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.

144 Comments

  1. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    My problem with the first peice is that he seems to discount new games journalism entirely. He basically says reviews need to be objective, but how can they ever be, unless there is an objective truth for what people enjoy?

    • Chaz says:

      Surely the vast majority of games reviews should be written from the perspective of their intended audiences, i.e. we consumers sat at home with £30-£50 worth of cold hard earned cash in our sweaty hands, wondering whether the latest much hyped block buster title is worth our money. Will I enjoy it and will I get my money’s worth? Those are the main questions I want answered by a review. Although it doesn’t have to be in such a direct manor, just so long as I can extrapolate the information I want from what the reviewer has written. I don’t see why it would take some one with game developement credentials to be able to impart that information to me and if anything, personally I think that would be completly the wrong type of person to be able to impartially give me that sort of information from my perspective. Otherwise what sort of reviews are we going to see, “The game’s short and you won’t enjoy it, but the technical and art teams have done a great job, so I’m going to give it a 9/10.”?

    • Cinnamon says:

      I think that for a review for consumers it is a good idea to have something that is sympathetic to the tastes and reading level of the majority of readers.

      What bothers me more is the sort of in depth analysis content you get on sites like the Escapist. More and more often they are going for articles written by people who write not from a perspective of understanding games but from being qualified academically in the humanities. It gives a sort of feeling to the site that games themselves are beneath the level of being intellectually interesting at all and all that matters is looking at them in terms of analysing them as traditional media as a way of looking at the “human condition” or whatever. It’s like the whole world where you are engaged in playing a game from moment to moment doesn’t exist. At least with new games journalism style pieces it was all about, at least at first, it seemed, trying to describe better how it felt to play games. But how many times can you describe in informal prose how it feels to shoot a man from first person perspective.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Reviews can certainly be more objective, even if not entirely so. I struggle with finding the point of a review that is pure opinion because who knows how the reviewer’s opinion matches with mine. That’s damn near as pointless as the numbers usually put at the end.

      Reviewers need to describe features and gameplay more than just spout pure opinion. They need to evaluate who might enjoy gameplay aspects and why there were created how they were. They need to put you in the shoes of the player however possible, rather than tell you about their play experience. The best reviews are less about what the reviewer thought and more about what you will probably think.

      RPS has a few great reviewers who are good at this, which is why their Wot I Thinks are great reads. Note that “a few” is less than four however, and that’s all I will say on that.

    • Rii says:

      @Chaz

      “Surely the vast majority of games reviews should be written from the perspective of their intended audiences,”

      Other way around. I write. You read. If you like what I write, keep reading. If you don’t, don’t continue to read. Games critics do not exist to serve their audiences, imaginary or otherwise.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      You know what’s great about RPS that I never ever see on other sites that review games? The pieces where everyone gets together and discusses their opinions on a game. Every review of a game (or an album, movie, whatever, really) would benefit from having multiple perspectives. It adds to the available information that is required to make informed gaming purchases.

    • Simon Williams says:

      @Rii

      “Other way around. I write. You read. If you like what I write, keep reading. If you don’t, don’t continue to read. Games critics do not exist to serve their audiences, imaginary or otherwise.”

      Hugely debatable when it comes to product reviews, which is what Chaz was discussing.

      The problem remains the tendency to lump all writing on games (and the writers themselves) under the banner “Games Journalism”, rather than recognising the notable differences between news and investigative reporting on the industry itself, product reviews, game criticism, technical and mechanical dissections and so on and so on. Plus, the expectation that writers will flit happily between such different disciplines.

      The fact that the writer of the original article struggled so badly to express his point that it ended up emerging in a poorly worded and ultimately inflammatory way is probably the best counter to his own argument.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      “They need to evaluate who might enjoy gameplay aspects and why there were created how they were. ”
      Evaluate based on what? Is their an objective truth, or is it subject to their feelings on who their audience is, or their personal preference.
      Its undoubtable the second one. This is true for all reviews of media. If anyone wants to provide a counter example, Id love to read it.

      Thus all reviews are pure opinion. The only thing that changes is if someone is honest about that or not. What you need to do is think of some games you like. Read a persons reviews of them. See if they make you think about it in a different way, or wether they are totally wrong for you, or imcredibly insightful. Then listen to their view, taking into account your own tastes. Violá! You are doing what everyone else has to do.

    • BathroomCitizen says:

      @Jason Moyer: Man, I totally agree with you. The Wot I Think is what reviews should be. No scores, no numbers, just different opinions from different people discussing the game, like a bunch of friends talking about what they did or didn’t like about it.

      It’s a brilliant idea in its semplicity!

    • Tatourmi says:

      Oh, and reviews should also be entertaining. A lot of readers, like me, just read Rock Paper Shotgun for the funnies (Even though, eventually, it makes you buy something you didn’t intend to, meh, that is fine with me)

    • Rii says:

      “Hugely debatable when it comes to product reviews, which is what Chaz was discussing.”

      No, it is not debatable.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      No, it is not debatable.

      I agree. Your logic is infalible. Like it, keep reading. Don’t like it, you can stop reading it.

      There’s just one problem though. You aren’t accounting for the reader ability to write his own criticism of the writer. So, a piece or even a comment criticizing game journalism should respect the same rule. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. What you shouldn’t insinuate is that just because someone doesn’t like what they read, they should shut up because the only person entitled to speak their minds is the journalist.

      Or is it that only saying great things about game journalism is acceptable?

    • Simon Williams says:

      @Rii

      “No it is not debatable”

      *sigh* someone has their fingers in their ears this afternoon.

      Are you honestly saying that product reviews – the mainstream reviews of games that in essence serve as a recommendation to a reader as to whether or not to spend their hard-earned £40 on a game – do not exist to serve the reader? Really?

      And again let me underline the demarcation I made earlier – Chaz was quite clearly referring to product reviews for consumers in his post, not game criticism which overlaps significantly but also addresses other questions and areas of a video game’s content.

      “I write. You read. If you like what I write, keep reading. If you don’t, don’t continue to read. Games critics do not exist to serve their audiences, imaginary or otherwise.”

      I thought this notion that writers exist in their own bubble, completely divorced from any relationship with the audience, casting their words of wisdom down from their ivory towers to the common folk below, was exploded as the immature, self-serving claptrap it is years ago?

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      For the industry to mature, we should stop focusing on the probelms of games journalism and instead focus on strengthening the conbelms

    • Leeks says:

      His whole thesis is absurd, but sadly endemic of artists in general. If art was created solely for consumption by artists, then he would be correct, and no one else would be entitled to an opinion. But since it isn’t and is, in fact, created with the intention of getting Normals to pay you for it, their opinions are actually more worthwhile than the artist’s.

    • Consumatopia says:

      But since it isn’t and is, in fact, created with the intention of getting Normals to pay you for it, their opinions are actually more worthwhile than the artist’s.

      Do you live to eat, or eat to live?

      The artist does not create in order to sell what they create. The artist sells what they create so they can create more.

    • Rii says:

      @Mario

      “What you shouldn’t insinuate is that just because someone doesn’t like what they read, they should shut up because the only person entitled to speak their minds is the journalist.”

      I insinuated no such thing. By all means, speak your piece. And the recipient of your feedback can take your input onboard or not as they see fit.

      @Simon Williams

      “Are you honestly saying that product reviews – the mainstream reviews of games that in essence serve as a recommendation to a reader as to whether or not to spend their hard-earned £40 on a game – do not exist to serve the reader? ”

      I am saying that they are under no obligation to do so. Beyond those self-imposed, the writer’s obligations, if any, are to her employer – who may well have decided on a particular editorial direction for the publication in question – not to the readers of that publication.

      “I thought this notion that writers exist in their own bubble, completely divorced from any relationship with the audience, casting their words of wisdom down from their ivory towers to the common folk below, was exploded as the immature, self-serving claptrap it is years ago?”

      Of course there is a relationship, but it is an entirely voluntary one. I choose to make my thoughts available to the public, you choose to read them. Free, voluntary discourse can take place, but at no point does obligation – in either direction – enter into it. The writer has no obligation to his audience, the audience has no obligation to the writer, i.e. to read his work or, having read it, to pay for it.

      @Leeks

      “His whole thesis is absurd, but sadly endemic of artists in general.”

      Who said anything about artists? This applies to each and every one of us, artists included. There is no fundamental difference between – for example – what the RPS crew writes on this site and what you or I write on it.

    • Consumatopia says:

      @Rii, while of course in a free society no one has the right to force you to write, and I doubt we’ll manage to dig up any sort of Categorical Imperative that reviews of games must be written from the perspective of prospective purchasers, writing is still an act of communication, which implies an attempt to impart some kind of meaning to readers. If you interpret the Chaz’s “should” as some sort of ethical demand then of course its nonsensical. However, in my experience, English speakers frequently use “should” to prefix advice to others. And what Chaz said would boil down to advice that writers keep their intended audience in mind when they write.

      Where I would quibble with Chaz is the assumption that prospective purchasers, even if they are the ones driving hits to the ads that buy the critic’s food, are the entirety of the intended audience.

    • Leeks says:

      I’m using “art” as a general term. As an engineer, maybe it would have been better to say “machine.” Or even more generally: “system.”

      The point is that as a creative professional of any kind, the “professional” part necessarily means that other people pay you to create. And if you aren’t creating a product those other people want to buy, you don’t have a job. It’s a pragmatic viewpoint, but I’m afraid it really is that simple.

    • Consumatopia says:

      The point is that as a creative professional of any kind, the “professional” part necessarily means that other people pay you to create. And if you aren’t creating a product those other people want to buy, you don’t have a job. It’s a pragmatic viewpoint, but I’m afraid it really is that simple.

      The artist has to sell to “Normals” (as you put it), and the engineer has to obey the Second Law of Thermodynamics. That doesn’t mean that the the opinion of Normals is the most worthwhile to the artist anymore than it means that Entropy is the most worthwhile quantity to the engineer. Economics and thermodynamics represent constraints on the professional artist and engineer, respectively, but they do not necessarily represent the purpose of art or engineering.

      I’m afraid it really is that simple.

    • Leeks says:

      @Consumatopia
      This is devolving into semantics (if it didn’t start there), but since this thread ought to be good and dead by now, I don’t mind playing it out.
      You’re making the assumption that my original statement had anything at all to do with what “was useful to the artist.” I, like all consumers of media (a less loaded term than art), don’t really give a toss what’s useful to the creator. I care about what’s pleasurable to me. As a consumer, I don’t care what the “purpose” of the media is. I care how it makes me feel.
      What you’re talking about is critique, not criticism. Critique is provided by other artists in order to help her improve, or at least gain an increased understanding of how her work is perceived by the creative community. A criticism is written with a populist audience in mind, to the end of suggesting how a particular work may resonate (or not resonate) with them. In terms of audience, the critique is a technical paper; the criticism is an article in Popular Science.
      So when I say that the non-artist’s opinion is more valuable, I say that as a member of the consumer population who will decide, ultimately, whether the artist gets to eat this month. The realities of creating art and living as an artist are inextricable. Critique may help you improve your technique to the point where someone will give you money to create, but unless you are paid money to create… you aren’t an artist. You’re a hobbyist.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      but unless you are paid money to create… you aren’t an artist. You’re a hobbyist.

      Do I really need to point out the absurdity of this statement? Start with Van Gogh.

      You’re probably making a good point about something, but it’s naught to do with art or artists.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Leeks, the only assumption I made was that you said what I quoted you as saying. Contrast:

      But since it isn’t and is, in fact, created with the intention of getting Normals to pay you for it, their opinions are actually more worthwhile than the artist’s.

      with:

      I, like all consumers of media (a less loaded term than art), don’t really give a toss what’s useful to the creator. I care about what’s pleasurable to me. As a consumer, I don’t care what the “purpose” of the media is. I care how it makes me feel.

      You did not say more worthwhile to you. You did not say more worthwhile to you “as a consumer”. You did not say that it was more important to how you feel. That’s a sneaky shift you’re trying to pull off now.

      Worse, you even try to shift back at the end of your post:

      So when I say that the non-artist’s opinion is more valuable, I say that as a member of the consumer population who will decide, ultimately, whether the artist gets to eat this month.

      More valuable to you perhaps. Your opinion might be economically useful to the artist, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s either more “valuable” or “worthwhile” to the artist or in any universal sense.

      And TillEulenspiegel is definitely right regarding your final lines.

  2. Half Broken Glass says:

    >RPS, I think, exists precisely because there wasn’t a site writing about games in the way that we do

    So… the whole point of RPS is to make lame puns in headlines?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I like to think that’s our main contribution, yes. What’s yours?

    • GCU Speak Softly says:

      Mine’s a pint, Jim, thanks for asking.

    • Half Broken Glass says:

      My biggest one? I’ve successfully resisted the urge to make my own blog and join the tens of thousands of people who think the fact that they played a lot of videogames gives them any sort of knowledge about them.

      I didn’t read the full article yet since I’ve decided to write a reply, but I what I have read, I strongly sympathize with. Gaming journalists aren’t hired because of their extensive knowledge of game mechanics, but because they’re good writers. Incidentally, people who do have that knowledge usually are really poor at writing, because they’re “engineers”, not “humanities”.

      And it’s the same for RPS. Wot I Think is a wall of text describing the journalist’s personal experience with the game, about as far away from an informative review as you can get. Verdicts are even worse, since their “chat” form, while interesting to read, allows for so little space that the chance of actually stumbling upon game mechanics is even lower than in Wot I Think.

      The rest is news which hardly require any knowledge about anything at all, and very, very occassionally someone will produce a piece about game mechanics. Recently it’s been A Death Is For Life, Not Just For Quickload by John Walker, which starts… with immersion, the holy grail of all humanities video gaming journalism. And so instead of having an interesting article about mechanics of death in videogames, we have a boring article about nothing in particular, which could as well be summed up with “It would be cool if there was a game where when you die, it’s permanent”. I admit, John tries to analyze but always quickly returns to the idea of form, instead of talking about function.

      Even your book, Jim, was mostly a description of a personal gaming experience(s). When it touched on the subjects of gaming, it was mostly the social aspect of MMOs.

      So I fail to see how RPS is different from anything the article describes. You might say you make games, but then again I might whip out a command line rock/paper/scissors in C++ in five minutes and claim the same. Just “making games” doesn’t cut it. Spending an afternoon wondering how differences in Red Alert and Starcraft’s resource positioning affect the flow of an online match or whether base-building can be categorized as part of a tech tree progression does.

    • AndrewC says:

      Wow, it’s almost as if games are highly technical *and* highly personal, and someone demanding games writing be solely from either one perspective or the other is guilty of making the same point-missing mistake he accuses others of.

    • frenz0rz says:

      Good lord, Half Broken Glass, what an absurd wall of crap you’ve just created.

      “Wot I Think is a wall of text describing the journalist’s personal experience with the game, about as far away from an informative review as you can get.”

      Uhm. Wut? Sounds pretty informative to me.

    • DAdvocate says:

      @Half Broken Glass: Greetings, you must be new here as you have completely missed the point of RPS. This site is catered to consumers of games, not producers, therefore it does not talk about how to replicate a game’s mechanical successes, such as the optimal placement of ammo in a manshooter.

      The writers here recognise that playing games is entirely subjective, and it is foolish to attempt to attach an arbitrary number to an experience.

    • Mman says:

      “A Death Is For Life, Not Just For Quickload by John Walker… We have a boring article about nothing in particular, which could as well be summed up with “It would be cool if there was a game where when you die, it’s permanent””

      In other words, you didn’t actually read the article.

    • tomeoftom says:

      “Gaming journalists aren’t hired because of their extensive knowledge of game mechanics, but because they’re good writers. Incidentally, people who do have that knowledge usually are really poor at writing, because they’re “engineers”, not “humanities”.”
      Jesus. Really? That’s A: such a flimsy generalisation and B: not even a problem. Most games journalism isn’t written for developers. This isn’t a problem for developers if there’s other sources of more intricate/academic writing, which of course there are.

      edit: Bugger, DAdvocate’s beat me to it.

    • Zorganist says:

      Hang on a minute, Half Broken Glass, are you trying to say that writing about the experience of playing a game doesn’t count as a informative review? What is an informative review then? If you’re going to state that one thing is wrong, you probably ought to say what’s right.

      And why should games journalists be the ones worrying about how different methods of resource gathering effect the flow of the game? Shouldn’t developers be thinking about that sort of thing? The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the audience for games are not developers; they don’t care about the mechanics of a game, or the engineering behind it, they care about what the game is like to play. What the experience of playing a game is like. The sort of thing that games journalism, as it exists now, focuses on. Games journalists shouldn’t have to tell developers how to make games, or which mechanics do or don’t work. Games journalists should communicate the experience of playing a game, and developers should analyse the mechanics that cause these experiences and then go on to make better games from it.

      Claiming that only games developers should be allowed to comment on games is the same as claiming that only politicians should be allowed to comment on politics. Just because somebody doesn’t know what goes into a particular aspect of a game, doesn’t mean thay can’t judge whether it does or doesn’t work.

    • AndrewC says:

      I’m afraid he didn’t Mman, because he decided to write a response to it instead.

    • Daave says:

      Got to disagree with you there Glass, I have no problem with writers writing and developers developing or the other way round, and while RPS can’t speak for the average gamer or the average developer, because they’re neither, they do spend a lot of time playing, thinking about and writing about games. Furthermore I think they do a good job!

      One concern I do have is that they become tired and jaded, they do a huge amount of writing and I hope they don’t compromise their work due to having just played a bad game or being mentally exhausted. I notice they’ve outsourced some of the MMO articles recently. Don’t work too hard RPS! This brings up the point that is someone who plays games as part of their job capable of having the same experience as someone who works a 9 to 5 and only has time/money for a relatively small amount of gaming?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I don’t think *not* doing something can be a classed a contribution. I think your contribution is making snide remarks their own sake. And you are not particularly good at that.

      As regards my book: Yes, it’s about the impact of games on gamers, but almost a third of it is about the *social mechanics* of Eve Online. If you understand what game mechanics are – and you see to be pretty fixated by the idea of them – then you’ll understand that Eve is a game for which social mechanics are its most interesting aspect.

      I’m also baffled as to why you think playing games gives you no knowledge about them. In my experience hardcore player communities often know much more about the games they are interested in than journalists or even developers, and they come to this knowledge through obsessively experiencing a game by playing it.

      “Spending an afternoon wondering how differences in Red Alert and Starcraft’s resource positioning affect the flow of an online match or whether base-building can be categorized as part of a tech tree progression does.”

      Wow, that sounds riveting. Do feel free not to bother us with those insights when you do come up with them!

    • Deston says:

      I woke up late with a traditional stinking hangover and it’s quite challenging to see the screen properly, so my apologies in advance if I’m restating points already made…

      @ Half Broken Glass – The difference there is, where you’ve so “successfully” resisted the urge to make your own gaming blog (congratulations?), RPS have made their own gaming blog very successfully. Consider for a moment where that places the validity of your criticism against the site when applying your own flawed logic.

      Expecting either players or writers to be experienced developers before they are allowed a valid and respected opinion on the end product is absolutely absurd. It’s the same kind of patronising arrogant elitism I see rearing its ugly head in the IT industry every day, which is where my own profession lays.

      I am a developer, amongst other far worse things you could accurately label me, so I’m going to leave the journalistic side of this debate to the experts and provide my input as a developer. There are already solid arguments above for why it’s important that reviewers of games are closer to the players than the developers.

      I can tell you with my development hat on, I do not expect – nor am I in a position to demand or require – that the users of my systems and applications have even a basic knowledge of concepts like object orientated programming, transport layer encryption, multithreading or iterative development cycles to either use or critique the end-user software I produce.

      We are professionals paid well to produce an end product for the users, not to stroke our own fragile geek egos, just as games developers do for their own audiences. If valid criticisms ignorant of the development process that allowed any given problem to manifest itself are levelled, then that is our failure as the creators and not anyone else’s. The technical side of good, quality games (just like any good, quality good software) should be as transparent as possible and not require an intricate technical understanding to use, discuss, debate the merit of, criticise or enjoy. Sure, it might be of some benefit when providing feedback directly to the developer, but that’s hardly the need here.

      This rings especially true for games as opposed to a lot of other software products as there are much stronger entertainment and artistic (put the knife down, Ebert) components to them… they are broader than typical software applications, and the technical processes behind them are often even less relevant to their audience’s enjoyment.

      I’ve been in this profession for around a decade now, and something I’ve noticed again and again is that you can always tell a bad developer a mile off when they’re making the kind of statements you are making. I frequently hear certain colleagues chastising users, project managers and stakeholders alike for their ignorance of technical nuances, and hurriedly excusing fundamentally bad design with meaningless jargon, it’s extremely frustrating.

      Good developers don’t deflect valid criticism with an arrogant wave of the hand and attack against the person’s lack of nerd knowledge. They try and translate the problem into an efficient technical solution, then incorporate that into future versions. That’s how all software improves through its lifecycle. Criticism blind to the codebase from both professional testers and the audience solely aimed at the ultimate experience of the end product is absolutely vital to the process, it’s not something to be derided or bemoaned. Even the best developers frequently fail to discern the impact of missing or quirky functionality because they’ve been immersed in it for weeks, months or years on end and subconsciously work around it. It often takes a fresh set of technologically unbiased eyes to highlight the usability flaws that have been sat right under all of our noses.

      I can only presume from your argument that you are a developer, or at least believe you are more familiar with the game development process than you deem any of the RPS guys to be, and you clearly have a strong opinion on games journalism. So instead of just whining about it, why not show us all how it should be done? After all, that’s precisely what you’re suggesting writers do in reverse.

      I’m not saying you should necessarily go to the effort of starting an entire gaming blog, but how about reviewing a game for us with the level of information and informative style you believe would be superior, then we can all offer you our useless and ill-informed opinions on how worthwhile it is. You can do that right here, right now. What is stopping you?

      On a lighter note:

      @ GCU Speak Softly – Hah! I love the name… I’m reading through Excession at the moment. There’s some excellent ship names in there so far, they’ve made me laugh more than they were probably intended to.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I may be missing something here… what’s the deal with “contribution”? Are you somehow insinuating that you are contributing to something, whereas we, readers, aren’t? I don’t have necessarily a problem with that. Can be true for some of us, assuming you actually are contributing to something.

      The problem is what exactly you think you are contributing to? Is there a cause you adhered to that needs contribution? Or is it that you write a book and somehow you feel like you contributed to… to… what is it exactly?

      I agree on all other accounts. Just this contribution thing… were you by any chance climbing to a high horse? Come down!

    • Nick says:

      Mario.. I think it was quite obvious that ‘contribution’ refered to ‘in the sphere of games journalism’

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Crossed my mind. But then if every time someone is on the frame of mind of criticizing Jim or any one else of the crew, they’ll get in return a “I do this, what have you done lately”…

      Granted, it’s the first time I hear him or anyone from RPS coming with this type of trash talk. Must be the Sunday thing. It however was said. And if Jim thinks he’s beyond criticism simply because he’s a game journalist, all these years haven’t taught him anything.

    • AndrewC says:

      What is it you are claiming Jim is claiming again? I’m terribly confused.

    • Dreamhacker says:

      Frankly, there’s so much BS being flung around here it’s starting to feel like Animal Farm.

      1. No, all game journos should not be game devs, because everyone benefits from getting wide variety of different perspectives on gaming. I want to see read artists thoughts on games, bloggers thoughts on games, architects thoughts on games, lawyers thoughts on games, hobo’s thoughts on games, everyone’s thoughts on games. If all game coverage was being written by game devs, we would all be bored to death. Not only are they probably very inexperienced writers (writing C++ != writing game news articles) but think of the narrow field of topics: Just how much “Direct X vs OpenGL” can you read before you get tired of the game dev perspective?

      2. Objective journalism is a utopia. Subjective journalism makes for some very enjoyable reading. And if you really think about it, few (if any) things are ever objective. Especially human made things.

      3. De gustibus non est disputandum. Taste should not be disputed. Although games journalists may be more knowledgeable in games, it is not their job to tell you what you should think about games. That’s up to you yourself. The idea that free will doesn’t exist is pseudo-religious BS. What you should look for in games journalism is opinions tangential to your own. If games journo A seems to like the same games that you like, chances are higher (but not 100%) that the new game X that A writes about will also be enjoyable to you.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “And if Jim thinks he’s beyond criticism simply because he’s a game journalist, all these years haven’t taught him anything.”

      Haha. Yes, *that* is what I think.

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      @Dreamhacker

      “3. De gustibus non est disputandum. Taste should not be disputed. Although games journalists may be more knowledgeable in games, it is not their job to tell you what you should think about games. That’s up to you yourself. The idea that free will doesn’t exist is pseudo-religious BS. What you should look for in games journalism is opinions tangential to your own. If games journo A seems to like the same games that you like, chances are higher (but not 100%) that the new game X that A writes about will also be enjoyable to you.”

      +1

      Yes yes yes! I wish more people would think like you.

    • adamruch says:

      Hi everyone. Thought I’d actually stick my beak in this conversation this time, since Dan Cook’s Blunt Critique cites my article (that RPS featured last week on the Sunday papers) as an example of what’s wrong with criticism in his opinion.

      Some good points have already been raised here, but I’d suggest a couple more that will help everyone communicate a bit more clearly with one another:

      Criticism (especially when an academic says it) is not the same thing as reviews. A review is consumer information, should I buy it or not kind of assessment. Thus, reviews are generally for people who haven’t played the games yet. Criticism is different because its main goal is to help the audience understand something new about the game. That generally assumes the reader of the critique will have already played it, and is looking for a new perspective or something. Perhaps you want to know if Assassin’s Creed was making all that stuff about the Medici family up, or you’d like to know more about Duke Nukem and sexism. That sort of thing.

      Following from that, its very very rare that anyone writes specifically for the developer/artist. No one goes around telling artists in other media what they should do, not in a serious sense.

      Anyway, I’ve written my own response to Dan’s criticism of my criticism. It might be of interest to those of you who participated in the fairly lively debate about my piece on Perspective last week too. A Riposte to Blunt Criticism

    • Eight Rooks says:

      “Taste should not be disputed. Although games journalists may be more knowledgeable in games, it is not their job to tell you what you should think about games

      Theoretically no, but in practice I look to reviews to challenge my taste all the time. People choose to like stuff for poorly thought-out reasons all the time. Trufax. Sometimes they carry on like that quite happily. Sometimes, for whatever reason, they think a bit harder about why they watch so much of a certain director or play a certain game incessantly, and realise they’re motivated by fairly shallow or even downright stupid reasons that suddenly don’t seem quite so compelling any more.

      I mean, I’ve done this multiple times – stopped liking the Tokyo Highway Battle games after Edge savaged them, thinking ‘You know, they’re right: this is rubbish. I really am playing these because they has cars wot go fast. If I’m honest, I wasn’t really having fun with them at all: I just told myself I was because they were, like, cool and Japanese and junk.’ Stopped reading James Clavell novels religiously after someone pointed out on an internet forum how embarassing his fetish for Orientalism gets in places. And so on, and so on. It’s not as if I always change my mind when someone tells me I ought to, either – I still like much of Michael Bay’s output (you heard me. Non-ironically, too) despite the insults I got when I wrote Transformers 2 a good review. Although conversely, when I write reviews for anything, if anyone comments on them I do read what they think about what I said, to see if I really feel I got it ‘right’.

      Critics can’t make you do anything. They can’t make you stop watching something or playing something or what have you. They can point out things you didn’t or wouldn’t previously consider that might well have you thinking you ought to stop. So it might not be in their job description to explicitly say you should be thinking the same way they do, but as far as I’m concerned if someone tells me Wot They Think and I feel differently, I’ve got an obligation to ask myself why – and sometimes I can actually end up changing my mind as a result.

    • Josh W says:

      I’d actually quite like to hear about the relationships between resources and match flow; it’s really about experience, and digging a little bit into that experience to see how it works.

      And while I wouldn’t be interested in deciding about whether base building fits in the tech tree “category” I would be interested at looking at how tech trees and base building relate to each other, how they effect the rhythm, the feeling of development, the experience of sitting down going against someone and the choices you have available to you.

      I don’t care how you set up your categories, but I am interested in what you find out while exploring them. I know Starcraft players blew my mind when they started using tech buildings for walls. I was like “wait, no, you have defensive buildings to do that, that are supposed to protect your main buildings.” It was then I realised that in starcraft every bit of firing is a fight between two units, and tech buildings just have a lot of health and no weapons, so you might as well use them to protect the turrets from short ranged or melee weapons. They’re not just tech tree bits, they fill up space.

      I’m not going to speculate about what RPS is really about, but I can tell you why I like it.

      I like it because it focuses first and foremost on what it’s like to play a game, to enjoy it, to dislike it, to get frustrated in a good way or breeze through it like it’s a zoo when none of the animals come out.

      But in addition to a focus on people sitting down experiencing games, there’s a bit of looking behind the curtain, a self awareness in what it’s like to play those games, and the mechanics that produce that.

      I like RPS because “it” enjoys reaching for being clever, but is also happy to enjoy silly and stupid stuff.

      Going for clever without being elitist, going for the experience of play with awareness and knowledge of the man behind the curtain.

      That’s a good thing. And it’s good both for players of games and developers of games.

      Because games designers can get caught up in how well they implemented something, they can get caught up in how much they avoided their own personal traps or pushed ahead common practice, without getting a real eye for what it’s like coming at the game as an end user, as a player invested in what it will be like to play, to explore, to be challenged by, rather than simply being satisfied that it has a better framerate, less people talking behind glass, more enemy diversity or whatever.

      All of those might be good in a game, but it’s the end result that counts.

      And gamers can benefit from people looking into why they feel a game makes them feel a certain way, because that kind of a qualified personal perspective means that you can recognise quickly in what ways you will agree with it and disagree with it, it also allows you to have greater self awareness in your own game play, and that’s always a good thing right?

      Plus in games, unlike most creative things (apart from mystery novels, and maybe a few other things) enjoying the game and understanding the game are two things that go very closely together!

      I know I like to get deeper into the background of games I like, consider how they work, even how they are made. Not because I have ambitions of making them, just cos it’s interesting, an extension of my existing interest.

      I don’t know if you started out planning to do that, RPS-oids, but I’m glad that you do.

  3. Premium User Badge

    lurkalisk says:

    The logic by which anyone might think GLaDOS to be a protagonist is bizarre, I’d say. More development makes a protagonist not.

    Not to mention the writer of that article seemed… Oblivious to a great portion of videogame history. But what I do I know? Mere observation speculation.

    • JuJuCam says:

      I haven’t read the article completely so perhaps I shouldn’t comment, but it seems sound to me. It only requires one to surrender their notion of what a protagonist in a game is and what right they have to be called a protagonist. Certainly literature is full of shell characters showing us through another person’s story, most notable example I can think of from the top of my head is Dr Watson’s recordings of one Sherlock Holmes. Nobody is going to claim Watson is the primary character in those stories, and yet quite a lot of the time he doesn’t even know where the hero is at the moment.

    • Ghost of Grey Cap says:

      When I hear protagonist, I tend to equate the word with “main character” (in a game, that would often be the player). If you look it up, you’ll probably also get a reference to the ‘relatable’ character or the character the audience should empathize with.

      Glados is certainly the most interesting character, and if Portal were a novel, it would make sense to make her the protagonist. I think she works as the protagonist in terms of the narrative, is what I’m trying to say. Just not in gameplay terms?

    • Premium User Badge

      lurkalisk says:

      Hmm… I suppose it does depend a great deal on whether or not one thinks videogame narrative to work just like that of a book or film. Essentially, whether or not game narrative is unique, is the question.

  4. James G says:

    Ah, gamer brain. Most noticeable with the ‘Tetris effect’ but I’ve had it with more ‘complicated’ games as well, including Portal 2. Its a broad topic though, some of which is quite clearly not exclusive to gaming, as anyone who has ever suffered an earworm will attest.

    But I remember as a child, sat in the car, playing games of lemmings on the scenery as it shot by. Mostly it was concious, but even now I still suddenly realise that I have hoards of imaginary bashers knocking their way through tree trunks. More recently, after playing Just Cause 2, I’d not only find myself wanting to grapple on to distant structures, but there’s be a physical component of that, oddly enough in my right hand, rather than the left which would be used to deploy the grapple in game.

    But its a complicated thing, from seeing the blocks dance in front of your eyes,* to the twitches of the hand to try and activate a function (damnit, if only real life had a quicksave feature), to the changes of logic and thought processes that change the way you perceive the world. I find it occurs most frequently when in that idle, half dreaming state either when about to drop off, or when nothing of import is happening.

    * Incidentally, not limited to games. I’ve had similar experience when sat on the microscope all day pulling tetrads (separating the products of meiosis so that you can easily determine all four offspring of yeast mating). This, coupled with the similarity of the names, often had me humming korobeiniki when at the microscope.

    • Icarus says:

      Now I looked up Korobeiniki on Youtube, and found a Red Army song. Mind = blown. I thought the music from Tetris was just a random tune they made up. I am now enlightened.

    • James G says:

      Talking about Korobeiniki this might be worth a link: link to youtube.com

      History of the Soviet union, to the tune of Korobeiniki, explored through the perspective of tetris.

    • JuJuCam says:

      I get a really strong case of this after playing a great deal of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The whole world just transforms into a series of lines. Good thing I wasn’t and actual skater or I might’ve been tempted to try something.

      Less strong but perhaps more worrying is hearing a song from the Burnout soundtrack while I’m driving…

    • Giant, fussy whingebag says:

      These days, I think of it as the ‘Chime’ effect, as that’s the game that gives me the strongest such sensations. When I read after playing Chime, I keep seeing blocks fitting into the gaps between paragraphs and such. Very distracting.

      I think Jim’s spot on about the neural plasticity thing. When you play a game, you are teaching yourself a new and complex task. Your brain adapts to perform the task better, which is why practice makes you better. When you stop playing, you still perceive the world in terms of the game because your brain has changed. That said, I have nothing to back up my assertions, but it makes a nice story.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Say James… would you happen to have any videos of yeast mating?
      You know, for a friend of mine.

    • robster says:

      @James G
      I experience gamer brain when idle as well; almost as if trying to make the boring moments as interesting as the games I play.
      @Giant, fussy whingebag
      Learning a new and complex task certainly makes your brain adapt. Whether this adaptation leads to a change in world perception in terms of the game is worth looking into, as Griffiths et al seem to be doing.
      It’s a shame how many people experience these phenomena before they’re studied. Now people can actually play games while idle (on bus trips or subways) and don’t need to imagine it. At this rate, the immersion in technology will be such an integral part of our lives and the absence of gamer brain will seem disorienting. That’s pure speculation, by the way.

    • Koozer says:

      Whenever I walking across square cracked paving, I always have the fleeting instinct to avoid them, or not stand on them for more than a second.

  5. Mr Chug says:

    The Boston Globe piece seems suddenly relevant to me- I spent most of last night wrestling with a headache and waiting for painkillers to kick in, but my half-asleep lucid state combined with an evening playing Brink meant that while half my mind was trying to focus on the physical world and distracting myself long enough to sleep, the other half had incorporated the headache into a mental game of Brink and was playing a disjointed version of the parkour challenge which it believed would get rid of the ache if completed. It was extremely surreal and very frustrating, but trying to explain it to my non-gamer girlfriend this morning just got me a confused stare, since she doesn’t have any similar immersive experience to tie into her dreams.

    • Stijn says:

      I remember when I was having trouble falling asleep after an evening of intense Starcraft 2 and was, in my state of half-sleep, somehow convinced that the key to falling asleep was spreading creep. Usually takes me a good bit of effort to snap out of stuff like that, but at least it’s funny in hindsight.

      I’ve more or less come to expect that especially after playing a new game intensely for the first time, my brain will be occupied with it on a subconscious level for a while, mostly apparent through my dreams the night after. I’ll be almost feverishly dreaming about blowing people up with my panzerfaust after playing Wolfenstein: ET, macro’ing after playing Starcraft 2, and so on. On the one hand it’s probably not all that healthy, on the other hand I can imagine the same would happen had I been spending a whole evening reading a particularly evocative novel or even intensely playing a board game. As long as it doesn’t spill over into daily life it’s not too much of a hassle.

  6. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    Why are people calling Danc an engineer? Someone explain this.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Someone over in the comment thread basically picks up the key metaphor reason – it’s an analytical mechanics-based view dismissing anything which *isn’t* about an analytical mechanics-based view (as in, improving it). The example someone uses is the Engineer dismissing any humanities writing which doesn’t tell them how to make a better bridge.

      That part of his position is fine, if all you care about is making better bridges.

      KG

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Okay.

      You know, I was asking because for a second I thought the word engineer became some sort of derogatory comment in an ongoing culture war I wasn’t aware of, since it’s not exactly the word I would use to describe Dan Cook’s background.

  7. LazyGit says:

    Wow to the FITC video.

    Also, could have done with some pics to go alongside the indie jam thing.

  8. BigJonno says:

    The comparison of journalists to the audience of Dancing with the Stars is fatally flawed. It’s trying to compare a passive audience to an involved participant and an involved participant to a producer of content. A more accurate comparison would be choreographer – game developer, dancer – game player and DwtS audience – some weirdo who watches Bad Influence and Games Master without ever playing games.

    A games writer may not have technical knowledge of game development, but they can still intimately engage with games and develop a deep understanding of them. The majority of their audience are going to be consumers of games, rather than producers, so writing from that perspective is no bad thing.

    What I find considerably more worthy of criticism is the amount of paid journalists who don’t seem to have any real knowledge or understanding of games on more than a superficial level. I don’t need to be a programmer to tell you why Crush the Castle is infinitely superior to Angry Birds, despite being almost identical. Unfortunately, it seems like there are plenty of people earning money to write about games who couldn’t manage it.

    This is even before getting to journalists who have the wider cultural knowledge required of a critic. The obligatory music bit at the end of The Sunday Papers may be a running joke, but at least it demonstrates that the RPS crew know about things other than games. I don’t expect every journalist to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the arts, I just want them to show that they know about something that isn’t games.

    The depressing bit is the number of people who see nothing wrong with the current state of games writing. I can deal with the money men wanting lots of hits to bring up that ad revenue and the big publishers being happy with journalists who are essentially free PR people; that’s life. It’s speaking to aspiring writers who are quite content with becoming another cog in the game-pimping machine, that’s what gets me. It’s not like there isn’t great games writing available either, I’d just rather see it in mainstream publication rather than being tucked away in writer’s personal blogs and side projects.

    • DrGonzo says:

      But crush the castle isn’t better than angry birds. It may be a clone, but it’s a bloody good one.

    • BigJonno says:

      You’re entitled to your opinion, however in my experience Crush the Castle works on an intuitive level, with objects interacting pretty much how one would expect them to, while Angry Birds is somewhat arbitrary, forcing the player to rely on luck more than judgement.

    • Ghost of Grey Cap says:

      “A games writer may not have technical knowledge of game development, but they can still intimately engage with games and develop a deep understanding of them. The majority of their audience are going to be consumers of games, rather than producers, so writing from that perspective is no bad thing.”

      My thought exactly. Reading the Lost Garden article was a confusing experience to me, because I play pc games but will never make a pc game. RPS and to a lesser extent The Escapist cater to my needs just fine (since I don’t treally need to know why a particular mechanic works, just that the game is enjoyable or gripping).

  9. faelnor says:

    That MK12 video is nice but nowhere as good as this.

  10. Skystrider says:

    Shameless promotion: Just a quick note to say that The Epic Witcher 2 Countdown Competition at GOG is now over, and was a major success. You can see the results here:

    link to gog.com

    /Shameless promotion ends.

    Meanwhile, the Jury sends their regards to you folk here at RPS. We may have something for one or two of you this coming week. Be sure to look out in the commentary threads concerning The Witcher 2 this Tuesday. ;)

  11. GoliathBro says:

    Holy fucking shit, I’ve been experiencing game transfer phenomena for years and only just now made the conscious realization.

    If I see a box or something on the ground, I’d always wonder what loot it might contain for a split second before jumping back to reality, or for a very brief period of time look at a clearly unreachable location and believe that I could easily get there with a double jump. I also constantly superimpose locations from World of Warcraft over similar real life places.

    This doesn’t sound healthy. :/

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      When something annoys me, I tend to ‘see’ a Barrett M50 going off at whoever is annoying me, in my head. I am pretty sure it has the sound effect right as well. Thats about all though.

  12. Lewie Procter says:

    People who have never worked as a game journalist shouldn’t write about games journalism.

    • AndrewC says:

      Hahaha games journalists don’t work! amirite amirite? Huh? Guys?

    • Rii says:

      People who have never worked as a game developer shouldn’t write about games.

    • Rosti says:

      I’m still waiting for some more new new games journalism journalism – the games journalism journalism tag isn’t enough for my hunger.

    • Mr.Nice says:

      @Rii
      Shouldn’t that read, “People who have never worked as a game developer shouldn’t write about game development“?

    • Rii says:

      Probably; I sacrificed strict analogical accuracy for clarity and poignance. I trust the point made it across.

    • Kaira- says:

      People who have never worshipped imaginary entities shouldn’t talk about religions.

    • Coins says:

      People who’ve never programmed an OS shouldn’t use a computer.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Rii: Not really, because writing about games development is clearly not the same as writing about games.

    • CMaster says:

      Lewie’s still talking nonsense though (although I feel that may be deliberate). It’s the same kind of fallacy as “don’t criticise if you can’t do better”.
      You shouldn’t pretend to know what being a game journalist is like if you haven’t done it, but you can certainly discuss where you think games journalism succeeds or fails, much in the same way as a game journalist would about a game.

    • Rii says:

      Disregarding the fact that games journalists often write about game development, the relationship is the same. Both the engineer with respect to games journalism, and games critics with respect to games, write with no authority save that which is conferred by having experienced and ruminated upon numerous instances of such. And even if the analogy *was* entirely faulty, the argument would remain: I’ll write about whatever the fuck I like, fuck you.

      That last was a mere rhetorical flourish you understand, not directed at anyone. =)

    • Lewie Procter says:

      “Lewie’s still talking nonsense though. It’s the same kind of fallacy as “don’t criticise if you can’t do better”

      Correction “Lewie needs to make his sarcasm more blatant.”

    • CMaster says:

      @Lewie
      I actually just edited in a line expressing that I thought (and hoped) it was sarcasm, realizing that had got lost in the original post somewhere. That said, just because you were talking nonsense ironically, doesn’t mean it still isn’t nonsense (just deliberately so)

    • AndrewC says:

      There’s an awful lot of nonsense being written here. Let me please write for the whole sub thread:

      /irony

      Good, so now we’re all clear that from now on we’re writing what we mean, I should like to say that games journalists touch ducks.

    • Lambchops says:

      People who have never had sex shouldn’t watch pornography.

      Did I do it right?

    • Soon says:

      Only ironsmiths should try and be ironic.

    • Nick says:

      People who are terrible at writing and have no experience in the field shouldn’t act like games journalists on the internet.

    • sinister agent says:

      People who’ve never had their homes rocketed should not talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    • Nick says:

      people in grass houses shouldn’t stow thrones.

  13. JackShandy says:

    “The Story Sucks” uses nothing but blank slate characters as his examples for why game characters are bad. Jack from Bioshock isn’t an interesting character? You may as well blame the cameraman for not being a good actor.

    Examining the static nature of faceless PC’s could be really interesting, but poking holes in faceless characters and slapping “THIS SUCKS” over it doesn’t do it.

    • Urthman says:

      The writer of that Escapist article is looking for something completely different from what I want from games and game stories. I selfishly hope that game developers ignore that line of thinking completely.

    • Arglebargle says:

      “The Story Sucks” sucks. The whole idea that ’emotional gratification’ is what makes the writing good, is laughable. Twilight delivers emotional gratification to its tweener target audience, but it does not mean that the characters or writing is any good. It can easily exist outside of any particular skill as a writer. Ditto for games.

    • BooleanBob says:

      His pseudish namedrop of Waiting for Godot is a bit hopeless too, considering that all of the principle characters (with perhaps – perhaps – Vladimir) very noticeably change from act to act, from day to day, even from instant to instant (by some interpretations, it is a work examining the impossibility of sustained character/selfdom).

      So, yeah. That’s unfortunate.

  14. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    The City 17 soundscape is great, I love well crafted audio in a game.

    It received a lot of hate for its shoddy gameplay but Kane&Lynch2 had excellent audio. I found a free program which allowed me to rip the audio files from their cabinet files and there’s a wealth of urban audio stuff in there along with some dark ambience themes. I especially like the falling rain + city life ones, perfect for falling asleep :)

    • Oak says:

      It really was excellent, though deeply unpleasant. Some levels sound like a hangover feels.

    • lasting damage says:

      not so great for falling asleep to, but I love this for a background soundtrack to whatever link to youarelistening.to

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      @Oak

      Agreed, the torture level is one of the most disturbing things I’ve played. Not really because of what you see but more because of what you hear, especially during the loading of that level, hearing Xiu get rapped and murdered is not very pleasant.

      @lasting damage

      Wow great find! Thanks very much!

    • strange headache says:

      @lastin damage: I just logged in to say how fucking awesome your link is. Thanks!

  15. Dreamhacker says:

    “(though Scharl noted that a few indie Dreamcast games were written in pure assembly language)”

    That made me temporarily blind. I still cannot get to grips with how Chris Sawyer made Roller Coaster Tycoon using almost only Assembly, let alone how anyone can make 3D Dreamcast games with it! Madness!

  16. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    I am genuinely suprised that Metro 2033 was not mentioned in the Escapist’s article.

  17. bokeh says:

    This may have already been linked on RPS, but Podcast 17 did a 2hr interview with Valve’s composer Mike Morasky last week. They asked some good questions & it’s a great insight into Valve’s inner workings.

    link to podcast17.com

    • tomeoftom says:

      Wow, thanks for this!

    • Donjonson says:

      Cool. Mike Morasky has that nervous, warbling, “I don’t want to talk but I have to and can’t leave so I’ll soldier on through” voice that we all know and love.

  18. vanarbulax says:

    The soundscape for city 17 is awesome. I was trying to write the opening in IF (just to learn Inform 7 mainly) and spent a lot of time wandering around. The playground always intrigued me, you can hear sounds which are not in the “game”, yet it doesn’t seem to impinge too much on the player’s attention (i.e. you don’t go to investigate). There’s so much going on in that game.

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      Had no idea what Inform 7 was but Googled it, very interesting stuff!

      I recommend watching the screencast for people who also don’t know what this is (just skipskip through until he writes and compiles some sentences), link to inform7.com

  19. GenBanks says:

    I love Sunday Papers posts, so much interesting stuff! I don’t know how I got by without RPS before now. You guys are awesome, please carry on forever.

  20. CMaster says:

    I’m intrigued that the Brendon Chung article is exactly the same as the one on his blog, but with a couple of screenshots added. I like the idea though. I’d like to see more “engineer ’em ups” in the world. I’ve got the beginnings of a design doc for a game that “does to being a fireman what the FPS does to being a soldier (ie, takes the interesting, heroic bits and makes that the game) sat on my HDD. Because you know, combat and shooting things is exciting, but something that most of us would never do, or even want to do. But there are so many other things in the world and imagination that are exciting but aren’t combat, and aren’t explored.

    • Lambchops says:

      i hope Brendon does decide to ruminate further on the game without guns path. Based on the output of Blendo Games so far I’m sure they could come up with somethign utterly charming and brilliant.

  21. ALJA says:

    First time I read every link on Sunday papers. Nice selection Mr Rossignol

  22. Premium User Badge

    Gassalasca says:

    That piece by Rob Horning is utterly awesome. Probably the best bit on today’s platter.

  23. fupjack says:

    Speaking of soundscapes like that City 17 one: the Stalker TV show site at http://kinostalker.com uses a background loop of various audio cues from Stalker.

    Leave that site open in a tab and go about your daily business; everything will be a little bit more… threatening.

  24. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Regarding the Portal 2 article:

    Why, then, do I think the story is so great? For one, while you aren’t the protagonist, you have agency. You’re the person who drives the story forward. The actions you take, not only in solving puzzles but also in moving some of the game elements such as Wheatley and turrets around, are central to the story. In an unusual approach for videogames, Portal 2 explicitly acknowledges your agency.

    Oh. Wow. Unusual he says? He just described the, hmm, majority of games out there.

    The NPC characterizations are fabulous, aided and abetted by the hands-down best voice acting I’ve ever heard in a videogame.

    Ah, ok. This could explain it. He hasn’t played many games, or has a short memory, or in his eagerness to please his self indulged desire to write about a game he likes, he forgets to constrain himself and develops selective memory (along with making no sense).

    He didn’t play Bioshock, for instance. Or, say Mass Effect, or Planescape: Torment, or Fullthrottle, or Grim Fandango. I can understand that could be a few points of contention. Like “No! Portal 2 has it better!” followed by “You silly person, Bioshock beats them all!”. But, hands down? Really?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      That said, The “lemon rant” is bound to become a classic in computer gaming history. And well deserved too. I’ll give you that

    • Lilliput King says:

      Who was well voiced in Planescape? I guess Morte. Not really much material to go on there though.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      “He hasn’t played many games, or has a short memory, or in his eagerness to please his self indulged desire to write about a game he likes, he forgets to constrain himself and develops selective memory”

      Or perhaps – long shot, but bear with me here – the guy who wrote the article is one of those strange little people who found the jokes funny, didn’t mind Steven Merchant’s accent and (goodness) actually prefers Portal 2’s voiceovers to all those other games you mentioned.

      In particular most of Mass Effect’s voice work is average at best – partly because they’re such godawful characters. Anyone would struggle to effectively voice a nonentity like Liara. But manShep is so tediously bland it was part of the reason I loved ME2 so much: I still remember playing Tali’s loyalty mission and thinking ‘Holy Christ, when did this guy learn to emote?’

      Planescape Torment’s voices are actually pretty good, but not quite up to the quality of the writing, and as was said there’s not very much of them.

    • Stephen Granade says:

      Ah, ok. This could explain it. He hasn’t played many games, or has a short memory, or in his eagerness to please his self indulged desire to write about a game he likes, he forgets to constrain himself and develops selective memory (along with making no sense).

      I know you weren’t that pleased with the game, but is it inconceivable that I could have played all the games in your checklist and still found Portal 2‘s voice acting to be the best? Because, surprise, I have! My Grim Fandango review from long ago is still on the web, and a few seconds of Googling turns up mention of my playing Bioshock and Planescape Torment. You’ll have to take my word on Full Throttle and Mass Effect, I suppose.

    • DeepSleeper says:

      Holy crap, Stephen Granade, everybody.

      I really enjoyed “Losing Your Grip”, when I went through my IF phase a few years back.

      … Uh, derail over, just wanted to say that.

    • Kaira- says:

      There seems to be something to be said.
      There is no such thing as “the best”. Not objectively at opinions, at least.

    • Stephen Granade says:

      Thanks, DeepSleeper!

  25. HexagonalBolts says:

    Jim, your development site is fantastically interesting, there are some great ideas buzzing around there. I hope to hear more about it / be given a clearer idea of what the games are about, preferably in the form of videos. Please make use of shameless self-promotion!

  26. Temple to Tei says:

    On brain plasticity.
    About 10 years ago, I remember discovering depression actually causes lesions on the brain .
    Unsurprisingly it made me depressed.
    (someone feel free to disabuse me of that notion and cheer up my day)

    Just throwing this out there -Hayley Williams from Paramore (yeah, I know) singing in the street
    Starts about 30 seconds in, only runs for a couple of minutes

    This and her vocals on Airplanes with BOB are both excellent. Cannot find anything else of hers I like though.

    • Josh W says:

      Don’t worry about leisons as if that’s the end, you’ve got a load of caretakers in your neural system called Microglia that hover up dead cells if they can get to them. Plus your involved in a hobby that’s really good for keeping your neural structure flexible.

  27. Basilicus says:

    Chell’s the protagonist.

    Sanjuro Kuwabatake doesn’t change throughout the course of Yojimbo. Does that mean he’s not the protagonist?

    Western storytelling’s biggest flaw is its near-constant obsession with character progression. Character arcs aren’t a bad thing in any way, but they’re hardly required in every single damn story we tell.

  28. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Regarding the Game Transfer Phenomenon thing, I had an interesting experience a few years back after an extensive session of STALKER.

    It was a bright, Autumnal day and I decided to nip into the city to pick up a few bits and bobs. I ended up purchasing pies, sausages and loads of elastoplast and over the counter pharmaceuticals.

    The one positive and sensible outcome I guess was that I now have an exceedingly well stocked medicine cabinet, and it’s a habit I’ve kept up.

    Another time was when I was about twelve and I was stuck in this hotel in Devon my family owned for the whole of one summer holiday. With nothing else to do, I played chess solidly with my grandfather for a couple of days. Subsequently, whilst wandering around between my bedroom and the restaurant, I ended up using rook moves to traverse the corridor, and kept mentally rearranging people in the hotel according to chess moves.

    I was still playing it in my head as I dozed off that night, and kept dreaming about it too.

    Didn’t help my game, unfortunately. :)

  29. Colonel J says:

    A lot of good Sunday reading from the weekend Guardian if you didn’t see it. SF special in the Review section:

    Authors pick their favourite novels: link to t.co Hanri Kunzru on Roadside Picnic, William Gibson & Michael Moorcock on The Stars My Destination

    Interview with China Mieville link to t.co. Interesting stuff in here on his political background I wasn’t aware of. And his hate of Lord of the Rings.

    Great voices from SF – extracts from archive interviews with JG Ballard, Arthur C Clarke, Asimov, Vonnegut, Douglas Adams link to t.co

  30. RagingLion says:

    I’m completely in agreement with the article about more games with less guns. It was exactly the thought I had mid-way through playing Portal 2 that I wanted more games like that without guns because guns aren’t what’s important to me.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I think there might actually be more games without guns than games with guns.

      Like games with swords.

    • Donjonson says:

      That doesn’t seem to be the point that RagingLion was trying to make though… maybe more games where the objective isn’t to kill or maim. There are plenty of those, just not many giganto-budget ones. Maybe my fan-ness invalidates my opinion but Portal 2 is a step in the right direction.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      We need more good, innovative games in general. If you look at Modern Warfare, even if you’re a fan of the military techno-thriller genre, there’s little to love. They went for a cheap action movie when they should’ve gone for old Tom Clancy.

      As Donjonson says, there are a ton of nonviolent PC games. Are they types of games you want to play? Maybe, maybe not. I love how Telltale’s single-handedly reviving the adventure game genre.

  31. matrices says:

    Re: Gunless games

    I’ve sometimes pondered a game idea I’ve had: cameraman in a warzone. Your job is to hide, take cover, and shoot scenes of unfolding war crimes amid rubble and ruin.

    I imagine that would be too much of a mixture of the intense and the passive to attract a substantive following, though.

    • Rii says:

      Wait, wait … I’m getting a vague recollection of just such a game on PC oh, a decade or so back. I think it was French. And possibly an RTS. Or at least 3D-isometric. There was a helicopter with a camera crew.

      More I cannot say.

    • Matt says:

      There was a Playstation 2 horror game called ‘Michigan: Report From Hell’ that put you in the shoes of a cameraman. Never played it myself, but it got mixed reviews.