The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on January 25th, 2009 at 1:14 pm.

Sunday Morning is a time for slowly making your way across London town whilst carrying very tired friends. Though, I suppose, that was more Saturday Night. Sunday Morning is now Sunday Afternoon, but still – its true purpose remains. That is, compiling a (shorter than usual) list of fine games-related reading from across the week for your entertainment whilst trying to avoid linking to potted histories of last night’s clubbing or in fact any music whatsoever. Go!

Failed.

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90 Comments »

  1. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Also, the FEAR franchise jumps on the Red Alert weird ad train:

    http://www.gametrailers.com/player/44751.html

  2. EyeMessiah says:

    Womaniser is tripe but mistakes and regrets is AAA. Although haven’t you linked to it before? I seem to remember commenting that ever inch of hope becomes a world of shame at least once before.

  3. EyeMessiah says:

    Every I should say.

  4. thefanciestofpants says:

    That’s a hell of a band name. Noted.

  5. EyeMessiah says:

    I think its actually “…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead”

  6. Ginger Yellow says:

    Freaky. I was going to be at Black Plastic but I had a birthday party to go to.

  7. EyeMessiah says:

    “Prof Walker said that it was still unclear whether playing computer games caused other social problems, or were merely a symptom of them.”

    This is the key phrase surely? If you are too stoned to leave your house anyway then what else are you going to do? There is only so much Jeremy Kyle that someone on the edge of a drug induced psychotic break can take. Games a probably a stabilising influence on these people!

  8. Theory says:

    For instance: would it hurt The Graveyard to add Achievements to it? Hardly. Achievement: you have walked to the bench without limping! Achievement: you have sat on the bench without getting up before the song ends! Achievement: you have turned around three times before sitting down! Achievement: 10 birds have greeted you while sitting on the bench. Etcetera.

    What the fuck? That would be terrible!

    How anyone who makes arty games like The Graveyard could even consider slapping gormless achievements like those all over it, let along decide that they’re a good idea, is beyond me.

  9. l1ddl3monkey says:

    @Toonu: So a newspaper study identified that people who like one form of escapism, in this case playing computer games, are also more prone to liking other forms of escapism, such as drink and drugs? Wow – those are some clever scientists.

    I presume it was the same scientists who also managed to suss out that the surface of the sun is quite hot.

    Glad to see my taxes are still being put to good use.

  10. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, I disagree with the achievements thing. It could be tastefully done, possibly, but while playing Vegas 2 it annoyed me that every time I shot a bad guy in a slightly interesting way it said “DING! I’M A GAME! YOU’RE NOT REALLY A HIGHLY TRAINED SOLDIER BUT A NERD GETTING POINTS FOR NO REASON!”

  11. eyemessiah says:

    I should really log in to the forums so I can get edit working!

    ALSO, the “I suspect its circular” thing is a total cop-out: its just a way of avoiding having to establish clear causation but still imply that their is some kind of dangerous “runaway” effect in play.

    Also, why do they keep going on about high scores? Did they base their research on watching King of Kong or did they just poll Space Giraffe players?

    Also, as we all know historically gaming has been a marginal hobby indulged in secretly by marginal people. This has changed a bit, but there is bound to still be a bias in the gaming pool toward the maladjusted simply because stigma dies slowly. I suspect the that same “research” (I’ll bet it was one of a million uni-psy-dept surveys) if conducted 20 years hence would struggle to show such a correlation – provided gaming continues to conquer the mainstream.

    Also re. the quality of relationships bit, this effect (modest as it is) is partly due to the difficulty in getting SOs to play games, because as I said its still a somewhat stigmatised hobby – and also because many family members did not grow up with gaming. Once that 55% start having children I fully them to spend much more time SOCIALLY playing games with their family. IMHO this will have a positive effect on their relationships, which you can’t say about watching TV, which is one of the few things people still do together.

    And at the end of the day, there is nothing interesting about saying “If you spend too much time doing something by your self it will hurt your relationships with other people.” Clearly this isn’t a problem restricted solely to gaming, and in fact they don’t even specify whether or not they found that this is more of a problem for gamers – they just say that too much time spent gaming (by your self presumably) is bad for your social status. Du-uh.

    As Monkey points out its kind of tautological to say that people who were marginal anyway are more likely to be attracted to marginal pastimes. The thing that is dangerous about these kind of articles though is that they say one thing, which is obviously and trivially true (NERDS DO NERDY STUFF), but imply another (GAMING RUINS GOOD PEOPLE) which they can’t prove but which kind of piggy backs on the first assertion.

  12. Gap Gen says:

    Yes, watching films & TV socially is interesting, as the act of watching films is intrinsically antisocial. Then again, it’s a shared experience that can be talked about later.

  13. eyemessiah says:

    @Gap Gen: So is gaming. Gaming can be an intrinsically social experience AND you can talk about it later. Gaming wins!

    I’m supposed to be cleaning my kitchen right now, which I think is why I am so involved in these comments.

    “Researchers now want to test whether the games also cause harm to romantic relationships.”

    Even this implies that they established causation for their first set of assertions – even though they admit that they couldn’t. I suspect they won’t be able to do so in their next study either, but luckily that doesn’t matter because their findings will be reported in such a manner that the salacious implications will be emphasised over the logical status of their claims.

  14. Machina says:

    Interesting to note that the author of the gamer study, Prof. Walker, is based at the ‘School of Family Life’ at Brigham Young University (owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Have a look at the Wikipedia page for BYU. It’s terrifying – an ‘honor code’ on behaviour (including, interestingly, alcohol consumption), and even a Statement on Academic Freedom.

  15. BaconIsGood4You says:

    Achievements are the worst thing to happen in design. Ever. A whole industry (art?) is obsessed in adding valueless elements. Good design is paring something down to the bare minimum, it is having a clear and consistent goal and execution. It is not slapping a bunch of random and lazy stuff on top. Ornamentation is death.

    Game design needs a Bauhaus.

  16. qrter says:

    No mention of this week’s Steam deal, concerning a RPS favourite?

    What, 75% off Mount & Blade, you say?

    I wasn’t very enthusiastic about M&B in the demo stages myself, but at that price they certainly got me!

    *toothy white smile at camera*

  17. Premium User Badge James G says:

    Wow, that Telegraph article was terrible. Part of me is hoping that they are seriously misrepresenting the original study, but the quotes from the researchers make it clear what their motives were. I can’t find the paper in the literature database PubMed, which means that either its unpublished (which means it hasn’t gone through peer review) or its in a journal not indexed by PubMed. As always, the paper fails to provide a reference to the original study. (Seriously guys, a DOI is short enough that it can be added on to the end of even the print article. There is no excuse for not providing proper links in online articles.)

    I don’t dispute the possibility of a correlation between some of their measured factors, but to imply a direct causation is lazy at best. I sincerely hope that they also accounted for the gender divide when churning out half those statistics.

  18. qrter says:

    Achievements are the worst thing to happen in design. Ever. A whole industry (art?) is obsessed in adding valueless elements. Good design is paring something down to the bare minimum, it is having a clear and consistent goal and execution. It is not slapping a bunch of random and lazy stuff on top. Ornamentation is death.

    I agree with you as far as lazy achievements (“you finished quest X, here have some points, whatever those mean”) or when achievements break the immersion of the game, making it too gamey if you will (“find all 5000 bags/flags/sacks/caps/laps/taps/raps unconveniently scattered all over the place”).

    But there are good achievements – the Little Rocket Man achievement from HL2: Episode 2 comes to mind. That one made me view and play the game in a completely different way, which is a nice thing.

  19. Lewis says:

    Michael’s discussion of achievements was limited by it being his own personal take on them, though. When I pointed him in the direction of ludicrous people who focus more heavily on achievements than what the game is actually trying to say, he came round to my way of thinking a little.

    Funnily enough, I’m currently researching for a feature about how achievements are ruining the narrative-driven single-player game. But bizarrely, none of the players I’ve interviewed about it seem to consider it a problem, even though they’re clearly guilty of neglecting the core of the wonderful worlds they’re exploring. I worry that this says more about people’s consideration of the importance of a strong narrative than anything else.

    That ‘druggy-gamers’ study is flawed from the ground up. Firstly, you’re interviewing students, so there just is going to be a higher intake of booze and drugs than in most other walks of life. And, y’know, because it’s based on the assumption that games are a cause of this, rather than the fact that smoking weed tends to make you want to do nothing more than sit in a chair and make minimal movements.

    D’oh!

  20. Dinger says:

    Well, in all fairness to the BYU study, the reason for the imbalance is, no doubt, mathematical. If one man has 10 wives, that leaves 9 pathetic single males without mates and low-esteem.

    Achievements: it’s already been said. Collecting stuff is really dull. The game recognizing that you did something cool, well that’s great. It’s another game with its own set of rules and victory conditions, and if that offends you, why are you playing games anyway? And hey, I don’t mind suggesting cool or silly things to do, especially if you give it a witty or semi-witty name.

    Building gaming’s future. There’s a lot to digest in that article, but I’m not entirely sure of the change. Construction sets have been a hallmark of personal computer games since the beginning. Likewise, free software has coexisted with pay stuff, from the start. The notion of “open source” might be relatively new, but “public domain” games aren’t. Consoles have spearheaded the enclosure movement.

    The comment about the next generation of consoles is interesting. That’s the real result of the console war: Microsoft released the Xbox in 2001, the Xbox 360 in 2005. The next Xbox? Sony’s been running its Playstations out every six years (1994, 2000, 2006). Will they keep it up?

  21. M_the_C says:

    I believe that achievements could work well in a game, the just haven’t been many good examples of such.

    It should be mandatory that they can be turned off (or at least no notifications as Gap Gen’s example pointed out) and they should definitely not be required or give any possible bonus or advantage. What they are good for is encouraging a different style of play. For example, I think the base achievements in TF2 are pretty good, it encourages you to use different classes and do your best to succeed. The class specific ones are not so good, the pyros aren’t too bad but some of the medics were awful, ‘Assist in killing 3 enemies with a single ÜberCharge on a Scout.’?! What possible use is ubercharging a scout? Unless you have already activated it and no-one else is around it’s basically encouraging bad gameplay.

    And yes, I also think that QTE is potentially a great addition to gameplay, it’s just that no-one besides Shenmue (and possibly Fahrenheit) has used it in a remotely good way.

  22. mandrill says:

    @Eyemessiah & TooNu: I was going to reply to the Telegraph article with a comment here but it turned into a bit of a ramble. so I posted it on my own blog.

  23. MetalCircus says:

    London is a shithole. Today I was affronted by a crackhead who told me he was going to cut his wrists and kill himself if I didn’t give him a lighter. He’s a bit fucked, then, because I don’t smoke. (a woman next to me gave him one)

    I really hate it when people romanticize this city. It’s a shithole. I’ve lived her all my twenty one years and I can’t wait to leave. (thought i’d go off on this tangent on acount of Kierons whispy romantic drunk story which did my head in acctually)

  24. OAB says:

    @James G
    Try this link http://www.springerlink.com/content/w487673k5415k142/?p=9429dfa722d54b68adea31677b5b8f6d&pi=5
    If that doesn’t work it gives the DOI as 10.1007/s10964-008-9390-8

  25. AndrewC says:

    London is bigger than everywhere else, which means it has more of the best and more of the worst. If you are going to define London by one drug addict then you should feel free to move to the home counties and subscribe to the Daily Mail.

  26. Nick says:

    As tongue in cheek as your counterpoint was (probably)… I pretty much agree with it. False attempts to lengthen game time or pat you on the back for doing something you had to do anyway, pointless to the last and often patronising and irritating.

  27. Rei Onryou says:

    Also, the FEAR franchise jumps on the Red Alert weird ad train:

    http://www.gametrailers.com/player/44751.html

    I’ve pre-ordered the Platinum service already. Hopefully the shipping container will have air holes this time.

  28. Muzman says:

    Achievements are great evidence that games are still at the zoetrope stage of carnival gimickry in their artistic development, (at least as far as the industry proper is concerned, if not the developers).
    That article’s glee at their potential is a little scary actually as it points out just how well they fit in with a lot of the hip theory on fun, flow and ‘everything can be a game’.
    The next iteration of Windows will probably have them at this rate.

  29. Dr_demento says:

    Dicks do NOT care about achievements. Dicks care about having the largest Gamerscore (or its equivalent). If achievements did not carry over between games, if they had no points value attached, if your achievement status was not visible to anyone else – then they would be better. Achievements per se, though, can be a fantastic idea. I refer you (again) to Crackdown and, yes, The Orange Box amongst others. Done well, they provide a stimulus to try playing the game a different way and thus add longevity and replay value. Done badly, they’re effectively a % completion tool.

    Oh, and being able to turn off the notifications would indeed be nice, but that goes for every example of “adding options to a computer game”. I think it should be mandatory for games to allow complete control remapping, even (especially) on consoles, but it’s not going to happen. Alas.

  30. SuperNashwan says:

    On achievements: Blizzard are evolving how they work in WoW by changing them from a simple e-peen score to give in game rewards. Currently they made the raiding content relatively easy so everyone can see it, but then layered that with achievements that are currently the hardest challenge in the game (Sarth +3 drakes).
    On one hand that looks cheap, because it costs Blizzard nearly zero development time to implement an achievement like that, BUT it does add genuine content (the 3 drake fight is dramatically harder and tactically challenging) while at the same time less hardcore players get to see all the cool stuff of the basic fight.
    If everyone gets to see the cool assets Blizzard create and at the same time progression guilds have tough challenges to keep them going (and soon meaningful rewards), that’s not so bad is it?

  31. Dean says:

    Mount and Blade doesn’t appear to be available on Steam in the UK :(

  32. M_the_C says:

    @Dean
    It has temporarily been taken down, probably due to the same problem UT3 had in the Christmas Sale, lack of CD-keys.
    Although I don’t think there is any official word on the problem yet.

  33. AndrewC says:

    There’s a good chance they ran out of activation keys and so temporarily withdrew the game.

  34. AndrewC says:

    What he said. Also: achievements! Boo! But a system that invisibly encourages players to approach the game in different and interesting ways! Yay!

  35. Steelfist says:

    The telegraph article about gamer druggies and alcoholics is hilarious.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/technologynews/4323067/Computer-game-players-more-likely-to-drink-ignore-family-and-have-low-self-esteem.html

    Interesting that next to that article is a link to a ‘featured partner’ article about how to use your DS’ memory card better…

  36. Jason Moyer says:

    Achievements are great in score-based, multiplayer, strategy, puzzle, or other styles of games that reward repeated play already. In games that are totally storydriven they’re just annoying.

  37. Naurgul says:

    I was going to read that Greek Tragedy one because… err… I’m Greek myself. But I realised he talked about Plato’s ideas. I’m sorry, but that’s philosophy (even though it’s presented through a dialogue; that’s how philosophy was presented back then) and has little to do with drama, therefore little to do with Greek tragedies (which are a genre of drama, i.e. theatre). Not everything made in Greece during antiquity is the same freaking thing and I hate it when everyone assumes so.

    tl;dr – Plato didn’t write tragedies.

    PS: Scanning through it I saw that he becomes a bit more on-topic later on but that doesn’t rectify his mistake nor does it make me any more interested to read it.

    PPS: Yes, I ranted; sorry about that.

  38. AndrewC says:

    Plato had a lot to say about drama and the role and form of art, on account of being a right mouthy git.

    Plus I get the feeling Ian Holdstock had to demonstrate knowledge on a bunch of things in order to satisfy the demands of the course, so forcing him to shoehorn in a bunch of stuff that maybe doesn’t fit together perfectly. Plus word counts always lead to some awkward ellisions.

    He’s missing more clarification about what he is lumping together as Greek Tragedy, but that doesn’t undermine his points by itself.

    Not that I’m saying I agree with a damn thing he wrote (and his typos are something shocking!), but academic writing is a right bugger at the best of times.

    P.S. Never rant.

    P.P.S. Never use tl;dr

  39. sunday evening kobzon says:

    I like how achievemrnts mark my progress in games. When i start wandering like a blind kitrten it’s nice to see that i’m doing what designers thought i’d do. Some achievements add a certain potential depth to the game, like crazy Dead Rising achievements about killin a billion zombies. Nice that the game keeps track of such shit. Now off to read that article.

  40. Premium User Badge James G says:

    @OAB, Thanks

    Well it seems that they do decide to factor in the variation between the sexes, amongst other variables when considering usage. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that they have pretty much assumed causation in their introduction, referencing a single previous paper in support of this. (I’m outside my area of speciality here, so will end up in unfamiliar territory rather quickly.) Interestingly, they only seem to find some of the corellations in a subset of site (they spread the study over four universities), which suggests local social groups may be having an effect.

    As far as I can tell, the survey was conducted online, in a voluntary basis in response to adverts at the end of lectures. This immediately introduces selection biases, and exactly how the study was advertised is going to have an effect here.

    They also make reference to the ridiculous finding that placing large numbers of cumputer games is inversely correlated with accademic success. In other words, students who spend less time studying are less sucessful.

    Oh:

    Despite the contributions of this study, it is not without limitations. Foremost, the correlational nature of the data precludes causal inferences. While our discussion of the findings often took a causal tone, it was done simply to present possible interpretations and to underscore the need for future work to examine these possibilities.

    Indeed.

  41. eyemessiah says:

    Indeed indeed.

    RE. “Achievements”
    I approach them in the same way I approach XP schemes. Where they are incidental to gameplay I try to ignore them. This kind of works in Planetside because the stuff that earns you XP is often what I would have been doing for fun anyway – it almost solves the “grind” problem by starting with reliably fun standard FPS play instead of trying to polish often dull play by dolling out rewards for persistence ala WOW.

    Where they are used for lazy content stratification (WOWCOD4 multiTF2 etc) I get annoyed by them and try to bypass them by cheating if this is possible.
    I agree that they should be optional, but I also think XP should be optional.

    If I had it my way XP in Planetside would just be an epeen for people who are interested in that kind of thing, and you’d be able to pick a generous selection of certs from day 1 & swap them out without penalty ala Tribes 2. I don’t enjoy being drip-fed.

    TF2 is fairly well judged in terms of casual play because the “bonus” weapons aren’t essential, but I’d still rather that everyone had access to them for “free”.
    The unlocks in COD4 irritated me and I used a profile hack to open them all up for multiplay before I had even tried the game. I’m glad I did and enjoyed the game all the more for it.

    Unless we are talking about progression within a linear narrative I’m not at all interested in games holding stuff back just to lengthen play a bit. In multiplayers unlocks often actually reverse the difficulty curve, with play being easier once you have access to them. IMHO WOW style mmos are guilty of this in terms of the interaction of itemisation and level bracketed PVP.

    Even in terms of games like space giraffe I’d prefer it if all the levels were unlocked at the outset.

  42. faelnor says:

    greek tragedies more like geek tragedies lolol

  43. IanH says:

    Looking for it now, I can’t find it, but in one version of that paper there were a few sentences when the cave first came up, defending my including it by suggesting that it contains elements of tragedy in the Aristotelian tradition, like hamartia and anagnorisis which are really what I’m writing about for those first pages. Probably would have been safer to use a trad. play than that parable to introduce the concepts, but I wanted to retain the bits about cave related imagery, which I think are often used deliberately. At some point though, I said something to the effect of, “If you staged The Cave, it would be a tragedy,” and I still hold by that. Also,by that time while writing the paper I didn’t have enough knowlede about enough plays to competently write about them.

    @ AndrewC You’re fairly on the mark, although my approach to scholastic efforts is also fairly to blaim. Fifteen page paper due? Oh, but I’m going to turn it in five pages at a time? Which lead to a little bit of inconsistency. For the first four pages, I Ijust had a title to go on, and my high school english teacher reading us the cave bit in the republic and then showing us movies that drew parallels to it, e.g. Star Wars.

  44. Nick says:

    “Blizzard are evolving how they work in WoW by changing them from a simple e-peen score to give in game rewards.”

    You mean like how several games already did? Not exactly evolving anything.

  45. Joe Russell says:

    @ Nick

    So if an animal evolves legs after another animal has already done so, it’s not evolving? To evolve you don’t have to be the first to do so. I’m just happy Blizzard are still looking at adjusting what is pretty much their core gameplay.

  46. DrGonzo says:

    Well Now I think I may email you the essays I have written on games! Did a few, would love to become a games journalist, wanted to make games but now I’m not so sure.

    I don’t know if this makes me a bad person but if someone told me they were into New Romantic Dark Electro Post Punk Disco I may have to hit them. What a ridiculously long and stupid name that gives you no idea what the hell its about! May have to check it out.

  47. BooleanBob says:

    *twitches*

  48. IanH says:

    Ah, so I didn’t do it as well as I thought. I just have, “This parallel illustrates how, while The Cave is not technically a tragedy, it is possessed of elements of tragedy as well as themes that find their way into more archetypal tragedies” which didn’t go as far as it should have in explaining why I was using The Cave (That is, because it is short compared to a full play, and contains elements of tragedy in such a way as to exemplify them perfectly).

    Of course, the last three paragraphs are the best of the lot in my

  49. BooleanBob says:

    also, at DrGonzo: By my understanding of music genre terminology (read: arbitrary esoteric dross), it basically just means the Smiths, but with more synth, more fey (c’est possible?), more of a leaning towards dark, untidy nightclubs and less towards those wistful alcoholic afternoons (when you sat, of course, in your room), and yes, more likely to get you punched by small-minded/right-thinking (delete by preference) people should one admit a penchant theretowards.

    Also they probably do play the Smiths. Most likely This Charming Man and Panic, as everyone loves the idea of hanging the DJ, poor strawman of the mainstream cultural zeitgeist that he is.