The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on September 6th, 2009 at 5:20 pm.

Sundays are for… God, this is a Long one. Anyway, Sundays are for heading to the evil South, having lunch, coming back and compiling a hefty list of splendid reading about games and similar things while trying to resist linking to one of the may things which were filling my late-night music listening last night, at least until I started playing AAAaaa(“Snip”-Ed) at 3:30am.

Failed.

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139 Comments »

  1. dan- says:

    @ Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
    Just… what… I mean, what the fuck?

    I’m now going to listen to Napoleon Solo by At The Drive-In at high volume and try and forget what I just read. :/

  2. mungobungo says:

    That post on ww1 medic was crap. It didn’t even mention the bugle that pretty much captured the futility of warfare.

  3. ChaosSmurf says:

    “Just take it an inch at a time.”

    I do love this site.

    @dan- breast physics are IMPORTANT.

  4. Rigley says:

    That Kurt Vonnegut article was great, thanks for posting it.

  5. Garg says:

    Er wasn’t it Soren “Civilization 4″ Johnson?

  6. Mister Hands says:

    Sweet mercy, I love S-K’s Corin Tucker something fierce. Did you ever see them live, Kieron?

  7. Senethro says:

    Sunday papers just get longer and longer!

  8. solipsistnation says:

    Maybe if people DID fuck developers every once in a while they wouldn’t find it necessary to spend so much time on ridiculous boob simulations.

  9. Dracko says:

    Leigh Alexander needs to fuck off.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    Mister Hands: Only once, alas.

    KG

  11. Mil says:

    Funny that Soren Johnson talks about how cheating in games can turn players off. That’s exactly what happened to me with Civ IV.

    Civilization gives out a progressive series of unit, building, and technology discounts for the AI as the levels increase (as well as penalties at the lowest levels). Because of their incremental nature, these cheats have never earned much ire from the players. Their effect is too small to notice on a turn-by-turn basis, and players who pry into the details usually understand why these bonuses are necessary.

    Yeah, I understand that these bonuses are necessary because the devs made a pretty poor effort with the AI. After release, one guy from the user community was able to use the game’s SDK to create an AI that cheated much less than the original one and was still competitive. And that was just somebody in their own time who happened to care enough to try to fix the game.

    I hate rationalisations like Johnson’s: “oh, users are dumb, they won’t notice the AI cheats if you don’t make it too blatant”. Guess what? You’re underestimating your users and cutting corners and they can tell.

  12. Guhndahb says:

    Yes, but is it really such a handicap to be incapable of reading Tom Ewing’s emotional cues?

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Tom didn’t write the piece.

    KG

  14. Lack_26 says:

    There is a sims 4? Bloody ‘ell, that was quick. Also, I really want to have contact lenses that give you a HUD and I really like the idea of having subtitles in real-life. I do like subtitles, make TV so much better.

  15. Guhndahb says:

    I know, I was just (unsuccessfully) being a smartass about the way it was worded. :)

  16. Sagan says:

    I think Leigh Alexander’s argument is simply wrong. Clearly if you look only at shooting games you will find that they are only about shooting. But there are of course many other genres. Everything from city builders to football games and most of the recent indie games were simply ignored.

    About the metacritic topic: I would really like to see a similar analysis, that focuses only on publishers who care about their metacritic score. Like if you charted all the games by EA, I bet it would look different. The publisher of Terminator Salvation probably doesn’t care about metacritic, because they know that their audience doesn’t read reviews. But the EA audience does.
    And I think that chart would give us a better idea about whether incentives based on metacritic scores are valid or not.

  17. Kieron Gillen says:

    Vvvvvvvvvery good.

    Leave me alone and I won’t do this on Sundays again. The member of RPS who’s always hungover does this. For you. *For you*, Guhndahb.

    KG

  18. Guhndahb says:

    On the bright side, that does mean you “won” at the game of Saturday Night this week. Grats.

  19. Psychopomp says:

    I fucking lol’d at Ninja Gaiden.

    This is it. We’re at the bottom of the waggle hole.

    It can only be up from here.

  20. Dracko says:

    Sagan: Surely you don’t expect a game critic to do some research as well as refrain from being a patronising See You Next Tuesday?

  21. l1ddl3monkey says:

    Watching The Shock Doctrine now, love that sort of thing.

    On the strength of the few panels shown I want the rest of SUPERGOD. Will be visiting my comic shop tomorrow.

    Ninja Gaiden: This is why non-gamers don’t take gamers seriously.

    Still working through the rest…

  22. Alex says:

    At least he didn’t call him Soren “SPORE” Johnson.

  23. Dracko says:

    To be honest, we’re talking about Team Ninja here: The people who despite making fairly good games figured best to promote them via individual breast physics and literally sticking the exact same doll face on every single one of their female protagonists. This is pretty much to be expected.

    Or maybe it’s having a laugh at the expense of the Sixaxis?

    lol japan, etc.

  24. Polysynchronicity says:

    @Psychopomp: Actually, as I recall, Soul Calibur 4 did it first. So we’ve been at the bottom for quite some time, with no improvement in sight.

  25. Kieron Gillen says:

    l1ddl3monkey: It’s actually out in November, but you could totally pre-order it now.

    Dracko/Sagan: Have you actually read the piece or just going on my own paraphrasing thereof? You haven’t. Or if you have, you should read it again.

    KG

  26. Dracko says:

    Why read it again when it’s the same old whiny crap?

    Please, do tell what exactly is new or in fact researched in anything she’s said. All I see is Leigh making herself out like the dim-witted fool she is again by berating her audience.

  27. Kieron Gillen says:

    It features developers who actually make the violent games we’re talking about agreeing with her, for one – the quote from the Raven developer is amazing. There’s interviews with – what – at least six developers in there, from all over the spectrum.

    In other words, this isn’t about her. She’s done the work. You should read it because you should want to know what Tim Schafer or CliffyB or any of the others say on the topic.

    KG

  28. Dracko says:

    Yes, and unsurprisingly enough, those were the good bits.

    She should have just posted the quotes without commentary, really.

    Instead of showing her true colours by revealing she has nothing but contempt for gamers and that she’s dazzled by window dressing without every considering the design and mechanics that go into making certain games the mass-appeal best-sellers that they are.

  29. Dolphan says:

    There’s plenty of stuff for feminists to critique in games, though most of it will simply be reflective of the wider culture rather than unique to the medium. This makes articles like that Bioshock critique that completely miss the point all the more depressing. The counter-piece is excellent though.

  30. Dracko says:

    Where does it miss the point, pray tell?

  31. Robin says:

    Funny how a lot of people who are up in arms about NGS2 SIXAXIS boob-jiggling didn’t make a peep about creepy-as-fuck DOAXBV.

  32. ChaosSmurf says:

    @Robin – there are people who are up in arms as opposed to just laughing? Cause that’s all I’ve ever done for either :P

  33. Subjective Effect says:

    I just don’t get where Sleater-Kinney come into all this?

  34. Heliocentric says:

    Sometimes sunday papers has a bunch of navel gazing which i can hardly stand to finish the article because it feels like having that opinion forced on you without the writer having actually considered alternatives. But this is sunday papers lite, all the high value content less of the self importence (from the writers of the articles, kg clearly still loves himself).

    I guess what i mean is, good haul :)

  35. Sagan says:

    @Kieron. I have read the piece. But then I read her commentary about the piece, and I think that influenced my comment much more than the piece itself.

    But after re-reading the piece I still think that she is simply wrong. As I understand it, she argues that there are very few creative games which ultimately don’t count since the derivative games are much more successful. And I think that that is the wrong way to look at it. You have to look at it the other way round: When searching for creativity the mass market stuff doesn’t count. Otherwise you could argue that every form of media suffers from a lack of creativity. Most books and most movies and most of everything is not very creative. Even more so if you look at the bestseller lists.

  36. Mo says:

    @Dracko: Most of the article was just quotes and extrapolations from said quotes. Oh, wait, it’s Leigh Alexander so lets just bitch for the sake of bitching, right?

    There’s only one person spouting “the same old whiny crap” over here …

  37. Bremze says:

    I’ll have to agree with Sagan here.
    I haven’t played a game where the main character is a space marine since Doom 3 because I was too busy making portals, stacking balls of ink, raging on precious pottery and crashing rockets into mind-controlling brains.

    There are tons of innovative and fun games coming from independent developers, small studios and Eastern European developers. I don’t expect to hear prog rock when I turn on MTV.

  38. Baris says:

    Oh god, I couldn’t even get through that full ‘Bioshock is sexist’ article. Which says a lot since I was genuinely interested and curious about it.

  39. Jim Rossignol says:

    Arguably there’s always a trash mainstream. You just have to hope that the medium is big enough to support an interesting avant garde too.

  40. V. Tchitcherine says:

    Firstly, sincere apologies for the length or unfocused nature of this sprawling comment, originally intended to be a few lines.

    The first Bioshock piece of redundant sophist shlock succumbs to an unfortunately common fallacy that views or opinions expressed within the internal logic and context of a text is self-justifying; by its mere presence, it proves one’s thesis, which -for obvious reasons- is a useful fallacy.

    For instance he cites the numerous attitudes on women espoused by the rather vile men who inhabit Rapture, yet it is wholly representative of the regressive character of society of the time, it is overt and part of the fundamentally anti-human nature of Rapture society, which ironically and hypocritically heralds the achievement and capacity of the individual human.

    All of characters to some degree (with the possible exception of Kyburz, an Australian engineer) are sympathetic monsters. Tenenbaum and Julie Langford (a botanist and defoliant specialist) are probably the most humane of all the characters presented and I don’t believe it is incidental that they are female.

    The argument that Little Sisters are commodities is most true though it overlooks that in an capitalist society all things are commodities with possible modalities if constrained by social or regulatory constrictions.

    Whilst I appreciate the time spent on this sophistry and find some of the arguments somewhat compelling, I think it would be more pertinent to examine the more sophisticated presentation of eventuated organisational structures, from which one infers a great deal more insight and could certainly be written about at length, as it is quite a powerful if at times, unsubtle repudiation of the perversion of Enlightenment principals.

    Though Rapture implodes into chaos and ruin, its critique of Objectivist philosophy is more nuanced and is best typified by examining the very remnants of Rapture, the natural inclination to feudalism, authoritarianism and collapse that I and many others would be believe to be the naturally induced course in an anarcho-capitalist society.

    Philosophers like Rothbard would protest, but one merely has to look at the adumbrated version of capitalism that we live under to see that concentrations of power are magnetic and almost inevitable. Even with the pretence of democracy that one enjoys in a liberal democracy, one has to be intentional ignorant of the dominant and coercive role of concentrated wealth.

    Wilhelm Von Humboldt’s 1792 writing ‘Ideas for an endeavour to define the limits of state action‘ is in my estimation required reading for anyone who wishes to see the base immorality of capitalism, though the modern libertarian or conservative would see themselves as the lineal descendant of his conclusions, the reasoning is more important than the conclusions themselves.

    He states that man’s central characteristic is his freedom to inquire and create and that coercion to do either “does nothing enter into his very being”, that in direction or coercion he replicates with ‘mechanical exactness’ and is thus neither an artist nor exercising human freedom, instead a mere device in the hands of others. Represented in an extreme form as the ‘playable’ protagonist Jack.

    Therefore also ‘the labourer who tends a garden is perhaps in a truer sense its owner than the listless voluptuary who enjoys its fruits’. Jack is more truly the conqueror of Rapture than Fontaine despite having no cognitive freedom. Humboldt quite explicitly argues a strain of anarchist thought that has been reiterated by Kant, Marx, Mill, Chomsky and others and though he is arguing against coercive state institutions, the reasoning is true against the dominant institutions of today.

    Bioshock’s fiction repudiates more primarily -in Levine’s estimation- fundamentalism and dogma, though there is a powerful argument against the modern perversion of classical libertarianism, or either pseudo or total anarcho-capitalism. Andrew Ryan and indeed the whole of rapture praise their own human achievement and capacity as humans to create, to think, to be free of coercion, suggestion or control, indeed one of Ryan’s last messages to you exalts his ultimate power not in weapons but his intellect. Yet there is an underclass within Rapture, ultimately who rebel, part of what Humboldt termed ‘disaffected labour’ for whom such rhetoric is a farce. The option between servitude and starvation is neither free nor fair nor voluntary.

    Whilst economy and labour can be democratised without authoritarianism, it was imposed upon others to serve a more elevated and better class of men who seek their own elevation and not others, Ryan compartmentalises his actions from his rhetoric foisting all manner of abuses and atrocities upon his slipping vision of Rapture, a fundamentally selfish and impossible dream.

    Like objectivism or anarcho-capitalism. I need a cigarette.

  41. Mil says:

    Ideological criticism is a blight on the soul of humanity.

  42. RogB says:

    That fella talking about Lotus 3 AI saying he thinks they moved into your way… anyone that sees the game for more than 3 seconds can tell the AI consists of:
    move lanes to the left side, then the right, then left again, lather rinse repeat. If they got on your way it was purely accidental.
    This was shit even in its day. Mind you, the presentation and music was good. Patrick Phelan IIRC?

  43. Dracko says:

    Sup Mo, I see you didn’t read her SVG defense. Or spot her basic premise.

    When people who are ashamed of videogames dance around their shame, in an attempt to shame others, they’d probably be better off doing something else with their time.

    Or play Space Giraffe.

  44. Xercies says:

    Maybe Feminists should be looking more at what Japan is doing i there video games then Bioshock really, but to be honest if a feminist did see Japans culture they would be seething for years and probably would be able to make numerous articles about it. You know thats true.

    Also I agree with Leigh and I said that Gaming has become mega corporation tied, it used to be that you could get some creativity in major selling games but those major selling games weren’t millions of units. No one could ream of that. I do think creativity is dead now for all mediums in the mainstream and that you have to go to indie to find creativity. Which is kind of sad.

    I also agree with ellis, I was very facinated by a load of machines because i watched Thunderbirds.

  45. Dracko says:

    Also, applauding V. Tchitcherine.

    And Jim, you’d also have to acknowledge that even the mainstream and the genres it dabbles in still allows for creativity; if not in content then at least in execution (Think of big industry getting – and expanding on – big tech).

  46. Dracko says:

    Xercies, exactly how many of the best-selling titles of the day, whether PC or console, are genuinely creatively bankrupt?

  47. _Nocturnal says:

    Wow, the fuss.

    Me, I’m just glad the list this sunday is so long. I like long. I’d like even longer.

  48. Sagan says:

    Also I think I should point out that I like Leigh’s piece. I like her writing in general. I just think that she is wrong in this. It’s hard to say that on the internet without coming off as if I hated her.

    And yeah, that quote by Manveer Heir is amazing. That guy was recently promoted to lead designer on a new project at Raven, and he has been writing about ethical dilemmas in games. So that could potentially end up very interesting.

  49. SteveHatesYou says:

    A counter-point to Leigh’s article (sort of): http://savetherobot.wordpress.com/2008/11/29/games-are-software/

    I don’t entirely agree with that article, but it makes one very important point that I wish people would consider more often: games are software, and more so than any other entertainment medium are limited by technology and the foundation of what has come before them.

    Yeah, it’s a nice idea to say that we should throw out all of our current influences and make something TRULY original, but it usually isn’t feasible. This is a medium where only 20% of the projects started actually make it out the door, due to production difficulties. The fact is, making something original costs much, much more than building off of the technology and methods already available. It’s also a lot more likely to fail.

    Before we can really go hog-wild with creativity, we have a number of production problems that have to be solved: We have to stop introducing new hardware architecture every 5 years. We have to improve our development tools and make them more readily available to new studios and independent developers. We have to improve distribution methods so that smaller developers can find their market. And we have to reduce the diversity of platform hardware and wrest some control away from platform holders like Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft.

    Until that happens, we have to accept that creativity in games, like all other aspects of software, is iterative.

    (I’m sure somebody is going to point out that creativity with game mechanics isn’t the same thing as creativity with aesthetics, and that there are many aspects of a game that aren’t beholden to technology – which is true. But look at the big box office hits for movies and you’re going to see Batman, Transformers, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars… the exact same shit that you see in video games. Leigh’s article is basically saying that the regurgitated influences in video games are down to games being dominated by insular nerd subculture. That’s false. That IS modern, mainstream culture. People looking for more intellectual depth in their entertainment are the minority.

    Games are regurgitating the same tropes because our budgets are high and we need to appeal to that mainstream audience. This goes back to my earlier point – first we need to improve production in order to reduce budgets, and then we can make games that appeal to the other pockets of culture that are looking for something a little bit more. Developers need more space to be creative without losing their fucking shirts).

  50. We Fly Spitfires says:

    LOL, awesome intro :)

    I also blame you guys for getting me to reinstall Sins of a Solar Empire… but boy, it’s awesome :)