The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on April 19th, 2009 at 12:18 pm.

Sundays are for having too much work to do, yet finding yourself compelled to punch horrible looking people in the face, and then perhaps kick them a little. But as a break from that, it’s probably a good time to compile an list of interesting reading from across the web on the subject of electronic videogames and try desperately not to include a link to some manner of popular musicality. GO!

Failed.

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50 Comments »

  1. tom says:

    Everyone should check out SunSonic aswell.
    It’s awesome, stream your music anywhere, including to your mobile phone.
    http://subsonic.sourceforge.net/

  2. Meat Circus says:

    The Sunday Papers appears to have been published 14 hours early.

    Not a good Saturday Night, Kieron?

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    Meat: Er… it *is* Sunday.

    KG

  4. Meat Circus says:

    Sunday lunchtime. I know.

    A refreshing change for the Sunday Papers to arrive now.

  5. Clockwork Harlequin says:

    Games developer aren’t stunted adolescents, they just don’t how much better their AAA titles would be if they hired writers who weren’t stunted adolescents. Even The Witcher, applauded for the choices it thrust on the player, is hampered by the fact that the novels were written for an audience of stunted adolescents. Where is the FPS written by Ian Rankin?

  6. Mil says:

    There’s a fine line between a rant and a troll. The former can be useful to stimulate discussion, the latter poisons it with emotion and irrationality.

    Chaplin’s GDC tirade was a troll.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    Meat: Less bad Saturday night, more too-good Friday.

    KG

  8. Lewis says:

    New vendetta against Leigh: she writes exactly the fucking article I was about to start planning. Nasty woman. Very correct, but obviously nasty.

    Cheers for the Reso-link, Kieron.

  9. Lewis says:

    Meanwhile, a section of Ellard’s take on The Path uncomfortably reminds me of Alex Lucard’s insipid review at DHGF. It strikes me as arrogant to assume to understand the messages of something like The Path and then present them as verbatim. “They’re trying to hide the fact that it’s obviously about X!” Well, no, not really.

    A more elegant classical approach than a lot I’ve seen, but still one that’s far too prescriptive for my liking. “This is what games should be,” rather than “What are games doing these days?”

  10. Shadrach says:

    Wow, to namedrop Severed Heads, Turbonegro and the lovely lovely Saint Etienne in the same post – nice one mr. Gillen :)

  11. Daniel says:

    RE: The games as art debate.
    Who said it’s a binary choice? People argue for either camp but never for both. Games are commonly compared to films in the light of their artistic merit as Leigh Alexader said, what she didn’t mention was taht not all films are considered art. Hostel will probably not go down as a cinematic great alongside The Third Man. Just tsomthing to think about.

  12. Senethro says:

    Its not Consolevania but its good to hear Rab is making new and exciting video silliness on the internet.

  13. Muzman says:

    Violence debate needs more of this

  14. Smurfy says:

    The thing about “when film was this age it was badass already” is false. We’re talking about film as a story-telling medium, in which case we should be talking about video games as a story-telling medium as well, which has only been around for about 10-15 years.

  15. Paul says:

    Wow @ the Bioshock ending. While I think the problems with the last quarter are about time and constraints than anything, some of the ideas here seem so simple and obvious, particularly as regards the Big Daddy sillyness in the real game. Love the twist on the Vita-Chambers.

  16. Andrew Dunn says:

    Cheers for the heads-up about Rab Florence’s little board game thing.

  17. Clovis says:

    RE: Respawning in Multiplayer

    I’ve never found this strange at all. I’ve always assumed that I am “respawning” as a different soldier. As if the multiplayer match is actually representing a battle with hundreds of soldiers involved. Only 32 or so are in the location of the map, but there are hundreds outside it that will be arriving as soon as someone dies, or the next spawn time elapses. The latter makes more sense. As if platoons of reinforcements are constantly marching towards the battle, in groups of varying size but equal distances apart. The tricky thing is figuring out ahead of time that team blue will need 8 reinforcements in 5 minutes, but 13 in 10 minutes.

  18. Muzman says:

    The Citizen Kane debate was never about artistic legitimacy that I’ve seen, at least initially. I’m sure some naysayers have said “If games are art, where’s a Citizen Kane?” and that is a false parallel : you couldn’t make make my dad, for instance, watch Citizen Kane and he’d suddenly drop his view that movies are all a load of rubbish.
    What looking for a Citizen Kane of games means, or at least meant, was that highly influential work that brought a lot of different techniques together and used them to great effect and to really stretch the medium. There’s other aspects too, such as Kane not being really widely loved or popular until much later on. It took a while before it became the big name in every film theory text book. It’s also debatable that it is the big name everyone should be looking at (and not just the big American name in influential film history of the period). But it’s a convenient marker none the less.
    Anyway, in years past that’s what debates about “gaming’s Citizen Kane” have centred upon (where I’ve encountered them). Maybe I’m behind the times. In any case that’s what the discussion ought to be about, if ya ask me. The games/movies parallel is still fairly awkward but it’s a worthwhile one. (I’m one who thinks we’ve already had one or two, some whose influence has yet to be recognised)

  19. BrokenSymmetry says:

    I am completely on the “dieing and re-loading is incredibly immersion-breaking” side of the “dieing-in-games” discussion. Prince of Persia and Fable are great examples of game designers trying to find much more interesting solutions to “dieing”. Also, MMO games have always had, by necessity, to find an in-game solution to dieing, making the death system and death penalty one of the most interesting and most hotly-debated subjects of any discussion around a new MMO game.

  20. Dinger says:

    Ms. Alexander’s dead wrong about legitimacy too. Films were not considered “legitimate art forms” right off the bat. They were viewed as morally dangerous; and, for that matter, much of the world’s population still considers film a frivolous if not dangerous medium. Citizen Kane’s final form is heavily influenced by the Hays Office.

    The other problem with the CK argument is its presentist bias. In 1940, full-length feature films were only a part of the movie industry. Yet today, serials, shorts, travelogues and newsreels are viewed as quaint curiosities of little artistic value. And yet somehow we’re supposed to measure Peggle and Bioshock by the same yardstick?

  21. qrter says:

    Ms. Alexander’s dead wrong about legitimacy too. Films were not considered “legitimate art forms” right off the bat.

    I laughed out loud when I came across that line in her piece!

    I liked how she tried to slip that little clunker in there, midsentence, so it sounds as if that has already been debated enough and we all know it is fact.

  22. bowl of snakes says:

    one guys comment on the gamasutra article is perfect:
    “Where is film’s “SimCity” ? “

  23. pepper says:

    Daniel, we had that discussion about games and art in class last friday. It turned out we were arguing more about what art is and to whom it means something. The conclusion was that art is something personal and can almost define anything.

    About the dying:

    I think dying in games is a natural extension of what most games do, stretch reality and allow people to move through an alternative world unpunished by most actions but still bound by physics. Thus taking it to the edge can give you a huge reward or can punish your severely. Extreme sports are fun because it forces you to thread on a thin line between clearing a certain course or action and instant pain/death. Thus games use this to get people to be more immersed in games. When you die, you are taken away from that and realize that you indeed failed your task. Thus it can be seen as a punishing measure in games.

    Take MP games for instance. If you are a complete newbie to a game, then the chances are vets will outsmart you and kill you. a lot. In the process you learn to adapt to them, copy tactics and develop your own, eventually outsmarting them in combat. This gives a sense of satisfaction but the way to it is paved with a lot of punishment, still these games are immensely popular.

  24. Lewis says:

    Muzman: if that is indeed the debate, then bloody hell, there have been loads of Citizen Kanes.

    I suppose what the argument is trying to get across is: even the games aiming for complex, multi-layered, meaningful narratives aren’t anywhere near the quality of Citizen Kane. I’d largely agree. But then I’d point to titles as far back as the mid-to-late 80s that have been as relatively influential in other ways.

  25. Lewis says:

    I’d refute Leigh’s claim that films were artistically legitimate right off the bat, though. It took a few years before film even moved away from the fairgrounds. Even by Man With A Movie Camera, it wasn’t exactly a mass appeal thing.

    (I think that’s what people forget with film. These big classics that we talk up today weren’t necessarily enormous blockbuster successes at the time. Gaming hasn’t been around for long enough for us to tell what people will herald as ingenious in 50 years or whatever.)

  26. Chis says:

    I don’t hold out much hope of seeing the gaming equivalent of “The Wire” in my lifetime, then. :(

  27. Tei says:

    ” one guys comment on the gamasutra article is perfect:
    “Where is film’s “SimCity” ? “ ”

    Is called Dogville. See it, is a awesome movie that may change how you see the world.

  28. Clockwork Harlequin says:

    As a lot of people have pointed out, films did not pop into existence as ‘fine art’ nor should all films be considered art. Most movies are mere entertainment. I believe that games so far are also entertainment rather than ‘art’. What’s wrong with that? Although there are people trying to use gaming as an artistic medium, really great art is generally the product of an individual (say, a director, composer or sculptor) or small group (say, a band). I’m not sure if games can be produced in such a way so as to retain artistic vision if they are also going to have cutting edge graphics, sound, AI, level design etc. where the tasks are spread over dozens of people working various aspects.

  29. Xander says:

    Sigh. Another deliberate misreading of The Path, hiding the reviewer’s uncomfortable self-doubt behind a mask of ‘it’s not really a game so we don’t have to talk about it’.

    Kind of sad that the game of the year (in terms of ideas, at least) keeps garnering such juvenile and reactionary reviews. Thanks a lot, games journalism.

  30. hydra9 says:

    Great review of The Path. And I’ll eagerly watch anything that Rab Florence does, so thanks for the link. I expect eBay sales of Fury of Dracula to go up.

  31. Xander says:

    If The Path ends up being game of the year in terms of ideas, it’ll be a sad year for gaming.

    To be honest, while the failure to attempt any real reading into the game did irk me, and the prescriptiveness of his approach is troublesome, I do think this sticks:

    I am being necessarily cruel because the majority of reviews are of the ‘this is so wonderfully new so don’t dare hurt it’ type, and I think that time is long up for the infant industry stance.

    I’ve seen ten out of ten reviews of The Path that seem to justify the score in no way other than “wow, it’s so imaginitive and different.” I think that’s as misguided as “it’s not a game so it’s shit.” Both completely fail to engage with the text (sly wink) on any meaningful level. I think I’m one of the only people in the world that rates The Path “the game” more highly than The Path “the work of art.” I think it’s quite thin, sat next to the serious, developed art forms. Sat next to games, well, it’s surprisingly advanced and brave in its delivery, particularly in the way it controls. I find that much more interesting than reading into each individual character and her story.

  32. Quater says:

    Good lord. Do you think you could maybe one day manage to sit down in front of a keyboard without typing “y’know?”? It really does give me that fingernails-on-blackboard feeling every single time. Same goes for the near-constant use of “man” almost as a punctuation mark. There is a reason why some things belong in speech and not in text, and vice versa.

  33. Lewis says:

    That last post by Xander was, bizarrely me. I keep doing this: adding the person who I’m replying to as my own name. It’s very weird. Apologies.

    Quater – I do that as well. I guess I just type conversationally, y’know? Can’t believe you have a problem with it! Man!

  34. Quater says:

    Lewis, you forgot to add a “yeah?” at the end, yeah?
    NGJ in three simple colloquialisms! Man!

  35. Gassalasca says:

    Begrudgingly, I must agree with Quater. Not sure why exactly, but “y’know” does grate.

    Btw, have you noticed, Kieron, that you have a slight tendency to overuse ‘grate’? I’ve just finished rereading a few of your classic articles, four in a row I think, and it really caught my eye.
    Also, the fact they’re awesomely written is pretty hard to miss.

  36. Xander says:

    Weird… it’s like I’m arguing with myself. :)

    You’re right, Lewis. I must have liked the ‘art’ aspect a bit more than you or Kieron, and a balanced approach to it is all good and appropriate… but I worry that a lot of people simply aren’t going to play The Path because they read some moron describe it as a ‘rape simulator’.

    I guess whether you think The Path is chock-full of ideas or simply a bunch of weird shit in search of symbolism depends on whether you’re the kind of person who likes Grant Morrison comics or David Lynch films. Sometimes art takes a bit of work, and maybe most gamers don’t have time for that.

  37. Clovis says:

    @Chris: Haha, I’ve been watching the Wire all day. I somehow missed the show when it was first on. I thought it was just a long version of Boys in the Hood or something. Happily, I was very, very wrong.

    Anyway, you are unfortunately right. There’s always a few games that are touted for having a really good story. But even the best do not come close to a good film or book. Maybe that will change as the cost of production decreases, and the popularity of the medium increases. Hopefully.

    The Path was interesting, but sorry, it is not a major step forward for “games as art”. In fact, I think I’m going to be increasingly annoyed that it has to come up every time the “games as art” discussion comes along.

  38. Xander says:

    Just to be clear, I couldn’t care less about advancing the question of ‘games as art’. I think games self-evidently ARE art, and that the argument is a semantic circle-jerk.

    I’m suggesting that people play The Path because it’s good art and a good game.

  39. Binho says:

    I really don’t see death in games as an issue – unless the game is trying to tell a serious story.

    The thing is, “games” are and were born as an extension of play. It’s just more a advanced take on games we used to play as kids, such as cops and robbers and Cowboys and Indians. Even in those games the goal is to kill the other guy (“BANG BANG, I GOT YOU TIMMY!” “NUH-UH BILLY, YOU MISSED ME”).

    Hell, play for most carnivorous mammals consists of practice fighting. Look at puppies playing, they usually go for the neck and try to pin each other down.

    Do games trivialize death and violence then? No, not anymore than your average child’s game does. The only thing is that it makes it more visual, which I think is what the issue is.

    And also, why would I want to experience my gran’s death again in digital format? That’s not art, that’s just disturbing. I play a game to have fun, not to feel sad and slightly traumatized.

    In fact, like many people pointed out, why do we need games to be art?

    If games can ever be considered art, why can’t something like LARP, paintball or lasertag?

  40. Radiant says:

    I’ve seen Citizen Kane.
    It’s not exactly Rocky 3 is it?

  41. Dracko says:

    So, when is [Dracko going to stop posting things like this? - Ed]

  42. soundofsatellites says:

    uuuhhhhh
    uuu-uuhhhhhh
    young heeaa-aaaaa-aaart!

  43. Muzman says:

    Lewis says:
    Muzman: if that is indeed the debate, then bloody hell, there have been loads of Citizen Kanes.

    I suppose what the argument is trying to get across is: even the games aiming for complex, multi-layered, meaningful narratives aren’t anywhere near the quality of Citizen Kane. I’d largely agree. But then I’d point to titles as far back as the mid-to-late 80s that have been as relatively influential in other ways.

    Yeah, part of the fun/problem is figuring what line to draw. You have to talk around the yae or nae of Kane’s all conquering greatness with your game/film fan usually. I’m not one who thinks its the perfect article by any means, but I can see the case for its significance.
    If you want to understand the movies we mostly watch today (depending on the movie, of course) you’re pretty likely to be watching a lot of Hitchcock and Kurosawa and even early Spielberg. Exploitation and horror films have been hugely influential so you end up watching lot of genuine crap from the late sixties and early seventies. Kane would be an odd beast, with all of its symbolic mood lighting (for instance) either of debatable effect or terribly heavy handed.
    The story aspect is fair enough I guess, but I don’t think Kane’s story is all that complex or multilayered. What sets it apart is the way it’s told and it’s approach to character being very cinematic. Taken from that angle we get a few Kane’s in gaming, as you say.
    One that I trumpet regularly is Thief: The Dark Project. I reckon it ought to be in all the text books in five years (though it’s hard to peg it as influential since developers don’t often cite it even when they seem to be doing the same things). The counter argument is usually that “the story isn’t good enough” to be Kane, it’s just a generic sort of anti-hero tale in an unusual setting and nobody really likes the last level. But is that the most important thing. A lot of great stories have fairly generic plots. It’s how it’s told that’s the thing and it’s method for dealing with the problem playing the main character (as that is narrative gaming’s particular area) with the narrative being linear is elegantly done. It’s still game-cutscene-game like many before. But the way you are delicately fed clues and can optionally seek out a whole lot more in the game, about the world and its characters, and the many ways to play the game. These allow a lot of room for players to create the character for themselves while still having the same basic throughline as everyone else. Garrett is a very ‘vidematic’ character, if you’ll allow me that nightmare of a term.
    This is, of course, alongside the litany of other achievements the game makes (stealth is way down the list. Most of them are all the things they had to do in order to make stealth work). The detail of all those things make it something people should be looking at in years to come and make it less of its time than say Half-Life will turn out to be (though it isn’t yet).

    Anyway, that’s one brief summary of a Kane argument of the sort I’m talking about. You could probably make a good case for a few games like that, Half-Life among them.
    Game genres make it a bit interesting as narrative driven FPSs are an easier parallel for obvious reasons, but where do we slot Starcraft for instance? All kinds of fun.

  44. Kommissar Nicko says:

    Critics need to look at games and carefully ask , “What about this story REQUIRES it to be an INTERACTIVE game in order to be told?” When a narrative appears that wouldn’t have worked just as well as a book/movie, it’s a piece of art.

  45. Kieron Gillen says:

    The word which I’m over-using at the moment I’m painfully aware of is “totally”. I blame Matt Fraction.

    (For “Man!” blame Quinns. I think “y’know” may be all on my head though)

    Don’t worry. As with most quirks, I’ll get bored of them soon enough.

    KG

  46. Alec Meer says:

    Just like he got he bored of writing ‘KG’ at the end of every single comment, eh readers?

  47. Kieron Gillen says:

    Shows how little time you’ve been on the net, Alec. I used to sign off with something even poncier.

    KG

  48. Myros says:

    I found the article on death in games to be interesting, though some comments were imo overly simplistic in the defense of the ‘it’s only pretend’ concept.

    Yes, games aren’t real and probably 99.99% never have any problem keeping them seperate from reality but that doesnt mean they have no impact on the cognitive evolution of the individual or society. Philosophers, playwrites etc have known for a long time that ‘entertainment’ can and does have the potential to shift and manipulate the perceptions of the audience … any input into our brain matter can have this effect, and the more specific thought patterns are repeated the more often pathways in the brain become permanent influencing other behaviors and perceptions.

    Oh and of course you have to take into consideration the total gullability of the human species. We will believe almost any nonsense if the right buttons are pushed … just look at the world religions if you dont think fantasy, pretend and superstitions can have a real and lasting impact on humans ;)

  49. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    Preach it, Alec.

    KG

  50. Sonic Goo says:

    Why do people keep comparing The Path to books or movies? Wouldn’t it be much more obvious to compare it to something like sculpture, installations or performance art?

    That would change the way you’d look at the story quite a bit.