The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on November 20th, 2011 at 8:54 am.


Sundays are for wondering if you will ever sleep again, while cradling a steaming cup of hot drugs. Perhaps, in those grey autumn hours before the sun has managed to struggle out of its own slumberings, you will start going through the week’s writings about games. It’s been a good week for that, at least.

  • Chris Dahlen’s piece on imaginary games journalist Rachael Webster is quite the thing: “This was the one big hiccup in the project: nowhere on the site did we advertise that Rachael wasn’t a live girl. Alternate reality games are a special illusion that only works if the audience discovers the trick. The worlds they build aren’t stuck in a television screen, or cheap and obvious like the backdrops at a miniature golf course. They’re pervasive, delivering their fiction straight to your everyday world—to your email, your phone, even to spaces in the real world. They’re fiction without borders, and they can make the player feel as if, to use the most common expression, they’ve “fallen down the rabbit hole.””
  • TruePCGaming have been having a good week or so, with this feature on the work of “thinking man’s Fallout modder” Puce Moose, and this interview with Hard Reset creators Flying Wild Hog, in which Artur Maksara explains that: “I think that they don’t release demos because they are afraid. Most of the players nowadays are casuals, who play for 15 – 20 minutes a day. This is roughly how long a short demo should last. Probably they think that people will launch the demo, have some fun and then postpone the purchase. We wanted Hard Reset to be oldschool – all the oldschool games had demos, so Hard Reset also got one.”
  • Beefjack interviewed Susan Greenfield over her videogame-and-brains stuff. I am sure we’ll have more to say about this, but in the meantime: “having looked up BioShock, and discussed it with my more knowledgeable colleagues, it appears that such games do not use metaphor in the way I meant, i.e. expressing one thing in terms of another. For that, you need a conceptual framework that enables you to understand the parallels, such as the example I gave from Macbeth of the extinction of a candle as death. Books, i.e. words, can convey inner feelings: hence even with films, most people say that the book of the same story is usually better. What’s more, because the essence of a videogame is that there is ‘user input’, the user, through his actions alone, will change the outcome of a string of situations in the game in order to move the story forward: there is very little room for ‘storytelling’ in this context – only about enough to provide the setting.” Well there’s a determined misunderstanding of the one thing that Bioshock got right, eh readers? Dear oh dear.
  • Wow, everyone take a look at Steve Cook’s interviews with indie devs.
  • Extra Credits’ “The Diablo III Marketplace” on Penny Arcade.
  • VG247 have taken some time to consider the ways in which Minecraft might be changing the games industry: “In short, it filled in that abyssal canyon between playing and creating. The two are always one-in-the-same. While, say, LBP is a platformer/racer/puzzler/etc in which you can also create levels, Minecraft puts creation front-and-center. Of course, that may be changing with the arrival of dragons that sound like the end result of a night of passion between Skyrim and a bulldozer (don’t think about it), but there’s no doubting what gave the game its initial appeal.”
  • Arcadian Rhythms has been playing Tropico with a view to illustrating some stuff about UK politics, which is an interesting ambition. In the end, of course, he ends up being a monstrous dictator: “Playing Tropico is like holding a mirror to your soul. It lets you see the sort of person you would be if you were put in power, and it turns out that I would become a totalitarian prick of a dictator. When the military threaten to violently rebel, what do I do? I simply fire them and make their jobs obsolete. I deliberately don’t build schools because educated people don’t want to work in the lucrative tobacco farming, cattle herding and logging trades, and I routinely make jobs disappear in order to force people who live on my island to work miles away from where they live, or move into poor quality housing whilst the work they do keeps my country afloat and my Swiss bank account nice and fat.”
  • Scott Patterson argues that innovation has never been a cornerstone of the games industry: “Bottom line is this: innovation has never been the strong suit of the video game industry. Yes, there are probably a number of innovative game titles, both past and present, that could be noted here, but for almost every one of them a dozen clones that followed could be noted while other “innovations” were actually just clones of a previous concept themselves.” Mr Patterson’s argument is blatantly missing the point about what innovation is, what it means, and how it effects any industry, let alone games, but there we go.
  • Chris Hecker has some thoughts on the motives of developers to create free-to-play games: “…if you are making a sustainable living doing pay-up-front games, and you find those are the kinds of games you are most passionate about, but you feel the itch to try out free-to-play because some other people are getting rich doing it, then I’d take a step back and examine your motives and what makes you fulfilled as a person. VC-types look down on this kind of thinking with the awesomely cynical term “lifestyle business”, but isn’t that exactly what we want to create, a business that supports our desired lifestyle, which includes making games we’re proud of?”
  • Did you know that Irrational’s cancelled game The Lost eventually found its way to market in India?
  • Remember “crazy” game publisher Gamecock? 1up have taken some time to explore why they failed: “Gamecock was a rosy proposition, certainly, but Wilson started to feel that things weren’t working according to plan as early as, well, immediately. “The investors breached their contract literally on day one,” says Wilson. “They were supposed to give us $5 million to start, per the contract, but then told us that ‘all of their companies kept zero balance accounts’ — meaning they only put enough in to pay the must-pay bills each month.” This meant the founders lost control almost entirely. “So we were basically relegated to middle management from the start, even though it looked like it was Harry and my company.”"

Music? Another Spotify link, so apologies to people who aren’t yet using it, I’ve been listening to David Lynch’s Crazy Clown Time, which is a whole lot better than you might imagine.

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113 Comments »

  1. Gassalasca says:

    Penny Arcade’s “The Diablo III Marketplace”

    You mean Extra Credits’ The Diablo III Marketplace. :) It’s just hosted on the PA website, just as it was previously hosted on the Escapist.

    • strange_headache says:

      I wanted Diablo III to be a glorious return to the old formula, but with the introduction of a real money marketplace, the always on requirement and the eradication of LAN-support I am lees and less inclined to put money on the table for this game. Maybe I could live with the marketplace by simply ignoring it, but without LAN this game lost a great amount of its appeal to me. And no, playing a game over the internet while sitting in mumble is not the same as having a couple of sweaty guys sitting in a hot little room, while playing their favorite game. More and more AAA developers are killing LAN support and consequently my beloved LAN-Parties. And I blame them for that.

      I completely agree with the video that games are supposed to be free from the constraints of reality. I like to play games to get away from the mundane constraints of everyday life. When I´m coming home from a hard day of work, I want to kick back with a drink while exploring the snowy mountains of Skyrim and not be remembered what real-life out there looks like.

      I think I play games for the same reason that people go on vacations from time to time, to break free. And for me, Skyrim is like a little vacation, a world where I can immerse myself, where I can explore new virtual cultures or just relax on a beautiful outlook while watching the beauty of nature. I don´t want to be remembered that the item I just found could potentially bring me in 20 bucks. Heck, I want my games to amount to nothing or to put it like this: if you enjoy wasting your time, is that time really wasted?

    • d34thm0nk3y says:

      Lack of lan support hasn’t stopped my lan parties. Shouting at each other in the same room is just so much better than mumble.

    • Fumarole says:

      For those who haven’t, watch all of the Extra Credits episodes. They’re quite illuminating.

    • MisterT says:

      @Fumarole
      yeah, I mean, I never knew that BF2, which came out 2 years before COD4, was a COD clone.

      Same with frontlines, made by the developers of Desert combat for BF1942 and who worked on lots of BF2′s features, I never knew that their large scale semi-sci-fi shooter was a COD clone, nor AMRA2, that was quite the clone of call of duty.

      (sure they backpedaled at that later, but the FACT is no one knowledgeable of content proof-views their content before upload, and they have a tendency to ignore games which are prime examples of games that do what they like, if they’re not indie)

    • D3xter says:

      @Fumarole: I usually don’t find them that “illuminating” at all and sometimes plain wrong, even here they missed almost all chances to discuss why this is a bad thing and took part in some industry white-knighting instead. Besides I don’t think much of any player is going to “make money” with Diablo III because the economy will be flooded with “professional” farmers in countries with really low average wages and the only real winner there is Blizzard… but we’ll see.

    • Quote Unquote says:

      Thank you, RPS, for linking to Extra Credits! Definitely one of the best let’s-talk-about-videogames shows on the internet. Watch them all! O.O

    • Amun says:

      I’d listen to them if I could stand the annoying helium voice for more than 2 seconds. =/

    • merakai says:

      @D3xter
      I think Extra Credits likes to stick to facts and well known cases; they tend to try to keep an academic perspective on everything, so that’s why they don’t go into what COULD go wrong with the Diablo 3 marketplace. Especially since the current situation isn’t much different from having a Diablo 3 marketplace.
      A good real world analogy could be online Poker. It has thousands of players in the US, even though its technically illegal, and there has been a big push to legalize it. Many players make a living off poker, as well as online poker companies generating massive profits, even though theoretically they shouldn’t be able to.
      Also, many players already can make a little money playing games, such as selling WoW accounts. It’s not a lot compared to the amount of time you spent, but it’s usually pretty decent if you think of it as a hobby.

    • Josh W says:

      There is a strange ethical thing that starts cropping up with diablo 3, in that you now have the situation where changing the difficulty curve on a certain level effects the life satisfaction of a minimum wage gold farmer whose exploitation you directly profit from. If these guys health is actually indirectly on your shoulders, what do you do? Do you give people warnings for playing unhealthy amounts of the time? Do you put in better rewards for higher skill so that some of them have a better bargaining position for asking for higher wages?

      You can’t really ignore it, whatever you do.

  2. Defiant Badger says:

    This there any where other than spotify to listen to the music?

  3. rustybroomhandle says:

    Re Minecraft changing the industry and how a game is “never finished”.

    A good example of this is Battle for Wesnoth. That game has been evolving slowly and gradually over the years, tweaked in small increments. In its current state it probably the most well-balanced and all-round excellent TBS around.

    • pakoito says:

      And probably the most boring too. The system it is based off is just ZZzzZZzzztrategic.

    • InternetBatman says:

      The Battle for Wesnoth is an amazing game that’s offered for free. It’s filled with hundreds of hours of content and users are always making more. It’s churlish at best to level criticisms at a free game because you don’t like its genre.

    • Cinnamon says:

      To be fair to Wesnoth it offers people entry level strategy gameplay of a decent quality for free.

    • Unaco says:

      I don’t think Pakoito is criticising the game because it’s a Strategy game. I don’t think he’s criticising it because it’s a bad/boring Strategy game either. I think he’s criticising it because it’s a boring game. His criticism is not the genre, or that it’s a bad example of that genre… but that it’s a bad game.

    • Josh W says:

      Wesnoth is a very charming multiplayer hotseat game, with a campain built on some very broken assumptions (at least when I played it); essentially that you will save almost all your high level characters from death, despite the systems to help you do that being crap.

      Formations are very weak, and certain things you think would help you claim areas of ground actually don’t, so timing attacks to match time of day, or working with terrain, or manuveuring troops to get good attacks to weakneses etc is actually pretty hard to pull off predictably, but in smaller games with equal forces this can be pretty ok.

      The game is inviting and lets a lot of people think they can play it, and however someone beats you there are a lot of ways you can “think” they did it, so you can actually get a lot of games in before you realise the slight mismatch between the way it seems like it should play and the way it actually does.

  4. bookwormat says:

    “Most of the players nowadays are casuals, who play for 15 – 20 minutes a day. This is roughly how long a short demo should last. Probably they think that people will launch the demo, have some fun and then postpone the purchase”

    I am like that. I usually do not buy games shortly after release. But in the rare cases where I am tempted, a demo actually lowers the chance that I will bite, rather than increasing it. If I want to know what a game is about I search “for let’s play [GAMENAME]” on youtube.

    Performance tests can sometimes be useful. But if it is not guaranteed that a game will run on my system, I usually simply buy it later when it’s $10 or less.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      There should really be a standalone benchmark tool for every game no the PC in lieu of a proper demo if the developer is really that lazy/time constrained.

      Fact of the matter is, every time I try a PC demo I do it to make sure that the game is running properly on my system, since I’ve already conceded that demos these days are really not informative at all of what the game is really like. So, by the time I get to the “I want to try the demo” part, I already know I want the game but I just want to see if the game runs well enough on my system.

      If devs like Bethesda simply don’t want to make a demo (like they did with Skyrim in saying that a “demo wouldn’t do the game justice”), the least they can do is put out a benchmark tool. I don’t care if I’m playing the game, I just want to see its performance. Sadly, if a game has no demo and I’m not sure that it will run well on my system my chances of buying it have been significantly diminished.

  5. Out Reach says:

    No mention of desert bus for hope?

    http://desertbus.org/

    • Fwiffo says:

      Gosh, is it that time already? Time really does speed up as you get older!

    • westyfield says:

      It slows down when you’re playing Desert Bus, though.

  6. Thants says:

    Music? Another Spotify link, so apologies to people who aren’t yet using it, I’ve been listening to David Lynch’s Crazy Clown Time, which is a whole lot better than you might imagine.

    I would have Spotify, but apparently my country’s not allowed.

  7. CyberBrent says:

    Oh man I love Crazy Clown Time!

    • Vandelay says:

      I love the opening track, Pinky’s dream, and listened to it many times this week. I was expecting something kind of embarrassing, but it is actually rather great. If you like the music used in his films, then there is a good chance you will like some of the stuff on the album.

  8. GreatUncleBaal says:

    Interesting read on Tropico. I tend, despite good intentions, to drift right in ideology when I play these sorts of games. I’m not sure I quite agree that it’s “holding a mirror to your soul”, though. In a game, you only have a relatively limited amount of tools to achieve rises or decreases in the important stats – the stuff you want to do, and you end up using these far more easily than I think most people would in any real-life situations. You’re still aware that you’re playing a game, and not actually murdering people or driving them from their homes or jobs.
    I haven’t played Tropico (and after reading that piece I think I need to), but I’m thinking of games on a slightly wider scale, where a rebel uprising occurs, and almost without thinking I slide an army over there. It’s abstracted, I’m just doing it to settle a province so I can get all my taxes out of it smoothly. I’m not thinking about what would actually be happening in that area in reality – because it’s not real.
    In Victoria 2 I’ve had people in colonies quietly bumped off so that they don’t incite an uprising, and like Chris in Tropico, I’m doing it for the greater good – “yeah, but you’ll have cheap healthcare in a few decades” – I’d hope with all my heart that I would never contemplate that in real-life, given the opportunity.
    I’m going to stare hard at myself in the mirror for a while now.

    • Lack_26 says:

      I think it’s more of a reflection on the de-personalising nature of statehood, you’re separated from these people and ordering these things becomes abstract.

      Perhaps it does reflect what you might do in that situation, if I was actually El Presidente of these places I’m sure I would repress these things violently; I think that’s more a reflection on what the job and position does to the person than the person themselves.

    • cummerbund jackson says:

      Tropico proves I wouldn’t really be cut out for being a traditional dictator. If my people are hungry, if they’re falling dead in the streets due to some easily treatable diseases, then I do whatever I can to fix the problem because, even though it’s just a game, I feel like it reflects on me when I let them suffer. My prisons usually sit empty because I think it’s tolerable to let people blow off steam with protesting now and then. I will fix elections just simply because it’s game over otherwise, but that’s about the worst that I’ll do.

      And my Swiss bank account is nearly always dry. Just letting some abstract number sit there and get bigger is quite boring. And that’s what I don’t understand about real world dictators like Mubarak or Qadaffi with their rumored hundreds of billions of dollars. Take that money and build a space program, give your country high speed rail, invest heavily in education and infrastructure and grow a set of local high tech industries. Create a solid social system to guarantee plenty of food and health care for all. Eliminate poverty in your nation. Build a country which can look brightly towards the future.

      I mean, sure, toss up a few pure gold statues to yourself. Build a rather nice palace. Buy some ridiculous Italian sports car. Set aside a billion or two in a numbered bank account so if the worst happens you’ll have a comfortable exile in Zurich. Buying shit and feeding the ego every now and then is good for the soul. But just stealing money for the sake of watching some big number get bigger is boring and pointless both in the game and in real life. The real reward comes from building a sustainable paradise where the citizens can be happy and fulfilled. That’s what Tropico has taught me.

    • Consumatopia says:

      My memories of Tropico much cummerbund jackson’s–being a brutal dictator was boring.

      I’m not sure if that’s universally true or if Tropico just failed to make it interesting. I don’t think I ever imprisoned anyone because I never understood what consequences that was supposed to have–would that make people mad at me, or cause them to fear me, or what? I found the economics in Tropico a lot more engaging than the politics.

      But then again, it might be that playing a boot stomping on a human face forever is just inherently boring. Is there any game that focuses its simulation on the internal mechanics of a dictatorship or police state? Did any game company try to license “The Lives of Others”? Cause that sounds hella boring.

      The temptation to turn evil is probably greater if you’re determined to prove a point. If things were turning south for me, I would usually quit long before I would lose an election. But if you’re absolutely certain that you can run things better than Cameron and you want to prove that, restarting the game is unacceptable.

  9. John Brindle says:

    The Rachael Webster story is amazing. And very familiar to me – because I used to be a big World of Warcraft roleplayer.

    In WoW, roleplay can easily take on the same comprehensive, all-consuming character that Dahlen’s viral gig does: embodying a different person for questions, conversations, introspective moments, private gestures, ambition-forming and the publication of pamphlets for as long as the illusion is necessary. You try ‘be’ this person in a form of improvisational theatre that doesn’t necessarily have clear boundaries. And because it has loose boundaries the space is there for people to become obsessed and let it expand into their time without check – not because these people are sad obsessives (though maybe sometimes), but because it’s thrilling.

    Most roleplayers can empathise easily with the idea that their character takes on a life of their own. The elf or tauren you’ve put so much work into can become a separate but equally real presence. Of course in Rachael’s case, the character is the ghost and the player the ‘body’. Videogames appear to have it the other way around, but Dahlen’s account is similar enough to some of my own experiences that I wonder if that’s really the case.

    I used to talk all the time about my character ‘wanting’ something, or him ‘surprising’ me, or him rebelling against a path I tried to take him on. I was not alone in this regard. To a certain extent it made sense, because the man once known as Wintersong was ‘able’, within the caricatured bounds of a virtual environment, to behave in ways I have never felt capable of. I do not mean defeating enemies or starting revolutions, but simple social things, the way one talks to strangers, witty comebacks, mastery of a social situation, whatever. Jim’s called videogames ‘prosthetic realities’ before. Just so, as a teenager, without my characters, I was less able. Which does make you wonder where games will take us if and when their prosthesis can feed back into and augment the real world, but that’s a different question.

    But it’s too simple to say it’s just people living out lives they could never have for themselves, fulfilling ambitions they can’t accomplish in meatspace. That’s the cliche about MMOs but it has to be stressed that both with roleplayers and with Dahlen’s ghostwriting the writer is quite in control of the situation. They write their characters deliberately as a person who is different from themselves and in some ways less capable. Most would bristle at the suggestion that ALL they were doing was ‘living out a fantasy’, though they would also have to concede that their play was not uncontaminated by that attempt. This, I think, is what makes the whole thing powerful. It is as much about the joy of artistic endeavour as it is about the experience of another life. Dahlen’s experience conflates professional pride and the reaching-towards-sublimity that’s characteristic of creation with the intoxication of a new identity. Which is cool, and this is probably the most pretentious comment I have ever posted.

    • pirusu says:

      “They write their characters deliberately as a person who is different from themselves and in some ways less capable.”

      Actually, I think the opposite is true most of the time. I sort of got the same thing from Dahlen’s piece, too. Rachael wasn’t a completely different person from him. She was, (at least in my opinion) a “purified” form of himself. Purified in the sense that she could experience the same things he did without real consequences of any actions. She was like a filter, and could use his hindsight to make the “right” decisions.

      I keep coming back to this line: “Where I related to Rachael best was her ambition. As I imagined her, she had the same dreams and anxieties I’d had at her age, when I was just starting out—except that she wasn’t embarrassed to be candid.”

      And this is purely anecdotal, but this was always my biggest issue in WoW Roleplay: I was TERRIBLE at separating myself from my characters. When those characters had relationships, I would feel them too, and it fed the connection (and the addiction). This was actually how I met my wife, and it made the formative years of our relationship difficult, since I think both of us had a hard time not seeing the characters.

      I have friends whose entire lives revolve around their role play characters. Not everyone is like this, of course, I’m not trying to make generalizations, but I think more are than most people realize.

    • John Brindle says:

      Oh yeah, I don’t mean to say that characters are always COMPLETELY different. Far from it. My main character (though I’ve had many others) shares/shared a lot with me.

      And you’re spot-on about the difficulty of separation. It’s a common issue. Many people say they suffer bad OOC emotion when things go wrong for their characters, and others refuse to engage in relationship RP because they know they can’t keep themselves apart from it. I once led a guild that I’d had to take over when the leaders bailed and that inherited a lot of issues with esprit de corps and community feel. WIthout the feeling of a common story, people suffered a LOT of OOC pain and anger over IC actions. That was an issue that was only solved very slowly.

      But the RP community seems to equally accept two propositions:
      A) there is always something of the player in the character, and
      B) good characters should be substantially different from the player.

      Countless RP guides caution new players to be careful when giving their character flaws and differences, and it’s very popular to play characters whose intelligence, temper, ability to read or write, sense of humour, or anything else differ strongly from the player. It’s definitely considered a mark of pride in one’s craft to be capable of playing characters very unlike oneself and each other; someone on my server once posted in awe about my brother (a fellow player) and his capacity to convincingly play characters on completely opposite ends of the political spectrum. Of course the other side of the coin is also visible here: my brother, who is a very political person, generally did play characters who were conceived as having a political standpoint.

      By the same token, it’s almost taboo to admit that you’re fulfilling fantasies when you play. Invectives against ‘Erotic Role-Play’ may sometimes have pure old-fashioned prudishness at their root, but they often involve a critique along the lines of “that person is allowing their art to be distorted by their personal desires and creepy kicks”. Player-politicians are criticised for “just wanting the power/titles OOC”, while the most frequent stereotype of ‘bad RP’ is a teenage nerd trying to beat up all the men and cyber all the women to compensate for his own inadequacies. Above all, the separation between OOC and IC is held up as the holy grail of roleplay – as the one thing you must always remember.

      It’s easy to see why roleplayers make that distinction. We’ve all seen examples where OOC and IC are disastrously mingled producing problems for everyone else. But it’s also impossible to entirely separate them. It flatters RPers to believe they can do it, and taboos are useful for trying to keep new players on the straight and narrow of what the community finds acceptable, but it doesn’t quite work in reality. That said, it’s a good ideal to try and strive for in many situations.

      By and large I do think people manage to separate themselves from their characters enough that it is simply too simple to paint the whole thing as a wish-fulfilment/’other life’ exercise in the way early-noughties discourse around Everquest and Second Life did. But it’s also impossible to completely untangle OOC and IC. Very few people who have invested time in RP could pretend the lives of their characters mean nothing to them. And a great many – myself included, in periods where my own life offers less – have skirted that border where the life of the character, which at its best brings feelings of strength and liberation, takes on more importance than that of the player.

  10. bill says:

    Too late! It’s time go go home…

    maybe I’ll try to play a game when i get home…. or should i read the sunday papers…

  11. Toberoth says:

    Gosh. As a fledgling academic let me point out the point that I started raging: “having looked up BioShock, and discussed it with my more knowledgeable colleagues, it appears that… ”

    This is how I’m going to begin all my articles from now on: “Having not read this work myself, but having asked people who have, this is my opinion… ”

    What the fuck?

    • Toberoth says:

      Ahaha point out the point :-D Oops.

    • NathanH says:

      As you become less fledgling you will learn that, sadly, the proportion of citations you make that you actually both read and understood is not that high…

    • Toberoth says:

      Theoretical citations, maybe. In most cases you can draw theoretical citations from shorter extracts of a whole text (eg. chapters published as essays). I admit that. But I wouldn’t dream of basing a section of my argument around a primary text which I hadn’t read, that’s just sloppy. I wonder what ‘looking it up’ constitutes in this case – looking at screenshots? Reading the Wikipedia page? That’s like reading the blurb on the back of a book and trying to construct an argument about the experience of reading the book in its entirety, in my mind. Completely unacceptable practice.

    • Text_Fish says:

      Fair point. It should also be noted however that the Interviewer bases all of his questions on an extract from Susan Greenfield’s book rather than reading her initial argument in the context she originally intended, and that I daresay the majority of people reading and forming an opinion on the Greenfield controversy have likely only read a few quotes selected by biased journalists.

      Not that I’m defending Greenfield — from what I’ve read I too find her arguments lacking — but we can’t then chastise her for forming an opinion based on third party information when most of us are doing the same.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      “Books, i.e. words, can convey inner feelings: hence even with films, most people say that the book of the same story is usually better.”

      She said this while using Macbeth as an example… which in turn is intended to be a play.

      *facepalm*

  12. woodsey says:

    I agree with Greenfield that BioShock doesn’t use metaphors (not fully, anyway); its pretty literal, it just uses fantastic elements to get its point across.

    I don’t really understand the storytelling argument. Games require user-input, so there’s less emotional connection? Maybe no one’s managed to make a game that fully utilises that yet, but they will. Unless her and her stupid brigade stop everyone’s fun before they get the chance.

    Maybe she’d be more clear if she’d actually have PLAYED the bloody thing; she’d never get away with arguing about books or films, if she hadn’t read or watched the specific examples she was talking about.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Except the entire game is a metaphor.

    • subedii says:

      As a deconstruction of Objectivism I never really thought it completely succeeded, if that was its objective. But it was a decent look at the mindset of people like Andrew Ryan (absolute world views). I actually felt the sequel did a better job of examining Objectivism by looking at it through the opposing views of Lamb and her philosophies, and also showing off things like the slums and museum.

      What’s really daft about Greenfield’s line is when she makes another silly comparison with film by saying that films adaptations of books are usually viewed poorly in light of their source material. Well DUH, but that’s completely besides the point, and it pretty much disparages the whole of cinema’s ability for emotional storytelling by saying it’s not as good as the written word (at least as far as I can understand her rather strange arguments).

      Different media, different aspects, and the content written to take advantage of the strengths of that form of media is often what makes for its strongest examples. I mean nobody’s ever going to forget the massive plot twist in Bioshock, because it playes really well with player and genre expectations, and it was brought together with what was actually a pretty well implemented character in Andrew Ryan (his opening monologue is still one of the most memorable intros I’ve ever seen).

      I mean to pick another example, Planescape: Torment pretty much is a novel. But the fact of it being interactive is what makes those choices and decisions so much more personal and affecting to me, and this is something a lot of the best games do. A lot of people will disagree but I felt Mass Effect 2′s ending pulled this off really well as well. Because you were making massive and important choices right up until the end, and it’s something that kept me really involved in the whole sequence all the way through to the credit rolls. Most action films (and ME is an action game here really) never manage that with me, but simply by dint of the fact that my choices mattered, Mass Effect achieved it. If it was linear and I was watching scripted cutscenes of Shepard making all the right (or wrong) decisions, I probably wouldn’t have cared at all.

      In pretty much any movie I know how it’s going to end well before the credits. What was good about ME2 was that I was constantly second-guessing my decisions because I knew they mattered in a wider context, and I knew that if I made the wrong choices then things WOULD go bad for the crew, and quite possibly whole races in the ME universe. That’s an inherent storytelling strength in the medium when it’s implemented properly.

    • NathanH says:

      I haven’t read the article or played Bioshock, but I’m going to comment anyway, because that’s totally acceptable in this particular case!

      Interactivity does have yield more problems than non-interactivity for storytelling. Let’s consider an RPG with a fixed protagonist, something like Mass Effect. Suppose (simplified example) Shepard has met a NPC and needs to determine whether she likes him. We have a number of factors at play here: whether the writers think it is reasonable for Shepard to like/dislike him, whether the player thinks Shepard should like or dislike him, whether the player likes or dislikes him, whether or not the player is metagaming the Paragon/Renegade meter, and whether or not the player thinks that liking him will yield the most loot and XP.

      That’s a lot of factors to deal with, and chances are that’s going to create some jarring and muddled situations. It may yield ridiculous conclusions, like recruiting unstable nymphomaniac vampires for no good reason, Also the interactivity makes it a lot harder to disregard what you think a character would do if you disagree with what the writer thinks they would do, if you control the character.

      When the player has more control of the PC, such as in Baldur’s Gate, then you have the problem that the player has effectively written a character into the story and that’s obviously going to make things more complicated for the storytelling. In extreme cases, usually outside RPGs (a good example is Crusader Kings), the player has to put in a lot of effort explaining away to himself the apparent schizophrenic nature of all the characters in the game. This can be quite good fun, but you’re obviously not going to be able to tell the player any sort of coherent story in this case even if you want to (hence such games usually don’t try).

    • subedii says:

      I’d say interactivity yields issues for telling one, fixed story, but that it can also often make for stronger and more personally affecting narratives.

      To pick a far more sandbox example, X-Com is a game that I’ve always felt had a really involving narrative even though it has the most token of stories, and that’s purely because it becomes your story of what you saw and did, and how events played out.

      EDIT: Haha, it seems I’m echoing a lot of what was said in that article on Puce Moose.

    • something says:

      The irritating thing about Susan Greenfield is that she’s clearly smart enough to understand that gaming has it’s place in the pantheon of narrative media but, without any good reason, has adopted a contrary view which she not only refuses to reconsider but pushes through the news media, crowbarring her academic credentials into what is really an opinion driven argument.

      In short, don’t feed the troll.

    • NathanH says:

      subedii, I quite agree that that forms a significant strength of video gaming. I’d rather distinguish that sort of thing from “storytelling” however and instead consider it a form of “make-believe”. To be honest this is a part of why i would consider the constant comparisons with literature and film and the like are missing the point somewhat: video games are a vehicle of make-believe in a similar sense to board games, wargames, roleplaying, larping, gamebooks, childhood games like cops and robbers, and so on.

    • dsch says:

      We can add ‘narrative’ and ‘metaphor’ and ‘literature’ to the list of things the Baroness is unqualified to talk about. Games will thrive whether she keeps mouthing off or not; it’s her simplistic, 12-year-old reading of Macbeth that really annoys me.

    • Lucindus says:

      @Jim: Except the entire game is a metaphor.

      I don’t know whether the distinction exists in English as well, but the German ‘Metapher’ is a single-word substitution intended by the speaker. It can also refer to an entire allegory or parable (terms which definitely apply to the game as a whole) in a broader sense, but if Susan has decided to get all pretentious lit theorist on us and only use the narrow definition of a rhetorical device, she has a point, strictly speaking. ‘Would you kindly’ doesn’t represent anything other than these three words in the Bioshock universe, unlike ‘out out, brief candle’, which is supposed to describe death even in the ‘conceptual framework’ available to Macbeth himself.

      Same thing with her definition of storytelling: She seems to focus on the actual of act of ‘telling’ using the medium of language, and unless we’re talking about text adventures, good games do indeed rely on other means to advance the plot. (In fact, I blame Bioshock for using audio logs too extensively to tell its story.) Basically, once you accept that her definition of narrative terminology predates the age of the moving picture, everything she says starts to make sense (to me), it’s just not very relevant to any recent discussion.

    • skraeling says:

      @Jim. The entire game is a metaphor for what exactly?

    • dsch says:

      Somehow I rather doubt that she is familiar with literary theory or the German meaning of metapher.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah, I must have missed what the game was a metaphor of too. I really enjoyed it, but I don’t think it’s making a point about anything more than say Half Life 2.

    • Nova says:

      Jim is probably referring to the “would you kindly” part.

      http://www.firingsquad.com/games/bioshock_thoughts/page4.asp

      Will you kindly is a metaphor for game design. We have freedom, as much as the developers give us. If we had more freedom than BioShock gave us, we couldn’t have the story we had. Freedom is something we all strive for in gaming, and yet the best game of the year has almost no choice at all.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      There’s also the part where many of the major characters (that you find audio diaries from, etc) represent parts of Ryan’s personality. For example, Bill McDonagh (the engineer) is Ryan’s conscience… (Ctrl-f in the article for “conscience”.)

      There’s a lot going on in Bioshock behind the scenes, and to dismiss it as “very literal” is a pretty major oversight.

    • skraeling says:

      @Nova, I get that now. I still don’t think the entire game is a metaphor. If the “Will you kindly” metaphor is extended to other parts of the game it seems to me that would imply that a game is created as a paradise separate from real world dogma and expectations but which ultimately collapses back into those dogmatic expectations.

      @Pleasing Fungus, but yes. It is not a very literal game at all.

    • Lucindus says:

      Who said anything about ‘very literal’? Susan explicitly stated Bioshock didn’t contain ‘metaphor in the way I meant‘. My point was that she’s right in that very limited way, because to her a metaphor (probably) is a rhetorical device used by a speaker fully conscious of the metaphorical nature of what he’s saying (like Macbeth). The entire story of Bioshock can be an allegory or a parable for the sorry state of player choice in modern games (and it’s actually very in-your-face about being that), but that deeper meaning isn’t intended by any in-game character.

    • DocSeuss says:

      @subedii: Bioshock was never a deconstruction of Objectivism. Levine said as much in an interview recently. It was about the foolishness of a rigid mindset.

      …and, of course, being an (wrong, I think) argument that you can’t have authored narrative in games unless all choice is made token or stripped away.

    • Josh W says:

      I wonder whether you could find an example of a character intentionally using a metaphor in that way though? I mean if you comb through all the dialog in the game, someone probably did it, even with the objectivist style psudo-rigor “A is A” stuff colouring their dialog.

      Anyway, use a stretchy enough idea of metaphor, and you start to get into what parts of the game are symbolic, and what the relationships between those symbols are etc. This is the kind of game that has that, with people considering how different thematic stuff inter-relates. These symbolic linkages don’t have to be dull stand ins for real life things, they can include elements of them, taken from a different perspective etc.

      The only snag is that you won’t find them if your just going “find me a metaphor now! Maybe the main character is jesus? And plasmids are the catholic church? No that doesn’t work, no metaphors here.”

  13. pirusu says:

    This is mostly going to be a link to some friends’ of mine adorable little girl playing Skyrim, but as a side effect of the internet, it’s raised (as an unintended consequence) a discussion of violence in video games.

    Youtube video of her playing. Along with the usual youtube comments (and a huge internet argument).

    And the Kotaku Article about it, again, with more arguments/discussion about violence in vidya games.

    • the.celt says:

      That video was AWESOME! Thanks for sharing it. I got frustrated, though, by reading too many of the comments after the video. I’m looking forward to showing the video to *my* kids. =)

    • Skabooga says:

      Adorable. And she learned that her actions have consequences and that, in general, people don’t want to be sworded.

  14. magnus says:

    Is this time I recomend Nurse With Wound, Grails and Neurosis and nobody notices?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNqn8E32Mcc

  15. Toberoth says:

    Jim, is there any chance you could expand on your comments regarding the article about innovation?

    This is the first line from the Wikipedia page about innovation: “Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention or renovation in being a substantial positive change rather than a modest incremental change.”

    In light of this, it seems to me that innovation is more about improving existing forms and making them commercially viable, rather than creating radically new forms. Is this what you meant when you said that Patterson was missing the point?

    • Dinger says:

      Here’s a stab: Mr. Patterson is arguing that video games have never been good at innovation, because for every innovative game, there’s a hundred clones. Even the games that are innovative are clones to some degree.

      His very description of the “lack of innovation” shows, by contrast, the very real lack of innovation in contemporary games.
      Look, at least 80 percent of the people working in the industry are working on crappy, highly derivative shovelware titles that most of us will never play. It’s been that way since forever. However, when you start looking at the top-sellers year by year, you see that the big-budget, big-payoff games in recent years are all from the same genres, and all iterations on the same designs.
      When you look at what Mr. Patterson describes, you see a different picture: you see genuine developments in hardware, both control systems (the paddle-and-button era, joysticks, gamepads) and computing/display techs (vector graphics, raster graphics, processors), driving revolutions in the genre, and each successive generation picking up on the old conventions and pushing them somewhere else.

      In the last ten years, we’ve had gamepads and first-person perspectives with short draw distances. You know, what looks best on the hardware.
      Even “innovative” titles now go retrograde in their sequels. I finally got around to playing Rainbow Six: Las Vegas 2 last weekend (the last one of the series I’d played was 1999′s Rogue Spear). A game that had, over a decade ago, elaborate tactical planning, a realistic wound system, intuitive PC controls, and squads of six(?), now has a shooter interface, recharge healing, a complicated control system dictated by the console port (to switch grenade types, hold down on E and move the mouse to the left), and 3-player squads. Oh yeah, and QTEs.
      It’s a fun game, with its own rhythm, but the franchise went from offering something unique to providing yet another implementation of the cover-and-recharge face-shooter genre.

      So when we see fewer genres and greater homogeneity in games, that means less innovation. On the other hand, a thousand Minecraft clones are a sign of innovation, not the lack thereof.

    • Shortwave says:

      I can side either opinion on this but that article did honestly make my eyes cross..

      The reason I’m a PC gamer is because I desire that innovation.
      When DX11 came out tesselation blew my mind.
      With games like Metro 2033 you can’t say theres no innovation.
      Even still being a “generic” shooter, it brought so much to the table.
      Or the first time I played Bad Company 2 on war tapes with surround sound speakers.. INNOVATIVE.
      Diablo III market place even.. Same old game essentially but that is still making it innovative by some means. Sure theres many companies out there just reaping in profit from clones and doing half ass jobs. But as long as SOME devs continue to add and grow and to never be content with what they’ve already done, that’s innovation… Minecraft.. Ancient “looking” game yet still innovative.. If you ask me, gaming IS about innovation. Everytime the next release of my favorite game comes out I WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S BETTER. How they improved and build on the last game… Yeaaaa..

      I remember playing the VERY FIRST cod with my younger cousin and us thinking of all the ways it would get better in the future. “Man, I can’t wait till’ you can like shoot through a wall and see holes and chunks missing!” 90% of our humble ideas still have not made it…. A decade later.. LOL. But Battlefield did. I play Battlefield now. Innovation wins?

    • Somerled says:

      It doesn’t ring right with me to argue a “lack of innovation” from the point of a lack of innovation en masse.

      If the percentage of games that just follow the formula is increasing, that doesn’t mean that innovation is being pushed aside. It means A) prior innovation (old mechanics, graphics, etc) is being embraced, and B) conclusions about innovation itself cannot be made from this trend. If games are de-evolving, like the Rogue Spear to Vegas 2 example, that’s not a qualitative reduction, it’s a different direction. It may be a convergence, and that leads me to the second point.

      Cookie-cutter games are symptoms of many different issues that can’t be rolled up into a single all-or-nothing critique. Some are pathetic cash-ins, some are iterations on success, some just extend a title or genre, for good or bad, and so on. It’s like this is being tied in with the argument on innovation, and that’s just looking for a scapegoat.

      Since innovation requires change (true by any definition), don’t look or wish for innovation in a title or genre that thrives on similitude, like CoD and its brethren. Look to indie games that are forced to try new things. Or new IPs that either prove they can bring something new or drown in the sea of sameness. Every industry will have its CoD-like safe bets just like it’s brilliant but risky Minecrafts. Video games were never any different in that respect.

    • Dinger says:

      Just one note: the brilliance of Minecraft is that it wasn’t risky. It was a side project until the sole developer got enough attention (and cash) to see that he could make it a full-time project. Hell, he didn’t incorporate until his revenues were well into seven, if not eight, figures.

      That’s why we keep coming back to innovation and the essence of games. I’m still confused on the subject, but I think we can start to separate some various strands:

      A. Technological and hardware developments drive innovation more than we care to admit. Just read some of the descriptions above of “innovation”. That can also lead to someone saying “innovation is stagnating” now; that person was probably also saying “PC gaming is dead” four years ago, when the PS3-X360-Wii games had reached somewhere around 90% of the hardware’s capacity. Since then, coders have had to do amazing tricks to juice out the last bits of power, while the PC hardware just got better.
      B. Big production houses are risk-averse. They’re the ones who applauded the Sony “Michael” commercial, and said this is what we are trying to do. The problem with the “Place the user in a grand narrative” model espoused by “Michael” is that it effectively reduces the game itself to a Quick-Time Event. Who’s dream is it? The ambition to use pretty graphics and sound, stunning effects, and grand narrative comes at the cost of letting players decide their own fate: do that, and someone will get confused, or, worse still, get the lines wrong, wander backstage and cause real ruckus.
      C. Ironically, as Tom Francis’ legendary Michael parody makes clear, our most memorable moments in games are those where we make the game our own, often against the developer’s vision. The ca. 1990 racing game, Indy 500, was one of the first where you could get turned around (and make right turns instead of left ones). At some point, we all tried driving the opposite way and taking out all the other cars on the track. A win’s a win.

      So, in short:
      A. technology should not be confused with innovation. If you do confuse them, then this is a period of stagnation.
      B. Big titles seem to be converging on the same models and conventions: this is conservatism born of technological dictates and a questionable vision of game design.
      C. What I remember about GTA: Vice City is driving on the sidewalk with 80s music blasting.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I think it’s amusing as innovation is entirely subjective. It’s a pretty meaningless word.

      To one man Skyrim is innovative as it’s streamlined the experience and made it more playable. To another it’s ‘dumbed things down’.

      As far as I can tell it’s just used to mean, different and I like it.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Frankly, my pessimism has gotten the better of me.. I can’t believe articles on Kotaku are anything more than misinformed nerd-bait for page-counts.

  16. JuJuCam says:

    Seems to be a lot of negativity surrounding games in the Sunday Papers this week :( Top story from Dahlen was great though, and seemed to describe a level of character identification that many method actors would strive for in preparation for a role.

    I actually think Susan Greenfield is asking the right questions, but unfortunately she’s clearly unqualified to answer them. I think that games have as much potential to change attitudes and feed emotions as anything can, and yes it is possible (though certainly not proven) that playing a certain type of game can induce destructive thought and potentially destructive action. If we allow that then we can also allow that games also have an equal possibility to induce creative thought and action. Two sides of the same coin, as far as I’m concerned.

  17. kwyjibo says:

    That viral marketing thing is an interesting read, it’d have ended better had the writer lost his mind though.

    But that kind of stuff never really works, no one seriously gives a fuck about ARGs. All those people who followed the created character will not have cared about the book. And even those that did care about the book, how many are there?

  18. InternetBatman says:

    I disagree with the True PC Gaming piece. Narrative is not essential for all games and in many cases detracts from them. UT3 is a great example, the story was so hokey that it pretty much just got in the way of shooting. Minecraft doesn’t need a story. Braid’s story was awful and got in the way of a decent platformer. I think the importance of story changes genre by genre, and some games are just better with a tiny one.

    I think the innovation piece misses the crucial fact, that innovation is an iterative process. Copycats are part of the process too. They copy things, experiment, make it a bit better, and these features are noticed and taken up by a new round of people. It’s not surprising that the article was on Kotaku, which likes fake controversy pieces with shallow analysis to stir up discussion.

    Chris Hecker’s article was really well thought. It’s funny, I have no interest in Spy Party but really like reading interviews with him and articles he writes.

    • BigTomHatfield says:

      A love a good narrative in games, but I think it’s a case of do it well or don’t do it at all. If your game is just a shooter, don’t strap a meaningless narrative onto it that’ll just get in the way. On the other hand, if you happen to be someone like Bioware, go all story all the time, because that’s where your strengths lie.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That’s what I was trying to say. Poorly. I love narrative in games. I grew up on Black Isle games. But it doesn’t need to be everywhere.

    • NathanH says:

      Well, you benefit from some sort of story to give the game context in many cases. Most games, not just video games, have this. It helps give some sort of meaning to what’s going on, and it doesn’t have to be actually any good on its own merits to do this competently. I think that is more or less what the much-derided Cormack quote is all about. If you’re not specifically going for a very strong story, you still need to have one, and even if it’s a bit rubbish looked at separately it still strangely is going to make the game way more fun than no story at all.

  19. Navagon says:

    Ah, Tropico. I’m a big fan of the series (apart from maybe the second one) and he really summed it up well. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  20. Unaco says:

    As it’s a Sunday, and some people never want to stop their angry bleating, even on a day for slow jazz and pots of tea…

    Here is an article about DRM.

    http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/11/17/interview-bohemia-interactives-ceo-on-fighting-piracy-creative-drm/

    ” our statistics from multiplayer show that for every three legitimate buyers playing their game in multiplayer, there are 100 (failed) attempts to play with a pirated version.”

    I think Bohemia have the right idea… (Almost) unnoticeable to the legit user, just f*cks with the Pirates. Legit users get a better product than pirates… the service is better.

    • mickygor says:

      Their interpretation is a bit skewed. How many times do you attempt to play a game if it works first time?

    • Consumatopia says:

      Non-rhetorical question here: why is this method less likely to inconvenience ordinary users than traditional DRM? The method here, I guess, is that there’s some code that detects when the game has been pirated and cripples the game somehow. The traditional thing to do, I guess, would be to simply exit the game as soon as it finds itself to be illegitimate. I can see why the new method is better for defeating pirates (you actually have to play through the entire game to make sure your crack works, and even that doesn’t work because the game could pull some Dungeon-like tricks to only fail some of the time (http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=9284.0 )) but I can’t see how this is less likely to inconvenience legitimate users. In fact, it seems worse–if there’s a bug that degrades a legitimate copy of the game, not only do you encounter the bug, but you’re accused of piracy to boot.

      What am I missing?

    • Tams80 says:

      “Legit users get a better product than pirates…”

      By making the pirated copy worse. I would have thought it would be in the consumers’ interest to have ‘legit’ games.

    • Unaco says:

      The fact that the majority of the people I play ArmA with didn’t realise that FADE/DEGRADE was in Armed Assault or ArmA2 or Operation Arrowhead, tells me it’s less inconvenient for legit users… because they don’t notice it, don’t know it’s there, don’t have to do anything. It doesn’t require a connection for first time activation… it doesn’t require an always online connection… it doesn’t lock the game to 1 machine, or 1 account… it asks nothing of the Legit users. They don’t notice it, don’t worry about it, don’t have to do anything other than enjoy the game.

      It’s not 100% perfect, no solution is though. But they’ve had years to work on it, and the false positive rate is minuscule these days. And, when a false positive does arise, Bohemia are very good at looking into it and fixing it for the user.

    • asshibbitty says:

      I commented on this earlier, so I’ll just say that the funny thing here is, I bet they used some pirated tools to make their first game, like all companies from that time and part of the world.

    • Consumatopia says:

      I may have misunderstood your original post. The part of Bohemia’s system that gets attention is the gradual degradation of pirated copies in unique ways, as opposed to the traditional method of just exiting to desktop with an error if a bad copy is detected. So far as I can see, that part of the system is technically orthogonal to the parts of the system that make it less intrusive to legit users.

      (e.g. “because they don’t notice it, don’t know it’s there, don’t have to do anything. It doesn’t require a connection for first time activation… it doesn’t require an always online connection… it doesn’t lock the game to 1 machine, or 1 account… it asks nothing of the Legit users.”–all of this could, technically, be true even if the game immediately quit as soon as piracy was detected.)

      But maybe you weren’t talking about the gradual degradation mechanic specifically, but Bohemia’s overall implementation. In which case, I apologize for misreading.

      Or maybe the idea is that Bohemia can afford to be more permissive than other DRM systems because it’s much harder to crack (you can never be sure you’ve “really” cracked it.)

    • InternetBatman says:

      That statistic really bothers me. In callous hands (like Destructoid) someone will say each of those attempts are unique. The type of DRM probably encourages multiple access attempts.

    • Urthman says:

      ” our statistics from multiplayer show that for every three legitimate buyers playing their game in multiplayer, there are 100 (failed) attempts to play with a pirated version.”

      “97% of the people who try our game have an intentionally terrible experience with it!”

      Genius! You can’t buy word-of-mouth like that!

  21. Someblokius says:

    Got three paragraphs into the Tropico article before hitting the pejoritive autism reference. Hidden thematic link to Susan “‘Hey look, the tabloids are scared of autism, I’ll mention it every other sentence” Greenfield perhaps?
    I find what seems to me to be an increase in disability prejudice in gamerland fascinating – to me it seems to correlate with gaming circles’ increasing awareness of sexism and homophobia (not that either of those have gone away by any means of course, but they seem to be becoming less fashionable in some circles.) I wonder if it’s just that folk need someone to look down on and will find a new form of bigotry once their old ones become uncool. Of course, this could be a load of Greenfield.

    • choconutjoe says:

      I don’t think it’s a pejorative reference. It’s not insulting anyone by calling them autistic (or insulting anyone autistic by calling them something else). It’s using the word to mean ‘good at systems’, which is essentially a large part of what autism is. Really it’s just an example of hyperbole.

    • Someblokius says:

      “Sim City for those of us who aren’t autistic masochists” seems pretty negative to me – he’s using ‘autistic’ as a derogatory term about players of a game he dislikes.

    • choconutjoe says:

      …or it’s a fancy way of saying that Tropico is less complex and frustrating than Sim City. Then again I don’t have access to the inside of the author’s mind, so maybe your interpretation is the right one.

    • John Brindle says:

      It’s rare you read a “for those of us who…” formulation that doesn’t cast aspersions on the group defined as ‘those of them’. It may not be explicitly nasty but it is a bit queasy – imagine reading a comparison like “for those of us who aren’t homosexual perverts”.

    • choconutjoe says:

      I don’t think you can argue it’s casting aspersions on anyone just because of the construction used. Googling “for those of us who” brings up a bunch of phrases like:

      “For those of us who like our Beatles rare…”

      “for those of us who are just dipping our toes into Homegrown living”

      “for those of us who worked at a certain failed startup over 10 years ago”

      “For those of us who wince every time a dirty diaper is discarded”

      “For those of us who cannot join you on Wall St”

      None of those are at all derogatory. The only really derogatory sounding example on the first page was:

      “For those of us who refuse to be sheep”

      And, at a push:

      “Lusers- For those of us who aren’t”

      Obviously the term ‘homosexual perverts’ is derogatory. But that’s got nothing to do with the construction used, it would be derogatory in any context. I don’t see that it’s relevant to the Tropico article.

    • spann says:

      Hi there,

      As author of the Tropico piece, I can confirm that the “autistic masochists” line is meant in no way negatively – I feel I should explain and ask a couple of questions to the two people who have seemingly decided I hate them Autistics (“They’re always coming round here, working out our nth degrees…”).

      First off, I don’t dislike Sim City. It’s the ultimate city builder, and a game that I, quite frankly, have neither the patience nor the skills to play for any length of time without fucking up terribly and ruining the lives of a few thousand imaginary people.

      Second of all, I’d like you to explain your use of “homosexual perverts” as being equivalent to my phrasing. A person can be both homosexual and a pervert, as well as being autistic and a masochist, in no way was I implying that one is a result of the other as you seem to be suggesting I am.

      When I wrote that line, I was thinking of this video:

      Now, I remember reading an interview with the creator of this where he felt it necessary to point out that he wasn’t Autistic because… Well, look at it!

      My thinking was this: Autistic people, as a rule, are good at finding patterns and working systems to well. Masochists enjoy things being difficult, or pain in it’s various different forms. Therefore, an autistic masochist would probably have a whale of a time implementing an efficient system while the game continues to throw earthquakes, civil unrest and fucking Godzilla at them.

      The long and the short of it is this: It was a bit of hyperbole in order to demonstrate how Tropico is a bit of light fun compared to Sim City, which often makes you feel like you’re working for it. I don’t hate Autistic people, women, gay people or anybody else, I just exaggerate when I write.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Increased knowledge about a disability turning the word into a slang adjective is nothing new. Five years ago it would have been OCD masochists. It’s just the way language works and I don’t find it all that offensive.

    • John Brindle says:

      Choco: fair enough, conceded.

      Spann: I don’t imagine that you actually hate any particular group of people (except, perhaps, estate agents, but that’s a given) and did not say so. I’m sure you’re lovely. But the use of disability as pejorative synecdoche for undesirable characteristics is hardly rare; at worst, I might say you were thoughtless.

      ‘Homosexual pervert’ was overstating the case. I didn’t intend to be inflammatory. I simply replaced one type-of-being-that-has-often-been-misunderstood-or-maltreated (homosexuality-and-autism-not-equivalent-except-in-this-single-regard-disclaimer) with another, and a specific word for sexual perversion with a general one. There is nothing wrong with being A) homosexual, B) autistic, C) a masochist, or D), indeed, a pervert – but when put together in particular ways they can leave a bad taste in the, er, ear, because of the way they’ve been used in the past. My example failed because autism and masochism are not often coupled together in the same way that homosexuality and ‘perversion’ (whatever that actually is) frequently are.

      I’m not really interested in getting up on a podium to defend people I don’t know and whose problems I do not share from taking minor offence on the internet, but you requested an explanation, so…there you go.

  22. armaankhan says:

    I stopped paying attention to anything Mike Wilson said and did after SubstanceTV screwed me out of my subscription money. I got one DVD, then nothing for months. I emailed customer service, got no response, and a week later emailed them again. A couple days after that second email, a box showed up from them, which I had to pay customs charges to receive. It contained two dozen copies of the same DVD I had already received. More emails to customer service went unreplied, and after that I said “eff it” and accepted my losses.

    Ever since then, if Mike Wilson’s name was attached to anything, I refused to buy it. And if he says anything, I don’t listen because it’s all probably lies, damn lies, and a box of useless DVDs.

  23. Inverselaw says:

    That Irrational game that was finished by an Indian studio got an American release. Its called NetherWorld: Beyond Time I stand.

    http://gamestore.revision3.com/games/netherworld-beyond-time-i-stand

    • Skabooga says:

      That trailer made me nostalgic for the days of full motion video, circa 1990s.

  24. Tams80 says:

    Too me, Susan Greenfield’s response read like: “Bleurgh”. Like a fair few academic arguments, it seemed convoluted and and for the most part uninteresting.

    Now, this could just be me not understanding what she is talking about, which in part is probably true. I do however think it is also because her argument is just not that well presented and worded. You could also argue that such ‘work’ does not need to be interesting/appealing to read. I don’t see why it should be boring though.

  25. BigTomHatfield says:

    I think Chris Hecker is being very unfair to free to play games by seeing them as a cynical money making exercise. He’s got the same problem a lot of gamers have, believing that it’s easy to make money in games, so any deviation from the standard template must be motivated by a greedy desire to make ever more money.

    It is always worth remembering that the free-to-play model comes from places like Russia and China, where piracy rates are truly insane and it’s a lot harder to sell games the old fashioned way. A while back I spoke to Victor Kislyi. who makes World of Tanks, his company used to make hardcore strategy games for a niche audience, all sold in once purchase, no DLC etc, exactly the ‘right’ way to act according to most gamers, they are also failing horribly and losing money hand over fist. After the switch to free to play they’ve become wildly successful, and they’ve plowed most of that money back into the company, they didn’t switch out of greed, they switched because it was the most sustainable way to make the kind of game they loved.

    Just look at DC Online, it’s population was extremely low until the switchover, now it’s exploded with life, making for a more populated, more fun world for players and the funds the developers need to continue working on it. You can afford to update Spy Party just because you want to, but DC Online? You’re going to need cash to get that to work.

    I have to say, I find it a bit sad that a system in which you give people access to the game for free has become a byword for ‘money grubbing’ for some people. Sure there’s games which do it wrong, but isn’t that always the way? There’s plenty of good free to play games out there that don’t demand money every five seconds, World of Tanks, League of Legends, DC Online, City of Heroes, Champions Online, LOTRO. Global Agenda, TF2. That’s a big list of good games, I can only hope some of the stigma wears off at some point, because I think it’s a very good system if done well.

    Consider this, we all love demos right? Well free to play games are the best demos ever.

    • Consumatopia says:

      If we play word-association, and you say “Free-to-Play”, I’m going to say “Zynga”. They pioneered the two evils I associate with that business model–Skinner-box-esque psychological manipulation, and game experiences so boring that people actually pay to avoid playing the game (thus developers actually have an incentive to make the game experience less fun).

      I understand that not all F2P games are like that, but I’m not going to bother looking at any F2P game unless I’ve been credibly assured that it isn’t like that–because my time isn’t free. For me, the F2P stigma isn’t universal, but it is default, and it will always be default.

    • InternetBatman says:

      He wasn’t that harsh on them. My impression of the piece was that he was critical of people going free to play because they want to make more money, not that they have a game that warrants it. He puts the two in separate categories:

      If you genuinely feel like you want to explore free-to-play from a game design perspective, then that’s totally cool… However, if you are making a sustainable living doing pay-up-front games, and you find those are the kinds of games you are most passionate about, but you feel the itch to try out free-to-play because some other people are getting rich doing it, then I’d take a step back and examine your motives and what makes you fulfilled as a person.

      The article was as much about a sustainable lifestyle as free to play games.

    • JackShandy says:

      “I think Chris Hecker is being very unfair to free to play games by seeing them as a cynical money making exercise.”

      “…Victor Kislyi. who makes World of Tanks, his company used to make hardcore strategy games for a niche audience, all sold in once purchase, no DLC etc, exactly the ‘right’ way to act according to most gamers, they are also failing horribly and losing money hand over fist. After the switch to free to play they’ve become wildly successful…”

      So switching to free-to-play is a money making exercise.

      There’s nothing wrong with that. Doing something because you want to make money is fine. But you obviously don’t go free-to-play because you love the consumer so much you just want to give them things.

    • BigTomHatfield says:

      Way to misunderstand my comment.

      I was saying that they made the switch not to ‘maximise profits’ but to prevent themselves from going under. They weren’t making a grab for your wallet, they were just trying to stay afloat.

      I was pointing out the slightly bizarre idea gamers seem to have that all developers have unlimited money, and thus any attempt to charge them is greed, rather than necessity.

  26. JackDandy says:

    Oh man, I loved Puce Moose’s quest mods. They were very different then your average FO quest- no objective markers, good writing, and puzzles that actually made you THINK; you know, like in ACTUAL QUESTS.
    An interview with him sounds great, thanks for the heads up!

  27. Moraven says:

    No one ever mentions Everquest II use of a player real money marketplace. They have servers flagged with it enabled. Of course D3 isnt a MMO but basically practically is one. Kinda like Guild Wars in a way, instanced fun.

  28. E_FD says:

    A blog of gaming reviews ostensibly written by a cute, twenty-something gothy girl turns out to actually be the product of a middle-aged man? That’s pretty much par for the course on the internet.