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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for being able to see into the future. Well, that could actually be every day, if you believe this extraordinary scientific study, which claims that psychological effects can be demonstrated to work backwards through time. Sorry, I’ve gone off topic before we started. I bet you didn’t see that coming! Let’s try to straighten this out with some solid, wholesome, objective talk about games and stuff.

  • Valve’s Erik Johnson talks about Portal 2 in an extensive interview on Gamasutra, and I think the most interesting spot in this sprawling chat is where he says: “This is getting tricky to talk about, because it’s about story stuff a little bit, but I think if you are telling players that the core of the story is “you are going do again what you did last time,” for most people that is pretty unappealing. That’s not what is going to happen in the game, but there are definitely some things that are similar to the previous game. In implementation, they end up being fun and different. You’re still going to have a testing relationship with GLaDOS.” Intriguing. Anticipatory!
  • This research into Tetris as a treatment for traumatic stress is fascinating. The original implication was that Tetris, played after witnessing horrors, distracted the brain from memorising it in a way that would cause nasty flashbacks. However, it now seems that it’s not simple distraction, but the kind of distraction. So Tetris itself, as a block sorting game, is specifically especially therapeutic: “In this new experimental study the researchers compared the effectiveness of Tetris at reducing flashbacks with Pub Quiz Machine 2008, a word-based quiz game. They found that whilst playing Tetris after viewing traumatic images reduced flashbacks by contrast playing Pub Quiz increased the frequency of flashbacks.” The research is ongoing, and it excites the hell out of me. Why? Well because this is one of the few studies that is beginning to outline precisely what the cognitive effects of games are, and to start that games might be as different from one another, as far as brain is concerned, as movies are from books. There are some really big issues emerging in there.
  • Speaking of the effect of games on the mind, have you read “The Craziest Emails & Messages Received By A Video Game Journalist“? It contains terrifying stalker bullshit, and also this extraordinary mail sent to RPS chum Leigh Alexander: “To be blunt, games were developed by the illuminati to keep the masses stupid. They billions in profits are just the payoff to their lackeys for developing this for them.” Crazy fool. In actual fact they are a Japanese World War II experimental mind control technology that got out of hand. That’s what my dead grandmother tells me when she calls every single night.
  • Meanwhile, in the world of the sane, Eurogamer have done a take on the game developer influences theme (a theme which we TOTALLY ACED last year) and in it you get such gems as Bioware’s Dr Ray saying: “It was Pirate Cove by Scott Adams. It was a text adventure game. It took three tries, each about three minutes, to load this cassette tape – the old squealing sound. The first two failed. I was ready to give up, and he said, ‘No, trust me, you’ll like it once it loads.’ I played it, and in the first couple of minutes I was completely in love with videogames. I’d played some arcade games before that, but this was the first PC-based experience. It was just awesome, and it captured my imagination.” Bless.
  • As a random addendum to last week’s “why should we give a crap about what the Bigpoint CEO says” comments, here’s a bit of information about just how much microtransactions are growing versus subscription models in MMOs. In short: one of them is in decline, the other is growing.
  • Marvel Brothel has been removed from the internet. Here is an explanation as to why.
  • The World’s loveliest media researcher, Henry Jenkins, has posted up a talk entitled “raising the digital generation“. It’s a theme I think we are going to see more and more of in the coming years: how to raise kids in a world bubbling over with information and information technology. It’s wise, not preachy.
  • AV Club’s Leonard Pierce asks: How much does interactivity belong in Entertainment? It’s a hard question, with no easy answer. Pierce has a good stab at it, however: “All art, good or bad, is made through a vast process of criticism, collaboration, and creation between the people who make it and the people who take it. All interactive technology does is make that idea more immediate and explicit.” Games and the internet are the apogee of that, of course, and we feel the ramifications of it every day.
  • An amazingly detailed behind the scenes look at the development of The Great Piggy Bank Adventure – a game which teaches finance by using real world scale models in places of traditional graphical presentation. Interesting design clevers, gentlemen.
  • Joel Johnson bites back on Gizmodo. Take that, readership!
  • A rather cute, poignant short story by China Miéville: Global Recession in Century 21.
  • Update: this is the greatest thing I have seen.

And that’s the week as I foresaw it. Except I could not have foresee this: there is nothing hip or electronic about the album I’ve been listening to this week. It’s The Indifference Engine.

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Jim Rossignol

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