The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on March 11th, 2012 at 9:19 am.


Sundays are for nursing a bout of insomnia with some gentle electronica and cup of tea. It’s a beautiful misty morning here in the West. Perfect for collating some internet writings before setting off for a long walk to a pub lunch. After that, surely, a man will be able to sleep.

  • Mr Garratt on why Molyneux quitting Microsoft is such a good thing: “No one deserves the accolades more. Peter Molyneux is British gaming’s national treasure, a genius creative who’s pushed games in areas no one else has dared. Yes, he’s failed on more than one occasion, but that’s because he’s tried. In such a risk-averse industry, that’s rare. If you push you will fall, but he never stops. Going it alone again means he can experiment in ways a large corporation would never allow, that he can remain on the road of innovation.”
  • Mr Stone remembers Flight Simulator 98: “The mind-boggling scope was an invitation to explore. ‘Flip open an atlas’ the Create A Flight menu seemed to implore, ‘Choose a start point and, if you like, a destination, and be on your way’. For no logical reason you’d find yourself following the Nile or the Amazon one night, crossing the Caspian Sea or the Bay of Bengal the next. This was Flight Simulator in the days before the series started dispensing patronising gongs. An achievement was finding the airstrip you sought before your tank ran dry, or putting your plane down in one piece despite fierce crosswinds and failing light. Satisfaction was a completely natural by-product of improving airmanship and burgeoning knowledge of a relatively complicated machine.”
  • Thanks to everyone who sent me the link to “How I Helped Destroy Star Wars Galaxies“: “I remember with crystal clarity when I realized I was making more money from this enterprise than I was at my full-time job. I quickly decided to expand and hired four guys in Singapore to play 24/7. I paid them unreasonably well for the time, almost 3x as much as they would for other re-sellers; this bought me loyalty, and in this enterprise, loyalty is everything.”
  • Not everyone is interested in Mass Effect 3: “I cannot suspend my disbelief on this. It is, quite simply, beyond belief. The Systems Alliance might fail to respond fast enough the first time a colony suddenly goes silent. But the second time? Third? We are told, and shown in ME, that Alliance strategy is not to try to defend every colony and outpost, but hold the fleet ready to respond when scouts report trouble. On this basis what should have happened was that the Fifth Fleet dropped on the Collector cruiser like a gigaton of bricks and blew it out of the sky.”
  • This is old, but for some reason a couple of people linked it, and so I repost because the topic is timeless: “A Complex Problem” looks at the problem with “simple and fun” being the ideals of game design: “Gaming needs greater diversity — the kind of diversity movies have — if it is to escape being pigeon-holed in the cultural ghetto. Gaming may boast of titles that scratch the same itches Michael Bay does but has thus far failed to produce anything comparable to Werner Herzog and Errol Morris. That really is the most frustrating aspect of this. Games can be so much more than what they are now.”
  • Is a 100-hour videogame ever worthwhile? (Yes.) “You can accomplish a lot in 100 hours. You could read War and Peace, for instance, then follow it up with Thus Spoke Zarathustra and a few starter courses in a new language. You could watch Melancholia 40 times and still have time to squeeze in a screening of Shoah. You could also drive from Los Angeles to New York and back again, or complete 20 weeks of training and then run a marathon. Or, if you preferred, you could also play through the video game Dark Souls from start to finish.”
  • Beefjack asks: Which historical figure would you mechanise? Ian Livingston replies: “Have to go Britsh! So I would mechanize Winston Churchill wearing his long overcoat, cigar in the corner of his mouth, armed with a Bren Gun.”
  • Eurogamer’s take on that Portal 2 presentation.
  • How TV gets Gaming wrong.
  • The Guardian’s quest for weird fiction: “Over the next four weeks I will be scouring the internet for the best independently-published weird stories. I genuinely have no idea what to expect. I’m hoping I might stumble upon a new Angela Carter, Mervyn Peake or China Miéville; a weird and fantastically baroque masterpiece from a unique imagination. Maybe even a few of them. On the other hand, I might end up destroying my mind with a steady diet of third-rate Stephen King clones and Harry Potter rip-offs.”
  • Jean “Moebius” Giraud died yesterday. Here’s a Tumblr devoted to his extraordinary work.

Music is not really music this week. It’s Zimoun’s 138 prepared dc-motors, cotton balls, cardboard boxes 40x40x40cm, via Tom Betts.

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266 Comments »

  1. bladedsmoke says:

    Don’t want to be a pedantic arsehole but i think it’s meant to be mechanise, rather than merchandise.

  2. SiHy_ says:

    After a good pub lunch you’ll be lucky if you can wake up.

  3. NathanH says:

    Why do games have to be fun? Dissimilar form of entertainment does not have to be fun! Dissimilar form of entertainment does not have to be fun! Dissimilar form of entertainment does not have to be fun! Similar forms of entertainment have to be… oh, let’s forget them as usual, shall we?

    There should be some sort of ban on video game articles making comparisons with books, movies, and music, if they don’t make comparisons with at least some of: P&P RPGs, board games, card games, tabletop wargames, choose-your-own-adventure books, LARPing, and sports. I probably forgot a few in that list.

    • BigJonno says:

      It amazes me how people seem to forget that games didn’t spring into existence with the creation of Tennis for Two, but have actually existed for thousands of years without the benefit of any kind of electrical device whatsoever.

    • Terragot says:

      Yes, couldn’t agree more. This seems to be a current fad from “deep” thinkers lately. Increasingly it’s began to grind my gears as more and more buffoons regurgitate the same madness about how fun isn’t an issue.

      They seem to be lost, because what they are talking about isn’t games. Games give up the right to be what they want when they declare themselves games. Games have to be fun, it’s paramount, and no amount of pseudo-copy-&-pasted thinking on the matter will change that. It’s in the platforms name dammit!

      I’ll get a lot of flack for this no doubt, but games just have very little in common with film, books and music. Interaction completely voids any conventional similarities between them. Interaction can be so open that it requires a rule-set to have any meaningful presence (this could be anything from the rules of tennis to simply the rules of gravity). With any rules comes incentive for following these rules (forcing the rules without an option for failure or breaking them – with punishment – is bad, bad design), this is generally considered a reward. To make the reward worth following, the player whom is interacting, must have a desire to achieve this reward. This is generally considered ‘fun’, but fun seems to be considered some mindless child chewing on a lego brick by the art crowd these days.

      Fun is paramount, it gives us reason. these people just don’t understand the definition. And seriously I must have read this same article on games being more like movies, books and music over a dozen times now.

      I know it’s an old article and all, but games not having scratched the surface of what they can be? We’ll see, it’s only logical that fidelity will keep increasing with the way the tech industry moves forward, but I’m not entirely sure what people are expecting, games are pretty magnificent right now and my upcoming wish list has got me pretty damn excited about the future. I wish we could just praise the damn things more instead of hounding the entire industry based on a few blockbuster hits.

      EDIT: Ah, also wanted to ramble on about something Molyneux said with games having nothing in common with film, books and music, but rather ye old days of story telling. Around the camp fires with everyone chipping in their 2 cents on the story. Yadda, yadda, wowza wows. Games are grand lets all be pals.

      • JackShandy says:

        Fun’s a bad word for it. Games need to be compelling.

        • BigJonno says:

          Thank you! I’ve been trying to get just the right word for what I feel games should be and compelling totally fits the bill. I’ve played in some pen ‘n’ paper RPG sessions that I would hardly describe as fun (and in fact managed to move at least a couple of my players to tears in a game I ran this week) but they have always been compelling.

          • Jesus H. Christ says:

            yeah, fun is too limiting a word. As far as definitions go “Enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure” pretty much sums it up.

        • NathanH says:

          Hmm, shall we make “fun” this week’s Word To Define?

        • JackShandy says:

          Mostly I’m thinking of:

          1. Survival Horror games.
          2. The Void, a game about frantically trying to survive as you slowly starve to death.
          3. Skinner-box MMO’s.

          None of these come under the definition of Fun unless you stretch it to meaninglessness, but they’re very successful as games. Compelling sums it up for me.

          • NathanH says:

            I think they can all be considered fun in the sense that testing your skills in a rule-bound environment is fun.

          • Xocrates says:

            @NathanH: Except when it isn’t.

            Elaborating a bit, fun is too narrow a definition, and too subjective in it’s interpretation to be called ‘the point’ of a game.

          • vagabond says:

            I’d argue that no-one plays games that they don’t think are fun for any appreciable length of time.

            People who are playing things like MMOs and farmville that you might look at and say “that’s just a series of exploits for flaws in human psychology to keep you playing” are still having fun. They might look back on their experience at a later stage and say “I was tricked into thinking I was having fun”, but I suspect scant few people keep going back to farmville or the like, hating every minute of it and despising themselves for being unable to stop playing.

            I played the void. It was fun. I wanted very much to play through Pathologic but the actual minute to minute gameplay was such a slog I couldn’t do it.

            I tried dark souls, couldn’t stand it. I find redoing the same area again and again until I have enough mastery of the game to flawlessly make my way through the area tedious. Other people find the challenge it provides enjoyable. Those are the people who are playing, not people like me.

            Un-fun art games already exist in the low budget indie space. None of them last more thasn 5 or 10 minutes because no one will play them for longer.

            The idea that an audience exists that is large enough to warrant the creation of anything approaching a AAA game that makes the player miserable for 4 hours or more just seems farcical.

          • bear912 says:

            I agree with @JackShandy.

        • Eversor says:

          I have to say, that is probably the best word to describe a game from the “how much I’m into it” perspective. Thank you.

        • Somerled says:

          “X needs to be compelling” is true for all X.

        • InternetBatman says:

          There are some games that are fun without being compelling. These are the games that you pick up, play a few rounds, and then put down. They can be attractive in their own right and have their own market. A perfect example for me is AAAaaaaaH for Awesome!

          • JackShandy says:

            A game doesn’t have to be compelling for very long. AaaaaAh has you plummeting towards the ground, which is something that’s hard to pull yourself away from. Once you’ve hit the ground, though, there’s not much there to convince you to try another round.

      • NathanH says:

        I don’t necessarily think that games must be fun by definition or anything like that. You could make a game that wasn’t fun to make some sort of point. Or you could make some game that wasn’t really fun but useful for learning or training or stuff like that. That’s all fine. I’m just not at all interested in that sort of thing.

        • mondomau says:

          Hmm, not really. I think you’ve missed the point a little – possibly due to the use of the word ‘Fun’ where (as suggested) ‘compelling’ is a more appropriate term.

          Both your examples also confuse being a game with being a good game. Yes, you can make a game that is trying to convey a point or teach you something, but it will only be successful in that endeavour if the game succeds in engaging you on some level – otherwise it’s just a meaningless excercise. .

        • SoupDuJour says:

          I think the problem is that everything that’s interactive is expected to be a game and is marketed as a game, to a gamer audience. So then you get the situation that interactive things that aren’t really games still get called games, and people try to stretch the meaning of the word game to fit anything into it (including things like Dear Esther, for example).

          People (with more brainpower than me!) need to figure out a word for “interactive stuff” that is equally catchy as “game”. So we can drop the whole argument of “Games should be fun!” and just answer that with “yes, but there’s also other interactive stuff out there, which doesn’t necessarily have to be fun”.

      • deke913 says:

        If you’ll be my bodygaurd …I’ll be your long lost friend.

    • Jimbo says:

      It’s the scope of the term ‘games’ that’s naturally broadened. When people say ‘Games don’t have to be fun’, they really mean ‘Interacties don’t have to be fun’. Which is right, but nobody in their right mind would say ‘Interacties’, so I think we should just accept that we’re gonna keep referring to these things as ‘games’ even if they aren’t strictly games.

      • NathanH says:

        OK, but then the answer to the question is obvious. Why do people cry that games must always be fun? Because they want interacties that are games, not interacties that are not. This may sadden and disappoint people who want non-game interacties, but we all have to live with these disappointments. Of course, advocates of non-game interacties are free to try to try to push their agenda by whatever means they choose, fair or foul, and then righteous defenders of gaming must do battle with them!

        • AndrewC says:

          I’m not sure how much fun that battle would be.

          • NathanH says:

            We must sacrifice our fun for the good of humanity. It’s like the plot of Mass Effect 3, and we get bonus points for co-op play. Since you are of the sensible FirstnameInitial faction, I assume you will stand with me!

        • Consumatopia says:

          “I, personally, only want to engage with interacties that are games” is different from “interacties must be games”.

          • NathanH says:

            Of course, and both are different again from “interacties that are advertised as games should be good games”. Trying to decipher exactly what people are saying is a difficult business.

          • Consumatopia says:

            “interacties that are advertised as games should be good games” is sneaky–is the problem that “interacties” should be fun games, or that “interacties” are advertised incorrectly? It’s difficult to decipher because it’s poorly stated.

            Both claims are silly. The first claim “interacties should be fun” implies that everyone like “interacties” for the same reason. The second “un-fun interacties shouldn’t be called games” is pointless. It’s like arguing that digital “films” aren’t films, or noncomical “comics” aren’t comics, or whether such-and-such is really a “role-playing” game.

          • NathanH says:

            “Interacties that are advertised as games should be good games” means exactly what it says: an interactie that is advertised as a game should be a good game, else it is either a bad product or a mis-sold product. No statement whatsoever is made about interacties that are not advertised as games. It also doesn’t mean “un-fun interacties shouldn’t be called games”.

            Alternatively, you can continue calling them games, but in that case, when someone criticizes it for not being a good game, you don’t whine about it.

          • Consumatopia says:

            it is either a bad product or a mis-sold product.

            You just admitted that I’m right. “bad product” and “mis-sold product” are two different claims. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have said “either”.

            Alternatively, you can continue calling them games, but in that case, when someone criticizes it for not being a good game, you don’t whine about it.

            I won’t whine, I’ll just point out that the criticism is silly.. “graphic art advertised as comics should be comical”, “motion pictures advertised as films should be projected from actual film”. People can continue to make silly criticisms, but they shouldn’t whine when I point out that they’re silly.

          • NathanH says:

            Err, what? In what way were you right? You claimed that my statement could mean “that “interacties” should be fun games, or that “interacties” are advertised incorrectly?” Of course, the first possibilty is simply wrong, because my statement says nothing about what interacties should be, just what interacties that are advertised as games should be. So we’ll dismiss your first interpretation, because it’s nonsense.

            Your second interpretation was also wrong, or at least partially wrong. If an interactie is advertised as a game, but is not a good game, then two possibilities arise. Either it wasn’t meant to be a game, just was advertised as such (your interpretation), or it was indeed meant to be a game, but was just a crap game because of design incompetence. In both cases, the product advertised as a game was not a good game. In both cases, because it was advertised as a game it had a moral obligation to be a good game, or suffer justified criticism. Hence, an interactie that is advertised as a game should be a good game.

            Your point about changing use of words misses the point too. The meaning of comic and film are well understood at present. They are not identical to the original usage, but that’s irrelevant to us. Video games, are, however, generally understood to be games. Perhaps one day this will not be the case, but that’s beside the point. The whiny article itself admits this: it is complaining that, basically, most people think video games should be games. So the cases are clearly different. If you’re going to call something a video game, and it is well understood that video game means game, then you should expect it to be judged according to this understanding. Pretty straightforward, really.

          • Consumatopia says:

            “bad product” and “mis-sold product” are two different claims. Your position was ambiguous between the two of them. it’s unclear whether you have a problem with the product, or the way the product is advertised.

            EDIT: do not waste your time arguing “it wasn’t ambiguous between THOSE two statements, it’s ambiguous between THESE two statements”.

            If you want to say “these products that are advertised as games should be advertised as X”, then just say that. Of course, the onus is on you to define X and make that common usage.

            EDIT: Looking again, I genuinely don’t know what you were trying to say. “It also doesn’t mean “un-fun interacties shouldn’t be called games”. Since you seem to be insisting that games should be fun, I don’t see how you avoid the conclusion that interacties that are not fun should not be advertised as games. Your statements are just utterly unclear.

            The whiny article itself admits this: it is complaining that, basically, most people think video games should be games.

            No, the article was complaining that people thought video/computer games should be fun. “video games should be games” is your not-quite-accurate reformulation.

            Not very many people actually think all video games are what we call “games” in non computer context. The Sims isn’t really a “game”, but most people would call it a video (or computer) game. In fact, some of these un-fun art games fit the literal definition of “game” better than entertainment simulations–they may have structured goals.

            What people seem to mean when talking about “game” software is software in which the interactive experience is the goal, rather than software in which the point of interaction is to control the software to accomplish some end.

            It isn’t even true that non-computer games should be fun. The games in game theory are, obviously, games, but even when they aren’t “fun”, they’re still useful to define and analyze. The prisoner’s dilemma is a “good game” to understand in game theory. It might not a “good game” to play if you’re looking to have fun. “Game” doesn’t have a concept of “good” built into the definition.

          • NathanH says:

            I was not clear which of the two I have a problem with because which of the two I have a problem with depends on the product in question. A product which advertises itself as a game but does not intend to be a game and is not a good game is a mis-sold product. A product which advertises itself as a game and intends to be a game and is not a good game is just a bad game. So when I say “a product that advertises itself as a game should be a good game” I am including these two scenarios as Things That I Think Are Bad. I’m not being ambiguous about which of the two I’m meaning, because I’m talking about both cases.

            As for the rest, I guess the confusion arises because “games should be fun!” means either “if it is not fun, then it is not a game” or “A game should be fun, or I am not interested”. Somewhere in this confusing mass of threads I stated that I don’t agree with the former, so I’m taking the linked article to be complaining that most people are interested only in fun games. I’m pretty confused about what this particular thread is even about now. At some point earlier we started talking about the idea of distinguishing between games and other things, and now I have got muddled up, so I’m going to stop here.

          • Consumatopia says:

            I understand what you mean now. I got tripped up reading it from a perspective of “what should we do to fix it?” and there’s a difference between “we should make it a good game” and “we should sell it as something other than a game”

          • NathanH says:

            I got confused too. I think when the comments get so deep there is no Reply button any more, then it is time to stop! :-)

    • Alphabet says:

      I can’t tell where this is going to end up – it’s supposed to be a comment in the excellent thread started by Nathan above, regarding the 100 hours article.

      It seems to me that many issues are involved here. First, I completely agree that games don’t have to be just fun. Second, games that are just fun are worthwhile. Third, people can spend their free time however they want. Fourth, some games are better than many books even on the criteria that seem to underly that article. Fifth, snobbery is nasty and should be avoided. Sixth, not all hours are equal – and winding down is an important part of life.

      But even given all that, I do worry about how much time the games I like take to deliver their enjoyment. Last semester I learned French well enough to pass the language requirements for my PhD. I read dozens of novels for English PhD courses. I also played and loved Fallout: New Vegas and Dead Island. Both are among the best games I’ve ever played, and they also restored my faith that the contemporary games industry can give me the thrills that I loved a decade ago in Planescape: Torment and Baldur’s Gate 2 and Deus Ex and so on.

      And yet. Each game took as much time as the other activities I mentioned above. Were they worth it? Were they even, after the 20 hour mark, all that much fun? One answer is to say it’s all subjective and we make our own calls, and of course that’s true. But would I rather not have played Dead Island and now know basic German? Or be closer to finishing my dissertation? For others the question might be, would I rather be further ahead at work, or be closer to finishing ME3? Different answers are possible. I’m just not sure that the costs of games (apart from their purchase cost) are taken into account enough.

    • Lone Gunman says:

      If you enjoy it then that is all that matters.

    • Chandos says:

      I’ll actually press on with the movies comparison because I think the guy’s point is a valid one.

      Like someone has suggested, the word “compelling” or “enjoyable” is a better choice for what games need to be, rather than fun. I would not describe watching “Saving Private Ryan” or “Platoon” as fun, and yet I quite enjoy watching them. The author’s point is, I believe, not every game needs to be fun in the sense that not every movie needs to be an Adam Sandler movie to be enjoyable.

      Personally I am happy to read an article arguing this exact point. Things may be different over in Europe but over here in my corner (Vancouver, Canada) a good majority of game devs are focused on the kind of fun you can pack into a mobile game that people will play for their 20 minute ride on transit. I’ve been seeing people take the “Keep it simple and stupid” mantra a bit too literally, churning out a flood of “fun” games that engage players on the most superficial levels, and none of that fun stays with you in any meaningful way once you stop playing.

      Now there is nothing wrong with that, because obviously some people like their games that way, just like some people are quite fond of their Adam Sandler collections. I’m just not one of them (on either account) and I will always appreciate games that aim to be a bit more than “simple and fun”.

    • jhng says:

      The ‘Complex Proplem’ article is fascinating — thanks RPS.

      On the question of whether games need to be fun, my take is that they do not. However, they do have to engaging to play and satisfying to master. Of course, a good novel, film or piece of music also has to be engaging and (for some examples) there can also be a lot of satisfaction in ‘mastering’ them too — particularly ‘difficult’ music like 60s classical or technical death metal spring to mind. However, games are a special case.

      Almost by definition a game (from tag to Starcraft) involves player choices, if those choices fail to produce interesting results and if there is no satisfaction in mastering that choice process, then the game fails (or at least it fails as a game — it might still work as a pure narrative or as a compulsion-driven Skinner box). This is a tough bar and one which the non-interactive media do not have to confront. This means that the non-interactive forms, by their very nature, can potentially get away with a lower level of engagement and, more importantly, with being far less satisfying to master than a game can. The converse of this is that for a game, which faces a more or less absolute requirement to meet this bar, other considerations like ethical, political or emotional depth, have to take second place to gameplay. This doesn’t mean that games can’t be ethically, politically or emotionally sophisticated; however, it does mean that if a work is principally driven by a need to address an ethical or political issue then games might not be the best choice for that endeavour. The exception is, of course, a game like Fate of the World where the central ethical and political issues create interesting gameplay choices in their own right — done well (like in FoW) these are perhaps the most compelling games of all.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think that pretty much any form of entertainment can both be enjoyable and enriching, if a work is missing either one or the other it’s a failure of the creator. The idea that you have to force yourself to do something that will enrich you is a misconception.

  4. Uthred says:

    The article about whether time spent playing video games is “worthwhile” is redolent of the high/low culture fallacy (as well as feeling like a general attack on doing anything the author views as “non-productive”). X amount of hours spent reading War and Peace is of no more use than X amount of hours spent playing Dark Souls, assuming you gain equal enjoyment out of each. We each have a finite amount of time and deciding how we spend that time is important, but only the individual can assign value to it.

    • NathanH says:

      That’s where you’re wrong, you ignorant little peasant. Your enjoyment of the experience of playing a game is basically irrelevant, and what is more important is whether than experience gives you insight into blah blah blah sneer at the concept of relaxation and stress relief blah blah blah.

      The comment on that article by Robert Notwicz is, for me, right on the money.

      • SiHy_ says:

        Who are you to judge the mighty Uthred!? You obviously haven’t read all seven volumes of Proust’s A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu otherwise you would know… blah blah blah… importance of literature over all other forms of media… yadda yadda yadda… the only time spent wisely is time spent productively… bing bong booley… games rot your mind… doh re mi… etc. etc.
        Some people read books to expand their minds, some simply to enjoy a good read. Yet others read books to brag that they have read them. I wonder which type the author of that article is.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Holy cow, that is an elegant comment.

    • Terragot says:

      if you enjoy wasting time, is it time wasted?

      zen, shhhhhhhhwooooowwwwwwww.

    • JackShandy says:

      “Imagine if War and Peace were 5,000 pages instead of 1,400, and imagine if, whenever you came to a word you didn’t understand, a gust of wind appeared and pushed you back five pages, forcing you to reread everything you’d made it through up until that point.”

      Imagine if games were totally linear, made out of paper, and your only means of interaction was clicking to reveal the next bit. How awful would that be? In conclusion, books are terrible.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Equally, I’m gonna call bullshit on games that punish you just because they can. If a game kills you without warning and wastes your time, forcing you to retread sections just to learn them, it’s bullshit. Sure, if I’m a kid with a long holiday and no interest in going outside then it’s fine, but otherwise time is valuable and I’m not going to learn bullshit when I expend so much mental effort in the day to understand real systems.

      • Jesus H. Christ says:

        so nobody should ever make a game with that mechanic because it isn’t to [i]your[/i] taste? Traps that glow and have an arrow above that says ‘trap’ aren’t traps. Further, putting actual deadly traps in a game amps up the tension.

        • Sumanai says:

          That’s a pretty big jump from “there should be some kind of warning”. If the game has given you no reason to expect traps, and they’re completely undetectable, your only choice is to run ahead and take note where you died and not step there the second time. It’s not challenging, it’s not exciting, it’s not suspensive, it’s frustrating pointless waste of time and it’s “Do It Again, Stupid”.

          Exceptions: 1) If the game is trying to make a point, for instance it’s trying to be artsy, or if it’s part of the whole point of the game. So a sudden moment of unfair trial and error in the middle of a standard power fantasy shooter is dumb and a dick move.
          2) If the game has comedic timing, like I’ve heard there is in I Wanna Be The Guy and the checkpoints aren’t too far apart.

          Otherwise it should be possible somehow to find out where the traps are and the game should in some manner warn that there will be traps at some point. One way to do it would be to put a checkpoint right before a location filled with traps. A minute or two lost at most, and you now know there are traps, you know where one is and can go and check what it looks like so you have some idea on what to avoid. If the traps are hard to see, but visible, there’ll be tension.

      • Phantoon says:

        Gee, I dunno, Gap Gen- I thought Demon’s Souls was a lot of fun. (I have no idea if that’s the right place for that apostrophe)

        Humans don’t like unfairness, but if you’re told up front (hey this game is really unfair) you’ll be fine with it.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I definitely agree with you. It’s sadistic and stupid for developers to use their complete control over the universes they create to kill players with no warning. Don’t get me wrong, games should have challenges, but the challenges should always be able to be outfought or outthought. Death can punish players for lack of caution, but shouldn’t punish players for curiosity.

      • arccos says:

        I don’t think that’s true. Is Super Mario Bros bullshit? Everyone dies at the first goomba. You don’t know it’s going to kill Mario until Mario walks into it.

        Sometimes, finding out the rules of the game is a quite a big part of what makes the game interesting. Not to mention, giving the player a list of rules before they are needed is an exercise in frustration for both parties.

        It’s just a matter of educating the player in a way they enjoy, which can include loss of progress or not.

        • Sumanai says:

          But the first goomba is right in the beginning of the game. It takes only seconds to get back to where you were, and there’s no tricky jumping between that and the starting point. A more fair comparison would be a green goomba, that you run into close to the end of a level that kills you if you try to stomp it. Note that while such enemies are in Super Mario Bros, they have spikes which are a visual hint that stomping them might not be a good idea.

          Learning a game through trial and error is not necessarily bad, but it needs to be done right. And usually when people complain about something being bullshit, the designers have dropped the ball. In this case I’d say it’s safe to assume he wasn’t talking about every game where you end up dying on some part of the map due to inexperience.

      • ffordesoon says:

        I agree. It’s a good thing the Souls games are completely fair in every respect, isn’t it?

        • Sumanai says:

          I fail to see where he mentions the Souls games as something he enjoys. Also it’s not unreasonable to assume he wasn’t thinking about games where the whole point is to screw the player over.

          By the way, what is it with Souls fans being so defensive about it? There’s only two of you here, but I seem to remember running into several in the Escapist defending it against someone who clearly just didn’t like it. A game that exists specifically to kick you in the privates is bound get criticism, and Gap Gen didn’t even single it out here.

    • John Brindle says:

      I don’t know. No values are only personal; nobody just makes up completely subjective values for themselves. If we can assign value to texts and works of art, then we should accept comparison between them; if we believe in artistic ‘worth’ at al – or instrumental worth like ‘enlarging the mind’ and ‘widening experience’ – it follows that some activities are worth more than others. Aspiring to something more than what we are, something external to any one individual, is important (and unavoidable).

      On the other hand, nobody should begrudge themselves a bit of fun. Even the best artistic works have some slack, some ‘play’ about them.

      Question is whether a game is or can be an ‘artistic work’ like a book or a painting or whether in fact it is/shouldbe/canonlybe something else. But games are time-greedy. It’s reasonable to ask “what the hell am I supposed to be getting out of this?” especially when the game in question is a gated game of progression/forward trudge.

      • NathanH says:

        The fact that it at least “can be” something other than art is indisputable. Unless you want to call board games, card games, P&P RPGs, larping, children’s make-believe, paintballing, historical reenactments, choose-your-own-adventure books, and sports all art, of course.

        If you want to make value comparisons between two things, then those things have to be of essentially the same order. Otherwise the comparison is just worthless. For instance, I could say that chess is more valuable than any movie, because no movie can come close to the concentration, the “flow”, the feeling of one’s skills being stretched in a rule-bound environment in which my actions have immediate and observable consequence that one finds in chess.

        But of course this is a foolish comparison: what I am essentially saying is that leisure activities should all be valued by their contribution to “flow”, which is of course a very strong statement that nobody should pay any attention to. Similarly, the argument that games should be valued only by their artistic worthiness is a statement that all leisure activities must only be valued by their artistic worthiness: another very strong statement that nobody should pay any attention to.

      • Consumatopia says:

        You don’t even have to claim objective value exists.

        You could just claim that people are acting at odds with their own subjective values–that if they stopped and looked at themselves, they would be very likely to decide differently. Humans beings are easily tricked by systems of imaginary rewards and progress.

    • pipman3000 says:

      why is shakespeare held in higher regard then george r, r, martin “classic” literature is bs why should some dead dudes crappy book about some hick kid/russian woman/black dude/etc be mandatory reading in schools while drizzt 2: wizard boogaloo isn’t?

      • NathanH says:

        One argument is that old works that have stood the test of time are better to look at than new stuff that might just be judged a passing fad in a few years. Another reason for studying Shakespeare is that he had an impact on the language. But probably the main reason is that whenever you make your education system less like a classical education, people whine that it’s dumbing down, so it’s safe to maintain the status quo.

        I never felt I got much out of Shakespeare or most of the other literature I studied at school. Apart from To Kill A Mockingbird, which is a good book with good points, and one of the few I’ve read that makes its points while still being mostly fair and plausible. I enjoyed Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Morte d’Arthur mainly because they are good fun, but I don’t think I learned anything from it.

      • malkav11 says:

        Well, Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers in the English language ever. Seriously, every time I return to one of his plays or sonnets I am amazed all over again.

        But I will definitely agree that there are some incredibly talented, important writers working in genre fiction and that it’s unfair that that very fact leads them to be casually dismissed by many. Especially since some of the stuff that’s held up as Great Literature was in its day popular culture. Like, y’know, Shakespeare.

      • Archonsod says:

        Shakespeare is still selling books five hundred years after he wrote them would be the obvious and simple answer. If George RR is still flogging his stuff come 2500 then I’m sure he’ll be held in as high regard as Bill. Well, assuming everyone stops buying Shakespeare for the next five hundred years, otherwise he’s still got that five hundred year lead …

        • FhnuZoag says:

          That’s a poor argument. If it was true, we’d be all studying the Bible and/or Gilgamesh instead, screw all those other books. But taking the OP’s argument seriously (I’m 90% certain he’s taking the piss), I think knowing Shakespeare is important because Shakespeare, whatever his virtues and foibles, is the root of a major branch of English literature. Without knowing Shakespeare, if you are reading any of the millions of works referencing him, you are missing out.

          • NathanH says:

            OP is definitely taking the piss, but it is an interesting question if framed in a less pisstakey fashion.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Yeah, spot on. Shakespeare is a massive influence on all English literature that comes after, so it makes sense to go to his plays as a foundation for understanding. You’re free to dislike his plays, but his influence is undeniable (and only becomes more significant the more he’s taught in schools, too).

          • NathanH says:

            Two questions arise:

            1) How important is knowing the influence of Shakespeare on language relative to, say, knowing that “alot” is not a word?

            2) Most of the time spent on Shakespeare at school was, for me, reading and analysing a single play. Is this really a good way to achieve the goal? I didn’t get very much out of it. Surely there are books about Shakespeare’s influence on language; wouldn’t this be the logical place to start?

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            I don’t know, I’m not a school teacher!

          • NathanH says:

            I don’t want your excuses, I want your poorly-informed arbitrary opinions!

      • codename_bloodfist says:

        You do read modern literature in schools though, or at least I did, just not something that has little intellectual essence in it, Song of Ice and Fire included. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the whole intrigue as much as the next guy, but you can’t really tell me that it develops an individual like Walsh’s “Knowledge of Angels”. It’s the same reason you don’t read something like Twilight outside of English as Second Language classes, and even there I would argue that you could find more suitable literature.

      • Consumatopia says:

        I know this comment is a joke, but since people are taking it seriously, there’s a really obvious reason–it’s redundant for the government to spend money teaching kids stuff that kids are already lining up in droves to purchase freely by themselves.

      • Adventurous Putty says:

        This is more than an interesting question: it’s an essential one, at least if you’re an artistic type like me. It sort of transcends the “are games art” or “ought we to consider games as art” questions because it calls into question the notion of valuing art as something uniquely important to human life in the first place.

        Most people who assume there is some sort of Greater Value to art do, well, as an assumption — that is, they go into the argument already seeing it as axiomatic that it’s true. NathanH’s (EDIT: and ffordesoon’s, I now see) very eloquent arguments demonstrate why this sort of complacency is stupid. Art is an absurdity. Fiction and poetry are cultivated lies and/or letters prettily arranged; painting is smudging things onto a canvas or wall or whatever to make an image approximating something in your head; film is light projected onto a screen; games are players interacting with a set of rules and trying to master them.

        If you don’t believe that great examples of these things hold a greater value, then investing in them too deeply is silly. If the experience of art has no greater or lesser value than any activity that brings entertainment, then it is nothing more than an amusement; to speak highly and extensively of Great Art would be mere snobbery, and dedicating one’s life to studying it would be dedicating one’s life to a frivolity. If there really is no difference between Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and Beethoven’s Ninth except the amount of entertainment they provide, then it doesn’t matter what music survives and what doesn’t, or which music you have special knowledge of or don’t, because it’s all a matter of popularity or personal preference. If art is entertainment, in other words, then it’s all a good time in small doses, but it’s little more than a tool — a tool for snobs and elitists to seem smarter and more learned than everyone else, or by rulers to entertain the masses to keep them from rebelling, or by corporations to advertise their products, or by pseudo-intellectuals to inefficiently summarize their ideas rather than just saying them outright, or for us to escape into fantasy lands through which we can ignore, for a time, the problems of the Real World. In other words, nothing worth really investing your heart and soul in, if you’re sensible.

        But I’m going to stick my neck out and say that there is in fact a Greater Value to art, and that art is actually central to the human experience and not something superficial. I think you can get something out of Tolstoy besides the satisfaction of having read a book that “learned” people say is Great, and that there is something in Shakespeare that makes him inherently superior to JK Rowling (though not, I think at least, Thomas Pynchon or Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

        Of course it’s true that I say this as someone who has invested a good amount of time into the endeavor of consuming and creating art, so I could just be justifying my own monomania. But as a humanist I think that what I experience in reading works I am convinced are actually great is something that can be experienced by anyone, something which in its own way makes life worth living. You may mock me for my naivete or my mysticism, but it is one of the few things I believe with any certainty.

        I think the greater value of legitimately great art is that it communicates something of our greater humanity in a way that direct language or human interaction cannot. In other words, there are things — thoughts, sensations, life experiences — that when communicated directly (i.e. “Such and such thing happened to me the other day,” “I think x, y, or z”) come across on an intellectual level but not a visceral one. We make people know what we have felt, but we do not make them feel as we do. I think that human cultures conceived of art when human beings — or at least some of them — realized how much human experience actually falls under this category, how unknowable other human beings really are on a daily basis. How lonely we are, in other words, trapped in our own minds. I think that artistic media — medium-s, necessarily between the artist and the observer — are connective. They help us peek into each others’ minds in more than just an intellectual manner. They let us experience the full humanity of another human being. They keep us sane, or at least not sociopathic.

        Taken to its fullest extent, this peculiar quality of art can dissolve — however temporarily — the barriers between you and everyone else, perhaps even everything else, leading to the sort of experience mystics and some philosophers and other proponents of intuitive knowledge talk about. I believe this is what happens in the greatest works of art. Shakespeare’s language, which ungenerous readers construe as silly-sounding and artificial, to me has a ring of truth to it that comes from capturing human experience and reshaping it into a form more perfect than anyone could actually express directly in everyday life. Hamlet’s famous soliloquy — cliched, hackneyed, and all the rest as it may be — resonates with me, with my own thoughts and my own experience, because there is a TRUTH underlying its fiction, its lie, which cannot be spoken but felt. Similarly, when a Cervantes (or an heir to Cervantes, like a Pynchon) does his panoramic sweep of life in Castillian Spain, I get the sense of the author as a god looking down at the sum of humanity (in a literal sense of all human beings and a figurative sense of human nature, whatever that may be) — all its suffering and its joys, its failures and its triumphs, its stupidity and its genius — and chuckling with supreme gaiety, and that seems TRUE to me in a way that’s difficult to describe in any way except that which makes me sound like an idiot. And on the other extreme end, Camus’ Stranger, despite focusing on a character bordering on psychopathy (or perhaps precisely because it does), made me realize precisely the urgent need to be fully human, to have some connection to the universe despite its emptiness and its absurdity.

        This highfalutin’ conception of what art is raises some nasty questions, most of which I haven’t sorted out. Can really everyone have the sort of experience with art that I have, or is there a barrier for entry? Is the underlying truth I perceive to be there really there, or is it just an illusion, and my fancy in this overlong post a delusion? Am I just like the literary snobs whom I deplore and who have been made delicious fun of in this thread, only using a more emotional or democratic justification for my glorified hobby? I don’t know. But I don’t think so, or rather, I don’t feel so — my experience of art in and of itself, however irrationally, seems often like the ultimate refutation of my doubts.

        But there’s another question, the one that started us off on this tangent in the first place: can games be art, in this sense of which I am speaking? I don’t know. I think they can. I think games like Chris Avellone’s have come close to invoking the same sort of transcendent experience that I’ve felt with other works of artifice, using the medium of interactive storytelling to communicate eloquently — but I’m not certain they’ve succeeded. Perhaps they have, and I have to give them more thought, more play. I think some of the Japanese came close — particularly Team ICO — but since we don’t really know what the medium’s limits are yet, I don’t know if that’s ALL they can do or if there is yet more before us. And what does something like Tetris express? It’s like chess: a perfect set of rules, meticulously constructed, but ultimately just a tool for humans to test themselves. Or is the very act of play here expressing something unique to an individual, a sort of echo chamber for our own humanity? I honestly don’t know, because I’m still sorting it all out myself.

        In any case I’m rambling in my half-sleep and this is much too much of a tl;dr post already, so I’ll cease embarrassing myself. As a side-note, I also think that games are fun and ought to be fun, because fun is a part of the much-heralded human experience as well (in addition to, not separate from, things like world-crushing despair at the nature of the universe). But then, people like Shakespeare and Boccaccio knew this too, and that wasn’t all they were because they were complete. Take that notion for what you will.

        • MD says:

          tl;dr

          Nah, I’m kidding. Just wanted to say I really appreciated this post. I don’t have anything intelligent to add at the moment, but yeah, thanks for that.

    • ffordesoon says:

      That Michael Thomsen has managed to hoodwink so many into lending him any credence at all has always stunned me. He’s so obviously a pseudointellectual, it’s not even funny. He’s like Kevin Kline’s character in A Fish Called Wanda to me:

      Apes don’t read philosophy!”

      “Yes they do! They just don’t understand it!”

      You know?

      And I don’t like saying that, as I hate slagging off any working writer, and particularly someone who cares about the medium as much as he clearly does, but Jesus. He’s entitled to his opinions, and if someone’s willing to pay him for them, that’s great, but I just do not get it. I hesitate to use the word “pretentious”, as I think non-traditional and new modes of expression are often pigeonholed as “pretentious” by people who are annoyed that it doesn’t fit into their limited definition of “acceptable” filmmaking/gamemaking/etc. But Thomsen uses the whole thesaurus to hide the fact that he’s really not very good, in my opinion.

      The key logical flaw in the entire article is the implicit assumption that seeing a Lars von Trier film (which, I mean, that’s a flashing neon sign of pseudointellectualism right there, because Lars von Trier is the patron saint of truly pretentious artsploitation twaddle masquerading as Important Art) forty times is somehow less of a waste of time than playing Dark Souls for a hundred hours. Why is it less of a waste? Does it explain that in the article? Oh, it doesn’t? Well, golly, I guess it just is! It couldn’t be that older mediums have the approval of mainstream critics and video games don’t, because video games are new! It couldn’t be that Thomsen has been conditioned by the positive reactions he gets when he reveals to someone who doesn’t play games that he’s reading War & Peace to believe that War & Peace is an intrinsically more valuable use of his time?

      I don’t care that he doesn’t like Dark Souls. I love it, but fair enough, it’s not for him. What bothers me is that he thinks reading a book isn’t a waste of time. From a purely functional perspective, every single piece of art ever produced, no matter how meritorious, is a waste of time! Reading Moby-Dick won’t cure cancer. Sure, you might get a lot out of it, learn a lot about yourself, etc., but it’s time you theoretically could have put toward building a school in Africa or something. The consumption of art is an inherently selfish, solipsistic activity.

      That doesn’t make it valueless, but it does mean that the only value to be found in it is really what you get out of it. And, frankly, someone who plays all three Mass Effect games in a marathon session is just as likely to get something important and necessary and life-changing out of it as someone who reads War & Peace is likely to get absolutely nothing out of it. But neither person should then try to explain away the other person’s reaction as the reaction of a dullard, and claim their reaction as inherently superior. Each reaction is exactly as valid and necessary as the other in and of itself; War & Peace just has time on its side.

      The sad thing is, there is an interesting point buried underneath the pretension. Games don’t need to be a hundred hours. Can they be? Sure. But there is an argument to be made that as length increases, enjoyment can decrease. Certainly, filler content is never good. Is it necessary? Maybe. And so on and so forth. But the same can be said of books, or of any sort of art, and to claim otherwise is ridiculous and obscures any good point the man could have made.

      • Adventurous Putty says:

        See my similarly long post above for an attempted refutation to your excellently argued points.

        • ffordesoon says:

          @Adventurous Putty:

          You make some interesting points. I’m not sure we disagree as much as you think, but that you think we do suggests a failure on my part to explain myself. Alas, I only saw your reply at 4:00 AM, so any detailed attempt to reply to you would only result in a tl;dr spew of liberal arts gibberish. I’ll mull your points and get back to you when I remember how talk good.

  5. bill says:

    I’ve been thinking about the 100hr video game thing a bit recently too. Mainly as a result of having kids and thus less free time. So timehas become a more precious resource than money, and i must spend it wisely.

    I just started playing Baldur’s Gate for the first time. I don’t know how long it’ll take, but I’ve heard these games are up to 80hrs. (don’t know if that counts the number of times i’ve died, realized i hadn’t saved for ages, and had to replay the same section).

    So, assuming it’s 80hrs. I could watch a series of The Wire, and a series of Dr Who, and watch about 20-30 of the top 100 movies ever made. All of that might come out to the same total time.

    Which would provide more fun? (unsure). Which would be more satisfying and feel more worthwhile (almost certainly the tv/movies). Which would include a lot more complete story arcs, depth, characters etc… (definitely the tv/movies). Which would involve killing 100s of identical kobolds?

    Gaming has a feeling all of it’s own, but i’m not sure yet if i made a good decision.

    • slM_agnvox says:

      Might as well bring in the concept of value. 80 hours of Baldur’s Gate (or any other long-play videogame) vs 20-30 movies off the AFI 100 and a couple DVD sets of tv series: Regardless of which you would end up feeling was a more worthwhile way to spend your time, 80 hours of Baldur’s Gate is definitely more affordable.

  6. BigJonno says:

    The most shocking thing about that SWG article is the revelation that some people actually liked the hologrind.

  7. EdenCrow says:

    I remember reading in a Reddit AMA that writers for TV shows often try and make the most absurd tech-talk in their shows in some form of competition between writers.

    • Phantoon says:

      Yes, but then there’s that festering pile of s*** known to Humans only as “The Big Bang Theory”.

      I hear every time they film an episode, someone on the planet drops dead, with no medical reason as to why.

  8. AmateurScience says:

    I wish I hadn’t read that piece on ME2. I think I had been subconsciously suppressing the issues with the transfer from ME1 to ME2, but that’s brought them all to the fore.

    Mind you I am rather enjoying ME3 at the moment, which I guess is the most important thing.

    • JackShandy says:

      I never did any of the side-quests that took you into contact with Cerberus, so I never heard of them before I started ME2. Hearing “Cerberus are pretty bad dudes” right before you team up with them has less impact than going through a game seeing them be bad dudes, I guess.

    • jalf says:

      It sums up the misgivings I had about ME2 much more clearly than I’ve ever done.

      I still had fun with ME2, and I’m sure I’ll have fun with ME3, but he’s got a very good point. I loved the world-building of the first game, and I was sad to see it ignored so much in ME2, even if I’d never consciously added up all the retcons like this article does.

    • Dante says:

      It all came off a bit ‘they changed it now it sucks!’ to me. Sure there are wonky changes between ME1 and ME2, but they all improve the fame no end. If lore, canon and what genre it fits into means more to you than ‘is it a good game?’ then I seriously question your priorities.

      • JackShandy says:

        I do hate that they kept going “Back when Mass Effect was a CRPG…“. Such an immensely stupid thing to say, and dickish with it.

        • RedViv says:

          Indeed. ME1 wasn’t remotely “CRPG”, and even pretty rough as an action RPG, both the action and the RPG part. Okay, the R was well-defined, but that’s about it.

        • Archonsod says:

          Generally as soon as I see that I dismiss whatever follows it as the rantings of a moron. Doesn’t help that they usually go on to prove it. In this example for instance the guy seems to have completely missed the whole “collectors are running rings around the alliance” you get hammered into you for much of the first chapter of the game in favour of some “alliance is doing nothing” fiction that appears primarily to be within the author’s own head.

          • Max.I.Candy says:

            Yeah also I dont agree with his comparison of Al quaeeda with US armed forces, to Cerberus and the Alliance.

            It would make sense to use the CIA as an example rather then Al quaeeda, after all, Cerberus, are on the same side (humans) as the Alliance, but just have “different” ways of getting things done (CIA).

            But I do agree with him that the more you care about ME universe the worse the sequels are, which is why i am now playing ME3 as a third person shooter with a cheesey but enjoyable backdrop (I really love the combat side of things)

          • Tychoxi says:

            @Max.I.Candy

            The point is that Cerberus was just a bunch of evil terrorists in ME that sabotaged and killed lots of Alliance personnel. It’s only in ME2 they were retconned into “just human supremacists that share the same basic goals of the Alliance”.

        • BobsLawnService says:

          adly the original Mas Effect is what passes for CRPG these days. The genre is practically dead so the definition has altered somewhat to fill the void.

          At the end of Mass Effect 2 it was possible to have two characters of the same class that could have different abilities. Mass Effect 2 had a completely linear character progression tree.

      • DK says:

        Except they completely ruined the entirety of ME1. The whole point of the game was that the Reapers needed the Citadel to get to the Galaxy and start nomming. At the end of ME1 we’re explicitly told and shown that the Reapers are now forced to slowboat to the Galaxy at STL speeds.

        They are screwed. Shepard has won, and the next person to have to deal with the Reapers in any capacity is a hundred generations down the line.

        But in ME2/ME3 the Reapers are magically here and everyone who’s in charge of any organization has turned into literal retards.

        • subedii says:

          Yeah that was what they said at the end of ME1, and all of a sudden “nope, not like that” come ME2/3.

          I mean my understanding was basically that the cycle had been broken because they were stuck outside the freaking galaxy and had to basically walk it all the way back in. Which is basically a long long… exceedingly long time.

          Would’ve been nice if they explained that at least. I mean my understanding of the whole point of ME2 was that since they WERE stuck on the outside, they were trying to manipulate their lackey race on the inside to get things going again.

          • Phantoon says:

            Oh, was that explained in the missing part of the game otherwise known as DLC?

            I couldn’t fathom what the purpose of the second game was when tied to the first, because The Collectors didn’t seem to be working towards that goal, unless the human reaper was needed to do that?

            And I didn’t play the third one because I thought the second one was junk (not even buyer’s remorse, I played it at a friend’s house)

          • Baines says:

            I haven’t played the Mass Effect series, so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. I’m also leaving out any details.

            Have you read any of the complaints about Mass Effect 3′s ending? Not the general “It’s crap” complaints, but the ones that actually explain why they think it is bad? It sounds like they tossed a bunch of stuff out the window again for it (even ignoring things that might contradict the ending), creating some new plotholes, forcing Shephard to act out of character, explained the unexplainable with a very simple to understand sci-fi plot element, and a variety of other complaints that all lead to the idea of a somewhat slapdash created ending.

            The results are that a lot of people seem to be raging over the ending of ME3. But if they effectively tossed out the ending of Mass Effect 1, then maybe people were just expecting too much of the series in general?

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            “maybe people were just expecting too much of the series in general?”

            Aha, yeah, the catchcry of Bioware fanboys the world over.

            Reasonable person: Er um, this kinda sucks doesn’t it?
            Bioware fan: YOU’RE JUST EXPECTING TOO MUCH FROM THEM

            (Not saying you’re a Bioware fan, by the way, just that you shouldn’t use this excuse. Bioware is a massive company with squillions of dollars available to throw at their projects, and there is no excuse for the bullshit they produce.)

      • InternetBatman says:

        I didn’t care about genre, but suspension of disbelief is and should be important in evaluating the construction of both a world and a work. Mass Effect 2 is broken in several parts by the narrative overwhelming choice, consequence, and common sense. They offer you many stupid, binary decisions that make no sense in the context of the previous game or the type of character you play. This was a huge problem in the game, and the writer speaks to that, although poorly at times.

        *spoilers*

        The most telling of these decisions was that you only had the choice to give the Reaper ship to the Illusive man, or blow it up.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I dunno, I was already having issues with the ME1 universe (for the usual reasons people give for it being a bit hackneyed), but it’s the drama and direction that make it compelling. I don’t really care about the alien races they’ve created or the technology; naked exposition is the worst, most boring type of writing so I steered clear of the encyclopaedia thing, and SF writers regularly write create interesting universes for throw-away 3000 word short stories. Hence I could suspend my disbelief because I didn’t bathe in the pool of lore that they’ve created, and because the shouting and talking and dramatic music and blowing up is so fine.

      • NathanH says:

        Have to take issue with the idea that the in-game encyclopedia being written more-or-less like a normal encyclopedia makes it the worst example of writing you can possibly have. Exposition to advance the plot can be a crude tool, but the style is entirely appropriate for a library of background information. You’re free not to be interested in it, but that’s quite different.

      • InternetBatman says:

        The plot going against the lore was an annoyance, but a minor one that’s very hard to avoid if you make enough lore. The plot going against your previous decisions and limiting your current decisions, was a major flaw that had nothing to do with the encyclopedia.

    • Wut The Melon says:

      The article makes some fair points – there are some issues, plot-wise, with ME2 compared to ME1. But then again you could probably take any game’s sequel and go nit-picky on all the LORE-INCONSISTENT OMG stuff. Now, I’m not saying that the things he pointed out were all irrelevant or very minor, but if you’re criticising a sequel it’d be fair to also credit it for the things it did better. Yes, BioWare sometimes oversimplified in ME2, but some things changed for the better. Outside of the combat (oddly enough, some of the readers of that article said they prefered ME1′s combat, generally for reasons such as ‘in ME1 I could tell a squadmate to use an ability’ or ‘physics-based biotics’), I think ME2′s increased focus on the characters was not necessarily a bad thing. They tend to be rather cliché-ish but sometimes characters and/or voice-acting made a leap forward with ME2 (*cough* ME1 Liara *cough*)

      In some ways ME1 was better or different than ME2. But in some ways, I think, and not necessarily less significant, ME2 was better than ME1. I personally liked both and I’m confident I will enjoy ME3 – after some more ME1, ME2, TW1, TW2 and perhaps some Skyrim too.

      • JackShandy says:

        It’s a funny thing. I can definitely imagine someone who loved ME1 absolutely hating ME2. Stuff like Liara’s character changing dramatically – yeah, that would be terrible, if Liara didn’t have the most mawkish, boring character imaginable in ME1.

        • Phantoon says:

          I hated ME2 and not because of the writing (though I never had any idea why The Collectors couldn’t just be looked into by someone else or why I’d work with Cerberus at all and not just take off so yeah actually I guess I did hate the writing)

          but chest high walls was not a game improvement, to me. In the first game, I played the soldier, and switched weapons to shoot things dead as needed. Second game? I could only use the sniper rifle because everything else was useless.

          Perhaps the game just wasn’t for me. Especially as I played the first game looking, and acting, like the Doomguy from the Doom comic (since he has no personality in the game besides facial reactions) and by the end I was just as murdery. I thought it worked well.

      • Somerled says:

        I’d say ME2 streamlined a lot of what made ME1 a chore or a bore. In gameplay and writing. If they clumsily retconned a few things to do that, so be it. I can fall in line behind suddenly limited ammo and a suddenly ignorant galaxy.

        Most of the rest of the article is all about Cerberus and human supremacists. I think the writers handled this extremely well in ME2. They hammer into you that Cerberus has changed. Its focus and maybe even upper management has shifted. They’re still human supremacist, but less lunatic fringe and more unsanctioned black ops. You can decide to believe their excuses on your own (lack of appropriate dialog options does not limit roleplaying, jeez).

        I think “It’s not the same universe” perspective is easily corrected by reminding yourself “It’s not the same Cerberus” and that yes, technology and adoption of technology can change rapidly in two years (shit, the timeline for the ME universe is so compacted, I’m surprised everyone wasn’t incorporeal energy beings by ME2).

        • Archonsod says:

          I think Cerberus is done really well throughout the series. In fact the complaints are rather laughable in that respect – it seems the main problem is that they went out for a fully fleshed out shadowy operation rather than the more usual one-dimensional, one-issue monogroup the media usually generates for this kind of thing.

          It’s not so much a case of it being the same Cerberus as simply Cerberus being a more realistic organisation. Like any other group, while it has a nominal leadership it doesn’t mean everyone else follows their goals with single minded determination; in fact we’re shown in ME2 that sometimes different groups within Cerberus end up in direct or indirect conflict. ME2 also gives you some insight into the reasons people actually join; from the straightforward human supremacists to those who really believe Cerberus is only looking out for the best interests of humanity.

          Seems a shame that people would seem to have preferred your archetypal James Bond style opposition with TIM being the only member of the group to have more characterisation than “herp derp humanity” style neo-nazis.

          • malkav11 says:

            It just feels a tad insulting for Bioware to frontload ME3 with people freaking out over my having been in Cerberus when Bioware railroaded me into being in Cerberus in the previous game. I certainly wouldn’t have voluntarily worked with them as a Paragon, and even my Renegade Shepard would have been pretty reluctant after his experiences with boxes full of hostile men shooting at him that got brief bits of quest text mentioning that they worked for “Cerberus”. (Sorry, galactic sidequests in ME1 were pretty lame, and that’s the only previous context for Cerberus.)

  9. Ironclad says:

    Why would anyone want to watch Melancholia 40 times? That movie is soulcrushingly depressing.

    Thinking about it: is it even humanly possible?

  10. Lambchops says:

    That Red Dwarf “zoom and enhance” sketch linked to in the “how TV get’s gaming/technology wrong” piece is excellent.

  11. Kieron Gillen says:

    Never trust anyone who talks about the affective fallacy. Those guys are cunts.

    KG

  12. bill says:

    I’m not interested in Mass Effect 1, 2 or 3. I wish everyone would stop talking about them to be honest… when did they become some big pop culture event?

    • BigJonno says:

      When they became some of the most popular culture of the past few years.

    • JackShandy says:

      There’s twelve links in this article. In one of them, a dude talks about Mass Effect. Did you log in to RPS today with the intention of becoming known as the kind of person that complains about stuff like that?

    • Unaco says:

      I’m not interested in any of the Mass Effect games or that, but I don’t have a problem with other people being interested in them and talking about them. Each to their own, ey. It would be pretty damn boring if we were all the same.

    • FhnuZoag says:

      I’m not interested in people announcing that they are not interested in Mass Effect.

    • InternetBatman says:

      When their creators kept calling them a huge pop-culture event.

  13. BooleanBob says:

    Didn’t Werner Herzog invent the RTS?

  14. Merus says:

    “Gaming needs greater diversity — the kind of diversity movies have — if it is to escape being pigeon-holed in the cultural ghetto.”

    Considering the greatest strides gaming’s made in escaping the cultural ghetto has been during the last five years, and the games (Bioshock in particular seems to come up a lot, as does the GTA series) that are mentioned, I suspect that the argument that the content of games contributes to games being in the cultural ghetto is something that’s only assumed to be true, rather than actually being true. I suspect that gamers themselves contribute much more.

    That’s if we accept that games are actually in the cultural ghetto in the first place. Frankly I think this is debatable. “People should be caring more about games” is becoming a regular topic of critical essays by young writers, but more importantly the gaming industry makes an obscene amount of money and is handling the rise of digital distribution with a grace every other entertainment industry envies. As gamers, we forget how unusual it is that gaming experiments with form and what it asks of its audience, and how cerebral and, frankly, inaccessible some of its mostly financially successful titles has been. The most anticipated title of 2012 is a period piece that promises to seriously examine and criticise American exceptionalism.

    No matter how snobbish a critic wants to be about games, they cannot deny the industry makes a fuck-off amount of money, that enough people take it seriously that games can sustain such a massive economic footprint. Money talks.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Silly Merus; all games are about shooting aliens with lasers, because every game is still Space Invaders.

      • AndrewC says:

        A-ha! Space Invaders didn’t use lasers, because the ‘shots’ moved too slowly! Either they were projectile based weapons or, to accurately allow for the distance light would travel in the time it took for the shots to reach the aliens, the aliens would have to be *so* far away from earth that the human ship’s actions could actually be seen as an aggressive act of war, rather than defense!

        It makes you think.

        • LionsPhil says:

          I was going to comment on how silly teenage-boy sci-fi lasers can go as slowly as they like, but frankly I prefer the intergalactic warmongering explanation.

        • Treymoney says:

          So the real Space Invaders…were us?

          • Phantoon says:

            Unless they meant “invading space” because that ship was really close to earth, so it’s their fault for getting that close with an entire armada in the first place.

      • Skabooga says:

        Space Invaders is really about the long-standing enmity between the secret mole people living beneath the Earth’s crust and, errr, space invaders. How else would you be able to shoot the bottom of the houses? Also, the whole game is an allegory of the struggle between good and evil, framed in the familiar paradigm of angelic beings versus demonic beings.

    • Sumanai says:

      I got the impression the writer was worried that video games will end up in the cultural ghetto, not that they already are. Also, weren’t comicbooks once at the height of popularity, before falling into the cultural ghetto? Since the writers point was that what happened to comicbooks is happening to video games, I don’t see a problem in his reasoning. Don’t fully agree with it, but that’s different.

  15. Shadrach says:

    Giraud’s death is a great loss, his art was such an inspiration to so many :(

  16. Fitzmogwai says:

    I do hope the Guardian covers “Wesley Crusher: Teenage Fuck Machine” in their weird fiction feature.

  17. Prime says:

    I go away for two weeks and RPS does weird things to their website code! YOU BASTARDS.

  18. Unaco says:

    in re: How Television Gets Gaming and Technology Wrong.

    I really don’t think those in glass houses should be throwing stones like this. If gamers are going to complain about how other mediums, film and TV, get their medium so wrong… then I think that gamers should be the first to throw their hands in the air and say, yes, we absolutely mangle and molest and pervert other mediums and fields for the pursuit of entertainment.

    Take SpaceChem. My mother is a Chemist. I sat her down to play SpaceChem one afternoon, thinking she would appreciate the Science around the game (even though it’s fake science and fake chemistry). At first she was reasonably engaged… a puzzle game, using chemistry, a subject she knows… but then, something happened. Some fake science crept in and she couldn’t accept it. Why, she asked, does it claim to be a game about Chemistry when it gets it so utterly wrong? Why does it parade around as being ‘Educational’ when it’s teaching lies? She had a textbook out and was explaining to me how wrong the game was… but through that we agreed that the game might not have been as fun, as entertaining as it was with the fake science.

    And that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg… I’m looking at my Steam games list just now and I don’t think any of them are really concerned with conveying a topic or field accurately and uncompromisingly, over entertainment.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Fiction mangling fields for the sake of entertainment is universal (see: every hacking minigame ever, for example). Mediums can usually depict each-other vaguely accurately, though. TV news reports in games do tend to model real TV news reports closely. Books in them are paginated sequences of words (although I suppose if we can complain about all games in film having a soundtrack of 8-bit beeps, games should make some effort to use typography more refined than a big blob of characters dumped on-screen with all the same finesse as an error dialogue).

      • marcusfell says:

        I don’t think a movie or tv show ever portrayed hacking properly either.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Well, yes; hence “universal”. Anything complicated tends to get mangled for the sake of plot and awesome. All the sciences, and probably international politics and economics and the like too.

          (Although to really nitpick, ISTR that the flash of terminal you get when Trinity is doing something something powerplant in The Matrix 2: Stupid Subtitle generated lots of nerdboners in that it depicted a genuine SSH exploit.)

        • Phantoon says:

          The Gibson is unhackable.

        • vagabond says:

          While it is dated, technology wise, the movie sneakers has pretty accurate hacking.

    • Xocrates says:

      Reading on Spacechem’s website about the ‘Education’ angle, I notice they don’t mention it being used to teach chemistry, but rather as “a way to get students excited about computer programming and chemistry”, which makes a lot more sense.

      I have taken several advanced chemistry classes, and I love Spacechem to bits, thing is that I see it as a chemistry themed puzzler as opposed to a chemistry based one. Especially since chemical reactions and reactors simply do not work like that. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much Spacechem actually gets right.

      However, I think the TV problem is a different (if slightly related one). What games like Spacechem do is the equivalent of historical movies that get some facts wrong for the sake of drama, which is generally okay.
      The problem with TV getting stuff wrong is that more often that not they either a) get stuff wrong for no reason, or b) (and more problematically) try to explain things they don’t understand and which they didn’t NEED to explain, which ends up sounding silly and breaks suspension of disbelief.

      • Unaco says:

        Ok, so SpaceChem possibly wasn’t the best example. I used it because I had experience with someone familiar with the field, who was repulsed by the inaccuracies and falsehoods present in the game, but ultimately understood it was done for entertainment. Which was what I was trying to get across… Entertainment mediums (literature, TV, film, music, video games) get things wrong because they are entertainment. All of the mediums are guilty of it… for Video gamers to single out TV as getting their medium wrong is kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.

        What about something like Assassins Creed and its monumental historical inaccuracies? That isn’t just the “equivalent of historical movies that get some facts wrong for the sake of drama”. It’s wholesale molestation of the period of history, organisations and people. Not to mention the whole Animus/Genetic Memory claptrap.

        Both TV and Videogames can be as bad as each other when it comes to mangling other fields. But, does it really matter, when they aren’t there to be educational, 100% accurate portrayals of the field, but rather for entertainment?

        • Xocrates says:

          I believe you missed my point. I agree that all mediums often get stuff absurdly ‘wrong’, I was simply distinguishing between having a reason to do so or not.

          Yes, Assassin’s Creed has barely a passing semblance to anything historically accurate, however they start from the Genetic Memory bollocks and go from there. From that point on we’re aware that anything they do isn’t meant to be accurate, they define that their world is distinct from ours and how, and tell their own story. So long as they’re coherent about it, that’s fine.

          Consequently, I’m also mostly fine with stuff like hollywood hacking and the super image enhacing technology, they serve their purpose, however they can seem out of place in what’s meant to be a ‘realistic’ setting, which is a huge part of the problem (i.e. they’re not coherent).

          The ‘true’ problem however, is getting stuff wrong just out of sheer laziness or hack writing. I’m not saying that TV is the only culprit of this, or that games have any kind of high ground, but throwing around technical terms in barely coherent form only serves to obfuscate the public that doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and break suspension of disbelief for the ones that do.

        • Archonsod says:

          It’s more a question of common knowledge I think. You can take artistic liberties with something like history, because the percentile of the audience who are likely to know any detail about say the Crusades is pretty small. You could get away with the more ridiculous portrayal of computers back in the eighties and early nineties, because again, the percentile of the population who actually knew anything about computers was small.
          You can’t really do it now. Most of your audience are likely to have used a computer. Most have probably played some form of videogame at some point. So it’s no longer a small part of the audience who pick up on it being wrong, it’s a large part of it. When it’s a small part you can always explain it away as “simplifying the facts for the inexpert viewer”. When it’s the majority of the audience, then instead you come across as being either out of touch, or lazy.

          • Sumanai says:

            I don’t think it’s right to screw over* a group of people, like historians, simply because they’re a minority. Especially since it’s so often done for no good reason. For instance: I’ve heard that during the Sengoku period the northernmost part of Japan was largely unpopulated. Why is the area handled like every other in Sengoku? There’s enough space elsewhere, they could’ve just pulled a “here be dragons” thing and then the game would’ve been more accurate without a loss for playability.

            It’s a whole another thing if it’s for game balance etc.

            * The frustration of seeing something done wrong in a film or game just because they didn’t bother to ask an expert can be immense.

        • Zwebbie says:

          @Unaco: While Assassin’s Creed is monumentally stupid in its history department, I do believe that it’s very hard, if not impossible, to do history justice in media; history is interesting in what’s different from our time, but a movie or game doesn’t get the chance to carefully lay that out, and has to adapt it to modern sensibilities. The result is that, usually, a movie about the middle ages doesn’t depict any medieval people at all, but modern people with simply a larger and more prominent amount of bigots. An example of how hard it is to understand history as it was is Joan of Arc; one of the most popular people in the minds of current audiences and star of plenty of movies. What they often change, though, is that the historical Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for wearing pants, because you need quite a bit of background to take the whole theological discussion about pants seriously these days.

          • vagabond says:

            It seems to me that Joan of Arc was burned for wearing pants in the same way as Al Capone was arrested for tax evasion.

        • bear912 says:

          If you had given SpaceChem to someone who loves programming, they probably would have hugged you.

    • Lambchops says:

      I was about to defend Spacechem but since you’ve already clarified your point I’ll refrain, especially as I agree with the gist of what you are saying.

      Still repeated innacuaricies (even for the sake of entertainment) can be rather negative things, reinforcing stereotypes that perhaps aren’t helpful.

      I found this blog post (which is looking at things from a slightly differented angle but still seems relevant) to be pretty interesting.

      http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/culturing-science/2011/10/04/inaccuracies-in-fiction-when-is-reshaping-fact-appropriate/

    • YourMessageHere says:

      It’s not even that complex. Just look at guns in FPSs. A gun is a concrete thing, easily reproduced, you might think. But no. Counterstrike is, I think, responsible for about half the guns in FPS games being modelled the wrong way round.

      The CS modeller decided to place guns on the left, so people could see the animated ejection port (where the bullet case is ejected after a shot is fired), because that would look cool. As the mod became more popular, people asked to have guns on the right, since that’s more naturalistic. He simply mirrored the gun models. Games hoping to succeed in the way CS did often emulate it, even down to this. CS Source did it. Far Cry does it. Even Stalker does it. The list could go on, it’s everywhere. That means a lot of people will believe that shell casings eject to the left, when they usually go the other way, i.e. not into the shooters face or line of sight. In a way, yes, it makes the guns look far more real if they have visible working parts – but animation can fix that. You only have to look at the custom models made and animated by communities for free that are streets ahead of anything commercial in all respects, while also fully accurate to the real thing.

      For the record, this is why my mum, a zoologist, gave up watching The X Files. Pseudoscience, she used to call it; it drove her mad.

      To me, the point is not that the pot is calling the kettle black. It’s that none of this needs to happen in the first place; there’s absolutely no reason for making these mistakes other than the creators not caring enough to do a proper job. It’s like correct spelling. Get things right and no-one has anything to say about it. Get it wrong and not only does your easily avoided error stick out and make you look stupid, for a lot of people it nags at their attention each time they see it, reducing their enjoyment of what you’ve done. Modelling guns correctly or representing chemistry…stuff…properly isn’t going to change much about the game, any more than correct spelling is, but it makes things work properly in context. If people like us not only notice this stuff but feel compelled to write about it on the internet, surely the editors and QA folks who are paid to check games, and films and books and TV and representational dance, over for problems before release are missing a big trick.

      • Skabooga says:

        But there are so many facets artists would have to fact-check while creating their work, not just gun models and computer systems, but, in essence, everything! Sure, there are artists with the dedication and natural interest in a subject to represent it in full accuracy in their work, but it would be unfair to expect every artist to operate in that fashion. For at the end of the day, these people are artists, not experts in a given field.

        • YourMessageHere says:

          They don’t have to be experts. They do absolutely have to fact check. Otherwise, bottom line, they are simply complacent and taking their audience for granted.

          I’m not an expert in guns. I do, however, know when one is the wrong way round. You don’t have to be an expert to spot an elementary mistake. I’m just calling for people to do enough research to do themselves and their ideas justice. At the very least, they have to read around and understand what they are talking about, or they shouldn’t talk about it; there’s a time and place for bullshit, and it’s not in professionally produced fiction. All the artist has to do is run what they are doing past someone who actually is an expert and ask if they’ve made stupid mistakes.

          Do you imagine Neal Stephenson is any less of an artist for his knowledge of computers, maths and cryptography? Are Lucian Freud paintings less meticulous and detailed because he treats painting as anatomy? No, in fact, both those people are considered masters of what they do, precisely because they do the research. It’s the difference between something that’s enjoyable if you don’t think too hard about it, and something that’s as tight as a drum in every sense and that doesn’t demand you compromise, just because it has.

      • AmateurScience says:

        Growing up my Dad was responsible for teaching explosive ordinance disposal for the army. Needles to say he had a few choice words during any action film with a bomb in it:

        ‘Never mind cutting the wires! Take the detonators out of the plastique!’ or something similar

        Now that I’m all growed up and a geneticist, I have first hand experience of exactly this. It’s a bit of a bummer when some throwaway comment pulls you straight out of the fiction.

        BUT

        All entertainment media are guilty of this to a greater of lesser extent, with film and TV being the worst culprits because they are comparatively short form compared to a book or a (narrative-based) game.

        • Sumanai says:

          I’ve ran into an article about technobabble, and I suppose about pseudoscience as well, that basically said that writers shouldn’t use it. The reasoning went basically “most people won’t care and those who do likely know better and will be taken out of the experience”. I don’t fully agree, as I know people who really like technobabble, but I don’t understand why it’s so popular either.

      • Phantoon says:

        The X Files doesn’t have Science in it- that’s the entire show!

  19. fiddlesticks says:

    I suppose you have to admire Peter Molyneuyx’s tenacity, but at the same time, is he really as innovative as the article claims? From my admittedly rather limited knowledge of his work, he seems to promise a lot of unique features, but they generally don’t end up in the actual games.

    • Xocrates says:

      Thinking about it, that may in fact be evidence of him being ‘innovative’, for no other reason that it means he’s willing to try for features that he either can’t deliver or aren’t fun enough and end up in the cutting floor.

      However, that’s mostly from his ‘recent’ output, he did deliver some very awesome games in the bullfrog days, including the likes of Populous, Syndicate, or Dungeon Keeper.

    • Archonsod says:

      Innovation =/= success.

    • Om says:

      Yeah, I can’t really get behind this whole ‘Molyneuyx is a national treasure’ thing. I’ve just been burnt by him too often in the past. Innovation mean delivering new content, not shouting about what you think might work and then not doing half of it

      Or, in less words, this: http://i.imgur.com/dDWkX.png

      And frankly, even the rosiest evaluations of his output would have to admit that his Lionhead years (ie, the past *decade*) have not been the most innovative or productive. Certainly not when compared to the impact that Bullfrog had

    • MadMatty says:

      like Xocrates said, mostly due to his stuff with Bullfrog, from the mid-nineties.

      Lionhead and Microsoft output has been relatively poor, agreed.

  20. MadMatty says:

    So ME2´s story isnt coherent? what a shock!
    colour me dazzled!

    I was too busy facepalming myself with the obvious mishaps between the story department, and the level design/graphics department.

    A huge rock falls infront of a gate in ME1, not quite big enough tho, leaving a gap big enough for even Wrex to climb thru- Shepard goes “we´ll have to find a way around!”
    DDDDDRRRROHHHHH JUST CLIMB THRU FFFS!

    in ME3, a open elevator going up to the ramp, about 2,5 metres up. Elevator isnt working. Background railing for elevator, shaped like ladder, goes all the way up. A ten-year old kid would get up there in less than 10 seconds.
    Sheperd goes “We´ll have to find another way up there!”
    DDDDDDOOOOH AGAIN DOUBLE FACEPALM, JUST CLIMB DA FCK UP THERE.

    I´ve tried very hard to just ignore all its obvious shortcomings, and just enjoy it as the interactive Michael Bay project it is- and its going well: Trying to complete ME3 on Hard, with my Femshep from ME1, and having a blast!

    EDIT: I have also fallen a bit in love with Jennifer Hale (femshep), who bravely spouts the worst sub-hack sci-gibberish ive heard in years, in a belivable tone, and manages to get thru it alive!

  21. dogsolitude_uk says:

    The issue of whether or not games should be ‘fun’ seems to me to be a really complex one, and one in which the impact of the personality types of gamers can often be ignored.

    I recall when I was younger that I used to enjoy long, drawn out games which involved careful consideration of options. This meant that my gaming collection consisted of things like Frankie Goes To Hollywood, text adventure games, Mercenary, Damocles, Elite/Frontier. These days I tend to play games like Thief, Stalker, Skyrim, RPGs, RTSs and Fritz Chess [As further background my Myers-Briggs personality type is INTJ, and I'd rather be reading Dune or Borges or messing about with my telescope than go out clubbing].

    This meant that if a friend came round and wanted to ‘play on the computer’ they’d be a bit stuck, especially if they just wanted to shoot some stuff and have a few beers. To my mind there’s absolutely nothing at all wrong with that, any more than there’s anything wrong with people playing five-a-side of a weekend or going clubbing. This means I’ve always got a couple of shooters/driving games knocking about for any post-pub shenanigans that may arise, in the same way that I always keep a few bottles of Asahi or Goblin in the cellar.

    Anyway, it occurred to me that there may be a correlation between personality type and the kinds of games that people find compelling. If you consider the variations we all have regarding stuff like Introversion/Extraversion, tolerance of ambiguity (I’ll never forget that time I suggested watching David Lynch’s ‘Lost Highway’ round a mate’s house… I’ve not been allowed to choose the films since), need for closure and so forth, it should be a fairly straightfoward conclusion that there’s a market for all kinds of weird and wonderful types of games out there.

    [There's a book that covers this in a lot more depth: 21st Century Game Design by Chris Bateman and Charles Boon. It's a bit dated.]

    Anyway, the question of ‘fun’ seems a bit of an irrelevance to me in this light, especially if we’re all looking for different stuff out of gaming. I like to fully master the content/environment a game, root around (The Witcher was good for this), explore, find new and interesting ways to combine objects/stats and generally play around with the ‘bits’. I like inventory management, stats, hidden things, lockpicking, exploration and meandering about in my own time. It’s not ‘fun’ in the same way that puppies are ‘fun’, but I find it satisfying and compelling.

    I know others that want to blast things and ‘beat’ the game using reflexes and just pile through to the next level ASAP. These are generally the same guys who phone me up to see if I’m coming down to Slimelight over the weekend, or if I’ll be going to X’s party etc.

    Oddly enough, been having similar conversations with them about Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, and whether or not it’s a ‘comedy’ if it’s not ‘funny’. Like Chris Morris’ JAM, it only made me laugh a few times, but I loved watching it and will probably be buying the DVD.

    TLDR: So with the games/fun thing, I’d be inclined to suggest that ‘fun’ probably isn’t what every single one of us is loooking for out of the gaming experience, ‘cos we’re all a bit different…

    • MadMatty says:

      Well, we´re all looking for “Fun”, its just that different things are “fun” for different sorts of people.
      Einstein thought Physics was “Fun”.

      I´m INTP by the way, which usually means complaining about Game X being “confusing” or “too complicated” almost never applies for me, tho i´ll admit Dwarf Fortress is taking the shit, mostly due to the UI tho, and graphics.

      Some people like to watch Horror movies and such games, because they think its “fun” to be a little Scared. Just a little.

      • dogsolitude_uk says:

        You’re right: on reflection I was using the word ‘fun’ in a rather narrow sense. If you have a wider definition that includes include ‘engaging’, compelling’ and perhaps also ‘releases the right kinds of chemicals’ :) then that would probably explain why I love Amnesia and Thief so much!

        [Incidentally, the 'J' on the end of my Myers Briggs result is the 'weakest' of the four, so I'm only a bit more 'J' than a 'P'. Hence I fully appreciate your views on Dwarf Fortress... ]

        • MadMatty says:

          hell, my IQ is only around 157 (minus a few years of hazardous medication and loads of beers, so i would expect to be a few points down).
          Einstein had like 240.
          My IQ score is around Madonnas 155- not that it means much haha.
          I´d be an ok Jet Pilot, but i wouldnt make the space shuttle.

          Unfortunately i got a disabling mental disease called Paranoid Schizofrenia which i have a hard time coping with- i cant play fast FPS´s or work in a crowded enviroment more than a few hours at a time, max, or i get stress breakdowns- a shame since i was quite good at FPS style games until the onset of the disease, mid-twenties.

          Anyway, dwarf fortress´ problems have more to do with Autistic (look it up if you dont know) tendencies in Tarns Adams, and also a stubbernes to not let many willing third parties supply some graphics and implement a more practical User Interface- many are willing for free. :/ shame really, not to get it out to a wider audience.

          • dogsolitude_uk says:

            Ah well, you’re certainly not doing badly at 157. The average person has an IQ of 100, so you’re half way between Average and Einstein :) Also, the measurement scale and type of test will mean it can vary too (you might be able to pick up a few more points on a different test, e.g. Cattell rather than Stanford-Binet).

            A few years ago I did an assignment on cognitive development as part of a post-grad course, and one of the things we covered was the use/abuse of IQ tests, multiple intelligences and suchlike. Suddenly I felt a lot happier about failing my driving test so many times… :) It’s actually where I started to find things like Myers-Briggs etc. really interesting.

            I have a couple of friends with Asperger’s syndrome. One of them loves Dwarf Fortress.

  22. Mman says:

    I already covered issues with the “is a 100 hour game worthwhile?” article (never mind that most Dark Souls completion times I’ve seen are around half of that) in it’s comments, but I guess I can throw a bit more mud it’s way.

    The single fundamental problem that completely destroys any attempted point the article has as an artistic analysis is the part where it says the danger and difficulty in the game is an an artistic message, and then says the same thing could be done in 5-10 hours. It’s a complete misunderstanding of basic game design; the difficulty is specifically what makes it “100 hours” in the first place, if you removed that and made DS’s difficulty like the average game nowadays it would be about 10-15 hours long maximum. The article ends up being more like a crash course on just how utterly undeveloped games analysis/criticism is.

    Maybe there’s a discussion to be had about how much more time-consuming games can be than most other mediums, but it’s a completely different point to what the article is trying (failing) to argue.

  23. YourMessageHere says:

    The Mass Effect thing: This is a really interesting way of showing how US media twists perception of the wider world (stay with me here).

    This Walker chappie seems to have let his real world politics and perception of same affect his game. ME only maps to the real world so far. All through ME1, you’re told over and over about how some humans are anti-alien and there’s considerable sympathy for the kind of views Cerberus holds, particularly from some military people, not to mention Udina. But to refigure it ‘for clarity’, the guy decides to use two diametrically opposed worldviews, those of the US and Al Qaeda. Failing to see the wider picture, bigstyle, I feel.

    A far better comparison: the Saudi Military and Al Qaeda. Sure, the official line from Saudi is that Al Qaeda are bad and naughty and please use our air bases to bomb them, but I think you’ll find considerable sympathy for them at all levels of society. Basically, the human population in the ME universe is surrounded by ambient xenophobia and pan-human ‘patriotism’; it’s not so unlikely that Normandy crew might be caught up in it. It’s also not unlikely that the military might be entirely used to dealing with this in its people, since these sorts of things do tend to crop up in military people, so excusing their most decorated living hero for working in such an organisation isn’t such a stretch.

    Another thing: Collectors move very fast, in, pod up the merchandise and out. They are designed for it at the genetic level. They are faster than pirates. Fleets don’t move that fast. The only thing that does is the Normandy; that’s why they catch the Collectors and the earth fleet don’t, and why Shepard made her name catching pirates. Not rocket science.

    Admittedly, there are some good points in there though. The thermal clips thing was just idiotic (is that still in ME3?), as was the cover system; what do you mean my shield only recharges when I crouch? Being behind a thing and standing, tracking it by sound through the thing and keeping my gun ready, is just as much in cover as crouching behind it with my back to it, except more tactically sensible.

    I too was disappointed by there being no obvious reason for Shepard’s inability to say ‘fuck you, you inhuman bastards’ to Cerberus at the first opportunity and blow all resistance (and Jacob, and Miranda) out of the airlock. I only found fleeting references to Cerberus in ME1, but it was enough to make me go o_O at the docility of shepard’s co-operation in ME2. Even at the end, I told TIM where to go, but in very tame terms.

    • FhnuZoag says:

      Uh what, your shields only recharge when you are crouching? I thought the shields just recharged, Halo style, whenever you’ve not been fired on for any sustained period of time. (Being in cover helps because you aren’t exposed to stray shots just clipping the top of your head and resetting your recharge timer).

      • Archonsod says:

        They do. The only thing ME3 has changed is cover – guns now have a penetrative value that lets you shoot through the more flimsy types of cover for reduced damage. Don’t think you had that in ME2.

    • Sumanai says:

      I thought the “Shepard, pirate hunter” thing was a background option and therefore before being assigned to the Normandy.

  24. sinister agent says:

    The best candidate for mechanisation is of course Brunel. He’d become a sort of ultra robot doctor, and would sport a series of excellent hats.

  25. Radiant says:

    That article sums up pretty well a lot of the issues I have with the ME games.
    The stories are complete hokum that you find in the most god awful serial sci fi books you read as a kid but now regret ever reading [Animorphs].
    The meaningful choices aren’t.

    It’s not a terrible game by any means but it’s not great either.

    • FhnuZoag says:

      The way I see Mass Effect is that it’s Star Wars minus the egregiously stupid parts. Which is pretty damn good actually. Not everything has to be War and Peace, you know. I don’t resent the stupid stuff I read as a kid, and I don’t regret the enjoyment I’ve had playing the ME games. There is a tier beneath ‘classic literature’, and it’s not called ‘worst thing ever’.

    • AmateurScience says:

      I’m struggling to think of another game that’s done ‘pure’ sci-fi/space opera better or in as much depth…well ever really.

      Obviously that may be a damning indictment of the whole genre in games.

      I really think Bioware deserve some credit for actually delivering the whole thing and not letting it fall to pieces completely (considering the permutations that was a distinct possibility). Sure there are some plot holes and inconsistencies. But that’s mostly because they’re trying to crowbar the story into what is an evolving gameplay system: ME1 was unlike pretty much anything in terms of being an RPG informed by third person shooters. So as the tech matured some of the core fiction had to mature with it.

      Now that’s a problem that’s pretty much unique to games as a medium. In that your ‘canvas’ evolves and changes under you as you develop the work. I think a lot of the bile that’s been spewed online about ME3 comes down to people misapplying the expectations they’ve developed for book and film series onto a game: but that fact is has anyone ever tried to tie a meaningful narrative over three games whilst having the kind of major story permutations that ME has had? I’m struggling to think of many other examples, even of a game series that stretched a single narrative over three separate full games.

  26. karthink says:

    The Mass Effect series has this rare quality where the more you care about it, the harder you get kicked in the nethers. A relentless series of senseless retcons makes it clear that Bioware does not respect the universe they’ve built nearly as much as the codex reading player.

  27. gwathdring says:

    Wow. I love me my fine literature, but I’m desperately trying to grasp how reading 100 hours worth of the same novel benefits a person in any more significant a way than 100 hours of a video game. I would guess that someone as well read as would probably be necessary to understand and enjoy War and Peace (you’d need the vocabulary and stamina, at the least, which usually means a lot of reading) could ferret out the main themes, philosophies and ideas about the novel before reaching the end … at which point the entertainment of the story would be the primary advantage to putting in the full 100 hours. A benefit not so different from playing a 100 hour game to completion.

    I’ve certainly sunk as many hours into individual series of books as I have into long-form video games and I can’t say I feel like I am a better person or more enlightened for it. The higher level of artistic meaning and intellectual understanding I get from books is less dependent on the books themselves and more dependent on the way I consume them–and the way I was taught to consume them. Of course, I would still agree/argue that there is far more art and intellectualism to be found in literature than video gaming, but it is neither an argument of proportionality nor entirely fair in any case on account of over a 1000-year head start.

    I’ve never quite understood the idea that everything should take up an amount of my time proportional to its value. It isn’t a bad idea, philosophically speaking, it just never really resonated with me. I know what I think is important and what I think isn’t, but I just don’t think everything has to be important. Or that non-intellectual pursuits are inherently less important, for that matter. Or that classic literature is inherently more intellectual. But mostly that everything I do has to be important … I think at least part of the reason is that I recognize myself as a relative creature. Hot and cold are defined by one another in my physical senses, and my emotional world isn’t any different. Without contrast, my world starts to lose meaning. If everything I do is more “important” than importance itself has less meaning, until the concept shifts to accommodate my new life style in a more relative and comprehensible manner. But even if that weren’t the case, the idea just doesn’t click with me despite the attractive logic of it. Oh well.

    • Dinger says:

      Well, sure, but here’s another way to put it, based on the “games need to diversify” argument presented elsewhere:

      If you make 100-hour games, the only people playing them will be those who have 100 hours to burn. If you’re looking to sell millions of copies (which you are if you’ve invested the resources into produces a 100-hour-game), you need to gear your game to a demographic that is willing and able to burn 100 hours on your game. That demographic either (A) only plays a handful of 100-hour games a year or (B) has a lot of free time to spend on games. If you aim for (A), you need absolutely broad appeal, impeccable execution, spot-on marketing, and luck. If you aim for (B), you’re targeting 16-25-year-old males.

      Bottom line: Sure, game length should be organic to the experience; if the vision the artist wants to realize lasts 100 hours, so it lasts 100 hours. But the fact that it lasts 100 hours impinges upon the economic side of the equation, and, rather than permitting broad and daring artistic expression, limits the genre and artistic choices to those deemed profitable.

      That was supposed to be the lesson of Portal 1.

      • gwathdring says:

        Well put. I certainly agree. There are plenty of reasons to caution against developing 100-hour games beyond any sort of inherent worthlessness or wastefulness in the activity. It has to be tight and it has to keep the player going long enough that they don’t feel their money is wasted and will purchase one of your products again even if they don’t finish the first one. This is a lot easier to do when you can get most of your players to complete the game, which is much more difficult in a longer game.

  28. Muzman says:

    That Galaxies article is scary. It seems any new territory you found, virtual or otherwise, you need some sort of anti-trust/anti-monopoly laws ready to go or else.

    • Skabooga says:

      I too was mildly disturbed upon realizing that this must be the same attitude and approach certain people have to real life markets, and that the conclusion for them is often the same as that of the author.

      It is almost like the archetype of gangster films as placed through the thematic filter of computer games.

    • Reefpirate says:

      It’s funny, even though the author of that article seems to claim that he contributed to the downfall of SWG, I still fail to see how his behaviour would have been destructive. It wasn’t like he was cheating the system and duping all his cash. He earned it honestly and put in more effort than your average player.

      • Muzman says:

        He had the entire economy sewn up and gradually increased all the prices, making it more difficult for individual players to get the things they needed to advance and probably subtly driving them away. Until eventually the makers have to change the rules entirely just so people will keep playing and cut him out.
        Do you get to strangle things to death because you put the most effort in to doing so?

        • Reefpirate says:

          He doesn’t allude to this in his article. And frankly, the so-called game saving changes ended up killing the game according to all the sources I’ve read. Selling in-game currency and accounts for real money I could see having the usual negative effects on an MMO, but being enterprising enough to get the best location and provide the best service to people is not destructive. He won his ‘monopoly’ by making the right decisions and getting the largest market share. Rather than pricing people out of the market, as your anti-market mentality seems to think, apparently there were scores of people more than willing to pay his prices in return for what he was offering.

          • sinister agent says:

            How is his stance “anti-market”? It’s clearly anti-monopoly, which if anything is pro-market.

          • Muzman says:

            He says outright that he had a monopoly and put up the prices. Now I don’t know the ins and outs of Galaxy’s economy, but the implication he makes himself seems pretty clear to me. People would grind to get -whatever- and directly or indirectly use it to buy his stuff. Once grinding was gone most of his business went with it.
            Yes it’s not entirely his fault the game died, or even mostly. But you don’t think that controlling the market like that might have had some impact on the game (as he clearly does), including, but not limited to, reducing the value of grinding and therefore the value of play time spent and contingently the ability to advance? (paying real world money for things probably comes into play here too) Or is that all just externalities?
            And since when are pro market people pro monopoly?
            Never mind that this is supposed to be a fun little role playing game for people. Yeesh. MMO makers should hire him to stress test economy models for this kind of thing. That could work rather well.

          • Reefpirate says:

            There’s a difference between having a large market share and having a monopoly. Kind of like Microsoft. Everyone loves to call them a monopoly, but they’re really not. On these SWG servers, I’m sure there would have been alternative vendors, but people decided to use his. There would have been a ceiling on his prices beyond which people would find better alternatives. Him being industrious was good for the game’s economy, and the dumbass changes that the devs made destroyed the game. I’m still failing to see how this guy led to the downfall.

            Yes, he said he raised prices, yes he claimed to be a monopoly (or at least striving to become one), but the article does not make a clear connection between this and the downfall of the game. Making Jedis easy and available to everyone seemed to be the downfall. Competing aggressively on the vendor market was not.

          • Reefpirate says:

            Sorry, that last reply kind of missed your post Muzman.

            In my mind, pro-market people should be in favour of an honest monopoly. If a service is so good, and so reasonably priced to garner 100% market share then what is the harm? Realistically, it never gets to 100%, but in some industries it comes close and it benefits consumers.

            In my mind, the idea that a vendor tycoon such as this guy could exist just draws me in to the game more than anything. This is why EVE is so intriguing to me, and from what I can tell was one of the main pulls for SWG. But it wasn’t greed that brought down SWG, it was really sort of a ‘socializing the grind’ kind of centralized policy implemented by the devs that killed the game. Everyone gets a Jedi!

    • Arglebargle says:

      This SWG story just adds another aspect of how poorly the game was designed. They didn’t even give any consideration to the game economy. This is not ala Eve, where they have on staff experts, SWG brass just didn’t even bother. Like so many other things.

      Of course, I was warned away from the game by friends who were working on it. This just goes into the stack with their tales of bad design and poor management that led to the decline and eventual floppage of SWG.

      • Lemming says:

        that’s some serious revisionist history there considering this would have been one of the pioneers of such an economy. But sure, the brass ‘couldn’t be bothered’. It’s as if they didn’t have the crystal balls we’ve all enjoyed for years!

        Nothing wrong with what the guy did btw. Players could use other cheaper vendors, he could just afford to have higher prices because he was closer to the starports. He did what any business does. Location, location, location.

  29. Reapy says:

    Sounds like dark souls author got stuck at the capra demon and wrote the article in a rage. Seriously trolling stupid article from start to finish, perhaps the author should spend his 100 hours resurfacing his counters and volunteering at a homeless shelter instead of thinking he has been more productive with his time by reading dead trees in his living room.

  30. TsunamiWombat says:

    Re: The Mass Effect series

    The ending to 3. Just…the ending…My god.

    I didn’t believe. I didn’t believe and i’m sorry. It’s terrible. It’s…terrible. It’s so terrible it makes me -angry- because the rest of the game was what I felt was the best Bioware game yet. But the last 10 minutes just torches it and the rest of the series along with it. This is really, really bad people. Really, really bad.

  31. pilouuuu says:

    Games that last 100 hours and are enjoyable or compelling during most of that time are definitely worth it. If you feel like you’re part of that world and you get suspension of disbelief and forget about everything else it is worth it. Even if you don’t obtain knowledge like in books. Most people played much more than that in a game like Civilization, a game which is a good example of how you can lose track of time. You don’t obtain something that makes you a better person for that… Or do you? You can even say it is an educative game, because it teaches you some history, science and politics with it Civilopedia. You can even obtain tactical skills which can be useful in your job or everyday life. I wouldn’t dare to say you wasted your time.

    Even if you played Michael Bay style games like let’s say, Just Cause 2 and you had a lot of fun, I wouldn’t say it’s wasted time.

    I agree that gaming needs diversification. But it’s not that bad. OK, we have Call of Duty, but we also have Civilization V, Mass Effect 3, Skyrim, Dear Esther, To the Moon… What I would to say, considering the last two games mentioned is that we need more less violent games. Games about narrative, about characters. It says something when one of the better experiences of 2011 was a game with simple graphics like To the Moon. It didn’t include amazing Bay’s explosions, but a more intimate and compelling story. We need more games like that. And role-playing games would be excellent for that. You could play like a psycho-killer like you do in Skyrim, but you also should have the option of completing the game in a non-violent way. I don’t know if I have a good example for that. Maybe Ultima. A game where you pursue human virtues. A game where you get to live in a world. We need diversification, no doubt about that. And we need a modern equivalent to Ultima!

    • hitnrun says:

      To the Moon clearly used the RPGMaker suite popular ten years ago including default assets ARRRRGGGHH I just had to say that because I used the program as a teenager it drives me crazy when every few years a title comes out that uses RM2K or RMXP and is treated like a real “retro” game that someone developed by the games media.

      (Obviously, this doesn’t take away from your larger point about the game, and in fact supports it.)

      • pilouuuu says:

        More than the game looking retro I commend the fact that with simple graphics you can create a more compelling game than with amazing hyper realistic graphics. Mostly I think it shows that the gaming industry needs to chance it focus as with good graphics AND interesting stories we could have a much better gaming experience than we have now.

  32. Zepp says:

    I’m not sure if somebody already posted this but “day one” DLC files has been found on ME3 disc. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRRpGlmtws8

    In this video description there are 3 easy steps on how to unlock this…

    FAIL BW/EA.

    • hitnrun says:

      I think the 17KB download to activate the DLC was announcement enough.

      • Sumanai says:

        So they weren’t even trying to hide the fact that they were lying when they claimed it wasn’t quite finished when ME3 went gold? Well, I say.

    • Lemming says:

      I boycotted ME3 for different reasons, but that video is misleading. Only the character of Javik is on the disc already. All his audio conversations, the new mission on eden prime etc are a 700mb download once the DLC is activated.

      This is pure rabid fanboy hyperbole, but go ahead and unlock your free mute appeared-out-of-nowhere character model, by all means.

  33. hitnrun says:

    “What no one talks about when they praise Dark Souls is what it means—what immemorial questions of human nature its difficulty and disorder evoke. Instead, the game is good because playing makes you feel good, and that goodness is amplified by the recent memory of having been very bad at the game, of taking wrong turns and mistiming attacks against zombies. “

    By George, I think he’s got it!

    To paraphrase a discussion upthread, you don’t hear people striving to justify wasting 100 hours in sports. In fact, the writer himself mentions that you could train for or run a marathon in the time it would take you to complete Dark Souls. Tennis, Football, and Other Football teach you nothing about human nature that a satisfyingly constructed videogame does not (unless you agree, as I do, that physical athleticism is a virtue of sorts), but you don’t see much musing on the uselessness of those.

    And heck, well over 99% of the human hours spent on sporting pursuits is *vicarious.* I may not actually slay a dragon when I beat Dark Souls, but I do actually beat Dark Souls, which as an accomplishment is far more personally enriching than watching my team win.

    (All this, by the way, is if you do accept the writer’s premise that Dark Souls isn’t indicative of anything related to the human condition, which I don’t. Just because the work has received insufficient attention from academic thumbsuckers — you know, because it’s a videogame — doesn’t mean there actually isn’t anything there to analyze.)

    • pilouuuu says:

      Funny thing, because I do consider sports mostly as a waste of time. I prefer imagination sports as I’d call videogames as playing games I had the chance to visit other planets, take important moral decision, develop my patience and eye-hand coordination skills. Maybe it is useless, but it’s hardly a waste of time as I had fun and delighted my imagination.

      Games can get much better and they should because games have the chance to become a form of art and entertainment of its own which gives interaction and participation to the player, but it’s important that they become more emotionally interesting and by that I mean by giving us other emotions besides thrills and violence as in a Michael Bay’s movie. We need to go beyond that, beyond movies and books and use that interactivity as an advantage over the other media. I think that more developments in better narrative, A.I. and multiple paths and procedural environments could help much more in that regard than amazing graphics.

  34. zapatapon says:

    I’ll probably be part of the minority here (salutations to Dinger, Alphabet, John Brindle), but the 100 hours article resonated closely to my own feelings. Of course, games can/should be pure fun, provide opportunity for unwinding etc. Why the comparison with books, movies is relevant though is that those, too, are a form of escapism, though one where you find yourself personally more elevated afterwards (provided they are good books, or good movies). The article underlines why this generally cannot be the case for 100-hour games, where a player can rather reach the end with a feeling of inner emptiness. Personal tastes may surely vary, but I often wish most games would come with an optional digest version for the gamer who just would like to enjoy a distillate of the game, and cannot afford the 100 hours (or even the 25 hours) investment. Most games simply have a problem of pacing, filler sections, boring menial tasks/quests, and generally relying too much on recycling over and over a few good ideas. The annoyance of the grinding often overshadows the fact that these ideas were actually good and original in the first place, and is also an obstacle for recognition by an audience rooted in traditional culture.

    Bioshock is in my opinion a typical example of game that spoils a couple of fantastic ideas through a protracted and repetitive delivery, but in fact most games have this flaw. A few games manage to overcome boring sections by constantly reinventing themselves and defying expectations, maintaining a sense of wonder by the sheer amount of ideas they contain (out the top of my head: Planescape Torment, Grim Fandango, Half Life 2, Psychonauts, DROD). Games that really get the pacing right are the rarest gems (I see Braid and Portal approaching that ideal the most, and a special mention to Dave Gilbert’s adventure games)

  35. MD says:

    The mind-boggling scope was an invitation to explore. ‘Flip open an atlas’ the Create A Flight menu seemed to implore, ‘Choose a start point and, if you like, a destination, and be on your way’. For no logical reason you’d find yourself following the Nile or the Amazon one night, crossing the Caspian Sea or the Bay of Bengal the next. This was Flight Simulator in the days before the series started dispensing patronising gongs. An achievement was finding the airstrip you sought before your tank ran dry, or putting your plane down in one piece despite fierce crosswinds and failing light. Satisfaction was a completely natural by-product of improving airmanship and burgeoning knowledge of a relatively complicated machine.

    yesyesyesyesyes

  36. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I agree 100% about Dark Souls, but I don’t think games should be lumped together solely based on time. Saying that an Elder Scrolls title, for example, is only halfway over at 100 hours is bizarre. If you wanted to, you could probably “complete” an Elder Scrolls title–at least the most recent ones–in ten hours or less. The “100 hours” comes from the immense amount of entirely optional content. The length of the game isn’t a set quality of the game, but a side feature available for the player’s enjoyment. Want to learn more about the world? Want to have some free-form adventures? Want to just see some scenery? Go ahead!

    Compare with Dark Souls, where every square inch of the game is gated behind monstrous difficulty. There’s nothing to see without progressing more or less linearly through the title, obeying the game’s rules. The length is unchangeable, and there is little player choice in what to see or do.

    • Mman says:

      “Compare with Dark Souls, where every square inch of the game is gated behind monstrous difficulty. There’s nothing to see without progressing more or less linearly through the title, obeying the game’s rules. The length is unchangeable, and there is little player choice in what to see or do.”

      Apparently you haven’t actually played the game, given it’s very non-linear outside of one section in the middle (including several areas that are completely optional/missable), and when you know what you’re doing you can finish it in ten hours or so without even trying too hard.

      • Panzeh says:

        Dark Souls is actually fairly linear. The game flow if you want to proceed is straightforward, and there are actually only two totally optional areas(you still have to pass through one of them in a speed run) for game completion without glitches. The only real non-linearity is opening up the final area where you can tackle the four required bosses in any order you like, which is very similar to many RPGs.

        • Mman says:

          (Dark Souls location spoiler warning ahead so heres a bit of filler so it hopefully doesn’t show up on the right side of the website)

          “there are actually only two totally optional areas”

          The Depths, Ash Lake and the Great Hollow, the return to the Asylum and the Painted World. That’s five areas (some are linked, but even then there are three optional routes). Valley of the Drakes also technically counts, although as it’s just a tiny hub area you’d be causing yourself a lot of pain to intentionally avoid it. That’s also not counting some shortcuts and routes that make other areas 90% skippable (if you’re just going for what you need Darkroot is pretty much entirely optional for instance).

      • Drinking with Skeletons says:

        I have played the game. It was so difficult that I actually bought the game to try to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t mind a challenge, but it’s just not fun to die and die and die some more just because that’s what the game requires. I really liked the general vibe of the game, but I would’ve enjoyed the game a great deal more if it had had an Easy mode. Honestly, would the experience have been that much less engaging had the standard enemies, at least, been more manageable?

        • Mman says:

          What you think of the difficulty of the game doesn’t change that what you said about the structure of it is pretty much objectively wrong.

        • ffordesoon says:

          “Honestly, would the experience have been that much less engaging had the standard enemies, at least, been more manageable?”

          Yes. The game is built around its difficulty. Most enemies have very simple AI routines, because the point of the moment-to-moment gameplay is satisfaction through mastery of the systems, in the same way that shooting at where the enemy is going to be in Space Invaders is a tactic the player must intuit. What makes Space Invaders fun and thrilling and otherwise not boring is the knowledge that any one of the enemy’s shots will kill you. Thus the satisfaction of avoiding the enemy’s shots and killing them in return. Making DS easy would just make it boring, because the enemy AI is purposefully pattern-based. If enemies in Dark Souls hurt you as little as they do in Skyrim (which, to be clear, is tied with DS as my favorite game of last year), the whole game would become a dull exercise in grinding with beautiful art. The game only works because every wrong move counts, which forces you to learn the patterns of the enemies and the nuances of the systems at play.

          Also, no, it’s only linear if you try to play it like Uncharted. There are three routes open to you right at the start of the game. They aren’t obvious, and only one is easy enough for a first-time player to manage, but you can attempt to go through the less forgiving areas first, and it’s possible to be successful. So, no, it’s very far from linear. It’s not as open as Skyrim, it’s true, but there aren’t a lot of games that open.

  37. Voon says:

    Will Molyneux stop making Fable(like) games now that he left M$?

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