The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for wondering how we let the terrorists win in the board game last night, rambling out a quick post on Ultima and compiling a list of fine (mainly) videogame reading we gathered from across the week, while trying to stop myself linking to a couple of indie-folk-who-follow-on-me-on-twitter’s new videos. Yes. Yes.



  1. Corporate Dog says:

    I’m reminded of Spider Jerusalem getting VERY excited about the fact that packs of intelligent dogs had overrun the sewers of The City, and that the government had called for a Culling.

  2. dhex says:

    “I finally got around to reading Charlie Stross’ Accelerando this week, which is scary and brilliant and so brilliant he scares me.”

    the bit about the lobsters was funny, but the rest of the book was an invent-a-deus-ex-machina stacking contest. which is fine if you dig that thing – lord knows i like illuminatus a lot, even the poke in the eye 4th wall gag at the end – but it seemed forced and a few hundred pages too long.

  3. Urthman says:

    That Penumbra article has some sorta convincing ideas about why gameplay and narrative might be barriers to creating “meaningful” games.

    Unfortunately for them, what I want from games or whatever-they-want-to-call-this-medium is gameplay and narrative and exploration and interactivity and fun, and I personally have exactly zero interest in Penumbra’s allegedly meaningful ideas about “the nature of human evil.”

    They gotta do what they really want to do, but Penumbra are apparently actually pretty good at creating nifty environmental physics puzzle gameplay, something that I actually want and is hard to find anywhere else. I’d love to see them put their energy into doing that really well.

  4. Giles Hitchcock says:

    “If the man’s come here to talk, let him defend himself. No need for you of all people to start jumping to his defence (a bad habit you seem to have whenever a developer posts here btw).”

    It’s strange that you would make this observation (Kieron defending) and then follow it up with that assertion (that he should stop doing it). I don’t expect you to care much, but I would note that your tone doesn’t particularly motivate me to want to respond.

    “If it’s an attempt at ‘Art’ as he claims it’s a poor one.”

    I didn’t claim that it was Art, or an attempt at it. I asked “does it have any artistic merits” and stated that it has “artistic value”.

    “Not only because it’s completely unrealistic in terms of scenario (as I pointed out), which automatically creates a degree of complete disconnect, but because it’s not even that horrific (sorry). There’s about 10 types of generic NPC mode running around (same height, same bullshit), and as with all games of this sort there’s no children.”

    I’m not sure you’re really arguing for whether it’s art or Art with these points. You’re saying that you personally didn’t find it immersive or emotionally engaging.

    “The only people who find that sort of thing horrific are people who don’t game. I doubt anyone who bought the title itself skipped the level.”

    I find it dangerous in any discussion to make assertions about how the majority of other people feel about something. It’s an easy turn of speech to reach for, to make a point more forcefully. But I find that whenever I use it, I rarely have any way of proving I’m right, so I prefer to avoid it. (Indeed, I often find it hard to know whether I’m actually in the majority of feeling at all, since it’s a natural human instinct to believe that I’m in the majority regardless of any evidence.)

    “You want to show horror, have the player be a passenger getting on a Bus, then after a leisurely drive through the City recieve a phone call, which prompts them to stand up shout “Allahu Akbar” at the top of their voice. Much to the dismay of the passengers around them (like the old couple who’ve been talking for 5 minutes behind you, or the woman with the screaming baby) trigger the explosive charges wrapped around their waist and proceed to blow themselves, and half the high street away in glorious 1000 frame slow motion before fading to black. That’s the reality of terrorism. No Russian on the other hand is an insult to peoples intelligence.”

    You’re coming at it from a different angle from me. I’m interested in looking at what IW made, rather than suggesting alternatives.

    Yours is certainly a reasonable concept, but I’d point out some shortcomings relative to IW’s take on it:
    – Drama is about showing action and then reaction. The second part is critical. Your concept doesn’t have that aspect.
    – Your concept doesn’t have any of the “villain close-up” aspects.
    – Yours doesn’t make as much use of the existing gameplay mechanics.
    Levels have to do lots of things, since they aren’t just concept art pieces.

    (And I should point out that I said only that terrorism is a reality of modern warfare. I did not say that the Airport level was the reality of terrorism. But if we were to get into that, we could argue the toss about 2008’s Mumbai mass-murder.)

    • A-Scale says:

      Giles, it’s not fair of you to beat up on a guy so ill prepared to debate. You’re arguing on an entirely different level than he is.

  5. Kadayi says:


    “As a piece of art , the level has a unique contribution to make, compared to other media.”

    What part of that statement didn’t you make exactly?

    I’m not denying that it might not well be an attempt at an artistic endeavour, however for me personally it doesn’t succeed because I couldn’t buy into it in terms of the event delivered either on a situational level (because it made no sense as a remotely likely or plausible scenario), or on an emotional level (because it wasn’t as visceral/emotional an experience as it could have been if handled correctly) and that is why it is (and let’s couch that with ‘in my opinion’) a poor one because it fails to succeed on either level. It didn’t engage me beyond the mechanistic, and as a result I can’t do more than assess it as a failure when it comes to any artistic aspirations. Successful Art draws you in, either as an observer (or a participant) in some capacity whether it be on a sensory, emotional or intellectual level (or all 3 if you’re really lucky).

    As regarding suggesting alternatives. I think if something doesn’t succeed it always worth exploring possibilities as to how it could achieve the result (I’m a designer, therefore I consider solutions to problems). Even if No Russian was never going to succeed from a plot perspective for me, it could of transcended that if it had been much more emotionally engaging. Instead of opening the level with the elevator scene, what if it started with you all travelling to the terminal in an Airport Bus filled with the very passengers you end up initially gun down? A few bright coats, some distinctive faces, a few people listening to ipods, some people fussing over their passport papers and some human conversations going on would of then made that later exit from the elevator (having picked up the weapons at a drop off) a truly horrifying and challenging experience. Because instead of being ciphers, they would have become people.

    Personally I found the situation in MW2 much later on in (I believe) Afghanistan where you stab the guard and watch the life slowly ebb out of him far, far more unsettling than any part of No Russian, because you clearly see the terror play across his face and there is an unpleasant realisation that you’ve deliberately taken someone’s life, rather than dispatched an obvious enemy Vs the myriad other soldiers you’ve liquidated during the game upto then.

    @ A-scale

    Thank you for your meaningless contribution

  6. deanimate says:

    Ooh, northern soul. Will have to have a read of that.
    I hope some of you listen to the Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show on Radio 6 :D
    Funktastic indeed =]

  7. kromagg says:

    I never got to reading the rest of Charles Stross’ post because the first couple of paragraphs are so infuriatingly badly written. First he goes to some length to do a back-of-the-envelope calculation to figure out how many people it would take to write a newspaper (good), his conservative estimate is 40 + management but he quite convincingly states it’s probably closer to 200 (acceptable).

    Then he stops. He states that 180M quid is not a whole lot in light of that and the printing/publishing cost but how is that supposed to follow? He’s not told us how much one of those journalists would cost (900.000 yearly? maybe I’m in the wrong business) nor does he give us any perspective on how much printing/publishing really costs. So the above was really a complete non-sequitur. Some throwing numbers around to blind us from the fact he didn’t actually do the basic research to back his own bullshit up.

    I know I’m not getting to the message of the article which was probably very good but seriously, you’d expect some more care from a technology writer.