The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on February 28th, 2010 at 11:26 am.

Sundays are for considering whether you can talk Quinns into being a punching bag in Starcraft 2 again, sipping tea and compiling a list of fine (mostly) games writing we collected across the week, resisting the urge to link to pop music, no matter how much the urge compels me. Must… no… fail… again.

Failed.

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139 Comments »

  1. drewski says:

    John has a nice piece on Eurogamer about Omikron: The Nomad Soul which also may interest people.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Fucking Omikron was awesome, Walker needs to die.

    • Wulf says:

      I can understand where John’s coming from, though, to be honest.

      Omikron is just one of those games that could use a remake by people who actually care about what they’re making, sometimes when you have someone with vision–like Cage–they go running off with all these mad schemes and you end up with a broken mess of discarded dreams. This is actually true of Fahrenheit too, and I love Fahrenheit, but the problem, in general, is just very niggling, it’s far, far more niggling in Omikron than it is in Fahrenheit.

      David Cage strikes me as a man who has a lot of creativity, but not a lot of care. If you listen to him talk about Fahrenheit these days, he’ll often speak of it as though he absolutely despises it, because these days he’s making adult games for adult people, instead of immature little messes like Fahrenheit. And that’s the vibe I’ve always had from Cage. I’ve spoken about this before, too, not sure where… but I have. It’s just this bloody aura he has.

      A man like that you do not want being in charge of game development.

      Vision is fine, but only if you care about the dreams you have, if you love each and every one, and see them through to completion before discarding them in favour of the next, bigger, shinier one. Cage is like a rich kid with toys, but the toys are ideas, he gets so many of them that he just doesn’t know how to attribute value to them any more. There are some people who can have an abundance of creativity and yet value each and every idea they have, and have fondness for everything their brain creates, without even being egotistical. David Cage is the anti-thesis of that.

      This might be harsh, but if you look at his games it’s actually fairly obvious. He has ideas even halfway through a game’s development, and what happens is that the previous elements are just tossed away. This can work, it can be brilliantly mad and original, it can move fast (too fast for some people), and it can be a laugh. It worked for Fahrenheit to a degree, but even Fahrenheit felt like there were four or five game start ups in there that were discarded, the most notable being the murder scene at the beginning, which had a different feel to the rest of the game.

      I’m expecting this same problem with Heavy Rain, too, that the game will just move from one thing to the next, thinking of the previous thing as a bad idea and sort of hoping that the player will forget about it. It happened in Omikron too, and it was made fun of even at the time. Does anyone remember the fighting and FPS sections? I clearly remember jokes about how the FPS section could only be played on a PC (it was painful on a console), and how the fighting section was better tailored to consoles, and PC gamers had to plug in a gamepad for it, because it’s nearly damn impossible to play a fighter on a keyboard.

      David Cage is certainly a visionary, but he’s not the right sort of visionary, and he’s not the sort of visionary I like.

      Ragnar Tørnquist > David Cage

      There, I’ve said it, I feel better.

    • Wulf says:

      Annnnd my mind has now earwormed me with the theme of Visionaries, thanks mind.

      Knights of the magical light!

  2. poop says:

    the pluto article is cute as heck

    • Mil says:

      It put a big smile in my face :-)

    • TheBlackBandit says:

      Yeah, I’m a big fan of that Pluto thing: Please write back but not in cursive because I can’t read cursive. :)

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Crikey, Kieron posted some reasonable music for a change.

      Joanna is class. Proper class, plays a mean harp that one.

    • a says:

      It’ll be okay. =33333333

  3. Aldaris says:

    Since you announced that you were working on a neptunes pride diary I’ve completed a full game and ended up second place, I am temtped to quote a certain scene from Monty Phthon and the Holy Grail.

  4. Lambchops says:

    The “touch more conventional” -ness of Joanna Newsom’s new album means that I can actually enjoy it. I wanted to love Ys as I think she’s a superb musician but no matter how I tried I couldn’t get past the insane squeaking pixie vocals. Now that she’s toned down the extremes of her voice I can finally settle down and enjoy her music. I has a listen to that stream yesterday as I was working away and it’s going to be a definite purchase for me. Wonderful stuff.

    Also kieron, please link to the horrific vinyl – you know you want to!

    • leeder_krenon says:

      still not sure i can get past those vocals.

    • Eidolon says:

      My pre-order arrives on monday. Her voice has never been an issue for me. It does veer between witch-girl and sublime, but it always seems to suit the music and words.

      I have a feeling that Sweet Esme will be the ultimate showcase for her new, smoother vocals, though. Absolutely gorgeous song, both lyrically and musically.

  5. Lemon scented apocalypse says:

    Who the hell is Quinns and what has he done with my children?????

  6. poop says:

    I think I can understand what the metro 2033 guy is saying underneath his assholery, that violence in games has become too trivialised, though it does seem pretty weird that he sited kane and lynch, a game where every TPS killing spree serves to only make things worse for the characters

    • skizelo says:

      Kane and Lynch Spoilers follow!
      I quite like K&L, but c’mon: it has 4 female characters, none of whom are shown to have any power within the game’s world of organized crime, and all of them are (or have the option of being) killed. That is, at the very best, dubious. Accusing it of feeding off its audience’s complexes seems fair.

    • john says:

      Hilarious, how many women do you think actually have any power in the world of violent organised crime? Did the lack of women chracters in the last game you played featuring the SAS also offend you?

    • Centy says:

      Just FYI though that interview is with the author of the original book who was a consultant on the game not one of the actual developers. He does seem a bit up himself as seen in the recent Gamespot interview.

    • skizelo says:

      John, upon reflection, I think the game kills all but two of it’s cast so the 4/4 thing isn’t so note-worthy, but I still feel that when you’re using “dead wife” as the main characterisation of both your leads, then it’s a problem. As I said, I liked the game, but when a designer holds it up as something he is trying to avoid, it piques my interest.
      And if my disbelief can be suspended for a briefcase full of plot magic, and six people starting a revolution straight after breaking out of prision, then goddamn it, it’ll carry a female mafiosa as well.

    • poop says:

      @skizelo yeah it feeds off complexes that way but it still feels like it hates you for it

  7. jalf says:

    Re: Joanna Newsom: Oh sweet, listened to Ys over Christmas, then forgot her and the album’s names… Been bugging me ever since, I knew I wanted to buy it, but didn’t have a name to go by. Kieron saves the day!

  8. AndrewC says:

    Cathedrals free to enter?!? Cutting edge music!?! A very sensible starting position taken far too far by a need to constantly up the ante in each paragraph? Metaphors extended beyond all reason? WHY IS HE WEARING SUNGLASSES?!?

  9. Thingus says:

    Daww, there was a Touching Reunion in the comments thread of the State article.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Thingus: Low-level bubbling seething loathing and packets full of McCain’s toppling on everyone’s shoulders. It’s like 2001 again.

      KG

  10. SirKicksalot says:

    Forget World Of Warcraft; I have been showing non-gamers the trailer for The Last Guardian, and it takes their breath away.

    Surely that’s because it reminds them of that Wolfgang Petersen movie we all saw in our childhood.

  11. Eight Rooks says:

    Why do I read articles like that Tom Armitage one? Why? Christ, I don’t think there’s anything to games journalism I currently despise more. Assuming I’m still alive when the last vestiges of sanity have disappeared from the medium and everyone’s dribbling to themselves about the meaningless brave new world they’ve invented I guess that’s when I’ll give up gaming for good. Until then, repeat after me; a book can be visual; a film can be literary; and a game can be anything it wants to be, as restrictive or permissive, as dependent on other media or as independent, without diluting its potential in the process. The kneejerk frothing that results on the internet whenever anyone commits this imagined slight just makes me physically ill. ‘Celebrate gameness’? It’s as meaningless as anything else he’s complaining about.

    • mrrobsa says:

      @ Eight Rooks:
      Hear hear. The Sunday Papers theme this week was rallying cries against what games aren’t, except that games have components of all these things, are totally multi-dicipline and can benefit from analogies to literature, film, music etc.
      Modern gaming is VERY broad, theres something for everyone (I hope!), so lets stop attacking strawmen about what games aren’t, and start discussing what they ARE!

    • JKjoker says:

      i think you guys are missing the point he is not saying they “can’t” be those things he is just remarking that reviews have lost focus on whats important

      he “doesn’t want his games to be literature” he wants his games to be games, it sounds obvious but its not

      games keep trying to run away from gameplay and embrace other mediums like cinema or literature or whatever, meanwhile reviewers focus their reviews on these things and often completely forget about telling us if they are any good as a GAME

      i agree with him, when i read a review im trying to know if the game will keep me entertained, anything else is secondary

    • hoff says:

      The only problem I have with games spending more time on “story” than gameplay (notice that “story” means average B-movie style scripts about super-soldiers fighting each other), is that it lulls people, especially that always-expanding “mainstream” crowd, into seeing flashes of meaningless stimulation where once was at least something unique, something interactive and challenging. No matter what medium you choose, creepy little girls, beautiful sceneries, superheroes and ridiculous gore will always find an audience, because it numbs you enough to forget your surrounding for a while.

      Even that wouldn’t be a problem if we hadn’t arrived at a time when ALL games with a >1 million budget are exclusively created as risk-free, formularic clones of existing genres with everything that could “confuse” a certain percentage of potential customers carefully removed or dumbed down (YES, I SAID DUMBED DOWN, IT’S A VALID COMPLAINT!).

      While the 90ies invented genres left and right, the past decade… KILLED more genres than it created, merging them into a lowest common denominator until there isn’t any gameplay left beyond quick time events. Add an “engaging story” and you still get a 95 score from reviewers.

      I don’t blame gamers for playing this game, but reviewers should be the protectors of gameplay variety, of innovation and quality that goes beyond mind-numbing. Basically, feel free to make and play these games, but at least let the reviewers do their job, which, in every other medium, is to be elitist bastards that dissect and criticize their games to a point where high scores and cheering is reserved to innovation and bringing the medium forward as a whole. Bioshock simply deserves a 7/10. The 9/10s and even 10/10s it got are for special effects and cheesy horror writing. There.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ JKjoker

      Tom’s actually saying both things; that some reviewers should do a better job of explaining their reasoning when it comes to “gameplay” (which I don’t think anyone would argue with) and that reviewers should assess “game-ness” rather than the other aspects (which makes much less sense, both because games are more than just “game-ness” and because film and literary criticism is far more developed than game criticism, so it seems counter productive to throw out all those honed critical tools).

  12. invisiblejesus says:

    The Poole piece might have impressed me a little more if the guy had bothered to try and understand the works he’s criticizing; of course Rorschach said something stupid and nonsensical, Rorschach’s a fucking moron! Granted, I suppose the movie does glorify him more than the book did, but I still don’t think it’s that difficult to understand that the character is a crazy fool. It’s not that the book is unsophisticated or juvenile, it’s that Poole’s understanding of it is based on unsophisticated and juvenile assumptions about the medium.

    • skizelo says:

      “I watched the film instead” is an A1 start to any literary criticism I find. The rest of the article doesn’t make much sense either (the idea that Bayonetta is titillating as being some seedy, emperor’s new clothes type reveal is idiotic) but christ, did Edge run those two articles in the same issue? The concept of an editor going through two pieces, one of which lamenting how people in the non-specialist press make stupid statements on something they clearly don’t care about, and the other which dimisses a touchstone of superhero comics after presumably five minutes thought, and not grasping the hypocrisy (or Poole by the throat) is infuriating.

    • qrter says:

      I enjoy how he rips out one line to supposedly show how infantile and immature a work is, after he just spent quite a bit of time focusing on Dr. Manhattan’s penis (which is, like, totally naked roflmao!!).

      Wait, who’s calling who a 13-year-old..?

    • AndrewC says:

      Moore’s dialogue has never reacted well to being spoken out loud.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Yes. But the movie still sucks. A lot more than the comic. And the comic, while highly praised back in the 80s and having in me one of its biggest teen fans, do not meet today my appreciation anymore. I changed. I’m not a teen anymore trying to find the right amount of gullible deepthness to climb myself some higher ground of morality. The movie however doesn’t even offer that. It’s just kicks, punches, and lots of onomatopoetic whamps of cool special effects.

      Dry. Like many games. Bioshock included. In order to really produce even the “gullible deepthness” on the scale of what was achieved by comics since the mid 60s, games need to stop work on cool artwork backing a clever story. They will need to elevate scripting and A.I. to a whole new level. I’m tired of binary moral choices, of integrity scoring, or lack of PC and NPC ambiguity. From a social and moral POV, games are still on the Black & White age.

      What’s sad however is that cinema is not barred by the current technological limitations of games. And the Watchmen movie was just a good opportunity to revive a classic gone to waste. I blame the director, the screenwriters and anyone who actually deemed this movie worthwhile after watching it.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      “I’m not a teen anymore trying to find the right amount of gullible deepthness to climb myself some higher ground of morality.”

      Yeah, you and I obviously got something very different out of Watchmen. Possibly because I read it in my late 20s, rather than my teens. Trying to “climb myself some higher grounds of morality” is exactly the sort of thing that the book is picking apart and criticizing. It’s a critique of superhero stories in general, not a glorification of them.

    • the wiseass says:

      I agree, the Poole piece was complete and utter crap. Sometimes I wonder if games journalists write articles for the sake of writing articles, because I’m sure that despite creative dry periods they are forced to fill their regular quota.

      Watchmen he movie was an OK experience that had not much in common with the brilliant work that was the original comic book. Although I’ve got to admit that TRANSMETROPOLITAN is still my most cherished piece of comic ingenuity ever created. Alas it seems that Spider Jerusalem is on of the most underrated characters ever to grace the coloured paper.

  13. Vivian says:

    In terms of the vaguely elffolk, Owen Pallett >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Joanna Newsom. Even at her own songs (his version of Peach, Plum Pear tears the original a new arsehole wide enough to commute through).

  14. Shrewsbury says:

    The irony being that you get Saints Row 2 when you pre-order the game on Steam.

    • Shrewsbury says:

      Buggeration. I mean Metro 2033. You get SR2 when you pre-order Metro 2033.

    • Xocrates says:

      Actually, you get Red Faction: Guerrila for Metro2033. SR2 is the pre-order bonus of Chaos Rising.

  15. Sarlix says:

    I had my eye on Metro 2033 until I saw the recommended specs, now I can’t keep my eye on it because they popped out!

    Recommended:

    * Any Quad Core or 3.0+ GHz Dual Core CPU
    * DirectX 10 compliant graphics card (GeForce GTX 260 and above)
    * 2GB RAM

    Optimum:

    * Core i7 CPU
    * NVIDIA DirectX 11 compliant graphics card (GeForce GTX 480 and 470)
    * As much RAM as possible (8GB+)
    * Fast HDD or SSD

    The minimum is a dual core and 8800GT….

    • qrter says:

      Aah, they say that kind of stuff.. and then you just kick your PC and run it anyway, or at least until the smoke pouring out of the back makes it impossible to see the slideshow.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Heh, 8GB. About time specs for PC became ridiculous again after cross-platform development held back anything that wouldn’t run on a 360.

    • terry says:

      I don’t seriously think any program uses that much ram, and I’m pretty sure unless you have a 64bit OS it’s unaddressable. Methinks the person writing the spec didn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground and just grasped in the air for arbitrarily-large-impressive-sounding number for emphasis.

    • bhlaab says:

      The “optimum” thing seems to just be their way of saying their engine will make use of whatever you throw at it.

      Recommended does seem a bit high, however,.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I dunno, 8GB isn’t *that* ridiculous. My machine has 6GB, after all. Memory is quite cheap in the grand scheme of things, and it’s only console limitations that are keeping most specs down (which, actually, is probably good for the accessibility of the PC).

  16. Patton says:

    The recommended specs are fairly high, in comparison to other games.
    The optimum requires a new gaming pc with atleast 1500 euros of hardware on it, maybe even 2000 euros, depending where you live. Now thats ridiculous.
    My PC does fullfill the recommended requirements, but only because I bought it a bit over a year ago. ATI 4870 with 4GB of DDR2, and a 3,3 ghz Dual-Core.

    Mass Effect 2 had recommended requirements being a 8800 GT, a 2,6ghz Dual-Core, and 2gb of RAM. 3GB ram for Bioshock 2 and a 8800 GT and a Dual-Core. Metro Recommended requires a GTX 260 and a Quad-Core. So it has to look better than either of those games to justify the requirements.

    • Edawan says:

      Is it really that unrealistic to ask a current computer for recommended (not minimum) specs ?

      Mass Effect 2′s recommended specs are those of a two years old computer.

    • ohnoabear says:

      Unless things have changed recently, “recommended” specs means “will run around 30 fps at a 1280×1024 resolution with most of the important settings at high, 2xAF and maybe some AA. It’s the specs you want the majority of your audience running, because any lower and the game starts to look or play less than great. So, if most gamers upgrade their computer every 4 years, if you require a 2-year old computer, that game is going to look bad/run poorly for 50% of your target audience. For a new Civilization game, that might not be a big deal, but when you’re making an FPS, it’s important.

      Ideally, you’d want to have a game that looks good at a decent framerate even on 4-year old machines. Especially if you’re an unknown developer from Eastern Europe trying to make a name for themselves in the west, and thus want to be as accessible as possible.

  17. Wednesday says:

    I haven’t finished that Watchmen piece, but is his entire critique based on one bad line?

    Cos, and I don’t mean to sound all raving fanboy here, but that’s kinda off? Surely he should read the book first. Am I mad in thinking this?

  18. bill says:

    Ubisoft are french, of course they hate US soldiers! Freedom fries indeed! That’ll teach-em.

  19. Adventurous Putty says:

    BOW BEFORE THE WRATH OF THE TINY CHILDREN!

  20. Patton says:

    No, you aren’t.
    His critique of watchmen is moronic, and outright insulting to ones intelligence. Taking one line, and claiming the entire book is juvenile, is just silly. He just dismisses it, based on the FILM.

    He really seems like a person who doesn’t like video games to be honest. He also seems to be actively trying to anger people who play popular video games by calling them all juvenile, which is simply not true. Seems rather odd choice to me, for a video game magazine and all, but oh well. He doesn’t really even try to justify anything he writes, and he keeps making gross over-simplifications based on few games.
    Also, if you remember Edge magazine gave bayonetta 10/10.

  21. Quinns says:

    Oh I may be a punching bag, Kieron, but I remember every punch.

    That makes me a very creepy punching bag indeed. You just watch yourself.

  22. bill says:

    mmm. As someone already said, Mr Walker’s Omikron restrospective is interesting.
    I only played the demo off a cover cd… but i think at that time my pc couldn’t handle it. Now I really want to give the pc versions a go… shame it seems to not work.

    PS/ If you guys want an idea for an article, how about interviewing ATi and Nvidia about why none of their graphics cards are compatible with old games. If they could make drivers with a “retro mode” so we could play old classics with a lot less hassle, that’d free PC gaming from the loss of all it’s history. A frame rate limiter would be nice too…

  23. Paul says:

    I’ve been reading these since the beginning, but I feel like I’m really missing out on something. What do the ‘failed’ mean

    Re: Newsom. I’m slightly disappointed with the album (as disappointed as you can be when one of your favourite artists releases a triple album of mostly really great material). It’s just that it all seems a bit more simple and straightforward than the elaborate stories of Ys: a lot more traditionally structured (except long) and even worse frequently reverting to the kind of lame mumbly singing someone might improvise when handed lyrics they never heard in song before. Instead of having anything that reaches the glorious, contorted heights of Only Skin, Colleen or Emily, it seems like she’s trying to make us not notice by inundating us with a lot of merely great material.

    I wonder how much that is to do with missing the playful counterpoint of Van Dyke Parks. I do realize many people found the strings, and his arrangements tiresome after a while, but her live shows like the Bottletree bootleg demonstrated how great musicians could take the arrangements in absolutely wonderful vibrant new directions. Indeed, perhaps the strongest track is Good Intentions Paving Company were we get a hint of the utterly fantastic band we should have heard much more from.

    My album hasn’t arrived yet, so I look forward to listening along with lyrics. I’ll probably change my opinion as I listen more anyway; it’s a fantastic release and I’ve still only listened half a dozen times!

    • Man Raised By Puffins says:

      I’ve been reading these since the beginning, but I feel like I’m really missing out on something. What do the ‘failed’ mean

      Sundays are for (…) resisting the urge to link to pop music, no matter how much the urge compels me. Must… no… fail… again.

      [Kieron links to some pop music]

      Failed.

    • Paul says:

      Ahah! :-D

  24. Tei says:

    Hahahhaaa suckers!. Lovelly, cute suckers :-)

    My favorite planet is… Earth. Reading these letters made me love this planet Earth even more :-)

  25. JuJuCam says:

    If there’s an existing artform that resembles games at all it’s interactive theatre and even that’s a tenuous comparison. Games aren’t even like board games anymore (unless they’re consciously trying to be). Yes, our ways of conceptualising the space that games occupy in our collective unconscious is broken but I don’t believe that the solution is to grope around blindly for a shape that might fit. Because there aren’t any. In my experience, games are like games.

    How about this: Games are like food. Consumption in both cases requires active participation. Settings can be tweaked in games as condiments and spices can be added to food. Your ability to enjoy the product may be modified by the equipment you have available to execute the act. Tastes differ. Moods and cravings change. There are homebrew communities sharing original works by nonprofessionals. On the other hand massive corporations churn out bland and uninspired repeats of themselves and their competition. Interest groups battle with extremists against products that could be harmful to the children.

    I could go on. Shall we start talking about the flavour and texture of gameplay now?

    • Arathain says:

      I, for one, am all for this. Games as food!

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ JuJuCam

      I agree, the definition we have for games (that they’re games) is fine, we don’t need to compare them to food or dance. We have a concept for games, we don’t need to keep redefining it. When people thought a subset of games where becoming like interactive movies they were quite capable of calling them “interactive movies”, they didn’t need some genius to come along and tell them they should be calling it “roast beef”.

      “Gosh, Monkey Island is like a choose your own adventure game.”
      “Hmm, we’ll call it an adventure game,” said Albert Einstein.

      I wrote a dissertation on this.

  26. bill says:

    Am i the only person who liked the Watchmen movie???

    Clearly it didn’t capture all the elements of the book, but i doubt any movie could. But what it did was touch most bases and stick faithfully to the material. For anyone who’s read the book that should be enough for their brain to fill in all the blanks.

    It’s like the way the recent Harry Potter movies have cut out 75% of the book, but left enough references in there that if you’ve read the book you get constantly reminded of all those little bits you liked – but without making a 12 hour movie.

    I think I was disappointed by every movie i watched last year, except watchmen.

    Ps/ while that writer might have had a point about some of the juvenile writing in games, he totally blew it by messing with watchmen at the start.

    • AndrewC says:

      It’s not so much that the writing is juvenile, it is that so much talent and creativity and ‘good’ writing is being used up in the service of extremely juvenile goals. It’s Kubrick making a Schwarzenegger movie.

    • Starky says:

      The directors cut was a much better version than the theatrical release – It’s like anything though with expectations that high the product will almost always fail to meet them.

    • Paul says:

      Exactly, no movie could. Just no like no movie could capture what it means to play a videogame.

      Outside of the problems of transposing an (albeit purposefully) garish 80′s aesthetic directly on screen, most comics, especially when so dense and whose entire purpose is in its density, are completely unsuitable for cinema. Watchmen isn’t a landmark because of its plot or ‘maturity’ (a massive, regrettable in hindsight, red herring), it’s a landmark because how it used the comics medium: taking a super restrictive 3×3 grid limitation and cramming it full of self-referential layers of depth and thought.

      In a movie the action is hurtling past your eyes at 24 fps and isn’t stopping for anything. However when you read a comic you have time to take in at your own pace, think, imagine, reference, flick back a few pages, make connections, to simply stop & notice all the details and breathe in the world. So essentially, aesthetics aside, it’s often an enjoyable movie for Watchmen fans, and completely ridiculous and bewildering for those who aren’t familiar with the source. Also, the music, the only thing Snyder couldn’t really reference, was terrible!

      Steven Poole missed the point so hard it hurts (it’s much more about philosophy than any political message btw), and his reactionary stance is just that. I just wish Edge published more articles from interesting developers like Randy Smith and less from ex-games journalists.

    • Paul says:

      And Alan Moore isn’t, and certainly wasn’t in the early 80′s, a writer of dialog up there with the greats of literature. He would be the first to laugh at that. HOWEVER, he’s an unbelievably talented comics scripter. I don’t mean that as a qualifier like Stephen Poole’s whines, but that they are fundamentally different forms. Just as the Hollywood writers invading videogames are largely useless.

      A lot of the people who dismiss him as juvenile should read his later works such as From Hell, his most thoughtful, heaviest and possibly greatest, Promethea, his most experimental and interesting, and Top 10, which while completely light hearted and not nearly as intensely structured as Watchmen rivals its cleverness.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      You aren’t the only one, though it sounds like you did like it more than I did. I think that the problem with Watchmen was that the comic was so subject to interpretation, at least as far as the morality of the various characters was concerned. The filmmakers seemed to decide that they had to choose a character to be the story’s moral compass, and by doing so IMO really diminished the power of the story. Not to mention they chose Rorschach; it was as strong an attempt to justify the Rorschach approach to morality as I think anyone could make, but it still failed. Because, y’know… Rorschach was about as far from being the hero of the book as any of it’s main characters. He was fun and interesting, and you couldn’t help but sympathize with him, but he was still full of shit.

    • D says:

      @invisiblejesus I’d never even heard of watchmen before, never even seen the comic drawings or heard of any book, and only watched the 3 hours directors cut of the movie. I thought it was excellent and got exactly out of it, what you are trying to explain as its failings. Rorschach was a psycho. Ozymandias was the good guy. Or the other way around. Just wanted to let you know.

  27. Nick says:

    painful misuse of bipolar there.

  28. Gap Gen says:

    First they came for Pluto, and I did not speak out—because I was not Pluto;
    Then they came for Mercury, and I did not speak out—because I was not Mercury;
    Then they came for Mars, and I did not speak out—because I was not Mars;
    Then they came for Earth—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    But yeah, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s appearance on the Daily Show was awesome, particularly the bit the next day where they told how he refused to leave the studios until he had solved the freebie rubix cube he was given by Comedy Central.

  29. Zombat says:

    RE: The Pluto article

    “Well isn’t that cute… BUT IT’S WRONG!!!!!!”

  30. Starky says:

    Honestly that Steven Poole guy just seems a bit of a moron.

    He writes like someone who wanted to write for the Guardian or the Times, but didn’t have the required talent – so settled on games journalism and hates it.
    Over opinionated on something he’s clearly not got near enough expertise to even have an opinion in. Just filling in his empty and meaningless observations with excessive wordage.

    Trying to appear clever by writing complex words, instead of actually being clever by writing intelligently about a complex subject.

    Look at his little rant about WoW – for all it’s flaws (many of them the reason I no longer play it) to describe it as “a lurid, sub-Tolkien ‘fantasy’ world, daubed in the aesthetics of arrested adolescence” is plain ignorance.
    He speaks like someone who’s only ever seen a handful of bad screen shots – because for all the cartoon styling, their are some truly beautiful areas of that game.
    Places with amazing design and architecture that easily match the great cathedrals (or would if they were built in real life), some of the burning crusade instances were just stunning, even though the WoW engine was looking a bit dated even then, design and artistic skill overcame that.

    He goes on to say “if World Of Warcraft is what counts as videogames’ equivalent of a ‘cathedral’, then videogames must be as childish and disposable as I had always assumed.”

    A video game writer with the opinion that videogames are childish and disposable? Or at least he’s always assumed that?
    this guy reminds me of someone who’s only ever seen Saw movies and a couple of other slasher movies complaining that the whole horror genre is juvenile torture porn.
    Yes many games are juvenile that’s evident – Just as pop music aimed at 13-17 year old girls isn’t exactly going to win any mercury awards, nor are games aimed at 13-17 year old boys going to be held in accolade for their grown up writing.

    Still to dismiss the entire media based on a couple of superficial examples, ignoring the vast swath of grown up, mature intelligent games out there is something I’d expect from a daily mail writer.

    Yet I find this drivel spouted from the mouth of a so-called games journalist?

    He should be forced to hand in his badge and pen.

    • Lewis says:

      You do realise Steven Poole does write for The Guardian, right? Writing about games makes up a relatively tiny portion of the guy’s astonishing list of talents.

      It worries me to see so many people badmouthing him here, to be honest, with seemingly very little idea of who he even is. I mean, it’s Steven Poole! Man!

    • qrter says:

      Surely you mean his astonishing Poole of talents?

    • Lewis says:

      qrter: Oh dear

    • qrter says:

      Frankly, I’m surprised you didn’t do that one yourself. You’re slipping, Denby!

    • Starky says:

      I have no knowledge of the man and I’m bad mouthing him based solely on that piece in edge, he may be a good writer in other area’s, on other subjects but that doesn’t matter he’s not writing about them in that blog. He’s writing about games in which he proves himself to be utterly ignorant, arrogant and just plain wrong.

      I think it’s utterly fair to criticize him for that – why should I have to know his work, or appreciate talent he may have in other fields to bad mouth him for his poor writing on video games?

    • Starky says:

      Oh and that he actually writes for the Guardian doesn’t change that the blog in edge reads like a Guardian-wannabie writer, the kind you see in student publications.

      Maybe he was just off his game for that blog, every writer has bad says I’m sure – but it still doesn’t change that that article was utter tripe which he should hopefully feel ashamed of writing.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I happen to agree WoW is an infantile game that only a weak mind and lots of free time can indulge themselves in past a certain point. This usually translates in one or a few words: “Teen” or “immature adult”. However, not all players are like that. But I don’t see why the author needs to say it, in order for it to not be guessed by the reader or at least given the benefit of the doubt.

      If he needs to insert disclaimers in every sentence he produces, it’s not a blog anymore. It’s a treaty. I suggest anyone wanting to contradict his blog, to not fall exactly in the type of argumentation you are saying he’s producing.

      If you like WoW, fine. I think the game sucks as do many of the people who play WoW like maniacs and cannot see WoW and “sucks” in the same sentence without throwing a fit.

    • Starky says:

      It’s not about nor was it ever about him liking or not liking WoW – though dismissing it as a game for the weak minded is incredibly ignorant of you, disclaimer or not.

      WoW may not be to everyone’s taste, and that is fine – I greatly enjoyed playing it for almost 2 years, met some fantastic mature people, but as with any game you grow bored of it and most people who play WoW for the length of time I did no longer play it just for the game, but for the social aspect.

      Same with something like eve or any mmo for that matter, the game brings people, but it’s the strength of community that keeps people.

      The point is, even someone who thinks WoW sucks has to admit that it is a genre defining product – if not generation defining. A milestone in gaming, and by far the biggest game in the history of the industry.
      I expect silly little “wow sucks it’s childish and stupid” from random internet people – just like when you go to an IMDB forum you have to expect to see “worst movie ever” and “this film is racist” threads.

      I’d not expect to see that from a gaming journalist though on a gaming website.

      Added to that his oh so brilliant rant against Watchmen (a comic book I’d never even heard of until the movie) based on the film… not the comic itself was again going off on a rant about a subject the author was clearly ignorant about.

      I’ve no problem with gaming journalists having opinions that differ from mine, the general consensus, or what have you – but I do expect those opinions to be informed opinions.
      His wasn’t.

      So because his opinion on that subject clearly wasn’t informed – his blog post is just as poor as the other million ranty ill-informed blogs that infest the internet.

      He’s welcome to go off on a rant as much as the next guy, but maybe not on the pages of a gaming magazines website, despite how well written it may be.

      As I said above, writing good != good writing, that blog post was well written bad writing, and I think it is totally fair that people are pulling him up on this.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      >> It’s not about nor was it ever about him liking or not liking WoW – though dismissing it as a game for the weak minded is incredibly ignorant of you, disclaimer or not.

      Why exactly? Should someone curb their opinion because it doesn’t fit whatever politically correct stereotype is in vogue? At least care to discuss it. Do not presume an opinion is wrong because it shocks you, and you refuse to put up a case against it.

      Our experiences on WoW (and I’d assume about any other MMORPG out there) were different, as you probably can guess from my own opinion on the matter. One man garbage may be another man treasure. Or it may just happens you got lucky. But by golly, you aren’t going to try to convince me that MMORPGs are places where you can find maturity around the corner, are you?

      WoW is a game. Just that. If it was fun to you, more power to you. But don’t give it qualities it doesn’t have, never had, and never will have.

      >> The point is, even someone who thinks WoW sucks has to admit that it is a genre defining product – if not generation defining. A milestone in gaming, and by far the biggest game in the history of the industry.

      No, not really. It’s this constant relativity in terms that really bothers me. It’s true that from within we tend to look at what surrounds us as bigger than the world itself. But it would be expected for people to take more care and actually try to look from the outside when using such terms as “genre defining”, “generation defining”, “milestone”, “biggest game in history”.

      WoW pales in popularity to such milestones as PacMan, or Lemmings, to name two. These were also unique designs at the time, something WoW is not. WoW is not genre defining. Please! It’s an MMORPG just like many of its predecessors which did define the genre. Not the latecomer WoW. And generation defining!? What does that even mean? You can’t even say MMORPGs have defined this generation, much less WoW.

      You can say WoW is one of the most popular games of its time. And you won’t be telling a lie. But there are others of its time that were as much or more popular. Sims, Guitar Hero, or GTA for instance. And on the MMORPG genre itself, surely WoW beat all games that preceded it. But it doesn’t overshadow the other games in the genre. Runescape carries itself very close to the 11 million WoW subscriptions and has the second biggest public forum on the web with 2.9 million posts a week.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      I think the basis of his objection was not so much that you don’t like the game as it was your judgment of people who enjoy it as weak-minded. I thought it was a bit of an asshole comment, too, and I don’t even play WoW.

    • Starky says:

      you saying that WoW is for the weak-minded doesn’t shock me, I don’t give a crap about political correctness I think it is a moronic statement that holds no real value. Shocked? My arse.

      Put up a case against it? It’s your opinion, I don’t need a case to refute your opinion mainly as I don’t care to try and change your mind. I just happen to think it is a ignorant, and as the main above said arseholish opinion, and said so. We can agree to disagree I think.

      Maturity is very easy to find in WoW, like any online community if you want to find a good mature group of people to play with you need to put in a bit of effort – not even that much, google around find a community that fits your standards.
      If not start one.

      WoW is no worse than any other gaming community around any other massively successful game – a damn sight better in parts actually – In my case it was as simple as rolling my character on a role-playing server – which for the most part was filled with decent mature gamers just having fun.
      This degraded over time and with popularity, and is one of the reasons I stopped playing the game, but I know for a fact there are still guilds and communities out there that are filled with mature responsible gamers. Hell I bet RPS has one.

      As for the genre defining – it really is. It’s concepts may not have been original, but that doesn’t change the fact that it improved on almost all of them and put them together in a package that was massively successful. It also introduced a swath of new and original idea’s that re-defined the MMO.
      Starcraft wasn’t really that original but is there any doubt that it is basically the defining RTS of the past decade?

      WoW really doesn’t pale in comparison to anything – pac man was a huge game (though space invaders was bigger) but lemmings? I loved lemming had it on the Amiga when I was a kid, but huge popularity? No – it was a great game, but it didn’t become part of the gaming landscape the way Pac man, Tetris, Mario, street fighter and others did.

      I’d debate that there have been games this decade more popular – or at the very least more successful. Runescape isn’t a comparison, it’s a free browser based game – you might as well try and compare with Mafia wars on facebook.
      Again talking numbers only there are MMO’s in asia that have more players than WoW – but it overshadows them all for one main reason. And that’s a billion USD revenue per year.

      Guitar games may come close, but then I’d not argue against them being decade defining products either (you can have more than one per decade you know) – when talking about what games defined the gaming space of the last decade the Sims, WoW and Guitar hero/Rockband all have a place.

      If you don’t like the term genre defining, how about genre milestone? Same thing really – WoW is genre defining because of it’s success because every MMO since it was released is compared to it, it’s king of the hill and has been for the better part of the last decade (and probably the decade to come). That is why it’s genre defining – like it or not. All new MMO’s get the same question “What’s it like compared to WoW” – In a way that not even Ultima Online or Everquest could boast.
      So it’s set new records for popularity in the genre, for money made in the genre, for the design and advancement of the genre, for the player experience and polish of the genre – It’s the first MMO almost everyone thinks of when asked to name an MMO, it’s eclypsed everything that has come before it and after it – Any fantasy based MMO stands dwarfed in it’s shadow, many of them outright getting crushed by failing to live up to the WoW comparison (age of Conan and Warhammer especially spring to mind).

      If that isn’t genre defining I don’t know what is.

      I don’t get how anyone could argue against that – I’ve never played a guitar game – not once. I play real guitar and have never felt the need to pretend with a plastic one. I’ve played the sims a handful of times, and never for long – but I’d not for a moment argue against them as being important in the history of gaming.

      It’s the most successful (monetarily) game in the history of gaming by a fairly large margin I’d wager (by a freaking mountainous margin if you include merchandise and paraphernalia that are WoW related) – that alone marks it’s importance.

    • Arathain says:

      I do get a little tired of the WoW bashing. I don’t like the game much, but it is undeniably a magnificent achievement, and a first rate game. As for the ‘skill-less’ comments- I don’t think anyone familiar with the guild raiding end game, or high end PvP, could refer to those as not requiring skill- indeed, they require a level of organisation, commitment and specialised tactics almost unique in the gaming world.

  31. Gassalasca says:

    I had no idea that Poole guy was such a douche. I am considering removing Trigger Happy from my amazon basket.

    • qrter says:

      Jesus, man, calm down!

    • Gassalasca says:

      I’m calm. Also, I’m disappointed.

    • Lemon scented apocalypse says:

      The man’s a knob, although i do agree with him over ‘that’ line. I read watchman for the first time about 6 or 7 years ago – and at the time i really couldn’t work out what all the fuss was about. Granted there were some things i loved about it ; Rorschach was and is awesome and the pirate parallel continuity reminded me of moores swampthing run (Which i still believe was the pinnacle of his writing- along with “from hell”) But the rest of it really dident have much of an impact on me – and im convinced this is because Ive never been interested in supers (Bar the more out there and cosmic varities – as typified in swampthing)
      I think its just a shame that Watchmen is seen by the majority as the most mature (literary speaking) of its kind – when this is simply not the case

  32. dhex says:

    re newsom: it really depends on whether you liked the beach boys overwrought pop styles of the 60s versus this linda rondstadt thing she’s got going on now. i couldn’t really get through y’s so rondstadt seems like a welcome break.

    what i want to know is who at drag city thought tarting her up would be a good idea? because it’s going to turn out to break her into a far wider audience, smart folk they were.

  33. Jason Moyer says:

    I think games would be better off focusing on exploring their uniqueness as interactive entertainment rather than trying to mimic passive entertainment or trying to prove themselves as a legitimate artform. I also tend to think this is, thankfully, being done, with most of the outstanding publishers/developers (whether corporate or indie) realizing that people buy games in order to participate in an experience rather than observing one (look at the emergence of non-narrative-driven multiplayer gaming as a mainstream phenomenon). I’d like to see even more focus on the participatory nature of games and less on the sense that they’re competing with garbage like television/mainstream cinema.

  34. the wiseass says:

    Holy crap, I’ve just finished reading the state article and stumbled over this animation:

    http://www.groovecats.co.uk/end/

    That Egg guy must have been some kind of disturbed evil genius.

  35. Anthony says:

    Yes, Joanna Newsom is lovely!

  36. Grandstone says:

    Many of video/computer games’ defenders reach for comparisons to genre fiction and genre movies whenever an attack like Poole’s comes along. Doesn’t that prove his point about the “too hermetically narrow” set of influences? Sure, there’s some good in genre work, but let’s face it, the best genre work doesn’t match up to the best literature and film have to offer, or else it would be a part thereof.

    Admittedly, this doesn’t work as well for film as for literature–what are Chinatown and The Shining, for instance, if not genre pieces? I don’t know how to parry that counterattack without begging the question, so feel free to use it.

    Poole’s lead paragraphs suck, even though I see what he’s getting at and slightly agree with him. He should have gone straight to WoW.

    • Starky says:

      It doesn’t even work for literature, many of the greatest works put to page are “genre” pieces. A phrase which I think is ridiculous in itself – like something in a particular genre is automatically lesser than another.
      Take something like Stephen Kings Dark tower series, a genre piece from a genre writer yet probably Kings masterpiece, and one of the (in my opinion – and probably one shared by many) up there with any work of fictional literature ever written.

      Hell most of the great classics in literature are genre fiction – Detective stories, War stories, action adventure.
      Neuromancer, Ubik and Lord of the Rings earn their place to be discussed along side Lolita, Huckleberry Finn and 1984 when talking about great literature.

      Games have a massive, open and wide artistic influence – Unless when you talk about games you only talk about “pop” games. Which just like pop music a lot of it is shallow and throwaway.

      But then every now and then you get the gaming equivalent of the Beatles.

      The problem if anything is people keep trying to compare games to movies/novels when they are utterly alien to each other.
      Gaming is too young, and still moving to fast to nail it down to anything – so yeah you have genre staples, big men in armour doing shooty-bang-bang – but then you have games that really don’t have anything like a script or story, yet manage to tell their own story. Produce and inspire fiction.
      Mount and Blade, Eve, and Total War and other such games that give you a world, give you names and places but then you decide what to do in them – you’re not following a narrative you ARE the narrative.

      This is something that is unique to the interactivity of videogames.

      Meh but of a tangent then, anyway I’ll end this by saying that anyone, who thinks that videogames are artistically limited needs to step outside whatever little bubble of gaming they’re inside and look at the bigger picture. From indie games to mods, and so on.

      Gaming is by far the most artistically vibrant and thriving media format, because technology just keeps taking it to places no one ever suspected. With by far the widest and far reaching set of artistic influence – which the industry is only just starting to scrape the surface of.

    • Grandstone says:

      Starky:

      Games have “the widest and far reaching set of artistic influence[s]“, of which “the industry is only just starting to scrape the surface”? Where is there evidence of the first proposition if the second is true?

      (Note: the following is a ramble, and I wrote it more to work through the question at hand than to refute what you said, as becomes obvious.)

      But that’s just nitpicking. Here’s where I was worried about begging the question: I don’t think you’re right to say that most of literature’s great classics are genre fiction. “Genre literature” isn’t “all literature that could conceivably fit into a genre of some kind,” because that would refer to all fiction. “Genre literature” refers to literature that fulfills readers’ expectations of a particular genre (romance, SF, fantasy, mystery, etc.) at the expense of creative expression.

      When we get the unexpected, we get a classic. When we get the same old, same old, we get genre fiction. Huckleberry Finn might be a spin on the picaresque, and Lolita might be a parody of a romance novel, but neither fits comfortably in those genres. What genre does “The Metamorphosis” belong to?

      Similarly, 1984, though dystopian science-fiction, and The Lord of the Rings, though fantasy, are classics because they’re well written and, at the time of their publication, they offered something new and unexpected. Lesser writers, such as you find in the genre sections, just rewrite Tolkien and Orwell, among others.

      My problem is that there’s no convincing way to determine if a genre has constrained a writer’s creative expression. Maybe Tom Clancy is saying everything he wants to/can say with his novels. Should I think him a lesser writer because he only writes military thrillers? Probably not. But don’t I get limited returns from Clancy novels? And might that have to do with the genre he writes in?

      It’s something I’ll have to chew over. Sorry again for rambling.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Starky

      You’re deeply mistaken if you think Neuromancer and Ubik are up there with Lolita and 1984. There’s a huge difference between an entertaining novel and a novel that philosophers use to illustrate the power of literature. I like Ubik, it just doesn’t have the same power as 1984; it doesn’t illustrate the evils of a totalitarianism regime and the powers it has to change language and memory, to crush the spirit of a man to the extent that he cannot express anything beyond what another wants him to think; Neuromancer popularised the term “cyberspace”, but that’s not in the same league as “Big Brother” and the connotations that has for personal freedom, neither is it a turn of phrase up there with “a boot stamping on a human face — forever”. It doesn’t matter that Time magazine bundled them into the same Top 100, there is a clear difference between them.

      Similarly, I very much doubt, though will happily be proved wrong, that any book critic rates The Dark Tower up there with something like In Search Of Lost Time. That’s the kind of behaviour that would make Harold Bloom take a shotgun to their face.

      As for comparing games to literature, clearly if the game has reams of writing, then the two can be compared, just as movies and game cutscenes can and should be compared. If the acting is crap in a movie, you don’t turn around and say “Well, you can’t compare the acting to the theatre, plays have been around for much longer…” There are similarities between the two, so you use the same critical tools, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel and find a whole new way of assessing the narrative aspect of games.

  37. garik16 says:

    Ummm, the first link is about complaints about the Reviews of BIOSHOCK 2, not Heavy Rain.

    If there’s any game where the comparison of games to films or literature is apt, it’s heavy rain, which is essentially an interactive Movie (not that this is a bad thing). The gameplay is all about driving the direction the story takes and the story is supposed to be the main drive for the player.

    Whereas in bioshock and most other games, the GAMEPLAY is the drive for the player, where the story just gives it context.

  38. hoff says:

    Isn’t that “games as literature” piece about Bioshock 2, not Heavy Rain?

    Heavy Rain at least uses story in interactive branches and therefore is more “gamey”, perhaps, than Bioshock.

  39. Patton says:

    What I can’t understand is why on earth do people assume games should have as many genre pieces as films have. It’s impossible. Games haven’t been around for that long, and games that have the capacity for complex storytelling haven’t been around before the last 25 or so years.
    You can hardly fault the new medium for not being on par with the established ones now can you ?
    Also, it is partly the fault of journalists, that games are not compared to classic games often enough. In many cases the journalists haven’t even played them. It’s easier to reference other things, when games that came before might be unplayable on modern systems, this is rarely a problem with films. Books never suffer from someone being unable to read them because they dont have the right hardware for it and their operating system is too new.
    Games like Planescape:Torment, Fallout, Deus Ex, Half-life series, System Shock etc. should be used for points of reference when reviewing games.

    • Starky says:

      That’s the one problem with gaming at the moment, to appreciate the classics you kind of had to be there at the time – if you missed them you missed out and you can’t really go back to it.

      A movie is always a movie, the special effects might look a bit rubbish in some old sci-fi, but the story and quality of the writing remains unchanged and if it is good, it is going to last.

      Gaming on the other hand, moves so fast that great games just end up looking like broken caveman stick figures.
      As an example, Nights into Dreams on the saturn was and is in my opinion one of the greatest games of that generation – it was childish, and had no real plot to speak of but was simply stunning to play, an utter joy of colour, movement and puzzle.
      Yet going back to try and play it (on an emulator, my saturn bricked) is just painful – the game is so blocky and horrid looking that you just cannot get over it, it gets in the way of the experience so much as to be almost unplayable.

      Too many people seem obsessed with videogames telling great stories like movies and books do, about the quality of the writing – too often though the best written games fail at the actual game part, because in their fervour for telling a story they forget that a game isn’t something you watch, or read, but something you play.

    • Patton says:

      Not really, you don’t have to had played games when they came out to enjoy the .
      I for one didn’t play many of those games, like Deus Ex, Fallout and System Shock when they came out, yet I enjoyed them all, and found System Shock to be outright revolutionary for the time , including it’s controls which included leaning, jumping, crouching and crawling and movable camera, all very impressive for 1994.
      I never owned a C64 when it came out, yet I had enourmous amount of fun playing the games that came out on C64, simplistic and ugly they may be compared to game made today.
      All you really need is imagination, open mind, and proper frame of reference for some of the older games. I dont really care how the game looks.

    • Starky says:

      There is a difference though between going back and enjoying it despite it’s age, and playing it when it was the cutting edge.
      Granted some classics rise above any dated graphics, or gameplay conventions. Half-Life was a genre defining game but now if someone went back and played it for the first time (someone who’d played a modern FPS, maybe even HL2) – although it is still a good game – it’s not going to rock their world as it did those of us who played it when it was first published.

      It’s just not the same, it’s the difference between watching a great concert on TV and actually being there – of course you can enjoy it and recognise great music being played live flawlessly on your TV at home, but it just isn’t the same.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Starky

      Regarding games aging poorly, I would argue that early film had exactly the same problem. The innovations in early film tended to be huge leaps forward, things like sound and basic techniques we take for granted now. After awhile the steps became smaller and smaller, and now we have a continuous history of perhaps 50 or 60 years worth of movies that have aged reasonably gracefully because filmmaking itself hasn’t changed nearly so radically in those 50-60 years as it did in, say, the first 10 years of the medium. I would expect a similar plateau effect with gaming. Hell, I think we’re already seeing it in some ways. The difference between a PC game from 2003 and a PC game from 2010 is nothing compared to the difference between a PC game from 1990 and a PC game from 1997.

    • Starky says:

      @Vin

      I agree you when it comes to graphics in games (and I agree with your parallel to the film industry) – I’ve argued myself that we’ve reached the plateau of game realism (at least for a while) because the resources needed to very little visual difference is too argue to justify.
      There are just better things to spend your CPU/GPU budget on than a slightly improved realism with shadows and ambient light – specifically speaking about ambient occlusion here – a graphical improvement that will halve your FPS for almost no visible difference in image quality.

      PC’s are still increasing in power at pretty much the same rate (Moore’s law is still in effect), but spending that on minor (but expensive – both in terms of production budget and cycles used) is a waste.
      No, the real advancement in the coming years is going to be in things like physics, interactivity, interconnectivity with the web (cloud saving is just the beginning), and persistent worlds.
      Oh and especially in things like user designed content.

      Seriously it can’t be far from a sims game where every family in the game is controlled by a different player, and the city is in a cloud server…
      And that is just the tiny tip.

      So while I agree graphically we’ve reached the “real as we need it to be” plateau, there is so much more possibility for games than just better graphics.
      That and artistically games are starting to improve – moving away from realism to surrealism, to artistic presentation which I think is just as exciting as the online possibilities – I mean could you imagine 5, maybe 10 years ago you’d ever see a game that looked like a water colour painting in motion?

    • Vinraith says:

      @Starky

      Absolutely agreed. I didn’t mean to imply we were at the plateau, merely that the graphical levelling off is indicative that the trend we see in films may well apply to games as well.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Starky

      I disagree, it sounds like you’re taking your own disenchantment and universalising it. There are a whole host of retro gamers who clearly don’t feel the way you do, there are also a whole host of games that still play as well today as they ever did.

      Super Mario World (1990) is a perfect example, along with Yoshi’s Island; whereas games like Chrono Trigger and EarthBound are improved by the way emulators allow you to save anywhere and any time and let you speed up the combat and loading screens.

      There are a host of games that don’t make the grade now, but there are a host of games with mods that update them for modern systems and make them even more playable (the higher resolution mods for Planescape, for example).

      @ Sparky and Vinraith

      As for older films, an appreciation can easily be won with a little education. Once you understand where the quality is located, you can get on with enjoying them as much, if not more, than contemporary audiences. It’s not as if Citizen Kane was a smash hit at the time, neither was Vertigo particularly critically lauded, and it’s only now, after their critical re-appraisal that many people will really understand where their qualities lie. There are plenty of films buried at the time that achieve a critical renaissance later, see also Bonnie and Clyde, and so the idea of not being able to appreciate them like contemporary audiences is just backwards, since in many cases the contemporary audience didn’t even appreciate them.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Tom Camfield

      There’s a small minority that appreciates older work in both media, of course, which further evidences the validity of the comparison. However, the “primitive” nature of early work (be it silent film or pixelated 2d platformer) is off-putting to the “average” consumer of said medium. It requires interest and, as you put it “education” to overcome that barrier to entry.

  40. monnbrun says:

    I just downloaded the official patch for Mass Effect 2 that fixes all the single core issues. Thanks to that I was able to beat the game but before that I had to use some pretty seedy work arounds. I’m running and AMD64 3500, 2 gigs of ram, and a geforce 9600gt. The game, even with the seedy fixes, ran PERFECTLY for me no matter what was going on. I looked on the bioware thread about the patch from the 22nd and so and so says they consider single core processors to be “below spec”. Are you kidding me? I need a dual core to watch your games movies but a single core to get 40-60 fps during a wild shoot out? RIDICULOUS.

  41. Tom Camfield says:

    @ kobzon

    Read some Richard Rorty (a philosopher you may like); literature allows you to get inside the mind of another person and see how they think and live, this allows you to see why they act the way they do and feel empathy and understanding for people outside of your own experience.

    Videogames, indeed, have the same transformative properties, since you can live within another persons experiences. This hasn’t been fully developed yet, but maybe one day it will.

  42. Patton says:

    Bloody hell, RPS really needs to add an EDIT button so I can atleast fix spelling mistakes.

    • Starky says:

      You can edit, just make a forum account and login on the forum then you get an edit button – and no captcha.

  43. Lambchops says:

    Quinns writing about VVVVVV made me decide to go back and try and to Veni Vidi Vici again. After half an hour or so of persistence the key presses wormed their way into my memory, probably dislodging some important piece of information I’ll need for exams – but at least I finally managed it. Take that Terry, you shit!

  44. Lewis says:

    Oh, on the Newsom record:

    Initial impressions suggest it’s brilliant. I haven’t listened to it anywhere near enough times to know for sure. What I definitely know is that the bit where the drums kick in on Baby Birch is a moment of absolute genius.

  45. Uhm says:

    I think there’s an interesting split, unless I just made it up, between people who consider gaming to actually be new (a new medium to utilise, etc) and those who think it’s little more than a progression from physical games (hey, now you can play chess on the computer).

  46. Starky says:

    I don’t think videogames were ever a progression from boardgames – I think videogames are a progression from all kinds of games, sports, media, and activities.

    Of course at first people thought of boardgames (leading to stratagy games), but at the same time (if not before – pong) they thought of sports.
    Then they thought of puzzles, then interactive stories (text adventures and RPGs) then action movies in game format, and reality simulations – so on and so forth.
    Then came original idea’s – or games inspired by portions of other media but done in a new interactive way – today, technology is starting to mature enough to leave room for everything.

  47. Uhm says:

    Yeah, I wasn’t very clear. I didn’t mean just boardgames, but sports and “fun” activities, as you say. And maybe it’s because of those origins that some refuse to accept games as a medium along the lines of film, literature, etc, and only as entertainment along the lines of those boardgames, sports, puzzles…

    Obviously, there’s room for all. Yay games!

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Uhm

      People don’t accept it because the kids who grew up playing games aren’t yet 70 year old academics. Games will get their credentials, it’ll just take a bit of time, and like films and books, the majority will still see them as entertainment rather than art.

      Also, many people do believe that sports and sportsman are artists. For example, George Best, or Roger Federer.

  48. KillahMate says:

    That’s sweet and all, but you’re wrong. Video games are, in fact, Possibility Space Architecture. I’ve already written about this somewhat extensively, go read this article if you care to know where I’m coming from.

    In my mind it’s the metaphor that lines up by far the most cleanly.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ KillahMate

      Why do games need to be explained with an extended metaphor at all? We already have a perfectly good word for games; games. What are people hoping to do by re-describing games under a different name?

      I can imagine Kieron in a club saying “I write about games, games are a lot like dancing, hot, dirty dancing” but I’m not sure who’ll drop their pants once they hear it’s really about Possibility Space Architecture. “Oh, it’s architecture? I just thought you were pissing your life away playing games. Mount me now.”

      That said, if either of those approaches work, sign me up :)
      However, the question remains, “What is the motivation for these seemingly unnecessary metaphors?”

    • KillahMate says:

      @ Tom Camfield

      Well, the idea as I’ve always thought of it is that each of the metaphors represents a point of view. Chris Dahlen in his piece does a quick analysis of games as seen through the lens of music theory (sort of), and makes a great point about repetition which was far easier to make from that perspective. In my blog post I note how irrelevant the hullabaloo around non-linearity and author control is when you look at it through the lens of a very established art form that is also thoroughly nonlinear.

      We still don’t have a firm grasp on what ‘games’ is, I think, and looking at it from the outside is an excellent mental exercise. Each of these metaphors is a helpful mental tool to use if you wish to gain proper perspective.

      Also you underestimate the deep Freudian power of bold, firm, jutting… architecture. Got to work on that figurative language for pants to drop, dont’cha know.

    • Lemon scented apocalypse says:

      off topic but big reams of +1s for this quote (plundered wholesale from yonder blog)

      “It’s kind of sad, really, that the most celebrated RPG maker in the world specializes in creating universes so plain and unimaginative. What does that say about us? ”

      too true

    • Lemon scented apocalypse says:

      But im afraid the whole possibility architecture thing doesnt really fly with me. What youre doing there, sonny, is using more or less meaningless academic extendo-jargon. The kind that tweed-vest beardy weirdys use to justify sitting around getting paid to sow patched on their elbows whilst secretly simply repeating themselves. The rest of your argument seems pretty sound though

    • AndrewC says:

      @Tom they need to be explained in terms of ‘things they are like’ because there are still plenty of people who have no idea of what games are, including most gamers. Games are still in the ‘having to explain itself’ stage of life. It has to be communicated to to a wider culture that, when not knee jerkingly negative towards it, is interested but entirely bemused by all these flashing lights.

      To say you don’t need to explain to a wider audience is to adopt the sniffily dismissive air of ‘if you don’t understand it, fuck you’. I personally prefer the enthusiastic explaining approach to getting people to appreciate games, and feel that the cold shoulder approach is only likely to keep games culturally sidelined.

    • KillahMate says:

      @ Lemon scented apocalypse

      Academic extendo-jargon? Most definitely. Meaningless? Not sure about that. It is just words, but as long as you get my ideas, some actual academic will eventually come along and assign actual jargon to them anyway. I admit I chose ‘Possibility Space Architecture’ for the soundbite value, but I think the concept I’m trying to convey has legs outside of academic wanking potential.

      ‘The rest of your argument seems pretty sound though’ – wait, so you think the idea is sound but you disagree with the terminology? Hey, that’s great! I am completely fine with that.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ AndrewC

      I think you underestimate how clearly everyone comprehends games.

      I think most gamers realise that Pro Evo is football from the couch, or that Footy Manager is being Harry Redknapp but without mentioning 2 points in 8 games at every press conference. Even non-gamers can get that far; you don’t need to tell them it’s like dancing or architecture for them to understand.

      That does not mean we should stop explaining games, but to stop explaining them in such an obscure fashion. Clearly everyone knows what games are.

      Now, the reason for these odd metaphors is that people who explain games as dance or architecture are generally trying to say that game are art. They take an existing art form (architecture, dance) and then say “Look! Games are like that!” which comes across as unconvincing and naive.

      First, unconvincing because a lot of dancing and a lot of architecture is not considered art, neither is it like a game, so it’s very easy to dismiss.

      Second, naive, because philosophers like Collingwood and Rorty have already given us ample reason to believe that videogames are art.

      Collingwood states that art is expression, and Rorty allows for literature to be incredible because it lets us see life from within another person’s perspective. Both of these make videogames an obvious candidate as art, Rorty because we get to live another life, Collingwood because a videogame can be an expression of the creator (or a playground for the player to express him or herself).

      Collingwood and Rorty are two of the great modern aesthetic philosophers, you can certainly argue with them, but just sticking to their arguments is going to be more convincing than trying to convince people with elaborate metaphors.

  49. Mario Figueiredo says:

    >> We still don’t have a firm grasp on what ‘games’ is

    Entertainment, challenge, hobby or a profession? It will depend from person to person, it will depend on the game and it can even depend on the circumstances in which you are playing a game.

    I agree with Tom. And the problem with metaphors and analogies is that often they are taken too far. From devices to support a concept or idea, to concepts and ideas themselves. All because the metaphor or the analogy so elegantly describes whatever one is trying to come up with. They can serve for academic discussion, but they have no place anywhere else most of the time. Simply because many things don’t really need to be fully defined in order to understand them. The further one tries to describe them, the more exceptions they will find. It’s like dancing on quicksand. The analogy or metaphor cannot hold to all instances. It cannot hold to most instances in fact.

    And as such you are presented with a problem:

    >> Each of these metaphors is a helpful mental tool to use if you wish to gain proper perspective.

    But all these attempts at an explanation either contradict themselves, or provide too many meanings to the same idea. You end up where you started; without a clear idea of what “Games” is. And end up reaching the conclusion that “Games” is… games. Just that.

    Trying to find the “meta” in Games is a useless, if not entirely wrong, exercise. Nothing comes out of it, because the conclusions are always meaningless

    • KillahMate says:

      The analogy or metaphor cannot hold to all instances. It cannot hold to most instances in fact.

      But all these attempts at an explanation either contradict themselves, or provide too many meanings to the same idea… Nothing comes out of it, because the conclusions are always meaningless.

      Well, I have to disagree. Metaphors aren’t perfect by definition, and are incomplete and contradictory, but when applied with care they can be of great value. The results are only meaningless exactly in those cases where a metaphor has been misapplied.

      On the other hand, a well used metaphor can lead to an intuitive leap, many of which I believe still need to be made in the field of game design. Every heretofore unused metaphor, unused viewpoint, represents a potential insight waiting to be made.

      I understand the value of metaphors is limited, perhaps very limited, but so far they haven’t been used almost at all. There’s still quite a bit of gold in them there hills, and we should grab as much as is usable, even if it isn’t very much.

      (+1 to Wankery for use of metaphor in text defending them)