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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for remembering how bad hangovers can actually be. Is it true that they cause light to be poisonous? I think it is. Perhaps the virtual light of my screen will be a comfort. Beautiful screen. Let’s ask it displays soothingly clever words, so that I might think I still have language.

  • Thing of the week is most certainly Kirk Hamilton’s review of Portal 2, the best parts of which are photographic. Here’s a textual bit: “Playing Portal 2 made me feel good about myself, and good about the people who designed it. What’s more, I couldn’t shake the sense that the designers felt similarly about me, about the players for whom they designed the game. It’s odd that a videogame should earn special recognition just for respecting its players, but Portal 2 does exactly that.” But really you should go read it.
  • Brenda Braithwaite’s We Love Games speech from the last GDC was quite the thing. She called on developers to stand together to make great games, as they have always done. Worth a read.
  • Bits ‘N’ Bytes Gaming took some time to lay out the issues with video game reviews. One of the main issues is the score. Which is why we do not have one. Fairly simple fix, that.
  • The BBC decided to test whether going around a racetrack in real Nissan Skyline GTR was anything like playing the forthcoming Gran Turismo. Lucky they didn’t decide to run this test with a manshooter. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense, does it?
  • Mac Gamer’s essay on Portal 2 is also worth a read: “Distilled, Portal 2 is a story about escape and the reclamation of things human. We are in a space completely separate from nature, controlled by artificial intelligence, and devoid of human contact (minus that brief waft of humanity we see through Wheatley’s and GLaDOS’s programming, and minus the paintings and voice recordings we discover about Cave Johnson). Like most stories, Portal 2 puts us against what looks like overwhelming odds challenging our success. And since these odds are non-human entities that act like deity figures, our desperation for anything human is that much more realized. Puzzles are products of humans, but these puzzles are filtered through the hands of GLaDOS, pushing the human element just one more step away. The things we desire most are the things closest to us that we still can’t have. And so when GLaDOS teases us about sunlight or having seen a deer or even another human, our goal of possible escape seems farther away because she has made us conscious again of their existence.” And so on!
  • Chris Green on the games that have used children for emotional manipulations of the player: “Whilst there’s a small contingent of dedicated developers striving to produce the most provocative and enthralling stories gaming has to offer, within mainstream gaming it appears that the narrative is more of an afterthought eclipsed by explosions, motion controls and large breasts. With the Dead Island trailer came the hint that one of the few taboos left within gaming was about to be traversed; that in the search of a compelling narrative, Techland was willing to go the next level to get the audience emotionally involved.” Hmm!
  • This is so fucking cool.
  • Kotaku Australia considers perspectives – First, or third-person? – and it all gets a bit tricky: “My issue lies somewhere in between the concept of immersion and character-identification, which aren’t exactly the same thing. The two are related, and reinforce each other, but can also operate independently and in different ways. The first way, the ‘common wisdom’ is repeated in game design manuals and states that first-person perspective is more immersive and makes the player feel more like they are the character in the game.” Stupid common wisdom.
  • We haven’t mentioned this game at all, yet, but Eurogamer previewed Driver: San Francisco, which is going to have shooty bits between the, well, drivering bits. More interestingly, the fiction behind the game is that you are in a coma, or something, and posess the bodies of various drivers around the city: “The game’s first mission, for example, sends you into the body of an ambulance driver, and sees Tanner unwittingly responding to his own RTA. It’s potentially rather confusing, but the emphasis isn’t on your super-cop’s metaphysical bewilderment so much as getting a sense of how nuanced the steering models are in this game.”
  • BLDGBLOG’s interview with the author of a book about the design of the Apollo spacesuit is amazing. You should read it. “…the word cyborg originated in the Apollo program, in a proposal by a psycho-pharmacologist and a cybernetic mathematician who conceived of this notion that the body itself could be, in their words, reengineered for space. They regarded the prospect of taking an earthly atmosphere with you into space, inside a capsule or a spacesuit, as very cumbersome and not befitting what they called the evolutionary progress of our triumphal entry into the inhospitable realm of outer space. The idea of the cyborg, then, is the apotheosis of certain utopian and dystopian ideas about the body and its transformation by technology, and it has its origins very much in the Apollo program.”

My musical week has been trapped in a strange place betweeen this, this and, well, this.

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Jim Rossignol

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