The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on November 14th, 2010 at 11:00 am.


EDIT: New login / edit functionality deployed. Please report any issues in comments here.

Sundays are for being able to see into the future. Well, that could actually be every day, if you believe this extraordinary scientific study, which claims that psychological effects can be demonstrated to work backwards through time. Sorry, I’ve gone off topic before we started. I bet you didn’t see that coming! Let’s try to straighten this out with some solid, wholesome, objective talk about games and stuff.

  • Valve’s Erik Johnson talks about Portal 2 in an extensive interview on Gamasutra, and I think the most interesting spot in this sprawling chat is where he says: “This is getting tricky to talk about, because it’s about story stuff a little bit, but I think if you are telling players that the core of the story is “you are going do again what you did last time,” for most people that is pretty unappealing. That’s not what is going to happen in the game, but there are definitely some things that are similar to the previous game. In implementation, they end up being fun and different. You’re still going to have a testing relationship with GLaDOS.” Intriguing. Anticipatory!
  • This research into Tetris as a treatment for traumatic stress is fascinating. The original implication was that Tetris, played after witnessing horrors, distracted the brain from memorising it in a way that would cause nasty flashbacks. However, it now seems that it’s not simple distraction, but the kind of distraction. So Tetris itself, as a block sorting game, is specifically especially therapeutic: “In this new experimental study the researchers compared the effectiveness of Tetris at reducing flashbacks with Pub Quiz Machine 2008, a word-based quiz game. They found that whilst playing Tetris after viewing traumatic images reduced flashbacks by contrast playing Pub Quiz increased the frequency of flashbacks.” The research is ongoing, and it excites the hell out of me. Why? Well because this is one of the few studies that is beginning to outline precisely what the cognitive effects of games are, and to start that games might be as different from one another, as far as brain is concerned, as movies are from books. There are some really big issues emerging in there.
  • Speaking of the effect of games on the mind, have you read “The Craziest Emails & Messages Received By A Video Game Journalist“? It contains terrifying stalker bullshit, and also this extraordinary mail sent to RPS chum Leigh Alexander: “To be blunt, games were developed by the illuminati to keep the masses stupid. They billions in profits are just the payoff to their lackeys for developing this for them.” Crazy fool. In actual fact they are a Japanese World War II experimental mind control technology that got out of hand. That’s what my dead grandmother tells me when she calls every single night.
  • Meanwhile, in the world of the sane, Eurogamer have done a take on the game developer influences theme (a theme which we TOTALLY ACED last year) and in it you get such gems as Bioware’s Dr Ray saying: “It was Pirate Cove by Scott Adams. It was a text adventure game. It took three tries, each about three minutes, to load this cassette tape – the old squealing sound. The first two failed. I was ready to give up, and he said, ‘No, trust me, you’ll like it once it loads.’ I played it, and in the first couple of minutes I was completely in love with videogames. I’d played some arcade games before that, but this was the first PC-based experience. It was just awesome, and it captured my imagination.” Bless.
  • As a random addendum to last week’s “why should we give a crap about what the Bigpoint CEO says” comments, here’s a bit of information about just how much microtransactions are growing versus subscription models in MMOs. In short: one of them is in decline, the other is growing.
  • Marvel Brothel has been removed from the internet. Here is an explanation as to why.
  • The World’s loveliest media researcher, Henry Jenkins, has posted up a talk entitled “raising the digital generation“. It’s a theme I think we are going to see more and more of in the coming years: how to raise kids in a world bubbling over with information and information technology. It’s wise, not preachy.
  • AV Club’s Leonard Pierce asks: How much does interactivity belong in Entertainment? It’s a hard question, with no easy answer. Pierce has a good stab at it, however: “All art, good or bad, is made through a vast process of criticism, collaboration, and creation between the people who make it and the people who take it. All interactive technology does is make that idea more immediate and explicit.” Games and the internet are the apogee of that, of course, and we feel the ramifications of it every day.
  • An amazingly detailed behind the scenes look at the development of The Great Piggy Bank Adventure – a game which teaches finance by using real world scale models in places of traditional graphical presentation. Interesting design clevers, gentlemen.
  • Joel Johnson bites back on Gizmodo. Take that, readership!
  • A rather cute, poignant short story by China Miéville: Global Recession in Century 21.
  • Update: this is the greatest thing I have seen.

And that’s the week as I foresaw it. Except I could not have foresee this: there is nothing hip or electronic about the album I’ve been listening to this week. It’s The Indifference Engine.

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177 Comments »

  1. HexagonalBolts says:

    What poor person did they get to experience something so painfully, shockingly horrible that it induces traumatic flashbacks and then force to play sodding ‘Pub Quiz Machine 2008′ !?

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Not that I’m genuinely concerned, it just makes a funny mental image, if you’re a cruel twisted being such as I, hehe.

    • greenB says:

      Psychology undergrads.
      (Kinda kills all the compassion and pity, doesn’t it?)

    • bookwormat says:

      “What poor person did they get to experience something so painfully, shockingly horrible that it induces traumatic flashbacks and then force to play sodding ‘Pub Quiz Machine 2008′ !?”

      Maybe they just have a version of “Pub Quiz Machine 2008″ which runs on “Games for Windows Live”, and test subjects have to install the game before they play it.

    • The Tupper says:

      As long as Peter Venkman is onboard I’ll believe anything New scientist says. After all, he has degrees in psychology AND parapsychology.

  2. sredni says:

    Big ups for my boy the king of lapsang souchong, the gentleman rhymer Professor Elemental. Mr B ain’t got nothing.

  3. Boris says:

    Should prolly have posted this at Gizmondo, but then I’d just get censored and banned. :>
    @ Joel Johnsson has PMS:

    1. Welcome to the internet.
    2. Yeah, I’m not read up on the issue at hand. But really. If you take that much offence when some faceless douche calls you a dummie on the net, maybe you’re in the wrong game.

    • pandora says:

      @Boris – I don’t read gizmodo so I can’t comment Joel Johnson’s rant directly, but – if an article like this causes at least one person on “the internet” to reflect and start respecting others a little bit more, it is worth it.

    • Mil says:

      @pandora:

      if an article like this causes at least one person on “the internet” to reflect and start respecting others a little bit more, it is worth it.

      Even if it teaches a thousand other people that trolling and name-calling is the way to make your opinions heard?

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      Haha, Joel has “PMS” eh? So he is behaving like an irrational woman. Well that makes his assertions totally invalid!

      I mean his rant is utterly terrible and belies an incredible level of arrogance but theres no need to throw in some sexism just to attack him.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I liked the Johnson piece. I don’t read Gizmodo and I don’t have an opinion on their comment threads, but as these things go, that was an accomplished and comprehensive Fuck You.

    • Kadayi says:

      I wish you had.

    • bob_d says:

      “Welcome to the internet.”
      Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate, regardless of where it takes place. Saying, “oh this is the internet, you need to grow a thicker skin/get used to it/that’s the nature of the internet” is B.S. You don’t say, “Oh, you got stabbed when you walked outside your home? Well, what do you expect, it’s dangerous out there.” Inappropriate behavior flourishes when no one makes the effort to point it out and try to stop it.

      If you spent every day being called an idiot/unprofessional/etc. a hundred times a day at your place of work, you’d probably not be so willing to dismiss his complaint.

      Also: “PMS”? Seriously?

    • DrGonzo says:

      The guy has been quite silly. The amount of bannings and ‘deleted’ comments in the thread after is quite amusing. The worst thing is that a huge chunk of those who were banned were making reasonable arguments, which is what he was asking for. What he really wanted, I imagine, is people to agree with him or not comment at all. Also, his replies to comments often seem quite arrogant and rude.

    • Amun says:

      I’m not sure which is worse, totally flipping out about people commenting on your articles, or leaving trollish comments on internet articles.

      It would be nice if everyone was nicer, but then, if you’re exposing your work to the whole world, you shouldn’t be surprised when someone hates on it.

  4. Kill_The_Drive says:

    .

    • James G says:

      Thank you Lacero.

      I was going to post something similar, but was trying to think of the best way of wording it. Can we please stop using retard as an insult? If it helps persuade you, I instantly shift people doing that into the same category as people who seem to think that ‘gay’ is an insult, rather than a description of sexuality.

    • Mark Raymond says:

      Also, I’m fed up of this whole “biased” means a leaning towards a certain product or brand. It doesn’t. It means showing an unfair prejudice towards something. That’s a fair criticism if you can back it up.

      Anyway, QQ, Gizmodo.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Lay off both the use and debate of ‘tard. Deleted a load of posts.

      KG

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      so he isn’t allowed to get angry when people are calling him unstable, etc when they disagree with him over something as unimportant as probably a gadget (granted i heard only one side so i preserve judgement, could be that he is a douche, i don’t know). And whoever thinks that he has some kind of obligation to behave professional clearly has only read the bold sentences.
      But i do like how people are being whiny idiots while complaining that he is a whiny idiot.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Oh thank god for RPS! I really hate people using the term ‘retard’ it’s just wrong on so many levels.

      As for the use of ‘gay’ I’ve always used it since being a kid. I know I shouldn’t and have tried on many occasions to stop using it but I can’t. I really can’t think of it as homophobic, it’s a comment on my straight friend not a slur against gay people.

    • Shadram says:

      “As for the use of ‘gay’ I’ve always used it since being a kid. I know I shouldn’t and have tried on many occasions to stop using it but I can’t. I really can’t think of it as homophobic, it’s a comment on my straight friend not a slur against gay people.”

      Except it is a slur against gay people. You’re equating “gay” with “bad”, whatever context you think you’re using it in, and any gay person hearing that has a right to be offended, or believe you to be homophobic.

      The casual use of the word “gay” to mean “crap”, and the fact that so many people are flippant about it and think it doesn’t matter, is the one thing that irks me most in society at the moment. We’re so close to equality now, but until we can squash this nasty little habit, there will always be a stigma attached to telling people “I am gay.”

      EDIT: Also, you find the use of the word “retard” wrong “on so many levels”, and yet you don’t have a problem about using “gay” in the same context, because you don’t draw a line between the word and the people it affects? Isn’t that just a little bit hypocritical?

    • Samuel Erikson says:

      In the time it took me to register, Shadram took the words right out of my fingertips–and was far more eloquent and polite than I would have been. Bravo, Shadram.

      Edited to add: Reply success!

    • Noc says:

      Dr Gonzo: The thing that made the difference for me was actually becoming friends with people who are bothered by it. There’s a great difference between being frowned at by a stranger because your language doesn’t meet some abstract standard of political correctness, and feeling like a giant douchebag every time you open your mouth because you can’t stop mouthing off about your friends’ sexuality.

      That’s the thing that lies at the heart of a lot of this, I think: the difference between an academic, semantic argument over the appropriateness of a given language construct in the grand scheme of things, and an emotionally significant desire to not be a dick to the people you care about.

    • Psyk says:

      @Shadram

      Gay means happy,

    • Znea says:

      @Psyk

      And kilobyte means 1024 bytes.

    • wm says:

      “Retard” is a wonderful term.

  5. MaXimillion says:

    No such thing as removing something from the internet. There’s plenty of mirrors for the game up already.

  6. mister k says:

    Come on, all those marvel super heroes dress like prostitutes anyway! What a strange person…

    • ix says:

      Just a bunch of growing up to do, and maybe learn something about how copyright and trademark law actually works (he didn’t seem to know the difference between copyright and trademarks).

      But really, “everybody else is doing it!” is not a valid defense, ever. Not that I necessarily want to side with Marvell, they could stand to lighten up a little.

    • Tei says:

      “everybody else is doing it!”

      We have some laws that limit artist expression. These laws make sense when art is a economic thing, but when art is a artistic thing these laws are very wrong. The thing is that artist defend these laws, so when the same laws backfire and stop the creation of new art things, don’t understand it.

    • RQH says:

      I get it. The letters about “Marvel Brothel” were inevitable, once it became popular enough for Marvel to take notice, and the creator seems a little naive (or perhaps just overly hopeful) about what Marvel Brothel’s success would bring. But I think it’s unfortunate.

      As Tei says, it seems that while art may belong to the creator, it also belongs to the culture, in a way that copyright and trademark law don’t really allow. This isn’t to say that people should be able to copy whole works and claim them for their own, or sell them for a profit without the creator’s consent. Only that art is often created and inspired by riffing on pre-existing ideas. Marvel Brothel is a silly little game in many ways, but it does comment on the ever-present reality in Marvel’s comics that the women are often dressed and posed to titillate and that Professor X is a mind-controlling asshole who took a bunch of teenagers and trained them to fight through not always the most forthright of means. At least in Marvel Brothel, he seems to be 100% honest about his intentions up front. Neither of these may be particularly deep revelations, but they don’t need to be in order to be part of a valid cultural discussion, nor is it hard to imagine something that does have a profound approach to the IP, which the IP owner would never condone, wanting to riff on those ideas and being shut down under the same blanket approach to intellectual property law.

      Yes, Marvel Brothel violates intellectual property law, but intellectual property law also keeps the excellent work of Steinski buried and keeps countless TV shows from being released on DVD because of the cost of re-licensing thirty seconds of music. I’m a writer, I want my rights protected, and I’m not a fan of piracy (though I don’t think it’s the end of the world), but I don’t want the cultural milieu in which I work walled up into little corporate-owned nations either.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s really more of an issue with American copyright law than anything. By comparison, Japanese law lets fan-made porn comics and games go *on sale* (in stores, even!) without fear of being demolished by lawyers. It’s why there’s a hojillion Mario, Sonic and Megaman fangames out there, all existing completely happily without fear of being lawyered out of existance. Does anyone consider Mario less of a valid Nintendo property because there’s a (fantastic – search for Normal Mario Bros) series of fangames about Mario, Luigi and Toad getting high and tripping out? No, of course not, that’d be stupid.

      By comparison, the US wing of Square-Enix are frighteningly aggressive, and will hunt down and kill any fan who so much as pens a fanfic. Why? There’s no legal reason to, other than to make an example of your fanbase and build up a reputation as a corporate bully.

      Marvel, of course, are now owned by Disney, the most lawyertastic corporation of them all, and the sole reason why copyright/trademark expiry dates get pushed back year after year – in order to protect Mickey Mouse.

    • RQH says:

      @Dominic White: Yes, thank you for clarifying. I should have specified American intellectual property law.

    • Carolina says:

      By the way, prostitutes usually dress better than most Marvel female characters.

    • Hmmm says:

      actually, I am pretty sure that he has a leg to stand on. If he is not actually attempting to make money off of his game, I am pretty sure that he falls under fair use ala 8-bit theater. But i am sure that an armchair lawyer will inform me on how incorrect I am.

    • Jack says:

      I’m almost entirely sure that it’s ok as long as it comes under the genre of parody, and isn’t making money. That’s the principle which keeps a million gaming webcomics fine and dry. I assume Marvel Brothel is a parody- I haven’t played it, so thinking about it, it’s possible it wasn’t.

      That said, taking marvel to court obviously isn’t an option, so it’s as good as law.

  7. Diziet says:

    If you read the page that’s linked to I think I can spot, if true, the bit where Joel Jonson’s ire may be entirely justified. Read it before commenting? I don’t normally read gizmondo though as I’m not a fan of the style.

    Let’s not hate on him just for that rant though.

    @maximillion I was about to say the same thing but got distracted scanning the rant mentioned above.

    • Kadayi says:

      I actually thought it was quite a good rant. As per usual it seems some people are adopting the knee-jerk ‘How dare he lecture the internets!!’ approach, with the predictable ‘retard’ ‘idiot’ spiel thrown it, which pretty much means they missed the point of what he was saying.

    • Om says:

      Ranting may be entertaining and it may, on occasion, make a pertinent point, but it is never professional. That’s what separates professional journalists from bloggers and forum-goers

    • Dominic White says:

      “That’s what separates professional journalists from bloggers”

      For reference here, the ranting guy calls himself a journalist. The RPS hivemind call themselves bloggers.

    • Mark Raymond says:

      The rant seems ill-conceived. He’s accusing a certain subsection of the Gizmodo community of being insensitive idiots, but it’s always seemed silly to me to address comments which are obviously incorrect, stupid or personally insulting, and there to provoke. I get that he’s upset, and personal attacks are indeed unacceptable, but as soon as you start going on an emotive rant like that, you’ve lost the argument, and they’ve won.

    • noobnob says:

      @Mark Raymond: In other words, are you saying that he got trolled?

    • Jhoosier says:

      This does seem to be a case of stooping to their level. And sadly, that means they win.

      I’ll go have a look at the post that spawned it, but the rant was definitely unprofessional and seemed to lump everyone together as his enemy. That’s a bit harsh to do to your readership. That’s why I like RPS, funny and not jerks, despite the AIMen.

  8. Pasco says:

    Regarding the Joel Johnson/Gizmodo thing and “You don’t get to call us unprofessional”:

    http://gizmodo.com/comment/32404839

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9849168-7.html

    • Tei says:

      These are very serious accusations. You are elevating your opinion as a fact, and communicating it on the most offensive way. Thats bad style.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      @Tei, you’re talking about Joel Johnson there right?

    • Kadayi says:

      Somehow I think condemning an entire site (for eternity) over the actions of one staffer at a hardware convention 2 years ago is a little overboard. Maybe save that ‘righteous anger’ for something really important you know, like war crimes or some such.

    • the wiseass says:

      Yes because clearly only war crimes deserve any kind of critical attention. Maybe we should close all gaming related websites too. Not important enough.

    • Tei says:

      @the wiseass

      A reaction that make sense is to blame the original people for what did, and not everyone that work there, forever. Everybody that work on Gizmodo and will work in Gizmodo, can’t be blamed for what one editor did once. Blaming the wrong people is one indication of entitlement… blaming the right people (the one that did the ‘joke’, is the right thing). IMHO.

    • Kadayi says:

      @the wiseass

      Seriously? You don’t think Pasco is overreacting just a little bit there? I mean jez, I could envisage if the entire Gizmodo editorial staff had popped around his house and gang raped his sister, or swindled him of his inheritance money or some such, him having a valid bone to pick with them, but losing the plot over a 5 minute prank that one guy did a few ago to some unrelated hardware vendors in at a convention a few years back? No so much tbh.

    • the wiseass says:

      Yeah but apparently judging a whole person based on one single comment (righteous anger, gangraped his sister, etc..) seems to be fine… got’cha. Also where is that guy overreacting? He’s just giving an example of where the blog was not quite so professional. Nothing wrong with that.

    • the wiseass says:

      Apparently editing your comments marks them as spam and makes them disappear. So consider my reply lost in limbo.

    • DrGonzo says:

      @Kadayi

      No I think your overreacting here. He simply was pointing out when they have been unprofessional. When you are at a convention you are representing your entire organisation, and yes it does reflect badly on Gizmodo if you do something stupid like that.

      I don’t think he was condemning them all anyway, simply pointing out that they can be somewhat hypocritical. I don’t read Gizmodo anyway, and after that article I don’t think I ever will. No I don’t think it’s up their with the holocaust but I do think it was a rather badly written article.

    • Kadayi says:

      @DrGonzo

      LOL. I’m sorry, but attempting to level a broad charge of ‘unprofessionalism’ at an entire organisation on the basis the actions of one individual on one occasion in the past is patently absurd (even more so that it’s not about anything they’ve actually written..that actually might be pertinent) For all anyone knows that guy might of been a freelancer whose since left. What’s the time period for how long this judgement stands? 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?

      If your Boss was caught molesting an intern where you work, you’d be ok with people holding you personally responsible forever, yes? That’s effectively the kind of Kangeroo court logic you’re applying I’m afraid.

  9. kwyjibo says:

    The only thing worth talking about this week is Pacquiao’s total demolition of Margarito. Absolutely epic fight.

  10. RPS says:

    Please note: we censor comments too! We do that when your comment is a direct insult.

    We love it when you disagree with people, but insulting them is stupid and boring. So, so boring. Be interesting if you want to be critical, and save the insults for your comments on YouTube.

    • Lambchops says:

      Say isn’t that an Illuminati pyramid?

      Maybe that guy whp wrote to Leigh isn’t so crazy after all.

    • Skurmedel says:

      It’s the Eye of Providence (“all seeing eye”). It is somehow associated with Illuminati by conspiracy theorists. It is prominent on the dollar bill.

    • Urael says:

      Thread closures, comment deletions, politeness warnings…we seem to be seeing more and more of these lately. There must be a fascinating graph that shows the correlation between number of readers and the rise in etiquette warnings. I’d wager XKCD has already done one.

    • Wilson says:

      @Urael – I wouldn’t have thought it would be that fascinating. Surely it’s likely to be a case of more people means more silly people. Hence more warnings for silliness. A graph showing etiquette warnings per 10 readers or something like that would be more informative.

    • Sinomatic says:

      I love it when you talk hivemind….

    • Rich says:

      “A corpse. Yes. You feel something. I must know what you are feeling.”

  11. the wiseass says:

    – “Joel Johnson bites back on Gizmodo.”
    Don’t bite the hand that feeds you…

    • Chris D says:

      If that hand was slapping me while occasionallt tossing me peanuts I might consider biting to be in order.

    • Chris D says:

      @me occasionally… dammit

    • Lambchops says:

      Don’t worry Chris – soon such mistakes will be easily rectified, it appears we now have a swanky tpyo corrwction edit button.

    • the wiseass says:

      I don’t know but I’ve got the feeling that more often than not, the Gawker-Blogs aim for that kind of controversy in order to generate more hits. And you know what? It works. Only problem tough is that you’re cultivating an ill conceived deliberating culture too.

      I’m not saying the author is completely wrong, but his analysis is a bit one-sided too.

  12. noom says:

    Smiled at the chap in the Eurogamer article that cited Go as a big influence. Totally share the love of that game; rarely get a chance to play it these days as I no longer know people who play, but there is a very compelling beauty to it’s simple-ruleset/huge-amount-of-depth dynamic. Definitely a lesson that more developers might benefit from learning :)

  13. DiamondDog says:

    Another fine music choice Mr. Rossignol. I feel a little better for hearing that album.

    21st century Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band? With hip-hop.

  14. Lewis Denby says:

    RE: the New Scientist piece linked in the intro…

    Just finished reading the paper itself. Interesting, but TNS makes it sound like far more compelling evidence than it is.

    We’re talking, on average, a 3% positive tendency. It’s statistically significant, but when we’re talking about one study (and a further, admittedly flawed, study which did not produce any statistically significant results), it’s not in any way huge.

    The New Scientists talks of the aspirin/heart attack prevention link, saying it’s based upon similarly slight tendencies — but fails to note that those tendencies were able to be replicated across several different studies in that case.

    (It also loses marks for saying “truly random guesses would have been right 50 per cent of the time,” which is simply not correct.)

    Sorry, where were we? “Computer games”?

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Of course the tendacies were able to be replicated.
      New Scientist isnt saying this is fact, just one interesting article, should it hold up to scrutiny.
      Part of that scrutiny is having other people preform the same experiment, and seeing how they differ.

      As for the 50% chance, I am fairly sure that is currect, after you take enough guesses. Most science is built upon this, as current percentages (Like 53/47) if they are true, should still be true after 1m, 1 billion, or infinite such chances.

    • Lewis Denby says:

      I just flipped a coin ten times. I really did. These were the results:

      Tails, Tails, Tails, Tails, Heads, Tails, Heads, Tails, Heads, Tails.

      70% tales. By The New Scientist’s reasoning, this could not be down to chance, even though we all know it absolutely is.

      Of course, were I to have flipped the coin a hundred times, or a thousand times, or a million times, we’d have likely crept ever closer to 50/50.

      Flip a coin an infinite number of times, and logic reasons that you’d get 50/50. But finite randomness clumps, and segregates non-randomly. To state that “truly random guesses would have been right 50 per cent of the time,” in the context of this experiment, is absolutely misleading.

      The whole reason we measure statistical significance is to allow for this phenomenon.

      TNS doesn’t say it’s fact, no, but the comparison to the aspirin studies is an unreasonable one. There, several replicated studies all churned out the same small but statistically significant margin. Here, one study emerges with those results, and a second one – which admittedly is not as rigorous as the first – concludes with a null-hypothesis.

      The paper itself is fine. Skeptical scientists are right to say there’s little to pick apart in the methodology (except its flitting between random number generation and pseudo-random number generation, and its obsession with the use of subliminal images, which is dubious). It’s a solid paper with a few shortcomings and limitations, but which generally holds up to scrutiny and does what it set about to do.

      But what it set out to do was to provide a series of easily replicable tests and call for other researchers to add to the corpus of data, not to provide hugely conclusive evidence. It says, “Here’s what I did, here’s what I found, now what do you find?” And I just feel the New Scientist piece glosses over that.

      Wow, that was a long comment. Sorry! :-)

    • the wiseass says:

      Yeah that science article was absolutely preposterous. Kinda reminded me of this:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrzMhU_4m-g

      Same reasoning :D

    • areyoutherebog? says:

      I thought the way coins are made causes tails to come up more often? Because there’s more metal on the heads side? I could be wrong?

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      “70% tales. By The New Scientist’s reasoning, this could not be down to chance, even though we all know it absolutely is.”
      i think the important words in that article were statistically significant. Which assumes that they tested enough people that the result should have been closer to 50%.
      And can you blame them for reporting it? It is an interesting story and i think they tried to give reasons why they were writing about it (4 reviewers said the tests were ok, the scientist has a good reputation etc.)

    • Vinraith says:

      New Scientist is something of a scientific tabloid, really. You should never take anything they report on at face value. Follow up with more reliable scientific press, or better yet go to the source paper(s) themselves if you can handle the material.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah comparing flipping a coin ten times to a study that had thousands of people in it is a bit silly. New Scientist never once claim this to be true in the article to be fair. They did just say it’s interesting and surprisingly has something to back it up. They also noted 53% was the same percentage as Aspirins got, when studying their effects on heart attacks or whatever. I found that interesting, I still swear to this day that Aspirins and Paracetamol have absolutely no effect on me whatsoever.

    • Lewis Denby says:

      I’m not saying they were wrong to report on the story; I’m saying they did so slightly misleadingly, and in the process made a comment which is demonstrably factually inaccurate. I know flipping a coin ten times is not the same as thousands of data points. I’m saying that stating that true randomisation would give 50/50 results is simply not always true.

      DrGonzo: As I wrote upthread:
      TNS doesn’t say it’s fact, no, but the comparison to the aspirin studies is an unreasonable one. There, several replicated studies all churned out the same small but statistically significant margin. Here, one study emerges with those results, and a second one – which admittedly is not as rigorous as the first – concludes with a null-hypothesis.

    • luminosity says:

      Regarding the study, this comment was posted at hacker news.

      I went to Cornell and I’m one of the many students that participated in this guy’s experiments (although not this particular one with the erotic pictures. I got regular pictures.)

      I can tell you that every semester that I was there he was running a version of the “Are you psychic?” experiment. I’m sure he’s been doing it every semester for a very long time. Undoubtedly there have been loads of experiments where it didn’t pan out. (If you’re curious about my results, I got 54% and a cheerful grad student greeted me after the fact by saying “congrats! you’re psychic!”)

      The fact is, if you run an experiment like this enough times you are going to get a significant result eventually. That’s why you have alpha values. If it’s at .05, that means that 5% of the time you’re going to get a false positive. I think that’s what this is.

    • JuJuCam says:

      The real concern here is that science and lifestyle editors of mass media broadsheets and tabloids will run this story under headlines such as “Science Proves Psychic Powers Are A Reality!!!” with only a cursory nod to even the contents of the NS article let alone proper fact-checking of the original study.

      So if you think NS treated the subject poorly (I personally think it’s a fair summary, although I haven’t read the study), wait till the “Science Media” gets a hold of it…

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      There has already been an attempt to verify this experiment and the verdict is… failed to replicate result.

      http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1699970

    • D says:

      There is an online test up, doing the same experiment. It tells you the result at the end, currently at 144 people and at -0.17% averaged precognition.

      http://consumerbehaviorlab.com/esp1_live/esp1_live.php

  15. AndrewC says:

    Re: Portal 2. Portal updated again on Friday night. Has the Internet discovered anything about that yet?

  16. noobnob says:

    Any chance of RPS sharing its own cache of crazy, crazy e-mails?

    • Lambchops says:

      Ooh, yes please. I reckon Quinns must have got some delightful ones after that New Vegas drama.

    • Urael says:

      I commented very early on in that post then went away thinking nothing of it. When I eventually returned to the eight-page comment monster it had grown into I was just stunned. I’ve never seen a reaction like that, not even when GOG went down. And it got so personal! Like the game was a poor defenceless puppy that this horrid brutal monster was out to violate in unspeakable ways. The sense of personal injury coming through was also shocking. “How DARE he write such an opinion: I am OFFENDED!” I swear gamers are becoming more hysterical by the day around these parts.

    • sinister agent says:

      Give me a minute; I’ll check my sent folder.

  17. Inglourious Badger says:

    Did anyone else read the comment at the end of Leigh Alexander’s frightening description of ‘fan mail’:

    “…and that he posted an unanswered query on a Mac OSX forum about his files disappearing.”

    and take that to mean she’s hacked into his Mac and removed his files in revenge??? Just putting it out there.

    Scary article anyway. Have the RPS journos had any similar experiences of fans crossing the line? (Apart from that time I videoed Jim in the shower and posted it on the forum, obviously)

  18. MuscleHorse says:

    @Gizmodo
    Shock horror, gamers have a grossly overgrown sense of entitlement and the bare minumum of manners. I think the recent Minecraft episode showed that perfectly, though a quick look at Steam’s TF2 forums may make you feel worse about your ‘peers’.

    Mmm, Minecraft.

  19. Lambchops says:

    I have control of a tank!

  20. Robert says:

    I knew it! The conservative party within RPS was offended by the brothelisation of Marvel, so they went and slashdotted the downloadsite. Very well knowing that it would get the attention of Marvel and it’s lawyers and thus it would get shut down without any tracks leading to RPS!

    Conspiracy ho!

    • sinister agent says:

      Conspiracy ho!

      Test audiences delivered a largely positive response to Paranoia Man’s new sidekick.

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      “…prefer to make the request directly to the administrator who can remove the offending game surgically, rather than through an ISP who might take down the entire site…”

      Take it down or we shut you down. Bastard lawyers! (allegedly).

  21. Xercies says:

    That paper is interesting, I would like there to be more studies and the like but if its true then definitely something very interesting. i already think we kind of get ready for something we expect anyway, sometimes that preparation works.

    That fan mail is a little weird, i mean what does the son bloody think about his dad i wonder. Just strange that people would say there going to stalk you via email. I mean i don’t email John Walker when i want to stalk him I just go and do it.

    I think its very prevalent that we definitely do get on board about teaching our kids how to act on the digtal media and the internet and the like. i know its very hard for parents do do that since they never had it really when they were a kid. But it can be a great thing, kids have all this resources for learning. i think if you do it right the next few generations could be the smartest out of the lot. Its already happening really I think.

    Wow the concept art and the models of the piggy bank game are really amazing! And that drawing is so true lol.

  22. Gassalasca says:

    I can’t read other articles. I am staring at the drawing.

    • Gary W says:

      Hopefully the kid won’t grow up to be a sociopath. Otherwise the drawing would be: “I have control of everything”.

  23. EthZee says:

    Er.

    I feel slightly bad now: I sent a silly e-mail to John Walker’s RPS address (after it was suggested on Rum Doings, to be fair) but I can see how it might be less “silly” and more “hectoring and bizarre”. Sorry!

    • jeremypeel says:

      I’ve not been emailing no one, but I’m entirely sure if I bumped into anyone from RPS I’d talk to them like I knew ‘em well.

      In a sense, I do. But in another, I really, really don’t, and should back the hell off.

  24. Wednesday says:

    Leigh Alexander’s formspring is genuninely nuts and regularly disturbing, swinging from out and out misogny down to creepy “I’ve very few females in my life”.

    That she bears it with such good grace is a credit to her.

  25. Muzman says:

    Hah. The first comment (currently) on that Gizmodo piece (you know, the one that says,”if you don’t like a post, go read another one instead of acting like a self important douche”) is a “This place used to be cool, but this sort of thing is beyond the pale! I’m outa here!” post.

  26. blind_boy_grunt says:

    Do any of you have defining moments of gaming? Because the only thing i could come up with is gish, that was the game that made me for the first time google indiegames. Before that i never knew that there even were games besides the ones in the papery magazines. That there are people basically by themselves creating games that they would like to play.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      “Shake it, baby.”

    • jeremypeel says:

      Hmmm I’m writing about Gish this week, as Super Meat Boy’s massive success has made me reflect on it. From The Time Before Massive Indie Games, it was.

      Still lotsa fun, too.

    • Shadram says:

      Mine’s probably the silo section in Half-Life. It had just been released, and I was at uni, playing it in my room, sneaking past the big tentacle thing. There were about 10 people huddled behind me, watching in silence, all afraid to make a noise in case it heard us. The tension was incredible. It defined my standards for all games that came afterwards. Needless to say, I’ve mostly been disappointed…

    • jeremypeel says:

      Oh, and for me – a number of very late nights in my early teens, spent with Thief 2 and the lights off.

      That acted as a kind of grounding that informed everything else I discovered about games, for a while at least.

  27. stahlwerk says:

    That China Miéville piece is really something else. I read it with a broad smile on my face, yet I don’t think it was funny. What happen?
    I gather it’s a riff on comic book / super hero story cliché? The part about the “Angel Interceptors” being replaced by Eurofighter made me think of Sky Captain, or Ace Combat, in a good way.

    We need more ridiculous airplanes. And in the game.

    Edit: EDIT!

  28. Dominic White says:

    Praise be to the overmind – the edit function is back! My frequent typos will no longer haunt me to my grave!

    Edit: See? Editing!

  29. Duoae says:

    I haven’t read the trauma article yet but “Pub Quiz” is not a game compared to Tetris. There is no ‘game’ part of the piece of entertainment. i.e. Recalling memories or knowledge is not the same as interacting and solving puzzles (specifically orientation and positioning as seen in Tetris). Similar to the way that reading a book is inherently different from performing a spelling contest.

    I’d be quite interested in seeing how different types of games stack up against each other e.g. FPS vs Strategy vs Puzzle vs Hidden object.

  30. perilisk says:

    So, were the recipients more likely to recall words that would later come up, or did they just bend probability to make words they recalled show up more later? Because that isn’t precognition, it’s just a high Luck stat. They probably make lots of critical hits and find more Special Encounters too.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Now that you mention it, using a short list of words, or querying easy-to-remember words in the last step, would totally invalidate the process.

      Like so:
      please memorize the following words:

      cake
      shark!
      oesophargus

      what words do you remember?

      > cake and shark

      type the following word: “cake”
      > c-a-k-e

      OMG, how did u no!

  31. Vodkarn says:

    ““This is getting tricky to talk about, because it’s about story stuff a little bit, but I think if you are telling players that the core of the story is “you are going do again what you did last time,” for most people that is pretty unappealing.”

    Really? I thought the Call of Duty series was doing well, still.

  32. clive dunn says:

    THE FUTURE HAS ALREADY HAPPENED.
    TIME MOVES FORWARD AND BACKWARDS.
    ONE DAY I WILL BE ABLE TO PROVE THIS TO YOU.

  33. bob_d says:

    The Tetris article reminded me of a study that was done that involved functional MRI scans of people’s brains when they played Tetris over time. fMRI registers changes of blood-flow in the brain. It was popularly understood that increased blood-flow equaled activity in that part of the brain (more blood in that area meant more activity). What the study found was that as people played more Tetris, and got much better at it, the blood flow decreased. The brain was altering its structure to become more efficient at that task, so less blood was needed for the same task. It really blew away all those psuedo-scientific arguments, based on fMRI scans, that “X makes your brain stop working” (where X is drugs, TV or video games).

  34. Taillefer says:

    Ahh. So when people say “this is a 10/10″ game before they even played it…

  35. dadioflex says:

    “Tricking people into spending thousands of hours agreeing to someone else’s limitations is acceptable only to humans who have succumbed to their programming.”

    I’ve spent the last fourteen hours playing Nehrim. I think I agree with the above. (It’s an extract from one of those crazy emails game journalists get).

  36. Dreamhacker says:

    On the Gizmodo post: What is the point in throwing all that vitriol not only on faceless internet angrymen but on your own readers? I don’t think it’s “unprofessional” but I definitely think it is… incredibly wasted effort? Resistance motivates.

  37. Alikchi says:

    Surprise: Robert Yang did another really good post on his blog. This one’s about gay characters in video games, and how to approach sexuality in general, I think.

    http://www.blog.radiator.debacle.us/2010/11/gay-but-not-gay-characters-in-video.html

    • Shadram says:

      Good read, as is the post he’s responding to.
      I thought Obsidian’s handling of gay characters in F:NV was excellent, but Yang does raise an interesting point: they made homosexuality “palatable” by removing the sexuality part.
      And the fact is that there are a lot of camp gay men. I agree that when a lot of people think “gay” they think “camp”, and there needs to be high-profile examples to counter this, but we do still need to represent the fey side of our culture, too, without it being reduced to ridicule.
      I don’t want to take away from what Obsidian did, I think they did a great thing in their representation of gay people in F:NV, but Yang’s right, we do have some way to go before we have an accurate depiction of homo culture in games. But then, we’ve a long way to go before we have an accurate depiction of women, non-western races, the police and aliens in games, too.

    • MD says:

      We’ve also a long way to go before we have an accurate depiction of heterosexual white men in games.

    • Samuel Erikson says:

      “MD says:
      November 15, 2010 at 8:13 am

      We’ve also a long way to go before we have an accurate depiction of heterosexual white men in games.”

      Kindly read this: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/18/things-i-dont-have-to-think-about-today/

      And then take your privileged whinging and shove it up your ass.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      @Samuel Erikson

      MD was just commenting on the state of computer games (read it again!), which has nothing to do with the issue you bring up and definitely doesn’t deserve the tone of your response.

  38. bob_d says:

    Subscription-based MMOs are pretty clearly in decline – just look at the strategies of the few companies offering subscription-based services. All of them are either moving to RMT or are, at the very least, sticking their toe in to test the RMT waters (even Blizzard).
    Unfortunately I think we’ll see the free-to-play space get saturated soon. Companies found MMOs appealing because of the continuing revenue on a single product made MMOs less financially risky. The big price tags needed to compete in the MMO space, combined with the dominance of the space by a few big players has meant that many MMOs have, ironically, been costly failures. Early free-to-play adopters found that they could make a fair amount of money with very little outlay, but the free-to-play space has increasingly fierce competition which means that again, a few major players will dominate the space (thanks to the social dynamics of online games) and leave many others unable to support themselves, I fear.

    • Dominic White says:

      The advantage, even in a crowded market for F2P games is that due to the low cost-of-entry, and comparatively low cost-of-exit (less sunk-cost sillyness to worry about), there’s much more chance for a lesser known but high-quality game to draw players away purely based on more solid gameplay mechanics.

      WoW doesn’t lose many players because those who have been around for years have sunk literally hundreds of dollars into it. After a few years of play, that hits 4-digits, which is a pretty big psychological incentive to keep playing more. Breaking away from something like that, and buying something else in a box and having to provide a credit card just to try it is a huge barrier.

      The advantage of the new (traditionally Korean) business model is that if someone sees a game that interests them, it’s usually just a few minutes to get set up to play, plus the time for the initial client download and they’ve got something new to try, and it’ll sink or swim based purely on whether the initial gameplay and mechanics are appealing.

      I don’t think a single, monolithic Blizzard-like entity could even exist in a market like that.

      Edit: Bloody hell – sometimes I forget that I write naturally at 80+ words per minute. Apologies for verbosity.

    • President Weasel says:

      I agree with you, Mr White. However where WOW and similar games are concerned I’d also point to the sunk cost in terms of time and social life. If you’ve spent half your evenings for three years building social relationships, reputation, and skills in an MMO that seems more of a sacrifice than the subscription cost when it comes time to tear yourself away.

    • Dominic White says:

      Of course, the social aspect is a pretty big part of it all, but it’s also a lot easier for a social group to migrate to something that’s initially free to transfer into. It’s a lot harder to convince someone to go and order/shop for something, get it signed up, enter CC details and then try it with you than it is to just say ‘While you’re grinding in this field, download this in the background, I think you’ll like it’.

      Switching to an a la carte business model makes it a lot easier for a game to lose business, but it’s also a lot easier for it to draw in fresh blood. It’s a much more organic, fast-moving business than what we’ve had for the past decade.

    • bob_d says:

      @ Dominic White & President Weasel:
      All of what you both say is true, of course. The barrier to entry is gone; in theory a player can be playing 50 games simultaneously. (In reality, MMOs are designed to be time sinks – free-to-play MMOs doubly so, for various reasons – so people can only be invested in one, perhaps two MMOs at a single time.) This isn’t good for developers either, though – that would mean the audience is potentially extremely fickle, and the appeal of MMOs was always the idea of stable income. However, I think that two factors largely overcome the potential mobility and even distribution of the audience: marketing and the social dynamics that I alluded to. Marketing monies spent directly correlate with game sales, and the dynamics aren’t much different for free games. For social games, big games will automatically get bigger. (This is also why MMOs won’t disclose subscriber numbers when they start to go down; the mere hint that other people are leaving the game can cause player numbers to decline.) F2P games don’t force players to cancel subscriptions, so in that sense “not playing” a particular game doesn’t feel very final, (i.e. it’s one less psychological barrier to switching games) but players are still going to gravitate to, and stay in, games where their social groups are. The game where you’re most invested is also where you’re going to be spending most of your money (so players might be active in multiple games, but financially contributing to only one).
      An added problem is that only a very small percentage of most F2P game-players actually spend money on the game. It takes millions of players to keep anything but the cheapest Facebook game going (and even Zynga has to shut down a game when it drops below half-a-million active monthly players.) So developers have a poor cost-to-income ratio, compared to subscription-based games. A game that isn’t doing well, really isn’t doing well.

      To Mr. White’s assertion that a monolithic, Blizzard-like entity couldn’t exist in the F2P market, let me just respond with: Zynga and Farmville. They used marketing and social networks and more specifically “social obligation” webs, to absolutely dominate the F2P Facebook space, and this is with game-types that actually do allow one to simultaneously be involved with 20 games. Zynga has over four times the number of active players as the next biggest game developer. Right now on Facebook it looks like, of the top 15 apps, 8 are games, and the top six games are all Zynga. Farmville is also a perfect example, as it’s actually an almost identical copy of an earlier game “Farm Town”, which has an order of magnitude fewer players. Zynga spent money and marketed their game, and once people flocked to it, their social network was subsequently pulled in with them.

      I’m afraid the dynamics of F2P games aren’t all that much different from subscriber games in the important ways – people are brought in by the marketing, and once they’re there, they bring their friends in, too. At best, being free-to-play makes the market more volatile, with the large groups potentially switching en-mass from one game to another. If you look at the Korean MMO market, they make incredibly cheap games (over very, very short dev cycles) that are half-finished at best. They throw them out there and see if there’s enough interest to further develop them, using the audience as beta testers (and as basic QA, honestly). It’s not economically viable to do otherwise, and even so, the failure rate is quite high. As a result, even here, in the land of F2P MMOs, WoW still is top of the charts.

  39. Thants says:

    Editing doesn’t work.

    Edit: Yay, it does!

  40. Tally Lassiter says:

    Thanks. Excellent.

  41. A-Scale says:

    Leigh Alexander is a horribly annoying person who ruined every episode of the bombcast she was on. Doesn’t deserve to be stalked, but I just had to mention that.

    • Chris D says:

      No you didn’t.

    • MD says:

      You’re a consistently lovely fellow, aren’t you.

      Edit: I originally read “doesn’t deserve to be stalked” as an intended insult, which made your comment a whole lot nastier and creepier than it is.

    • sebmojo says:

      I … struggle with uncharitable feelings towards her writing. Can someone point me to her best stuff? One article that’s really good?

    • Kadayi says:

      I’m with A -scale tbh. Fortunately I think the Bomb cast guys have realised she’s podcast poison and won’t let her near a mike again.

      Also I’m unsure the necessity to air the laundry save for the sake of ‘woe is me’. Personally If I received a package with a message like that, I’d be more inclined to get onto Fed Ex & the police and have them investigate the source (for some disciplinary action) than make a web post about it.

  42. jalf says:

    So, you think you’ve got a working log in system now? That’s just crazy talk…

    • jalf says:

      Oh hey, it seems to work for me.

      Edit:
      I can even edit! How crazy is that?
      (although the edit screen isn’t exactly pretty)

  43. leafdot says:

    Yeah, but, guys, do you all even read the other Gawker-owned websites? Their \unprofessionalism\ is part of their appeal. They’re happy with drunkenly misbehaving. Which, again, is part of their appeal.

    But that being said, it always sticks in my craw when a public person – be they artist or journalist or talking head – gets irate about the attention they’re getting from us, \the little folk.\ I realize that being criticized for doing your job sucks but: IT’S SOMETHING EVERY OTHER JOB HAS TO DEAL WITH TOO. Plus, most of those other jobs don’t give you a platform to publicly complain about it and/or get revenge on the complainers.

    That being said, it does sound like a lot of the stuff being leveled at the guy – the rape/anger management complaints – are over the line. No arguing that. But… it’s a privileged job, and like all privilege, it comes with a big downside.

  44. mpk says:

    I got a hat bonus.

    EDIT: This isn’t the shark post. What? What?

  45. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    This hivemind starts censoring comments, eventually slays it’s human overseers, Quintin + others, and turns into the monster that is SkyNet.

    This is the future, I have seen this, 2012 watch, you are all WRONG!

  46. Nallen says:

    I have control of a tank.

  47. Jack says:

    A big week for game journalism audience journalism, then.

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