The Monday Papers

By Graham Smith on September 1st, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

Sundays are for wandering around Croatian national parks in glorious sunshine. Mondays, meanwhile, are for sitting inside Croatian apartments, watching thunderstorms roll by the window. And for belatedly rounding up the week’s best writing about videogames.

  • Over Gamasutra, Leigh Alexander hits the nail on the head better than anyone else I’ve seen so far. ‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience.
  • We also have to scrutinize, closely, the baffling, stubborn silence of many content creators amid these scandals, or the fact lots of stubborn, myopic internet comments happen on business and industry sites. This is hard for old-school developers who are being made redundant, both culturally and literally, in their unwillingness to address new audiences or reference points outside of blockbuster movies and comic books as their traditional domain falls into the sea around them. Of course it’s hard. It’s probably intense, painful stuff for some young kids, some older men.

  • Covering similar ground, Dan Golding writes equally well on the end of the ‘gamer’, why that is and what that means.
  • On the evidence of the last few weeks, what we are seeing is the end of gamers, and the viciousness that accompanies the death of an identity. Due to fundamental shifts in the videogame audience, and a move towards progressive attitudes within more traditional areas of videogame culture, the gamer identity has been broken. It has nowhere to call home, and so it reaches out inarticulately at invented problems, such as bias and corruption, which are partly just ways of expressing confusion as to why things the traditional gamer does not understand are successful (that such confusion results in abject heartlessness is an indictment on the character of the male-focussed gamer culture to begin with).

    Gamers are over and that’s a good thing, but I wonder what comes next. Fractured tribalism within the broader cultural sphere seems inevitable.

  • Alex Roberts writes reviews of old (mostly console) games – sort of. Actually what she does is review her memories attached to those games. Thanks to reader Bahumat for sending this our way. On QWOP:
  • Luke Crane has a funny theory about Game Design as Mind Control, and there’s an unsettling truth to it. Can you really design a game to make people do exactly what you want them to do? That’s kind of scary. But I guess you probably could.

    This is more like Game Design as Tickle Fight. Can you design a game to provoke sudden explosions of unpredictable behaviour, followed by giddiness and a sense of contentment? Apparently.

    Roberts also writes here.

  • Michael Gapper has left the building: the long-term writer and editor for XBox World, Edge and others has skipped out on game journalism for shores thus unannounced. He took time in his last week to write this piece about how piracy cemented the Dreamcast’s heralded position within videogames. RELATABLE.
  • It’s hard to argue with a Dreamcast advocate. It was a short-lived console with a wealth of quality gamer’s games and import-only titles, which was immediately attractive to the kind of gamer prepared to hunt down niche games and debate the Greatest Of All Time until the End Of All Time. But when a Dreamcast advocate makes their argument a little too well and references too many games you should ask just how many of the discs on their shelf came from Sega and how many came from BigPockets. Certainly, not all Dreamcast owners were pirates, but all pirates were Dreamcast owners.

  • Jon Bois is the sportswriter repsonsible for the excellent, previously linked Breaking Madden series. His latest work isn’t videogame related, but it is a fictionalised story about a real American football player. It’s hard to give a quote representative of its surrealism, so I won’t try.
  • The latest Feminist Frequency is excellent viewing, and I think the best episode thus far: on women as background decoration, part two.
  • Over at PCGamesN, Rob Zacny writes about the developer of Duskers. The piece is framed as a heartwarming tale of community-support, but it’s more pragmatic and detail-focused than sentimental and feel-good, and all the better for it.
  • A lot of independent developers you talk to didn’t really leave all the much behind. Even the ones who seemed to have thriving careers with major studios will usually be the first to tell you about how dysfunctional it all was, and how poorly they were treated. They leave behind job security (whatever that means in the game industry) and are usually only too happy to embrace the lower pay and greater fulfillment of indie development.

    Keenan wasn’t in that boat.

  • Dong Nguyen, creator of Flappy Bird, released his new game Swing Copters a couple of weeks ago. Ian Bogost, author of some fine words about Flappy Bird, writes some fine new ones about Swing Copters at The Atlantic.
  • Despite looking nearly identical, subtle changes distinguish Swing Copters from its predecessor. For one, the bird’s flap operates only in one direction, up, making the experience of play one of repeatedly flapping against gravity in order to position the bird to rise or fall through the next pipe obstacle. But in Swing Copters, the swinger’s motorized left-to-right oscillations means that movement in both demands exactness. In Flappy Bird, it was common to let the bird fall freely, negligently almost, then to tap rapidly to flap him back to a desired position. But in Swing Copters, each direction change must be made precisely to avoid the screen edges, the platforms, and the mallets.

  • Cliff Harris asks, will the indie market crash and burn? Harris argues yes, because he thinks the expectations of indie devs are unreasonable. That’s probably true for some, but most I meet are just hoping to scrape by. An interesting piece regardless:
  • The simple problem is a lot of indies are running at a huge loss and they don’t even realise it. Their expectations are sky high and their experience of the business is zero. Your first game will probably LOSE money. Mine did, and my second, third, fourth and fifth. The good news is, I made them all part time and had no kids to support anyway,m and the budgets were tiny. I used coder art for them all. Once I finally worked out how to do things I did my first full-time games, then my first with non-coder art, and so on. At each stage, I spent another 25% or more than the last game, and expected maybe 25% or more sales. I NEVER assumed the next game would make the same as the last, let alone more, and I certainly never required it to in order to pay my bills. I was slow-and-steady, and cautious.

  • Some quick links, because it’s almost time for me to go outside. I’ve been thinking a lot about masculinity this week, and this Washington Post article on ‘Friday Night Lights and what it needs to be a man‘ will prompt you to do the same. Spoilers for the show inside.
  • Grantland have been celebrating Saturday Night Live this past month, and write at length about Phil Hartman, the ‘Glue’ of many sketches. Even if you’ve never watched SNL, the piece is worth reading if you ever enjoyed The Simpsons, NewsRadio or, heck, comedy in general.
  • The Aftershocks, a piece over on Matter about earthquakes, Italy, and the criminalization of science, prompted by seven researchers being found guilty of manslaughter for supposedly misleading the public over the likelihood of a quake.
  • Joseph Brodsky in 1995 on how to deal with boredom.
  • Music this week is Tom Jones’ greatest hits, because it’s one of only two CDs owned by the best vegan restaurant in this Croatian seaside town. Should you not have access to a Croatian seaside town, take The New Pornographer’s new album instead.

    Given the subject matter in some of these links, and my inability to moderate the comments while on holiday, I’m going to leave them off this week. If you enjoyed any of the pieces included above, please consider emailing the authors to tell them so. Back next week!

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