The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for the romancing mini-game, finishing off Bioshock 2 and a series of non-Valentines-Day related events you should consider going to if you’re in That There London, while compiling a list of the fine (mostly) games related reading from across the week, while trying to resist linking to a couple of pop songs that caught my ear.

Failed.

142 Comments

  1. Okami says:

    On the subject of Sterling’s article: Why do people even link to that junk. Sterling is an anti intellectual, reactionary hack who suffers from delusions of beeing funny and able to write. While he does have a large audience of adoring fans, this says more about the sorry state of educational systems around the world than this man’s merrits as a writer.

    Seriously, the man compares Predators to Vaginas and Aliens to Penises and then writes that he would put his money on the organ that can rape the other. And this is just one of his recent atrocities..

    • Agnocrat says:

      Obviously he’s never heard of the 1 – 2 punch of Viagra and GHB. It goes both ways these days.

    • Orange says:

      anti-intellectualism does still require criticism and to be confronted, the fact that it can still attract people bears that out.

    • Taillefer says:

      It’s a completely bizarre outcry because he’s complaining about a vast minority of indie games.

    • Cinnamon says:

      I think that Jim Sterling is often annoying and stupid but I agree with his view that people should not feel abject or in awe when games try to appear to be artistic while actually not being very interesting to play and having a trite message.

    • Arathain says:

      “Pretentious” is one of my least favourite words of all time, when used in criticism. It is rarely used in its proper context (someone pretending to a skill or knowledge they do not possess), and is instead used as an anti-intellectual emotive buzz-word.

      It is used whenever someone tries to do something expressive, or unusual, or just tries to say something in a different way. It promotes the idea of difference as unacceptable. That the ideas of a work don’t have to be accessible to everyone is anathema.

      Games like The Path and The Void (and Braid!) demonstrate the passion and creative thoughtfulness of their creators. Furthermore, they spoke to and affected some of those who played them. This, in itself, justifies their existence. Nothing more. You don’t have to like them. Writers should be perfectly free to write harsh criticism of them. But to take a newly flourishing category of expressive works and tar their creators and insult their audience because you, personally, did not happen to like them or take a valuable experience from them is anti-intellectual, get-back-in-line snobbery of a virulent and unpleasant sort.

      Gah. No more “pretentious”, please.

    • PixelCody says:

      Jenn Frank sums it up beautifully for me, “with all the brimstone stripped away, he basically says games can be artful and still fun to play, if they’d only try to be more fun and, sometimes, more playable.” This echoes exactly how I feel about the more pretentious indie games that get released. Honestly I couldn’t care less for the majority of the “games as art” movement as it tends to ignore what our medium excels at. The Path was not a game.

      Also, “Jim Sterling’s arguments themselves are inoffensive and moderate, but they’re presented in a deliberately bombastic, even confusingly inflammatory way.” – which supports your “reactionary hack” comment and really explains how he’s been able to boil the blood of the internet.

      My bottom line on the orgininal article… The first 5 indie games that came to my head just now Spelunky, World of Goo, Solium Infernum, Overgrowth, Frozen Synapse. These are exactly the type of indie games I want to see more of and Sterling clearly isn’t referring to these. His article refers to such a small section of games released that it shouldn’t be seeing this much attention.

    • Nobody Important says:

      Agreed.

      As I wrote in a much larger blog on Sterling’s article, his main claim against games like The Path is that he didn’t understand what the game was supposed to be doing. Instead of trying to understand where the game was coming from, as any reasonable and intelligent journalist would have done, he projected this unreasonable accusation of “pretentiousness,” because Sterling can’t be bothered to actually try and understand something that doesn’t come to him with a promise of what he considers “fun.”

    • archonsod says:

      I think his point was that it’s too much art and not enough game, not that he didn’t get it. While it may have many merits as a work of art, as an actual playable game it’s horrendous.
      The argument is really one of criteria. Why is it fine to pan one game for having a misleading tutorial and not pan The Path for the same thing solely because it claims to be art? His argument implies that a game review should be focusing on the game elements rather than the artistic merit; kinda like saying if you’re writing a narrative critique of an encyclopaedia you should be criticising the lack of narrative rather than focusing on the quality of information. Or in other words, if you’re reviewing something on artistic grounds then you should make it clear you’re writing an art review and not try to pass it off as a game review.

    • Bowlby says:

      My problem with Sterling is often not with the points he makes but with the way he makes them. Every time I see him write he’s either taking the piss out of something or putting it down completely. He just comes across to me as someone who’s quite unpleasant.

    • qrter says:

      Why is it fine to pan one game for having a misleading tutorial and not pan The Path for the same thing solely because it claims to be art?

      Because something like The Path has a different outlook (and therefore a different outset) on what a game can do or be. It is taken for granted that a game must always be fun, that that is the only thing a game could possibly want to be. Games like The Path might posit that there are other aspects to gaming that could be more interesting or fruitful than just being fun.

      It’s quite unfair to look at those games only in the sense of “are they fun”, if that’s not what they’re trying to be. It’s not as if The Path was trying to hide its intentions and trying to trick its players in thinking it would yield an evening’s entertainment.

      And just look at other media and disciplines – where would cinema have ended up if it had only been allowed to be entertainment? For any medium to thrive, it needs people to push and distort it into new forms.

      (This is all completely beside the point whether those games succeed at what they’re trying to do, ofcourse.)

    • invisiblejesus says:

      I think his main failure here is that he’s wasting space he could have used to raise awareness of really good independent games that don’t generally get a ton of coverage, and that don’t fall into the mold of The Path or The Void. Instead he squandered his voice attacking other people’s hard work and then hyping Braid, a game that’s been on the cover of fucking Game Informer (yeah, he mentioned Tag too, I don’t know what that is so at least he accomplished something constructive by pointing it out). It’s hard to make a living as an independent creator of anything, be it games, music, comics, whatever. We should be worrying about that, not pissing and moaning about which games do art right and which games don’t. If we can get the commerce straight, the art will take care of itself.

      Also, I think The Path is better than Braid. Suck it, Trebeck.

    • Robin says:

      I find Sterling hugely irritating. Not only is he a terrible writer who knows nothing about games, he exists in a special bubble of denial where anyone who criticises him for pouring worthless, intellectually poisonous slurry into the discourse is “just kidding around” or “doesn’t get it”. How can someone like that ever hope to improve their output?

    • TeeJay says:

      My problem with Jim Sterling’s piece is that he only name-checked *three* games (The Void, The Path, Braid) which is an extremely thin basis for generalising about 100’s of others.

      If that is the best someone can come up with it doesn’t inspire much confidence in me that they really know much about the subject they are banging on about.

    • archonsod says:

      “Because something like The Path has a different outlook (and therefore a different outset) on what a game can do or be”

      I’m sure Civ has a different outlook on what a game can do or be compared to say Half Life, but it doesn’t mean you can say a shared core mechanic only matters to one rather than the other. Though to my mind the real question is whether whatever The Path thinks it is should be considered a game in the first place.

    • Wulf says:

      @PixelCody

      I pretty much agree with you, point for point, except on one thing: sometimes something isn’t a game, but an interactive medium, and perhaps some things aren’t even trying to be games.

      Two examples come to mind: Interactive Fiction (in general) and Windosill, neither specifically counts as a game but both are fun regardless. And frankly, as long as something is fun and enjoyable, I don’t mind whether it can be classified as a game or not.

    • bill says:

      I don’t remember Se7en or The Prestige being particularly fun. But they are still movies. And I can’t imagine anyone writing a rant against them simply because they aren’t fun. In fact it doesn’t even matter if you think they are good. As long as the creators tried hard and some people appreciated them – what does it matter?

    • Frank says:

      Sterling’s Destructoid is the site that had a public love-affair and breakup with the worst indie game yet hailed by anyone link to rockpapershotgun.com
      I guess we shouldn’t take anything from there too seriously…?

    • Wulf says:

      @bill

      I believe you misunderstand, that would make sense, considering.

      How do you define “fun”? Important question! Fun can’t be quantified, and whether something is or is not fun is entirely subjective. I’ve covered this before. Two people can have entirely different experiences with something, one might find it enjoyable (and therefore, fun) and another person might not, the second person might get some visceral enjoyment out of it, but won’t ever fully understand. This is the ethereal nature of fun. A horror movie can be fun, a fairground ride can be fun, a long bath with a good book can be fun, walking the dog can be fun, so many things can be.

      My point was that if I enjoy something and find it fun then I don’t really care what it’s classified as, I don’t give a shit whether people think it’s a game, an interactive medium, a toy, or whatever else, the lines these days are always blurring, the lines between genres for example have blurred so much that most games cannot be slotted into a single genre and new genres have to be invented for people to try to keep up, because people need their labels, oh yes they do.

      What I’m getting at is that if something is fun, it shouldn’t be damned for not meeting some stringent set of rules to make it applicable to THE GAMING SOCIETY. It’s entertainment, not law. And that was my point.

    • Wraggles says:

      Stirling’s article isn’t anti-intelligent, rather it’s quite the opposite, what it is is inflammatory (and that seems to engender a lot of defensive name-calling, must be a psychology thing).

      Also;
      “It’s a completely bizarre outcry because he’s complaining about a vast minority of indie games.”

      Of course, because the so called “art games” are a minority of indy works, his title seems to take a punt at the indy game dev scene, while rather the article takes a punt at the indy art game scene, which is understood after about a paragraph in.

      I’d say he overuses the word fun, but as that’s not the key point, I’d be happy to ignore the use of such a subjective word. Rather he spends most of the article pointing out that both the Path and the Marriage are bad games. They have shallow messages (considerably less deep than even Bioshock strives for), delivered in bad ways. They’re boring to play, and don’t engender the replay required to conclude their actual message. In fact the Marriage is so vague that the only way one can understand it’s actual meaning is to read the creators excerpt.

      To be reviewed as a game, they must succeed as a game, this means, at the very least, being interesting, and making use of game mechanics and design tropes to deliver a profound message in a clever way. Most indy “art games” fail at this, but get a free pass by the reviewing community. It’s this, that Jim is railing about once you get past the inflammatory language.

    • arturogoga says:

      I love Destructoid.com. They do often post great articles (specially for topics not covered on RPS). However, I do not enjoy Mr. Sterling’s posts, so I ended up creating a Yahoo Pipe that filters Destructoid’s RSS, and removes any posts written by sterlink. Have a look if you want: link to pipes.yahoo.com

  2. Esp33n says:

    I live in Bradford (ugh) and am often forced into going to the museum with college (Other than when I use it for the Imax, that is). I’m actually doing a games course at Bradford College, and this is the first I’ve heard about it.

    RPS – Better than my college.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      They painted ginormous space invaders over the front of the museum, and they’ve had signs up for weeks saying “coming February, our new games lounge!” Went down to check it out yesterday. It is quite small, and PC gaming in somewhat underrepresented. You do kind of look at it and think of what could be done with the space of one of their major galleries. It’d be nice to see some kinds of threads of progression, rather than just “here’s Goldeneye. It’s the most recent game we have and our token FPS.”

      But they have a Defender machine! And a Street Fighter 2 machine! And a Gauntlet Machine!

      Basically lots of opportunity for me to show how much I suck at gaming.

      I did eventually manage to get out of Central Cavern though, so that was a small proud moment.

      Now I just need to find some mates to go back and play the multiplayer stuff with.

    • Esp33n says:

      I may have to check it out. Although going into Bradford during half term when I could be sitting at home, drinking alone… I’m not sure.

    • Sweedums says:

      wish i knew about this last week as i went home for reading week and i live in Bradford, would have been cool to check out… but now back in sunny old middlesbrough, from one glorious city to the next….

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      It only opened yesterday, so you’d have wasted your time if you’d tried to go last week. As I did when I tried to go on Friday after the T&A pushed their peice from Friday’s paper (which mentioned that it opened “tomorrow”) to their web site on Thursday afternoon.

  3. MadMatty says:

    as for not liking Bioshock that much, i found a chap in the comments section for the metacritic analysis of bioshock 1/bioshock 2´s scores, that explained to me perfectly, why i didnt like it.
    Its great to read sometimes :)
    link to features.metacritic.com

    • MadMatty says:

      As for the “original” setting of it, ive read “3000 leagues under the sea” by Jules Verne (cant remember how many leagues that was precisesly, soz).
      I want gameplay for chrissakes- if i want a good story i´d read a book or watch a film, as thats where all the story-telling talent goes most of the time anyways.
      Hoping for an improvement still, as i always get the feeling that game stories are written by some 21-year old fantasy geek who rarely leaves his appartment :(

    • Wednesday says:

      Quite frankly, gameplay can naff off to Hawaii or something. I’ve shot people a million different times in a million different ways. What I want, is an [i]experience[/i]. The only way this can be made interesting for me is if setting story and mechanics all come together.

      I don’t give two shits about shooting random arbitrary bad-guy No 43452, what I want is something compelling.

      Sometimes you don’t need a “worthy” setting or story. Crysis wa great, but arguing that all games should be like that seems a bit like arguing all movies should be action films.

    • MadMatty says:

      I wonder if you even know what gameplay is?
      Crysis was pretty dissapointing, and i didnt like the self re-generating armour at all- its more like a superhero game or something.
      I did like the original Farcry a lot better, and the crappy storyline didnt bother me at all, as all the gameplay elements came together rather nicely.

    • MadMatty says:

      As for The Experience, im all for it- you must be misunderstanding what im saying. I actually enjoy both action movies, aswell as the “deeper” stuff.
      If you dont wanna shoot people anymore, try “The Void”.
      Theres a bit of brilliance in design/storytelling/art right there.

    • bill says:

      Couldn’t care less about “gameplay”. It tends to essentially be the same 5 or 6 gameplays repeated over and over again anyway.
      I agree, “experience” is what matters. As long as the gameplay isn’t flawed enough to disrupt the experience, or the art/story/characters/setting is good enough to allow you to overlook the flaws in the gameplay, I’m happy.
      Most video “games” ceased to be games a long time ago. Gameplay may have mattered when all you had was blocks falling down a screen, but for most “games” these days it’s largely irrelevant, or at worst disruptive.

      I think if more people allowed themselves to enjoy the experience, rather than overanalysing the details of the gameplay and nitpicking about any minor perceived flaws, they’d have a lot more fun.
      Or at the very least there wouldn’t be so many annoying comments on games websites.

    • MadMatty says:

      /facepalm

      im gonna stop replying to this entirely

    • JuJuCam says:

      @MadMatty

      I actually think your example / counterexample of Crysis vs FarCry proves the point that the art assets and storytelling should support and make sense of the gameplay to make everything work as a seamless whole, and make for a more enjoyable experience overall. If the world that the game occurs in supports the gameplay ideas then it is a more fun game.

      FarCry is a fairly boneheaded run n gun shooter with some light stealth elements. It basically requires a similarly boneheaded story to support the fact that you are Rambo. There’s an artful synergy at work here, even if the storytelling and design is lacking in artfulness in traditional terms. I can’t speak for Crysis as I haven’t played it, but to me FarCry 2 failed because narratively you’re playing faction against faction, but in reality everyone wants to kill you. In fact it’s impossible to differentiate between the two factions at any given random outpost. The gameplay contradicts the story you are given about why you do the things that you do. In a way, if FC2 didn’t try so hard with the story it would have been a more satisfying game.

      Essentially what I’m saying is that in gaming the gameplay is another element of design that has to tie into the world of the game and how it functions as a whole piece of work. When form follows function every element of the game resonates better and becomes more interesting to experience. But if gameplay is arbitrary and nonsensical it’s just as bad as an anachronistic digital watch in Ben Hur.

    • MadMatty says:

      nah i came back

      @JUJU
      Completely agree.

      heres the wikipedia definition of gameplay, IN CASE ANYONE WAS WONDERING:
      “Gameplay includes all player experiences during the interaction with game systems, especially formal games. Proper use is coupled with reference to “what the player does”. Arising alongside game development in the 1980s, gameplay was used solely within the context of video or computer games, though now its popularity has begun to see use in the description of other, more traditional, game forms. Generally, the term gameplay in video game terminology is used to describe the overall experience of playing the game excluding factors like challenges and movement. The term game mechanics refers to sets of rules in a game that are intended to produce an enjoyable gaming experience. Current academic discussions tend to favor terms like game mechanics[citation needed] specifically to avoid ‘gameplay’.

      Despite criticism, the term gameplay has gained acceptance in popular gaming nomenclature, being the only common phrase describing the quality of player engagement or how “fun” the game is. The primary aspects of gameplay are the challenges the game presents to players, and the actions that players may take in response to those challenges. Some gaming reviews give a specific score for gameplay, along with graphics, sound, and replay value. Many consider “gameplay” to be the most important indicator of the quality of a game.”

    • MadMatty says:

      I just get plain bored/annoyed with the firsperson shooter CONSOLE type gameplay and its spreading to PC.
      I wont smack you in the face if you play MW2 or Crysis or anything.
      You are sort of human too.

    • Wednesday says:

      “I wonder if you even know what gameplay is?”

      Do you? Haven’t we all agreed it’s a pretty piss poor term anyway.

    • MadMatty says:

      @ wednsday

      nope we haven´t.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Maybe you need to re-state your argument, MadMatty. You seem to say in your second post you don’t care about setting or narrative, then when challenged, say you do.

      Also, the wikipedia definition of gameplay can be pretty much summed up as “player interaction”, which doesn’t help you an awful lot here, so I’m not sure as to why you copy pasted.

    • MadMatty says:

      @Liliput

      I did not say i did not care about setting or narritive, merely pointed out that for me, well crafted gameplay in action games often makes a good narritive superflous.
      In a good action game (and some types of action movies, like say Jackie Chan martial arts movies) the narrative should only be there to make interesting situations for mad stunts basically.

      I rate primarily narrative games/movies differently, as they are supposed to contain emotional/artsy type content, sometimes i even require some believable. All is good.

      As for gameplay, i use it in the overall fun sense of the word, the intensity of the experience perhaps.
      I think this is the correct use of the word, is it not?

      Ok lets say you love Transformers, and got one of the shitty transformers games. You might be enjoying it for the setting, you might even enjoy the narritive (although i will hold that against you), but when you have to fight with poor controls, bad user interface, shoddy graphics, lacklustre ideas, bad optimization, lousy balancing, lack of features, all which invaribly detract from Gameplay, youre not gonna play that game for more than a few hours max, unless thats all u got.

    • bill says:

      but imagine the controls, camera, etc.. in the transformers game were OK. Not good. Not great. Not original. But they weren’t bad and you didn’t have to fight them. They’d just step into the background and then you’d be free to enjoy the setting, story and experience.

      Clearly if games are played as games, particularly as a competitive experience, the rules and gameplay can be important. A small flaw can unbalance the whole thing. And when gameplay is flawed it can ruin any suspension of disbelief and destroy the experience. But for most singleplayer games the experience rarely requires anything above un-bad gameplay.

      the wikipedia quote you pasted seems at odds with your argument?

    • MadMatty says:

      @ Bill
      Which one of the Transformers game-S ?
      theres loads- although i do recall one of them being supposedly allright.

  4. Wednesday says:

    We have a moral obligation to seed the universe with life?

    I’m not sure my girlfriend is going to approve, but if its for the good of the universe, so be it.

  5. Lewis says:

    On the “giving up on games journalism” thing:

    Well, Wallbridge was kind of in a similar position to me, in terms of the route he took. Eurogamer and GSW/Gama were my first paid gigs too. The latter continues to be my only properly regular source of games-writing income. I’ve branched out to a few more places since them, but the work’s infrequent. Often, it is disheartening. But I can’t help but feel it’s nothing to do with their being no more room, and everything to do with how much you’re willing to compromise.

    It is an absolute age since I properly got stuck into a game for fun. But I’m okay with that. I’m more passionate about communicating ideas about games than I am about just playing them. I enjoy playing games. The best games provide something remarkable. But the enjoyment I get from playing those best games is absolutely nothing compared to writing about those experiences.

    I’ve said this to a few people: to be in with a shot at succeeding at being a games journalist, you need not only to be passionate about games, and passionate about writing, but passionate about writing about games. When I read Wallbridge’s blog post, I can only see that he is not. He’s passionate about writing. He’s passionate about games. But his passion for writing about games is, to him, not worth compromising those two initial loves.

    There is often the illusion that there is no more room. Editors tell you this. A publication I’ve produced the odd bit of work for in the past told me last month that there is basically no more room for freelance work, for budget reasons. It was incredibly disheartening. There is that moment, right there, when you feel like giving up.

    Instead, I just made sure my next pitch to that same publication was really bloody good. And they commissioned it.

    There is no lock on a door that keeps you out. If you’re good enough at writing about games, people will give you money to write about games. And if you’re passionate enough about doing just that, you will make sure you’re good enough. There’ll be compromises along the way, though. Times when you’ll have to do something else as well, just to earn a keep. But if it’s worth it to you, you’ll do it.

    It’s a shame that Wallbridge doesn’t feel it’s worth it to him any more. I think that, for most people, it probably isn’t. And it’s sensible to be realistic about that.

    I guess you probably know whether it’s for you or not, though.

    • Matt W says:

      As a general observation, qualities like “passion for the (actual) job”, and “commitment”, and other things offered up in various scenarios as “things you need if you want to succeed”, are indeed necessary in order to succeed, but they’re almost never sufficient.

      On top of that you need two other things that are rarely mentioned – whether that’s because the successful people giving the advice don’t realize they have it or because they’re trying to be modest – namely skill and luck. You need some combination of the two to succeed; if you’re highly skilled, you’ll probably need less luck, and if you’re extraordinarily lucky you may not need much skill, but the oft-peddled idea that you’ll succeed if you just try hard enough is, in my extensive opinion and limited experience, bullshit.

      In this specific case, it sounds like the core of the matter is that the market for games writing is extremely competitive and anyone considering it should be aware that they either need to be very good or very lucky to make a decent living off it. That’s not to say that nobody should try and break it, but it is to say that people should be aware that unless they’re really very good they should be aware that their chances of success are slim.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Lewis

      “…He’s passionate about writing…”

      I’m not so sure about this – he says he’s come to a ‘dead-end’ and that nothing he has done will help him get any other kind of job. I find this hard to believe as writing, editing and research skills are always in demand in all sorts of sectors. He didn’t mention writing in any other context apart from gaming. He is listed as a ‘student’ in his blog, living in salt lake city and his photo looks early 20-something. Given that many people head to big cities and work their arses off sub-editing articles about god-nows-what for years before getting their ‘big break’ or being given the juicy stories (and millions more don’t even get into sexy media work and slog away shuffling corporate paperwork and spreadsheets) it looks a bit like that real-world-adult-life-reality-just-hit-me angst that lots us get as we exit the “you can do anything” world of study and enter the “go make the coffee” world of work.

    • TeeJay says:

      It isn’t being modest to not mention luck.

  6. Dominic White says:

    Oh my, David Jaffe, creator of ‘Mash X to scream and rip the heads off of mythological figures’ (not that it isn’t fun, but it’s about as smart as beating yourself in the face with a sock full of gravel) agrees with an Jim Sterling spiel? Like really does attract like.

    Thumbs up to anyone who highlights just how much of a hack the guy is. Also double thumbs up to anyone repeating the Neil Gaiman ‘icky speech’ argument, because it’s completely spot-on. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t like and never want to have anything to do with, but if I went and called for it to be banned, I’d be no better than those who campaign to shackle or even abolish my hobbies and interests.

    So long as there’s no provable harm (and ‘people get offended’ isn’t harmful), let people say, draw or think whatever they want without the threat of fines or even imprisonment.

    • Cinnamon says:

      David Jaffe…

      I would like to say that I found the Twisted Metal games to be not much fun to play at all and thought that the stupid characters that the game was sold on were not even enjoyable in an ironic “so stupid it’s cool” way. I’m sure he would appreciate that as someone who values cutting though the bullshit.

  7. Tei says:

    I favor the idea of seeding the universe of life. Life is great, I don’t want it to die in this rock (earth). We are the Gardeners because there are no others to do it. Of course, make sense to let the scientist test for life, to avoid killing or tainting any existing life. So first we must confirm there are no life in Mars and in the Europa moon, and if theres not of such sites. we can seed these locations with our version of life, or create a new type of life, the most obvious can be neuman probes. These life could have the potential to one day surpase us, maybe eat us or destroy us, but all life is temporal, we can’t avoid our final, and we can continue in a different way with our succesors. Our successors (homo sapiens humans, a neuman hivemind or something else may one day extend beyond the solar system, maybe spread on the galaxia. I think this could be a very good thing. Another option is that maybe theres already life out here, but since the universe is soo big and soo against life and indiferent, It will still be a good idea to do our part.

    He, don’t look at me like that!

  8. Orange says:

    the issue is that we would be seeding out version of life over potentially over forms of life which could develop on those planets. Genetic imperialism.

    • sinister agent says:

      Aye, that and the sheer arrogance of thinking we must infest the universe with life simply because we’re alive. What’s so brilliant about living things? Pluto might be just as well off being Pluto, not having earth-borne life forced onto it.

    • Bret says:

      Yeah, I see where you’re coming from there.

      I wouldn’t mind a seed launch project, mind, but it’s a intergalactic version of the fun of spitting from high places, not a moral obligation here. And it might, occasionally, cross the line towards peeing on the Mona Lisa. If a planet’s an incredibly nice piece of work on its own, no need to mess it up with life when it works fine by itself.

  9. Wulf says:

    I knew that The Path was nonsense but I actually had fun with that because I realised it was meant to be, I always had this feeling that there was something distinctly Coyote about Tale of Tales, they really have the aspect of the Trickster going for them. I won’t say any more on that because if I do that might turn from an eye opener into something else entirely.

    Braid was also nonsense, but unlike The Path I felt that it wasn’t meant to be. The problem with Braid is that I’m not sure whether it was the pretentiousness that got to me. It didn’t bother me in The Path, but it didn’t seem as frivolous and absurd as in The Path, either. It felt like it was taking itself far too seriously, and I don’t know why but I didn’t connect with that. I loved Braid as a platformer, it was clever, and it had some particularly inventive and dickish (in a good way) puzzles, and that’s what I’ll remember Braid for. What I don’t want to remember Braid for is how much I was put off by the storyline, and how often I wanted to punch the main character… in the face. And how many times I let him die simply because he wasn’t at all likeable to me.

    I don’t know if this is due to the pretentious elements though so much as that he was just a horrible character full stop, I get the feeling I’m going to feel the same way about Super Meat Boy when I play that, a game with a character I won’t particularly want to save from death at the hands of creatures and pits. It’s strange because I don’t feel that way about everything; Captain Viridian made me smile despite being a bunch of pixels, and Gish I really adored.

    Is it because Tim comes over as emo and Super Meat Boy comes over as a dick and those are characters I don’t want to play? I’ve always had this problem with games though, where if I can’t at least plot my own character out I’d like to play someone at least slightly likeable and charismatic. Has anyone else here ever encountered the feeling of “I don’t want to play you, you’re an arsehole!”, or “Guhhh, I can’t get into this because the character is very depressing and I don’t think that’s the feeling the game should be engendering in me.”?

    Sorry for the tangent. To wrap this up, I have to say that perhaps pretentious game don’t bother me in and of themselves, what can bother is me is when a pretentious game takes itself seriously and then there will be artefacts of that seriousness that will chafe against my appreciation of the game. Such as Tim. But then again this can be said about other games, such as when a game tries to have the holy grail of ‘attitude’ and takes that seriously, this can create arseholes that I’d never want to play.

    So perhaps my problem with pretentious games–and why I found The Path more tolerable than Braid in many cases–is not that they’re pretentious but that being pretentious tends to have their creator taking the game too seriously, and thus the game takes itself too seriously. A game should be able to laugh at itself, every now and then or even often. It should be able to have a joke at its own expense. VVVVVV could do that (and did, frequently!), and this isn’t exactly unknown to the mainstream, either. In fact, Mass Effect 2: Scientist Salarian (those who’ve seen that will know what I’m talking about) is a great example of this.

    But when a game takes itself too seriously, it tends to put itself up on a podium of importance. It becomes more important than other games and even more so than the player, there’s this air of snooty superiority surrounding a game that can’t laugh at itself. And it chafes. I get the same impression from Blow too, because sometimes I wish I could gag him when listening to him in interviews, as he’s just as grating as the game he made.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Jebus, Wulf’s slagging something off for being pretentious.

      Was that the internet just eating itself?

    • Lilliput King says:

      Wulf I don’t mean to be rude, despite appearances.

      But how can you justify continually calling the internet and humanity at large ‘anti-intellectual’ then slag Braid off for being pretentious?

      It does more than smack of hypocrisy. It literally assaults me with it on a multi-sensory level.

    • TeeJay says:

      Braid’s “storyline”?

      Save the girl – there is a little dinosaur who keeps saying: “she is in another castle”, there is a jigsaw-picture of a picnic or something that makes your inner angst ache a bit and in the end you “rescue” the princess, or did you? You run backwards on fire and maybe you actually kidnapped her. Or did you? The End.

      Then I did the wtf? > Google? > gumph about nuclear bombs and symbolism which may – or may not? – be in the game. Nothing in the game made me care enough to give a shit, and none of the alledged ‘depth’ added anything for me *except* for giving it a generally nice ‘abstract’ and ambiguous feeling rather than having a stereotyped ‘fantasy/magic’ or ‘military/sci-fi’ setting with time machines or evil villians etc.

      However the actual “platformer-reverse-time-direction-puzzle-etc” stuff was great.

      Am I missing anything?

      (edit: “I don’t want to play you, you’re an arsehole!” = Far Cry 2)

    • Lilliput King says:

      I’ve written about Braid before, and I can’t really be bothered to do so again, but suffice to say:

      If you think there is a character or a storyline you’ve missed the point.

      Not that this is a problem. For whatever reason, sometimes pieces of work just click, and sometimes they don’t. Example: Despite quiet RPG acclaim, Mask of the Betrayer and KoTOR II are just boring me to death, currently.

    • TeeJay says:

      Oh come on, that’s too much of a tease! Can’t you do a one-liner saying what the “point” is?

      My version: the man/girl/dinosaur etc. are just “mood music” / backdrop, just a replacement for generic aliens/dragons/mafia/etc.

      I’m willing to accept that there could be more to it, but I’m fucked if I saw anything I could make sense of.

  10. RobF says:

    Sterling is just the Littlejohn of games, bless his angry socks. He tries so hard to be edgy and SPEAKER OF TRUTH THAT NO-ONE DARE SPEAK but comes across as more than a little wrong in the facebonce and more than a bit sad.

    Despite all the back and forthing in the indie-o-tron and across the twitterverse, I couldn’t be bothered reading his drivel in its entirety to find out if it’d offend me. I got about 3 lines in, got the gist that it was his usual sub tabloid schtick and ended up waiting for the bit where he starts blaming it on immigrants or something equally scumrag-y, so I tootled off to have a wank instead. Which was, I’ll admit, infinitely more satisfying.

    Still, at least it started off people debating whether games are art all over again That’s always worth a giggle (although it’s clear that the real argument is on <a href="link to magicalwasteland.com something is Ert or Fon, obviously)

  11. Nick C says:

    It’s a bit disappointing to see Clint Hocking raising a bit of a straw man argument. “It is not the role of games nor should it be the role of games to be socially responsible”. Fine, agreed. But linking this to “features such as morality meters and discrete moral choices at key branching points in game narratives” comes out of the blue.

    Mass Effect 2 seems to be the best example of meters and discrete choices, but does it funnel you down a moral path? No, it revels in letting you be the Space Jerk, encouraging you even. The approach that Dragon Age take is more sophisticated, but that doesn’t invalidate ME2’s approach. These have never seemed to me to be tools to “add features that have moral messages so players can learn morality”. But rather are tools for a player to explore the morality of an unusual situation.

    Moving past movies, didacticism is a major part of literature; Tolstoy wrote as an exploration of faith and morality, Don Quixote satirises truth and a fixed view of the world. Growing up and acting like mature creators involves making choices and having something to say, didacticism is an out-growth of this.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      I’d pay more attention to Clint Hocking if he hadn’t been responsible for one of the biggest failures of interactive storytelling of any kind in the past five years. The man has little to no idea what he’s talking about, as do far too many people within the industry who shudder at the idea of forcing anything on the player, requisitioning the language of other forms of creative media, presenting any kind of moral standpoint within videogames or doing anything remotely linear. And I’m sick to death of the oh-no-we-cannot-comment-this-industry-is-in-its-early-days argument, too. There are silent films still held up as masterpieces today, and conversely people still arguing cinema doesn’t achieve everything it’s capable of; how much longer are we going to keep recycling that tired old schtick, exactly? Another twenty years down the line? Thirty? Forty?

      I got annoyed at Mass Effect 2 funnelling me down one moral path or another, sure, but I got annoyed because it did it badly, not because it did it at all. There are linear, didactic, pre-determined games I’ve played from nigh on ten years ago which have moved, thrilled and generally shaken me far more than anything you’ve ever been involved with, Clint, so enough with the OMG I CAN SEE THE FUTURE already, please, because you haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about. Please? Eh? Oh, well, worth a try.

  12. Sagan says:

    As I read it, Jim Sterling’s opinion is mainly “I don’t like these games, and I don’t like that other people like them.”
    And whatever point he is trying to make becomes void when he goes in with an opinion like that.

    Also his criticism of the games is very weak.
    – His point about The Path is basically “the message I got from playing the first five minutes of the game was not very satisfying.” I think he also wants to offer more valid criticism of the game, which I might support, but then he doesn’t.
    – The point of The Marriage was to prove that gameplay can convey meaning. Rod Humble did put in very minimal graphics and no sound on purpose. Criticising the game as a game or that the message that the game conveys is not very strong, misses the point. It wasn’t about the message, but about that gameplay can have a message.
    – I haven’t played The Void, because I didn’t like the demo, so I can’t really comment on his criticism of that game.

    I think the point he was trying to make is, that art games are inherently flawed if they don’t act more like classical games. And I think it’s too early to say something like that. As far as I know, critical consensus is, that neither of these games are great games or great art. They are all still regarded as experiments that merely show us the direction. Similarly for Braid, which is regarded as a great game, but not as great art. There hasn’t been a masterpiece yet in art games. So it’s too early to criticise the entire genre, unless you could argue that they don’t show potential for more. And I don’t see how you could argue that at all. There is great potential here.
    I believe, that one day there will be a game which may not be all that great a game*, but which everyone will want to play because it is great art. When that game comes around, I predict that none of his criticism will apply, because it won’t be vague, it won’t pretend, and it will have a powerful message. When there has been a masterpiece, or when we have gone sufficiently far beyond experiments, and a masterpiece simply refuses to appear, then you can maybe start criticising the whole genre.

    * whenever I say “great as a game” versus “great as art,” I mean “great at those things that would classically have been the focus of reviews” versus “great at those things, that are important to the kind of people who study art.”

    • JuJuCam says:

      If I know nothing else about art history (and frankly, I don’t), I know that art is very rarely appreciated for it’s true value at the time it is created. Shakespeares works were gratuitously smutty populist tripe in Elizabethan times. You may feel free to wait forever for this mythical masterpiece in artistic gaming, but you must realise that by virtue of its interactivity, games cannot be held by the same standards as other works of art.

      Having said that, I think your masterpiece will come when a game is made that is able to move players to tears by virtue of fair, truthful but tragic (or triumphant) gameplay rather than or as well as art assets or narrative. I can’t even imagine what it will be but, well, like all art I guess I’ll know it when I play it.

    • RobF says:

      Rick Dangerous made me cry. Does that count?

    • Ozzie says:

      Not if out of frustration. ;)

    • terry says:

      By that definition, Army Moves is the most emotional game of all time.

  13. MadMatty says:

    On Jim Sterlings article:
    how can he diss “The Void” for being vague?
    i played about 3-4 hours in and the characters give you a slow steady drip of all the features being introduced, and how to use them… did he play it at all?

  14. Nuyan says:

    Thanks for the k-punk article. Enjoyed it a lot, very much agree with stuff like this:
    “Treating people as if they were intelligent is, we have been led to believe, “elitist”, whereas treating them as if they are stupid is “democratic”. It should go without saying that the assault on cultural elitism has gone alongside the aggressive restoration of a material elite.”

  15. jalf says:

    Never heard of the Sterling guy before, and while his criticism of The Path seemed extremely superficial and shallow, I think he has a point in general.

    Among some indie games, there might be a tendency to hide behind the indie label, as if being indie means you don’t have to make a quality game or live up to normal production values to some extent.

    And among some gamers there is a similar tendency of being more forgiving about a game’s flaws and faults if it is indie.

    An example of this might be our Solium Infernum discussion from a few weeks back. Excellent game, by all accounts, but if it hadn’t been indie, the developer would have been hard pressed to release a game that looks like complete crap visually. is “being indie” really a carte blanche allowing the developer to ignore the qualities that people normally expect from a game, while still expecting players to be awestruck of the game’s brilliance? If a game fails to deliver on something we normally expect from games, shouldn’t we call it out on it, whether or not the game is “indie”?

    Or hey, there’s the colour-blindness discussion from the other day. Virtually everyone here agreed that all developers should ensure that their games work for colour-blind users. Do we require the same of indie games? Or are they allowed to ignore this “because it’s indie”?

    We sometimes have a tendency to be more forgiving with indie games, which, when you get down to it, isn’t very rational. Indie games might be indie, but it’s still the game part we should be judging them on. And presumably, the game should be judged by the same standards as non-indie games. Shouldn’t it?

    Indie music still has to live up to the standards we place on non-indie music (mainly that it sounds good). So shouldn’t indie games also have to live up to the standards we place on non-indie games as well?

    • SomeGuy says:

      Isn’t the key part of a game though is its fun, all other things are optional ways to ensure this, and with indi games we do judge them on this.

    • bill says:

      but they are only indie games!

      I don’t see why they should be held to any standard at all, let alone those of million dollar blockbuster games. If a guy in his bedroom has a great idea for a game and makes it with 8bit pixels because he can’t do it with a team of 100 3d artists, and doesn’t need to, then good for him.

      It’s up to each person to decide how much they think each game is worth for them.

      Heck, half the point of being indie is that you have more freedom and don’t have to conform to what everyone else is doing. Indie bands might (but often not) have as good a technical product as mainstream bands, but they don’t have as good videos, or hair, or dance routines!

  16. Nick C says:

    “is “being indie” really a carte blanche allowing the developer to ignore the qualities that people normally expect from a game”

    Yes. Solium Infernum being the product of one very small company redefines what I expect from it. So while the graphics aren’t beautiful 3d things, they are instead lovely, effective 2d bitmaps. While the PBEM mechanic is a bit of a bitch, the game structure is new and original.

    It means that I expect originality and a renewed sense of gaming love from an indie game. Not the same old, professionally produced stuff I expect from a AAA game.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Nick C: Yeah, I think that argument’s off. I’d have marked Solium Infernum – not that I reviewed it – the same if it came from EA. Frankly, reviewers reviewing on how pretty the menus on are part of the problem.

      KG

    • Nick C says:

      KG: Would you review Dragon Age the same way that you would review Hearts of Iron 3? Wouldn’t it be comparing apples to oranges? With such two different games, the experience is going to be different.

      If you’ll excuse me using your own words I remember a while back you mentioned that reviewing a game has an aspect that includes checking whether the thing works or not. Essentially, checking build-quality, and with regards to colour-blindness and bad design/coding, sure I agree that an indie game should be hammered for it in the same way that a AAA game should be.

      But outside of that aspect, a game is developed with a particular frame-of-reference. For me part of that includes the source. Indie games tend not to charge the full £30/40, so I don’t expect the same polish as a larger developer’s game might have.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      NickC: Price counts effects scores, for reasons I’ve argued elsewhere. I think you’ll find in the piece you reference I argue that’s what reviewers do and what the job is, but – as I eventually mention – I think it’s nonsense. if it works well enough, it works well enough.

      So I review everything relevant to the game. And it’s not even “graphics don’t count” . Indie games which try to look like Triple-A games get critiqued, because they’re not pulling it off. World of Goo or Darwinia are beautiful games, which use their tiny budgets awesomely. Even VVVVVV uses its minimalist style really well.

      KG

    • Nick C says:

      KG: Fair enough, I can’t really argue with that. I shall admit defeat and fall on my pen/keyboard. World of Goo is an amazing game full stop, neither despite nor because of it’s indieness.

      The question I’ve got though, is what is “relevant to the game”? After reading WOSBlog a few weeks back I picked up EDF 2017. Even coming out two years its graphics would have been fairly poor, it’s mission structure 1-dimensional and I’ve lost progress before because it doesn’t auto-save after each mission. Yet shooting hundred foot high robots is still good fun. What’s relevant to EDF 2017?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      NickC: Have you read my Eurogamer review of EDF2017? I pretty much go through my whole argument about what’s relevant in it.

      In short: if it works, it works.

      KG

    • Nick C says:

      Yep, it’s one of the few reviews for EDF 2017 around. Luckily I do feel that all war machines should be made out of tin foil. And preferably packed with explosives.

    • Dominic White says:

      Sandlot (The devs of EDF 2017) just recently put out Zangeki no Reginleiv on the Wii. No word of a western release yet, but it’s basically Norse Defense Force. Instead of guns, you’ve got magic swords with a 30 meter range, and bows that make entire regiments of giants explode into showers of gore.

      Aside from losing local co-op (instead, there’s 4-player online play), it’s a huge improvement over the EDF series.

    • Jimbo says:

      I completely agree with the sentiment that indie games in general would benefit from putting the ‘game’ before the ‘indie’ a little more often. Braid was popular because it had super-smart gameplay, not because it had anything to say about anything. That it managed both (apparently anyway) is a bonus, but it is the former that made it what it is. It is a very ‘un-indie’ indie game, which wouldn’t have looked out of place coming from a mainstream developer back in the day. The indie scene holds it up as a champion and then goes straight back to creating another game about flowers or pretty colours and music with next to no gameplay substance at all.

      The single great benefit that indie games have is that because they are made on such a tiny budget, they can turn a profit on far fewer sales. They don’t need to cater to the lowest common denominator in order to turn a profit and they don’t need to be designed by committee. This opens up all sorts of possibilities that the mainstream developers simply cannot afford to go near.

      What it shouldn’t mean however, is that the indie developer then goes out of their way to avoid taking *anything at all* from mainstream games -even when it would vastly improve their own game- almost as though they think they are too good to lower themselves to that level. Like using popular, universally understood RTS mechanics on your game about space flowers or whatever would somehow be a betrayal of everything indie. Like they might catch Stupid Person Disease if their game feels too much like the popular ones.

      I love checking out indie games, because conceptually they are some of the most interesting and refreshing gaming experiences to be had at the moment. But in practice, after an hour or two, I just end up frustrated by some amateurish, glaring design oversight and stop playing. Do I care that the menu doesn’t look as swish as some AAA title? Not at all. I care that I can’t shift-click to set a gather point in Eufloria, I care that I can repeatedly get wedged on the geometry in Bob, I care that there is a difficulty cliff 3/4 of the way through Osmos etc.

      I find it hard to disagree with either the Destructoid article or David Jaffe’s response. I wouldn’t go so far as to blame the people that do enjoy the ‘art first’ games, that’s fine -and I don’t think they are scared of looking stupid, as Sterling suggests- but I do think the Indie industry believes that those people account for their entire potential market, when they plainly don’t. I just want them to make some proper ‘game first’ games. I want them to act like they’re Bullfrog or Sensible, as if they were still around making kick-ass Amiga games.

    • RobF says:

      The “indie scene” doesn’t exist, you know? I mean, outside of being a bullshit broadstrokes label, there’s no such thing, really.

      Which maaay just be the fundamental flaw in Sterling’s argument here.

      Certainly, what I value is different to, say, what Cliffski values in a game and both of us probably value different things to [insert indie developer name of choice here]. You only have to take a look at the constant “is it Ert” bickering on TIGS to see that there’s no consensus and everyone is pulling in different directions.

      Cliff makes super deep strategy games, I make games where you blow shit up in pretty colours, someone else might make a game about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. We’re just some guys (or girls) making the games we want to make (for the most part, there’s obviously exceptions) and most of us don’t want the same thing as someone else, y’know?

      So, saying “the indie scene thinks this but does this or should do this” is a bit of a silly because, well, who exactly is that addressing? The six people and a goat who make art games? If so, fine. But don’t lump me in with them because they’re fuck all to do with me. I might enjoy something that comes from one (or more) of them on occasion, but their values are not mine and my values are not the next persons.

    • Jimbo says:

      No, I don’t know. The ‘indie scene’ may not be all encompassing, but it still exists. When somebody refers to a game as being part of that ‘scene’ you know exactly what they mean – some obscure (probably liberal and/or pathetic) message that isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, dressed up in a game which is probably broken in one or more meaningful ways – it also probably involves flowers.

      If you aren’t making that type of game then great, you aren’t what people mean when they refer to the ‘indie scene’. You’re right, people shouldn’t be able to use such a general term like ‘indie scene’ to refer to a very specific type of game, but they can just because that type of game is so overrepresented – if it’s six people and a goat then that’s about four people and a goat too many. So no, I don’t think that’s a fatal flaw so much as it is semantics.

      Way too many games are getting a free ride in the press because they are indie or because they are arty, regardless of how poorly executed or devoid of gameplay they are. It’s like they’re getting an A for Effort at school or something – garbage is still garbage, regardless of how hard the developer tried or how noble their intentions were. It doesn’t make any difference to me whether one guy made it or a hundred guys. I firmly believe that if these games were being put out by big developers, most of them would rightly be trashed for the amateurish mistakes and glaring oversights they are littered with. They aren’t judged on a level playing field at all.

    • Hmm says:

      Who are you speaking for, Jimbo? That’s not what I think about when somebody brings up indie games. You’re the only person I’ve known to use it that way, apart from Mr. Sterling, perhaps.

      The whole thing is like telling people “you’re doing it wrong” (and in any creative medium, that’s nonsense), which in turn implies anybody who finds that interesting is also wrong. There are people out there creating things you may not like, accept it. And frankly, you’re talking about a really tiny, tiny amount of games. Why even target those games in the first place and not, say, games wot are bad regardless of their intent?

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Jimbo

      I just wanted to test your hypothesis about flowers:

      Using the TIG Source /IndieGames list of “50 Really Good Indie Games”: link to tigsource.com

      Games featuring flowers: 3 (6%)
      Games featuring shooting or violently smashing the shit out of everything: 7 (14%)

      This isn’t an exact science so YMMV.

    • RobF says:

      “No, I don’t know. The ‘indie scene’ may not be all encompassing, but it still exists. When somebody refers to a game as being part of that ’scene’ you know exactly what they mean – some obscure (probably liberal and/or pathetic) message that isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, dressed up in a game which is probably broken in one or more meaningful ways – it also probably involves flowers.”

      Space Giraffe has flowers! Nowt wrong with flowers.

      Look, I’m fully aware that there’s a couple of people out there who aren’t anywhere near as smart or clever as they think they are putting games together. Thing is, this isn’t a problem with indie, this is a general global problem with people and whilst you’re focusing on a specific niche here, it’s something that effects all types of games.

      How many lumpen uninspired and frankly broken “mainstream” releases have there been over the years for whatever reason? Driv3r comes to mind as a prominent example of something so fucked and unplayable beyond reason and that’s one of many, many came before it and many came in its wake.

      Yet, Driv3r’s existence doesn’t somehow mean that people should stop trying to make that sort of game, it just means that that single example is bollocks. Same way that one day, perhaps someone will make an MMO I like – in the meantime, as much as I detest the buggering things with an unrivaled passion, I’m not going to try and stop them making them or tell them that they’re wrong. I’ll happily still think they’re a waste of bytes for myself, but hey ho. Different strokes etc…

      I don’t think to myself “You should totally stop putting all that effort into shit MMO’s and make something fun” because that’s crazythink.

      “but they can just because that type of game is so overrepresented – if it’s six people and a goat then that’s about four people and a goat too many. So no, I don’t think that’s a fatal flaw so much as it is semantics. ”

      Figures removed from my crevice here but y’know, the point stands. Let’s say that in any one week across the PC, appstore, XBLIG, homebrew whatever that there’s 1,000 games released. I’d wager that there’s more but that’s a nice roundy figure-me-do to work from. So, over a month there’s 4-5,000 indie games put out there onto the world. How many of them are going to be arty or experimental games or akin to The Path, The Void, The Marriage or whatever?

      Given it’s the same games that get repeated over and over again in these cases, you’re looking at probably 5 or 6 a year of any note, possibly 1 or 2 of any serious note. There’s probably more made, yes, but chances are they’ll never cross most folks eyeline anyway. Out of thousands of games put out there a month.

      Now, if you want to invest them with more importance because you find them hateful, so be it, but perspective is important here y’know? These games are a minority. They’re not representative of anything but a minority of all the folks making games. A bloody teeny tiny minority at that.

      “Way too many games are getting a free ride in the press because they are indie or because they are arty, regardless of how poorly executed or devoid of gameplay they are. It’s like they’re getting an A for Effort at school or something – garbage is still garbage, regardless of how hard the developer tried or how noble their intentions were. It doesn’t make any difference to me whether one guy made it or a hundred guys. I firmly believe that if these games were being put out by big developers, most of them would rightly be trashed for the amateurish mistakes and glaring oversights they are littered with. They aren’t judged on a level playing field at all.”

      Most indie games don’t get reviewed or featured in the press full stop. Generally, as a wise man once said if a game is a bit poop and it’s an indie, it’ll just get ignored and not reviewed. Now, yeah, that’s another big black bin bag filled with all these cans full of worms and stuff in and of itself but as a rule, unless something is in someway interesting to the reviewer (and that doesn’t necessarily follow that the work is good per se) then it doesn’t get covered.

      Now, that part of stuff I’d class as being given a bit of a free ride but fuck, the sheer amount of indie games out there it’d take a lifetime to slag off all the shit ones and let’s face it, I wouldn’t want to hear half the arseache from pissy developers after a bad review anyway so at least it generally spares us that.

      Those that are featured? I don’t think I’ve read much at all that gives them a free ride. It’s certainly not happened on RPS in all the years I’ve tootled along and whilst this here site is an exceptionally lovely one, I don’t think it’s exceptional in that sense.

      And the biggy. Most art games are free or dirt cheap (as in may as well be free unless we’re talking ToT but they’re an exception to pretty much anything ;)). So, no, it’s not a level playing field until one of them bills it as the art equivalent of Modern Warfare 2 and sticks a £60 price tag on it. When that happens, sure, we’ll call it a level playing field. As things stand? Who cares.

      A tiny amount of games made, made by a small amount of people (often, the same people) and very rarely featured anywhere. So no biggy. Let them have their fon and make their ert. If you don’t like it, ignore it or call it a big old bucketfull of cockbadgers when you feel its deserved, but let’s not pretend that they’re somehow a majority of indie games, a majority of games as a whole or that they get a magical pass to happyland from journalists or the public because that doesn’t really bare out when exposed to the harsh sunlight of reality.

    • bill says:

      People should make the games they want to make, to the best of their ability.
      Others should judge those games based on the experience they receive from them. Which will vary from person to person.

      Would the “indie scene” really improve if everyone started focusing on polishing their games, implementing current graphics, and making what are more recognisable as mainstream games?
      I doubt it. It seems like we’d end up with a lot less games, and a lot of failed attempts to make Halo or God of War, and a lot of developers getting fed up and abandoning their products.

      I personally don’t judge indie games by the same starndards as mainstream games, but then again I don’t judge mainstream games by the same standards as each other… and I don’t really know what those standards are. I know I’ve played a few games without much good in them, but which i really enjoyed. And i’ve played games that were theoretically superior in every way and not enjoyed them much. I don’t judge The Path by the same standards as Halo, in the same way I don’t judge Driv3r by the same standards as Guitar Hero.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ RobF

      If we are crunching numbers as to whether “art” indie games get an easier time than “non-art” indie games one way would be to see how many of my top 50 list (ie representing the best known and most praised ‘scene’ games(albeit a 2007 list) are ‘arty’ or ‘conceptual’. I would have tried but I haven’t played enough of them to want to attempt it, so I stuck with the “flowers” thing instead and made assumptions.

      Would you disagree if someone argued that an “arty” or “grand concept” game can get away with being otherwise fairly poor or obscure and still be praised whereas a more common genre (eg shoot-em-up) has to be exceptional to get the same level of praise? I don’t know if this is true but if it *were* a decent explanation would be that prople are rewarding novelty, quirkiness, off-beat-ness, emotional content, surreal-ness. It could also be that if there are only a very few games of a certain type then people will tend to praise them – as soon as there are already loads around then a lot of them will get slagged off in comparison to the best or for being ‘derivative’.

    • Jimbo says:

      Why am I not focusing on bad games in general? That’s really the whole point isn’t it? When faceless companies release bad games they are *already* being called bad, but when indie developers release a bad game they tend to get a pat on the head. I’m talking about the games that do get coverage, not the hundreds that don’t.

      And I really don’t buy the ‘It’s cheap so it doesn’t have to be as good’ argument. I would estimate that approximately 100% of the RPS readership has their gaming limited by ‘free time’ before being limited by money. The question I always want a game reviewer to be answering is “Is this game worth my readers’ time?”. I can accept overlooking cheaper assets as part of the deal, but I can’t accept unnecessary (and usually obvious) gameplay or design flaws just being paid lipservice -or ignored entirely- just because of the low price. If that gameplay flaw (or total lack of gameplay) would be considered crippling to a mainstream title then it should be considered crippling to an indie title.

      There are people out there creating things I have no interest in, obviously, and that’s fine, but there are also plenty of indie developers with brilliant ideas who continue to execute them poorly because they are rarely called on it – they are either fawned over or ignored entirely. If these games were critiqued by the press and consumers with the same vigor as regular games, then those indie devs would be making games to a higher standard by now and more people would be interested in them.

      There is a huge audience of people out there who are prepared to play games with second-rate graphics etc. but what they are never going to do is pretend that bad games are good. This nonsense where anybody criticizing the ‘indie scene’ is labelled as ‘anti-intellectual’, or it’s insinuated that they are just too dumb to ‘get it’, before chasing them up to the windmill, does nobody any favours at all. We would probably be better served by looking at why so many people hold the same negative view about indie games and how they’re covered.

      Of course, if the ‘indie scene’ is happy with the status quo, then please, continue to believe that the critics are entirely and unquestionably wrong and that the only explanation for what they’re saying is their ignorance or their anti-intellectual agenda. I for one think they have a valid point underneath all the rhetoric.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Y’know, this thread got me thinking and I hopped over to the hated Metacritic to see just how universally loved and fawned upon The Void and The Path actually are. It’s worth a look, but the cliff notes version is that they got varying reviews, and both wound up with an aggregate score in the 70s. Yeah, I know a lot of folks take issue with Metacritic and with review scores in general, but my point is that neither game actually got positive reviews across the board, and by the standard that most of gamerdom seems to accept neither were particularly well reviewed at all, despite being specifically cited as examples of indie games that are not good and yet immune to criticism.

      And doh, I scroll up and see RobF made a very similar point. Oh well, hitting submit anyway.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ invisiblejesus

      I got the impression that the criticism was that “the indie scene” gives a free pass to “conceptual” or “arty” indie games, not that the mainstream press does – Metacritic wouldn’t be the best place to test this hypothesis – indie games sites/forums would be more appropriate.

      The thing is, there isn’t anything wrong with people liking ‘conceptual’ games, if that is what they personally are into. ‘Each to their own taste’ etc.

  17. the wiseass says:

    TO: Can you tell me one thing that nobody else knows about the days of Doom that captures the mood and the memories for you? JC: To help me focus on a tough issue, I was taking my work away from the noisy office, back to my apartment. I was pulling a sleek, black magnesium NeXT workstation out of the Ferrari 328 I had just bought (yes, I was living in an apartment complex with a Ferrari) and I had to pause to appreciate the moment.

    This made me giggle, lol and just stare in awe. I never knew Carmack was driving a Ferrari even before DOOM was released. You know, I’m really a big admirer of John Carmack, but this had a little juvenile “Romero pimp game developer” vibe to it that just does not match with the rather cool and calculating person that is Carmack.

    • MadMatty says:

      John Romero also had a Ferrari, until he got bored with it and put it up as st prize in a deathmatch competition.

    • manveruppd says:

      What I foudn amusing is that he seems to remember the workstation more fondly than the Ferrari :)

  18. fumarole says:

    When I was at the GDC we called it Witchhunt, not Werewolf. And they’re not lying about games spontaneously breaking out. In fact, it’s the highlight of some people’s day. Games of thirty or more people are not unheard of.

  19. l1ddl3monkey says:

    I now read all Sterling’s articles (on those occasions where I read them at all) in the ACK AAAAACK AACK AAACK speech from Mars Attacks.

    Try it – it makes them a lot better.

  20. A-Scale says:

    In honor of Idle Thumbs Mr. Gaynor should always be referred to by his full title, Steve “Hot Scoops” Gaynor.

  21. Tei says:

    Indie is doing right. Not all small games are indies, there are million of games produced by a budger smaller than all indie games we know and love. Indie is a format, like “novel” is a format. Formats have power, people are still reading “novels” even today where the idea of 300 a pages tale is getting outdated. We will probably still reading “novels” even wen eBooks become the standard and dead wood books die.

    • MadMatty says:

      agreed.
      I like Indie, because they are small.
      Its not some political movement,
      its just that they can make different types of games, with new and interesting gameplay concepts, that large studio businessmen would label “Too Risky” to put into AAA production (prolly right too).
      I´ve just turned 31 and i´ve been playing computer games a lot, for 20 years now.
      Theres no way they can keep me interested with the endless stream of AAA rehashes of ages old clichés and concepts.
      I still play the AAA leaders, like say Supreme Commander, because RTS is plain fun, and i think SupCom is the best one at the moment…
      But sometimes a man yearns for something a bit “different” …….. (Ooooer!)

  22. TeeJay says:

    “Proust was a Game Designer”

    Before I read that piece I didn’t really know who Proust was.

    I still don’t know.

    Can someone point out “the clevers” bit because I didn’t really come away with anything more than “games design involves art *and* science”.

    edit: Wiki tells me Proust was a novelist who coined the term “involuntary memory” to describe the experience of when sights, sounds, smells etc conjure up important memories – and that he did this *before* modern psychologists looked into it.

  23. Tom Camfield says:

    I can’t believe Rogers is still alive. I thought someone must of hit him with a truck.

    I hate Tim Rogers, I think I want to grow up to be him.

    • TeeJay says:

      I spent ages reading all this angst and sniping about japanese scene hipsters and failed “rock careers” and gave up before he even started talking about games. Someone in the comments said it was 13,000 words. Anyone want to give me the 25 word synopsis?

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ TeeJay

      Finished the Rogers article:

      He talks about being a rock star, he gives a wide definition of a rock star; if you’re happy doing something that other people appreciate, that other people love, you’re a rock star. (He later appears to dispute this argument.) He seems to imply that rock stars are happy. Hence, can videogames make you happy (a rock star)?

      He worries that people only appreciate his band because he’s had the good fortune of being placed on the bill, that in his place anyone would do, that the audience just think he’s good because he’s been selected to play for them. They like him because it’s implied that they should.

      He talks about rhythm action games and explains that it’s just hitting buttons, that it doesn’t replicate being a rock star even if people are cheering when you rock out on expert. (This is where he appears to dispute his earlier definition of a rock star, since clearly if someone is cheering, and you’re enjoying yourself too, you’re, by his definition, a rock star.) He says, it’s only because the screen says “awesome” that people think you’re awesome, people cheer because it’s implied that they should.

      He finishes by saying that in the future, he hopes things like Rock Band allow for more creativity.

      If we take his essay to be an answer to the question “can videogames make us happy” this implies that being happy means being a rock star which requires creativity which he says rhythm action games don’t allow… so within that small context his answer is “no”. However, he does mention that playing games makes people happy, so “yes”, or “hmm”.

      He also mentions Street Fighter, Final Fantasy, a Swedish girl and Jack Black.

      As an argument, it’s incoherent. However, it is a grand example of unorthodox videogame writing; it’s certainly pushing the format in a different direction.

  24. Gap Gen says:

    I think that basically everything involves art and science, even art and science. Science is all about hunches and hacking things together, then bashing them to bits until only the verifiable stuff remains. Art is about expression, but there’s also a lot of technical skill involved in doing something, and good art is rarely slipshod or undirected. In the purest terms, science and art could be thought of as separate, but no-one really does either in a purist sense.

  25. GetOutOfHereStalker says:

    I can’t wait until hipsters get tired of making video games.

  26. Latter says:

    I actually chose to ignore Sterling’s whole rant, but then I saw this and i am really starting to hate this guy.

    link to destructoid.com

    • the wiseass says:

      WTF?

      This guy is like a small child that has done something stupid, gets chided and then makes something even worse because he’s just stubborn. Based on this video, this guy clearly hasn’t seen a real artist from afar. That’s how clichéd and biased this is.

      I mean, is there really any reason why “fun” games, “art” games and other forms of games can’t coexist? Do all games have to be the same? Is there any unwritten law of nature forbidding games to be something else?

      I’ve played fun “art” games (Braid) and I’ve played unfunny “fun” games (MW2). I’ve played horror games that sometimes were fun but most of the time were pretty horrifying (in a good way). I’ve played games I did not understand, I’ve played pretentious games and I’ve played all kinds of games I liked or didn’t like. But I never denied a game’s right to exist because I know for every game that I didn’t like, there are many more people out there that actually enjoyed it. Everything else is just being a complete arsehole. But maybe that’s the reason why I don’t read destructoid.

      Who am I to decide what a game has to be and what somebody else has to enjoy or not to enjoy?

    • Okami says:

      If you ever need evidence, that freedom of speech is overrated, you need not look further than Jim Sterling .

    • TeeJay says:

      I was going to say something nasty about Sterling but then saw his latest blog entry (1hr ago):

      “Top Ten Arses in Video Games”?
      link to destructoid.com

      ^^^WARNING IMAGES OF BUTTOCKS^^^

      It starts predictably enough with 6 or so “chicks”, but keep going for…

      …graphic descriptions of anal sex with:
      …#7 The Spitter special infected
      …#8 Snake
      …#9 Silent Hill 2 Mannequin
      …#10 Wario (with added gender confusion)
      …#11 Denis Dyack

      …erm. Not sure what to say.

  27. YourParentsPaidForYourTuitionForThis?!? says:

    I’m still not impressed by the Microsoft Surface D&D project.

    It looks like a bunch of guys (and girl?) playing multiplayer Knights of the Chalice/ToEE with a clunkier interface than mouse/keyboard. To me, this is the equivalent of as jarring experience as having a standard p&p session and whenever there’s combat, you tell the combatants to play Gears of War to resolve it.

  28. Misanthrope says:

    “The Videogame Show What I’ve Done”

    Is this a nod to “Car wot goes fast”?

  29. Rosti says:

    I have so much love for Werewolf: it’s such a finely balanced game in that for the most part it’s just the paranoia of the players fuelling it. Right now I don’t have access to anything like a big enough pool of players for ‘proper’ games, so I’ve been relying on the Battlestar Galactica board game for my social/paranoia/betrayal fix. There’s nothing so sweet as orchestrating the downfall of your friends before their eyes, lying right down the the last unstoppable moment.

    And in the game, obv.

  30. Leeks! says:

    That Neil Gaiman essay made me yell and punch at the air a little bit. Dude is a braincase.

    • HarbourMaster says:

      Although he made me want to find out what Boiled Angel was. Hmm. Those images won’t easily disappear into the night.

    • the wiseass says:

      Sorry but what’s wrong with the Neil Gaiman piece? I though his article was perfectly conclusive.

    • Ozzie says:

      I thought the Neil Gaiman piece was perfectly rational and unhysteric.

    • TeeJay says:

      “The Law is a blunt instrument. It’s not a scalpel. It’s a club. If there is something you consider indefensible, and there is something you consider defensible, and the same laws can take them both out, you are going to find yourself defending the indefensible.”

      This should really read … “…you are going to find yourself not defending the defensible” (you wouldn’t be defending the indefensible).

      I don’t really think he makes a very good argument. He seems to just be saying ‘freedom of expression is absolute, laws are imperfect, obscenity is subjective’. I disgaree that any freedom is or should be “absolute” regardless of impacts on other people. I disagree that laws ‘not being perfect’ means not having any laws at all. He talks about material being ‘distasteful’ and dismisses any actual concrete impact of things on people and society beyond this. He only seems to mention examples that don’t actually sound that ‘distasteful’. He seems to dismiss UK law and the European Court of Human Rights on the basis of them mentioning ‘religious feelings’ and bangs a “First Amendment” drum as if that has any deep meaning outside of America (who wrote this Amendment and why is it any more special than any other law – the ones that he says are ‘blunt instruments’ or the EU/UK ones he dismisses?).

      I don’t believe in *absolute* free speech nor do I know of any jurisdiction in the entire world – including the US – that allows it. For me where the lines should be drawn isn’t all to do with my personal “tastes”. It has everything to do with real-world impacts…

      ,,,edit: I see he makes a “ps” about child porn, which kind of implies that his ‘absolute freedom of speech argument’ isn’t that ‘absolute’ and he is only talking about a smaller subset of “speech”, although he doesn’t make that clear in the main article.

      So, no – it isn’t a very good argument. Maybe it would make more sense in context, but he had plenty of words in which to explain more specifically but instead makes broad generalised statements and doesn’t qualify them at all. Poor.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Teejay: This should really read … “…you are going to find yourself not defending the defensible” (you wouldn’t be defending the indefensible).

      It’s a flourish, man. It’s writing. It’s what writers do.

      KG

    • MadMatty says:

      I read “Boiled Angel” bout 10 years ago, and believe me, its a nasty mindfuck kind of comic…. but there was something clever about it. I dont think Mike Dana is sick/evil or that he deserved the punishment he got at all, he was just like: I want you to see all this nastiness that happens.
      I think theres probably some sensationalism in all this (I mean just *how* bad can things get?)
      But stuff like that does happen in real life, only not that often… often printed in tabloids and such.
      The drawing style is very cartoony/unrealistic with kind of a dirty edge to it.
      I´d say, go check it out if you´re not too squeamish.

    • TeeJay says:

      KG: “It’s what writers do”

      In a serious, grown-up discussion of politics, ethics and laws etc, ‘flourishes’ may be entertaining and crowd-pleasing but they tend to obscure rather than clarify the debate. Of course much of the print media ‘commentariate’ loves hyperbole because it allows them to generate large word counts with minimal hard facts and sloppy analysis.

      It is easy to strike a pose saying “freedom of speech is an absolute” but not a single country or community anywhere in the world actually has this. Even on the internet I have never seen a website or forum that actually has ‘absolute freedom of speech’. Pretending that “absolutes” make any sense in philosophy/ethics/politics or in real life might make for fine flourishes and great rhetoric but is otherwise brain-rotting nonsense: It’s what [some] writers do. True.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Teejay: You’re a lot of fun sometimes, my friend.

      KG

    • Chris D says:

      – Teejay Are you saying there are absolutely no absolutes or that sometimes there are?

    • Thirith says:

      TeeJay: You’ve got my full agreement on the whole freedom of speech thing. I might consider it as an absolute good worth striving for the moment I see one of the proponents of “freedom of speech, man!” truly do without a list of implicit exceptions. Until then I believe that every society and every individual has restricted it in some ways, and that this isn’t an inherently evil and bad thing.

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Thirth, TJ

      It is easy to strike a pose saying “freedom of speech is an absolute” but not a single country or community anywhere in the world actually has this.

      I agree with you in broad strokes, but this is nonsense, isn’t it? There have been points in human history where slavery was globally considered a natural state of affairs, but that doesn’t mean it was ever a good idea.

      Absolute free speech is both impractical and, in certain situations, quite harmful. But to say it’s wrong because no one does it is a fallacy. Ultimately, even as a philosophical ideal, the concept is flawed. Let’s focus on that.

    • Thirith says:

      @LK: I agree with you. My point wasn’t that absolute free speech is stupid because it’s never been brought about – my point was rather that so many proponents of free speech act as if it is already absolute, in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, and that Europe is a bastion of staunch Communism in comparison.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      The Gaiman article makes quite a bit of sense provided you understand how the First Amendment is interpreted and enforced in the US. I’m not going to lecture you guys on it, as I doubt anyone is really that interested, but he’s not defending speech that clearly and indisputably causes serious harm. That’s why he distinguishes between child pornography and comics depicting children in sexual situations; the latter hasn’t been shown conclusively to cause harm, while the former involves child molestation. Child porn isn’t illegal because of what it expresses, it’s illegal because of pretty much everything else about it.

      Now granted, there are still limits in practice on free speech, mostly pertaining to stuff like radical Islam and so forth. And if you consider your freedom limited because you have to post on your own web site that KG rapes goats rather than being able to post it here, then I suppose that’s a limitation. But most of us (adults, anyway) on this side of the pond don’t look at it in that way.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Lilliput King

      I didn’t argue that limits on speech are a “natural” state of affairs. I didn’t say freedom of speech is “wrong because no one does [it]”.

      I was contrasting how it is *easy* to bang the drum for an idealised “absolute” but *difficult* to draw up real-life laws that balance impacts on people.

      I am not trying to take an anti-porn/obscenity/etc position, I am objecting to the quality of the argument being made. Typical examples are the mantra-like phrase “First Amendment” where noone ever bothers even *trying* to explain or justify why a law passed in 1791 is so much more “right” than a law passed in 2010. If I want to see more liberal laws in the UK I can’t argue along those lines or poo-poo the EU as backwards, it doesn’t wash as an argument and I can’t expect to see any changes in the law if I take that approach. It also doesn’t wash to dismiss concerns about real-ife impacts of various materials (be these bomb manuals, drawings or ‘pseudo-photographs’ of child sex, incitement to racial hatred or cool, liberal-minded graphic novels that I might want to read, totally innocent family snapshots of naked kids in the paddling pool or whether the UK media are allowed to photograph and publish pictures of car-crash victims).

    • invisiblejesus says:

      “Typical examples are the mantra-like phrase “First Amendment” where noone ever bothers even *trying* to explain or justify why a law passed in 1791 is so much more “right” than a law passed in 2010.”

      That probably has to do with the fact that he’s an American (naturalized, but still) speaking to another American, and the law in question is one that’s considered pretty fundamental to American culture. I mean, I don’t know a lot about European law, so I don’t know how it works where you are (I’m assuming you’re European, apologies if I’m mistaken), but in the US it’s taken as a given that the Constitution is a pretty big deal. It’s part of the country’s cultural foundation, and legally speaking it trumps any other laws simply by virtue of being the Constitution. If someone wanted to make the case that a newer law is or should be more important, the burden of proof lies with them.

  31. JKjoker says:

    im baffled by the Bioshock 2 metacritic article, they go on in an incredible long article and fail to see the most obvious mistake they made: assuming the numbers are accurate or even mean anything

    Bioshock 1 came out during the last peak of review cocksucking where 100%s were handled with a shovel, between BS1 and BS2 they realized that giving 100% to everything made the number lose meaning (not that it had any previously) and that they had lost any speck of credibility they previously had (if any, at least they couldnt be smug about review “quality” without someone throwing a tomatoes at them) so they dialed back the previous “95%” review average to “80%”, the numbers almost always measure the hype rather than the game quality anyway, if they wanted to analyze something they should measure how much they “greased” the reviewers this time compared to last time

    so to metacritic, guys, check your damn hypotheses before going into long articles, jeez

    • Ozzie says:

      Quite the assumption. Personally, I didn’t notice at all a deflation of review scores. I think it’s just as bad as it was when Bioshock came out.

    • JKjoker says:

      trust me, it was much MUCH worse couple of years ago, it was a point when everything was over 90% (except n-gage games…ugh)

    • Lilliput King says:

      I get the feeling there is a degree of hyperbole involved here.

    • TeeJay says:

      @JKjoker

      Metacritic haven’t made a “mistake” per se. They aren’t “assuming” their own figures are meaningful – they are *asserting* that they are meaningful. They want to pretend / claim that Metacritic numbers are an accurate metric of critical reception – in this case comparing an 8.9 (13 votes) to 9.6 (44 votes). This is so obviously a load of bollocks given the way they arrive at these numbers and they must know this. However pretending and misrepresenting how meaningful their numbers are directly benefits them. “Analysing” their own figures gives them a pseudo-scientific sheen, and the whole thing is simply marketing. We don’t say that a company has made a mistake when they advertise their product as washing “whiter than white” – they know full well they are talking deliberately crafted bullshit.

      The format looks a bit like a “taster” aimed at game publishers – I’d guess that Metacritic offer a special (super-expensive) “corporate service” that will micro-analyse anything to the n-th degree allowing executives to construct spreadsheets, bamboozle each other with management-speak and construct elaborate bonus schemes.

    • JKjoker says:

      yeah, you are probably right

  32. noom says:

    Nobody else going to point out to Mr Gillen that he still spelled didacticism wrong?

  33. manveruppd says:

    Surely the most interesting thing about Sterling’s essay, whether you agree with him or not, is the fact that the debate is happening in the first place? It’s fascinating that games are now “stratified” into highbrow and lowbrow genres, with people calling the latter shallow and the former pretentious.

    It seems like this stratification happened a lot faster for games than it did for other art forms. Shakespeare and Monteverdi were popular entertainers in their day, and it took centuries for them to become canon (ok, Monteverdi was making music for a financial elite, but his music was still primarily intended to entertain them). Film took a good few decades to develop a real “art house” niche, and it probably would’ve taken a lot longer were it not for titanic personalities like Orson Welles constantly insisting on the artistic significance of their own output. Comics probably took longer than film, but still much shorter than opera or theatre or anything that came before the 20th Century. Now games have an “art house” niche in indie games like The Path a scant 40 years after the first commercial game was made!

    For the record I don’t think it’s fair for people to expect experimental games like that to be entertaining. Some can be, but experimental work rarely is. Ever been to an experimental film festival? You come out with your brain dribbling out your ears! 90% of the stuff you’ll see in them are tedious, pretentious drivel, but maybe a couple of powerful or disturbing images will have lodged themselves in your brain and wake you up in a cold sweat for a few nights later on.

  34. Matt says:

    Be careful when you drop the phrase “You missed the point” or “you just don’t get it”. It’s a tightly-wound ball of dismissiveness and invalidation,and it’s a great way to get people more pissed off than you might be expecting or intending.

    • Matt says:

      Oh god darn it. That was meant to be a response to Lilliput King up in Wulf’s post about Braid.

  35. Caring Beet says:

    Hi Kieron, and Happy Valentine’s!

    There’s a present for you if you check your TTLG user profile! Hope it’s as useful to you as it was fun for me to make!

    Best,

    CB (Pardoner)

  36. RobF says:

    “Would you disagree if someone argued that an “arty” or “grand concept” game can get away with being otherwise fairly poor or obscure and still be praised whereas a more common genre (eg shoot-em-up) has to be exceptional to get the same level of praise? I don’t know if this is true but if it *were* a decent explanation would be that prople are rewarding novelty, quirkiness, off-beat-ness, emotional content, surreal-ness. It could also be that if there are only a very few games of a certain type then people will tend to praise them – as soon as there are already loads around then a lot of them will get slagged off in comparison to the best or for being ‘derivative’.”

    Yeah, I would. There’s a certain (very small) contingent of indie game players who’ll throw themselves on the altar of art and make a big noise about something regardless of how broken it may be and indeed, they’ll be quite vocal about it because y’know, they want games as movies as things that wot make you cry, for the cause brother and oh, the humanity etc… but none of these are writing professionally in any capacity. Indeed, most of them are kids and probably going through the game equivalent of only liking Stephen Malkmus or something.

    Equally, there’s rather vocal chaps who think Obscuro-Japanese-Shooter-X is the pinnacle of gaming evolution and probably strategy folks who think Obscuro-Tabletop-To-Computer-Game-X is the pinnacle of gaming evolution and they totally should be the future of games.

    The rest of the universe kinda doesn’t do that and will pick through the good bits, the bad bits, the working bits and the broken bits and eventually settle on what it means to them. Which as far as I can tell is things working pretty much as they should. I might disagree with the conclusions and often do, but I don’t think that someone came to a favourable conclusion because it’s a bit weird like when they’ve already explained their reasoning and shown that actually, yeah, they just like this sort of thing or it intrigues them.

    And the comparison with shooters is interesting because well, from my own experience the positive has often been outweighed by anything on a scale of meh down to ick gerritawayfromme and the stuff I write I don’t think is remotely exceptional in anyway (unless you count rewriting Robotron in 3 different ways as exceptional).

    I’ve got a Eurogamer [7] to show for it, y’know? Which is, oddly enough, the same score Kieron gave The Path. Hmm, bugger. Not sure how that fits into this theory. Incidentally, you should read Kieron’s review of The Path for some absolute unabashed praise lavished on the game. No wait, not that one…

    However, to see if there’s actually anything to this as a whole, take a look at the stuff that breaks out of the niche that is indie blog-o-sphere. Let’s use Metacritic as a starting point:

    In the link earlier in the Sunday papers, VVVVVV is in the top games of the year so far. A dafthead platform game.

    2009?

    PS3 – Braid, Critter Crunch, Flower ( :p )
    Xbox360: Peggle, TrialsHD, Defense Grid
    PC: Braid, Plants VS Zombies, Machinarium, AAaaAAAa, Time Gentlemen, Please, Gridrunner:Revolution, Osmos, AI War

    So, erm, only 1 arty game there really. Yet nice high ratings for everything from a casual-ified TD game to a drop on yer bonce simulator to a Mintergasm. Surely, if these art games were getting praised above everything else then well, erm, they’d have nice high review ratings on Metacritic to support it? Or is it that they’re so totally off the radar for most people that they’ll not register a blip?

    Brandon Boyer’s list over on Boing Boing of “games you should get”: link to boingboing.net

    Once again the art is outweighed by the trad/variant on trad mechanics stuff.

    And I could go on but I’m boring myself never mind anyone else here. The argument that art games somehow get a free ride or more praised than a normal game doesn’t seem to be happening.

    I will concede that most of them are shit though ;)