The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on August 29th, 2010 at 11:00 am.

Sundays are for praying it doesn’t rain while you’re standing in the open air watching Shakespeare and rapidly compiling a list of the fine (mostly) games related reading from across the week, while trying to avoid linking to some piece about pop music about superheroes.

Failed.

.

118 Comments »

  1. Karthik says:

    I stopped reading at Half-Life-movie-maybe-but-by-Valve.

    I’m still hyperventilating.

  2. MD says:

    But what is soap?

  3. Brumisator says:

    How can games not be mainstream if they’re already by far the #1 entertainment industry in $$$, worldwide?

    • Stijn says:

      Well, read the last part of the article.

    • Brumisator says:

      Just nitpicking over semantics with an eye-catching title.

      Worst…blog post…ever.

    • subedii says:

      Yeah I have to agree. Not that I disagree that games are unlikely to become mainstream, but for different reasons. The poster is basically over-simplifying everything in order to fit his arguments of doom and decay. I mean seriously, saying that the industry is doomed to collapse and giving half reasoned arguments as to why doesn’t do much for me. At the very least acknowledge that the games industry is still evolving, as are payment models and styles of production

      His most relevant point is the one regarding interactivity, but even there, he pretty much dumbs down the whole argument for the sake of decrying how empty and stupid videogames are compared to other media.

      Basically the only point I can really agree with him on is that games are unlikely to ever become “mainstream” to the same extent that say, films are. But he opted out of well reasoned arguments to instead go for mini-sensationalism about the apocalyptically dire state of the industry.

    • Mman says:

      I found the worst part the strawmanning of various game stories to try to make his point about them not being about anything; in particular, trying to say that Red Dead Redemption and Mass Effect are nothing more than “Marston wants a new life, but he has to shoot everyone to get there” and “Shepard gots to save the galaxy” (sic) respectively is such a ridiculous abstraction of their stories to make a point they’re pretty much trolling (although admittedly in ME’s case the themes are more in the side-stories than the main one). The article has more of a point with Modern Warfare 2 and Starcraft 2, but even they have some small degree of underlying themes (although in MW2′s case its predecessor handled them much better).

    • Urthman says:

      It’s just a bad article. So dumb it’s not even worth trying to pin down exactly all the ways that it’s dumb.

      I have no idea why Kieron linked it.

    • bob_d says:

      “…by far the #1 entertainment industry in $$$, worldwide”
      Not even remotely true, sadly. This myth got started when it was noted that revenue from the entire video game industry exceeded movie ticket sales (in amount of money, not numbers). This is comparing apples and oranges. For example, in the US, game sales were actually slightly less than ticket sales in 2009 ($10.5B vs. $10.65B; worldwide that difference would be more extreme, as many parts of the world have little or no game sales but significant film revenue). Problem is, movie ticket sales have not represented the majority of a film’s revenue for many, many years. DVDs, television, etc. are where films make most of their money. (Games don’t have any sort of secondary market, of course.) And the game industry numbers include hardware sales, too; if we’re including hardware sales, we should also talk about film projectors, DVD players and TVs, etc. to be comparable. If we look at profit, it’s even worse, as with games we’re still talking about retail sales to a large degree, where the retailer is making half the money and the actual developer is lucky to make even half the remainder (developer revenue on a $60 console game is on average nearly $10). Compare that to films, where generally speaking, the ticket sales actually go to the movie industry, not the theater.

      The article, of course, only addresses the AAA game industry, but what is being said is completely true. Gaming is a niche activity. The AAA audience hasn’t grown much in decades (and social games have probably eroded the audience a bit, too, lately), but dev costs have exploded (they have to, to keep up with increased expectations in graphics, physics and gameplay). So while “Avatar” could be incredibly profitable after spending nearly $400 million in production and marketing, any game spending a quarter that is unlikely to make it’s money back, even if it’s a #1 selling game. Only if it has sustained #1 sales across multiple platforms does a game like that have any hope of making a profit, given the market size. The AAA game business has severe problems; it’s either in the early stages of a collapse, or a radical transformation (probably both). You have to remember the game industry has already collapsed twice in its short history.
      What about casual games? The audience for casual, social games has exploded, thanks to Facebook. Unfortunately the audience is still relatively small and there isn’t that much money here, either, as most players don’t spend money, and those that do, spend little. Zynga makes money by producing the cheapest games possible with the biggest audience possible (they require more than half-a-million players to support a game, even with minimal operating staff). Two-thirds of the game jobs I see offered right now are for makers of social games, but I suspect most of those (tiny) companies aren’t going to make enough money to survive. The money just isn’t there to support developing complex or interesting gameplay or producing anything outside the formula. That means the audience is going to get bored before long, and with everyone offering the same sorts of games, stop playing (or at least stop paying). Somethings going to give way soon, and it’s going to be ugly, both for those of us working in the industry and those who “hardcore” players.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      Agreed, terrible article. Misinformed and overly simplified. What exactly does he define as ‘mainstream?’ The reason games focus on the subject matter they do is identical to the Hollywood consumer-group sniping. Equally the comparison to comics is moot. Graphic narratives in the west were culturally clamped from the begging.

    • Gap Gen says:

      While I agree that none of the criteria aside from the marketing aspects are necessarily impediments, the headers are at least interesting starting points for discussions of how not to relegate gaming to obscurity.

      I guess it kinda ties into the games-as-soap argument. If the market for games is as idle distractions that have to be “fun” rather than interesting, then that’s where games will (mostly) be headed. But then Twilight is doing rather well despite the subtext being utter trash at best, because it’s about mysterious topless guys that love you. So the only measure of success will be if we create a large body of interesting games that gain mainstream attention, not necessarily that we force Modern Warfare to have subtext.

      (And even then, I believe that the unwitting subtext of MW2 is of the stupidity of Bush-era foreign policy, that the casual xenophobia in the US being complicit in a terrorist atrocity causes the rest of the world to get pissed off and invade it).

    • tunnel says:

      #1 or not, I was under the impression that games were already mainstream. There are plenty of references to gaming in TV and movies. I can meet a stranger and have a good chance to strike a conversation about games if he’s into them, and not seem like a weirdo if he’s not. That’s trickier with comics. People talk about movies and TV more often than games because it’s usually easier and more fun to talk to someone about how awesome Breaking Bad is and how shit Inception is than about the merits of Mass Effect 2. That’s true even among my gamer friends.

      Didn’t about 55% of households have consoles? Add to those the (probably few) who use a pc for gaming, and I imagine that nearly all kids play videogames. I may be way off the mark, as it’s just conjecture, but it seems to me that games are much more popular now than ten years ago. And absolutely, many people stop playing games after college, but surely a sizable chunk don’t? (Anyone has data on that?) Many people also stop going to the cinema and reading books, and even listening to music after college (again, anecdotal, I’d love to see data).

      I also don’t see games going the way of the comic. Because they already are more popular among adults than comics ever were, and because while someone who grew up with comics can replace them with novels and movies, there really is no adequate replacement to the experience a game can give you (choose your own adventure books? Boardgames? Becoming a mercenary astronaut?).

    • Alan Twelve says:

      I rather liked the article, even though I totally disagree with most of it. It was a good read.

      Anyway, games are mainstream. As I responded over there, Wii Sports has sold over 60 million copies worldwide. That’s more than AC/DC’s Back In Black – it’s sold copies more than Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Born In The USA put together. Thriller is the only only album in the history of recorded music that’s sold more copies than Wii Sports. The only way that you could possibly argue that games aren’t mainstream is if you try to argue that casual games like Wii Sports don’t count. (Or, I suppose, that music isn’t mainstream entertainment.)

      Of course, you could try to argue that casual games like Wii Sports don’t count, but that’s like arguing that because Mogwai or Yo La Tengo will never sell hundreds of millions of albums, music will never be mainstream. And you’d be wrong. The casual audience is the mainstream audience. It’s not obsessive-compulsive angry internet men who buy AAA titles the day they’re released.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ bob_d:

      Lots of good points but I’m not sure about these two:

      “…dev costs have exploded (they have to, to keep up with increased expectations in graphics, physics and gameplay)…” >>> I don’t think they “have to”. Many people still can’t play Crysis on it’s highest graphics settings and there isn’t a direct connection between bleeding edge graphics and how popular a game is (noone complains about TF2 being ‘dated’). Maybe aiming at an unknown market two or three years ahead means miscalculations about how much detail and graphical flourish is really needed – there have been several games over the last couple of years which look more like a graphics engine in search of a purpose than an actual game. They can end up with massive worlds, but either empty or with objects that seem to serve no in-game purpose.

      “…The money just isn’t there to support developing complex or interesting gameplay or producing anything outside the formula…” >>> There are plenty of interesting ideas being generated more or less for free by indie developers and modders and if development isn’t hijacked by marketing or technical people demanding a vastly expensive “new generation graphics engine” and vast amounts of art to fill it with and instead starts with the game – using only as much tech/art/etc as is needed – then maybe some of these ideas would be developed. The other potential route for keeping costs down is to relocate delopment to places like Brazil, Russia, India and China etc.

  4. Hidden_7 says:

    Kieron is way off base this week. Clearly the Booster Gold song is the best of the Spoiler Alert! set.

  5. leeder_krenon says:

    oh shit. i always thought creature of havoc was broken. i am such an automaton.

    • Seol says:

      Actually, after reading the wikipedia entry on the book I’m pretty sure that was a bug, not a feature.

  6. SteveTheBlack says:

    I’d just like to point out that Brendan’s piece on the Irish Question is at Resolution Magazine, not The Reticule :)

  7. Phydaux says:

    “Here in my hands I hold the supreme weapon!!
    “This crowbar… with its enchanted power… can bring your whole city crashin’ into the dust!
    “And I’m just the guy to do it!”

    I always through I would get into comics but they all seem to be written like this. I could never enjoy them because I was always cringing at the dialogue.

    • Phydaux says:

      And some days I’m cringing at my own writing… through should be thought. :P

    • JackShandy says:

      Better Idea: Check out A Lesson Is Learned but the Damage is Irreversible. It’s free: You have no excuse.

      http://www.alessonislearned.com/

    • Hidden_7 says:

      You’ve basically summed up the average-weaker superhero genre of comics, which, I mean, as a genre its always been a fairly exploitation heavy action type affair. It’s rare that super-hero comics really transcend the fact that they are about super-powered costumed people getting into big fights with other super-powered costumed people, and you’re either down for that ride taking it as it is, or you’re not.

      However that’s not even remotely all of comics, as other people have pointed out. I haven’t read all of Asterios Polyp, but from what I have read it is quite good. I’m also a pretty unabashed Warren Ellis fanboy, and while a lot of his stuff is pretty much just on a very good super-hero level of quality, some of it is a generally rather good. I’m a giant fan of Fell, for example. I’m also a big Jason fan; if dialogue grates on you then his stuff may be worth a look, as it’s quite text-light, though it’s certainly not for everyone. From Hell is probably one of the best researched pieces of Jack the Ripper literature in any medium. Jim Woodring’s Frank is just a goddamn trip, and another one where you don’t need to worry about any dialogue getting in your way. Then there’s just obvious stuff like Watchmen, which is no less good for being obvious.

      Point being there’s a lot of really quality writing in comics, it’s just not usually found in the medium’s most visible genre, that is, super-hero comics. Though personally I love Deadpool, but that’s because he never has any illusions of being even remotely Serious Business.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I think judging stuff on Kid’s comics from the 1960s is pretty much unfair. Kirby isn’t being hailed for the dialogue here, but the design power.

      KG

  8. Premium User Badge

    Lacero says:

    I don’t see why strong narrative will bring games into the mainstream when it failed so spectacularly for comics. And complaining of repetition in core games while acknowledging the success of farmville exposes the weakness in his other arguments.

    I’d characterise the whole article as “Games won’t be mainstream because movies are mainstream and games aren’t movies.”

    What farmville shows us isn’t that the future of games is to be movies, it’s that the future of mainstream games is not twitch gaming with death as punishment. Personally I can’t wait.

    ..and the Tale of Tales presentation is actually an excellent counter point. A far better one than I can make, while not exactly being the one I would make.

    • bob_d says:

      To be fair, I’d say the article is saying more, “(big budget) games won’t be mainstream for the very reason why (big budget) films are,” rather than “games won’t be mainstream because they’re not films.” That’s an important distinction.
      The Tale of Tales presentation *is* an interesting counterpoint, but it doesn’t negate the article which talks about the future of the AAA game industry, which should have been more explicitly stated. Of course, Tale of Tales occupy an *extremely* niche position. (In fact, I wonder how much of their not-game development is subsidized by their art world activities; could they survive just selling their not-games?) I’ve always argued that the game industry has cultivated a very narrow audience and actively alienated most people, convincing them they “didn’t like games.” So when anyone tries to make a game that appealed to anyone outside the narrow niche, the audience isn’t there, having already been driven away from games. Now the industry needs the larger audience to stay afloat, but they’ve put themselves in an impossible position.

  9. kobzon-mainstream as balls says:

    Can games be mainstream? I wonder if a whale has ever swallowed a games console? Can games be fish food? I demand an investigation. No, not really. Games can’t be fish food because fish can’t live on games. But what if they could? Hmm, let’s see. Think of an analogy. Games are a lot like krill. They are small and I bet they can also be found in all oceans of the world. Every year they harvest tonnes of krill, much of it is used as fish food. There you go. At least some games have qualities that allow them to be used as fish food. But will they ever be accepted as a viable alternative to krill? That’s the question. Will magnificent whales and dolphins and trout ever accept games as their “stuff of life”? Only future will tell!

    • Tom O'Bedlam says:

      Top nonsense

      CAPTCHA: MDMA

    • Dozer (who occasionally drives John's bus to town) says:

      Not nonsense. He’s saying that asking if xyz can be ‘mainstream’ is as meaningless as asking if it could be fish-food. I appreciated the post!

    • Nick says:

      Whales aren’t fish.

  10. Archonsod says:

    I assume it’s because James Green was 11 when Shogun came out, but what is it with people complaining about companies releasing games requiring patches? It’s not a new thing, the only difference post Valve et al is companies actually fix the games these days. Before then if the game had a serious problem you’re choices were either to put up and shut up, or return it to the retailer and hope they’d give you a refund.
    Of course in an ideal world they’d not be releasing buggy software to begin with, but that’s the price you pay for having an open format.

    • Drug Crazed Dropkick says:

      JG probably was 11 (I have no idea), but I don’t remember any game in the first few years of my gaming life that didn’t work out of the box without any issue. Now, Saboteur didn’t work until I patched it (Still doesn’t work unless I turn 3 cores off), Elemental was broken on release, and similar.

      I’d mention the gamer’s bill of rights, but it appears to have disappeared…

    • Dominic White says:

      Haha, clearly you didn’t grow up during the DOS era of gaming. I can scarcely think of a game that DID work correctly out of the box. Boot-discs and custom autoexec files were par for the course. Getting games just to function at all on your machine was an uphill struggle.

      And games back in the day were absolutely jam-packed with bugs. People get all nostalgic about the original X-Com/UFO, but it was released with a crippling bug that caused the difficulty settings to just plain NOT FUNCTION, and nobody patched it, because patches just didn’t hapen until CDs became more common and they got distributed on coverdiscs.

      I’ve been here since the days of monochrome and command-lines. There was no ‘golden age of gaming’.

    • Jimbo says:

      Sure there was, there just wasn’t a ‘golden age of QA’.

    • subedii says:

      Pretty much. I’m not sure I ever did get Ultima 7 working with full speech support, and that was after days of mucking about with EMS / XMS settings and trial and error on different combinations of IRQ.

      I think in some ways games might appear buggier, but today we’re largely used to a state of affairs where you can download the game off the internet, click the link, and it <runs. Back in the DOS days, buying a new game was pretty much a spin of the roulette wheel. Sometimes you’d win and it’d run first time. Sometimes it wouldn’t run at all. A LOT of the time the game would run but sound was borked in one way or another. Or mouse support had failed.

      I’m willing to have a little tolerance for zero-day patching. Games are much more complex affairs than they used to be back then, and at the same time, they’re far more stable than they used to be. This isn’t really a PC specific thing either, since a lot of console games get released with plenty of bugs in them, sometimes also needing zero-day patches.

      That said, it doesn’t provide the best first impression when you buy a game, and it’s not an excuse for buggy code to be released. But back then, if it’s broken, you might have the chance at getting hold of a patch off of a cover disc, some months down the line. And that excludes any issues you have with actually installing and configuring the thing. Compared with today, and devs actively scan the forums immediately after release, and if something big crops up, they can put a patch out immediately, within 24 hours sometimes.

      If I had to choose between then and now, I’ll happily chose now.

    • subedii says:

      @ Dominic.

    • Archonsod says:

      I still remember struggling with the EMM386 line to get that base 605k memory that Master of Magic required, and the fun of choosing between config.sys or autoexec.bat to load the mouse driver to figure out which one would put the entire bloody thing in higher memory rather than dumping most of it into the base memory.

      Oh, and X Com had a ton of bugs. My favourite was the one that caused the stats of a soldier to lap back around to 0 once they exceeded 255, so you had a near superhuman soldier one battle, then they’d collapse and die as soon as you started the next because their hitpoints reset to zero. Fun.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      One word: Magic Carpet 2
      I guess the total QA process for that game was Peter Molyneux starting it on his workstation, playing it for a few minutes and then commenting “well, it runs.”

    • Kid A says:

      I won’t deny that games have been buggy pretty much since forever. But there’s a huge difference between releasing a game where user tweaks like the one Arch described can fix stuff, or a small patch is all it takes, and releasing a game that requires several patches from the dev team to get it to a functional state, or, as Stardock have done with Elemental, intentionally releasing gold code of the game in a nigh-unplayable state for many people (myself included), and then expecting those people to sign up and register their game with their DRM service to get a playable game.

  11. Lewis says:

    As much as that Tale of Tales presentation winds me up – which I suspect it’s supposed to – I can’t say I don’t love these pie charts.

    • Lewis says:

      Oh bloody hell, you get the point.

    • Drug Crazed Dropkick says:

      I think they win the internet.

    • bob_d says:

      You know, as a game designer I’m actually sympathetic with much of what they say (besides their somewhat romantic, reactionary view of modern art).
      I may just have to print up a “Make Love Not Games” t-shirt to wear around the office and alienate my co-workers…. hmm.

    • Urthman says:

      To the extent they have a point at all, those pie charts severely undermine it.

      It’s pretty stupid to crow about gamers being a minority of humanity when the % of people who play games is at least two or three orders of magnitude bigger than the % of people with any interest in whatever it is Tale of Tales is doing.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      To be fair, Tales of Tales creations tend to sort of exist in the “games” space. In that, they look vaguely like games, and people generally come by them through various games portals. So the fact that way more people are interesting in games than what they are doing isn’t really a fair observation since for the most part the audience they have to pull from are people who are interested in games. It sort of forms the upper limit. It would be like saying way more people are interested in games than what Valve is doing.

      Since they seek to explicitly reject various gaming ideologies, but want to make something that sort of looks like games, as in, it’s an interactive entertainment thingy, they are in a bit of an odd bind. They are trying to reach people who maybe aren’t really interested in gaming, or who are, but are turned off by certain elements of it. But they are trying to reach these people through the channels of gaming.

      Basically, not as many people are interested in gaming as ToT style stuff, but there’s not nearly the awareness for one as there is the other, and the only (current) system for increasing awareness seems to be limited to increasing awareness within the group of people interested in games.

  12. Cinnamon says:

    Yeah, the problem with indulging in “hardcore fascism” and crying about your favourite games not being mainstream is that you are deliberately ignoring all of the games that are mainstream. It would be like a cinema fan who thinks that low budget horror movies, that you have to go to one off screenings for, are the only real movies then complaining that cinema isn’t mainstream.

    Yeah, hardcore fascism, I’m laying it on thick today. Some of that firebrand preachy Tale of Tales stuff must be rubbing off on me. What are they talking about with Chess and Go being seen as the only games that “normal” adults who shun video games can play? They are good examples of one type of deterministic board game but there other types like Monopoly, Poker and Foot to Ball that are all perfectly acceptable. Maybe in fifty years the rules of Civ might settle down. It might become a “generic” game that rivals these games in terms of importance and it is a game that can only be properly played with computers. Even if it doesn’t settle down that doesn’t mean that it is a bad thing or that it is less of a proper game than Chess. Chess has changed a lot over time and even some of the best Chess players like to make up their own variants to play.

    • Ozzie says:

      Yeah, I also don’t agree with everything, but it’s still quite some manifest. Shows their point of view clearly.

  13. Xercies says:

    I think though companies are using the new digital medium to say “ah well we can’t finish it now but we’ll bring out patches” instead of actually trying everything to get it release ready. Its that prevelence of many games now a days having lots of bugs in because well why would they need to fix them when they have easier patching now. Before games companies HAD to release a non buggy game if they could because otherwise well they were blown out of the water because people realised how buggy it was.

    Anyway i kind of have to agree with the games will never be mainstream thing. Also i do actually think there will be a video game crash pretty soon, its just in the air. People are probably going to get bored with all the shooter clones out there and well stop playing games and also well the price is just going to go up and up until its unsustainable.

    Having said that i applaud TaleofTales for there thing about trying to make “NotGames” I’ll be interested to see what they come up with because that was definitly an interesting presentation they had. And some things I kind of agree with. There definitly needs to be soemthing different and I’m glad these artists are coming up with something different. Whenther it will work or not is a different matter.

    • Archonsod says:

      Not really. The thing about Q&A testing is it’s impossible to do effectively until it’s in the field. Consider balancing a game for example – how do you know what is going to be exploited by the players until people are playing it? Most bugs are hardware related, unless you want to spend a few million on getting every possible combination of hardware together for testing you can’t eliminate them. Unless of course people standardise to a single manufacturer and model of every component; and that’s one hell of a price to pay just to avoid the irritation of a game needing some tinkering to get working out of the box.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    Half-Life film made by Valve? Sounds like a really bad idea to me. They are game developers, not directors and would probably screw it up royally. Sure, they’ve made the ‘Meet The…’ videos, but those aren’t feature films and are only playing to a very narrow audience. Making something to be released on the big screen is whole other issue. I also couldn’t imagine a Half Life film being made as an animation; it really should be live action, to fit the tone of the game.

    Not to say I don’t think a Half Life film wouldn’t be good, but it should be made by people who know what they are doing. The early crap scripts they were getting were from people who just wanted to cash-in on the popularity of the game, so aren’t a good indication of what a good screenplay writer could do. I could imagine if they found someone with talent and who understand the game then something very entertaining could be made from the core ideas in Half Life.

    • Dominic White says:

      “Half-Life film made by Valve? Sounds like a really bad idea to me. They are game developers, not directors and would probably screw it up royally.”

      You forget Valves M.O. in all things – if they don’t have the people on board to make something work, they hire them. They brought in a novellist to write HL1/2′s story, they hired the CS: Condition Zero team to do their bot code. They got the Narbacular Drop people to do their Portal tech. They’ve got some of the funniest people on the internet (the OldManMurray crew and Jay Pinkerton) for their comedy writing, too.

      No doubt they’d hire some promising young indie director if they wanted to make a film.

    • subedii says:

      Likewise for the comics, they brought on-board some well known comic book authors to do things like the TF2 comics and the upcoming 150 page Left 4 Dead prequel comic.

      That said, making a film in itself is a heavy endeavour, and is pretty unlikely to happen. It’s just the case that Valve are saying if someone were to make it, they’d want it to be Valve that makes it, and has control over it. No major studio’s really going to accept Valve maintaining full creative control over the end product when it’s the studio footing the bill and providing the expertise.

      Or of course, Valve could just hand it over to a 3rd party to make I suppose.

      And they’d hire Uwe Boll to make it.

  15. The Jean Genie says:

    No Half Life film please. Thanks!

    As for the Never Be Mainstream/Over Games doom and glooming, I have to agree somewhat. There has been an increasing divergence of industry and audience over the last couple of years. I’m just waiting for the divergence of the game audience- like the cinema audience- into ‘mainstream’ and ‘arthouse’ sections. I suppose now we have the Indie market, but this is tiny comparatively, and restricted to the PC.

    I’m not going into all the tedious details now, but essentially, the industry as it is now cannot live for much longer. We can either keep the status quo, or shake up the industry to give us shorter, cheaper and deeper games.

    Apologies for the unformed argument but it’s 12:30 am and I just got home from work…

    • The Jean Genie says:

      And by no Half-Life film I don’t mean that a different Valve film wouldn’t be at least interesting. But please keep Gordon Freeman in pixel form!

    • Klaus says:

      Gordan Freeman played by Vin Diesel!!!

    • Fumarole says:

      I agree. Moviegoers would likely find it hard to identify with a silent protagonist. Hell, many gamers find it hard. The moment Gordon speaks would kill it for me, but I just don’t see it happening any other way.

  16. Yghtdsf says:

    That Tale of Tales presentation was amazing – in the same way as a random’s teen Livejournal is, and the similarities don’t stop here either.

    ‘Course, this could be all super artsy irony that I failed to detect, but I’d rather assume they believed what they said and have my laugh.

    • Brendan Caldwell says:

      It was all a bit alarmist, wasn’t it? I like what Tale of Tales are doing. Whether they are games, I dunno. Whether they are art, I dunno. But I do like it.

      That being said, they do contradict themselves a couple of times in that presentation. Considering they lament the intolerance of people to their suggestions, they don’t seem very tolerant themselves about traditionally designed video games.

    • BigJonno says:

      I started laughing at the point where it said “Everybody reads books.” It perfectly sums up how far off base they are. I get the impression that they believe the majority of people want something deep and meaningful, which is clearly an utterly ridiculous statement. People want soap operas and football and reality TV and Twilight. They’re not after deep and meaningful art.

      I agree that there are large segments of the population that traditional video games don’t reach, but the past few years have shown a massive increase in games that appeal to a wider audience. Guess what? They don’t even remotely resemble what ToT is talking about.

      I admire their enthusiasm and optimism, however I feel that it is completely misplaced.

  17. pimorte says:

    I’m more interested in the angst that ToT was causing. Any links?

  18. bill says:

    Can’t believe I forgot Creature of Havoc – that book was awesome.

  19. Freud says:

    Most movies aren’t mainstream. Some games are mainstream (hi Farmville and Freecell). Games are, as the generations that were first exposed to C64, Spectrums and Amigas, age going to become more and more mainstream.

    I don’t really see how that is all that interesting a discussion. Is Opera and Theater mainstream? Jazz music? Bodybuilding? If no to bodybuilding is working out mainstream? How about Sushi? Death Metal? Heavy Metal?

    Computer gaming is big enough to support a massive industry producing computer games. Getting into a defensive semantics war as gamers is utterly pathetic. I don’t need anyones approval or acceptance nor does it bother me what anyone thinks of gaming and gamers.

    • Novotny says:

      I can’t think of anything more mainstream than movies – am I missing something?

    • Premium User Badge

      tomeoftom says:

      What an exasperatingly pointless discussion indeed. As Freud states, it just doesn’t fucking matter. I can’t stand any more weak, flimsy generalisations.

    • Freud says:

      If you think about big movies sure. What about art movies? Non English language movies? Short movies? Gore movies? Porn movies?

      There are lots of movie genres who wouldn’t be considered mainstream and have all the ‘problems’ of non mainstream things such as comics , but they are ignored because it is much easier to be categorical and assume every movie is an Avatar or Inception.

    • Premium User Badge

      tomeoftom says:

      (That said.. I can only wish every movie was Inception)

    • Xercies says:

      Opera and theatre used to be mainstream and then new technologies/things came along and it got tooken on the way side and only “certain” people then went to see Opera and Theatre so it became niche.

    • Kid A says:

      Why do games even need to be mainstream? The only people who have a vested interest in games becoming mainstream are the people who sell them, because that means they’re hitting a bigger audience. But the games you like, whether they’re multi-million selling FPS franchises, or obscure indie 4X games, and stop worrying about whether it’ll look good in front of that chick you could totally bang once she’s had a few drinks and a roofie/your friends who only play Halo and MW2/your family.

    • Kid A says:

      “*buy the games you like”, even

  20. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    Re: Games will never be mainstream.

    I agree partly, in that “games, as they currently are, will never be mainstream.”

    But that is seriously short-sighted. Games, as they currently are, aren’t appealing to most people for all the reasons listed. But give it ten years, and the cost of making games will have shifted around a lot. You are going to spend a lot less money on engines or technology development (because the old technology is fine) and creating amazing art will be much easier, (create a model and use it – no more thinking about limits or technology will be necessary – for humans you will just use character creators like APB’s) and you will be able to reuse a lot of the old art, because it looks realistic. You also bet, that in ten years nobody is still going to create rocks or plants by hand, because all that stuff can be generated. Once you have that, game developers will be able to spend much more time on other stuff, like stories and meaningful consequences in their games.

    Give it another ten or twenty years, and you will be able to procedurally generate entire worlds, like Dwarf Fortress, except with the visual fidelity of today’s games or better. Generating a world and creating a game in it is much easier than building a world and a game at the same time. Also you won’t have to worry about all the baggage associated with creating meaningful choices anymore, because the world will be able to respond to whichever choices you allow your players to make.

    Give it another ten years, and you will finally have the big thing for making games mainstream: Realistic characters. I don’t mean realistic-looking, but realistic-acting. Once AI is so advanced that it allows you to create characters which are as intelligent as humans, and that you can talk to and that will be much more interesting than your real life friends, everybody will play games. By then you won’t even have to worry about technology anymore. It will just run on whatever you use as a screen.
    By now we are so far in the future, that maybe we won’t even use screens anymore.

    I think this is entirely plausible, and in fifty years games will be as mainstream as possible. If not then, then at least when we are so far in the future that we have reached Iain Banks levels of technology. I.e. you just fall asleep and you are in a simulation where you are a prince of the merfolk or king of some harem or whatever you want. So really intuitive fantasy fulfillment.

    How could games possibly not end up being mainstream?

    • Harlander says:

      So you’re saying that games will become mainstream after a technological singularity?

    • Archonsod says:

      Assuming everyone decides to play games, and not go out and have a kick about with a football or similar.

  21. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    a hurr-hurr-neuron in my brain just fired a vision of the half-life movie as a first-person film with a mute, bodyless protagonist, all filmed in one shot. Will the plot significance of the crouch jump be handled competently by the writers?

  22. Calabi says:

    Oh! so thats why I could never escape from that dungeon. Thanks Keiron.

  23. James McNeill says:

    One of my first gaming experiences was applying a patch. I conned my aunt into buying Starflight for me for Christmas (must have been 1986 or 1987, then). Didn’t work on my PC. I wrote a letter to Electronic Arts explaining my predicament. I got back a nice letter saying this was a known bug with EGA video cards. It explained that there was a program called “debug.exe” that was installed as part of DOS, and gave directions for loading the Starflight executable, modifying six hex bytes at a given offset, and saving it out again. And there you go: I was on my way to being a videogame developer.

  24. Erik Schimek says:

    I’m fine with games being released unfinished, in need of one or more patches to make them complete.

    I’ll just buy it 6 months after release for 1/2 price.

  25. Robin says:

    Tale of Tales are obnoxious and ridiculous. Ever notice how genuinely talented and creative people don’t expend huge amounts of energy on pathetic soapbox posturing?

    • Xercies says:

      I’m guessing you’ve never seen most game developers conferences and blog posts then.

  26. Arathain says:

    I enjoyed the Tale of Tales presentation very much. I quite strongly disagree with most of it, but I am very glad there is someone out there thinking those things and doing something about it.

  27. Markachy says:

    I would like to thank the author for introducing me to Resolution Magazine, fantastic website!

    That “Irish Question” article is the most entertaining article I have read in a long time.

    “Why haven’t you died of Thatcher yet?”

    Hahahaha! Being irish makes it all the funnier!

  28. Wulf says:

    Never stop failing Kieron, not ever.

    That atom PC in the C64 case was amazing, it’s just… one of those things geeks do because they can, that has no practical implications, but it’s simply amazing. It’s really the sort of thing I expect to see every time I go to BoingBoing, like the steampowered flappy airship/sub thing that someone made, and outputting art in ASCII. It’s just wonderful stuff. It’s the art of the geek, and I hope they never stop doing it.

    And a Half-Life movie by Valve? Hmmm… that would be… interesting? Though not all that interesting to me. A Portal or TF2 movie? YESPLZ.

  29. sfox says:

    I see epic facepalms are in order for Kotaku, Tales of Tales, and Gamecrashers.

  30. Erm... says:

    Is the CorporateRecords.co.uk logo intentionally shaped like a middle finger?

  31. Stu says:

    While we wait for a PC-in-a-Spectrum, how about the rich kid’s version?

    (This ZX81 casemod is disqualified on account of it not using the original keyboard.)

  32. Byth says:

    Hey guys, the Hurt Locker had a good story! Well guess what? MW2 didn’t really have a story! haha! Then he proceeded to marginalize a handful of other video game stories. Well, Hurt Locker is just about some drunk who wants to kill Arab people. Right?

    The guy had no idea what he was talking about. Lots of movies don’t have stories, and lots of video games do have stories. And the ones without stories tend to sell more to the mainstream audience. The Hurt Locker is an exception, but so is every Final Fantasy title.

    As for his points about gameplay, they’re blown way out of proportion. “Games are too hard….” OK, sure. Has this stopped any of these games from selling millions of copies? No, it hasn’t. And the interactivity only enhances the story. “But only if it’s done right.” Yeah, well some movies suck too. The fact of the matter is that the things that hold video games down aren’t necessarily the things that hold other forms of media down. Yes, in some ways you can compare them to movies, but they’re a hugely different thing.

    Regarding art, language barriers too mk? k. And get around that by translating it? Sure. Well, you can record a playthrough of a game, but some of it will be lost in translation because the power is out of your hands. And let’s be honest here: Ebert hasn’t tried. If someone doesn’t know how to read, are books suddenly in the same boat that Mr.Gamecrashers put them in? It’s a terrible argument.

    “Games becoming movies”
    hmm. OK. Yeah, it’s still a game. You could not call it a “film” unless you had someone play through it in the projection booth. Not to mention that some games are based totally around the player being able to make the choice. Shadow of the Colossus had a story that couldn’t be experienced via cutscenes. It’s a different medium, and the slippery slope he presented is completely fabricated.

    Regarding his crap about sales figures and stories, who cares if the multiplayer is more well-known? It’s still a part of the game, and it DOESN’T DO ANYTHING TO STOP IT FROM BEING MAINSTREAM I’ve been trying to refute point-by-point, but this should be going through your head like a police siren throughout the whole read-through of the article. What in the hell is he arguing against? The games that he personally likes the best won’t be mainstream? I liked Teddy Ruxpin when I was a kid, but it’s not as popular as Sleeping Beauty. If all of a sudden astronomical sales figures suddenly mean that something is niche, then what the hell is mainstream?

    Continuing on, his idea about the games being limited by technology is stupid. OK, so were movies and music. How does this stop games from being mainstream? This whole thing is like an article about why games suck and also the author had a bad day >.<.

    And then again with the way-too-specific examples that don't mean anything at all about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and suddenly WHAT THE SAM HELL IS GOING ON HERE? YOU TRIED to pick an artistic book and that's what you came up with? You're not qualified to write this article. And then you decide that it needs this and this and this and this to be called a game? Wow. If this guy is the judge then we ARE screwed.

    The current model is unsustainable? No it's not you idiot. 11 bucks for one and a half hours or 60 for 10? About the same. And that's for a short game. Most games have more, 30 is an average, and people can get hundreds. Anyone who's thought about it for more than a few seconds knows that games are doing great and were not hit as hard by the recession is because they're so very, very, cheap per hour of entertainment.

    As for gamer culture, who cares? There are more hardcore gamers that contribute to the culture than hardcore moviegoers. Or audiophiles. Casual moviegoers are what makes it mainstream, and casual gamers (Bejeweled/Wii sports anyone?) make gaming mainstream. If anything, the gaming culture is the strongest out there, and this author would definitely get an F on his thesis. Zing!

    Oh, and movies and music are simple diversions too. Lots of songs are way more artistic than " I'm only gonna break break your heart" but pop music is still more mainstream. Bring up Taylor Swift having more stories and I'll bring up Heavy Rain of FFXIII. I can muster as many examples for what you think are "real" games for what is "real" emotional music.

    • Byth says:

      *I meant to have this as a reply on an earlier post about the article in question, but I made an accidentally. teehee. It’s about the Gamecrashers article, in case the out of context start threw you off.

    • Robin says:

      Thank you for saving me the effort of writing this. I think someone who seems to only be able to view games as a way of telling cinematic stories, who thinks Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is worthwhile and who isn’t on Twitter needs to be more worried about their own relevance (and appalling taste) before hand-wringing about games. We left comics in the dust years ago.

      Claiming that everyone in the world is innately able to understand the conventions of movies is a particularly stupid.

    • Nick says:

      I thought the Hurt Locker was nothing but massively average.

    • bob_d says:

      On the other hand, best selling game worldwide sales numbers are the same as (or lower than) canceled American TV show numbers. In other words, the most popular games ever still don’t have a large enough fan base to support a network American TV show. Gaming = niche activity, no argument.

      I think everyone is kind of missing his point about story in games. Yes, on average, narratives in games suck compared to narrative media forms like film. It’s to be expected. Games are about experience, not narrative, so improvements to story are slow, and only occasionally are evident in games, as complex narratives are frequently at odds with gameplay (and gameplay wins out). People like narrative and they also like passive, not-mentally-strenuous entertainment. So his point is that there are two oppositions: interactive experience vs. narrative, and the emotional, intellectual & time investments needed to create narratives in interactive games vs. player desire to turn their brains off (or at least part of the brain) and be entertained, now. I’m not entirely sure I agree with that – I think part of the problem is that the game industry has cultivated the “mindless blockbuster” audience at the expense of players who are willing to put in the effort to engage intellectually/emotionally with games. The end result is the same, though: there just isn’t a large enough sub-set of gamers to support AAA games that are as narratively rich, as emotionally & intellectually engaging as films or television.

    • bob_d says:

      “The current model is unsustainable?”
      Actually, he’s talking about the developers, not the audience. For the audience it’s still a great deal. Problem is, developers are increasingly screwed. For the developer the costs have increased and the audience is the same size as it was; profits have dropped and fewer games are profitable, even among best-selling games (which is a disturbing precedent). This may be the problem with this article: people are reading it from the consumer point of view, not as developers, who he’s really speaking to.

  33. qrter says:

    I thought Creature of Havoc was infamous for being one of the more unfair FF books – full of insta-death traps, etc. That was a nice piece on the book, having a secret option.

    Maybe this was linked to under the piece on Lone Wolf, but have you seen this blog:

    http://fightingdantasy.blogspot.com/

    Basically it’s a guy called Dan, permadeathing his way through the Fighting Fantasy series.

  34. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    I like the Tale of Tales piece and I mostly agree with it. But I also tend to like their games, so I guess I am kinda weird.

    • qrter says:

      I find myself liking their intentions more than their actual games. Which isn’t a bad thing at all.

    • sfury says:

      @qrter – same situation here. For example I quite enjoyed that super-long post-mortem of The Path they made, I liked their motivations, intentions and all the small details and work they put in the design. But most of that just didn’t come out for me while playing it, even though I was set up for something different than the usual game experience.

  35. Drug Crazed Dropkick says:

    @Dominic My first game memory is probably Doom. That’s how young I am. Best person to be an editor for EON? Me for sure :D

  36. soundofsatellites says:

    popping in to highlight nicola constantino making soap from her own body fat from a liposuction -a la fight club- for her 2004s installation “savon de corps”.

    http://www.bochum.de/C125708500379A31/vwContentByKey/W278RC5Y120BOLDDE

  37. Corbeau says:

    In other news, Brad Wardell has a new post about Elemental after having gotten to play it seriously over the weekend:

    http://forums.elementalgame.com/394104/

    Much more level-headed than anything that came before. Here’s a significant excerpt:

    “To those reviewing the game: I would urge you to review the game prior to v1.1. I say this because v1.05 (the release day version) is the version of the game that was originally released and if that version of the game is considered flawed then my view is that Stardock should suffer the consequences for that.”

  38. Mainstream Mike says:

    Second vote for thinking this is a solid article. A sensationalist, inflammatory, irresponsible title, but excellent points.

    Casual games can’t be the future when casual games don’t make any money.

    • Lacero says:

      Wait, which article? Which casual games?

      The iPhone store isn’t powering itself through hype alone.

    • Byth says:

      Casual games can and do make a LOT of money.

  39. manveruppd says:

    Anyone else thinking it’s kind of ironic that the NY Times story is #1 on their “most e-mailed” list? Drawing attention to the problems of juggling multiple data streams, or adding to it? :)

    Incidentally, I scored truly abysmally in that reaction time game they linked to, far worse than the average for “heavy multitaskers”!

  40. BorisTI says:

    The most important part of the “mainstream” debate is audience. Whether or not something is mainstream has everything to do with the audience attachment and commitment and far less to do with revenue. Revenue is a result of cost per unit, but it’s blind to audience demographics.

    The meaning of “mainstream” must be defined before debate can occur. To say that games are mainstream is to say that there is comparable appreciation for them across most demographics, not just specific markets. Mainstream means that people of all types and ages are directly affected by its presence and whose lives would be significantly changed were it to be taken away. Entertainment mediums such as TV, Movies, Books all fall into this category.

    Before you say “my grandmother has a Wii” or “FarmVille” is mainstream” i’ll say this: Just because your parents or whoever play sports on the Wii, or Wii Fit, or have a virtual farm, doesn’t place them in the mainstream of gaming. They play it for simple amusement and activity, but would not be greatly affected if it were taken away in any comparable way to the absence of other mediums. Until something is emotionally stimulating, or intellectually interesting and moving for people outside the typical “gamer” demographics, then it’s foolish to call it “mainstream”.

    All my friends play games. The all play games because we are all in the demographics which are most likely to play video games. Your stream isn’t the only stream.

  41. JackShandy says:

    The main issue I have with that Tale of Tales manifesto is that I don’t think rejecting everything gaming has done so far is the way to go. Notgames is not a good idea. If you want to make an interesting, artistic game, then you should work WITH the form, not against it. Games are inherently goal-centered, so rework the goal to represent a symbol or idea- like James looking for his dead wife in Silent Hill 2, or Tim looking for his sex-bomb girlfriend in Braid. Make the players search for their goal symbolize a spiritual or mental journey. Getting rid of goals just ends up with featureless soup like Vanities.

    The best artistic examples of any medium work to that mediums strengths. Watchmen used the sequential art in a million awesome ways, etc etc. Just knee-jerk reacting against everything that games are isn’t the best way to do it, I think.

    • Ozzie says:

      Tale of Tales isn’t condemning everything that gaming achieved so far.
      The Notgames initiative seems to me like an experiment, to just try out what game can be. They want to explore all the possibilities out there. And of course, this only works when you break the rules, or just ignore them.

    • JackShandy says:

      It’s titled “Over Games”. They say they don’t find the games made so far “entertaining enough, not beautiful enough, not interesting enough, not immersive enough”. They say that games are “empty systems that only serve the purpose of wasting time.” They say that games are not art, and so reason that in order to make art they must create “Notgames.”

      I can’t help but feel, in light of all this, that their claim they aren’t reacting against games is a bit ingenuous. And whatever they’re attempting, they’re certainly condemning games as they are now.

    • Ozzie says:

      Well, it’s clear that they make a distinction between games as toys and games as art something meaningful. And they are looking for something in games that has been barely done.

      They remind me a lot of John Cage who said, to paraphrase vaguely, that music shouldn’t express emotions. What a bollocks statement, right? Yet anyway, say what you will about his works, but his intentions and work philosophy still inspires countless musicians. It may be the same with Tale of Tales. Who knows if they will make great games down the road, but they might just inspire lots of game designers with their radical statements.