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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for food. Towers of roasted meat, galaxies of vegetable, seas of cranberry sauce and gravy, biblical visions of multiplying booze and bread. Clearly, I am going to feast. But I might also rest my tired laptop on my bulging gut (heavy with the flesh of beasts) to prepare something worth reading. Something worth digesting. For starters, try these morsels:

  • Story of the week, for me, was the extraordinary revelation that the DDOS attack on the Minecraft server was perpetrated by players demanding more updates. It’s astonishing, if true. A comment, purportedly from the attackers, read: “It’s purpose is to send Notch a clear message of how the future of minecraft will turn out unless he gets to work, namely by influencing the amount of sales taking place, due to the attacks.” A couple of people forwarded this commentary on the situation, which I think pretty much sums up the general reaction.
  • Also Minecraft.
  • I mean, come on.

  • Next up: “Parasitic Mind Control.” Braid creator Jonathan Blow talks good game design and ethics in a session at Rice University. This is one of those sessions that is going to be quoted and discussed routinely in the coming years, so it’s probably worth just getting familiar with it now. Blow talks about some familiar themes – the idea that “good” game design is now equivalent to whatever is most compulsive to the player – but it’s the most mature form of his argument we’ve seen so far.
  • A different kind of maturity of argument is discussed by Adam Bishop in his “Time To Grow Up” editorial over on Gamasutra. “Earlier this year and last year I worked at a large game developer where I witnessed sexual harassment on a scale I’ve never seen before in any other industry that I’ve worked in. One distinguishing factor of a lot of this behaviour was one of the justifications for it that was given by some of the people engaged in it – that this kind of behaviour should be expected because this was the video game industry and this is how gamers behave.” Needless to say, Bishop goes on to discuss the implications of this, and challenge them.
  • All of which leaves us with a bunch of rather negative feelings, even if there are positive answers on the cards. So what about this paper (PDF link) entitled “A meta-analytic examination of the instructional effectiveness of computer-based simulation games“. The conclusion of this is that videogames are the best way to train workers. People trained using videogames systems had 11% better grasp of facts, 14% better hold on job skills, and information retention improved 9% over those taught using traditional methods. What does this mean? Well, it’s another tick in the box for games being superior teaching tools. That’s a fact that’s fast becoming mainstream. I think Nintendo are actually using a piece about using the DS in schools as a commercial in the UK right now.
  • Bit-tech have a huge profile of Frictional Games up. It’s an interesting read, I think, because it shows just what small studios have to deal with to get their games out and stay alive. Incidentally, I assume you’ve bought Amnesia? Right?
  • If you’ll permit me to point you at some some games journalism journalism, then Pat’s piece on VG247 is a provocative defence of the “tabloid” nature of the modern games press. Not sure I agree with everything he says in there, but it’s an interesting analysis of his own position, and the behaviour of the quoted industry heads.
  • Finally: All Market Research Is Wrong. See, I can tell you bought that argument without you even having read it. No research required.

And something exotic-yet-familiar for the ears! Here’s a brainfood tune I think some of you will have seen and heard before, but I keep coming back to it. There’s some kind of metaphor going on with this. It’s a tune that is gibberish, designed to sound as if it’s sung in English. This is what our pop tunes sound like to non-English speakers, apparently. And… I kind of like it.

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Jim Rossignol

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