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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for catching up on all the things that the action of the week let lag behind. Sleep. Food. Gaming. Murmuring. Fidgeting in a corner. And yet all of those things pale into insignificance next to the heap of neglected reading. So allow me to pile it up in your In tray, and provide you some quiet time to leaf through the pages of internet chatter generated by the human race, and their obsession with electronic games.

  • I suppose we’ve gone out of our way to avoid talking about how CityVille now has more registered players than there are people who have ever lived, but it’s worth remembering that this PC game is a brutal phenomenon of free-to-play success. Gamasutra took some time to explain it, in a two part article. It’s buzzword-tastic, and heavy on the attempted theory, but if you can swallow those, there’s useful analysis. Here’s a bit of that: “Games tap into our need to close loops. Social games like CityVille are expert at doing so because what they create is a never-ending series of open loops. No matter how quickly you play or how much money you spend, there is always something to do, some gate to unlock, some task tree to complete, some daily bonus to claim, some new set to gather, some crop to harvest or some level to attain. It never really ends, and it overlaps various loops over one another such that even if you have run out of cash or coins, there is always something to do – but not for extended sessions. The loops that the game creates in your mind cannot be closed until you come back later. In the mean time, have a cake!”
  • Robert Yang talks about immersive sims, sort of in response your our Dark Futures series: “Games of this breed (System Shock, Deus Ex, BioShock, Arx Fatalis), dubbed the “immersive sim,” are supposedly dead, they say. They’re probably right. In fact, almost every person interviewed in RPS’ amazing “Dark Futures” series makes a gesture towards accessibility and user-centered design. The guy I quote extensively, Randy Smith, is tired of the hardcore 3D game market in general. The future of games is mobile and usable — prophecy never lies.” Don’t worry, there’s a “but” coming.
  • Ian Bogost’s review of Jane McGonigal’s new book, “Reality Is Broken”, is quite the read. “Jane McGonigal’s new book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World is destined to be one of the most influential works about videogames ever published. The book is filled with bold new ideas and refinements of old ones. It’s targeted at a general readership, but game designers, critics, and scholars will learn plenty from the book too, thanks to the new twists it takes on familiar subjects.” That said, he doesn’t entirely agree with McGonigal’s boundless optimism, and I tend to think that Bogost’s diagnoses of reality and games are more useful, and more accurate. Worth a read.
  • Game Informer went big with the Skyrim coverage. Lots discussed, and the most information we’ll get for a few months, I think.
  • Narrative design clever-pants Tom Jubert has started writing a philosophical critique of Infinite Ocean. In it he says things like this: “I realise as I write this that perhaps I’m sometimes too harsh on games with less interactive narratives (though see the Tribes write up for a balancing view). I believe it’s true that the only games to really embrace the medium do so by putting malleable drama at their centre. However, to criticise Infinite Ocean for not being one of those games – for essentially being a way to trick gamers into reading some philosophical science fiction – is somewhat akin to criticising a great play because it could just as easily have been made as a film. It’s so important at this stage in our industry’s development to be pioneering new methods of interaction almost at the expense of all else that sometimes it comes at the expense of… well, all else.”
  • Troy Goodfellow continues his look at the character of various nationalities in historical game design, now having reached The English. I hate those guys! Troy says: “Other nations are more easily identified with attributes or units or structures, but England gives you a strategy you have to emulate, a strategy born out of her unique geographic situation that defined a nation for centuries.” The lessons of history, eh folks? We do learn something after all.
  • Eurogamer vs Jeff Minter: “So just to test things out, I threw a little Asteroids ship in there and started playing with the controls. I got something I liked, put the sun in the middle, played with it some more and went from there, really.” GAME DESIGN.
  • Stuart Campbell gives magazines a bit of a talking to: “Technically the iPad (and doubtless many of the countless other tablets that are about to cascade onto the market) is an amazing way to read newspapers and magazines. If publishers had half a brain, they’d price their digital editions so cheaply that you could make an economic case for forking out the hundreds of pounds for the device purely on the grounds of how much it would save you on your reading materials.”
  • This is a neat little contemplation on character design.
  • Experience Points tackles Civilization V: “Civilization V procedurally renders a vapid conception of social relations marked by blanket uniformity. Although players can unlock globalization as a technology, the game does not model a complex economic system of globalized production and consumption across borders. Civilizations are neatly confined and controlled. Poverty and inequality are not an issue, and class holds no explanatory relevance for historical processes or civilizational growth.” Civilizational? Are you sure?
  • What were 2010’s most interesting game spaces?
  • Our kid The Poisoned “Phill Cameron” Sponge wrote about Dead Space. And that reminded me of an old article that Gillen dug up – which I think we linked here before, but anyway – about the sci-fi corridor. A minor classic.
  • I was fascinated by this story of Chess-playing prodigy, Phiona Mutesi: “Chess is a lot like my life,” she says through an interpreter. “If you make smart moves you can stay away from danger, but you know any bad decision could be your last.”

No music as such this week. Instead two videos (with music) that I randomly found myself watching. First this, and then this. That means something, I just don’t know what.

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Jim Rossignol

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