The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on August 5th, 2012 at 10:21 am.


Sundays are for medals. You’re going to get one just for reading this article. Will we award zinc discs of achievement to any of this week’s word-producing individuals? Let’s find out.

  • This is a strange article. Simon Parkin meets with Nolan Bushnell and frames him as “gaming’s absent father”: “I don’t like to go into red oceans. If I don’t have a significant innovation I don’t like to try it. It’s just too much hard work. And right now, iPhone games – even if you have a great game, discoverability is really hard. The reason I’m in education right now is because it’s massively screwed up, and the technology is manageable and doable. And so, in the classical definition of a poet who interprets God for the masses: I want to interpret technology for the education business.”
  • While at Eurogamer, it’s also worth visiting Rab’s most recent column: “If acceptance of reality means that the games industry loses its giant studios, and it all shrinks back to small teams making smaller games and charging less, then so be it. It’s said that the recent Kingdoms of Amalur had to sell three million copies to just break even. That’s ridiculous. That’s a sign of a broken, dated system starting to shut down.”
  • Alan Williamson writes about the importance of subjectivity in games criticism: “Mechanical analysis tells us nothing about what it’s really like to play these games: how our emotions intertwine with the story, why you feel a strange dissonance when Max Payne kills all those dudes, the drive to persevere against impossible odds. Subjectivity acknowledges these artistic value of games: what better way to educate people who don’t play games than by describing how those games feel, beyond what we can see in a momentary glance? A game like Nier may seem outwardly crude, but by dipping beneath the surface we can bring its inner strengths to light. I wouldn’t advise my grandmother to play it, but the knowledge is still there for those who seek it.”
  • On game preservation: “Game preservation has an extra problem that film doesn’t, however, and that is the rapidity with which technology advances. Many early games were made for and distributed on hardware that no longer exists—in any form. And the clock is ticking on everything that remains. The lifespan of a floppy disk or magnetic tape is estimated to be around 30 years, if it’s well cared for and you’re lucky. Once bit rot sets in, it can be nearly impossible to recover the data.”
  • On Spec Ops, No Russian And Interactive Atrocity: “I present a counter-argument: in the real world, there is always a choice. The claim that a massacre of human beings is the result of anyone– a player character in a video game or a real person– because “they had no choice” is the ultimate abdication of responsibility (and, if you believe certain philosophers, a repudiation of the very basis for a moral society). It is unclear to me how actually being presented with no choice is more “emotionally real,” because while it guarantees the player can only make the singular choice, it is also more manipulative. It is like the educational game that wears its assumptions on its sleeve in the name of “simulation”.”
  • Steve Fulton on permadeath in games: “Developers have pandered to weaklings and whiners for far too long. There is a revolution coming in the form of true, emotional feedback from games, and difficulty levels to match. Eve Online kick-started the concept, although was by no means the first. Flying a ship worth billions of ISK (the money alone would have taken a player months to accrue), only to be blown up by a clever gate-camp. It’s terrible, painful, heart-breakingly tragic. But it’s also one of the reasons for Eve Online’s success. The brutal nature of the game rewards patience, intelligence and erring on the side of caution. Flying a ship you can’t afford to replace is one of the first rules of Eve, and you will only learn it once.”
  • VG247 talk to Arcen: “All my life I’ve been a gamer, and that involves a lot of looking at what other people actually make as well as what you think they were going to make. So sometimes I’d be reading previews about a game and getting really excited, then play the final product and realized I’d misunderstood what they were going for. And sometimes I thought my original conception of their idea was cooler, and I’d mentally file that away. I think that all game designers do this, unconsciously or not. It certainly was unconscious for me.”
  • No idea how real this is, but it’s amazing/terrifying: “The Baining—one of the indigenous cultural groups of Papua New Guinea—have the reputation, at least among some researchers, of being the dullest culture on earth. Early in his career, in the 1920s, the famous British anthropologist Gregory Bateson spent 14 months among them, until he finally left in frustration. He called them “unstudiable,” because of their reluctance to say anything interesting about their lives and their failure to exhibit much activity beyond the mundane routines of daily work, and he later wrote that they lived “a drab and colorless existence.””
  • Elon Musk knows what to do.

Music this week is actually a series of short films, called Silent City. Filmed in New York’s abandoned spaces, it has something, even if the fight is a bit rubbish.

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273 Comments »

  1. faelnor says:

    I can’t get my head around the fact that it’s Sunday already.

    • Askeladd says:

      And I just remembered that the media we call Video Games is strangely powerful and yet lacking.
      Someday all games that are released are great. In a far far away….
      I think companies like EA are sometimes abusing that media for great profit…

      • SiHy_ says:

        Ever have one of those days where you wake up and everything you read makes absolutely no sense? Like you’ve lost the ability to understand English?

        • LionsPhil says:

          It usually means I’m looking at the Internet again.

          That or a Neal Stephenson novel.

          • Akimbo says:

            No no, a Neal Stephenson novel would start out making sense and then half-way through Ninja Warlord Kill-Bill Army Drumborg Seed.

            …I only read one. You can guess which.

        • devlocke says:

          @Akimbo: For the record, Neal Stephenson didn’t learn how to end a book until Cryptonomicon, so if you only read something written before that, and you thought it was great until it sucked, you should probably check out Cryptonomicon, or the Baroque Cycle. The latter is quite long, and has some explaining-calculus-bits that kind of make my eyes glaze over for a few pages, but is absolutely the greatest work of fiction written in the past few decades, IMHO.

          • Viper50BMG says:

            Just finished “REAMDE”, by Stephenson and, boy, was it ever a fun ride. While thinking back on it, it’s a bit far-fetched (I mean, a pivotal plot element is an MMO that actally trumps WoW for most profits and subscriptions-really, where do they get these things?), and some plot elements seem a bit coincidental, it has great characters, a clever plot, a Welsh villain, and (for the first time that I’ve read in a book by N. S.), an excellent, solid ending.

            The other books of his that I’ve had the pleasure of reading were Snow Crash and Diamond Age, and both left me going “wait, it’s done?” and “huh?” respectively.

  2. RvLeshrac says:

    The “subjective game reviews” bullshit is the most bullshit bullshit I’ve had the displeasure of reading.

    “Are games merely entertainment?” Film REVIEWS seem to handle objectivity well. Are films “merely entertainment”?

    Part of the issue is that Game Reviewers think their job is to critique a game. No, your job is to REVIEW the game. If you want to critique the game, go pitch your Game Critique column to the New Yorker, or write things like the RPS ‘Wot I Think.’ And you sure as HELL have no business sticking ratings of ANY kind on your piece if it isn’t as objective an analysis of the game as possible.

    Subjective reviewing allows the author to insert every bias they have into a review, and actively excuses it. If someone doesn’t like platformers, no one wants to read their page-long bullshit about how outdated or ‘overly difficult’ the latest Mega Man is. If we want to read the excrement of opinionated assholes who know nothing about the subject matter, we can page down to the comments.

    • Patches the Hyena says:

      Good point, but I would revise your statement about film reviewers to be most film reviewers. There are still a few who can’t help but be biased against certain genres, for example animation, or superhero films.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        That’s my point. When film reviewers become subjective, we call them “critics,” and we don’t trust them outside of the list of genres or directors they’ve shown a desire for – if we trust them at all.

        • kuddles says:

          Your opinion is terrible. Why would I read a review if it’s not being subjective? I don’t even think a review could ever be objective unless it’s just recycling information from a press release. Plenty of people pay attention to film critics so I don’t even understand what you’re saying. I also don’t understand what you’re saying when you say film reviews manage to be objective. That’s absolutely crazy talk.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2012/05/the-avengers-review.html

            This is a subjective film critique. You’ll note that most film reviews don’t read like this. Why? Because most film reviews are reviews, not critiques.

            When the ‘reviewer’ starts to go into symbolism and other purely subjective nonsense, it is no longer a ‘review.’ This is made even worse when you turn the page and find another ‘review’ where someone has taken a *completely opposing* view of the symbolism. Now you have two ‘reviews’ that directly oppose each other. Which one should you listen to?

          • Schaap says:

            No. A review is by definition subjective, it’s the opinion and wording of one person. Good reviews are just as subjective as bad reviews, the main difference is that in a good review the critic will explain how and why some parts appealed to him and some didn’t, giving readers the ability to compare their likes and dislikes with those of the reviewer.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Bingo, Schaap.

          • rohsiph says:

            If there are two reviews of the same film / game side-by-side with opposing conclusions, so long as both are well-written it’s a good thing.

            In fact, I remember EGM used to go about their review process by offering no less than 4 writers’ opinions per game. Sometimes there were huge disagreements–and you’d figure out which side you should take by keeping in mind the other reviews certain writers had offered.

            The kind of “review” you seem to be championing sounds like little more than a press release. Useless fluff to anyone with the capacity to do the most basic research. I can look at the product page to get a sense of the art style and discover the genre. A paragraph or two about gameplay systems is helpful, but it’s more helpful when there’s reasoning about whether the systems work or not.

            Reviewers shouldn’t be journalists–there needs to be some bias for their words to matter. The subject of game reviews comes up pretty often because the juvenile approach of judging the most immediately apparent aspects with numerical scores while eschewing many of the subtler yet still important aspects has stuck around for too long. The industry has matured, so the writing about the industry ought to be maturing as well.

            I bought Rainbow Moon on release because it had been a long time since I played that kind of TBS RPG. The writing is abysmal. I poked around looking at early reviews after a few hours and couldn’t find any that mentioned the quality of writing. That’s a problem. Not for everyone, no, a lot of people couldn’t care less about whether them words sound done good, but it’s a crucial element for me. I need to find reviewers who bear this in mind. Such reviewers ought to exist.

          • Slaadfax says:

            Objective vs. subjective doesn’t have to be an absolute. Reviews are generally more effective when they take a less subjective standpoint, since the combined facets of their tastes and preferences are likely to be different from their readers.

            Which is the important part; a reviewer shouldn’t be writing for themselves. Essentially speaking, they’re making a determination on whether or not a person should buy the product. What purpose is served if they merely stand on a soap-box to shout an opinion just to hear themselves yelling?

            Obviously a media experience is a subjective thing, but when describing the pros and cons to a potential audience, the better critics/reviewers will keep everything as objective as possible, knowing full well that their own personal preferences may differ from that of their audience. It doesn’t mean they turn the review into a press release and hit nothing but bullet points, but it’s a much better write-up than a frat-boy blog saying Monkey Island sucks because you don’t even kill anyone.

            Yes, a very silly example, but there are plenty of critics whose utterly fail to hold their bias in check. While not the worst thing in the world, it makes them less effective at their job.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            @rohsiph

            And if the reviews had been objective, they would have included the writing. Instead, the reviewers subjectively decided that no one would care about the writing since they didn’t care about the writing.

            Things like the “Wot I Think” and Penny-Arcade Newspost exist to cover games from the “This is the kind of game I like, and these are some things I liked about this game” standpoint. Reviews should cover “This game is a ground-breaking/good/fair/poor/bad/back-failing example of games of this type.”

          • Strangerator says:

            I think the best reviewers will, at the beginning of their reviews, openly reveal their biases. “I’m a big fan of everything else from this developer, so I had a fairly optimistic outlook going in.”

            This is usually followed by a “they didn’t disappoint” OR “they let me down on a couple things this time.”
            In either case, the final review number won’t be below 9.0. Even when reviewers expose their “slant” ahead of time, it remains incumbent upon US to decipher what the review really means. As long as we remain critical of every review we read (and be sure to get multiple opinions), then we should be able to get some conception of whether or not a forthcoming title is something we might enjoy.

            Unless we read it on RPS of course, in which case what we read is not opinion or analysis, but pure gospel truth.

        • DocSeuss says:

          This is a factually incorrect statement. Criticism is a field based around critical thought–meaning that it’s very objective. Film reviewers tend to be the ones who let their subjectivity get in the way of things. Critics are the people who go contribute to the fields of academia and study. TS Eliot, for instance, was a critic, as was Edgar Allen Poe.

    • AmateurScience says:

      This is why we need to lose scores, they serve no purpose. At all. You can argue that it provides an ‘at a glance’ summary to guide buying: frankly if you’re unwilling to spend 10 minutes reading a couple of pieces before making a £30 purchase, you deserve everything you get. Leave the mechanical summaries to ‘let’s plays’ and the game’s official website. I’d much rather hear if a writer I’m familiar with enjoyed a game or not than whether the clicking was good.

      And don’t even get me started on metacritic as a metric. I use stats just about every day at work (for Science!), that kind of meta-analysis can be, at worst, outright misleading even at best they should be taken with a truck-sized dose of salts.

      PS I think the kotaku method of ‘should I play this yes/no?’ is even worse.

      Edit: this reads a lot more adversarial than I intended, apparently I really dislike review scores.

      • NathanH says:

        Review scores and metacritic averages are about the best things about reviews. You can’t just read a couple of reviews and pay attention to the text because reviewers are so frequently just factually wrong about so much stuff, especially in a game of any complexity, and also frequently focus on irrelevant stuff they’re writing about because it’s easy to write about. The metacritic average is, on the other hand, fairly reliable, as long as you take into account what sort of game it is.

        • Jim Rossignol says:

          “Review scores and metacritic averages are about the best things about reviews.”

          Yes, the 7-9 spectrum of review score averages are *such* a reliable arbiter of taste and value.

          • NathanH says:

            They do the job. It’s a bit odd that the scale is chosen like that, but overall it doesn’t matter very much as long as there’s enough wiggle-room, which there is. It’s a bit like the degree classifications they used when I was at university: all the interesting stuff happens between 40-70%. It’s odd but not really a problem.

            One thing it does do is give you somewhere to put bad games. Like, really bad games. Most games are actually not exactly awful to play. I mean, I’d call Dragon Age 2 a bad game, but if I had the choice between Dragon Age 2 and sitting doing nothing to choice is obvious to me. So I’m not too concerned that there’s this huge swathe of scores that are unused for the most part, because occasionally a game will come along that you just have to say “this is so much worse than average”.

          • HexagonalBolts says:

            Jim obviously has a good point here – nobody really bothers reviewing awful games because very few people read them, unless the review manages to be exceptionally funny and cruel. Besides, people would rather spend time with and promote that which they love.

            At the same time though scores do have their places, a 9 or 10 from a trusted source, although vague, almost always shows that the developer has managed to produce something that works exceptionally well – and sometimes that’s all I want to know, I want to go into the game fresh with no spoilers, knowledge of its inner guts or its minor failures.

          • DocSeuss says:

            In a letter grade system, someone who gets 59% or less correct on a test has failed that paper. Someone who does 60-69% has achieved less than average results, and something in the 70% range is given a C, to mark “average.” That is because, on any given test, the average person will get somewhere within that range correct. They’re not remarkable, but they’re not a failure. A B/80%+ is above average, and an A is, of course, the 90-100 range.

            It correlates perfectly with game review scores. An average game is one that gets about 70-79% of everything right, where an exceptional game is one that gets nearly everything (or 90%+ right).

            I have no objection to this style of scoring, though, personally, I do find “should you play this? y/n” more interesting.

        • Vorphalack says:

          ”reviewers are so frequently just factually wrong about so much stuff”

          If that was true then why would you place any weight on their final scores?

          • NathanH says:

            Two reasons: first, I’m fairly confident that in many cases, the review score is determined by how much the reviewer enjoyed playing the game, and the words are attempts to justify this. Reviews will only really mention a few things, whereas their experience involves many many more elements that they don’t have time to write about. If I only have the words to read, then I might be tricked into thinking “he says x and y are bad but z is good, I don’t care too much about x, I disagree with him on y, and z is important, I’ll like the game” whereas there are probably hundreds of other variables that are more important that aren’t even mentioned.

            Second: If the reviewer’s factual mistakes actually do influence their review score, I can hope that by looking at many scores I am more protected from such mistakes. If I didn’t have the review scores I might have more trouble, because if a reviewer makes a mistake about x, chances are other reviewers won’t have even mentioned it.

          • Vorphalack says:

            Firstly, if you disagree with the review, you will likely be mislead by the score anyway. Scores in isolation are meaningless. The only way to give it context is to read the review, and by doing so you can form a more accurate opinion without a score.

            Secondly, average scores are worthless because they are not standardised. Additionally, if you don’t trust any reviewers to not make mistakes, then a meta score is just mistakes averaged. i.e. still wrong.

          • NathanH says:

            In practice it doesn’t work out like that, because it’s not very common for all reviews to make significant mistakes that affect their score (mistakes either don’t affect the score, because score is decided first and then justified in the text, or mistakes do affect the score but not many reviewers make the mistakes) so you are somewhat protected.

            I also don’t think that lack of standardisation makes a lot of difference in practice. Metacritic shows far more than just the average anyway, you also have the distribution, the publications that the scores came from, and user reviews.

            I’m not saying that all investigations begin and end at metacritic, or that it’s a good resource for everybody, but I get a lot of use out of it, and removal of scores and metacritic would make it much harder for me to quickly identify whether I should be interested in a particular game.

          • Vorphalack says:

            The principal of metacritic as a hub for finding professional and amateur reviews is a good one, it really just needs to drop the idea of a meta score.

          • NathanH says:

            Why? It’s clearly a useful tool, as long as you have a decent idea how to use it.

          • Vorphalack says:

            I’ve already said why. It’s useless without standardisation or context, too open to both positive and negative manipulation, and is taken far too seriously by industry publishers. There are much better ways to filter games than a meaningless average.

          • NathanH says:

            You can say it’s useless all you want, and I’ll continue to say it’s a useful part of my decision-making process. It’s useless in the sense that if you say to me “there is a game, it has a metacritic rating of x” then unless that rating is under 60 I won’t know very much about the quality of the game. Tell me the genre, publisher, developer and user review score, then I start being able to say more. If I have an idea about the budget, even more. I don’t just look at the top of the metacritic rankings and buy whatever is at the top, that would be madness.

            Similarly, if someone were just coming into video gaming, metacritic would be a dangerous tool because they wouldn’t have any experience with how video game review scores tend to work. You need to have been around a bit, but after you’ve been around for a bit you get a feel for how the system works.

        • Keirley says:

          I don’t agree. I don’t think the metacritic average is really a fairly reliable indication of a game’s quality. I hated Final Fantasy XIII and Metal Gear Solid with all the hate that I have to give, but they have a metascore of 83 and 94 respectively. I don’t think I’m objectively right and all those reviews are objectively wrong, though. I just think that if everyone went by metascores we’d have a bit of a rubbish time. People would all play MGS4 and a good chunk of them would hate it. And almost no one would bother to play something like God Hand, which only got a metascore of 73.

          • NathanH says:

            I can’t really comment on console games, because I am only familiar with interpreting metacritic for PC games, but a couple of important points:

            1) it seems that the two high-rated games you mentioned have pretty good user review scores, so I guess quite a lot of people do like them
            2) The game you mentioned that has a low metacritic average has a noticeably better user review score. When user reviews are significantly higher than the metacritic average this can often mean the game is worth investigating.
            3) If you just use the metacritic averages, you’re not using the resource well enough. For instance, if I am looking for a hardcore strategy game, then probably the best indicator is a metacritic average of 70-85 and a user review score of 80+. Higher-rated games are unlikely to be hardcore enough. Whereas if I am looking for an AAA FPS and its metacritic score is below 80 then I’m looking at a bad choice usually. It’s all about getting a feel for the types of “review profile” you see on metacritic.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            And that’s why aggregate review scores are shit.

            If Generic Shooter X has an 80 and Generic Shooter Y has an 80, that doesn’t mean they were marked off for the same thing. If Generic Shooter X has a sub-par story and loses 20 points, while Generic Shooter Y has sub-par controls and loses 20 points, *I* need to provide the *SUBJECTIVE* analysis.

            The reviewer doesn’t know whether I would rather have a slightly worse story or slightly worse controls, and I couldn’t possibly give fewer fucks about which of those the reviewer would choose to endure.

          • Keirley says:

            @NathanH: There’s no inherent difference between applying metascores to console games and applying metascores to PC games.

            1. Yes, a lot of people do like those games. That wasn’t my point though. My point is that a lot of people won’t like them, and if we just went on metascores we’d have to say ‘anyone who doesn’t like FFXIII (and there are a lot of people) is just wrong – look at the reviewer and user metascores’

            2. You’re still using a metascore, just a different one. The fact that lots of people (reviewers or otherwise) doesn’t mean a game is somehow objectively good, because there is no such thing as objective quality when we’re talking about art and entertainment.

            3. That’s still prone to failure. I liked past Final Fantasy games, and they got good reviews. So the fact that FFXIII has a high metascore should be everything I need to say ‘that game’s going to be great’. But I hated it. There isn’t really a more specific way I could have used metacritic.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            @Keirley And if FFXIII had objective reviews, rather than a bunch of “ERMAHGERD FERNERL FERNTERSER,” you (and I) would have known that it was a *COMPLETE* departure from most of the previous twelve games and what to expect from it (corridor-based, no exploration; set levelling path, etc) rather than piles of fluff about the production values.

          • Keirley says:

            @RvLeshrac:

            Yeah, but XII was a massive departure as well (maybe not as big of a departure) and I still liked it, by and large.

            And a lot of reviews did talk about the differences in XIII, they just quite liked those differences, or didn’t mind them. Again – subjectivity. They liked it because of X, Y, and Z. I hated it because of P, Q, and R, and I didn’t even think X, Y, and Z were anything to shout about. Who’s correct? I’d say that no one is, but that everyone has a valid opinion, especially if they give good reasons for their stance.

          • NathanH says:

            Keirley:

            1) You’re confusing my support for review scores and metacritic as useful tools for games purchasing, which I believe, with support for them as some sort of widely-accepted measure of ranking games, which I don’t believe and am not interested in doing anyway. If I’m interested in buying a game, metacritic is my first stop.

            2) Same reply as 1.

            3) Any method is prone to failure. Admittedly, if the game in question is in a series you like, metacritic isn’t the best tool. Fan forums can be useful in this case. If they’ve made some big changes that can cause huge fans to become huge haters, then there’s likely to be a big thread on a message board about it. If you encounter a game in a series you like that lots of reviews like and lots of fans of that series like, then you’re probably screwed, I don’t think anything is going to help you.

            Edit: Also, I forgot to say that I meant there may be differences in how you should use metacritic for console games from how you use it for PC games. There are different standards on the PC for different types of games, so you can’t use the same criteria for using metacritic for all PC games, so I assume it’s similar on consoles, hence I’m not sure how applicable my experiences and methods are.

        • Jason Moyer says:

          Alpha Protocol 72
          Modern Warfare 2 86

          That’s pretty much exhibit A for me when it comes to how completely meaningless Metacritic and its component sites are for evaluating the quality of anything.

          • NathanH says:

            It’s more exhibit A for how you don’t understand how to use metacritic to your advantage. Hint: it is more subtle than higher score = better game.

          • mouton says:

            Wait, so you trust user reviews to adjust your view of a metacritic score? You do realize user reviews are even more unreliable? They are very much subject to trends of negative or positive emotions, they can easily give minimum or maximum for the tiniest detail they like/dislike… the list goes on. You are not a believer in the “millions of people can’t be wrong” idea, are you.

          • NathanH says:

            I’m a believer that I’m savvy enough to know my way around review scores, user review scores, game genres, expectations, and game budgets, that I can get a quick and reasonably-accurate at-a-glance overview of what’s going on. What I do from there depends on the results of the quick overview, the game in question, and the price that I’m considering to pay. I’m not following any set-in-stone rules because they’d have to be pretty complicated to be useful.

          • mouton says:

            Well, now you are talking about a multitude of factors. Your initial post gave an impression that you relied on metacritic scores much more. Since you use it only as a small part of your assessment, I guess it can’t hurt you too much.

          • Flappybat says:

            Alpha Protocol was a janky ass game which was unlikely to satisfy as many people as say, Mass Effect. I wouldn’t hold it up as the classic example of review bias when it deserves to be docked a lot of points for being shonky. Ambition should be celebrated but we shouldn’t lower the bar of quality just for a game that is ambitious.

          • thegooseking says:

            It is not hard to see why Alpha Protocol scored lower than Modern Warfare 2: it is technically less competent. That it’s also a more interesting game doesn’t, in review-score-land, make up for that.

            The point is that you have to know about both games to understand the review score in the first place. But why would you need a score if you already know about both games?

          • NathanH says:

            If I look at metacritic for a game, I’m probably going to know something about the game, otherwise why would I be looking at it on metacritic?

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Did you REALLY just say “If I’m looking up reviews for a product, I already know what the product is like”?

          • NathanH says:

            Haha, no, I didn’t mean that (although I have a friend who suggests that the only worthwhile reviews are bad reviews of things you already know). I meant that I’m not just going to look at the name of the game and the metacritic score and that’s the end. I’ll know the genre, publisher, developer, probably have a good idea of the ballpark budget, and probably have seen some screenshots. I’ve not played Alpha Protocol, but from what I know about the overall reception it’s fairly consistent with a 72 score: it suggests it’s probably going to be a bit of a mess but otherwise OK. On the other hand, a score of 86 for Modern Warfare 2 (a game I don’t know very much about at all) suggests that, since I know it’s an AAA FPS, it’ll probably be like the two Call of Duty games I’ve played, professionally made, but not quite as good.

            I reckon that a 72 for an Obsidian game tell me that is not great but not terrible, whereas if I saw a Call of Duty game with a metacritic average of 72 I’d think it was probably going to be awful.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            @NathanH

            And what if you’re a “new” gamer, who hasn’t played any of these games?

            You have no frame of reference, so the extreme subjectivity of reviews will, at best, be useless, and at worst turn you off to gaming completely when you discover that the highly-rated game you just bought is complete crap, but was rated highly because it was a AAA title.

          • vagabond says:

            I am a hypothetical new gamer and I just got a PC. I am going to go to metacritic and buy the 5 highest rated games of the past couple of years because they’re cheap at this here steam sale.
            I now have, from 2011, Portal 2, Skyrim, Minecraft, Arkham City, and Deus Ex HR.
            from 2010, Mass Effect 2, Starcraft 2, WoW, Civ V, BioShock 2
            from 2009, Arkham Asylum, Street Fighter IV, Dragon Age, Braid, Empire: Total War.

            I seem to have ended up buying WoW, but ignoring my personal MMO prejudices, how exactly have I done badly?
            Sure I might have a game or two from a genre I don’t enjoy, but you don’t get to find out you don’t like a genre without playing an example first. I also have a couple of sequels on that list and I’d probably be better served if I started with the originals, but it’s not like I’m not capable of doing that.

            I ran out of TV shows to watch a while ago, and the metacritic list of all time high scores served me quite well. I ignored a few high scoring things that I was pretty sure weren’t for me, but otherwise I didn’t find anything that I watched that wasn’t worthwhile.

            I disagree with the notion that metacritic can be used as a final arbiter of the quality of a work and that your performance bonus should be related to it and all that, but as a quick means of finding something of interest in a medium that you don’t closely follow, or quickly working out whether something you missed is worth a closer look to see if it’s worth buying, I think it’s a perfectly useful tool.

            I can understand the annoyance it must cause to the hivemind that putting a score at the end of something they spent hours or days of their life preparing and writing causes a sizable portion of the review consuming public to not read what they wrote, but at the end of the day, short of a humourous skewering, I don’t want to read anything about Operation Raccoon City other than “don’t buy this, it isn’t any good”.

          • DocSeuss says:

            I don’t understand this. Alpha Protocol was broken and extremely poorly written (except for those few times when it wasn’t). When I say broken, I mean REALLY, REALLY BROKEN. Sometimes, going through invisible loading zones, my character would make a complete 180, walk back into a loading zone, load, and I’d have to turn around and attempt going through the loading zone again. Oh, and then it had some genuinely bad enemy AI, map design, boss encounters, and stuff like that as well. It’s a game I wouldn’t recommend to anyone unless they were interested in seeing an example of a good conversation system.

            Modern Warfare 2, on the other hand, was a competent cover-based shooter (everyone should just shut up and accept that cover-based shooters are a valid thing, even if they don’t particularly like them) that was extremely fun in some parts, had surprisingly good writing (better than most games out there, in fact–most people were too busy letting things explode to pay attention to the story, sadly; most of the complaints I’ve heard about the plot were, in fact, explained within the story itself), and had great co-op. It had some multiplayer issues, but I’ve personally not run into any. It’s a game I’d recommend to most people.

            Modern Warfare 2 has a higher metascore than Alpha Protocol. This seems accurate to me.

          • Milky1985 says:

            Alpha protocol was not as broken as the reviews made it out. Was a good game, with lots to do, different ways to play and yes a lot of cheesyness and hamminess (hungry now for some reason).

            It had a couple of balance issus (that fight with the coked up mob guy in russia was a pain the behind) but was the first game in a long while where the order you did things actually matter (if you went to met heck first he could poison the guys drugs, making him easy to kill apaprently. Wish i had known that before i fought the git).

            Modernwarfare 2 was a competitent shooter but same as before with only the spec ops mode to set it apapret from anythign else.

            And that had BS armoured supersoldiers in it.

            If you focus purly on scores you miss out important information :/

        • mouton says:

          “reviewers are so frequently just factually wrong about so much stuff”

          Then only read reviewers that have proven to have a similar taste to you. Obviously, if you just read some random dudes in metacritic, the probability of misinformation is high.

          • NathanH says:

            Taste has nothing to do with being factually wrong about things.

          • mouton says:

            Same taste and reliability, then. In short, reviewers you trust. If you don’t trust any, then relying on their fundamentally skewed and arbitrary scores won’t be of any use either.

          • NathanH says:

            I think that when reviewers make factual errors these errors tend to not affect the final score very much. In a review you never have the time or space to really go into detail, so you’ll just pick some stuff and write about it. But you’ve also got everything else that you didn’t have space to write about, or you haven’t yet noticed is important because it’s working subconsciously, that goes into your opinion about whether or not something is good. If you make a factual error in the stuff you’ve written about, there’s a good chance it won’t affect your final opinion very much because there are very rarely single things that are so influential.

            In the cases where the review score is greatly influenced by a mistake, then generally other reviewers will not make the same mistake. In the case where all reviewers have made significant mistakes that have affected their overall score a lot, there’s no really anything a consumer can do—the existence of the scores doesn’t matter any more, just the existence of all the wrong reviews!

            So, what I wanted to say was that I never trust any reviewer to make no factual errors, I trust that their scores aren’t, overall, too dependent on these errors. Take away the scores, and I have more problems.

          • mouton says:

            Heh, you obviously have much more faith in the subconscious of the reviewers than I have. Well, to each his own.

          • NathanH says:

            An alternative formulation is that I have limited faith in the conscious of reviewers :-P

      • Kleppy says:

        No.

        Outside of the hardcore gaming niche (which is, by the way, NOT the majority of gamers), people don’t have time or don’t want to bother reading a meandering, three-page review just to find out if the next fantasy RPG or whatever is worth their time. You’re more than welcome to sink knee deep in any RPS review if that’s your thing, but review scores are absolutely necessary. There’s room for both types of reviews.

        • Vorphalack says:

          You heard it here first folks. Review text is for the entitled elitist hardcore pirate minority, and not as was previously believed, the responsible consumer.

        • AmateurScience says:

          They don’t have enough time to spend 10 minutes doing some research before they buy a game that (using your RPG example) is going to take up 20 to 100 hours of their time?

          The number itself is completely meaningless without the context of the review anyway. Seriously what information can you glean from a review score between 7 and 9?

          • mouton says:

            Reading is hard

          • Kleppy says:

            I can estimate if a game may be worth $60 at launch, or is a wait-and-see type of deal. That’s how it works in general. It’s not black & white though; generally if you’re a huge racing fan you’re going to give games from that genre more leeway so that you’re open to more less than amazing games.

            For me it goes: check out review scores, maybe check out RPS coverage, look at a video or two, then decide. If you take out review scores, making that decision all of a sudden got a whole lot harder.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            Quite obviously, a review score is reliable, except when it’s not.

          • KDR_11k says:

            If you already know which game you want to look at you don’t necessarily need metacritic (though searching out reviews in different score ranges can give you a more complete picture of the game if you need that much information and with all that SEO bullshit it’s easier to ask metacritic than Google if you want to find reviews) but when you don’t know which games to consider then a list of aggregate scores is extremely useful. I bought a PS Vita, I may have heard of a few games the thing has but definitely not all of them and then there’s the PSP catalog, no clue what’s good on there. The averages are a good first clue which games I should even bother looking at, without scores I’d have to check a few hundred reviews just to know which parts of the PSP library are shit. Once you’ve found a game to look at by the score THEN you can read all the reviews to figure out if you actually want it and then you should read the text.

          • glorybaker says:

            Quite obviously, a review score is reliable, except when it’s not.

        • Isair says:

          If it’s just about saving time, you might as well buy whatever has the biggest poster in the store. I doubt results will deviate all that much.

    • Keirley says:

      I don’t think you can be objective when it comes to games (or films, music, novels, etc.)

      Your reaction to something is inherently subjective – you always bring your psychological baggage to it. And that’s not a bad thing people should to try to overcome, it’s a necessary part of interacting with anything. It’s why we get cases where one respected film reviewer gives a film 1 star and another gives it 5 stars.

      No one can objectively analyse entertainment/art, and I think the insistence that you can causes is actually slightly harmful. Review scores for videogames are far more homogenised than film reviews, or the like. And it causes problems – So many people give Eurogamer crap when they gave Uncharted 3 an 8/10, similarly when they gave MGS4 an 8/10. It’d be nice if we could just have different opinions and not have people jump down one another’s throats as a result.

      • NathanH says:

        It depends on what you mean by objective. You can at least aim for inter-subjective. Things like the difference between “it’s bad” and “I think it’s bad, I think that if you like x y z you might disagree though.”

        • LionsPhil says:

          When someone is expressing an opinion, “I think” is implicit.

          • NathanH says:

            That’s not what I meant. I’m talking about the difference between expressing your opinion on something and expressing your opinion on what other people’s opinions of something might be. The latter is what the reviewer should be doing if he’s really good at his job.

          • mckertis says:

            Not in the case when “expressing an opinion” is your job description.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            Err, no. When I read a review, I’m looking for the writer’s opinion, not some form of convoluted mind game of what he thinks others will think others will like.

            The basic and widely accepted methodology for finding out whether an entertainment product is going to be enjoyable for you is to read a bunch of reviews from a bunch of reviewers, find which reviewers match your tastes best, and then use those people’s opinions for future purchases.

            A reviewer that attempts to go roundabout to give an opinion that isn’t his own is a poor reviewer.

          • KDR_11k says:

            There’s the infamous Paper Mario review where the reviewer praised the game to high heaven but gave it a low score because he expected “average people” would think it’s too childish. That’s a really worthless statement unless you perform an actual study. You don’t know how other people react so don’t try to make that assumed reaction the biggest factor in your review.

            I mean, I don’t know what a good stealth or tower defense game is like and how that’s different from a bad one, I don’t like them either way. So how could I say whether stealth or TD fans would enjoy a game when I didn’t?

          • NathanH says:

            I think the score you give at the end should probably just reflect whether you liked the game or not; if you are worried that people will frequently disagree, you probably don’t need to do anything because some people who disagree will probably be reviewers, so their low scores will balance out your high score. However, if you are worried that a lot of people might dislike something for a certain reason, it’s probably worth including it in the text.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            @KDR_11k

            Then you’d be a terrible reviewer for those types of games.

            A reviewer should know what makes a game of a certain genre or style “good” or “bad,” in addition to knowing what makes a game -technically- “good” or “bad.”

            That’s one of the problems with saying “reviews are subjective”: It allows reviewers who hate games to get away with writing reviews for them.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          Right, it isn’t possible to be objective *beyond the medium.* That’s what leads to nonsense like reviewers comparing a film to a novel or a game to a film.

          But it IS possible to say “This game is objectively worse than other games of this type,” or “This is a well made game of this type.”

          • Keirley says:

            No, it’s not. If it is possible then why doesn’t every good reviewer agree on the quality of any given game? It’s common to see respected, intelligent people disagree, each giving very good reasons for their stance. And the only explanation of that fact your argument allows is ‘well, one of them is just wrong’.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            I’ve rarely, if ever, seen two people disagree on the objective quality of a game (outside of fanboys).

            I’ve seen plenty of people disagree on which aspects of a game they value more, or whether or not they like the genre.

          • Keirley says:

            I literally have no idea what you mean by ‘objective quality of a game’.

          • Schaap says:

            You are confusing quality with popularity and even then you’re using arbitrary borders to make your point. Why don’t people who dislike the genre count?

            Anyway, yes you can say things like: “this game is well made”, but you can’t say “this game is better than that game”. That’s just an inherent property of value judgments: they’re subjective. If people say: this game is better than that game, that doesn’t make it fact (what you are suggesting about objective reviews). What they’re actually saying is: I think most people will prefer this game to that game.

            The closest you can come to this mythical objective quality is a general consensus. But even then it’s just a lot of people who make similar subjective value judgments.

          • Shuck says:

            “Quality” is a value judgement, therefore “objective quality” is an oxymoron.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            If I play a game and it:

            -Crashes repeatedly
            -Has poor voice-acting
            -Displays graphical flaws
            -Displays low-resolution textures

            Then the game is, OBJECTIVELY, of poor quality. This is no different than exercising a quality judgement on olive oil or fruit juice.

            SUBJECTIVELY, I may be able to see past those issues. If, however, I’m not pointing them out in the review and using them to adjust the score, I’m a bad reviewer.

          • KDR_11k says:

            If you downrate Earth Defense Force 2017 because it’s not pretty you’re a bad reviewer.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            No, if you *WRITE IT OFF* because it isn’t pretty, you’re a poor consumer.

            If you reduce the Graphics score because the Graphics are of dubious quality, that’s the entire point of the “Graphics” rating.

            It isn’t up to the reviewer to decide whether or not *I* will like or dislike the game based on the graphical quality. It *IS* up to the review to measure the quality of the graphics based on the platform.

          • Shuck says:

            -Crashes repeatedly
            -Has poor voice-acting
            -Displays graphical flaws
            -Displays low-resolution textures

            Oh dear.
            “Crashes”
            It’s a poor quality game if you’re running it on hardware/software configurations that it wasn’t tested on? Issues with the QA process makes the game inherently of lower quality? (etc.)
            “Poor voice acting/graphical flaws”:
            You’ve just pushed the subjectivity elsewhere. I’ve played games that had awkward, mumbling voice acting where it was hilarious, perfect and even sometimes deliberate. Was it “poor”? Also, what’s a “graphical flaw”?
            “Low resolution textures”
            Leaving aside the issue of “compared to what?”, does this mean pixel-graphics are inherently “objectively low quality,” despite being aesthetic choices? If the game is doing something technically ambitious that required lowering the texture memory used by particular models, or is aimed at lower-spec machines, it’s “objectively lower quality”?

          • RvLeshrac says:

            You’ll do whatever you can to be obtuse, won’t you.

            Let’s use Oblivion as the “Crashes frequently” example:
            Player patches have reduced the crashing by hacking in kludges to deal with terrible memory management. This has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH HARDWARE. The game’s code fails to clean up memory it uses, and thus crashes when it runs out of allocated space. There are numerous other kludges that fans have patched in to deal with shitty code from the original developers, this is just the easiest to explain. Did Oblivion lose points for not hitting the goal? Not often. (And, despite the community demonstrating how INCREDIBLY EASY IT WOULD BE to patch out these issues, Bethesda announced that they weren’t going to fix any of it.)

            Let’s use Skyrim as the “Graphics” example:
            Skyrim has horrible textures and humanoid models out of the box. Less than a week after launch, people were releasing gigs of substantially better textures and models, indicating that the “pros” at Bethesda should have been able to do better over years of development. They made the choice to produce realistic graphics, and did a mediocre job. Did Skyrim lose points for not hitting the goal? Not often.

            Now here’s Mega Man 9:
            Mega Man 9 looks like Mega Man. It looks exactly like Mega Man because that’s precisely what they were aiming for. It couldn’t actually look more like Mega Man unless it was running on an NES. Should it lose points for not looking like Skyrim? No. Why not? Because THAT WASN’T THE GOAL.

          • Shuck says:

            @RvLeshrac: I think you’re being rather obtuse, yes. “Mega Man 9 looks like Mega Man.” If that isn’t a subjective statement, I don’t know what is.
            In regards to Skyrim – what does it mean that hobbyists can build on the resources released to improve (subjectively speaking) on the graphics of a game? it means that the hobbyists have the luxury of unlimited time to work on it, something that professionals, working under a budget, don’t have. The same group of developers might produce graphics that we all (subjectively) agree are better than that if they were making a game with fewer assets and therefore had more time to devote to each element. So the graphic quality is contextualized in part by the scope of the game. Texture resolution decisions often come down to the necessities of targeting low-spec machines or developing for consoles. So a PC version without up-rezed textures might be a strike against its graphics, but it’s a contextual strike. Any statement about graphical quality is going to be A) a subjective evaluation of the graphical style, but also B) a subjective comparison with the graphics of other games. And B) isn’t even a reasonable comparison unless the game is being compared to some of the same type (assuming there are any) that are also equivalent in size and scope.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          You seem to have confused “sticking one’s head up one’s ass” with actually making an attempt at objectivity. You can say that the FFXIII corridor-style gameplay is “repetitive” and “spoon-feeding the player” because that’s exactly what it is – there are objective standards in play.

          I personally loathe and despise corridor gameplay and spoon-feeding content in an RPG. Some people really enjoy that type of gameplay. The point is that we both, objectively, know what to expect from the game.

          Instead, we have reviews that discuss “The boring, nondescript environments” or “The endless battles.” Neither of those things is useful, because I don’t know what the ‘reviewer’ thinks is “boring” or “nondescript,” nor do I know what they mean by “endless battles.” (Have they never played a console-style RPG before? Do they simply dislike the type of environment? Is it just because the system doesn’t allow detailed enough environments? Would they be happier with lots of trees? Of course there’s an endless stream of battles, otherwise you’d never be able to level!)

          • LionsPhil says:

            Ah, right.

            You’re doing the “objective is when you agree with my personal worldview” schtick.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Ah, yes. I can see where you might read “Here is an objective description of the gameplay style and then the reader can decide whether or not we enjoy that particular style” as “You absolutely must adhere to my personal enjoyment or disapproval of that gameplay style.”

          • Keirley says:

            You say there are objective standards in play, but I’m not so sure. Let’s take your example of ‘repetitive’.

            How can you say that game A is more repetitive than game B? I suppose we could only compare games in the same genre, but then there’s the difficulty posed by genre-blending games, of which there are many. But even if we restrict it to one genre, how can you say that Final Fantasy X is more or less repetitive than Dragon Quest VIII? Do we look at the exact number of battles required to level up, and the level you generally need to be to succeed at various points in the game? The variation in enemy type? The variation in abilities and weapons you can use? Is a game where you fight lots similar enemies but you have lots of different tactics you can use more or less repetitive than a game where you only have ‘attack’, ‘block’, and ‘heal self’ but fight lots of varying enemies?

            Any choice you make about the meaning of ‘repetitive’ is going to depend on hundreds of arbitrary, subjective little decisions in this vein.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Thanks for bothering to type that out, Keirley.

          • Keirley says:

            Uhh, no problem LionsPhil. Thanks to you too?

          • RvLeshrac says:

            You’re confusing “Repetitive” with “Iterative.”

            Here’s the difference:

            In FFXIII, you exercise no direct control over your characters in combat. You’re merely guiding the AI. The AI may have different options available, but you, as the player, are doing precisely the same thing in each fight. That’s “repetition.” (The Guide even spells this out, showing you exactly what three specific options you need to choose in which order to complete each area of the game.)

            In FFXII, you exercise direct control over your characters in combat. You’re guiding individual actions on each turn. While you may take the same basic course (Attack, Magic, etc), those options are expanded as the game progresses. You can develop a repetitive strategy, but the strategy is a subjective personal preference. That’s “iteration.”

      • DocSeuss says:

        There are, in fact, millennia of cultural observation on art in all of its forms, and we have a fairly good body on which to draw that allows us to think critically about a work.

        It seems odd to me that in all forms of media that I’ve been involved with, it is only in the games industry where people constantly whine about subjectivity and how no one can be objective. It’s incredible ignorance.

    • iucounu says:

      You can’t review anything ‘objectively’. All reviews review the subjective experience of playing something. We select reviewers to pay attention to largely on the basis of what we know of that reviewer’s taste and whether we share it.

      To the extent that we compare a game to other games of its type, or to the cultural expectations for it, I guess it’s inter-subjective? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersubjectivity

      (I remember, a million years ago, reading game reviews in Zzap!64. The main article text was as ‘objective’ as possible – it’d essentially be a non-judgemental description of the story and gameplay. Then there’d be little boxout opinions by the staff writers, and weirdly specific percentile scores. I loved Zzap!64, but it wasn’t a particularly interesting way to review something.)

      • MOKKA says:

        Thank you for throwing in the term ‘intersubjectivity’ you prevented me from doing the same thing.

        Regarding this whole discussion, here’s a bunch of question I would like to hear everyone’s opinions about:

        How do you objectively (or intersubjectively) rate the quality of a game?
        What kind of criteria do you use to do it?
        How are you weighting these criteria?
        Why do you weight these cirtieria in this paticular way and not in another?

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Reviews are always objective. There is no such thing as objective reviewing. Of anything. Even the word ‘review’ denies it. A view is an opinion. A review, therefore, is the application of the clarity of hindsight to your opinion, revisiting and elaborating it and the rationale behind it. It’s precisely because RPS does exactly this, and very well, that it’s as well respected as it is. This ‘objective review’ stupidity has to stop.

      No film review worth reading is objective; what would it say? A plot synopsis, the running time, the certification, a list of cast and crew and a few anecdotes about production; those are the objective facts. Everything else is subjective. And that, the list of objective facts, is not a review, it’s a description.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Um, I just want to add that I like all kinds of reviews, and I hope we never see the media lean too hard on one side of the subjectivity/objectivity divide. It’s nice to have lots of different sorts of information about the subjects that interest me. Anyone else?

    • Shazbut says:

      Take “objectivity” to it’s natural conclusion and you don’t even have a review. All experience is subjective.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Regardless of what someone thinks about a game, I expect to hear as much _facts_ as possible.
      FOV locked?
      Saves: Anytime or checkpoints?
      DRM?
      Pause button? Tactical pause with orders while pausing?
      Maximum ammo capacity terrible/bad/good/great? Weapon limits?
      Recharging health? Mouse smoothing?
      Etc.

      Quite frankly, just a plain list of “has / doesn’t have” sometimes can tell you more about whether you’ll enjoy time with something than some of the reviews I’ve encountered..

      But bottom line is: You can do/mention/list all this regardless of what your “opinion” or “review” is.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        That’s not a review, it’s a description.

      • iucounu says:

        You don’t really mean you want as many facts as possible – I am sure we could bore you for hours with arcane technical facts about games that would have no relevance for you. The ones you mention are the ones that are important to you and the ones that affect gameplay. You care about the DRM scheme and the save scheme. Most other PC games enthusiasts do, and I’d argue that RPS does routinely mention this stuff. But there’s always going to be stuff which an individual writer, gamer, etc either doesn’t care about or doesn’t find problematic enough to complain about.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        “Quite frankly, just a plain list of “has / doesn’t have” sometimes can tell you more about whether you’ll enjoy time with something than some of the reviews I’ve encountered.”

        I completely disagree with this comment, and the attitude of hobbyism over art that it seems to represent. I don’t ask for this kind of information in a film or book review, and I don’t care about it in game reviews: I want to know how the game feels, not which boxes it ticks.

        But then, others might disagree, so it’s good that we have a load of different reviewers, review styles, and outlets to satisfy everyone.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          You’re also not going to be spending the next 50+ hours with a film or (in most cases) spending $50-60, non-refundable, on a book.

          If it isn’t to your liking, you have options with a film or book. The film will be over in a few hours, you can take the book back to the store for a refund.

          If the reviewer makes the game sound good, but you dislike all of the details that weren’t mentioned in the review, oh well, you’re just fucked out of your money.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            I suppose I just think that a “have/doesn’t have” list is meaningless if the reviewer doesn’t devote the majority of the review to his or her personal reaction to the sum of those parts. Games are made of features, yes, but they are much, much more than that.

            But then, I don’t have a problem with checkpoint saves, so what do I know?

    • KDR_11k says:

      The problem is that a game’s reason to exist is to be fun and you simply cannot measure fun objectively. I find Defense Grid horribly boring and wouldn’t want to inflict it on anybody but a large number of people adore the game. How do you objectively review that?

      The desire to be objective in a review is one of those good intentions that pave the way to hell. The only things you can rate objectively are useless things like production values and stability. While being crashy can hurt the fun it doesn’t work the other way around, a game that doesn’t crash isn’t automatically fun. Wannabe objective reviewers focus on those production values and objectively determine that Call of Duty is the best game in the world because it has the prettiest set pieces while any indie game that doesn’t cover itself up in some sort of abstract or nostalgic artstyle gets downrated for not being up to the level of 50 million dollar AAA titles on production values. This is the mentality that gives bad scores to Earth Defense Force and calls it a “guilty pleasure”. What the fuck is guilty about a game that you play because it’s fun? A guilty pleasure might be enjoying porn games but an unpolished but fun game?

      • RvLeshrac says:

        That’s exactly why you need an objective review of Defense Grid.

        If you like Tower Defence, Defense Grid is an extraordinarily well-made Tower Defence game. Defense Grid is going to be enjoyable.

        If, on the other hand, you don’t like Tower Defense, Defense Grid is still an extraordinarily well-made Tower Defence game. You just won’t like playing it.

        • KDR_11k says:

          You cannot objectively say that Defense Grid is extraordinarily well made. You can only say that by knowing if it’s fun or not. I hate all tower defense games (well, except Plants vs Zombies) and to me there is no difference between Defense Grid and something like Viking Attack (which I assume is a bad TD, as I said I wouldn’t know the difference). Defense Grid may have higher production values but that doesn’t mean it’s a better game, there are plenty of bad games with high production values. Without enjoying the game I cannot attest to its quality. If I didn’t enjoy first person shooters I could not tell you whether Battleship (the movie tie-in) is better or worse than Half-Life 2. If I didn’t know the opinions of stealth fans I couldn’t tell you whether Shadow Harvest is better or worse than Thief.

          And hell, I could start rating Defense Grid by factors like how impactful the weapons feel and how many APM the game requires. It would be absolutely savaged by those standards.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            You could also rate Defense Grid by how well it makes a jam sandwich, but that would be retarded.

            “Fun” is completely subjective. Defense Grid doesn’t have to be fun — to you — to be well-made.

            I hate Starcraft. I hate MOBA games. That doesn’t mean I can’t tell that Starcraft II and Awesomenauts are well-made.

          • KDR_11k says:

            What does “well made” even mean? High production values? That’s neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for a game to be good. A game exists to be fun, if it isn’t fun then it’s worthless. In the end being well made is all about how much fun the game is, how well its parts work together to make it fun. Yes, that’s subjective but it’s the only valid measure. That’s why you need to take your own tastes into account to determine whether you’d enjoy a game as much as the reviewer did.

            Without listening to the opinions of other people (and reviewers definitely can’t ask around) I can’t tell if Defense Grid is just as boring for everybody else. People can see that it’s pretty by looking at the trailer, they want to know if playing it is fun. That’s what a review exists for, just listing all the facts about the game is absolutely worthless.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    If British people think something is dull, it’s dull. We know dull.

  4. RvLeshrac says:

    Regarding Permadeath:

    When there’s a clear gameplay reason for permadeath, go ahead. But if your sole goal with permadeath is to punish the player, piss off.

    This is especially true of MMOs, where a poor network connection or a storm two cities away can cause you to leave a helpless zombie in the game world.

    We abandoned that shit for a reason. No one *ENJOYED* spending 8+ hours doing corpse-recovery in EQ, they did it because there was no alternative. When WoW was released, EQ became a ghost town – primarily because it abandoned (too rapidly, in some cases) all of the “You must beat the player repeatedly each time they make a small mistake” design philosophy.

    • gschmidl says:

      Was about to post something like this, thank you. I play games for relaxation and enjoyment, not to compare dick size with other masochists about who wasted more time before losing all their stuff.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        I love playing difficult games, as long as they’re *fair.*

        I enjoyed, for example, the Guild Wars 2 jumping puzzles during the last BWE, because latency didn’t affect my control over the character at all. The only one I *didn’t* enjoy was one where you’d constantly get stuck on invisible geometry and have to start again, and that’s what MMO permadeath has always felt like – something out of your control.

    • Xocrates says:

      Ergh… that article is so groan inducing it is painful.

      Yes, permadeath can be a valuable gameplay tool, but it’s not the one true feature the author seems to be defending. It only increases challenge by making it grindier, and it doesn’t make for better stories, it only makes good ones rarer – “I was chased by zombies and then I died, but it was really tense you guys” isn’t a better story.

      Frankly, the whole article can be construed as: “I want to brag about how good I am, and everyone who disagrees with me is a spineless whiner”

      • GLSteve says:

        Erm… no, that’s not what I was saying at all.

        It’s the emotional response to a game that’s important. Would Day Z be better if it were easier? I personally don’t think so. The fear felt while playing Day Z is far more significant to the experience than anything else. Same thing with Eve Online.

        Incidentally, I’m terrible at both. But I still get one hell of a rush while playing.

        • Xocrates says:

          Quotes from the article:

          “Developers have pandered to weaklings and whiners for far too long.”

          “it’s about bringing games back to what they were meant to be – a challenge. Not in the “insert another coin to continue” nonsense, but something you can brag about in the pub on a Saturday night and not feel like a six year old.”

          You can say the article is about the (incredibly subjective point) of how permadeath provides bigger emotional response, it doesn’t change the fact that’s not how the article reads.

          Personally, permadeath (which is an ill-defined, and often meaningless term to begin with) actually makes me care less about my characters since I know they’re transitory and therefore not worth investing in, and makes gameplay less interesting since experimentation is extremely risky and counter productive.

          Which is the article’s main problem, it argues fervently for an entirely subjective point.

        • RobF says:

          Yeah, the language is pretty disgusting and if your intention was to show that “It’s the emotional response to a game that’s important” or what have you, you’ve gone arse about tit to do so. I mean, seriously, the reliance on dominant terms and referring to others as “pussies”, “whiners” and how you want to be all manly and go the pub and not feel like a six year old is utterly gross alpha male bullshit, man. Referring to accessibility as a problem rather than a solution shows such a fundamental misunderstanding of abilities and what accessibility is for, well, it’s depressing. As I said elsewhere, real ale, real music, real men, it’s *all* bullshit. Why are you even talking about things in these terms? Why do you feel the need to define your desires and experience as somehow superior to everyone elses?

          Well done, you like hard games. They’re not any more “real”, they’re things for a minority of people. No-one begrudges you them, either. And they’ve never gone away either, funnily enough.

          It’s not games doing it wrong elsewhere, it’s not developers being scared to cater to people or being scared to make hard games, it’s simply that they’d be catering to a minority in the market. It’s not even sending games back to their roots or any such bullshit, before fuckers came along and shat in the soup, Pong was accessible, Space Invaders was accessible, games were accessible.

          I love and loved Defender and Robotron like nothing else out there but I don’t need to pretend that my tastes for the difficult are somehow a manly norm. I don’t need to refer to people who don’t play these games as “pussies” or attempt to define my tastes as somehow more “real”. Where real is masculine and where real is reliant on archaic thinking or some sort of throwback to a time that never existed. Where real isn’t about the new it’s forever about the old and real is catering to 6 dicks and a goat and no-one else need apply, fuck real.

          If you want to talk about the experience of Day Z, hey, let’s talk about that, but let’s drop all the dick dangling manly man talk because it’s horrendous.

          • InternetBatman says:

            Thank you for that post. I think the sentiments can be generalized to any media. Liking a niche, especially a niche type of consumption, is neither good nor bad. The act of consumption has no inherent nobility, and the arrogance that some people draw from it is completely undeserved.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            The reason people who like difficult games are defensive (or offensive, take your pick) is because games are being dumbed down – AT THE COST OF EVERYTHING WE WANT IN THEM. They’re not being made easier *IN ADDITION TO* retaining challenge, they’re being made easier and the challenge is thrown out the window.

            Or, alternately, we’re being forced to play the game repeatedly if we want to play more challenging difficulties, which makes absolutely no sense. I shouldn’t have to play once through the game on “I’m a small child” mode to unlock the “I’ve been playing games like this for a decade” mode.

            On top of that, developers keep introducing more and more “helpful” features that “help” people by playing the game for them:
            “Here’s a puzzle. If you haven’t solved it in 30 seconds, we’ll just start highlighting the solution for you so that you NEVER HAVE TO USE YOUR BRAIN.”

            or features that “help” you by annoying the living shit out of you:
            “Let’s make sure the player has to listen to dialogue repeating the exact same thing a dozen times. Because repetitive dialogue repeating the exact same thing a dozen times isn’t irritating at all. I mean, we wouldn’t want the player to forget something by not having the dialogue repeating the same thing a dozen times, since the player clearly suffers from a degenerative brain disease. Dialogue repeating the exact same thing a dozen times is a valid design choice. Dialogue repeating the exact same thing a dozen times is just helping make our games more accessible!”

          • InternetBatman says:

            I don’t think it’s a zero sum situation. Easier games are not being made at the price of harder games. Pixel Junk Eden can exist on the same spectrum as Super Meat Boy. Day Z can exist on the same spectrum as Dead Island.

            Also, don’t forget that dialog repeats just as much from checkpoints as it does from “help” features, and the only reason we have that is because some developers think instant saving isn’t hardcore.

          • RobF says:

            “The reason people who like difficult games are defensive (or offensive, take your pick) is because games are being dumbed down – AT THE COST OF EVERYTHING WE WANT IN THEM”

            You say that but more people are having more types of games made for them than ever before right across the entire spectrum of skills, abilities and wants.

            But then, I’ve been reading variations on the same theme since 1985 whilst simultaneously watching ever more complex and deep games sliding into the mainstream and over the past 6 years, more and more games being made for just about any genre and ability level. Funny that, really.

            I’m only left with the strange lingering feeling that if anyone truly thinks games are getting dumb or dumber, they’ve either not played many games in the past or they’re not playing many games now or both of these things. I suppose I’m meant to believe that, say, GTA IV isn’t more complex or deep than games that have gone before, or Saints Row 3 even or Ruse or Skyrim or whatever… but then, the “it’s dumb” argument relies on ignoring most of gaming-ever-made so whatever, I suppose.

          • Xocrates says:

            @RvLeshrac: That’s a funny point to take when we have in consideration that never before had games so many features to appeal to the “hardcore”, and never before did we have so many games made specifically to be hard.

            I’ve been gaming from the early 90′s at least, and I can assure you that games weren’t, overall, harder. The main difference being that since you couldn’t save you had to restart from the beginning every time.

            Heck, as an example, Tomb Raider Anniversary is significantly harder than the original for no particular reason.

      • Freud says:

        Permadeath raises the demand on the game. It has to be fair, it has to be bug free, it has to be balanced and it has to eliminate a lot of the trial and error gameplay most games have.

        Most developers can’t pull it off and shouldn’t attempt to pull it off.

        DayZ works because even though you lose your stuff when you die, you can always get new stuff relatively easy when you restart. If you have played the game long enough to get high end gear, you know where to go to get new items. For newbies, losing a hatchet and a Lee Enfield isn’t the end of the world. I think if the loss was much bigger in DayZ (for example if you leveled and had a skill tree), people would have much less patience with lag or bugs than they currently have.

    • ghor says:

      What you described is why I don’t play MMOs, I guess. They all currently seem like single-player RPGs that just happen to have other people in there as you play. And it is to be treated like a game played from start to finish with a single character. So of course you do an 8 hour corpse run to return to status quo.

      Death in DayZ means the end of a character, and the start of a new one. It means you’ve had an experience, not that you’ve wasted X hours of time that you now have to spend Y hours of work to get back to where you were.

      So in this case permadeath isn’t punishment. It really is a feature of the game.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I like how people always trot out EVE as being so successful. EVE is successful on its own terms, by being what it is and existing, being profitable. Compared to the rest of the MMO market, though, EVE is a blip on the radar. A curiousity. A niche game, nothing more.

      • pipman3000 says:

        they all think they’re going to be the dudes blowing up giant spaceships and making off with billions of isk instead of the ones who get robbed and killed.

        i guess thats why they trot it out all the time or maybe they just like space mining idk

    • tugboat captain says:

      I don’t think a game should PUNISH failure, I think it should encourage it. This does not actually preclude permadeath, but it is (at least as it has been implemented so far), only a partial solution, I feel.

      Allow me to explain,
      Most games only have a few ways to fail, and most feature saves.

      1. You can die. This is a ‘hard’ failure….the game stops…so you have to go back to before you died, i.e. failed. Every time you die, you MUST load a save (or start over) and it’s like the death didn’t exist. So If got to the same point in the game and died 800 times and you didn’t die at all, a 3rd party observer might not be able to tell the difference (because my deaths “don’t count”, they were erased). Personally, I would say this mode of failure is actually /not/ fun.

      2. You can fail because you made a wrong choice and something bad happened that imperils your life/property but doesn’t outright kill you (at least not yet). This is a ‘soft’ failure and it produces those great gaming stories that we love to hear.

      Maybe you didn’t shoot a guy fast enough and he called in reinforcements (fun, to hear people talk about it)
      Maybe you chose the wrong route to sneak through and got discovered and had to escape/fight (again, could be fun)
      Maybe you let a guy you needed die and had to go on without him (in theory fun but here I almost always reload, because I don’t want to miss the content that I know they made for him if he survives. So I don’t even let myself fail).

      So failure can be fun and interesting, but you have to let yourself fail, and so does the game. If you lost your awesome high level sword in skyrim, would you keep playing, and try to find a another good weapon? Or would you reload a save?

      If you were playing a game that had stealth and you got detected would you reload? (would you quicksave around every corner and not even sneak unless you bumped into a guy?) This type of game posits that ‘sneaking around = fun’, I think it does. Have you ever snuck past a place where there wasn’t even an enemy? Was it still fun?

      If the game is not UNFORGIVING but in a way MORE forgiving, i.e. trying to covert ‘hard’ failures into ‘soft’ ones, it can still retain a challenge and be fun and not have you reaching for the quickload key every time something even remotely goes wrong. This doesn’t have to mean that the game is easy or holds your hand (although that is a way to implement this, that it “cheats” – in your favor to stop you from dying and against you to stop you from prospering :p)

      Basically I want to play a game that is hard and it knows it’s hard…thus it doesn’t expect you to win all the time, and LETS YOU screw up….and it makes you pay for it, but not by NOT BEING ABLE TO PLAY. But make me pay in a fun way. A way I can tell a story about.

    • onodera says:

      But this is why WoW is a game, not a virtual world. There are no losers there, only people who take a longer time to get to the same place everyone is. You tick off your achievements on the list and finally you are done. Grinding for loot can delay this moment, but sooner or later you have officially completed the game. Any other people are there only because you cannot solo some parts of the game. But if there are no losers, there are no winners either.
      Of course you cannot just switch permadeath on in any game, because so many are designed without taking it into account: they stack the odds against the player and expect him to die and reload or die and try again. The game should either be short, like The Binding of Isaac, or allow the player to choose the odds. That’s what Day Z does. You can hide, eat wild game, avoid everyone or you can dare to scavenge a town or look for other survivors.
      And of course a multiplayer game with permadeath should make other players more than NPCs with nametags swarming the same questmasters and killing your mobs. They should be the reason that game is what ir is.

  5. RvLeshrac says:

    On game preservation:

    Until it is no longer outright illegal to preserve games, they will continue to rot away. The developers are 100% to blame, just as musicians and songwriters are 100% to blame for shitty contracts they sign.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Nope, it’s 100% you to blame because you click “agree” on EULAs from publishers, hurr-de-durr.

      Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      What a superb solution to the issue of preserving games. If the developers don’t sign the contracts, we don’t have to worry about preserving games, since there won’t be any to preserve. Problem solved!

  6. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    The article about Spec Ops and choice is oddly naive. I mean sure there are always choices in reality but the difficulty of doing certain things or the sheer momentum of our lives causing us to keeping doing a thing we will later reflect on being stupid or immoral is something we’ve all experienced.

    The comments (or at least the six that are there at the moment) offer better arguments than the article, especially this one by Kevin Gadd:
    “For me, it sort of felt like an inversion of the traditional structure: A game like Mass Effect or Bioshock decides to give you ‘moral choices’ at various points in time, but the rest of the time the only way to progress is to shoot hundreds of faceless dudes. Spec Ops sets up a collection of circumstances that easily would have been a Moral Choice moment in another game, and they DO give you some degree of freedom – you can keep shooting the soldiers for as long as you want without using the mortar, until you run out of ammo – but eventually you have to use the object they gave you to progress the scenario. ”

    The author of the article really seems to want some lame moral choice option like Mass Effect that lets them be the “goodie” who chose the nice way to succeed. Which is strange because Spec Ops’ whole aim seems to be showing that in war sometimes there really are no nice options.

    This comment by Jillsandwich deserves quoting in full too:

    “The protagonist soldier of Spec Ops could have stopped”

    No, YOU could have stopped. You, as the player of the game, and ultimately the perpetrator of every event in the story, could have stopped whenever you wanted to, but you needed to keep going just to prove that you could make the right choices and be a good person after all(just like Walker thought he could).

    The point of the game is that you can’t be a hero in war.”

    The game has a narrative and reality has constraints. The author could’ve walked away from the game completely but they wanted the best of both worlds, to play the gritty game but walk awake feeling clean and moral when that wasn’t what the game was aiming to do.

    Now you can dislike the game for what it does sure but complaining the game doesn’t give you the option to be a goodie just seems odd to me.

    • kuddles says:

      Yeah, I think the whole point flew over Mr. Wasteland’s head, but it appears the comments on his own site have already pointed that out to him.

      • ReV_VAdAUL says:

        Perhaps so but Jim quoted the most flawed part of the whole article without context or comment so it was worth commenting on how flawed it was.

      • Gira says:

        Christ, you people. He’s completely right. Why don’t you take a step back from frothing over this utterly puerile, adolescent videogame (which, as has been identified, is barely a game, anyway), and think for a second. It’s a completely cheap shot – to suggest the player should have to turn off the game in order to make a “choice” is literally one of the dumbest things I have ever heard.

        The idea that this has successfully transferred guilt to the player is absurd. The “it’s your fault” and “you did this” screens serve to deliver a message that the gameplay, due to Spec Ops’ designers’ ineptitude, simply couldn’t facilitate. The game is a completely linear corridor shooter. Turning it off so you can’t finish your $80 videogame purchase does not constitute player agency, and it is really depressing that in this day and age people think it does.

        Are we culpable for Gandhi’s assassination if we don’t stop the DVD just before Harsh Nayyar shoots Ben Kingsley at the beginning? We knew it was going to happen. That’s how he dies. Shouldn’t the film (because let’s face it Spec Ops is more film than game) slap up a big “YOU LET GANDHI DIE” screen when we (selfishly) let it keep playing?

        I can’t believe the turgid logic vortexes gamers and modern “games journalists” get sucked into with crap like this.

        • NathanH says:

          Haha, I was in the middle of writing something like that, but then decided I couldn’t be arsed.

          I’m suspicious of player agency in story-based games in general, for the related point that the consequences of everything you do will be determined by how they want to story to play out, what points they want to make, and how they want you to feel. I find that very odd. You end up with a curious second-guessing game where you’re trying to work out what the designer thinks is the correct choice, instead of trying to work out what you think the correct choice is.

        • Aqarius says:

          Films don’t let you make choices. That was the crux of Ebert’s argument.

          And really, why should player agency be reduced to in-game-play? If the only winning move is not to play, the act of playing is a losing choice, and will result in a ‘lose’ state.

          • Gira says:

            No, sorry, you don’t get to start getting reductionist on player agency just because it justifies your buyer’s remorse in this case.

            Turning a game off is not gameplay. Folding up a chessboard is not gameplay. Taking a dump on a Scrabble board is not gameplay.

            Have modern gamers been so crushed by the two alternating evils of BioWare and Infinity Ward that it no longer occurs to them that “choice” and “agency” can actually occur outside of binary moral dialogue choices? That you can actually have these things occur systemically? That you don’t actually need to shoehorn a “narrative point” down a player’s throat by actually crippling your product’s chances at being an actual game?

            Have you ever played ArmA II and had civilians caught up in the crossfire in a Chedaki skirmish? There is no scripting that forces this kind of thing to happen, but it does. You were careless. You shouldn’t have put civilians in danger by engaging near them. You should’ve intercepted the Chedaki troops earlier on – and you could have, because unlike in corridor junk like Spec Ops things actually happen emergently and persistently in this game. Hell, perhaps you should’ve just gone about your business in the area with a little more discretion.

            But you didn’t. People died. You made choices that had nothing to do with BioWare-style “save the baby/eat the baby” nonsense. It just happened because of how you played the game.

            If Spec Ops had wanted to actually make this point in a way that facilitated player agency, they should’ve created an environment like the above and simply stacked the odds against the player. Make things happen systemically.

            It’s not a valid point when the player’s only option is to literally turn the game off. That just means Spec Ops is on-rails.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            You can’t describe turning off your game as a winning move because it’s a completely extrinsic action that bears no significance on the actual game system (however simplistic it is). At this point you operate out of the game and as such you stop being a player which in turn strips you of any player agency. Therefore, you can’t have a ‘lose state’ either.

            I mean, just the fact that this game is so incredibly linear – making all the analogies with films and literature absolutely valid – shows how laughable are the attempts at providing some kind commentary and making the player ‘guilty’. Would you feel remorse if you saw a screen with typed out “You’re responsible for all the deaths in this film’ in the end of The Thin Red Line?

          • ReV_VAdAUL says:

            The point is that in life you may not have the easy choices you would like to think about and people’s agency in real life is often highly limited. You seem to believe there is always an out, always a nice condition where you can come away clean.

            Just as a random example lets look at WW2 and the RAF’s bombing of cities. The crew on those bombers committed mass murder but they were directed to do so by their superiors who in a total war scenario regarded the death of countless “enemy” civilians as necessary so as to reduce the industrial capacity of the Nazi war machine. You could become a conscientious objector but that was difficult and not presented as an easy option.

            Combat flight simulators do not allow you the option of being a conscientious objector except in the form of turning the game off.

            In a similar vein, the protagonist in Spec Ops has already volunteered to be a soldier and excelled enough to become a special forces soldier so maybe he could desert at finally realising how awful war can be but deserting is exactly akin to turning the game off.

            If you have purchased the game and want to continue to play it you have to live within some kind of narrative constraints. In Spec Ops those narrative constraints are that you and your squad are in awful situation with no easy outs, if you don’t like that and want a game where if you grind the right skills you never have to make any difficult choices or do things you find unpleasant that is fine, play a different game.

            Experiencing what the author wants you to experience is part of any piece of fiction, you are not responsible for Gandhi’s death if you don’t pause the DVD, no one is suggesting that, you are however experience the tragedy of the narrative, which reflects historical fact, that the author wished you to experience.

            Games allow broader scope they always have constraints, a sandbox game like GTA doesn’t let you turn your life around and become an honest street sweeper, there are however games that let you experience that, you simply have to play a different game. Empire: Total War doesn’t let you replace the British Monarchy with a democratic republic where the whole populace can vote. There are good reasons why it doesn’t but the game design, the broad brushstrokes of narrative still constrain you.

          • turnbasedfalafel says:

            >Experiencing what the author wants you to experience is part of any piece of fiction

            for all those not in the know, this is a really fun creative way of saying spec ops is about being forcefed some developer’s sweaty war philosophy in the form of a bad movie.

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            Games allow broader scope they always have constraints, a sandbox game like GTA doesn’t let you turn your life around and become an honest street sweeper, there are however games that let you experience that, you simply have to play a different game.

            This is a common and stupid argument that pops up in discussions of player agency. ‘But the game doesn’t let me move to Ethiopia and build houses for the starving, therefore player agency is all an illusion.’

            Agency is about the player being able to act within the rules of the game. And Spec Op’s rules are so simplistic and restrictive that it doesn’t deserve to be called a game. There is no interesting gameplay whatsoever, only thematic wankery.

            Even if you do want to talk about the narrative as a comment on player choice and game violence or whatever, it’s such an awful attempt at it. You can either do exactly what the game tells you to do, or you can … not play it at all. That anyone considers that a choice is hilarious. Some of the developers, I’m sure (though maybe not the writer), must read all this stuff about how Spec Ops really Makes You Think and laugh their asses off.

          • Aqarius says:

            @Gira:I didn’t play The Line (had my fill of corridor shooters for the time being), so this case isn’t about buyers remorse. At least not mine. I’m asking the question as is, not limited to this case.
            Binary moral choices ARE sistematic. It’s just that the system is binary. Also, the existence of any moral, or any other storyline choice is also arbitrary. ‘Game’ is defined by ‘gameplay’, a set of rules through which you interact with the game world. Agency over the story is not included in the base definition. If you will, you’re essentially saying chess isn’t a game either, because there’s no ingame option of negotiation with the other side and ending the sensless conflict without sacrificing innocent pawns.
            Also, before you lament about Mass Effect and COD ruining games, the game that I was thinking about when I posted was Pathologic. See, ‘interacting’ can mean a lot of things, and (long story short) in my playthrough of Pathologic, the game was quite literally dying before my very eyes. At one point, everything crashed, and my entire inventory was gone, quest items included. My response was opening the .ini and spawning what I needed. You might say ‘well, that’s cheating, it’s not in the design’, but the thought in my head was ‘I’m not letting you die on me goddamnit’. Seeing how the Haruspex spent the entirety of the game gutting people to cure the disease, how even MR Smith’s article was named ‘Butchering Pathologic’, and how the other-other ending pretty much asks me to define my own level of involvement, I’m not so sure.

            @turnbasedfalafel
            So does Cubrick, Copolla and Spielberg. If you don’t want the player to experience something during his gameplay experience, why bother making the game? The experience of STALKER is despair. The experience of Portal is defiance. The experience of Magicka is a desire to murder the other three teamkilling bastards. If you don’t want to experience the desolate loneliness of a land that hates you and your kind, you don’t play STALKER. If you don’t want to hear war philosophy, you turn off the TV when ‘Full Metal Jacket’ is on.

          • turnbasedfalafel says:

            hey look everyone this guy is comparing STALKER with movies haha (please kill yourself)

        • Barnox says:

          What is your opinion on the final choice offered to the player in Red Read Redemption?

          SPOILER WARNING
          The game ends with the main character giving their life, to allow their son to live freely. He doesn’t want his son to become a criminal like him. You die.
          The game is over. But now you control your son, who has grown up. There are no more missions. But if you so wish, you can track down your father’s killer, and take revenge.

          This goes against everything his father fought for, and isn’t shown as a real mission. It is in the game, but you don’t have to do it. You could just explore the open world, be a force of good.
          The only way to ‘win’ this final ‘mission’ is to not play.

        • mouton says:

          @Gira
          “this utterly puerile, adolescent videogame”

          LOL your opinion reminds me how diverse opinions are and how, in the end, every human’s perception can be totally different. Out of curiosity, could you provide some examples of games that you consider truly “mature”?

          • Alphabet says:

            This has been a really excellent and valuable discussion. If nothing else Spec Ops has facilitated that. While there’s no way I’m going to pay full price for the game (not a moral objection – I just worry that I might turn it off because it’s obnoxious or because it’s too much like a non-game-game like COD:MW) I’m definitely going to buy it on sale sometime and revisit all these debates.

        • malkav11 says:

          That sort of guilt transference is basically the premise behind Michael Haneke’s film Funny Games, which tries to make the viewer feel bad for sitting through it instead of turning it off, and I disagree with it pretty vehemently. It’s manipulative and cheap and the premise misguided.

          That said, I really don’t feel like Spec Ops: The Line was about that kind of player-blaming and I was generally very impressed with it.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Gira: Starting an argument by calling the other people involved dumb is, well, dumb.

      Personally, I liked the lack of choice. It’s all about agency – it isn’t necessarily the player that is being accused of this, it’s Walker. I found the “it’s all your fault” message wonderful precisely because I didn’t automatically assume that its was directed at me. The game is simply showing-not-telling, and this is absolutely fine.

  7. Dinger says:

    I always wondered about these RPGs, where you can walk into a town and take everything that isn’t bolted down; clean out strangers’ houses and grab stuff from shops. If it’s locked, you can specialize in defeating those security measures. If nobody spots you (and often if you do), there’s no repercussions to your character, moral or otherwise. If you are spotted, the penalty is rarely severe, and you can still be hailed as the greatest paragon of moral virtue ever to walk the planet. And yet you spent hours virtually depriving peasants of the food they needed to live.
    Of course, if you defeat the security measures on the game itself, and make a copy, depriving nobody of anything, real or virtual, the makers of those games decry you a filthy thief and a dirty pirate for depriving them of the virtual billions you would presumably have paid them. Maybe they should think about adjusting their RPGs.
    Wouldn’t it be cool to have the player be busted about 30 hours in for having destroyed the entire economy of the kingdom for stealing 5 million pieces of silver worth of tomatoes, beer and wheat?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Only if when my on-the-way-to-legendary hero protagonist says “I need this big sword to kill the manifestation of unspeakable evil that’s on its way to violate you and all that you love that you’ve all been telling me you’re so terrified of”, the shopkeeper doesn’t respond “that’ll be five zillion gold pieces or get out”.

    • pipman3000 says:

      i guess this means i should go looking through bobby kotick’s drawers for space change and healing potions

  8. LionsPhil says:

    You promised us medals, Jim. :(

  9. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Don’t really know what to make of the Eurogamer piracy article. I’m sure he’s awesome, but on this topic I can’t agree with his logic at all.

    “Piracy suggests villainy of some kind, when in truth all that punters are doing when taking something for free is “taking something for free”. It’s like lifting a leaflet, or taking one of those samples of cheese from Tesco’s deli counter. It’s what people do. There’s no malice in it. ”

    No, its not like taking a leaflet or sample. Those things REALLY ARE free. Piracy is more like someone going into Tesco’s, taking a load of soup cans off the shelf, and then dumping them in the car park with a sign saying “Free Soup”. Sure, you can pick them up because they are apparently ‘free’ – but they aren’t: They’re stolen goods, and if you know that then you are wilfully receiving said stolen goods. Its all very Robin Hood I’m sure, but it is definitely not the same as being given a free sample of the latest Cadburys choccy bar by a girl with a tray.

    CD Projekt is NOT ‘giving away free samples’ when The Witcher 2 shows up on Pirate Bay.

    The article could have benefited from a deeper, less-cursory analysis of opposing viewpoints and a discussion of how things like steam sales and the cheaper-PC-game-prices-with-time affect the issue. If I think a game is potentially bad, I know it will show up soon enough for half price or less. That affects my value judgement of it.

    • mckertis says:

      ” Piracy is more like someone going into Tesco’s”

      No, its actually less like that.
      And its even less important than the leaflets. After all, leaflets are created, they require actual paper and actual ink. Those things cost money. Copying a movie over internet will, in all fairness, cost a few cents over decades to account for cable wear.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Hi there. I can see what you are saying – the actual cost of making a copy is nothing, and the cost of its delivery is nothing. That does make sense. Where I can’t agree though (and I know its a tired argument) is that many people who copy the game and enjoy it will not then go on, out of good conscience, and pay for the game. They will play it and move on – and so, in that instance it is a ‘lost sale’. (Trying a downloaded copy as a kind of demo, and deciding to buy or not, is a greyer area).

        Perhaps its playing loose with definitions, but in that case you have taken and used something that was meant to require a cash outlay from you – which in reality is a licence to play the game – but NOT given that money. Taking something you should have paid for. Not paying for it. It may be my own view only, but that does to me sound like stealing. I would feel bad about stealing something that cost £30, and I also feel bad about downloading games.

        • D3xter says:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeTybKL1pM4&hd=1

          Given, “piracy” is not compatible with the capitalistic market as it stands right now and makes huge entertainment moguls all sad, but the increasing crackdown and problems that are resulting from these people trying to maximalize Copyright and Patents is one of the biggest cultural problems of the 21st century as I see it, and will only escalate with things like 3D printers and further technologies making it easy to copy things for private people by just translating data over the net (even physical things they would usually pay money for): http://www.wired.com/design/2012/05/3-d-printing-patent-law/

          But consider that libraries and radio and even TV stations giving you “free” things have existed for a long while and with the Internet coming up there has been an explosion of News and other “free” content (take YouTube alone for example) and things are moving more and more into a certain direction of free knowledge, with things like KickStarter (for a lot of things) and Digital Distributers like Steam (for games) or Amazon (for books) being great disruptors of ingrained industries trying to preserve the status quo.

        • hello_mr.Trout says:

          hi
          so piracy is a pretty nebulous subject, and it’s quite easy to get sidetracked by various tangents, so i’ll try and limit my reply to the issues you’ve raised. i was thinking about World of Goo as an example; where the devs estimated that somewhere between 1 in 5, and 1 in 10 copies on pc had been legitimately purchased (according to wikipedia). if those figures are accurate, then that represents a significant portion of ‘lost sales’ – but at the same time, their product was widely disseminated, and (presumably?) highly enjoyed by lots of people who otherwise wouldn’t have played it. couldn’t this have other tangible benefits for the devs? – increased ‘brand’ recognition, perhaps increased sales on mobile devices, and a potentially increased audience for their future releases? i realise that this is just a single example, but isn’t it perhaps limiting to only look at the percieved negatives which surround piracy?

          • NathanH says:

            I think the truth to these debates is that really none of us has any idea what the consequences of piracy are.

          • D3xter says:

            Yep, I think there’s some important distinctions to make, even if the numbers WOULD be true (and especially numbers that get parroted around by the media in a fight against “something” usually aren’t) there’s things to consider.
            Looking it up, it says on their blog:

            “first, and most importantly, how we came up with this number: the game allows players to have their high scores reported to our server (it’s an optional checkbox). we record each score and the IP from which it came. we divided the total number of sales we had from all sources by the total number of unique IPs in our database, and came up with about 0.1. that’s how we came up with 90%.”

            Of course a large amount of people have dynamic IPs, mine for instance changes every day so some of those people might have “added up” to the “piracy numbers” as many times as they played the game (or played the game from their work place, or their phone, or at a friend etc.)

            Another thing to consider is that the highest piracy rate is usually out of countries like China, Thailand, Brazil, countless countries in Eastern Europe etc. where people live in different conditions and they add up.

            There was an article titled E3 2011: Torchlight pirated over 5 million times in China, Runic CEO: “That’s fine with us.” on PCGamer, again I wouldn’t exactly trust the numbers but there’s not much you can do against it aside from improving living conditions and standards worldwide or making people really really want your product (China won’t agree to retarded Copyright or Patent laws because the US forces them to and they are on their way to becoming #1 economy worldwide.)

            Something else to consider is how this can raise public awareness of a product and be a means to PR (especially for Indies) e.g. those were some interesting articles regarding movies:
            http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/internet-piracy-is-good-for-films-1
            http://www.screengeeks.com/2009/11/09/does-piracy-help-ink-jumped-from-12991-to-16-because-of-it/

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          Hello chaps :) Those are some good points, and I would agree that we are definitely moving into something of a brave new world with all of this stuff.

          hello_mr.Trout – The points about intangible benefits are really good and I hadn’t considered those. My initital reaction is that financial markets do rely on certainties and measurable changes in income. Perhaps if World of Goo lead demonstrably to increased awareness and future sales, it could well become a recognised positive intangible benefit. How could you measure that?

          Dexter – its funny you should say that, as I was thinking about 3D printers and (nerd alert) Star Trek’s non-economy. I will confess to not having watched your videos (which I will do later) sorry :( Going forward its seeming like a future where we have machines that can make anything is very likely, and that poses questions for the future of commerce as we know it. However, and again its my initial reaction – I would have thought that the ‘licence’ model piioneered by software would actually be even more relevant in a future where things can be downloaded as digital patterns and then printed? Rather than buying a car or dishwasher, you buy a licence to print one of Ford or Zanussi’s patterns, and foot the bill yourself in terms of cost of materials / energy?

          In terms of libraries and YouTube, I think they occupy their own little corner or copyright law, as in a library limits the amount of copies available at any one time, and to a geographical area, and YouTube you are not allowed to show copyrighted material. If the material owner is happy for it to be distributed freely, or if copies are limited, I believe that is what allows for those forms of distribution to function. No expert though :)

          • D3xter says:

            That was more of a “joke video” from “QuestionCopyright.org”, although most of the articles should be interesting.

            If you want to watch a video on the topic, I highly recommend the short series “Everything is a Remix”, especially Part 4, it’s very well made, free (xD) and hammers the point down/gets to the core of the issue of both Copyright and Patents rather effectively: http://vimeo.com/36881035

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            Ok cheers Dexter :) I am off for my sunny sunday walk just now, but will have a look later on!

        • mckertis says:

          “which in reality is a licence to play the game”

          The problem with that is the same. Before, you could get a license to use a thing – and you still needed to obtain the actual physical thing after you got the license. Or you could obtain a license to do a kind of business, a franchise and such – and you still had to physically set things up, pay and maintain, etc.
          With software, few years back it was already pretty dubious system, but at least it was still somewhat limited by physical hosts, floppy disks, manuals, etc. Now there is no limit.

          As a small-time game dev myself, i do want to get paid for my work. However, i also, unlike many, realise that a system where i can potentially get paid infinite amount of times for a single completed job, at zero cost to myself, is absolutely absurd and will not hold.

        • YourMessageHere says:

          This argument makes me sigh every time I see it.

          The whole reason for theft being a crime is not ‘because it’s wrong, so there’, it’s because it deprives the rightful owner of the thing that is stolen; that’s what makes it wrong. Unauthorised duplication, which, as (the unexpectedly awesome; I thought he only existed as RPS’s resident boardgames bore) Mr Florence suggests has been misleadingly labelled ‘piracy’ for the purposes of emotional manipulation, does not do this. That difference is utterly fundamental to any understanding of ‘piracy’.

          Taking physical things is never, ever comparable to illegal duplication; in fact it’s a perversion of law to do so, and ought to be avoided strenuously, and exposed wherever it happens. The only comparable phenomenon involves you copying something yourself – a text, a painting, a recipe – so you end up with a seperate, identical copy.

          For your soup example, what’s actually happening is someone’s getting hold of (buying or nicking, it’s not ultimately important) one can of soup, analysing it, working out the recipe, making their own identical copy of the soup, then handing that out for free. A bit different, I think you’ll agree.

          The only law that’s being broken is the copyright of the recipe, if it exists. The soup is, obviously, not stolen. Illegally duplicated things are not stolen goods. They are duplicates of goods whose legal status is unknown; as duplicates, they have no bearing on the status of the original anyway.

          It is NEVER a lost sale.

          Stealing a game in a box from a shop is a lost sale. Hacking Steam (other download services are available, etc.) to give you free games, that’s a lost sale. Reduplicating an illegal copy can’t in any way be ruled to be a lost sale. The crucial point is, there’s no way you can start counting ‘might have beens’ as sales; you can’t be sure anyone who acquires a game illegally would have bought it, and in many cases they later do anyway. There is literally no way to gather the data you’d need to even guess at a percentage.

          If someone pirates a game, plays it, thinks ‘well, meh’ and moves on, I’d say that’s not a lost sale either; they wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. How does that work? It works because most players nowadays, especially the ones who’ve got the money to buy games at all, have a handle on gaming generally. People are not unrestrained Ids, walking about making contextless impulse purchases on the spur of the moment, not relating anything to anything else. They learn about games before they buy them. They know what genres and studios and franchises are likely to deliver, and they know which reviewers they agree with, and they know what themes and mechanics are in vogue at the moment. Gaming is probably the most actively self-publicising medium there is; there’s never any difficulty in finding the information to make a judgement before you buy or download a thing. Basically, if you download, play and move on, it’s because before you did that, you already worked out that there was little likelihood of you being willing to spend money on it, but you were happy for it to surprise you and make you want to buy it.

          As you say, Steam sales and their competitors are a major new factor in this. They, along with increased levels of patience and huge increases in games I just don’t want to play at all, have effectively stopped me from ‘pirating’.

          • NathanH says:

            Presumably stealing a box from a shop is only a lost sale if they shop ever goes out of stock of that game?

            I guess software piracy is a bit like stealing out-of-date food that a supermarket was just about the destroy. Nobody loses anything physical that you care about, but the thief now has food that he otherwise would have to have bought.

          • malkav11 says:

            If you steal a boxed copy from a store, the store purchased that copy and now cannot sell it or otherwise recoup the sunk cost of having purchased it. That may or may not technically be a “lost sale” but it’s definitely directly financially detrimental to the store. The pirate copies floating around on the internet, on the other hand, -might- have some financial impact, but it remains unquantified and probably will stay that way.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            See, no, I don’t agree that’s why stealing is wrong. As I said in my other post – stealing a candy bar is not wrong merely because you have deprived the owner of a physical object, but because you have taken something that does not belong to you without providing fair compensation to its rightful owner. In this sense, piracy is exactly the same as theft.

            I always have said – where is the reason in arguing that stealing a low-cost consumer good that cost a pittance to produce is a despicable crime, and that pirating $60 software that cost millions to produce is perfectly acceptable and harmless? It doesn’t make sense except unless you fervently believe intellectual property is not justifiably truly property. Which under current law, it is, and there are very legitimate reasons for why these laws were made, which less and less people seem to understand.

            Also I’ve generally understood the definition of a “lost sale” to be “someone pirating content that they would have bought, had piracy not been an option”, rather than “the store no longer has a given copy, so now they can’t sell it”.

            It’s entirely false to claim that every pirated copy is a “lost sale”, that much we can all agree on. But this idea that no one is out there pirating content that they otherwise would have bought, strikes me as a similarly over-broad statement. No, you can’t exactly prove that most, or that any given pirated copy was a lost sale, but are we really disputing that ANY of those pirated copies were INSTEAD of a legitamate copy? That’s delusional.

            This is not something we want to encourage, and all these editorials treating piracy as harmless and papering over the negative effects that “pirating-instead of-buying” has on content creators, are not only encouraging a crime, but are also encouraging selfishness and the dismissal of any notion of fairness.

          • D3xter says:

            “These laws” were made to give publishers of books a monopoly on printing said books (not to protect the writers, but because the publishers argued it’s unfair that others can print their books cheaper). There was also the taint of censorship in the air, the crown wanted to protect itself and the church and banned any kind of “heresy” or “thoughts” against either, so such a law came in very handy since they wanted to control all prints.

            Let’s not forget that things like printing bibles and certain “thoughts” were even punishable by death in certain countries (like France at some point), it was considerably harder than copying a file and people still did it.

            The first Copyright Act of 1790 in the US begun thus “An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, Charts, And books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned.”

            It only got out of hand from there with increased lobbying and the “Mickey Mouse curve” since the ~1930s: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090811/0123105835.shtml with “95 years from publication or 120 years from creation whichever is shorter” or Life + 70 years based on the author, in theory granting almost perpetual copyright and granting a monopoly of said content for the time.

            Because of said prolongued and increasingly longer Copyright terms there’s even a gap from the early 1920s to today with a lot of lost knowledge since the Copyright holders don’t want to make use of it or it’s uncertain who has it: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/the-missing-20th-century-how-copyright-protection-makes-books-vanish/255282/

      • Grape Flavor says:

        Every time someone advances this argument I want to scream and tear my hair out. Do people really not understand at all how “piracy” can be easily more hurtful and wrong than than petty theft?

        “After all, leaflets are created, they require actual paper and actual ink. Those things cost money.”

        Like games don’t cost actual money to make? Actual resources? Millions and millions of dollars to make these complex creations for your personal entertainment? To compensate those who have poured their heart and soul into their creation, so that they can make a living? To finance the creation of more games for your enjoyment?

        Piracy is not theft. Let’s make that clear. No one is “deprived” of a “physical object”. It’s “just” a copy. But you are misunderstanding why theft is wrong. Taking the candy bar from the store is not wrong because “they no longer have the candy bar, and therefore might be deprived the pleasure of eating it”.

        It’s wrong because that candy bar cost money and resources to make, and you are ripping off the candy bar’s creator of the right to be compensated for their creation, again, which did not appear out of thin air, but actually cost money and resources to make.

        Once you understand this, perhaps you can see how utterly ridiculous it is to claim that pirating $60 software that costed millions to make, is less harmful than taking a free sample, and that stealing a $2 soup can from a store, that costed a dollar to make, is some sort of terrible moral offense.

        • malkav11 says:

          You seem to believe that people have a right to be compensated simply for having created something. It might be nice if the world worked this way, but it doesn’t. A game that simply doesn’t sell – that’s never pirated for a second, but no one cares enough to buy – still cost time and resources to create, and the creator will never see that recompense. Hell, the way the industry currently works, the creator(s) might have created a game that sells millions and still see no recompense because they didn’t sign a contract that allows them to receive revenue from sales. (See, for example, Kingdoms of Amalur: millions of copies sold, modestly profitable. Made decent money for EA, meanwhile 38 Studios, who actually made it, went out of business without seeing a dime of that because they accepted a fixed sum advance instead of a share of the profit. Admittedly, they had plenty of other financial problems.)

          Obviously with the current business model of videogaming, a responsible person who wants to enjoy a game and is financially capable of doing so should provide an appropriate level of financial recompense. The trouble is…well, what if they aren’t financially capable? What’s an “appropriate level”? Why must they make this decision -before- they play the game and not after? What if they’re forbidden to access the game because they happen to live in the wrong geographical area? What if there’s no way to provide that recompense because the game isn’t available for purchase, or the people responsible for making it have gone out of business?

          Personally, I think if addressing those issues with piracy (as many people wind up doing) really does vital damage to the business model being used today, maybe it’s time for a new business model. Because just trying to shut people down doesn’t fix anything and is usually ineffective to boot.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            Come on, that’s not what I’m saying at all. No one is obliged to purchase a product that isn’t good or that they don’t want.*

            I am just putting forth the idea that if someone spends greatly to create a product and is the rightful master of said product, illegally obtaining and enjoying the product without giving the rightsholder their duly entitled compensation, is wrong, and in many cases, while not actually being theft, is in fact morally and practically tantamount to theft.

            Whether said product is physical or digital doesn’t really make much difference, and that’s what my analogy was meant to illuminate.

            *And downloading something is a pretty good indicator that they “want” it. Why are they downloading it then? Just to aimlessly suck bandwidth and storage space?

          • malkav11 says:

            But that’s just it. They’re not intrinsically entitled to compensation. They can reasonably be suggested to deserve it, but there are many scenarios in which they won’t get it, regardless of whether their work is used or not.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            Under current law, copyright holders are, in fact, intrinsically entitled to compensation from those who obtain their product. You can argue that the law is unfair, needs reform, fair but unenforceable, or any of many things, but that is the law.

            I am, though, seeing more and more comments and editorials suggesting that it’s perfectly morally acceptable to obtain and enjoy a game or other creative media without compensating the creator whatsoever, even though they could easily afford it, and all reasonable criteria of convenience have been met by the content provider.

            I am arguing it is not only illegal, but a genuinely dickish thing to do, considering how how much work and expense goes into modern games, and that the last thing we need is more people saying that this kind of behavior is anything less than selfish and antisocial.

            It’s illegal for a reason. People don’t seem to be understanding that at all.

    • BigJonno says:

      Unless we can figure out some way of telling exactly how many people who pirate a game would otherwise have bought a copy, piracy figures are pretty useless. It doesn’t cost any money, it doesn’t deprive someone of something they own. It is practically no different from borrowing the game from a friend. Unless you’ve sat there and consciously decided to pirate a game you could afford to buy, it’s really hard to attach any kind of negative effect on sales to your actions.

      It just comes down to whether you think it’s more important for Joe Rightsholder to be financially compensated for every person who plays the game or for Bob Poorguy to be able to access media he can’t afford.

      Rab is absolutely right in saying that the games industry, especially in the PC space, exists on goodwill. Any of us could, with a few exceptions like MMOs, pirate every single game we want to play, and yet we decide to pay money for them instead.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Hi BigJonno

        I think Bob Poor guy should be supported, and in many countries thankfully we have welfare systems that do that, as well as charities whose good work hopefully mean that those in poverty can be protected from its worse effects, such as lower life expectancy, likelihood to be the victim of crime etc. I don’t know if everyone would feel that letting Bob be able to play the latest Battlefield 3 map comes under the same category though.

        As with anything, there are always multiple truths. I do agree that companies may inflate piracy figures and give us draconian DRM. However, companies going out of business and blaming piracy is not new, and goes back to the birth of computer games and consoles. Yes there needs to be a balance, but I can’t agree with Rab that it would be a good thing if we lost existing companies. That would arguably only create more Bob (or Joe, or Susan) Poorguys, as these companies employ thousands of skilled workers whose abilities are very specific. In addition not all of those people have the ability to set up their own indie labels.

        • BigJonno says:

          There is a massively interesting and deep debate to be had over whether or not Bob Poorguy deserves access to to those Battlefield maps. Is it stands, the default view is incredibly capitalistic and it also plays down games, and other media forms, for that matter, as mere luxury diversions as opposed to their actual status as our cultural output.

          We can now disseminate media for free. Every person with a computer and internet access, which is still a pretty high barrier to entry in many parts of the world, can get hold of almost every single movie, novel, poem, play, piece of music and game ever produced in or converted to a digital format.

          Instead of celebrating this, we put up barriers. The one legal key to bypassing all of them is money. Essentially, we, as a society, are saying that the one prerequisite to accessing our media, our culture, is being sufficiently wealthy. We are placing wealth above all other virtues.

          There is something very wrong and broken about that.

        • D3xter says:

          His point isn’t that “companies going out of business” is good, but that the lawmakers (and we) shouldn’t keep dying business models alive with fletched teeth and that they created the “piracy boogeyman” to do just that.

          Despite the general revenue, amount of products and spending constantly going up across all entertainment industries: http://www.techdirt.com/skyisrising/ if a certain company isn’t doing as good as their investors expect or if a product doesn’t sell as well as it is expected, they usually go with “piracy” or several other argument simulations.

          Another point is the democratization of the market, more and more authors for instance are going the way of self-publishing and earning a lot more money that way, instead of getting somewhere between 5-10% royalties from a publisher (and the complications of having manuscripts rejected etc.) they decide to publish on say Amazon and get up to 70% royalties and are apparently selling more and more: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120627/07050019506/indie-ebook-scene-is-growing-heres-over-170-authors-whove-sold-more-than-50000-copies.shtml
          Steam and similar Digital Distribution platforms are kind of similar on the game market, instead of pitching a publisher a game or trying to get them to publish it and having to divest your rights to the IP you can publish it yourself on Steam & Co. and there’s increasingly more Independent companies doing just that and being successful, KickStarter is even a further step into that democratization by cutting out the financiers and decision makers entirely.

          The question is, if industries aren’t needed anymore (for instance because of technological improvement) why should they be kept alive artificially? Of course they are going to be pissed and lobby the government for laws to get passed, giving them “special rights” like they have managed with Copyright over the years (a lot of things WEREN’T illegal and were MADE that through lobbying, then they could weep even stronger and louder because the “piracy rate” has increased by doing just that, it’s a vicious circle).

          A few examples, there were for instance a lot of companies delivering ice before the refrigerator was invented and they became more and more obsolete as it was established, should the government have passed laws to keep them alive?
          Or take the “Locomotive Acts” in England when the car was invented, railroad magnates were FURIOUS, they lobbied the government with lots of reasons they made up, that probably sounded plausible at the time that they should stop this hellish invention.
          Cars were to travel at a maximum of 6km/h in the countryside and 3km/h inside of towns, they had to be manned by a crew of at least three people and one of them had to run in front of the car waving a red flag, they argued that automobiles were bad and damaged the cobblestone streets more than horse carriages.

          If there are increasingly more (and better) possibilities of making games and publishers with their big “AAA” titles end up not being needed anymore and dying out on their archaic business models because they don’t want to change and have become an anachronism is that really such a bad thing, and does it have to be prevented by passing even more and harsher laws in favor of said companies?

          • Grape Flavor says:

            What are these “new” business models that need to replace the “archaic” model of yore? Please tell me, because every piracy apologist uses this line and yet, seems utterly incapable of articulating what such a business model might look like.

            Here, let me give it a try:

            Is it low-development-cost indie games that can survive purely on goodwill?
            That’s great, if you think “quirky pixellated indie platformer #13″ is a suitable replacement for the Skyrims, Witchers, and Half-Lifes of this world. I don’t.

            Is it “free to play”?
            That’s great, if you think this pay-to-win, micro-transaction hell that we’ve been getting a taste of in the last few years, is actually an upgrade to the old business model. That Battlefield Heroes is a suitable replacement for Battlefield 3. I, like most gamers, don’t agree.

            Complex, high-production value games are expensive to make, and the amount of these games that are going to be made with no viable means of recouping the development cost, is minimal.

            People are proposing we destroy gaming as we know it, with no real replacement in sight, for what? In the name of some anti-capitalist ideological daydream? So that selfish people (or “poor”, but really, most pirates can full well afford it, and are just selfish) can save a few bucks getting games for free before the whole system collapses?

            Gaming is a hobby of mine. A hobby which I highly value and enjoy. And if you think the current paradigm of gaming isn’t worth saving, and that the future you envision is brighter, you are entitled to your opinion.

            But I very much resent how those with this pro-piracy view are trying to force their vision of the future upon those of us who are thoughtful enough to realize the downsides, and prefer the current model.

          • malkav11 says:

            What you seem to be missing is that just because you don’t -like- the new business models doesn’t mean that, -if- piracy is actually causing the widespread havoc that is supposed (which I find exceedingly questionable), it is not a more rational approach to the issue than trying vainly to sustain a business model which is crippled by a force that they are demonstrably failing to stop. And with efforts that are if anything only making the problem worse.

            Personally I suspect the answer lies in smaller, cheaper (possibly episodic?) singleplayer games sold at impulse purchase prices with many games using crowdfunding to ensure an audience, and multiplayer games using a free to play microtransaction-supported model. If their fears about piracy are founded, at least. And like I say, I see plenty of games doing just fine despite widespread piracy.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            That’s a very fair point. However, when the business model that gamers like me prefer is threatened to be replaced by business models that may result in (and I admit this is subjective) inferior and/or less advanced games, I feel almost obligated to encourage people to support the developers so that we can keep enjoying these games.

            Especially when the actions that may drive things to this point are certainly illegal, arguably unethical, and entirely avoidable except those who truly can’t afford it, or face one of the situations you pointed out in your other post.

          • D3xter says:

            Well, gee thanks for doing my work for me. But mainly stopping to rely on publishers as big gatekeepers raking in the profits and self-publishing so you get the biggest cut instead of a paltry 10-20%, if anything, is the most important things.
            You also forgot KickStarter, Pay-What-You-Want models like the Humble (and a dozen other) bundles, I believe the last one still brought in over $5 Million?
            And gaming financed through Advertisements e.g.: http://www.gamersgate.com/void

            “But I very much resent how those with this pro-piracy view are trying to force their vision of the future upon those of us who are thoughtful enough to realize the downsides, and prefer the current model.”

            As opposed to the anti-sharing, anti-resale, anti-ownership, anti-openness views propagated and strengthened by laws and lobbyism for the sole sake of maximizing profits of said publishers (who often also treat developers like crap or close down entire studios on a whim since a game wasn’t profitable enough), no matter what gets lost and left behind in the process? Gee, consider how much a lot of people “resent” that.

            There was a great TED-Talk called “Defend our freedom to share” in the process of the SOPA debate you should watch and consider what kind of future you are looking forward to and actively striving for: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h2dF-IsH0I&hd=1

          • D3xter says:

            By the way, there was also a Poll on PCGamer for which “big” franchises are getting better and which are getting worse, the results are interesting: http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/08/01/which-franchises-are-getting-better-which-are-getting-worse-the-pc-gamer-poll-results/

            Apparently there’s not that many people quite satisfied with “AAA” gaming as one might believe, personally I’m going more and more “Indie” myself.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Also to pick up on the goodwill element – yes, I agree wholeheartedly. That goodwill comes from a sense of feeling that its ‘right’ to do that, and is a choice based mostly in morality. TBH that is the point I most wanted to make, that even though we can do it, and even though we can argue whether its definably illegal, its the question of whether or not we feel that thesocial or moral contract between us and the devs is worth honouring (“they made something, we want to experience it”). I think we value the feeling of being honest and like seeing those we have supported do well – and that for me is why I personally would feel bad for doing it.

        • Grape Flavor says:

          The question of whether you think content creation is sustainable in an unrestricted-piracy world is deeply tied to whether you think people can be trusted to do the right thing of their own free volition, or whether they need the hand of authority and fear of consequences to dissuade them from taking the antisocial path.

          I had thought we had settled this issue long ago, and that’s why most people agree on having such things as governments, and laws, and police – because we know from experience human nature alone will not result in a decent society. But apparently this debate is being re-opened again.

          • Consumatopia says:

            No, obviously, some people would still create content, and some people would still pay for content, so some level of content creation would still be sustainable in an unrestricted piracy world.

            Would it be a lower amount of content creation than we currently see? Probably. And the people now employed creating some of that content would instead find jobs contributing something else to society.

            Is it worth invoking “the hand of authority and fear of consequences” in order for society to produce additional entertainment (and less of whatever alternative good entertainers would produce if they’re not entertaining)? The answer that a decent society would reach is simply “no”: coercing people for the sake of entertainment is indecent.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            I agree. Clearly it is neither practical nor desirable to lock down the entire internet using draconian measures, in the name of absolute copyright protection. Even attempting it is futile.

            That’s my position on piracy – if you would otherwise buy the game, pirating is wrong, it hurts the developers, and you shouldn’t do it – but harsh DRM is clearly not the answer, if only because it doesn’t actually work and in fact only hurts the legitimate customers.

            Where I start getting really worked up is when people try to claim that piracy has zero deleterious effects on the content creators, or worse, even try to claim that torrenting video games is the great civil rights struggle of our times and they’re some kind of noble martyr for doing it. I kid you not, I’ve heard people invoke comparisons to Martin Luther King because they like to to get video games for free.

            We might not be able to prevent piracy, but at the least we can refrain from glamorizing and encouraging it. Which is why I support reasonable copyright laws, even if they’re ultimately not very enforceable.

          • D3xter says:

            Well, the News is that the PC and platforms like Android are in the middle of this “unrestricted piracy world” (you just need to be able to use Google, anyone could do it), by the way there are even countries like the Netherlands: http://torrentfreak.com/dutch-parliament-downloading-movies-and-music-will-stay-legal-111224/ and Switzerland: http://torrentfreak.com/swiss-govt-downloading-movies-and-music-will-stay-legal-111202/ where piracy is also perfectly legal and their culture hasn’t broken down yet, although certain “Copyright Organization” are calling it the “Copyright Guantanamo of Europe” or similar.

            Yet people seem very much willing to pay for content, people still see movies, they still go to concerts and listen to music (even increasingly so, since the profits in every entertainment industry are only going up, see “The Sky is Rising” and they still pay for games. PC Gaming has even been reinvigorated in the past few years, despite there being closed-off platforms like console to contend with.
            People are paying Millions of $ on “Pay-What-You-Want” kind of things, Valve’s Gabe Newell reiterates that piracy is a “service problem”, KickStarter came along and people seem to spend quite large amounts of money on the IDEA of a game they want to play, even before it has been developed and so on…

            Android is the most popular mobile platform with the highest amount of “Apps” and the PC doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, no matter how much certain companies (including Microsoft, apparently) would wish certain markets on it would die already and we get things like Day-Z, Minecraft selling 10 Million copies (despite not taking a Copyright-maximalist view on it) or the newest Just Cause 2 Multiplayer-Mod with 1000+ people on the single map etc.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        “Unless you’ve sat there and consciously decided to pirate a game you could afford to buy”

        Judging from online discussion and personal observations, I highly suspect this accounts for the majority of piracy.

        Clearly many people disagree.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Piracy is more lacking of support for creators than it is theft. Insert “it’s a copy blah blah blah” here, which is tired but still true.

      I have pirated in two periods of my life. The first was when I was a teenager and didn’t care about anyone else or where my content came from. The second time was when I was a volunteer overseas and made no money but had a TON of time with nothing to do but stare at my laptop. The thing tying these two periods together was a circumstance where I wouldn’t be buying anything anyway.

      You fight piracy by making supporting the developers as easy and beneficial as possible, which is why Steam succeeds.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        There are some people who are going to pirate no matter what, and there’s little anybody can do about it short of extremely draconian measures.

        What I object to, both in the original article and in the comments, is this new trend of legitimizing piracy, glorifying it even, and denying the negative effects widespread piracy has on creative industries.

        You’ll never stop piracy, or crime in general for that matter. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take reasonable efforts to try, or should condone that kind of behavior.

    • jrodman says:

      Any discussion of piracy where the opening salvo is that tired fallacy of saying it is exactly like theft is not going anywhere useful.

      Stop doing it.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        No, it’s not exactly theft, it’s just very similar to theft. If that’s enough to make you feel better about torrenting everything and anything instead of supporting the creators, then you are morally broken.

        • jrodman says:

          No, it’s not very similar to theft.

          It has a major overlap in that you get to have a thing and you don’t pay for it.
          It has a major non-overlap in that no one loses anything.

          Neither the morality of piracy nor the morality of theft are starkly simplistic, and environment and situation are relevant to how people perceive them and will act.

          If you read into my words that “it isn’t theft so I’m gonna do it and it’s fine!” then your mind is so shuttered that you shouldn’t debate things in public. Because I never said those things. And I didn’t imply them either.

          Now excuse me while I go play another game I bought. Online. With money.

        • D3xter says:

          You seem to believe that the people you are arguing with are “Torrenting games” or don’t agree with you that developers should be rewarded for their work of making games. That is a common misconception, but here for instance is my Steam Account alone: http://www.steamcalculator.com/id/Dexter111
          I likely spent over 200€ the last Sale, even buying some 4-Packs and Gifting people/friends some games.

          What people disagree with you on is that piracy is somehow this “big bad boogeyman” or that its effects are measurably bad, and that for the sake of apparently defending against such vile behaviour we need draconic laws and worldwide internet surveillance, your argument about needing “strong Copyright laws” plays exactly into their hands and leads to things like SOPA and ACTA.

        • Grape Flavor says:

          @guys
          I apologize for implying your personal motives were suspect, and you make some very valid points.

  10. BigJonno says:

    There is a comment in the Spec Ops/MW2 piece attributed to Mohammed Alavi that I feel is completely off.

    “Being a civilian doesn’t offer you a choice or make you feel anything other than the fear of dying in a video game, which is so normal it’s not even a feeling gamers feel anymore.”

    Dying, in the vast, vast majority of games, is frustrating, at most. Not only do you have plenty of power and agency to prevent your death, but it has very little consequence. Making players genuinely fear dying is likely, outside of a Diablo-style, permadeath “I’m going to lose all the time I’ve invested in this character” fashion, most likely impossible. However, it’s entirely within the realms of possibility to instil a strong aversion to it through investment in the character.

    What if there was a civilian in No Russian who was a friend of some of the soldiers in the game? Perhaps he was in a civilian position on a base they were stationed at for a long time. Some of the earlier banter could involve them discussing what a good time they had at his wedding and how much they knew he was looking forward to the birth of his daughter. Later on, you’re dumped into that airport, in the shoes of that guy. You have a few minutes of Half-Life-esque normalcy as you have a meal with a colleague and shop for duty-free booze and a present for the wife, hoping that the flight isn’t delayed, causing you to miss the birth. Then the terrorists open fire.

    I’m sure a studio with that level of experience with rollercoaster-ride set-pieces could produce a masterful section where you’re running for your life while this massacre goes on, only to be inevitably gunned down. No restarts, no check points. The character breathlessly monologuing about how he doesn’t want to die, how he has to get back to his wife.

    I’m pretty certain that, done well, that’d have a lot more impact and be a lot more memorable than choosing whether or not to shoot at civilians that are going to get killed anyway.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      You are completely correct.

      Excepting games like Penumbra or Amnesia dying in games is not scary. It might be something you want to avoid but it isn’t scary. What makes Penumbra and Amnesia scary? All the things you just described that would make playing a civilian in No Russian so meaningful. People on much smaller budgets have achieved the terror of powerlessness in a dangerous world so as you say, COD’s developers have no excuse.

      • jaheira says:

        Heh. That’s weird. The death mechanism in Amnesia was what made the game totally unscary for me, because it has no gameplay ramifications. You simply wake up somewhere a bit later. Once that happened I realised that the easiest way to deal with the monster was to run at it, and let it kill you. I still liked the game, but the mechanics killed the atmos for me.

  11. Asokn says:

    Not at all related to the Sunday papers but how on Earth do I start a new thread in the forums? I have tried to find the answer to no avail.

  12. RegisteredUser says:

    Re: Spec ops, No Russian.

    I don’t think I will ever understand much of all this.
    What I remember most about the No Russian level? Being annoyed at the riot shield carrying police, because they were so damned hard to hit except for their -oddly enough – feet. Grenades helped.

    Mowing down the crowd? More of an entertaining moment, but completely ruined by the fact that there was a much more “locked down” feel to it (you can’t shoot some crowds yourself, as the others are always done faster than you, IIRCS some stuff is so prescripted you can’t destroy or kill some stuff even when shooting at it…like say your “allies” in the scene? Either way, some stuff broke “immersion”, but that’s how those games are).

    Also the deaths weren’t exactly gruesome(where’s the limbs, the gore, etc, the usual things you want in a videogame from actual brutal/violent depiction of high-calibre impact) outside of the completely overdone “LOOK MAN, WE SCRIPTED DYING PEOPLE, FEED SAD NAO / Look at those death throes! Aren’t they dramatic! Aren’t they! Look! Look!!!”. It just ends up pathetic / trying so obviously, trying way too hard. Triggers the “Don’t soil my pant’s leg with your blood *bang*” wannabe-evil-mobster reflex, rather than “Oh you poor totally real human person in pain and suffering, I must help yous! Ambulance! Someone call an ambulance!” or whatever they thought they were achieving.

    It makes such a stark double-standard, eye-rolling moment for me, both here in No Russian as well as in Spec-Ops. Look guys, we’re making millions out of selling you shooting galleries where your sole role is killing shit dead everywhere you go, level after level. But hey, we totally have to make a footnote saying “death is bad, mkay” or something, so, er, yea! Here! Feel bad about killing people for a minute! Did so? Okay, good. Now go run down another 10 levels shooting at everything that moves.
    Well done! Medal reward level for perfect score: Gold! Woooot! 3 out of 3 collectables, too!

    What the fuck, people. You can’t come across as “War and death are such miserable things, we wish they wouldn’t exist” (and I fully agree for this in _real life_) in games you are developing and building for years with a focus on making shooting people dead as enjoyable and tense in a good way as possible.
    I _know_ that that is what you did, and I _know_ that the people I am shooting aren’t real. I play the shooter to shoot stuff. As a conscious choice, because I enjoy the shooting bit, due to no real human getting hurt from it, ever. Trying to bring “real reality” into this is just going to have me look at what you throw at me in terms of game mechanics.

    White phosphorous you say? Sure, is it going to give me a different ending than if I don’t use it? Let me try not to use it, first, it should be more difficult, and having to _shoot more people dead myself_ should be more enjoyable than just clicking a button with an easy fix.
    Oh, I am not allowed to do that? Infinite enemy respawn? Well screw you guys, why make me think I have a choice when this is another one of those retarded “pseudo-agency when there really isn’t a choice” full-scripted moments in “that” kind of console game?
    Jeez.
    And then you remove my sprint button when slogging onwards after that?

    You make me sad and annoyed at what I did. But not for the “game results”.
    For not actually having a choice (despite suggesting it) and being able to choose my game experience; for being forced to lose time walking slowly with run disabled, when I want to be moving ahead, shooting more people dead; for trying to shove guilt down my throat, when the whole reason I come to these games is that I am rationally aware I can enjoy them guilt free due to their very virtual nature.
    What are you, too stupid to understand real is real, but games are not?
    You _created_ these games, there are no real people dying.

    The real people dying, out there? That’s where the sad is. The angry. The “Why the fuck do we only ‘help’ people with oil under their soil” bullshit. The whole mess.
    On my computer? 1s and 0s.

    Knock ‘em down, build ‘em up.

    TL;DR
    Trying to convince me to feel bad about killing people in games you sell to make me feel good while killing people is so extremely facepalm idiotic. I don’t understand why this even “works” for a lot of people. I really don’t “get it”.

    • woodsey says:

      ‘Trying to convince me to feel bad about killing people in games you sell to make me feel good while killing people is so extremely facepalm idiotic. I don’t understand why this even “works” for a lot of people. I really don’t “get it”.’

      Spec Ops isn’t trying to make you feel good. At all. Or at most, it’s trying to make you feel good so that you feel like an extra massive dick by the end of it. The point is that you went into it to get your rocks off in a man shoot (phrasing!), and perhaps the casualness with which we do that is something to be reflected upon.

      The White Phosphorous scene plays into that; you say you don’t have a choice, the point the developers are making that you could just turn the game off. Now obviously no one’s going to do that and no one on the development team would have expected someone to, but it’s a comment on the perception of choice, and it emulates how Walker (and virtually all of the characters) continuously entertain the notion that they “did what they had to do”/”had no choice”. The player perceives it in the same way the characters do because they feel they can’t or shouldn’t exit the situation, but in reality, you do have a choice.

      It’s a shit choice, and not much of a choice at all, but it is a choice.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        I disagree about the intention.
        But I don’t even need to argue myself. This is from the people who made this and this is how they are selling this to you, the oh so morally torn poor soul:

        “Brutal, In-Your-Face Action: Join forces with intelligent, resourceful squad mates in fever-pitched gun battles. Accessible combat and squad controls will get you in the fight quickly, where you’ll experience the raw destructive force of your authentic weapons as well as engage in extremely physical close-quarters battles.”

        Yes, that totally sounds like they wanted me to face situations where I am in a moral quandary between playing more shooty-shooty or turning off the game.

        Sorry, but I can only roll my eyes at this kind of nonsense.
        It doesn’t get more apparent than to have them say in their own words that they made a game about shooting people up close and want your money so that you can do just that.

        Have some more yum-yum:
        “Dynamic Sand: Turn the tables on foes by crushing them under a cascade of sand cast down by a strategically placed shot”

        Yes, the empathy for your enemy and actions is just oozing out of this game.
        Clearly I am not supposed to enjoy this.

        Like I said, I don’t get how people can literally “believe” the contrast.
        Shoving in a bad mix of “Apocalypse Now” and “The Sixth Sense” as a plot doesn’t make it stand out any more as a game than any other excuse to shoot more stuff in more levels.

        • woodsey says:

          Where is that even from? A marketing blurb from the back of the box? If you’re going to go down that route try reading some stuff from the actual developers. Believe it or not, Bioshock’s back of the box doesn’t declare itself a deconstruction of Ayn Rand-style objectivism.

          ‘Yes, the empathy for your enemy and actions is just oozing out of this game. Clearly I am not supposed to enjoy this.’

          Ah yes, because of course, the best way to tell what you’re supposed to feel in a game is to read the marketing department’s adverts for it, and not actually play it.

          And, as I said, you’re supposed to enjoy it – then you’re supposed to feel bad about it. If you don’t, then fine – if it didn’t make you feel what it set out to make you feel then that’s a worthwhile discussion. I can understand why people think it’s stupid to say that you have the option to turn the game off and why that rubs them the wrong way (I had a similar problem with Bioshock’s twist – it was too overtly meta for me), but being so dismissive of the ACTUAL game because of words from the marketers is just plain lazy.

          • RegisteredUser says:

            What part of “Trying to make me feel guilty about shooting stuff when you create, build and market the game as fun to shoot stuff has to fail as I can see what you are really doing” don’t you understand in my line of reasoning?

            What really aggrevates about this is the claim of “Spec Ops: The Line is a fresh take on the military shooter genre” when its a bland, average third person shooter like tons of others.
            Plopping in dead civilians doesn’t change the actual gameplay; it just seems to impact some kind of people that get freaked out by it.
            But it doesn’t work for me, because the god-honest truth is that they made and sold a game about shooting people dead; optimized towards making THAT experience happen for you.
            There’s just no hiding from it. Most of your time is spent thinking about how to best headshot the next guy while not having to restart the section.

            And I can’t reconcile that with “But, er, its also totally wrong as well” at all. It just doesn’t work for me.

          • RegisteredUser says:

            Maybe if I go some other direction:
            It also shouldn’t work for anyone else.
            How honest is it to first give you all sorts of guns, have you mow everyone down, then turn around and say “Look what you did!”.

            Well, I didn’t do shit. You gave me a linear corridor, cover-based shooter, and I shot stuff. The choices you presented weren’t any; and I either play you, or I don’t. That’s not a moral choice; that’s an entertainment choice.

            To then have my entertainment come and spit in my face and say “Feel bad for playing a game” is just plain idiotic. What lesson is that?
            I already disapproved of war before playing; what good did that kind of shit do me as a game?

            It comes pretty close to just plain being insulting to the consumer/player. Feel bad for playing me!
            Really? That’s how you want to make me feel about my purchase?
            The “forced to slow-walk” sections and really-only-pretend choices don’t help.

          • woodsey says:

            Alright, well that’s an actual response instead of “but the marketing blurb!”.

            But the point is not “war is wrong, idiot”, the point is about how people perceive choice. I certainly wouldn’t excuse the next BioWare game if it offered no choice and they then turned around and said, “but you can turn the game off!”, but that’s because the next BioWare game is unlikely to be commenting on the same subject. Although DA 2 tried something along those lines and failed pretty miserably. Origins did much better at it in a scene with Morrigan towards the end.

            I think you’re too constricted by your view on games – you keep thinking about it in terms of bought entertainment, and so then you act indignant when it turns around and says something antagonistic to you, because hey, you damn well bought it and you should be rewarded by the developers for doing so. And I understand that to an extent, but at the same time I don’t think it’s contradictory for them to create a satisfying shooter and then acknowledge the fact you’re playing in the face of causing endless atrocities, directly or indirectly, and that maybe other shooters are at fault for not making you face up to that.

            I do think that it faltered by not having squad control akin to R6: Vegas towards the beginning, then having that degrade in various ways as you progress to the end, so I can agree that mechanically it’s not much more than a somewhat above-average shooter; but I do think it’s an intelligent game.

          • NathanH says:

            I think it’s not so much that RegisteredUser is upset that the game was antagonistic towards him, it is that the game tried to be antagonistic in a banal way that nobody should fall for. Essentially as I understand it the game is trying to make you feel bad for doing things that were designed to be fun, are necessary to continue playing, and have no bad effects on anything real. That does seem a bit banal to me.

          • JackShandy says:

            I believe that people make games about shooting stuff because they enjoy games about shooting stuff. Slapping on a moral like “Shooting stuff is bad!” just seems dishonest.

            EDIT: A counter-example: The Void is a game about starvation, and playing it is tense and exhausting. When you kill an enemy in spec-ops, do you feel exhausted, or shattered, or sad? Or is it satisfying and entertaining?

            If it’s the second one, then the gameplay really conflicts with the plot’s message.

          • woodsey says:

            It becomes wearying, to an extent. There’s a moment very late in the game which I’d rather not spoil which does put a strong, player-influenced reflection on that.

            Like I said, in purely mechanical terms, it could have done better. But it is frequently subversive about aspects of its presentation and just how much choice you get. I think people perhaps find it counter-intuitive because you’re playing a defined character, yet much of the commentary is directed as us, the players – but I maintain that it does work.

          • JackShandy says:

            Fair enough, then.

        • PikaBot says:

          You are aware, I assume, that the people who write those promotional blurbs and the people who actually make the game are two totally separate groups of people, who odds are do not even work for the same company. Right?

          • NathanH says:

            Although this is true, I find it hard to believe that the actual designers of a shooter didn’t attempt to make shooting fun.

          • woodsey says:

            @ NathanH

            No one’s arguing they didn’t, we’re arguing that relying on the marketing materials from a marketing department is only ever going to give you the most shallow representation, and is as such an entirely useless thing to base an argument on – unless your argument concerns how shit marketing departments are.

            As I’ve said a couple of times, it is meant to be satisfying, but it’s not just satisfying because it’s a shooter and it needs to be.

          • NathanH says:

            I’m not arguing that that wasn’t the argument, I am arguing that the argument is pointless!

      • Consumatopia says:

        The White Phosphorous scene plays into that; you say you don’t have a choice, the point the developers are making that you could just turn the game off.

        So, basically, Spec Ops is just “The Monster at the End of this Book”, except I cover the last page with a shiny reflective surface and tell kids “The Monster is YOU!!!!! You are the monster at the end of the book!”

        I guess what irks me about those kinds of choices in games is that I’m asked to balance in-game moral dilemmas with out-of-game desires. I’m going to use the white phosphorus or kill the civilians or whatever other atrocity I’m offered instead of accepting game over and pushing the eject button because I, the player, am a real person, while my victims are only imaginary, and my actual desire to see the rest of the game trumps their fictional preference that I not commit the atrocity.

  13. woodsey says:

    ‘It’s said that the recent Kingdoms of Amalur had to sell three million copies to just break even. That’s ridiculous. That’s a sign of a broken, dated system starting to shut down.’

    A more appropriate (and ridiculous) example, given KoA’s infamous mismanagement, would be EA with their assertion that Dead Space 3 needs to sell 5 million to stay relevant. It’s such a ridiculous claim I seriously suspect they’re trying to use some form of emotional blackmail.

    “Buy Dead Space 3 or you’ll have killed a game (and the studio when we inevitably cut it and everyone inside it loose). MURDERER.”

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      That might backfire, though, if that’s the case. I don’t think Dead Space is unique and fanaticism-inspiring enough to make people go ‘Nooo! This franchise must be preserved!’.
      If it was a very specific niche-title, sure. But I don’t think the genre Dead Space is in is that underserved.
      The developer-livelihood argument might be more convincing, but then that goes for each and every game out there.

    • jezcentral says:

      Having to sell three, or even five, million units is no more a sign of a broken system than Avengers having to sell $300,000,000 worth of tickets to break even is a sign of a broken film industry.

      The problem is game companies constantly betting the farm on their next game, so one failure means oblivion.Maybe they should take a look at film studios, and try having several smaller games at once, with occasional blockbusters.

      • Shuck says:

        Well, the industry problem is that games very, very rarely sell 3 million copies, so if you’re a developer/publisher counting on it, you’re probably screwed. (And with dev costs what they are, more and more AAA developers are counting on those kind of sales.)
        The movie industry isn’t the best thing to compare it to, either – with films you can make a blockbuster with many tens of millions of dollars spent on digital effects and exploding cars, but it might be outsold by a (relatively) cheap drama or comedy where the single biggest expense was the star’s paycheck. The top sales in the game industry are equivalent to those FX-heavy blockbusters. There’s not the same sort of market for those mid-range games – the only non-AAA budgeted games that hit the top of the charts in recent years were Wii sports or Mario games.
        My problem with Mr. Florence’s article (leaving aside the whole piracy thing) is his insistence that the industry should set aside the bloated blockbusters for smaller, more creative games. He makes it sound as if the industry is producing games that people don’t want (and charging the same prices they always have) and forcing them on the market. The flaw in this is that people buy those blockbusters. Any AAA game is an expensive risk, and publishers are taking these risks in order to chase the money. If we hit a “reset” button on the industry and started over from basics, within a short period of time someone would be making blockbuster AAA games again. So his prescription amounts to: stop making the sorts of games that people buy and start making the sorts of games that I like.

        • Grape Flavor says:

          Exactly. if everyone hated AAA games, and secretly craved a world where creative little indies were the entire industry, these companies wouldn’t be making AAA games! People buy AAA games because (*gasp*) – they want them!

          It’s just a classic case of someone taking their own personal preferences and trying to make them apply to the whole world. The “indie rules, AAA sucks” crowd is constantly guilty of this.

  14. thebigJ_A says:

    I’d say that article on the Baining is hogwash. They’re completely against play or ceremony, oh except for this one extremely colorful fire dancing ceremony that there happens to be pictures of? Come now.

    More importantly, there’s someone in the comments claiming to be a researcher mentioned in it, who flatly contradicts much of its facts.

    • Josh W says:

      He contradicts very little, he says that people do not generally punish play, they just have no respect for it, and their culture has incredibly low levels of curiosity and enthusiasm.

      They are rarely interested in or excited by stuff, and don’t value it in their culture, but in his book that doesn’t make them bad, they just like getting work done.

      I can see what he means, but it does make them quite boring.

  15. Unaco says:

    Regarding the Baining peoples: If I remember correctly, they aren’t boring, or dull, or devoid of anything essential (such as play). They’re just mischievous bastards and highly secretive. Bateson saw nothing of their culture because they didn’t want him to see it. They were secretive, and he wasn’t part of their society… they didn’t trust him. They made things up, lied to him and tricked him to make sure he missed their traditions and ceremonies… he wasn’t part of their society and those traditions weren’t for him. Over time they’ve made a habit of it, it seems, stringing along a number of anthropologists.

  16. RegisteredUser says:

    I liked the bit on piracy, although I’m sure a lot of people will have the top of their heads pop off with the “tone of entitlement” via the “making games means having to hope for goodwill???” bit.

    I just wanted to point out that for the first 20 years at least, what reads:
    “We taped and copied and shared those games. We shared them and loved them. Software companies closed down and many of them blamed us. ”

    should instead be:
    “We taped and copied and shared those games. We shared them and loved them. And because we did, we kept buying and upgrading new hardware. We built systems, gained knowledge and perpetuated it. And through us, the industry grew, spread and, leaning on us, became what it is now: A mass phenomenon. Never possible without the people who pioneered it – through a huge part via knowledge through piracy – on both the “up there”(developing, producing – not that rare to have people with skills learned early on via pirated software nobody could have otherwise ever afforded) and “down here” level(infecting others with enthusiasm, showing them how to use a command prompt, suggesting hardware, building them PCs, fixing their stuff etc).”

    Without the pirates? Consumer IT may have gone quite a bit different. The hackercrackerpirategeeknerdcomputerpeople helped make the industry, the innovation, the “giants”.

    If they feel entitled to take what they want, its because they damned well are, in many a way.
    The friend you can call to fix the shit you don’t understand didn’t exactly always get those skills through a MCSE cert.
    We all benefit from pirates and their support and what they helped build, every day.

    • insectecutor says:

      I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. Sounds like you’re arguing that copy protection is a good thing?

      • RegisteredUser says:

        I am saying that, akin to e.g. taping and underground tape exchanges for bands made them explode into the popularity and mainstream, access to free / pirated knowledge means spreading access, culture and information. Without which an almost viral development would not have been possible at that time, as shit wasn’t a pretty little android icon with touchy-touchy to go worky-worky, but you needed to know how to manage memory, load stuff, fix stuff, replace drivers, etc pp.

        And most people didn’t know that.
        Basically, early PCs amounted to masochism, and there was zero reason to have them if it weren’t for the games. However, given to the high investment into the hardware alone(think small car in price), getting to play hundreds of games only worked if you pirated them.

        I am postulating that without the option to just copy games, the incentive and spread for computers would have been much lower(and consoles mostly exploded because you could rent games for an afternoon and bring them to a friend’s place, all of which is fairly tantamount to “near free”, too), and, just as important, without the people knowing insane amounts of detail and expert knowledge about the systems via “illegitimately gained” access to information, a good chunk of the early years would have just been people sitting in front of a machine spouting incomprehensible errors and not working at all.

        As it was they sat in front of machines spouting incomprehensible errors and not working at all half the time, while playing for hours on end in a haze of joy for the rest of the time. Because of piracy and through-piracy-enabled-and-created nerds.

        I am assuming your comment was just mostly trolling though.

        Obviously the same levels of nerdism also led to copy-protection being a running joke for 20+ years.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      @RegisteredUser
      That definitely has some truth to it. Yet I ask you, if everybody had pirated all that software instead of buying it legitimately, would we also be where we are today? The obvious answer is no.

      Piracy hasn’t destroyed industries for the sole reason that there are usually enough legitimate customers to pick up the slack, so piracy’s effect is not disastrous.

      Saying piracy is absolutely fine because any individual act of piracy is not directly harming anyone, is using the same kind of narrow logic that says no one should ever vote because your vote doesn’t make any difference.

      It’s true. Your singular vote has not, does not, will never make a difference of outcome in a large election. But encouraging people not to vote and telling them it doesn’t matter sure as hell does. It’s the exact same with piracy. Telling people that piracy is fine and doesn’t hurt anyone, isn’t really true unless you really haven’t thought it through all the way.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        It isn’t all everyone or no one, now is it?

        What if everyone just went and took welfare instead of working? Or decided to utilize the healthcare system to its fullest and not take care of themselves at all?

        My argument is that knowledge and information should be accessible to all, even if its not affordable to all.
        The modern computer/information society has a subculture that did a lot of experiments into exactly that, and I for one prefer the scenario where I accept the risk of some sales/income(there’s stuff besides games that’s also intellectual property) not being the highest they can be, if it in turn means a higher average educational level and culture and technology savvy.

        The argument from me isn’t everyone needs to get everything for free, it’s that people shouldn’t lose access to modern culture / society / information and, if you want, even entertainment(which, as we’ve through research found out, can also improve rational/tactical thinking etc) just because they can’t afford it or in such measures.

        Ideally then those that can carry and pay for the stuff do, and best they can, and those that can’t don’t get a “well who the fuck cares about you if you aren’t making cash money anyhow” treatment. Just like you would treat someone for their health even if they don’t have money as well.

        We have a systemic reproduction of class status for the most part because we tie everything back to “the more you have, the more you get”. Inequality reduction works best through education(its a bit of a cure-all; against racism, unemployment, jingoism etc). Education ties together with information. That’s at least what I’ve gathered from a couple of years of looking into stuff.

        Its not a very capitalistic thought or ideal, I’ll say that much.
        But hey, I live in socialism(we have health care!!!), so I’m bound to have nutty notions.

  17. insectecutor says:

    That Rob Florence article was absolute nonsense. Very disappointed in how poorly thought out his argument was, even though I agree with some of its stems he does a remarkably bad job of getting his point across and ends up sounding like an entitled ponce.

    Piracy suggests villainy of some kind, when in truth all that punters are doing when taking something for free is “taking something for free”. It’s like lifting a leaflet, or taking one of those samples of cheese from Tesco’s deli counter. It’s what people do. There’s no malice in it.

    Rubbish! Hooey! Nonsense! Bilge! Ripping off games is not the same as taking free samples because free samples are offered for free. Playing a demo is like taking from the cheese samples, ripping off a retail game is more like taking a whole cheese wheel. Perhaps he’s saying people feel the same amount of guilt ripping off software as they do when taking a free sample, in which case he may be right but he draws no useful conclusions from this observation.

    Where was the discussion of the differences between physical products (like cheese) and digital works? Obviously when you steal a cheese wheel from the deli counter you’re not copying it – you’re depriving a paying customer of the opportunity to buy cheese.

    I love Rob’s work but this was one of the dumbest piracy articles I’ve ever read. It just boiled down to “people are gonna nick stuff so they should change the model I guess”. How incisive. The Eurogamer commenters do a much better job than I could at dissecting it, and I figure RPS will be hot on their heels.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      //
      actually nm

    • MadMatty says:

      Here, im tired of this complete waste of space:

      https://dl.dropbox.com/u/5101158/piracy.jpg

      Also: are games art? /facepalm

      • Unaco says:

        How is it a ‘waste of space’? How is it wasting space in the digital world, where there is, to all intents, unlimited digital space for things like this? It’s not really taking up space that now no one else can use, is it?

      • meatshit says:

        Also, copyright infringement is not piracy. Piracy is hijacking a ship at gunpoint and, more likely than not, kidnapping the crew so they be held for ransom. People have been conflating the two for centuries, but that doesn’t make it right.

        • Shuck says:

          Copyright infringement isn’t piracy because the sort of piracy we’re talking about (media piracy) is copyright infringement with the intent to make money by selling the illegal copy. (And one can make a very good argument that it hurts sales of legitimate copies.) I do think it’s important to make a distinction between theft, piracy and copyright violation because they very much are different things.

  18. MadMatty says:

    As for Elon Musks statement about Mars movies: “We need a new archetype. I’ve talked to James Cameron about this. He’s got a script for a realistic Mars mission because there’s not been a good Mars movie.”

    they apparently missed this, which is basically hard sci-fi:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5LVKancOsc

    trailer is shit tho, its no action movie, and the trailer music is waaaay off the style

  19. Kein says:

    Where do I submit my mail address for a medal? Is it shiny? Does it has some writing on it? Will I get VIP account on RPS and access to the hidden RSS-feed?

  20. Chris Evans says:

    One for the indie fans, an interview with Kyle Gabler and Kyle Gray from Tomorrow Corporation about Little Inferno – http://www.thereticule.com/interview-with-two-kyles-on-little-inferno-and-tomorrow-corporation/

  21. Eukatheude says:

    By the way, i just randomly opened one of my brother’s X-Men comics and the story was by Kieron Gillen. Didn’t know he wrote comics.

  22. wodin says:

    I trust a review more if I know the reviewer loved the genre and it was a genre I also love. I know for instance I’d get a more well rounded review on a wargame from Tim Stone than say IGN or Gamestop. Thats not say even then I still agree with him but it will be a much better review from him as he knows what he is talking about and will be comparing this particular game to other games within the niche not AAA FPS when it comes to graphics for instance or would compare say Combat Mission Italy to a Company of Heroes game, both similar to the a non wargamer one looking alot more shiney than the other but really what goes on under the hood and what sort of game they are are very different. One is an RTS the other is more a combat simulation.

  23. Torgen says:

    Old games:

    I still have disks for Red Storm Rising, Avalon Hill’s War of the Roses, Covert Action, Command HQ, Close Combat, many more I’d love to play again. No idea if the disks are still viable, and don’t even have a 3.5″ drive, much less a 5.25″ drive any more.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s going to be like that. Epic stories about finding stuff in the weirdest places, like old Dr. Who episodes in Argentina or moon landing footage in Australia.

  24. Andy_Panthro says:

    Just wanted to suggest to everyone that they check out a great documentary that was on BBC Four recently (and so is available on iPlayer for the next few days):

    Tetris: From Russia with Love – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0074pz0

    Production and distribution of an iconic video game, and the problems of “East vs. West” when it came to it becoming a world-wide phenomenon. Occurred at a key moment in both the history of the USSR (perestroika) and for the ever expanding games industry.

  25. Muzman says:

    The Spec Ops article seems too captious to really make a solid case. I think developers even speaking about their games are mired in the words of game hucksterism and can’t come out and say a game is linear and restricted or whatever, especially while it’s still recently on sale. It’s got to be spun somewhat and tersely presented. Hanging their games on their quotes is therefore unlikely to be fair, especially when you’re trying to make an intellectual argument about agency and morality in it.

    Spec Ops’ artistic goals lie elsewhere than mechanical choice it seems and in many ways it’s probably more resonant for it. We spend so much time reveling in rote notions of honour and duty picked up from all media. But there’s a (large) element of soldiering that is all about the extinction of freedom of choice and the suppression of empathy. You have a license to kill according to the standing rules of engagement. That is very much an abdication of responsibility as most of us in peace time would understand it. This is an element of ‘the way the world works’. To try and really get under a player’s skin with that takes a more longitudinal approach the COD games don’t really care about. You’re never even the same guy for very long, no matter what controversial horrors you are faced with. The overall effect is never going to hang on one mechanic of “You can choose to kill the civilians or not”.

  26. Urthman says:

    The story about preserving video games is kind of obtuse when it implies video games are even harder to preserve than movies.

    We’ve lost a vast amount of early years of movies and TV, almost everything from the first 50 years of cinema and TV is even worse: we’ve irretrievably lost TV shows as recent as the 1970′s.

    In comparison, our preservation of video games is fantastic. Software copies of the code for almost every video game ever made have been saved and distributed so widely that anyone can easily download a copy. The vast majority of them are either playable on current gaming hardware or on a PC using an emulator.

    Video games are probably the single best-preserved artistic medium that has ever existed.

    • jrodman says:

      While I can’t disagree with the overall comparison, I think the less-popular creations have not fared as well. For very early creations we may not know how the hardware works anymore. There is risk of loss, but overall we’ve done fairly well by the pirate archives, so far.

      Film is definitely more difficult in a variety of ways. I think in this digital age, we’ll be a bit more lucky in having SOME form of the films around, but the originals may remain as tenuous. How many backups do you want to make of some digital master for decades after the money has stopped coming in?

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s certainly true that videogames have the innate advantage of having come up in an environment where home distribution and use were popular and many copies made. They also have the inherent disadvantage of being complicated bits of programming that tend to rely on a lot of shared libraries and environmental tools that may not persist into more modern computing. And while there is certainly DRM on other media, I can think of no other medium where that DRM aggressively and deliberately cripples the future longevity of the subject by, for example, tying it to an external server that is unlikely to stick around.

      Or, in other words, we may have failed to preserve a great deal of pre-digital media, but it is more challenging to preserve a game than a film or book or whatever assuming both are still accessible to begin with.

  27. dE says:

    You know, I’m wondering.
    With the issue of Data Decay and the need to continuously copy Data to preserve it, what will happen once our interest in preserving these kind of things, reaches the times when Copy Protection became widespread and popular.

    As we all know, bypassing copy Protection is an entirely illegal affair. I imagine the museum curators having a very funny fieldtrip.

    • jrodman says:

      Copy Protection goes back to the early 8 bit era and was standard fare then.

      One thing working to fight the powers of data decay though was that piracy was SO commonplace that pirated versions of the games with copy protection removed were more common than the published versions. Everyone had a stack of floppies swapped with friends, and these were much easier to archive because you didn’t have to emulate defective disk surfaces and the like.

      In the modern era, I think it’s a lot more common to just buy and download the game. But even the pirates are typically not storing the game on discrete media like floppies or (modern version) dvdroms. When they do the next upgrade, that data is going to be tossed. So there’s no natural point for accidental archiving.

      The other factor to which you tengentially refer is legality. While unauthorized re-distribution has *always* been a civil infraction, it’s only in modern times that we made actually circumventing the copy protection (whether or NOT copyright is being tresspassed on) a civil, or sometimes criminal offense. So nowadays just archival (locally!) is typically illegal, not just difficult, in the face of DRM.

      But I really think the bigger factor is going to be that we only use hard drives now, and we toss those every x years, while floppies sat in a box for a decade and then would resurface.

  28. Strangerator says:

    Thoughts on permadeath:

    The age-old argument has been, “just allow it as an option”, and opponents of perma-death are quite ardent that allowing it as a hardcore mode would not detract in any way from anyone’s enjoyment. Charitably, we tell ourselves that these people simply do not understand where we’re coming from, and so we craft delightfully instructive analogies:

    Scene – At the watercooler at work
    Me: Hey John, guess what I did yesterday?
    John: What’s that?
    Me: I climbed three flights of stairs!
    John: Uh, ok.. I climbed five flights of stairs, like today. We work on the fifth floor.
    Me: Yeah, but did you do it backwards, blindfolded, arm-bound, and hopping on one leg?!?
    John: No, because I’m not stupid.

    Responding to these analogies, the proponents of the hardcore mode say that we should only care about the thrill of the challenge, and not what other people think.

    Well, it’s about time to call these people out, don’t you think? What is so wrong about games only existing with one mode, that fully embraces and is DESIGNED AROUND the concept of permanent death? After all, these people don’t need to buy such games, now do they?

    Well, here is what I think is really happening, and I apologize in advance for writing truth on the internets. There is a large crop of more modern gamers, who have, through no fault of their own, been brought up with zero-frustration level games. A death, in any game, should not mean “loss”, of time, in game currency, etc. Death means another attempt is required, as mastery of a single specific scenario is not quite where it should be. They don’t play games to be frustrated, they play games to relax.

    And, to be totally fair, why would we really seek out frustration? I know that when I sat down as a youngster with my shiny new copy of Bionic Commando, I wasn’t thinking, “I can’t wait to be frustrated!” Nevertheless, that Nintendo-style frustration began to sink its claws into me, and I recall throwing the controller down in anger and pounding the ground. I also remember taking a deep breath, and realizing that the problem here was not the game, but me. I wasn’t quite good enough. I would point at the screen as I died and say, “Oh, I see what I did wrong!” Now imagine there were a mode which allowed me to perform jumps in slow-motion or gave me regenerating health… don’t you think a kid would always choose to use them? And would that not have ruined the game for me? Would a horrible Bionic Commando sequel have been attempted years later? Games can teach us valuable lessons of life, if they provide the kind of immovable obstacles life tends to throw at us from time to time.

    The feeling that comes after finally getting through that kind of game is something that we don’t get much of anymore, and I think there is a newer generation who has never tasted the sweetness of a hard-earned victory. They simply do not know what they are missing, and are logically, as I would have as a child, trying to avoid frustration. I think we are at a, “build it, and they will come” juncture.

    The industry gets a big fat “F” for their part in this as well. Mindless games whose completion is inevitable (so much so that a one-size-fits-all “hours of content” number can be assigned), reinforce the notion that games are passive experiences, and have no right to demand anything of their players. But why “waste the players’ time” (i.e. give them value) with games that require mastery to complete? Give them hollow difficulty modes, so that they will blow through the game in a few days and be back at the game store for more.

    Gah, another long post nobody will read. Oh well, the indie scene on our favorite platform appears to be headed in the right direction. Long live real gaming!

  29. cafay says:

    Well done, it works for me. thanks a lot.
    here

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