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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for brains. The body may rest, but the mind climbs its strange ladders into realms of thought. A book here, a movie there, a videogame in the afternoon, a daydream in the evening. Let’s make the most of that time, shall we? Here are some ways in.

  • Battleground of the week was in this post on Lost Garden, in which the engineer author criticised the state of games journalism, and suggested – roughly speaking – that the probelm with it was that most of the writers weren’t developers. He got a bit of a roasting the comments section, and there have been a number of useful responses to it, including this one. I’d say that he has a point, but only about the usefulness of types of writing to different people. The trick is finding the people who write about games in a way that is useful to you. RPS, I think, exists precisely because there wasn’t a site writing about games in the way that we do, and when we started up we found there was an audience for it. Also, I am pleased to point out that Danc’s criticism is no longer entirely relevant to RPS.
  • The Boston Globe has a piece on games and the brain in which they talk to the authors of a paper on “game transfer phenomena”, which is “when video game elements are associated with real life elements, triggering subsequent thoughts, sensations and/or player actions.’’ The author asks “Did all those hours of Mario and Zelda do anything to me as I was growing up?” And the answer to that is almost certainly “yes, plenty”. For some evidence to base that on I’d refer him, and you lot, to this book about brain plasticity (which is actually a lot more interesting than the self-help marketing angle seems to suggest.) And I think daily blogging for three years has had some pretty profound effects on my brain, to be honest.
  • Ben Abraham punted this piece over, and it’s pretty interesting: it’s an “acoustic walkthrough” of City 17: “The keynote sound is so ubiquitous that it often doesn’t consciously register, and because of this ubiquity it more or less accurately represents the character of the environment and people who inhabit it. In modern cities traffic is the dominant keynote sound, as it is in the exterior portion of this City 17 recording. There is, however, an additional local keynote sound: the flying, shutterbug City Scanners. I was surprised to hear the warbling, beeping, clicking scanners almost constantly throughout the soundscape I recorded. I definitely saw a lot of scanners when I played through, but I never realized how often I could hear them.”
  • Also via Mr Abraham is this piece from an indie game jam: “Various team members began to file in, piecemeal, setting up a string of equally impressive yet very different computers. The GXL competitors had desktop towers half as tall as they were, blazing with iridescent stylized light, and PC mice the size of a bear’s paw covered in twenty buttons. The artists of the Game Jam had more modest processing power in their towers, but one of student competitors out of Drexel had the biggest dedicated computer monitor I have ever seen.”
  • Bits ‘N’ Bytes Gaming prove that they like a bit of interesting content, with this article by Brendon Chung. It’s called Civil Resistance: Imagine a (Virtual) World Without Guns. Nothing too surprising in there, but it does tap into a deep vein that seems particularly important to PC gaming: those games where guns don’t make an appearance. More of this sort of thing, I think.
  • More Portal 2-inspired writings, this time from Live Granades: “Even worse, you’re not the story’s protagonist! To borrow a phrase from Christine Love, don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story. GLaDOS is the real protagonist. Chell remains the same throughout, never developing or changing beyond exhibiting an increasing skill with portals.”
  • Digital Foundry have put up a piece about the making of Shift 2. Which I somehow originally typo’d as “the maiming of Shift 2”, which is some serious Freudian error.
  • This article about the Dreamcast homebrew scene is fascinating: “For the homebrew scene, making games for much older systems usually necessitates a wide variety of separate tools and utilities. A one-stop option is very nice to have — especially for a system from the post-16-bit era, when venturing into development without a comprehensive dev kit can be daring, if not crazy (though Scharl noted that a few indie Dreamcast games were written in pure assembly language).”
  • The Escapist looks at how the issue of recycling game characters ends up giving us crappy stories.
  • Rob Horning’s piece on shyness and social media is clever, gentle.

Music this week is not really music, it’s a video by master commercial film-makers MK12. “FITC, the Design & Technology events company celebrated their 10th annual flagship event in Toronto this year and MK12 produced a short title film for the occasion.” Here it is. Let it get going, it’s quite the thing.

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Jim Rossignol

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