The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on January 24th, 2010 at 1:25 pm.

Sundays are for wondering how we let the terrorists win in the board game last night, rambling out a quick post on Ultima and compiling a list of fine (mainly) videogame reading we gathered from across the week, while trying to stop myself linking to a couple of indie-folk-who-follow-on-me-on-twitter’s new videos. Yes. Yes.

Failed.

.

152 Comments »

  1. Danilych says:

    Hey, I remember that appendix story! Mostly because (for the benefit of any other Russian-language readers here) famous Soviet bard Vladimir Vysotsky had this great song about it, and I only relatively recently found out it had basis in fact. Also, this was a pretty popular story back in the Soviet days, alongside the cosmonauts.

  2. Lewis says:

    The Gamers With Jobs piece is delightful.

  3. Jahkaivah says:

    For a minute there, I had thought you meant dogs had started to post youtube videos.

  4. Mike says:

    The number-crunching job on the worth of a game is… hmm. I wanted to do similar, I’d start collecting stats for it, but looking at it it’s just not that good a metric, is it? Maybe such things can’t be quantified. One of the problems is, I think, the fact that we can’t accurately categorise games yet. There are so many ways to partition the catalogue that’s out there, and each one will result in a different method for assessing a game’s worth.

    Interesting thoughts though.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Mike: The main thing I think a lot of these more rigorous metrics forget is the post-play mental state. As in, I’ve only played Psychonauts once, but it sticks with me and I think of it often. There’s games I’ve played for the same amount of time, and enjoyed more, which don’t provoke that, y’know?

      KG

    • Turin Turambar says:

      Obviously, because the “entertainment” value of Psychonauts is much higher than the average run of the mill shooter. It’s a 9/10 game. Problem is when people gives high scores to average or mediocre games, then you have a great game like Psychonatus and an only “decent” game with the same score.

    • BigJonno says:

      It’s weird how some games stay with you and some don’t. I was reading a thread on God of War 3over at CoG and I realised that, despite playing it through and really enjoying it, I couldn’t remember a damn thing about the original.

    • jalf says:

      KG has a good point, for some games the “value” extends far past the time you actually played it. But I think it can work the opposite way too.

      If two games are both a solid 0.9 in quality, but one lasts 20 hours, and the other 40, does that automatically make the second one worth twice as much? I don’t think so. Not everyone have the time to spend that long on a single game, so to them, the value of the second one is *less*, because you don’t get the chance to finish it.

      Or, if two games hypothetically offered the exact same amount of fun and enjoyment and everything, in fact conveyed the same experience to the player, but one did so in less time than the other, wouldn’t the one that did the same in less time be worth *more*? After all, you could play it, get all the “benefits” of playing the game, and then have more time left over for *other* games.

      I think the assumption that “length of game” is in any way proportional to the “worth” of it is flawed.

      Being fun for twice as long isn’t necessarily worth twice as much. In some cases, it may be worth less. Or it may be worth the same,

      Anyway, I really have no clue how to measure an objective “worth” of games. Just thinking out loud.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Mike

      Personally, the games I’ve enjoyed the most have been the games I’ve played the most. I suspect this is partly because the two genres I most enjoy (RPG and strategy) both lend themselves heavily to replay value, and so I have the luxury of being able to play them until I tire of them. If I was more into shooters or action games, which really only work for a playthrough or two, I’d probably have to find another metric.

      As it stands, though, play time vs. money spent usually works quite well for me. If a game isn’t fun, I stop playing it long before I reach the end, so it doesn’t matter how long it is. If a game is very entertaining, I tend to play it to death. It’s not a perfect system, no system is going to be, but I’m always surprised by how few exceptions I can really drum up. Most of them are single player Valve games, actually.

    • BigJonno says:

      While I don’t think that games have to be a given length to be any good and I despise games being dragged out for the sake of it (the Deep Roads section in Dragon Age, for a good recent example) I have to say that a game that offers 40 hours of fun is definitely worth more to me than one that offers 20 hours of fun. Whether in a single playthrough or via replays, more is always better as long as it continues to be enjoyable.

      The arguement that people without much free time somehow can’t or won’t enjoy long games has never made sense to me. As long as you’re enjoying the experience, does it matter how many sessions it takes you to finish a game? Does it matter if you don’t finish it? I’ve never come close to completing Oblivion, but it’s provided me with way more entertainment than most games that I’ve played end to end.

      I can think of any number of games that I wished were longer, but I can’t think of one that I’ve stopped playing when I was still enjoying it.

    • Zwebbie says:

      I think that post-play memory experience that Kieron mentions is remarkably important. To be fair, those games that leave such a lasting memory often do get replayed every once in a while, but they aren’t necessarily the ones that I spent most time with.
      Most notably, I had over a hundred hours of fun with TES IV:Oblivion. Then, at some point, it crept up to me that the game really wasn’t that good at all. No likeable characters, awful dialogue, boring quests, and so forth. I’ve only replayed the game once after I had put it down, and stopped that re-play after a couple of hours. (It should be noted that I buy only a handful of games every year, so they tend to get picked back off the shelf a lot). I was never drawn back to Oblivion, and never got compelled to buy Shivering Isles or Fallout 3. It’s by all my standards, a terrible game, and yet I played it, with fun, for a hundred hours! To this day, I couldn’t tell you why.
      On the other hand of the spectrum, I blazed through Telltale’s Sam & Max Season One, working it off at an episode a day (i.e. not a week’s worth of playtime), and I’ve got very fond memories of that… While I don’t think I had more *fun* with it than with Oblivion.

  5. Mr Pink says:

    Totally agree that Tom Francis has to be given a chance to make a game one day. My only disappointment with that would be to lose him from the PCG staff, he’s their best staff writer by a distance at the moment.

  6. Premium User Badge James G says:

    I’m a huge Goldacre fan, and it is really good to see that he’s inspiring criticism in other people. I’m a scientist by trade, and despair at the science coverage in the media. I then realise that I have no reason to suppose the media’s coverage of any other field is any better, just I’m not as qualified to dissect it, so I’ve just begun despairing at the media full-stop.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Correct. Unfotunately. Mainstream media – certainly in the UK – is fairly abject on anything non-media studies related.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yes but I would say alarmist coverage of science is more damaging than alarmist coverage of, for example, video games. I mean vidya gaims are great and all but science could stop people from being dead when they don’t got to be.

      So yeah, I’d say science coverage in the mass media needs to be better monitored than other opinion/documentary pieces.

  7. Acidburns says:

    Yay Sunday Papers!

    I read Accelerando just before Christmas, I found his take on technology to be fascinating. I just finished Neil Stephenson’s Anathem, another wonderful book.

    • Mad Doc MacRae says:

      I thought Accelerando was great for the first half, and then too weird by the end. I guess that’s kind of the point, but I’d rather read Stross’s Atrocity Archives stuff.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I think Accelerando is one of those books that sets the bar for science fiction, as in “your story must be this weird to ride the Science Fiction Rollercoaster”.

      That said, atom-punk in the vein of Foundation and 50s sci-fi in general is probably a fun one to revisit if you’re not worried about being plausible futurism.

    • Acidburns says:

      If you enjoyed Accelerando you might enjoy some of Greg Egan’s works, they involve explore post-singularity technology & society also. Diaspora and Permutation City come to mind. I haven’t read it yet but I’ve been told Schild’s Ladder is in a similiar vein but with better character development.

  8. Magnus says:

    From the Ethiopian article:

    “We don’t comment on the use of civilians in our games because we want to avoid a controversy that is completely unnecessary. We consider video games as a piece of work and producers don’t want to comment on subjective choices,” Activision France’s PR manager, Julien Chevron, told FRANCE 24.

    They seemed more than happy to court controversy in other ways, eager almost, and I do think that certain controversies can aid sales, while others would harm them. If virtual US citizens were shown dead in the streets I can imagine the backlash would have been far harsher than the no russian equivalent.

    • [21CW] 2000AD says:

      Thinking about it now, it’s a little surprising given the gun culture in America that we didn’t see US civilians in the game. I bet groups like the NRA would have creamed themselves if it had portrayed US civilians defending their homes with guns against the Russian invaders.
      Could also have provided some more ‘possible friendly fire’ moments like the one at the bus after the EMP. Might even have pushed out “Game let’s players be terrorist” off the headlines for “Game let’s players make US army shoot Americans”.

  9. Stuk says:

    The “Moneterization Paradox” article was really interesting. Definitely something to think about. Thanks for the link!

  10. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    In a subway somewhere in Russia, a stray dog is silently suffering for the incompetence of an irresponsible train conductor. He nurses his now-cold latte, like so many others caught in a delayed commute.

  11. qrter says:

    Giles Hitchcock’s blog on “No Russian” doesn’t mention one of the bigger criticisms it has gotten – that, as a player, you have little or no sense of context. You don’t really know what your mission is as you’re going in, you don’t understand why you’re going along with this, you don’t know what the stakes are.

    Sure, terrorism is part of reality, but most of us won’t directly have an idea of what kind of mindset goes with that (in comparison with most of us having some idea what it possibly could be like to be a soldier in a western army).

    Something like “No Russian” needs a crystal clear entry point for it to have any actual meaning.

    • Bhazor says:

      I agree that a scene like this needed a build up for the terrorist to explain why they were doing it. Not some Tom Clancy clap trap but like ideology and stuff, yeah? All acting out of desperation and shit.

      I think another reason it doesn’t work is that it’s still a shooter. The level before and after is straight shooty fun and the same action is actively rewarded with achievments and whoops. You can’t do that! It’s like you’re in a night club dancing away then it switches to one of those youtube videos of a Hitler speech set to techno. You still dance except now you’re supposed to be dancing whilst contemplating the thought processes behind Kristallnacht. When really all I want is for some else to pay proper respect to Chewing Gum by Annie.

      The difference just isn’t dramatic enough what with canned animations, no real context, unrealistic security staff, the fact women were outnumbered 50 to 1, there were no kids or any truly emotive targets and because it had the same HUD still felt too much like a COD level. Actually to me it felt more like Serious Sam except with the Kamikaze’s running the wrong way. It was simply too easy to see the game and the fact its skippable shows how unnecessary it really was.

    • Giles Hitchcock says:

      Interesting comment, thanks.

      I didn’t really set out to answer all the level’s criticism, cos I don’t necessarily disagree with them. But if I were to go there, I would say, briefly:

      - Context, and lack of it, isn’t specific to the level itself. I found the whole game often gave little context to what you were doing. Sometimes I’d defend that, and say that IW clearly want to portray a soldier’s role – a cog in a machine, who doesn’t necessarily know much more than his immediate orders. Sometimes I found it a little bewildering. Here, I bought it – the CIA have done plenty of stupid things in the past, I liked the writing for the General Shepherd character, and so the level intro set the scene well enough for me.

      - I think I did touch on your point a bit, where I talked about there being two parts to terrorism – deciding to kill, and the moment of acting. I haven’t put a lot of thought into it, but I’m not sure that this is the right type of game for portraying the former. IW have always seemed much more interested in portraying Moments, snapshots of experiences, which is an attitude that touches the whole game. I disagree that you need one for the other. It’s interesting enough to be put into that situation without it.

  12. Sinnerman says:

    I’ve read a few Charles Stross books and rate him pretty highly. He’s one of the guys who actually tries to look into the future instead of creating kitsch re-imaginings of old science fiction. Other stuff I would recommend are Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End, Geoff Ryman’s Air and Max Barry’s Jennifer Government. Not that anyone needs personal/anonymous recommendations in this age of database recommendations bases on scientific criteria (and kudos). I also think that Adam Roberts is massively underrated.

    As far as removing gameplay to make a message of a game goes I think that there is a sound principle behind this but people should be careful. I very very rarely want to play a game because I want to “receive a message in a bottle” from a game developer. I want something more complicated, and since I’m playing a game I normally expect that diversion to be some sort game playing experience. I am probably just badly parroting back Jon Blow, but meh, intriguing concepts are one thing but at the end of a day a game is a living moving thing and not some sort of conceptual art.

  13. Justin C. Sherrill says:

    About that “fun per minute” thing… I once did the same thing with comics in terms of cost vs. the number of pages. It’s not always a fair comparison, but it does make the bad purchases jump out at you, like color reprints or hardcover versions.

    • devlocke says:

      Doesn’t cost-per-page sort of make buying comics in any form other than trade paperback compendium an act of lunacy, and even make those not really all that economic? I’d read comics if I could buy them in chunks that would occupy as much of my time as a short novel. As it is, the only comic I’ve ever been able to justify purchasing was Transmetropolitan. I can pay seven or eight dollars and get a 400 page novel that will occupy me for a day or two, minimum. Paying like three or four dollars for something that takes me less than 15 minutes to read just seems retarded to me.

      Probably because I’m a bad person, culturally illiterate, and have poor taste. In all seriousness, how do you justify paying that much for such a tiny little slice of entertainment that inevitably leaves you frustrated and wanting to read the NEXT one, which you have to wait a month for? I like comics I”ve borrowed from friends (Sandman, the first Preacher trade paperback, Watchmen trade paperback etc.) but the cost of single issues just prices me out of ever purchasing them.

    • StarDrowned says:

      It’s harder to justify NOT buying Transmetropolitan, though.

  14. Dominic White says:

    The subject of difficulty in games – and difficulty levels – is one of my personal interests in terms of games design.

    There’s a disturbingly low number of games that actually do difficulty levels right. Properly playtested, with a solid learning curve, and difficulty options that intelligently change the nature of that curve. I know I’ve mentioned it a lot here before, but Bayonetta really has probably the best thought-out difficulty levels I’ve seen in ages. On the very easiest setting, designed for the most casual of gamers, enemies crumble before you, and you don’t even need to learn the controls. Mashing buttons randomly makes the AI kick in and unleash a series of spectacular attacks while simultaneously evading any counterattacks.

    Work your way up to Normal, and you’ve got something fairly challenging, but not overly tough. However, the game is pretty score-centric, and you get a nasty penalty every time you use a healing item or die. Even within the individual fights, you get a score penalty if you take any hits at all.

    Hard mode only opens after Normal is beaten, and it’s a whole second loop of the game, expecting you to take all your weapons and upgrades and skills from normal and put them to the test against endgame-level encounters right from the first fight, right up until the end.

    Very Hard is the same as Hard, but disables your one big ability – Witch Time – a period of time-slowing power which triggers when you precisely dodge an attack. It changes the whole dynamic of the game, and forces you to balance your offence and defence, wheras normally you focus on evading until you get an open chance to counterattack in slowmo. It makes the game a lot faster, a lot harder, and ideal for the hardcore types.

    And all the while, the scoring system is passing judgement on you. The ultimate goal of the game, theoretically? Beat the highest difficulty without ever getting hit, finding every secret area/battle and generally do it stylishly too. A challenge for only the most dedicated of the hardcore, due to the ridiculous skill and dedication it’d require.

    But someone who just wants to see weird angel-creatures explode and silly cutscenes? They can just set it on the lower levels and relax. It provides wildly different experiences for players of all skill levels, and has seperate ranked scoreboards for each difficulty. Everyone wins. Not only that, but the game has a pitch-perfect difficulty curve. I thought Normal (which I started on) was pretty uniformly tough start to finish, but didn’t realise just how much better I was getting until I beat it, and tried the first level – which had killed me twice on my first try – again, this time not even taking a single hit. Not because I knew when and where enemies would appear (it’s an arena-fighting game for the most part), but simply because I was so much better at the game.

    I could list a whole bunch of other games that nail difficulty settings well, but I’ll just say that they’re few and far between. Most of the time, Hard just makes you weaker and enemies tougher, and Easy does the opposite, and there’s no scoring system or positive/negative feedback beyond dying to encourage players to improve their game.

  15. Steelfists says:

    “Post Haiti” As if Haiti was just an event that was in the news, and won’t be again….

    And I don’t get why that Ethiopian Review thing seems to think that showing the US military in a positive light is such a bad thing…

    • Levictus says:

      Well what’s so good about the US military? It is essentially a mercenary army that enforces American political (and be extension corporate, America is nothing without its corporations) objectives. Yeah they market themselves as a public force or whatever, but come on. They are just an extended form of corporate security.

    • A-Scale says:

      @Levictus

      lol

    • Guy says:

      You’re right, its not like within a few hours of the Haiti disaster they’d managed to send an aircraft carrier, 19 helicopters, hospital ships, 3,500 paratroopers to restore order and a couple hundred medical personnel. Those ghastly bastards! As for it being corporate mercenaries, well, words fail.

      The Bob Ellis article was pure crap. So presumably the free market failed during the Indian Ocean tsunami when the US, Australia, Japan and India (all capitalists) put together 20 ships and 90 helicopters within hours and sent them to help alongside $350 million from the US (probably corporatist money dragged from the bleeding hands of the workers of course!)? China which is just next door did not. Cuba did not. It might perhaps also be worth pointing out that Cuba and China lack elections, deal with dissidents by using murder and intimidation and of course have a lousy standard of living. The whole thing is ludicrous. Capitalism for all its faults is far superior to socialism.

      (And the end of the article appears to be suggesting that the Islamists are winning when only a few paragraphs before he’d been suggesting that Islamism wasn’t at all important. Make yer mind up Bob!)

      I do like me some Tom Bissell.

      I’ll get back to bathing in my Iraqi blood oil now…

    • Lilliput King says:

      I don’t know if you’re being ironic or whatever, but:

      “Islamists” -> Muslims

      “Islamism” -> Islam

      This is stuff you should know.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Lilliput King

      Islamism is not the same thing as Islam. I’m going to assume (and hope) you’re just unfamiliar with the term. Here:

      Islamism, n. 1. An Islamic revivalist movement, often characterized by moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life.

      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/islamist

    • Funky Badger says:

      Guy: you were doing fine up until the point you equated Cuba and China with socialism, at which point you outed yourself as what Lenin would have called “a useful idiot”.

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Vin

      Oh I see.

      That’s something I really should’ve known. Sorry!

    • Krondonian says:

      @Guy: ”3,500 paratroopers to restore order ”. That was kind of a problem.

      ”The US military has taken control of the only airport in Port-au-Prince and is facing criticism for diverting some aid planes. Doctors Without Borders says five of its planes carrying surgical teams and equipment weren’t allowed to land and were diverted to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. US forces also turned back a French aid plane carrying a field hospital.” -http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/19/us_accused_of_militarizing_relief_effort

      They’re not ghastly bastards, but there’s some serious problems there.

      The USA might be giving lots of aid, but as a percentage of GDP, considering it’s role in the way Haiti is now, it’s not a great record.

      ”While pundits and reporters in the media celebrate the $100 million Obama pledged to Haiti, this figure needs to be put into comparative and historical perspective. U.S. aid to those in need of disaster relief has not been uniquely generous over the last decade. Americans would do well to remember the lackluster response to the December 2004 Tsunami that led to the deaths of approximately 288,000 people in Indonesia and surrounding countries. The Bush administration responded to that crisis by allocating $450 million, the second largest amount in hard dollars out of any country in the world. This figure was highly misleading, however, as the U.S. gave the second smallest contribution as a percent of its GDP of all the top donors, behind Denmark, Sweden, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France.” -http://www.counterpunch.org/dimaggio01152010.html

      I thought that ABC piece was a bit pants though.

    • A-Scale says:

      “Guy: you were doing fine up until the point you equated Cuba and China with socialism, at which point you outed yourself as what Lenin would have called “a useful idiot”.”

      That’s not REAL socialism because REAL socialism is the kind that works. You know, the kind that exists only in theory and fairytales. Strange how all the socialist utopias inevitably regressed into totalitarianism, regardless of where they were located, how wealthy or industrialized they were or what brand of socialism they claimed to adhere to. Must be some sort of coincidence.

    • Bhazor says:

      The fact they became horrendous totalitarian regimes was because they were totalitarian regimes. They were brought about by violence, the destruction of the existing system, the removal of existing safe guards and their replacement with a sociopath and his mates. The Roman Empire the Egyptian Empire and the British Empire were all totalitarian capitalist regimes (Rome had something between democracy and a pub car park) and would have killed as many people as the Soviet Union if the science had been up to the task.

    • A-Scale says:

      You’re equivocating on what it means to be capitalist. I recognize that this is necessary to defend the indefensible (i. e. a legacy of death caused by attempts to reach socialism resulting in utter brutality), but I don’t think it’s convincing to anyone but armchair socialists and those in deep denial about the course of the last 100 years.

    • Bhazor says:

      I’m not defending socialism I’m just saying that totalitarian fascism is a bit shit regardless of whether its capitalist, communal or socialist.

      I kinda thought that was a given to be honest.

    • Funky Badger says:

      A-Scale: I’ll raise your “equivocation” with a Gratuitous Straw Man:

      “a legacy of death caused by attempts to reach socialism resulting in utter brutality”

      No one was trying to do that.

      Socialism actually works fine in smaller societies, kibbutzim for example – might work on a larger scale except its only ever been tried by sociopaths. Well, assuming you discount all British socialist governments. Seems to me that societies in general cease being efficient when you get more than a couple of thousand people involved. And its laughable to think that capitalism is the end point of societal evolution…

    • A-Scale says:

      Krondonian, while I’ll agree that Bolivia doesn’t cleanly fit into the “take power, establish supreme government rule, murder opposition, oppress population” plan of traditional socialist states, and while Morales is hardly the brutal dictator that we see in other socialist hellholes, it’s not exactly something to be exalted. It’s one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, has only 84% literacy, low life expectancy, etc. Perhaps the best that can be said is that Morales hasn’t utterly ruined a country that, by modern standards, is already on the brink of ruin. If that’s the best example of socialism with a smile that can be offered, I think my point stands. Socialism SUCKS.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Socialism isn’t a moral ideology. It’s a practical tool for governing. Free education is socialist. Subsidised healthcare (even Medicare) is socialist. Unemployment benefits are socialist. It’s not like all socialists are all-out Marxists. Britain is a pretty socialist country, by Western standards, various parts of Scandinavia even more so. They have pretty reasonable freedoms and liberal economies. After all, I’m not sure many economists after the recession would argue that unregulated capitalism is a good idea. Government has its uses, even if you believe in small government (which, in any case, neither Bush nor Obama did or do).

      Plus, China is a capitalist country. To say China isn’t capitalist is silly. Sure, many capitalist countries are also liberal democracies, but many are not, including some of the West’s friends, like Saudi Arabia.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ A-Scale @ Guy

      Americans need to accept that Europeans do not use socialism to mean communism. I doubt anyone would argue about the horrors and ineptitude of communism, just as I’d hope no one would seriously champion Ann Ryan capitalism, but the socialism of states such as France, Canada, Norway and even Britain are far removed from Stalin’s blood soaked rule.

      (As UK residents, the RPS boys almost certainly have free healthcare and had free education growing up. I’m also pretty sure two of them got their university degrees while the government was paying for them, but certainly no-one paid anything close to the amount you do in the states. They may have even received welfare whenever they were out of work, another evil socialist endeavour.)

      By European definitions, the US Military is socialist, the NFL is socialist, and socialism isn’t really that bad.

      Furthermore, while China has a communist government it actually has a capitalist economy; for example, their education system and health care is more privatised than the US.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Tom Camfield

      It’s not that the definition of “socialism” is different in our respective countries, it’s that the memories of the Cold War are still fresh enough in American minds that accusing the other guy of being “pinko” still carries a frightening amount of political weight. As you and others have pointed out, plenty of generally accepted and valued American institutions are technically “socialist,” but it’s not really about that. It’s just a good bludgeon to shut down any political discourse the right doesn’t approve of in this country, and it’s quite effective.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Vinraith

      Are you sure? They keep saying socialism fails, and yet they border Canada. And had FDR as president. And had Sarah Palin redistributing oil revenue to Alaskan citizens.

      It would be pretty weird if they had the same definition of socialism as the rest of Europe, no?

    • A-Scale says:

      Valid point, Gap Gen. Socialism does come on a sliding scale, and Britain is pretty damn socialist (to your great detriment, as I and I think most Britons believe). However, when I speak of “socialist countries” I am referring to those governments whose goals and rhetoric are reminiscent to that of the USSR. Cuba, Venezuela, the Eastern Bloc nations, and a few others all fit that mold. I am not speaking of countries that toy with socialism, but whose rhetoric and goals are all firmly capitalist. Britain is among this number. The United States is as well to some degree, but it is far less than what is accepted in most European countries.

      On the other hand, you are very much wrong to say that socialism is not a moral ideology. The very basis of socialism is the concept of equality as created by government intervention in the market. This can be seen in the roots of French and German socialist thinkers all the way up through socialist and socialist leaning nations today.

      Further, it’s a false dichotomy to argue that socialism and unregulated capitalism are the opposite, or only choices. Government regulation need not be redistributive, but socialism must be.

      Frankly I think it’s silly to argue that China is a capitalist country. State ownership and lordship over many or most important industries and mediums is not in line with capitalism. The fact that China welcomes foreign investment and hasn’t done a ton of nationalization in recent years does not a capitalist country make. In any case it’s a weird example, and one which I don’t think we have the perspective to judge yet.

      Tom-
      “Americans need to accept that Europeans do not use socialism to mean communism.”

      That sounds a bit smug, don’t you think? In any case, you’re simply incorrect insofar as you’ve confused and incorrectly defined socialism and communism. Socialism is the government ownership of industries and wealth, the redistribution of those goods, and general government power over market forces and private lives. Communism is the ideal state (read situation) sought after by Marxists in which the state and property would be abolished, along with all gaps between urban and rural environments, and all people would be equals in a classless society. The USSR claimed that it hit the state of communism in (if I’m not mistaken) the 70s, but quite obviously they did not. They even kept a running meter on how close they were getting to that goal. In any case, while they were often called (or called themselves) communists, the traditional reds that we think of were in fact socialists. You Europeans need to accept that.

      “I doubt anyone would argue about the horrors and ineptitude of communism, just as I’d hope no one would seriously champion Ann Ryan capitalism, but the socialism of states such as France, Canada, Norway and even Britain are far removed from Stalin’s blood soaked rule.”

      For the love of God please tell me you aren’t trying to speak of Ayn Rand. Please.

      “By European definitions, the US Military is socialist, the NFL is socialist, and socialism isn’t really that bad.”

      The National Football League? What in the devil are you on about, man?

    • Mil says:

      @ A-Scale:

      Strange how all the socialist utopias inevitably regressed into totalitarianism, regardless of where they were located, how wealthy or industrialized they were or what brand of socialism they claimed to adhere to. Must be some sort of coincidence.

      Have a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_International

      No offence intended to people like Vinraith, but I wish Americans would at least *try* to learn a bit about the world outside their borders before lecturing the rest of us.

    • Mil says:

      @A-Scale:

      Valid point, Gap Gen. Socialism does come on a sliding scale, and Britain is pretty damn socialist (to your great detriment, as I and I think most Britons believe). However, when I speak of “socialist countries” I am referring to those governments whose goals and rhetoric are reminiscent to that of the USSR. Cuba, Venezuela, the Eastern Bloc nations, and a few others all fit that mold.

      Oh, so for the purposes of your discussion you’ve limited your definition of “socialist countries” to the most extreme cases and then concluded that socialism leads to extremism. Well done.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Tom Camfield

      “They” in this case isn’t Americans (trust me, I am one), it’s American conservatives. American conservatives conflate socialism with communism so as to use old Cold War feelings as a political ploy, that’s really all there is to it. Don’t let them fool you, and please don’t get the impression they’ve fooled all of us, either. Their usage is completely inconsistent (again, as you point out), and basically amounts to any policy they don’t like and can safely get away with criticizing (Social Security and Medicare are both very purely socialist, but it’d be political suicide in this country for a politician do get up and say they should be done away with).

      The actual, denotative definition of socialism is the same here as it is in Britain, intellectually dishonest political fear-mongering notwithstanding.

    • A-Scale says:

      Mil-
      My definition happens to coincide with those countries borne of the 20th century which attempted to adhere to Marxism and the tenets of classical socialism. They all turned out to be hellholes.

      You happens to be euphemistically defining socialism as any country with an even marginally relevant party that calls itself socialist. Papandreou, Guterres and Mauroy are not the faces of socialism, Stalin, Lenin, Marx and Mao are. The leaders and nations you speak of as the cardinal examples of this so called real socialism are backwater anomalies, none of which can be reasonably extrapolated to apply to the rest of the world. You’re welcome to keep the Chomsky flame burning, citing Mondragons and Bolivias ad nauseum, but it won’t make a lick of difference in the real world.

      And for the record, I’ve probably read more Marx, Lenin and Mao and taken more college courses on socialism, Marxism and revolution than you have. Your smugness belies a vomit inducing hubris.

    • Muzman says:

      Op-Ed pieces are the death of journalism, I’ve always said. Everyone wants to be Menken or Fitzgerald and rant on and inspire people at the same time, but nearly all of them are rubbish and we spend an inordinate amount of time going over the details of one pundit or another who’s pushing some barrow and barely making sense, from whatever ‘side’ of politics, just trying to stir up chatter. I’m a little annoyed the ABC seems to think that in the digital age what we need is more of this rather than less. They even let climate change deniers speak unchallenged on that Unleashed thing.

      Bob’s usually pretty good. Well he’s been good before. This one’s a bit …hmmm, on the details. There’s a point in there somewhere that’s worth noting. The bit about what we spend our money on, and what it could do instead is always worth thinking about. There’s a line or two where that’s mentioned and I’d guess that was the genesis of the rant. A worthwhile starting point for some other article somewhere.

      We don’t have to worry too much about socialism anyway. Some degree of it is an inevitable flow on from democracy. It’ll be along soon enough.

    • Gap Gen says:

      “Socialism does come on a sliding scale, and Britain is pretty damn socialist (to your great detriment, as I and I think most Britons believe).”

      Hmm, it depends. Whilst it’s true that Britons love to complain about the NHS, when some people in the US started using it as an examples of the ills of government-run healthcare (including the ridiculous lie that Stephen Hawking would have died had he been British and subjected to NHS care…) most people I know rallied around it. For all people dislike waiting times for operations and so on, not having to worry about whether or not you’re going to bankrupt yourself over a serious illness is a good thing, I think.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Britain is pretty damn socialist (to your great detriment, as I and I think most Britons believe).

      Most British voters wouldn’t know socialism if it was sat on their face. And I don’t believe there’s any such clear-cut distinction in a country like this one, because the last revolution we had was, well, the first revolution, back in the 1640s. Britain is distinctly centrist, with both main parties occupying the same middle ground on social and economic policy. That has come about because values such as public healthcare and public welfare are deeply ingrained in our society, and neither major party wants to deny them. That’s the stuff that Americans believe is socialist, and it’s certainly not something *most* Britons believe is to our detriment. In fact we take it as a given. The stuff we believe detrimental largely comes from over-powering big business and surveillance state police powers: the same stuff that is an issue in the US.

    • Lilliput King says:

      My definition happens to coincide with those countries borne of the 20th century which attempted to adhere to Marxism and the tenets of classical socialism. They all turned out to be hellholes.

      I must admit, by your own definitions (and perhaps admission) you seem to be judging socialism by those countries which attempted Communism.

      Seems a little ridiculous to judge something by the worst examples, when countries with a milder socialist infrastructure seem to do just fine.

    • bildo says:

      @Gap Gen

      Saying the Chinese are capatalists is like saying the U.S. is communist. Capitalism really only shows it’s head in places like Hong Kong were a large part of the financial industry is located. They even have their own currency. The government owns just about everything else. Where the hell have you been since 1997?

    • Gap Gen says:

      bildo: I’ve been in Europe, mostly. But that’s beside the point.

      Private enterprise has existed in the PRC since 1978, with the collective farms privatised and a stock market set up in the intervening years. Like you say, Hong Kong is something of a special case but I don’t know how 1997 is relevant to the rest of mainland China. China is not a liberal democracy, for sure, nor is it a haven of laissez-faire capitalism, but capitalism does exist on a large scale in China. It’s certainly not the command economy that it was in Mao’s day.

    • Guy says:

      @Funky Badger
      The author of the article, Bob Ellis, proffered Cuba and China as socialist countries, not me.

      @Krondonian
      The airport mess is complicated and I don’t feel there is enough information out there for me to make a seriously informed judgement but generally I think the US Military has done well. They’re the ones running the airport and enabling all the aid organisations to get in and if they’ve militarised it thats only because the State department, the UN and other organisations are lacking in the skill-sets and resources.

      The aid needs to be put into context. Firstly the US provides huge military resources which aren’t counted (and which are unique and very, very expensive). Secondly they give lots of aid to lots of people all the time. Even before this earthquake the US was giving $290 million to Haiti (for last year at any rate).

      @Bhazor. I’m afraid that just doesn’t hold true. Communist states are exceptionally likely to become totalitarian (I’ll leave it to others where they want to draw the line between Communism and Socialism). Furthermore if the British Empire was only held back by the technology available then how did a contemporary like the USSR kill so many? (Or Tsarist Russia, or Napoleonic France etc.) And the British Empire for all its faults was most definately not totalitarian, or did I miss the Secret Police murdering Gandhi and purging the ranks of Parliament? It might have been imperialist, colonialist, racist, homophobic, sexist and sometimes authoritarian but totalitarian it was not. There is nothing to compare to the killing fields of Cambodia, the mass graves in Poland or the Gulags in Siberia.

      @Tom Camfield
      It might be a surprise but I am European.

      @Mauzman
      The use of the phrase ‘climate change deniers’ is truly ghastly. Some of us just happen to believe that some of the science is wrong (it is- check Glaciergate or the Hockey Stick Graph), that the situation is somewhat overblown (it is- invariably the media reports the worst case scenario in any IPCC report), that the solutions we’re being offered aren’t the best available (they aren’t- wind farms are completely pointless), that too frequently the agenda is pushed by Big Business and political considerations (like the EU or the carbon trading market) and that what we need is serious, practical envirnmentalism.

      @Jim Rossignol
      What about the Glorious Revolution?

      (Note: I accidentally posted this bloody thing at the bottom of the page but its a bit useless there so I’m quickly posting this here too).

    • Muzman says:

      Guy: No, it’s a very accurate term to describe the vast bulk of people speaking out about climate change in the press (and on the net). I really don’t want to bring climate debate here (my last refuge from the topic) but there’s about half a dozen actual working climate scientists who have useful questions for the theory(s) and set about proving them. Pretty much everyone you actually hear from on a daily basis, however, has shown themselves to be liars and cranks pushing some unfathomable agenda (I doubt they’re in cahoots, they just can’t stand the idea of greenies being right, or something).
      Glaciergate is like using a typo of Darwin’s to refute evolution. The glaciers are still melting, the extreme date is merely incorrect. It’s even marked as a possible error, for review or removal, in the drafts of the report but it apparently slipped through. A poor editorial mistake hardly undoes the theory of climate change like some are saying.
      And ohgodtheHockeystick: that it still looks largely the same with the medieval warm period included hardly seems to attract much attention. Or that MWP is apparently a local phenomenon. It’s probably good that McIntyre’s dispute helped illustrate the kinds of calculations that go into these things more publicly. Pity he hasn’t done much since.

      Be a skeptic all you want, of the severity of the changes, of the politics, of the proposed solutions. Wonderful. But the deniers are very real and they will do anything to quibble and muddy the waters.

    • Sam says:

      @Guy:

      Of course Communist states are likely to become totalitarian: the “transitional” stage from a capitalist society to a true communist state is traditionally supposed to involve a period of totalitarian dictatorship, required to undertake the radical changes in society and infrastructure needed. The problem is, of course, that being a totalitarian leader is quite tempting to a certain mindset, and thus the people most likely to want to hang onto power (rather than continuing the transitional plan) are also the people likely to end up in the transitional totalitarian government. At this point, to many extents, the government ceases to be a transitional communist government, and just becomes a totalitarian government that likes to pretend that it is communist.
      This does not make “Communism” in itself evil or bad – it just means that it is a state inaccessible to states with large populations, because the transitional period is too unstable.

      A soupcon of Socialism, on the other hand, is neither bad nor inaccessible to large states (as others have mentioned, the grand tradition of Socialised Medicine in Europe is a very Socialist concept, and it’s basically just part of the background to Western European states – people don’t even really think of it as socialist).

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Muzman

      Is ‘climate change denial’ denying the existence of climate change, or denying human involvement?

      They seem fairly distinct, to me.

    • A-Scale says:

      @Jim I might be overestimating the unpopularity of Labour and the differences between them and the Conservatives, but it seems quite clear from what I’ve heard that Britain is heading for a major government shakeup in the nearest election cycle. I might also be overestimating public opinion here, but I gather a significant portion of that is frustration with government inefficiency and control. It seems like Britain wants less of the left, not more.

    • Lilliput King says:

      What Jim was saying was that Tories and Labour both pretty much occupy the same point on the political spectrum at the moment, and it’s fairly central.

      Has more to do with Gordon Brown and less to do with left and right.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      The glorious revolution was an invasion. Also, hardly a political sea-change in that it was the last part of the back and fore that started in the Civil War.

    • Guy says:

      @Muzman
      I agree there are a lot of cranks. I’d go further, many people I speak to are generally believers or sceptics not because they’ve been convinced by argument but just because of political leaning. But I still dislike the denier term because (a) the Holocaust link and (b) its not accurate as many sceptics agree that climate change happens (Ice Ages would be difficult to understand otherwise!) or even that global warming is occurring (just how much/how damaging/how to deal with it). I won’t debate the climate science if you don’t want to, though I doubt we’re crazy far apart, most of my issues being with the apocalyptic preaching about global warming and the way governments are trying to deal with the problem.

      @Sam
      Did I mention evil? Nope. I’m saying that Communist states are exceptionally likely to become totalitarian. No Communist state has ever been successful in reaching the final utopian stage (there are Communes but they aren’t states and generally suck ass to live in) and I’d say the chances of it ever happening are non-existent. To be a Communist these days is to be wilfully blind to history, not to be evil.

  16. arrr_matey says:

    Hey all,

    I wrote a story for The Escapist about a U.S. study about vitamin D deficiencies, which is a cause of rickets. In this case, I found videogame bloggers were the ones who were distorting the actual study so they could work themselves up into a lather about how persecuted they are.

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_227/6757-Step-Into-the-Light

    While videogames were just one element of the study (and the authors admit, they used videogames and TV primarily as a surrogate for time not spent outdoors), internet media and gamers focused solely on that aspect with headlines like “TV, Videogames blamed for low vitamin D.” I talked with the lead author on the study and she didn’t “blame” videogames at all.

    She simply pointed out the very rational fact that someone who plays lots of videogames may be more likely to spend a lot of time indoors, thus not getting as much vitamin D from sunlight. That person may want to ask their doctor to test their vitamin D levels and if low, start taking supplements.

    That’s it. No “OMG ALL KIDS MUST STOP PLAYING VIDEOGAMES” But that’s how gamers reported it, and I think they did a disservice to their readers in not pointing out what could be helpful health information.

    Science stories in general are very poorly reported by newspapers and by bloggers as well. If interested, here’s another Escapist article I wrote about that topic (yes, I’m a self-promoting whore): http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_199/6008-But-I-Read-It-in-the-Papers

    • Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

      @ arrr_matey

      Well written article that.

      it’s a constant (though thoroughly expected by now) source of frustration for scientists that reports are frequently misrepresented due to their contents being reported through second hand sources and these sources treated as fact.

      A simple misunderstanding of the contents of a study or report is understandable but not actually checking out the source seems like incredibly poor journalistic practice. While this might be expected from bloggers (and hopefully must people know to be careful about what they read on blogs by now) you’d expect professional journalists to have the basic level of competence required to check up on what they are reporting.

      I think it’s fair to say that in most cases the journalist doesn’t need to read the whole report (depending on the area it is in it may have technical information that may be out of their level of understanding) but at the very least read the abstract. As long as the author has done their job and come up with a well written abstract then the journalist can easily do theirs and understand the aim and conclusions of the study from simply reading a few hundred words.

      It’s not hard work and that some parts of the media ignore it is pretty terrible.

      Of course then you get those who neither omit reading nor misunderstadn the content and actually deliberately misrepresent a piece of work – but I’m sure there’s a special torture in store for those guys somewhere!

    • Gap Gen says:

      It’s often the case that in any scientifically-driven issue that has vested interests on either side, the way the science is reported will suffer. People who play games are used to defending their hobby against reactionaries, and it’s easy to react too far in the other direction. Personally, I doubt my largely sedentary lifestyle is particularly good for my body, although I do kick ass at a number of things that require sitting on one.

  17. Wednesday says:

    Well, I feel a little sheepish here, but here goes. I started to write a reply to Tom Bissel’s article on spoilers, and it went on a bit too long, so I bumped it up to a blog post. I’m not really sure of the etique of linking to your own blog, so be gentle with me if That Is a Bad Thing To Do.

    http://andotherfinepastries.blogspot.com/
    There it,err, is, if you want to read it.

    • Jeep Barnett says:

      @ Wednesday

      My responses also went to long to fit in a comment. Maybe it’s ok if we both do it? But sorry, I have Tom’s back on this one. :P

      http://warningspoilers.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8

    • Urthman says:

      Jeep Barnett, you and Tom Bissel are wrong about Spoilers and Wednesday is right.

      Because you don’t care about spoilers, because the pleasures you get from games don’t really depend upon surprise and freshness, then you decree that no one should enjoy those things? No one should care about them?

      That’s as stupid as saying “I don’t like real-time strategy, I think it’s a lame genre, therefore, gamers should get over it and play a genre that’s actually fun, like first-person shooters.”

      And what’s really wrong about Tom’s position is that, fortunately, I don’t have the power to make RTS games disappear with the wave of my hand. But Tom, by simply omitting the very simple courtesy of a “SPOILERS FOR BIOSHOCK BELOW” warning, can with a single sentence, destroy the pleasure of someone who does enjoy surprises in games.

      Anyone who does that is a self-centered asshole, plain and simple.

    • Matt W says:

      The argument in the Crispygamer article seems to boil down to “lots of people care about spoilers; I don’t care about spoilers; therefore nobody should care about spoilers”. Apart from demonstrating a stunning lack of introspection (oh hey, maybe the fact that people disagree strongly with you on this suggests that they might have differing values?), here are my two main counterpoints:

      1) I like discovering things for myself.

      2) If Ken Levine et al wanted me to know about Atlas at the beginning, they wouldn’t have gone to the trouble to disguise it. There’s probably a good reason that they did, and I’m generally more inclined to go with their proposed sequence of illumination than yours.

  18. Jakkar says:

    Modern Worfare?

    I was convinced it said Modern Welfare ._.

  19. Dave says:

    Charley Stross is a genius, have a gander at his blog.

  20. Lucas says:

    The smart dogs in Moscow bit was on English Russia ages ago. I love that site.

    Charles Stross is a great futurist and idea guy, but not a very good writer. That said, Glasshouse is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever read. If you want to read something scarily smart by a great writer, try Blindsight by Peter Watts.

    @Dominic, I completely agree. My habit of playing games on hard is very punishing because the average game balance is typically terrible. The lack of interesting or effective difficulty options is a big red flag when I look at a game (and having to unlock them is lousy too). I think the whole industry is well overdue for a serious study of effective difficulty application in games.

  21. Xercies says:

    Modern Whorefare..you see what I did there…? Ha Ha

    Anyway sorry for that childishness

    I think I somewhat agree with the Pnembra boys there about how games should not really be classed under gameplay it does cause problems for us. And I somewhat agree with the narritive.

    As for difficulty in games, since I’m rubbish at them I don’t find easy games to be enraging in fact I find them a pleasant surprise since I can actually get through the story and be mildly challenged. I didn’t like Demon Souls one bit but neither did i like the old style games where it as bloody hard.

  22. Lucas says:

    Thinking again, maybe I can kill 2 birds with one stone here: measuring fun, and the role of difficulty.

    Games with better learning curves are more fun, and this is why difficulty matters. Learning to play better is more fun than executing something you’ve already learned perfectly. Easy games become boring (not enough to learn), and overly difficult ones limit progress (blocking further learning). The more fun it is learning to play (well balanced difficulty), and the longer the learning curve lasts (playtime), the more total fun you have, and the better the game is. Timeless example: Go.

    Corollary: not all learning is fun, but it’s awfully hard to have fun without any learning.

  23. JoeX111 says:

    In Soviet Russia, appendix cuts out you!

  24. l1ddl3monkey says:

    From the article on MW2 and No Russian:

    “The game’s intro speaks of a desire to portray the realities of modern warfare, small caps. Undoubtedly, however awkward, terrorism is part of that reality.”

    Sorry but anyone who thinks that MW2 was in any way “reality based” watches WAAAAAAAAY too much Fox News.

  25. sfury says:

    MODEM WARFARE would be great.

  26. A-Scale says:

    @ Leviticus

    lol

  27. A-Scale says:

    I heartily agree with the statements of Mr. Hitchcock. I think MW2 brings a lot of valuable, new artistic touch to the medium, and pushes boundaries in a moral and artistic sense far more than it shocks the conscience. It deserves to exist, and I’m glad it does.

    As regards the lack of American civilians, I would add that at any given time in any airport in the world a significant portion of the travelers are foreigners flying out. Odds are several Americans were killed in that massacre. Still, the point that no civilians exist in the D.C. levels does have merit. However, I think that adding them would have added a certain frantic-ness to the combat that would grate with the message; that message is that the fight has come home, and you are experiencing all the things you know and experience on a daily basis in a surreal way. That surrealness would have played second fiddle to the emotional impact of seeing civvies murdered that we see in the No Russian level.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Plus, the levels around the WC and the Washington monument, were fabulously awesome.

    • A-Scale says:

      Last mag, make it count!

    • Funky Badger says:

      I actually wondered if they’d gone really scizho at the start of the level in washington where you’re in the bunker and riffed on aliens, “20 years later, the resistance is you!” kind of thing… great stuff…

    • Gap Gen says:

      I suppose they could have explained it if they’d wanted by doing what World in Conflict did, which is to have a couple of levels devoted to helping civilians escape before going into full-on fighting.

  28. Pace says:

    I would like to make a correction: the ‘Post Haiti..’ article was not, in fact, worth reading. Really.

    • Bhazor says:

      I disagree. I read
      “Yet the modern global world was unprepared for it, so busy were they with Terrorism, which has killed fewer people in the last thirty years than quarrelsome Americans with handguns in the last eight months.”
      thinking it said
      “Yet the modern global world was unprepared for it, so busy were they with Terrorism, which has killed fewer people in the last thirty years than quarrelsome Americans with hand jobs in the last eight months.”

      Which justified the whole article for me really. I also always replace bombing with bumming whenever I hear it “The German’s bumming of London killed thousands”. I am of basic pleasures, I will not deny this.

  29. Kadayi says:

    Giles Hitchcock needs to spend less time watching 24. There was nothing realistic about the No Russian level in any way shape or form. Fact of the matter is the entire premise of a Russian Terrorist using an airport massacre solely as a means to frame an American Undercover Operative only works if you bite into a very large cake of disbelief. You’re supposed to swallow that a USMC footsoldier from Afghanistan would somehow be the ideal candidate to become an undercover operative in the Russian underground. You’re also supposed to swallow the idea that the very leader of this Terrorist cell he is sent to infiltrate would be prepared to put himself directing in the firing line in order to see through this sting operation of his, as well as swallow the fact he and his buddies managed to get away completely undetected from an Airport. Maybe Giles doesn’t get out too often, but in my experience airports are not only pretty secure places, they’re also generally under heavy surveillance.

    It was crass, it was indulgent and it was done for the shock factor alone. Nothing more nothing less, and as the Ethiopian article astutely points out, the only reason IW really got away with it because no American Civilians were killed.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Kadayi: all those contrivances do make some kind of sense if you follow the plot (avoiding mentioning spoilers) – but yeah, not “realistic” at all…

    • Dominic White says:

      If you pay attention to MW2s plot, it becomes apparent that you’re trapped in Tom Clancys most insane and paranoid fever-dream to date.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Funky Badger

      It only makes sense with the framing of events being a foregone conclusion. No Russian only works as a terrorist act if Makarov knows that there is no chance that he isn’t likely to get himself killed or captured during the event. There is no way he could know that, because bullets don’t distinguish. Therefore it falls down instantly as a likely or believable event. Were they suicide bombers/ Jihadists it might make some sense as they would know it was likely a suicide mission, but then it would beggar belief that the operative would go through with it all, as opposed to inform his handlers to seek to prevent it. In fact why doesn’t Allen alert his handlers to what’s going down in the first place? Surely the fact that they were going to an airport with a small arsenal of firearms would of perhaps made him go ‘I quickly use bathroom, back in 2 minutes fearless leader’.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Well, yeah. There is that. But… it’s great fun, innit?

    • Funky Badger says:

      Kadayi: its Die Hard 2, basically. You could, at a stretch, work out the internal logic, but its bears no resemblence to the real world…

    • Giles Hitchcock says:

      I get the impression you are confusing “realistic portrayal of” and “portrayal of the realities of”, which do not mean the same thing. If I’m wrong, and you’re dinging me for something else, then you seem like who will put me right.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Giles

      “I get the impression you are confusing “realistic portrayal of” and “portrayal of the realities of”, which do not mean the same thing. If I’m wrong, and you’re dinging me for something else, then you seem like who will put me right.”

      Can I have that in english please?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Giles: I’ll let your elaborate, but I suspect you’re right.

      KG

    • Giles Hitchcock says:

      I’ll add the word I missed out:

      “I get the impression you are confusing “realistic portrayal of” and “portrayal of the realities of”, which do not mean the same thing. If I’m wrong, and you’re dinging me for something else, then you seem like someone who will put me right.”

    • Kadayi says:

      @KG

      If the man’s come here to talk, let him defend himself. No need for you of all people to start jumping to his defence (a bad habit you seem to have whenever a developer posts here btw).

      If it’s an attempt at ‘Art’ as he claims it’s a poor one. Not only because it’s completely unrealistic in terms of scenario (as I pointed out), which automatically creates a degree of complete disconnect, but because it’s not even that horrific (sorry). There’s about 10 types of generic NPC mode running around (same height, same bullshit), and as with all games of this sort there’s no children. The only people who find that sort of thing horrific are people who don’t game. I doubt anyone who bought the title itself skipped the level.

      You want to show horror, have the player be a passenger getting on a Bus, then after a leisurely drive through the City recieve a phone call, which prompts them to stand up shout “Allahu Akbar” at the top of their voice. Much to the dismay of the passengers around them (like the old couple who’ve been talking for 5 minutes behind you, or the woman with the screaming baby) trigger the explosive charges wrapped around their waist and proceed to blow themselves, and half the high street away in glorious 1000 frame slow motion before fading to black. That’s the reality of terrorism. No Russian on the other hand is an insult to peoples intelligence.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Agreed, Kayadi. Not sure that because a situation is surreal it makes it bad art, or incapable of provoking thought.

      But you’re right in that No Russian just doesn’t punch hard enough. Worse than that, it ignores the strengths of its genre to put the player in a (just barely) interactive film, in which the part we play has no effect whatsoever. I think that’s the primary factor in what creates the disconnect you mentioned. We might as well not be there.

      The secondary factor is a lack of perspective. You’re a US Marine, a Good Guy, involved in a conflict you know pretty much nothing about, for no real reason other than blind patriotism. We’re not building an immersive, harrowing experience here. We’re building the kind of experience you get from an arcade game.

      Let’s rethink. How about we invest in this sequence. Make it mean something.

      Put the player in the shoes of an Afghan adolescent, minutes before his family’s village is razed to the ground due to a suspected insurgent presence. Witness his parent’s poppy crop burnt to cinders. Feel his grief as he watches his remaining relatives starve. And most importantly, understand when he goes to the militia for help. Make the player feel the cocktail of emotions we should be feeling when, thousands of miles from home, he raises a gun in a busy supermarket, or detonates a bomb on a crowded carriage.

      If you want to make a point, fine, but for God’s sake do it right. Make the fuckers think.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Lilliput: This link is why Chris Morris >>> Teh Games Industry

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/video/2010/jan/21/chris-morris-four-lions-sundance

    • Giles Hitchcock says:

      I replied but it ended up in the wrong place, at the end of the thread.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Lilliput King

      Glad someone gets it. I answered Giles later on and pretty much come from the same angle. Essentially for me the situation lacked emotional value because at no point was there any sense of a human connection being made, which undermined the whole exercise. Compare and contrast to say the ending of HL2:EP2, or in fact the ending of MW1 and you’ve an entirely different situation. In order for a game to deliver an emotional stomach punch it has to make you invest in NPCs as real people, whether that be through engagement/familiarity (in the case of Eli & Capt Price) or in the ability to successfully convey convincing emotional range (consider Alyx, or the dying guard in MW2). It’s not enough in a medium that is all about replicating reality to simply make an airport level and fill it with samely AI who aren’t armed and expect it succeed. If anything you’re battling against the very fact that FPS have desensitized most people to the things they can shoot.

  30. Dreamhacker says:

    I read the Ethiopian Review’s piece on MW2, but I see no obvious answer: Why are there no US civilian casualties, or even interactively “killable” civilians, in MW2?

    Acti-Blizzard really manages fuck up in ugly ways. They need to get their value of people in check or check out of the industry.

    All this makes me miss the days when people would start organizing protests because EA released a buggy patch… those were the days.

  31. invisiblejesus says:

    @Funky Badger

    Dude, come on. Aren’t you being a little harsh on Die Hard 2 there? :P

    • Funky Badger says:

      Same turn, anyroad.

      And MW2′s a better action movie. Not enough Homer Simpson lookalikes though.

  32. Andrew Doull says:

    @Kieron and any Stross fans: Drop whatever you’re doing now and go to Orion’s Arm. I know you haven’t already because you would have come back post-human…

    Also the best example of Robert Yang’s non-interactive hyperfiction eir can think of.

    Also thanks for the link.

  33. army of none says:

    Wow, there’s a lot of good reading in this week’s Sunday Papers! The monetization paradox, the Gamers with Jobs peice, and the self-appendectomy really were a lot of fun to read. Thanks as usual for the links, RPS! (Even if you do fail with your valiant attempts to not-link to some indie music)

  34. CdrJameson says:

    You are playing War On Terror, and I claim my five pounds.

  35. Premium User Badge Wurzel says:

    That Penumbra piece reminded me of a pretty revelatory piece I read in the Guardian a while back, about how games comparing themselves to books, films etc is a dead end. The author suggested that what games are really closest to are cathedrals; huge edifices requiring huge teams, a space intended to be explored but also to communicate a message, and an activity space. The analogy’s not perfect; nothing is as nothing is quite like games. Even so, I thought it was a nice new paradigm to consider games in.

    (Also yes, Goldacre Good, British Journalism Bad – but it’s often not their fault, as very poor scientific education leads your average journalist to think it’s fine to basically reprint the uni’s press release (where the real fault often lies). As a biology graduate it’s impressive quite how much medical stuff the papers get wrong on a regular basis. It’s motivated many of my friends to take science communication courses and join papers to try and redress the balance.)

    • Lambchops says:

      Actually there was an article on the BBC today that’s fairly relevant to this.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8474551.stm

      Basically the author thinks that there should be a greater emphasis in science in our education system.

      On a personal level I have to say I agree, if only because as a final year chemistry undergraduate I’ve seen the amount of free time arts students have on their hands and can’t help but be increasingly bitter about all the hours of hard work I have to do compared to them!

      On a more serious not though I think that Mandelson is right (now there’s a sentence I thought myself unlikely to ever type!) by trying to put science and engineering at the forefront of our higher education system. Certianly arts degrees aren’t useless but more emphasis on science and technology based businesses is needed as this is an area where Britain can be one of the world leaders. if this means other areas are going to have to face cuts then that’s the way it will have to be.

    • Baboonanza says:

      Clearly. The problem really is that too many people are going to University to do useless degrees. If you’re going to Uni to do a degree in Media Stuies then maybe you shouldn’t be going at all. Not everyone certainly, but most people would be better off spending the 3 years building a career.

      What really annoyed me was the government refusing funding/tax breaks for the games industry. This is a muti-billion dollar industry in which Britain has always punched well above our weight, has the skills and potential to grow even more and also promotes skill growth in related IT fields. It’s a no-brainer. Yet they fund vanity film projects willy-nilly, the pricks.

    • CMaster says:

      @ Baboonanza
      It depends what you think education, especially University level is for, anyway.
      If it’s just about preparing you for a job (or jobs in general) then we should tear down the whole system (near enough, courses likes Medicine could probably remain) and start again, because its very, very poor from that point of view.
      Of course, I do think that more people are going to University these days than are probably best suited to it. The problems are the duel ones of competetion – if everyone else has a degree, you start to need one – and the fact that a large number of people desire to live the student lifestyle for a few years. That’s understandable, and maybe it should be looked into if a similar expereince can be obtained in different ways.

    • Baboonanza says:

      @CMaster
      I don’t think Uni should just be preparing you for a job, and their purpose generally varies between subject. The Sciences (I guess including Computer Science) are preparing you for work in the sense that the theoretical underpinnings are the basis of your skills and pretty much essential when you move to industry. Liberal arts subjects have always been much less useful for industry, though in the past having any sort of degree was an advantage.

      I certainly wouldn’t want Liberal Arts degrees to disappear, people should study things that interest them, and they also have a positive cultural influence. However, it seems obvious to most people that the current system is neither benefitting young people or the country.

      Since university attendance has dramatically increased but the Sciences and related subject hasn’t, perhaps something should be done to rebalance the situation. If there was a scaling back of Liberal Arts degrees you would begin to restore the advantage of having one, make the whole system more meritocratic (University really should be for the top %X of students, not everyone), and the people who would have attended should end up in a better position too.

      I would also bring back the grant system based on merit. Whoever thought that removing subsides from further education would make things fairler was a knob.

  36. gryffinp says:

    Have to admit, reading the frictional article made me want to hurt the author. Among other things, if you’re going to be that pretentious, your article should really be better written than that.

  37. Yargh says:

    I’ve really enjoyed Charlie Stross’ books so far, I get the feeling he gets his tech just right (at least for a reasonable extrapolation on what we have right now)

  38. Sinnerman says:

    I would say that comparing games to movies is a very 90s/PS1 thing and I don’t know how much more life there is left in that movement. Yeah, okay, it can probably go on for ever but I was never that interested in it. Comparing games to architecture, music and visual art is more interesting to me and probably more valid in a lot of ways. Sometimes I do just get really frustrated with all this and just want to yell at passers by that games are actually bloody games and it might just be useful to think of them as games every now and again.

    Also, the Cathedral thing is from the Cathedral and the Bazaar essay about software development, if I’m not mistaken. Interestingly, indie games and flash game portals seem more like a Bazaar than a Cathedral.

  39. The LxR says:

    It’s true, I know that dog – we once discussed Freud’s ideas in terms of modern interpretation!

  40. Sebmojo says:

    Charles Stross also invented the GIthyanki, Githzerai and the Slaadi, D&D trivia fans.

  41. Breaker Morant's Ghost says:

    That Haiti article is possibly the most spastic thing I have ever seen on the internet.

    “Helicopter-gunships have been illegally over-flying Pakistani villages while you’ve been reading this, and they could have been rescuing buried children in Port au Prince.”

    It is quite obvious that the hysterical dimwit who wrote the piece has no idea what a gunship is. The rest of his knee-jerk gibberish is about as logical.

    As for the Frictional article, it made we want to buy Amnesia, even though I’ve never played any of their other games.

  42. MadMatty says:

    As for the communism vs capitalism debate:

    I measure the worth of a country, by the state of those, who are doing worst.

    Suck on that :P

  43. pignoli says:

    “We have conquered the world as a species, we are better off than every previous generation, we are – you especially – inherently bad-ass. As Neal Stephenson points out, provided you accept evolution as a theory, you are currently expressing more badassedness than any creature that has ever lived and died ever, by definition. “

    No, no, no, no, no. That isn’t how evolution works. I really do despair sometimes… Sorry, I had to stop reading after that. Besides, I’m sure that article didn’t have to be so ludicrously long. Gah, I’m all angry now.

  44. CTA says:

    I just want to say that the band’s name is “Los Campesinos!”. Including the exclamation mark. Ich bin ein Grammarnazi!

    Oh, and that I didn’t get the video at all. Was there even anything to get? I don’t know.

  45. Baboonanza says:

    Modern Whorefair

    At Earls Court Febuary this year! Come and witness first hand the fabulous advancements in Whoring!

  46. invisiblejesus says:

    @devloche

    “Probably because I’m a bad person, culturally illiterate, and have poor taste. In all seriousness, how do you justify paying that much for such a tiny little slice of entertainment that inevitably leaves you frustrated and wanting to read the NEXT one, which you have to wait a month for?”

    Your criticism isn’t entirely off base, I’ve been rethinking just how much money I spend on comics myself. But you’re incorrect to assume that readers are “inevitably frustrated”. For a lot of people, anticipating the next issue can be an exciting thing, not a frustrating one. And depending on the book, the reread value of comics can be huge. Check out Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams Jr.’s Detective Comics stuff and tell me you absorbed what Williams is doing with the art in one read through. If you’re being honest, I doubt you’ll be able to say yes. I still agree that strictly from a dollar-per-page perspective comics are not very efficient, but I think you’re ignoring the strengths of the medium here while focusing on it’s weaknesses. You’re also ignoring that some comics are faster, less satisfying reads than others; you’ll probably spend longer reading and you’ll laugh harder at Garth Ennis’ Wormwood stuff, for example, than any given issue of New Avengers.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Oh hell. I’m stricken with the broken reply sickness. Damn it!

  47. Guy says:

    @Funky Badger
    The author of the article, Bob Ellis, proffered Cuba and China as socialist countries, not me.

    @Krondonian
    The airport mess is complicated and I don’t feel there is enough information out there for me to make a seriously informed judgement but generally I think the US Military has done well. They’re the ones running the airport and enabling all the aid organisations to get in and if they’ve militarised it thats only because the State department, the UN and other organisations are lacking in the skill-sets and resources.

    The aid needs to be put into context. Firstly the US provides huge military resources which aren’t counted (and which are unique and very, very expensive). Secondly they give lots of aid to lots of people all the time. Even before this earthquake the US was giving $290 million to Haiti (for last year at any rate).

    @Bhazor. I’m afraid that just doesn’t hold true. Communist states are exceptionally likely to become totalitarian (I’ll leave it to others where they want to draw the line between Communism and Socialism). Furthermore if the British Empire was only held back by the technology available then how did a contemporary like the USSR kill so many? (Or Tsarist Russia, or Napoleonic France etc.) And the British Empire for all its faults was most definately not totalitarian, or did I miss the Secret Police murdering Gandhi and purging the ranks of Parliament? It might have been imperialist, colonialist, racist, homophobic, sexist and sometimes authoritarian but totalitarian it was not. There is nothing to compare to the killing fields of Cambodia, the mass graves in Poland or the Gulags in Siberia.

    @Tom Camfield
    It might be a surprise but I am European.

    @Mauzman
    The use of the phrase ‘climate change deniers’ is truly ghastly. Some of us just happen to believe that some of the science is wrong (it is- check Glaciergate or the Hockey Stick Graph), that the situation is somewhat overblown (it is- invariably the media reports the worst case scenario in any IPCC report), that the solutions we’re being offered aren’t the best available (they aren’t- wind farms are completely pointless), that too frequently the agenda is pushed by Big Business and political considerations (like the EU or the carbon trading market) and that what we need is serious, practical envirnmentalism.

    @Jim Rossignol
    What about the Glorious Revolution?

  48. MacBeth says:

    Going to have to massively disagree with the Tom Bissel/Crispygamer “Spoilers” article… it’s just nonsense to say that it shouldn’t make any difference if you know what’s going to happen or not. Sure, if a big plot twist is the ONLY interesting thing about a game (or a film, or a book) then it’s probably not a very good game (or film, or book) but centuries of writing and drama indicate that people don’t want to know what happens in advance of the story they are immersed in because it (well duh) SPOILS it…

  49. M.P. says:

    The comments thread on Stross’s blog was closed so I’m posting this here. I’ve been thinking for awhile that a good way for an established writer to build an audience and get a bigger slice of the royalty pie would be to serialise their novel in blog format. First 5-6 chapters free, the rest paid for.This wouldn’t work for an unknown writer of course, but someone who already has a small dedicated following could spread the word and nab new readers by having his free chapters being crossposted through the blogosphere.