The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on December 26th, 2010 at 11:00 am.


Sundays, like every other day, are for the written word. It’s part of what makes us human: those ants of script crawling across page after page. Those wisps of intellectual ether frozen into ink and pixel. If there was nothing else to do besides read, we would still experience lives of extraordinary richness. Unless you were just reading reviews of Call of Duty games. Then it’d be shit.

  • Edge Online talked to Jon Blow and Chris Hecker, at the same time. Well, they actually take turns to say stuff – Edge Online isn’t some creature of miraculous dual-consciousness and doubled attention centres that can interview people in parallel. It’s just a guy. Gary Edge. He’s okay. Anyway, in the interview Hecker says this: “There’s a kind of punk theory going on in the industry right now. Frank Lantz, the head of the NYU Game Center, talks about this all the time. We’ve got developers like Mark Essen, the guy who did Flywrench and is doing Nidhogg now – they show their games in art galleries, and they’re brash and loud. It’s a cool movement. There’s a comparison to be made with music here. Big bands like Led Zeppelin or The Beatles took their craft farther and deeper. You can throw together a song and bash it out and if you’re naturally talented there’ll be something cool there – but you’ve got to develop your craft, and a lot of these kids they just don’t take it anywhere – they throw together a game in a weekend, then go on to the next thing.” And much more besides. Go read.
  • Design Reboot’s Against Dilettantism is a well-argued read, and apt to lots of game design blather that we hear at the moment, particularly from big companies. Here’s how it begins: “Designer, know thy shit. The less pithy formulation being that the onus of expertise lies with the designer. I suppose that’s a little opaque; I am suggesting that a more research-driven approach benefits all game design, that it is central to sustaining the creative lifeblood of the form. And what’s good for the form is ultimately good for the business.”
  • The Archaeology of Fallout 3. Which is a concept that has been around since at least System Shock, but it’s interesting to focus on it. Speaking of Fallout 3, I was in a phone shop the other day and I was talking to the chap behind the counter. He really liked Fallout 3 he said, because there have never been a game like that before. I wasn’t sure what he meant, and so delved a little into his reasoning. And what it boiled down to was that he knew nothing of RPGs. He had never played any, never even heard of them, really. All he knew was shooters. Along came Fallout 3 which it shooter visuals and all this other stuff, and it blew his mind. An interesting bit of perspective there, I thought.
  • Ars Technica like to tackle the big issues, and here’s one: the pricing of indie games. Are the antics of indies and sale-mad distributors devaluing the entire market? Probably.
  • NGamerMag’s Top 10 Stories of 2010 is absolutely amazing.
  • FuckYeahMidwinter.
  • Hacktivist games – there’s a hot topic that no one is writing about. No one except Strongman Games. Here’s a snippet: “Any innocuous-looking match-three game on a games portal could be a concealed weapon, although I suppose portals have mechanisms in place to prevent this.” I’m not so sure.
  • This is fairly interesting. “Virtual worlds pioneer, Jon NEVERDIE Jacobs, has revealed that he has brought his fiancé back from the dead as an avatar, and part of the launch of his latest virtual destination, the new Club NEVERDIE.” And so on. People are awesome, aren’t they?
  • What is happening to APB? Find out here.
  • The Wall Street Journal interviews the man who led the CODBLOPs development team. Dave Anthony is his name. Here’s a sample quote: “He types his notes on his iPhone. “I think of it as my third arm,” he said.” Okay!
  • BigDownload end the year by talking about the future of PC games. It turns out that there’s nothing very surprising about the future, because most of it is happening already. For another take on the future of games have a read of this.
  • While we’re over at BigDownload, check out their interview with the designer of the Back To The Future games.
  • This Hollywood Reporter piece on the links between Tron and videogames is interesting, because you can see why it should make sense. However, if you’ve played movie-related games for the past 30 years, you might have a different perspective on things.
  • Nukezilla applies Ebert’s rules for reviewing stuff to videogames. Some of it makes sense, and some of it – we know through having done this stuff for a few years – doesn’t. See if you can see which is which!
  • This essay by [SPECULATIVE NOVELIST] Bruce Sterling, which examines Wikileaks, Assange, Manning, and the context around the entire Cablegate issue, is one of the best piece of writing of 2010. Everyone should read it.

And for something to listen to… Well, there’s this. Merry Day After Christmas On The Internet, everyone.

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98 Comments »

  1. kastanok says:

    That blog on Fallout 3 is a wonderful perspective, not one I’d explicitly considered before but one I fully agree with. The fact I remembered the specific logs referenced at all is a testament to their impact.

    And I love that RPS is the kind of place to include important issues that may not be related to gaming as such – kudos for including Sterling’s essay.

    [Edit: What the heck happened to my spelling?]

  2. Jonathan says:

    You obviously didn’t eat or drink enough yesterday if you’re able to post this, Jim. You’re doing it wrong!

    Also, fuck yeah Midwinter!

  3. poop says:

    lol the article about the blackops guy that speaks as if the game sold well on anything other than buzz about the multiplayer

    • rei says:

      Rather than his iPhone providing him with a third arm, doesn’t it just tie up his two actual arms?

      I hate articles like that which only exist to try to build a myth around some random dude. It’s a very peculiar form of journalism.

    • poop says:

      @andrewC honestly I wish more people bought CODBLOPS for its honest and well researched (that means they watched a lotta movies, natch) depiction of the vietnam war, american imperialism and presidents fighting zombies.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Well, once i’d got past thinking ‘penis’, the idea of an iphone being a third arm starts to hurt me with its almost koanesque nonsensicalness. A second brain, maybe, but how can? Arm? Why would? It doesn’t make any sense! Did the guy blurt it out without thinking? Is it one of those prepared witicisms that he trots out regularly and is proud of? Did the journalist deliberately include it to slyly mock the interviewee?

      It doesn’t make any sense! Is it just me? Please tell me these people at the tops of their professions know something I don’t. It would make me feel better. Please?

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      @poop. You’re playing strawman here. Either the appeal is online or it’s historical accuracy? What? You are being deliberately facetious! Booo! Anyways: Some 15 million apparently bought CODBLOPS in the last month. How many are online? Remove the onliners and i’ll wager the game would still be the biggest of the year.

      As for the article, I too cringe at the pride with which ‘watching some movies’ is put forwards as research, though it does show honesty at what their goals are – interactive action movies – is it not our fault for wanting these games to be something they were never designed to be, and never sold as?

      it doesn’t compare well with the guys at Valve though, who, for their Left 4 Dead games, apparently dug into research about flu epidemics of the last few hundred years to see how virulent outbreaks have historically affected societies.

      But never mind: I get the feeling the article is pitched at those people who would regard as new information statements like: ‘games are actually directed, use references from other media, and use complex and subtle artistic effects to create emotional scenes, as opposed to being collections of obnoxious and random flashing lights – you know just like real media!’

      It continues to be interesting and useful to see how the greater world looks at ‘gaming’: the ‘hey look, art!’ message, as seen from that article, is still at a basic stage. The ‘holy shit, look at all the money!’ message is gaining quite a bit of traction. Hey ho.

    • JackShandy says:

      The CodBlops article is pretty hilarious, coming after the gausswerks one.

      “…that fatal generation loss that comes from making your own copy of a good thing–which is that it is worse for being an imperfect copy, a copy of a copy. The foul taste in your mouth when you play most AAA videogames today comes from knowing you’ve had this meal before, and better–it was a lot better before it had been digested and excreted several times in succession.”

  4. Creeping Death says:

    God damn it, I thought registering was meant to stop this crap -.-

    • Meatloaf says:

      Yeah, but just look at that post!

      “You will feel like a warm!”

      It’s like the first Metal Gear all over again.

      EDIT: This was supposed to be a reply to Creeping Death. Does anyone ever get the reply function to work properly?

      • Sander Bos says:

        EDIT: Well I was replying that replying always works for me, but then for the first time it failed. I’m guessing it is related to the parent comment is spam and was removed??

  5. terry says:

    Good articles on Fallout and the well-overdue-for-a-horrible-reboot Midwinter. I got a chuckle out of the crass tackiness of Treyarch’s war room too.

  6. Axess Denyd says:

    These articles about pricing always seem kind of ridiculous to me.

    “We make more money by far when we are cheap! I hope we don’t have to keep being cheap, that might mean even more money, and then we would surely be lost.”

    Indie games aren’t the only ones learning about sales, you know. If I had to pay $50 for every game I bought, I would never have played most of the things I own.

    Also, I am never paying $60 for a game. You can convince console kids that they need to do that, but you can also get them to pay a monthly fee for multiplayer, so they will fall for pretty much anything.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I remember paying $40 for Zork Trilogy around 1988. With inflation that would be $71.61. An Atari 2600 cost $200 when it debuted, which is roughly $700 in current money.

      Entertainment is pretty damn cheap these days imho.

    • Nick says:

      They used to charge about £60 for a Snes game… about $100 back then if not more..

      =/

    • bill says:

      I used to have to pay 40 or 50 quid for every game I bought.
      It definitely made sure that I played them to completion.

      I have found some devaluation in gaming, I recently decided against Baldur’s Gate on GOG because $6.99 seemed too expensive. That can’t be right.

      But alternatively, I see many many people buying far more games in these sales than they can ever possibly have time to play. I know that I picked up enough games in the Steam Sale 2 years ago that I still haven’t finished them. And I’m tempted to buy more. I’ve bought 2 humble bundles and only played 2 games from them.

      So in some ways they’re making money from people’s greed/need to collect/inability to pass up a bargain. but those people often aren’t getting any value out of the product they bought.

      Maybe that’s why I’ve only bought one game in the sales so far… I’ve realised that while $6.99 seems expensive, it’s actually more about my time. I’m only going to spend money on games I really really want. Being cheap alone is no longer enough. Being wanted alone is no longer enough.
      It needs to be an unbeatable deal on a game on my list of “must play” games.

    • Starky says:

      That’s the kicker really, people spend roughly the same, but get more for their money. It’s just the nature of S&D, there is massive supply, and while demand has increased it hasn’t increased at the same scale.
      I think the big winner here though are indie devs, every year that goes by more of my gaming budget is going on smaller indie titles – granted, most individual devs only get £1-2 from my sale price purchase, but all told those add up to maybe 1/3rd my gaming spending going to indie studios/devs, compared to 5 years ago where it was maybe 1/10th.

      I’ve spent just over £200 this steam sale period (nov/dec), and for my money gained like 60 odd games, roughly 1/3rd new (less than 18 months) big budget titles, 1/3rd older big budget titles, and 1/3rd indie titles.

      Dragon Age ultimate, Just cause 2, metro 2033, Fear 2 (and 1+expans),
      Bioshock 2, Darksiders, Alpha protocol, Lara croft GoL, Supreme Commander 2
      Batman AA, Episodes from Liberty city, Wings of Pray, Aliens vs Predator and King Arthur RPWG
      £75 for 14 Major release titles – All fairly recent titles (mostly 2009/2010).

      It’s nuts.

      I no longer buy games full retail any more, with a few exceptions (Starcraft 2 being the only one this year) – not when waiting a fee weeks (6-12) will net a 50% discount, and waiting 6-12 months will see the price drop from £30 to £5-10, maybe even lower.

      In comparison this year I bought 3 games physically this year for PC, all by e-retail – Starcraft 2 (full £34.99 retail), Mass effect 2 (14.99) and Battlefield BC2 (14.99).

      So 3 games physically vs 60+ steam games.

      From 2004 (steam launch) to 2008 those figured would have been reversed (I even got the orange box via Etail).

    • Pop says:

      I can kinda see the point about pricing. However I think indie games have got to be cheap. When games where expensive I was really conservative with my purchases.

      I grew up playing Nintendo – back in the day you wouldn’t see one of their games discounted till the console was discontinued.

      When i was a tiny teen, for me to actually buy a game it’d have to be:

      a) a genre I knew I liked
      b) a developer I trusted
      c) have a Star Ward licence
      d) get 99.9% in Official Nintendo Magazine

      As an aside: as I grew older the above changed a little: d) became 8/10 or more in Edge.

      If I’m going to take a risk on a new developer doing new and scary things with first person perspectives and other cutting edge game designs, it’s got to be a fiver or less. There’s nothing worse than blowing good beer money on crap I’ll never complete.

      Shoot me, I’m conservative! (Perhaps that’s the fate for all of us who are tainted by “the big N”)

      On the other side of the argument, I do keep buying cool games in Steam sales and then never actually completing them, which never used to happen :P

  7. Cinnamon says:

    Ebert’s rules seem to be about faking/formalising consistency so that pedants trust you more and avoiding the evil blight on humanity that is PR. I guess that it is a lot more realistic for a game writer to keep track of what they have said about things than avoid the hype machine. I think that not being too timid about appearing negative is wise.

    • Wilson says:

      @Cinnamon – I read it more that you shouldn’t write exaggerated statements that would lead to bizarre consequences if you actually kept consistent with them after you first write them. It makes more sense to me that he was warning to make sure you really believe what you’re writing and that it fits with everything else you’ve said, rather than advising people to make sure they appeal to pedants.

    • JackShandy says:

      His advice on “Do the math” seems pretty spot on. IGN once gave Imagine: Party Babyz Wii a 7.5 -

      http://au.wii.ign.com/articles/936/936573p1.html

      - Leading, of course, to the creation of images like this for any game they rate under a 7.5.

      http://i.imgur.com/0o5ao.jpg

    • Dominic White says:

      And for those who don’t get the reference, God Hand is widely considered to be one of the best old-school brawlers in recent memory. Here’s a much better review, from RPS regular Robert Florence:

    • Cinnamon says:

      @Wilson; Yeah, I agree that hyperbole shouldn’t be applied to everything but not that it should be totally avoided. But that comes from me remembering the text on budget codemasters games for the spectrum rather than anything else, I guess. I think that Ebert is just using that sort of example because he is a good writer and knows how to make his point by giving a funny example. A movie critic who said that every new comedy filum* was the funniest film since Airplaine ** would become a sort of joke.

      * Spelling in homage to Scottish pronunciation out of respect to Rab who might not pronounce film like that but some Scottish people do and I can’t ever remember him saying the word on Consolevania.
      ** Reference in homage to Leslie Nielsen who died this year and not because I’m sure that it is the funniest film ever. Also RIP this year, Don Van Vliet who was responsible for at least one of the greatest albums of all time. End of the year and all that.

    • bill says:

      That’s the whole reason they should IGNORE the previous scores and give what they think feels right.
      How can you compare those two games? You can’t. They’re totally different – in target audience, in goals, in requirements, etc..
      The only reason to worry about such consistency is because IGN is full of whining snarky commenters who would love to point out such irrelevancies.
      I imagine that they were reviewed by different people, with different tastes, and bearing in mind different audiences.
      It’s like complaining because a Women’s magazine gave an average romantic comedy a better score than a great violent action movie.

      (plus god-hand was intentionally dated in many ways).

    • Wilson says:

      @Cinnamon – Yeah, it’s probably a guideline rather than a strict rule. He probably means don’t go overboard to the point where it becomes absurd. A little knowing hyperbole, written in a way which makes it clear to the readers that it is exaggeration, is fine I expect.

      @bill – I would argue that this doesn’t invalidate Ebert’s point, but instead shows that the scoring system in question is dreadful. A woman’s magazine would have different criteria, which would explain the average movie getting better results than a differently themed good movie. As long as those criteria are well explained and applied equally to every situation, there won’t be problems. It’s about making sure the reader understands where you’re coming from when you write a review.

      I think a website providing reviews should try and use writers who can all follow the same ratings criteria, so they provide comparable reviews. Differences between writers should be in style and not how they interpret the reviewing guidelines of who they are writing for (whether that be a website or just themselves).

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      More God Hand goodness from the HG101 chaps:
      http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/godhand/godhand.htm

      Recommended reading. The brawling in the game is taken at an “extreme” pace, worth watching some vids before buying.

    • bill says:

      @Wilson – yeah. guidelines are important, but they can’t take away the fact that reviews are subjective (though in the case of games they have a large amount of objective included). no matter how strict the guidelines, if I reviewed Starcraft I’d have given it a bad score, whereas someone else would have given it a good score based on the same criteria.
      Games are very diverse and scored on so many different critera. (as opposed to movies that are scored on a few (yet movie reviewers still totally disagree) and books which aren’t scored at all. (despite the only criteria being the story).
      A game can be 95% flawless, but that 5% might be enough to make me hate it. Or it can be 90% poor, but that 10% might be enough to make me love it. and it varies from game to game what is important. Technically/objectively great might be enough for one game, but not for another.

  8. Nighthood says:

    Are spammers magicians now? How do they do it?!

    More to the point, do they actually get anything from doing it? Surely nobody is stupid enough to buy things from there.

    • rei says:

      Probably not, but when Google does some crawling around they’re going to notice that the site is linked to by five million websites so it must be very popular, and then when you want to buy some Ugg boots it’s going to proudly present you with that link. That’s how I understand it anyway!

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      Like with casinos, if it doesn’t run a profit, it wouldn’t exist. So you’d be surprised. :-(

      • Premium User Badge

        Rinox says:

        damn, reply fail. Was @ Nighthood of course

      • Legionary says:

        Thing is, the spammers are hired by companies, they’re not actually representatives of the supposed shoe company or whatever. It runs a profit for the spammers every time.

  9. Evil Timmy says:

    That pricing-of-indie-games article at Ars was pretty fascinating, and certainly something that’ll become more of an issue as the success of more and more indie games means the market for similar works is likely to continue gaining ground.

    One huge positive related to Steam sales, indie or not, is that oftentimes they can totally reinvigorate the multiplayer aspect of old-ish games. New games may steal players away as they always do, but a huge influx of people may put off buying a game at $50 but jump on it for $7.50 months or years later. Fresh blood means that those old players get a new rush of value should they choose to go back to previously stagnant MP. From that perspective, Steam sales actually increase the value for those who already own those games.

  10. JackShandy says:

    I’m going to guess it’s the thing about not posting trailers that doesn’t work, judging from the amount of trailers that get posted here.

    • poop says:

      I see a lotta trailers that I wouldn’t otherwise thanks to this blog, but I mostly only like the lazy trailerposts because it is an opportunity to get angry at whoever is stupid enough to think that the game shown looks good, fucking plebs.

      don’t think I would miss them but the site probably needs the adbux.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      We don’t make any money from running trailers directly, because we have no pre-roll advertising. They do, however, provide footage of games that people want to see and discuss, which gives us more general traffic.

      A lot of game trailers are terrible rubbish, but I think they make up an important part of covering news about forthcoming games – and sometimes even show the game in question! – so there’s no way I’d want to stop posting them.

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I think the point stands—by showing trailers here, you are giving the game publishers free advertising, though not, of course, without some benefit in return due to the extra traffic. I’m interested to know more of your reasoning, Jim, about how trailers fit in to “covering news about forthcoming games”. Could you elaborate on that?

      Not that I think trailers are inappropriate on RPS—the purview of this site is quite a bit broader than just reviews and criticism; so Hans Wuerflein’s argument is not entirely applicable.

    • Kadayi says:

      I don’t think the argument against film trailers holds up as well with games tbh. For a start (with the odd exception) most games are considerably longer than films. Secondly a lot of the time what trailers serve to provide is either glimpses of a game or FMV a lot of the time.Film trailers certainly can be ruinous though, and often they do far more than they should at times (every thriller trailer seems to give away the plot these days regrettably..).

    • cjlr says:

      Trailers are important because we can re-dub them with the Hawaii Five-O theme song.

      Where have you been?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      @Velvet: trailers are often the *only* source of game footage before release. I’d rather have some glimpse of a game in motion before launch than nothing at all.

  11. Level85nerd says:

    Midwinter at it’s best.
    Fallout 3 is a wonderful example of real concepts and work. Thanks for that perspective!

  12. cliffski says:

    It’s impossible to stop that spam. It’s human spam. As in, some guy in bangladesh is registering accounts and doing that crap for a living. He can probablys use bots to do most of the work, he just enters captchas.
    You can slow it, by insisting they answer a question about the site they are registering for, bu even then, they still dot it.
    The only real solution is to prevent peple posting links, or to hold any link-containing comment for approval.
    I guess whats needed is a global database of the destinations of spammy links, and some bot that will jump through redirection sites and give a yay/nay response to whether a posted link is spam. That probably already exists…

    • mlaskus says:

      The thing is, right now the spammers don’t have to use humans. You can register on the site without entering a captcha or something of the ilk. You are asked only a very simple mathematical question.
      The spammers will only stop if the process is more trouble than it’s worth. Making them use humans slows them down a lot and would hopefully discourage them.

  13. Xercies says:

    The archology of Fallout 3 was very interesting, and probably one of the reasons why I love a few games. Morrowind had a sense of history which I loved about it, Fallout 3 did, Deus Ex. Most games people love I think its because you know the world is there and the history of that world gets you more immersed into the game.

    • Bret says:

      Ever played Marathon or System Shock?

      Some of the first games to pull that off, if memory serves. Marathon’s terminals always were good reading.

  14. dadioflex says:

    “This essay by Bruce Sterling, which examines Wikileaks, Assange, Manning, and the context around the entire Cablegate issue, is one of the best piece of writing of 2010. Everyone should read it.”

    It was a well written piece but contained an ounce of insight amongst a hundredweight of obvious. Each to their own. I think Assange should keep on doing what he’s doing, and Manning deserves everything he gets. Assange has made his agenda clear from the start. Manning is a traitor.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Incredible.

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      It’s very interesting to read the (partial) chat logs between Bradley Manning and Adrian Lamo, as it reveals a lot of Manning’s reasons why he decided to leak the information.

      And here’s two more insightful articles about the wikileaks cablegate saga; I also recommend reading these.

    • destroy.all.monsters says:

      I don’t see Manning as a traitor. Lamo – definitely. Given the degree to which actual real information is released to the public people like Manning are essential to that. Assange is essentially a vessel. It requires whistle blowers to actually provide that information.

      You can’t have one without the other.

    • Lhowon says:

      The chat logs reveal how very off target Sterling is, at least about Manning. He’s a great writer and I enjoyed reading that, but it too often seemed like unprovable conjecture about how people supposedly view the world.

      The chat logs show that Manning was very clearly acting, whether you agree with his methods or not, as a whistleblower against the injustice he was witnessing. Sterling paints him as a naive tech-obsessed nobody doing it because he was bored, which is simply false.

    • Muzman says:

      Yes, Sterling is painting Manning as the hapless script kiddie and Assange the oldschool mastermind. He doesn’t seem particularly on the money in either case (closer with Assange).

      I can’t say I liked the article very much though. Mostly Sterling saying “I know hackers. Nobody else writing about this knows hackers” and repeating every point four times using different quips one after the other. Most of what he’s saying seems to fall into the usual conservative camp even if he’s trying to be more sympathetic to the protagonists.

      True imagination on what all this means is difficult to find. At the heart of it, there’s no one making the madly idealistic argument for absolute transparency at all times. Yet most thought on the matter seems to leap there automatically, either by claiming that’s Assange’s goal or giving some indirect “in defense of secrecy” after-school-special.talk, like we’d all forgotten. But that’s almost completely irrelevant. Some paradigm has shifted and the concept for the new present doesn’t exist yet so people are extrapolating wildly in predictable directions for want of anything else to hold on to.

    • Weylund The Second says:

      In what magical world is saying the same damned things five different times “the best writing of 2010″? Sterling’s crypto writing is occasionally interesting (and his crypto courses incredibly fun) but frankly in this piece he comes off as a self-important pedant. The article focused more on himself, his super insight, and other media people not “getting it” (which was awesome, as some of the group labels he was throwing around haven’t been current for a decade or so) and random asides about the allegedly involved persons than any truly insightful examination of the topic.

      And it was too damned long, for no discernible good reason. Was it really any good at all? Was it because he threw around the occasional “phreak” term that made it seem complex and therefore must be lauded like Einstein’s books about relativity? Why did you think it was some of the best writing of 2010 again?

    • Starky says:

      Best writing? That is by far one of the worst things I’ve ever read.

      It’s intelligent, wonderfully strung together bullshit.

      It has about as much insight and truth as Paul Burrell had about Princess Diana – That is, a small nugget of truth, genuine knowledge, and insight buried under mountainous steaming pile of vanity and fabrication.

      He doesn’t know either of the men involved he knows “so many people just like Bradley”, he knows “a thousand modern weirdos like that”, he knows “hordes of men like him” – Hey he seems willing to describe both mens personalities in exacting detail and make utterly baseless claims, but he doesn’t know either of them.
      No facts, just conjecture.

      Seriously, that whole article is well written, intelligent sounding tabloid crap.

      The author doesn’t know a damn thing specifically, just wild assumptions and vague generalisations given the appearance of authority by repetition. Language carefully chosen to never flat out state opinion as fact, just give it the appearance of.
      Filled with uses of: probably, I don’t think, maybe, may in fact – and a lot of colourful and entertaining analogies say utterly nothing of value, but sound as if they are filled with great knowledge and insight “Diplomats have become weak in the way that musicians are weak”.

      It’s a great read, and highly entertaining, but it is highly entertaining fiction. Based on true events in the same way Hollywood movies are.

      Just for the record, I’ve only ever vaguely heard of this wikileaks saga, have no interest in it and did know any of the names involved before reading this.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “but it is highly entertaining fiction”

      Yes, Sterling is a novelist who writes a bit of outlandish commentary on network culture. Fiction is his stock trade. That’s not to say that it’s entirely fictional, but that it is speculative, which is what Sterling does, and does brilliantly.

      And that *is* a superb piece of writing, with some fantastic observations and description. Entertaining, clever, and moving. As for its “accuracy”, well, it seems obvious that it is highly subjective, personalized commentary from a particular agenda – that of someone who speculates and fantasizes on behalf of information junkies – and you take that in with you when you read it.

      I should probably have set up your expectations a little more clearly with the referral text, and I have changed the text accordingly.

    • Starky says:

      I’ll grant it is a good piece of writing, I read the whole thing and was entertained – but it irks me the position of authority this guy is taking when he clearly knows sod all. Not the specifics of the case, nor the men involved – he’s read the story on the internet same as we all have, nothing more.

      Still, good writing and bullshit are not mutually exclusive – there’s loads of excellently written highly entertaining bullshit that makes it into highly respected publications (from newspapers, to industry/science publications).

      I guess it comes to how you define good writing, if you’re talking purely about the use of language, the prose, the cleaver turns of phrase and analogies, then yes it is a good piece of speculative fiction.

      The problem is it seems to me to be trying to evangelize truth as spoken by the prophet of all things cyber. He’s an expert, he knows the truth; has special expert insight into the whole affair and we should listen to his sermon and have faith in his words – when the problem is the guy clearly doesn’t have more than a handful of truth, just a whole load of myth, and a coffee aged faked holy book.

    • Muzman says:

      That Zynep Tufecki article from the Atlantic, above, is one of the best things I’ve read on this subject. She’s critiquing Jaron Lanier, cruising on his techy cred almost as much as Sterling but being extremely long winded and dull about it, but he hits the same oft repeated talking points most people can’t seem to get past.

  15. Sander Bos says:

    Interesting article on Ebert’s rules.
    Quote:
    “if you describe a film as the most unique movie-going experience of a generation, [....] it’s your duty to put it in the Top Ten of 2007.”

    So that means that if you say
    “This moment was my single favourite bit of gaming in all of 2010″
    about a game (Norrland), it’s place among “The Games Of Christmas ’10″ would be assured, if you were to follow the ‘Ebert rules’ (instead of the ‘Quintin rules’).

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      Nope. One moment does not a game make.

    • Tacroy says:

      It was Quinn’s single favorite gaming moment, not necessarily the rest of the hive mind’s.

      (Personally, I got to the point where you had to fuck a deer corpse, and there seems to have been a glitch that caused the minigame to never end no matter how hard I mashed the buttons. It was apropriate, I think, kind of like the end of 1984)

  16. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    That Design Reboot thing just makes me angry. It’s so long but the valuable conclusion alone would have been enough, since the rest of the article hardly strengthens the argument:
    “First have to admit you don’t know as much as you think you know–about guns or space or marines or swords or knights or what have you–and then you can start learning. And once you’re designing from a position of knowledge, rather than of ignorance, you’re free to make calls as you see fit, informing your design work with some sense of authenticity, rather than as some interchangeable gloss or slight reworking of the last big game you played. ”

    The website looks nice, though.

  17. 8-bit says:

    You can say what you want about Roger Ebert and his views on video games but a lot of game reviewers could do to learn a thing or two from that little rule book, the “Be prepared to give a negative review” rule stands out especially where the most hyped titles of each year are concerned.

    I also want to highlight this

    Sure, many of them use the tried and true “We’re not journalists. We’re bloggers” BS, but most of that seems to be aimed at avoiding the responsibility and standards journalism brings with it

    I have seen this thrown around a lot lately and will say that just because you are writing on a blog doesn’t mean you don’t have any kind of professional responsibility, when you are giving people advice on what could be a £40-£50 investment you always have a responsibility to do it properly. you can be as friendly as you like with the readers and thats fine, but a lot of game journalists don’t seem to realize that writing on a blog is not the same as posting “I love this game 10/10″ on some forum.

    • bill says:

      It’s a difficult distinction. Journalists are expected to be impartial, do research and professional. Bloggers tend to regurgitate other’s news, do very little research, and post highly opinionated news. I’m not sure that a blogger becomes a journalist just because he gets paid. If his content is still simply personal editorial comment.

      For example, i really like the BBC blogs because they provide insight into what goes on behind the scenes. But every comment thread has people complaining that the posts “aren’t impartial”. But they don’t need to be, because they are personal blogs/editorials/opinions. But the news articles that journalist writes should be impartial. Blog vs journalism.

      I think an important point is that most “games journalists” are actually “games critics”. I don’t think Ebert would call himself a “movie journalist”. (though he does sometimes fulfill that role).

  18. terry says:

    Eventually one of us is going to cave and buy the NBA jersey. Probably one of these goddamn young people..

  19. edwardoka says:

    I got an Amiga in late 1993, therefore I must have missed out on Midwinter.

    More importantly, is it still worth the effort in getting it to work now?

  20. Meatloaf says:

    That “song”, a title which I am hesitant to bestow it… what in the Canterbury hell was that?

  21. Jambe says:

    That Wikileaks piece was huge! But it was a good read! My favorite article on the subject is this one here by Kenan Malik.

  22. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    That “Feature: The Next Decade of PC Gaming” on BigDownload really reads like it was written last year, by someone who only has read press releases. The sorry state of broadband internet in the USA is not representative of the rest of the world, but is described as the main inhibitor of progress in the first few paragraphs.
    Also many of its assumptions in the part about “stereoscopic 3d” are flat out (pun intended) wrong. Doing stereoscopic rendering won’t necessarily halve the framerate, and neither will inserting a second video card magically double it. Objects floating “in front of the screen” are simply not feasible for games with dynamic viewports because of increased danger of stereo frame violations (which lead to nausea quickly). The reason movies can get away with it is because the blocking can be done with it in mind: an object (e.g. spear) can be photgraphed in a way that it never leaves the frame in front of the cameras’ parallax.
    </Grumpy grump grump>

    Edit: I mean, read this and tell me how many assumptions seem to be made up on the spot: “We’re not under any illusion that PC gamers are eagerly waiting for a chance to dance and jump around in their home offices. Although controllers like the Wii Remote and PlayStation Move can be hacked to work on PCs, there aren’t a lot of practical reasons for doing it. Console gamers can stand six feet or more from their televisions while PC gamers sit about one foot away from their monitors, so it’s far more likely that motion sensing control will be a more subdued experience.”

    I for one would like to try motion controls on the pc and wouldn’t have a problem with (gosh!) standing up and taking a few steps back to do so. I may have to move a sofa or two, but if the experience is worth it, why not? Why are only console gamers allowed to stand up?
    Also, I can come up with many “practical reasons” for hacking a Move, WiiMote or Kinect for a PC, some of which don’t even have to do with gaming. Apparently, the authors of the piece can come up with some, too, in the next paragraph and promptly contradict themselves. Gaah.

    • skinlo says:

      Interesting I actually agreed with the author. I’m interested in gaming, not cheap (or not) gimmicks. I’d happily sacrifice the chance to wave my arms in front of the monitor for something more worthwhile like better game play.

  23. Tei says:

    Re: Chris Hecker and Jon Blow

    PSN may give more freedom now, but probably is just a way to make the number of games bigger, and looks hispter. Once this is achieved, will probably return to the natural horrible lock-down nature and zealot nazi attitude of consoles.

  24. sfury says:

    I thought we had blocked you!

  25. Kadayi says:

    I think the distinction between film reviews vs game reviews is that because the technology used behind games is still evolving (where as film has kind of bedded down on the whole. The narrative is what’s deemed important by critics) it’s impossible for reviewers not to take into account the advances. The score a game receives has to be viewed within the context of when it was given, and with the appreciation that all that has come after probably has built upon it’s legacy.

    If you consider Half-life, widely regarded as a seminal PC game when it was released (and rightly so), but I can recall when Half-life 2 was heading for release, new players complaining about how quaint and antiquated Half-life seemed Vs later titles.

    I don’t think high scores are wrong, I just think it’s necessary for people to appreciate that games age faster than films do. There’s a strong argument for the updating of old titles in there somewhere, in the same way that old films are remastered.

  26. Yargh says:

    Midwinter: Fuck Yeah

    Not enough games these days let you ski a 12 year old off a cliff and break her legs so she has to crawl through snow for hours…

  27. Jim Reaper says:

    That article on Fallout 3 depresses me. I can’t believe there’s a generation of gamers who think that Fallout 3 is revolutionary because it had an in-game backstory (well, actually I can believe, they’re called console gamers). The reminder of the brilliance that was Midwinter only increases my despair at the current generation of bland, linear console-centric generic bollocks that passes for gaming today.

    • bill says:

      It shouldn’t depress you. Every generation has to find these things out on their own.
      I was blown away in the same way by System shock. (because I’d never played Ultima underworld).
      My cousin was blown away by Deus Ex (because he’d never played UU or SS).
      Many people were blown away by Bioshock (because…)

      People were stunned by The Matrix cos they’d never seen it’s influences. That doesn’t make it or them bad.

      What it should show is what a good job Bethesda did in bringing a wider audience to RPGs. (both with morrowind/oblivion and fallout3).

    • Xercies says:

      Oh no some people are young and were not born to see some of these games, I’ve never heard or played Midwinter because i wasn’t born then. Sure some games now a days are linear pieces of crap but if Fallout 3 and Deus Ex 3 get people these new experiences then so what?

  28. negativedge says:

    I, for one, always associate “punk” with “art museum”

    I wish people would just shut up every now and again. Probably wouldn’t hurt if the dude actually knew Messhoff’s name, rather than knowing him via hearsay as a point in his favor (or whatever)

    • Premium User Badge

      Nogo says:

      If you’re going to use pedantic arguments maybe you should take your own advice.

      Cactus and Messhoff are very punk, regardless of where their work is displayed. In fact, being present at small venue, avante-garde galleries is decidedly punk.

    • negativedge says:

      yes, let’s have an argument about punk. sounds fantastic. it works even better if you add in another meaningless term like “avant-garde”

    • Premium User Badge

      Nogo says:

      I can see this won’t go anywhere, so I’ll bow out under the immense pressure of your ad hominems and willful ignorance.

      Please continue to enrich RPS!

    • negativedge says:

      I don’t think you know what ad hominem means. but hey, latin dawg.

  29. poop says:

    hey foodf

  30. bill says:

    The problem with games “critics” is that they review the tech and the checklists, rather than the experience. You get extra points for each feature, and lose points for bad features – and you get a total out of 10 or 100 that means little. It’s like a movie reviewer giving one point for every good action scene, but removing a point because the lighting wasn’t good in a scene.
    Some games tick every box – and yet are nothing special. Some games have huge flaws, but are amazing experiences.

    But games “critics” are caught in a trap of being not only critics, but also CONSUMER REVIEWERS. It’s 50% reviewing the art, and 50% explaining the tech and features. Movie + toaster

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to “keep track of the scores” because it doesn’t work in the fast moving world of video games (at least not if the tech/consumer part is included).
    Doom was a 9 or 10 game back then. Every game since then has improved on it, but that doesn’t mean that they must all get 9.1, 9,2, 9,3 etc…

    It’s about the experience at that time, and the comparison to the current landscape – not about comparisons to the past. That’s a dead end trap.

    PS/ game devaluation ho! I rarely buy anything over $5 these days.

    • JackShandy says:

      Game reviews are more like car reviews. You’ve got the points for the look, feel, tech, etc, all in a nice little objectively-verifiable table with a percentage score at the end.

      A lot of games fit into that format pretty well. Some do not.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nogo says:

      Never though of the car review analogy before. It’s very apt though because a car has to not only be efficiently functional, but well designed and aesthetically pleasing. And personally I find reviews from publications like Car and Driver wholly worthless, except as a general guide. Whereas the fine fellows at Top Gear are brilliant at capturing the real experience of driving along with the technical aspects and how they measure up.

      There might be something here…

    • bill says:

      Closer.

      But I think that with something like a car or hi-fi review you have much more standard, pre-defined criteria for reviewing. Most cars will be reviewed on the same factors (style, performance, safety, efficiency, price, etc..). There will be some variation between types (efficiency being more important in family cars than sports cars, etc..), but it’s pretty standard.

      But games? There are so many variations. Some games are based on visuals (but that’s split between realistic, stylised, etc..), some live and die on their story, some on their multiplayer, some on their controls, some on their physics, some on their weapons, etc..
      How can you compare VVVV to Civ to CoD to The Path? There are almost no common grounds for comparison.
      Smart Car to Ferrari is much easier.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nogo says:

      Respectfully, you don’t seem to know cars that well, to assume they don’t have endless variation just as much, if not more so, than games. I’m not trying to get into a pissing contest about what’s harder to review here, just trying to justify whether game reviews are more similar to car reviews or films, books, music, etc.

      Basically my point is that games and cars are both fairly personalized experiences that people seek out for different reasons, and have different criteria for why they do or don’t enjoy one over another. Much more so than films or books, specifically because they are made from myriad components all working together towards one aim: an enjoyable, well designed experience that doesn’t crash on you.

      A good review should get to the heart of whether a game/car is better than the sum of its parts or worse, which I see as a common problem facing both fields of reviewers. Number sheets and checklists look great to the consumer, but if they aren’t married well none of it matters.

      Other media doesn’t really have this problem, specifically because it isn’t required to be functional.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Daiv says:

    We don’t know who struck first – us, or them. But we know it was us who required signing in for comment threads. At the time, they were dependent on guest posting rights. It was believed they would be unable to survive without an advertising stream as abundant as spam.

    • rei says:

      I find it amusing how right now four out of five messages on the recent messages gadget are spam. Can we roll back this anti-spam measure? The problem seems way worse than before.

      • pilouuuu says:

        What about we sending spam to those stupid sites? We can order a lot of their stuff and then cancel it! We can make prank phone calls… Maybe we can spam their e-mail accounts with blogs about gaming…

        There must be something we can do against that new internet annoyance!

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        It’s actually better the tune of 200-300 spams a day. You are noticing it now because there are both less general comments and less time with me sat at a PC deleting it.

        • Torgen says:

          If you’ll pay a bounty, *I* will sit at the PC deleting them while you write wonderful words.

    • Matt says:

      (um, never mind, accidentally screwed up the reply)

  32. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    I pity the Wall Street Journal writer who had to write about the Codblops guy. This Dave Anthony guy is a writer on the title with the biggest entertainment launch of all time, so surely you have to be able to write something interesting about him, right?
    Well he watched movies and listened to music about the Vietnam war. Kinda standard and can’t really do much with that, but put it in there.
    Oh he has an iPhone, and he had a kinda good quote about it. Write that down.
    Also he had this crazy idea about shooting zombies in the white house. That is something only creative people come up with, right? Well best put it in there.
    Other than that he didn’t seem too interesting. History of games he has worked on isn’t too bright, history of games that the studio has worked on is terrible, press hasn’t been too positive about the game, he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia article or anything else where you could research him further. I guess just end the article there, then.

  33. a.simons613 says:

    When does Notch release Minecraft alpha? I forgot.

  34. faelnor says:

    And as a christmas bonus to this week’s sunday paper links, over at Gamasutra they have an excellent interview of Rebecca Heineman, one of the founders of Interplay and person of insane programming talent. Of great interest are the stories of how Bard’s Tale IV became Dragon Wars and how the Mac OS port of Half-Life was cancelled just before release.

    EDIT: How did this message not get at the bottom of the pile? I don’t understand how posts are sorted.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      That’s an interesting article, thanks for linking it. Dragon Wars was probably the best RPG ever made prior to the new-millenium resurgence we’ve had.

  35. Nick says:

    if only someone would DDoS their stupid website into oblivion..