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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for thumbing through a copy of 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die, a colossal coffee-table tome whose contributors include me, Gillen, Simon Parkin, and a number of other RPS writer allies. It was quite the project, and I’m pleased to see the resulting book could be used to club intruders to death, should the situation demand. Also, Sundays are for internet thought-links. Here are some of they.

  • In a week dominated by corporate whistle-blowers and their attendant satirists, it was The Horrible Truth About Cliff Bleszinski that actually made me laugh. The anonymous blog post claims that Mr B is addicted to Cherry Flavor Hostess Fruit Pies, meaning that “…during UT development he was LITERALLY bouncing off the walls, which is the inspiration behind that move by the way.” And the Gears Of War design leprechaun was gracious enough to admit that it was basically true.
  • Perhaps my favourite piece of writing this week was by Leigh Alexander, in an article cryptically titled “In An Era Of ‘Anguish’, Game Design Searches For Its Soul.” What this soul searching actually refers to is the apparent tension between social/casual game design and the the more traditional mainstream philosophies, and the resulting squabbles between developers. Is the traditional mainstream approach really a more authentic philosophy, asks Alexander, or is the search for games that mean something unrelated to either endeavour? “Is designing a metrics-driven title designed to engage users in a compulsion loop so that they’ll keep logging in and spending money any more ethical or soulful than being one of 200 pairs of hands on one of however many market-researched, risk-averse mass-market console FPS releasing in the next few months?” Perhaps not. And I wonder if that’s why so many designers have turned to indie in the past couple of years. There’s only one way to remain faithful purely to design, and that’s to develop without much in the way of commercial publishing constraint.
  • That’s a debate that is, of course, incomprehensible to most people, especially those outside gaming. Part of the reason for this, and many of the game/film debates that flare up on RPS and elsewhere, is the wider dominance of older conceptions of how the screen, as a technology and conduit for culture, should be understood. Paul Callaghan has some thoughts on that. I do too, but I am saving them for a much bigger piece of work.
  • Raph Koster republishes his Fundamentals Of Game Design essay, which is worth a read, if you’ve not had a look before. Clever chap, that Koster, although I don’t always agree with his approaches.
  • Speaking of people I don’t always agree with, it seems that we can’t escape the lingering influence of The Sunday Papers’ former editor, who has himself submitted a link for the list, which is his account of visiting Babycastles in New York, along with some other blather about retro nonsensing: “It ended up a little like a wine-tasting. “Play Robotron 2084. Got it? Now – go play Smash TV, from a decade later. See the difference on what’s basically the same game? Well, now play Gauntlet, the missing link between the two, etc”. I suspected I was being unbearable, but everyone continued to ask me what to play next well past the point of politeness.”
  • Also relevant to the theme of potentially forced politeness, here’s GamerLaw on what PopCap could have done if Blizzard had cocked up the inclusion of their games in World Of Warcraft.
  • Then to CNN, of all places, to see Scott Steinberg ask: “Are simpler video games better?” He seems to thinks so. I’m actually not so sure. I mean, I accept the point about window dressing, but I’ve got a long rant building up about how it’s okay, even commendable, for the core mechanics to be complex. I suspect, deep down, that complexity is the only direction games really have to go in. And also I suspect that gamers are entirely fine with complexity, so long as the game gives them a way in. More on that soon, probably.
  • Finally, and only tangentially linked to the world of games, I am in awe of the effort that has been put into The Female Character Flowchart. Check out the full image for the proper effect.
  • Actually that’s not completely final, because you should totally check out these robot guards being deployed in the Nevada desert. That’s some future, right there.

Right, I suppose it’s time to start revealing how my music tastes really differ from Gillen’s before I take a stroll into the October countryside. Here’s what I have been listening to this morning: Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal.

More soon.

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Jim Rossignol

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