about going shopping, Leigh Alexander does exactly that over in Kotaku. Which leads her to examine identity as a gamer and the concept of mainstream. As Ed Stern said at the Thinkosium, it’s worth remembering we’re the beret-wearing coffee-sipping intellectuals. We’re not normal. That’s fine, of course, but worth remembering.
  • N’Gai Croal in his regular Big Idea meta-commentary column takes on the idea that was kicked around the blogosphere that reviewers tend to over-punish innovation. We picked up on Keith Stuart’s start of this on the last Sunday Papers, where Keith got a bit of a hammering in the comments thread. My personal take is that reviewers actually mark for failure rather than success – because failure is absolute and easy to notice while success in games is primarily subjective (And requires theoretical leaps to explain if you’re going to try and do something more than “It’s awesome!”). The problem with this is that rather than marking for highs, you mark for the absence of lows. And frankly, that tilts the marking scale in favour of mediocrity. Actually, before I go: a little meta on N’Gai’s metacommentry – it’s interesting how that everyone involved in the debate gets a real name, while the reviewer on IGN – despite being bylined, despite his review being the core thing being discussed by everyone – gets treated like a faceless drone worker of a great hive.
  • We mentioned Kyle Orland’s press-pass column when writing about Spirit Engine 2, but it’s worth reading his article about the difficulty of coverage for indie games. Do read.
  • Lovely RPS reader Helm has been posting his print-comics on his blog. And frankly, they’re great. Though the top one is just a drawing of a cock, so you better scroll down sharpish.

Failed.

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55 Comments »

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  1. Pags says:

    I hope you haven’t said anything positive in your GTA4 review, or the RPS readers will have your head on a stick. Even if it is really, really awesome.

    I’m really digging Kyle Orland’s article so far, and I thought his enormo-comment on RPS recently was great too. I didn’t enjoy Spirit Engine 2 too much, but I gotta say I’m finding more and more reasons to admire the guy.

  2. Pags says:

    Wait I think I just completely misunderstood who Kyle Orland is.

  3. dhex says:

    tom armitage is probably a nice guy and all but he’s overdosed on doomsday pills and gone off into the weirdest directions. games are far, far less influential than people – especially those involved in the industry – want to believe, either for good or for evil. of course they want to believe they’re really, really important. we all do.

    but it’s probably not.

  4. Tom Armitage says:

    Man, if you could tell me where to get any more Doomsday pills, that’d be awesome, because I’m pretty low on them and popping Rad-X all day just doesn’t give the same buzz.

    More seriously, dhex: that article isn’t the sum total of what I believe, and you’re totally right when it comes to the power of people being people – but I was taking a tangent for a games festival and running with it a little, and it was a relatively light lunchtime slot, so rather than getting bogged down in constant hedging of bets, I just took one idea to a logical conclusion. I explained a bit more about how there’s much more to these issues than the talk in response to someone else’s criticism, which might help your root my perspective on a more even keel.

    But like I said: it’s rhetoric, and whilst I believe most of it in part, I’m also convinced that the people that will make the real difference will be smart, educated leaders, versed in all manner of sciences and skills. I just think that games can be part of that education too.

  5. dhex says:

    “Ladies and gentlemen, there is a world in which people do not know that Kotaku exists.”

    we call it heaven!

    nicely written piece, but pretty big on the “no duh” factor. and maybe that feeds into the point above – of course everything seems really important and relevant if you’re mashed up inside of it.

  6. vander says:

    Isn’t he Chicago’s quarterback?

    j/k

  7. dhex says:

    tom, i do dig where your tangent was going in the sense that “games are part of the mental landscape, the mythosphere, and will have some kind of impact via that”…but on the other hand when people mash up peak oil and survival horror in the same sentence, my eye gets a bit squinty.* thankfully i have a lifetime script for cynicism pills so that clears that right up. i’m not a postman type – bring on the insane vicissitudes of niche culture, sez i, especially since it’s coming anyway – but i don’t think these glosses have nearly the impact we think they do. the way societies react to them probably has far more effects that reach further than the actual works do. (i.e. the legal reaction to ulysses in the u.s., which changed how people wrote and what they could write without ending up in shit with the jerks with guns.)

    * for clarification, i actually know some peak oilers, so…i don’t think they’re learning anything from survival horror. or oil, for that matter.

  8. BooleanBob says:

    Is this the thread for ragging on kotaku? It is? Excellent. One moment, please.

    Ahem.

    Screw those guys! Those – those parasites! Feeding on and perpetuating a water-torture IV drip of schlock culture, press releases and lazy opinion passed off under the guise of ‘journalism’, with all of the first-amendment foot-stamping and ‘net celebrity egotism so entailed. Screw their useless and incoherent editorials, screw their hysterical, fanboy-bating headlines, and screw their fscking gamer cakes! Even if Crecente does have a pretty rockin’ pirate-vampire look going on,

    SCREW YOU, KOTAKU!

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    Hey, you’re in the wrong place to be down on net celebrity egotism, BooleanBob.

    KG

  10. Muzman says:

    (I’d never even heard of kotaku until a couple of months ago, but then again I’m not hip)

    That innovation debate is going to go round and round. It’s frustrating that it really needs to be kept vague or else all anyone talks about is ‘is Mirror’s Edge any good’ or whatever examples anyone tries to pin down. That seems to be missing the point.

  11. BooleanBob says:

    Yeah. But you guys have kind of been my heroes since, oh, PCG80 or so. The one with the Choose Your Own Adventure Diablo II preview. Whereas those Gawker goons, those “blogonauts”, represent (to me at least) the New Media regime and everything associated therewith that I find vile and reprehensible.

    In short, yours is an ego that I would celebrate any day of the year*, Gillen. <3

    *Excepting Christmas and Easter, when my affections are reserved for the Cult of Personality known as JC (Denton).

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    “Award-wining Choose your own Diablo II preview”, I think you’ll find. Which apparently annoyed Blizzard terribly.

    EDIT: (Er… me doing it. Not it winning an award.)

    Go net-egotism!

    KG

  13. matte_k says:

    Liking Helm’s comics, reminds me a bit of this fella:

    http://dresdencodak.com/index.html

  14. SightseeMC says:

    Actually, somebody somewhere *should* mention that the two geekiest Gawker sites (Kotaku and io9) are the worst written. I always expect the opposite, since I keep reading them. But this is the wrong place for that too.

    Failed.

    Anyways, good round-up of articles this week. Trying to finish before hitting the RPS group for more zombie mashing.

  15. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    Leigh Alexander’s article was interesting, and its something which surprises me perhaps more than it should. I’m completely miffed at how some people seem to choose games, I once heard someone pick up a game and go, “Ooohh, I loved the TV series.” To be of course, ‘based on a TV series’ is usually a bit of a red flag.

    A friend of mine recently brought an Xbox 360, yet the only games he seems aware of are ones that get advertised on television. (He had the sense to Google them though, so he’s not buying entirely blind.)

    In shops, I’m occasionally tempted to offer input when I see someone choosing between two similar games, one of which has a good reputation, one of which a dire. Usually the person sounds fairly inexperienced, and bases their decision on a few closely scrutinised screenshots or a movie tie-in. But I don’t think my comments would be appreciated, and I’m not even sure they’d be relevant. Seperating the objective from the subjective can be difficult, and we all have that one game we love, despite it being nigh on universally slated elsewhere.

  16. Meat Circus says:

    @James G:

    “Proles are thick and only buy shit” is not a startling revelation.

    I think you’ll find that Orwell wrote a book about the fuckers.

  17. Saflo says:

    It’s as if there are actually people out there who play the occasional game as a simple leisure activity between real-life obligations and hobbies they find more stimulating.

    I shudder at the thought.

  18. Rosti says:

    Re: Gamers ruling the world, I have often maintained to non-gamer friends and family that a lot of my enjoyment in games comes from a resource management and decision making perspective. Obviously not all games do this transparently, but I’d be very interested to see how a gamer’s rapid decision making stacks up against ‘normos’.

  19. silence of the zergs says:

    Tom: I went to a posh university with a lot of these future leaders of the world, of the generation you are talking about. They were the ones getting elected to the student union, not the ones playing Elite Force on the college LAN. I think the non-gamers will be in power for quite a while yet, even though they will probably be in the minorty soon.

  20. karthik says:

    I discovered RPS long before I heard of Kotaku.
    Also, food-for-thought-wise, best Sunday Papers yet.
    Go net elitism.

  21. Pod says:

    Helm?
    The same Helm as the very-good-pixel-artist Helm who rules the Pixel roosts and who used to be a contributing member* to the AGS community? Awesome!

    *may still well be

  22. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    Working in a GAME (I don’t know why I still capitalise it), I’m constantly both crestfallen and mildly exasperated at customers (and my fellow employees) when they know nothing about the games they are buying. It’s not just that they’re a bit ignorant, it’s that they seem to avoid any sort of advice. They ask me if the game they are holding is any good, then ignore my opinion. I guess they just want someone to reinforce the opinion they already hold, not bring them around to another. So I can definitely related to Leigh’s point. We are the culturalists, but hey, there are culturalists in film, music and tv. Some people like crap, some people are a little more discerning. That’s just how it goes.

  23. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    Oh, and RE: Second hand games; I do think that it’s perfectly reasonable to sell games on after you’re bored with them (the really good games you’ll keep after all), but I think the frankly absurd mark up GAME and Gamestation make on them (A brand new game will trade in at half it’s selling price, and then sold at £5 off the new price) is insulting to both buyers and sellers. Do yourself a favour and find a local game store that does trade ins. You may not get quite as much money for your games, but you can guarantee that the games you buy from them will be cheaper for it. Fight the powah!

  24. Muzman says:

    Rob Fahey’s bit on Eurogamer is good too on the resale problem.
    The bleating is rather insulting actually. These people are supposed to be brainy business types. The message ought to be obvious; games. cost. too. much. The second hand market is the industry’s making.
    EB games in Aus trade in secondhand PC games, incidentally.

  25. Premium User Badge

    dhex says:

    sponge: one reason they may shy away from advice in the game store is because of past experiences with said advice, which – in my limited observation – often trends to the acerbic and dismissive. or the just plain jerky.

  26. RichP says:

    Gamestop sold used PC games as recently as 2005, I think.

    Anyway, one of PC gaming’s legit problems is game pricing/ownership. You can easily resell and transfer ownership of console games. On the other hand, if a PC game doesn’t work on your system or if it sucks (and let’s face it, many games aren’t worth $50), you’re usually stuck with it.

    To successfully compete with console games, which are more convenient to play and transfer between owners, PC games need other forms of value (mods, free updates, etc.). The market already responds to this issue: PC games depreciate much, much faster than console games.

    Essentially, PC games have to compete harder, because they’re a riskier investment for the average buyer. Reward and/or mitigate this risk, or lose sales to the consoles (this is especially true for multiplatform releases)

    Totally agree with Soren that digital games are laughably overpriced.

    PS: I just ordered a used copy of CivIV: Beyond the Sword from eBay. Hope he’s happy ;)

  27. fulis says:

    I remember that Diablo II preview =)
    Another one that stands out was the Halo one (in issue 84?)

  28. Solar says:

    I went to Helm’s site. Excellent. However I only recommend you scroll away from the first post if you are too young or squeamish to deal with the use of adult content. Otherwise you miss an interesting discussion about media, politics and public mistrust. But hey ho, what do I know?

  29. john t says:

    I’m just going to post this here because it made me laugh and I needed to share:

    Left 4 Bed

  30. Dinger says:

    Tom Armitage’s piece can actually benefit from the twin banes of game forum criticism: Godwin’s law and games-to-cinema comparisons.

    “The greatest generation”, the people that ran the world during WWII, were the first natives to cinema, and the “new” mass media. One of the major reasons why we the US cable network “The History Channel” is known colloquially as “The Hitler Channel” is that Hitler, and his Allied contemporaries, all understood the power of the new mass media. Il Duce’s discorsi were broadcast; FDR had his fireside chats, the list goes on.

    Pie in the sky reasoning aside, we already have a WoW-freak in Obama’s transition team. In the corporate ranks, game-natives are moving into positions of power. 2018 isn’t much different from 2008 (Except the number of people we have to type up their handwritten notes is fewer)

  31. Kieron Gillen says:

    fulis: Yeah. World’s first Halo cover, for the record. Written while in LA at E3, in a hotel room, downing Margaritas

    (On my own money, I stress.)

    Hilariously, while was still on the shelves, Microsoft bought Bungie. Worst selling issue of the year.

    KG

  32. malkav11 says:

    Honestly, I think more shops should start selling second-hand PC games again. Let’s face it, the primary instigator of this policy (and the ridiculous “no opened games” return policy) has been piracy fears. The idea that someone would buy a game, copy it, crack it, and then sell it again. Could this happen? Certainly. But in what universe is this ever going to be an easier, more popular way to pirate games than just downloading the damn things?

    There’s a US chain of secondhand (and remaindered) stores (Half-Price Books) which still carries used PC software, and they do all right out of it as far as I can tell. And they have a 30 no-questions-asked return policy, too. They actually get way more PC software than console. Admittedly, their main focus is and always will be the used book market, but that’s definitely not the reason they’re the only chain store I visit when spending time in other cities.

  33. Saflo says:

    Malkav, there is also the issue of a used PC game being near or past its install limit, or in the case of games that run on Steam, being tied to the previous owner’s account and thus useless.

  34. Robin says:

    I’m no economist, but surely Soren Johnson and Rob Fahey are giving a little bit too much credence to Gamestop’s (obviously biased) interpretation of how the market works?

    Maybe retailers are able to ask such a high price for new releases BECAUSE of their intensive pushing of the resale option, and not the other way around. Supermarkets and online retailers don’t seem to have much trouble discounting games.

    Just because a business model is the only one that allows specialist retailers to survive, it doesn’t mean that it’s one that is necessarily good news for publishers or consumers.

    Poisoned Sponge makes a good point also. The option of dog-eared copies of games for five quid off the RRP is not opening the market to anyone, it’s just making high street shops look like jumble sales, with ever-dwindling space or justification to carry anything but the most mainstream products.

    I’m not keen on the idea of publishers locking more and more content behind single-use activation codes, but it’s clear that the retailers aren’t going to use any common sense or moderation to try to ensure they actually have suppliers who are able to keep supplying them.

  35. RichP says:

    @malkav: There’s a Half Price Books near my house with a glorious PC game section. The other day, I got CivIV: Colonization for $8 with a 50% off coupon. Also found a boxed version of Master of Orion II for $5.

  36. Dorsch says:

    You certainly didn’t lie about Helm’s comics being great.

  37. LoTekK says:

    Helm is also an awesome pixel artist. :)

  38. Dorsch says:

    He seems to be into Videogames, Comics, P&P RPGs, Heavy Metal and fake German. I don’t think him being awesome and creative fits into my world view. Damn.

  39. Thaine says:

    Doesn’t N’gai Croal argue against himself when he says that games and developers should have champions, but we shouldn’t expect reviewers to gloss over inadequacies in favor of innovation? Or did I miss something?

  40. Helm says:

    Hi. I really really appreciate the mention. I am a very dedicated RPS reader, I even read the comments in most stories that interest me which says a lot about the quality of the contributors. The only reason I don’t mingle is because I don’t have the time! I just wanted to say that I appreciate the kind words.

    Also, you guys are some sort of video game enthusiasts, huh. Try to finish Thurstburst then! (http://www.umlautgames.net) Bwahaha! I BET YOU CAN’T.

  41. Ixtab says:

    I had a moment similar to that which Leigh was talking about when someone next to me picked up Portal, looked at it for a moment and was discussing it with his friend and then put it back down to buy some other game that I don’t remember. I desperately wanted to pick it up and put it back in his hands but decided I would come off as a bit of a weirdo. Their conversation centred arround the puzzles looking interesting and I couldn’t fathom how they had not heard of the humour, of GLaDOS, of the companion cube.

  42. Angel Dust says:

    That whole Kotaku article was a whole lot of “well, duh”. I am very much aware that my appreciation and interest in games and films is not the norm, as I am sure are many of the people here. Why do people get so outraged/shocked when someone is shown to have little to no knowledge about a certain topic? We weren’t born with any of this knowledge so you should never expect it and chide someone for not having it.
    That said I do think that a gamestore employee gaming knowledge is usually quite low compared to other sales professionals. The comparison between the guy who sold me my television and the guy who sold me my console was staggering.

  43. malkav11 says:

    Steam and install limits are issues, certainly, but despite the recent trends, still very rare. A game retailer ought to be capable of identifying those games and refusing to buy them.

  44. Jonny Robson says:

    Jesus Christ, that N’Gai can’t half talk some bollocks. He said in a couple of thousand words what most right-thinking folk probably came up with after reading half of that Guardian rubbish last week.

  45. Jonny Robson says:

    And by right-thinking, I mean correct-thinking…

  46. Down Rodeo says:

    Kieron: I’m tempted to say that the simplistic-sounding “wait for old people to die” is quite probably correct. In scientific circles often the new, surely-that’s-not-right theories are dismissed until the previous generation’s scientists die off. People like opinions. In fact they like them so much that they tend to keep them indefinitely! I’m sure were I not as tired I could come up with an example but as it is I am racking my brains and have nothing. Might as well add [[Citation needed]].

    Oh wait, I remember. Someone (an author) called it a paradigm shift. Who that was I can’t remember. Christ I’m doing badly tonight.

  47. Dracko says:

    blablabla more blogosphere wank about video games GET A REAL JOB

    You’d do better to mention the new Black Mesa: Source trailer:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=oGlhgVz5r6E

  48. Kieron Gillen says:

    You’re conflicted, Dracko. I can tell.

    KG

  49. Jonas says:

    Oh good lord, they got the MP5 just right. Is that actually the sound from the original game, or did they just replicate it perfectly?

  50. Saflo says:

    It sounds more like a typewriter in the original.