The Sunday Papers

Sundays. Sundays are for thinking about the future. No, not your future of buying a dog or getting a divorce, The Future. Not familiar with the concept? Well I’d say it’s pretty well documented. I guess you haven’t been doing enough reseach. Speaking of which, let’s do some now. I’ve been checking the internet for clues, some of which I present to you here.

  • Let’s kick off with responses to the US Supreme Court’s decision to protect videogames under The First Amendment. The New York Times has Cheryl K Olson saying: “It’s Perverse, But It’s Also Pretend”, which is an argument you see on these very pages fairly regularly: “Teenage boys may be more interested in the chain saws, but there’s no evidence that this leads to violent behavior in real life. F.B.I. data shows that youth violence continues to decline; it is now at its lowest rate in years, while bullying appears to be stable or decreasing.” Then there’s this article by Sarah Jaffe, in which she questions the status of pornography, when images of violence seem to be protected. She even goes as far as to ask Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Kieron Gillen for comment. She’s serious: “It’s not that videogames are different from other media. It’s that they’re all other media, plus extra stuff on top,” says Gillen. He right, you know. (Brainy Gamer’s commentary is also good.)
  • Ah, this is lovely: Christian Donlan does a Choose Your Own Adventure retrospective for Eurogamer, in the form of a Choose Your Own Adventure: “Is it fair to classify the Choose Your Own Adventure books as games? Their creator thinks they almost certainly weren’t (I asked him), but I’m not so sure. There’s all that death and mayhem you can cause, for one thing – they present worlds of limited agency, which definitely feels very gameish. Beyond that, with each book, the unspoken objective should seem familiar to a video game audience, as well. Last as long as you can. Get the best ending. Beat M. Bison on a single 50 pence piece.”
  • While you’re at Eurogamer it’s also worth checking out Oli Welsh’s preview of Need For Speed The Run: “You need to weave constantly or use elevated train tracks for cover as you pursue the linear course, directed around each bend by walls of neon arrows, as per racing game convention. At scripted moments, control is snatched from you for a few seconds while dramatic cutaway cameras and the ubiquitous slow-motion force your appreciation of the sheer excitement of it all. It looks good, but it disrupts your rhythm, which is already having a hard enough time coping with the sluggish handling and cumbersome weaving technique. Action racing scenes like this are far from a terrible idea, but they can certainly be more entertaining.”
  • Gamasutra’s interview with Molyneux seems familiar: “I look at Fable III, and it’s hard to be completely honest without offending people; but I know, when I read in the middle of a review that said the quality just wasn’t good enough, I actually agree with those reviews. I think Lionhead can’t afford to rest on its laurels of its fans and produce low-quality stuff. We have lots of excuses, as you always do have excuses; but I don’t think that’s good enough. For consumers, it’s very simple: there’s a bright light here, and there’s an even brighter light there. They’re going to go towards the even brighter light — and why shouldn’t they? You just can’t sit on your hands and say, “Well, we know how to do it. It’s Fable, so that’s the way we do it.” You just can’t do that.”
  • Comrade Betts keeps linking me to this blog about a guy making a procedurally generated world.
  • Uh. Hmm: “Online gamers need to generate around $3 of in-game value per hour for themselves to stay entertained, according to venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.”
  • This is a few months old, but I missed it somehow: Kirk Hamilton talks to Jason Rohrer: “There aren’t so many abandoned ruins in Minecraft,” Rohrer points out, “but in Chain-World, that’s all there are. You then have the opportunity to destroy them, or continue the work that the person before you left, or just go off and do your own thing.” Great point. Imagine how much more interesting Minecraft would will be if each map generation create a world littered with ruins, rather than simply creating that fresh slate.
  • Further developments in the Langdell case…
  • Leigh Alexander on why games being stupid can be good, and how that actually means it has to be clever: “In order for unadulterated destruction and killing sprees in games to be fun, it has to be funny.” Precisely. It’s all a wider part of the Roger Rabbit Rule, which can ultimately be applied to almost any situation in life.
  • Weird, elegiac piece from Electron Dance: Stanley Kubrick Is Gone. It’s about Bill Williams.
  • John’s Rum Doings podcast is going apace at he moment, and this past week he interviewed Cory Doctorow and Alice Taylor, who are about the most interesting married couple I can think of. Worth a listen.
  • This speech by Ernest Hemingway is also worth a listen. Made me a bit teary. Poor old bastard.

Music this week is actually from the SP’s original editor Mr Gillen, too, as he suggests Portishead’s latest Kraftwerky beat-driven piece, sales of which are supporting Amnesty. It’s good!

More soon!


  1. MD says:

    Bullet points! The world (by which I mean RPS) is changing so fast.

  2. Zorganist says:

    “What kind of First Amendment would permit the government to protect children by restricting sales of that extremely violent video game only when the woman—bound, gagged, tortured, and killed—is also topless?”

    I still wonder which game these people have been playing where you torture and kill an imprisoned woman…

    • Kollega says:

      I second that question. There certainly are instances of games that could reasonably be called “murder simulators” – Manhunt, Postal – but i am about 90% sure that there is not a single mainstream game that would allow you to actually tie someone up and torture them – man, woman, coelacanth, grizzly bear, or an insectoid alien from the Kantachi nebula. This is not just blatant, baseless scaremongering: this is blatant, baseless scaremongering to the power of infinity and beyond.

    • woodsey says:

      Actually, a surprising number of the games they mention do exist, they’re just ones that they’ve gone out of their way to find that no one in their right mind wants to play, or even knows exist.

      They take the Columbine 2D shooter or RapeLay and act as if they’re in everyone’s top 5 most played.

    • Chris D says:

      I’m not sure this is as rare as we think. Evil Genius allows you to interrogate prisoners. With giant lasers. I’m not saying Evil Genius should be banned, it’s done quite tastefully, but it is there. Also wasn’t there an interrogation in a recent Modern Warfare involving broken glass in the mouth and face punching?

      The Daily Show featured a segment on this story recently. They showed scenes of what I presume were finishing moves from Mortal Kombat, in which a woman was restrained and in one case had the flesh punched off her skull and in another was grabbed by the legs and ripped in two. It was pretty shocking, shown in isolation. I’m not sure it would be a whole lot better in context.

      I’m not arguing for a wholesale ban, but we should at least be aware of what’s out there, not very far off the mainstream.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Hopkins FBI

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I think you missed the point there. What Breyer was saying (and that’s from his dissenting opinion) is that it makes no sense to have laws that censor sexual activity while disallowing laws that censor violence. And while I disagree with his dissenting opinion I think that particular statement is correct – it really makes no sense that you can sell a minor a killing simulator as long as it doesn’t show tits.

    • xelgaex says:

      It’s a man not a woman but there is a quest in WOW where you are asked to torture and kill someone. And WOW is pretty much the definition of mainstream I’d say. link to

    • Heliocentric says:

      Swat 4 allows you to restrain and torture people. Tazer in your face old lady.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      There’s a gratuitous torture scene in CODBLOPS.

      Although its not a woman. And its not sexual.

  3. sana says:

    “Imagine how much more interesting Minecraft would be if each map generation create a world littered with ruins, rather than simply creating that fresh slate.”
    Which is incidentally what’s going to happen in 1.8:
    link to

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yeah, there are a couple of mods that do it, too. link to

    • matty_gibbon says:

      You know, I’ve often thought Minecraft was an ideal candidate for a Spore-like massively singleplayer experience. Imagine if chunks of other people’s creations appeared in your generated world, all broken up into pieces or half-buried. Somehow I think that would suit Minecraft’s weird world better than a few very-not-weird huts.

    • MD says:

      “Imagine if chunks of other people’s creations appeared in your generated world, all broken up into pieces or half-buried.”

      That’s an excellent idea, I think.

      Obviously I don’t know how it would be done technically, and there are probably all sorts of ways it could go wrong, but it’d have to be worth exploring the possibility. It’s the kind of slightly crazy idea that Minecraft should (IMO) be all about.

  4. Moni says:

    Jonathan Blow did a lecture about programming and optimization. For programming types, fairly interesting and also fairly controversial. Your mileage may vary.

    link to

    • mlaskus says:

      It’s pretty basic stuff but worth watching if you are new to programming.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Great talk, a lot of things to remind oneself once in a while, thanks. But ouch, slide 24 resonates painfully with me at the moment.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      “using the right data structure”
      is usually bad!
      (Because it is premature optimization!)
      Now I use arrays of records
      for almost everything.

      I’ll watch the actual talk later, but this, as stated, is just fucking stupid. Not “controversial”, just plain wrong.
      I can do:
      foo = {}
      foo[x] = val
      lookup_val = foo[x]


      foo = []
      for a, b in foo:
          if a == x:
              lookup_val = b

      The former is the right data structure (a dictionary or map) for the lookup operation, and it’s better in every conceivable way. I wrote it in Python, it’s even worse in C++.

      I’ve seen some people take the axiom “premature optimization is the root of all evil” to mean “any old shit that runs will do”. This is one of those cases.

    • D says:

      You’re not being generous in your understanding of what he is saying. He is saying that using the hard, optimized, smart datastructure that exactly fits your problem, is almost always worse than using the easy solution.

      In your example its obvious which is the easy solution, but your “wrong” solution isn’t even smarter or more complex – its just a worse implementation of the same. His example is better (doom asset storage) and what he says is that you shouldn’t replace those 3 lines with a binary search implementation. EVEN if the binary search fits perfectly.

    • stahlwerk says:

      “The former is the right data structure (a dictionary or map) for the lookup operation, and it’s better in every conceivable way.”
      He actually goes into exactly this problem in the talk, describing him as a teenager having a peek at id’s doom source code for asset loading and arguing on an mailing list that he could’ve done it better in every conceivable way, only realising much later that every other “academically sensible” data structure than a straight array would’ve introduced massive implementation and memory overhead for an operation that was IO-bound anyway.
      It’s more about what’s worth your time as a programmer, than shaving off microseconds per frame (which most of your code isn’t even influencing).

    • Tacroy says:

      Meh. He just spent an hour and a half saying that premature optimization is the root of all evil over and over again.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Programmers waste so much time trying to use some cool programming methodology or technique. KISS is the most valuable and powerful technique there is for general use but it sadly takes many years for most to work out what simple is and there is always someone promoting and defending the opposite. Simple code is the opposite of naive code.

  5. Rich says:

    “Online gamers need to generate around $3 of in-game value per hour for themselves to stay entertained, according to venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.”

    I was going to respond with a “well he would say that” but having actually read the article (instead of jerking the old knee), I kind of agree. 1 hour play time earns you the same progress as a $3 microtransaction. You don’t feel held back for not paying actual money, nor do you feel there is absolutely nothing to be gained for putting money in here and there.

    • Starky says:

      I think $3 is actually a wild overestimate – in most F2P games I’d be more than happy with a $1 per hour conversion.
      That is if I spend 10 hours in a game I’ll earn enough to “buy” that $10 item in the game shop – that is fine by me.

    • Chris D says:

      I’m skeptical. It seems like there are too many variables for a one size fits all answer. Am I having fun in those ten hours? In which case why do I care if I’m making virtual money at all? Or is it ten hours of pure grind? In which case why am I playing at all. What am I getting for my virtual ten bucks? A new map, another character type or the ability to turn my hair blue?

      At the very least this needs some serious caveats. More likely it’s just hokum.

    • Starky says:

      Well I’m going under the assumption that the game is fun and engaging to actually play regardless, because if it isn’t I don’t give a dam what the hour per dollar rate is as I won’t be playing it, or paying for anything anyway.

  6. Paul B says:

    That Portishead track – scarily hypnotic and not at all bad (in a 1979 synth-retro way). With the money going to Amnesty (I assume), I think I’ll pick it up later. Sounds a bit like Throbbing Gristle – Hot on the heels of Love to me ( link to ), with added Portishead.

  7. tomeoftom says:

    Lucky you threw in “married” before “couple” there, otherwise Yukimi Nagano (of Little Dragon) and José González would totally prove you wrong. Also, they’re Swedish so doublepoints.

  8. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I thought there would have been something about this; —— Bill S.978, a new bill proposed in the USA, which would make it illegal under certain circumstances to share videos of copyrighted materials over the internet.

    • LionsPhil says:

      …and the implications it has for Let’s Plays, which are one of the more interesting things to happen in gaming powered by faster networking.

      I can see why publishers wouldn’t like them. You can see how bad a game is in advance in more detail than a demo (if one exists at all) or carefully funded GameSpot review. :V

      But I’d say their real value is historical capture of classics that people don’t necessarily want to spend the time on tracking down and playing themselves, e.g. System Shock 2. (The audio quality improves massively by part 11, and it’s worth putting up with because the guy is entertaining and quite good at presenting and playing the game.)

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Exactly my thought, these internet facists are starting to get seriously annoying.

    • Dominic White says:

      RPS’s own TotalBiscuit makes a large part of his living flying around and commentating on livestreamed Starcraft tournaments. I’d imagine he’d be less than happy if a scattershot, heavy-handed law made that illegal in America (where The Internet lives).

    • karry says:

      “I’d imagine he’d be less than happy”

      So no big loss then, huh ?

    • Rinox says:


    • Rii says:

      “These internet fascists….”

      And that’s all they’ve ever been. Corps talk about piracy as if it’s a moral battle they’re fighting, but it’s all bullshit. It’s always been “we’re going to plant our boot as firmly on your necks as all the influence we’ve bought in the halls of power will let us.”

    • Larington says:

      Well, I’ve bought games after seeing the first hour or so of them on lets plays, including Singularity & Metro 2033. So I’d be very frowny if they pushed through something that prevents lets plays from being made/displayed.

    • Chris D says:

      I could see some kind of logic if it’s talking about TV or movies, where a video is essentially the same thing, but sharing a video of a game is blatantly not the same thing as sharing a game and it would be a serious stretch to even pretend to justify applying it to them.

    • Patches the Hyena says:

      Totally agreed about Let’s Plays, this one made me get Demon’s Souls when I was rather afraid of trying it… so glad I did.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Oh bloody hell, reply fail.

  9. qerome says:

    You know, normally I come down firmly on the side of free speech, but in this case I am not too sure that there isn’t something to the “brain being trained for violence” angle. The effect is bound to be quite subtle, but at a high level there may well be some adaptation going on in the mind… The fact that military training simulators work is somewhat telling.

    • JB says:

      Surely the whole point of that sort of simulator IS that it works?

      That said, on its own it’s not enough. A simulator does not equal effective training. I’ve played some flight sims but I wouldn’t put me behind the controls of an aircraft. I’ve played some (quite a lot) Arma2 but I’m not convinced I’d be any sort of soldier. Maybe an ineffectual one.

    • qerome says:

      True, but still the active-participant vs passive-observer has to change the way the player is affected – training and habituation to performing actions even at an abstract level of thought seems to me like they should have a measurable effect. Yes Manhunt I am looking at you.

    • JFS says:

      I understand why you think they should, but why has no one (at least that I know of, and I bet it would generate quite some publicity) shown it yet in peer-reviewed research? The problem with psychology is that everyone thinks they have an idea of how it works, but a lot of the time that assessment is simply wrong. I don’t mean this in an offending way, I just think that political decisions can’t be made on a gut-feeling basis. Being active is by no means a prerequisite to learning, as for example the works of Bandura regarding model learning have shown.
      It is possible that you might learn more or faster if you’re active, but I’m not sure there have been quantitative comparisons (there probably have, but maybe they’re not actually well-known because they weren’t too groundbreaking), and even if yo, in the end you do also learn by simply being exposed to something or by seeing someone do it. Even by reading about someone do it, so to say, so if you’re banning video games on the grounds of them facilitating learning of violent behaviour, you have to sack TV and books that contain fighting just as well.

    • Rinox says:

      That would also imply though that, as an active participant TF2, I would feel the need to wear silly hats and gib Russian fatsoes and Frenchmen with skimasks irl. Which is only half true.

    • Jumwa says:

      I definitely share a reluctance on the issue of violence. I’d personally prefer to live in a society where violence is abhorred in all its forms without exception, and I hope we get there some day.

      However, the notion of enforcing restrictions on art and expression through law is repugnant to me.

      Can’t we all just spontaneously decide as a society that we’d rather promote art (video games and movies in particular) that revolve not around violence but more positive themes? And when we do touch upon violence it’s in a more positively impactful manner? That’d be grand.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Gut feelings are well and good and I do share them but as noted already, law should be based upon evidence not on hunch. And no-one seems to be doing that research. Proper research with control groups and everything. Unfortunately to perform such research would take a couple of Parliament’s terms – which puts it beyond the interest of all politicians. Plus half the kids would be purposely exposed to violent video games which may turn out to be perfectly safe, but the Daily Mail knows different – just like they know that muslims are terrorists and immigrants lower house prices.

    • V. Profane says:

      Even if ‘they’ could prove that “Modern Warfare 4: Glass Parking Lot” trained boys to become killers, it would raise too many awkward questions about the military-industrial complex for them to push it so much.

    • Froibo says:

      The only thing I’m willing to give to the argument is that it can trigger someone already capable of violent activity or already drawn to violent activity. But in that case, even without violent video games, some other outlet would lead to acts of violent activity anyway.

  10. Jake says:

    Need for Speed: The Run has lovely graphics but looks like it would be really irritating to play with all the QTEs. I don’t even hate QTEs all that much but it looks like they rip you away from racing which is all anyone really wants to do in a game like this surely?

    Burnout Paradise is the best arcade racer because it just lets you drive freely and with no interruptions. If Criterion aren’t making this new NFS is there any chance they will make a new Burnout? Or has EA ditched that IP?

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I love Burnout Paradise (with a passion, any racing game that can get me to play it for more than 5 minutes is awesome) but the one tiny niggle is the loss of control when you crash your car & are forced to watch the spectacular vehicle destruction. It looks nice the first few times but after a while I just want to get back to trying to finish the race or whatever not watch my lovely car impact on a wall in super slow motion (yes I know you can reduce how often it makes you watch the crashes).

  11. karry says:

    “She even goes as far as to ask Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Kieron Gillen for comment.”

    Who ? Dont you mean “ambiguously affiliated Kieron Gillen” ?

    • Sigh says:

      Well I believe that Kieron is still an editor and the title might be in the same vein as U.S. Presidents. Once you are elected president you are always called Mr. President…once you are part of the hivemind you will always be referred to as Rock Paper Shotgon’s [insert name].

    • Daiv says:

      One does not simply leave RPS.

      Forever will it dominate his destiny.

  12. Navagon says:

    The Run seems to be incredibly flawed in execution. Now if they used Mirror’s Edge as a template for the on foot sequences, instead of Dragon’s Lair…

    • Ralphomon says:

      … they’d get sued by Tim Langdell?

    • Navagon says:

      Ha! Not anymore. He’s got enough on his plate trying to pick up his metaphorical teeth up off the floor.

  13. phenom_x8 says:

    Do you fells proud with our main gaming pointer device (a.k.a mouse)? If you keep insisting that mouse are way much better than any gaming device owned by console toys today, than you have to read this article about the history of our lovely gaming device here link to

    • Rinox says:

      I don’t think anyone who’s not blind will argue that a mouse is better than a gamepad or joystick at everything. It all depends on the game.

  14. povu says:

    Hey guys, we’re working on a new Fable game, Fable 3, and it’s going to be the BEST GAME EVAR! ……… Okay so I see people didn’t like it, I totally agree with those bad reviews! Man, it really wasn’t very good was it? Well don’t worry, we’re now working on Fable 4 which will be so much better, it’s going to be the BEST GAME EVAR!

    • Daiv says:

      That beats the Duke Nukem Forever attitude, though.

      We’re working on a new Duke Nukem game! It’ll be the BEST GAME EVAR!
      You don’t like it? Well you suck and I’m going to stamp you in the face. Forever.

  15. Jimbo says:

    Molyneux’s “This is going to be our best game ever!” (few months later) “That game we just made kind of sucked!” routine is long past tiresome.

    Lionhead seriously need to consider some crop-rotation, because the Fable franchise is diminishing fast in terms of quality. I don’t think the franchise was ever that great to begin with, but it at least used to be fairly competent at what it was trying to do. Fable 3 was chock full of rookie game design mistakes which should have been immediately obvious to everybody involved with that game. This wasn’t their first walk in the park and they shouldn’t have needed reviews to point these mistakes out to them. It kinda reeked of a team that was just bored of making these games all the time, and didn’t have the enthusiasm required to not just sit back and rely on the brand to sell the game.

    • qerome says:

      It looks like the typical ‘unnoticed wastage’ to me: big game teams always suffer from a certain amount of attrition, and because the genesis and evolution of ideas is usually poorly tracked many teams have only a vague idea where their “quality” is really coming from, and chunks of it usually end up walking out the door without people realising it.

      But then, the Fable series has always been flawed from a gameplay point of view – most of the underlying mechanics are just fluff, and the game goes long on variety and polish, and short on tightness and focus, relying on story to pull it through.

      All being equal though, I quite like Molyneux – he has charisma, ideas and enough guts to stand up for his stuff and acknowledge it if things are missing. Correcting a game team when they’re going the wrong way is not easy, people tend to get blinded to flaws as they ride their particular hobby horses :) It’s not surprising that it comes out after the fact, although they should really keep shtum and take the lessons forward to nr.4.

    • Burning Man says:

      I really don’t get all the hate for Fable 3. I thought it was a decently fun game. It lacked several obvious elements, like a sensible, corporeal antagonist, a leveling system that allowed me to pick what I wanted when I wanted it, a less GUI-ed GUI and a ‘win game’ mechanic that didn’t involve me leaving my PC/Console on while I slept. The grinding to level up weapons was irritating, but fairly fun, because the combat mechanics were so simple and silly. And, as always, I enjoy the fact that it encourages you to just wander around and do random stuff, act stupid and have fun.

      So, why the hate?

    • Jimbo says:

      The half a dozen reasons you just gave were enough. I didn’t exactly hate it either, it was mostly just bland nothingness.

      I can’t believe they missed the whole ‘leave your console on overnight’ thing though (which I also did), or believed that was ok game design. That and the whole ‘Days to Go’ thing at the end were just ridiculous.

  16. Fameros says:

    Thank you for Papa’s speech. Made my day.

  17. Real Horrorshow says:

    I think people need to have to the balls to say that games should be protected even if they did warp children’s minds.

    It’s speech, so it’s protected. That should be the end of the discussion for anyone who actually takes the constitution seriously. Most people don’t, though, most especially the ones who shout the loudest about freedom.

    • Wisq says:

      If there were proof that violent games actually had a strong and undeniably negative impact on the minds of children, I would actually be in favour of laws to limit their marketing and sale to minors. (But obviously, there isn’t.)

      I don’t know how the States handles cigarettes, but here we have some pretty tight laws. No advertising, no visible shelf displays, no selling to minors, no buying on behalf of minors, and you can’t even ask what brands and types are available — you have to know your choice, the cashier can’t help you or pick for you. It’s about the tightest you can lock it down without actually making it illegal, which (as we all know) just creates a black market.

      Nobody around here tries to argue that outlawing cigarette ads or putting limits on store clerks violates free speech. The smokers are happy because they can get their smokes. Parents are happy because it reduces the odds their kids will take up the habit. And all because there are undeniable and severe negative consequences to smoking — not least the large extra burden on the health care system we all pay for.

      We also don’t object to stuff like outlawing hate speech (incitement to racism, etc.). If some form of speech is harmful enough to outweigh the benefit of freedom of speech, we’re happy to put limits or conditions on it.

      So yes, I imagine the whole First Amendment thing probably applies for a case like this in the States. I don’t necessarily agree with free speech applying to a case like this, but if that’s what it takes to fight an absurd anti-games law like this, so be it.

  18. Wulf says:

    Yay! Choose your own adventure books were always so fun. And some of them were so inventive. (The gonchong is still one of my favourite fantasy critters.)

    My favourite though was … I think it was called Starship Traveller. It captured the whole stranded starship schtick so well. Much more so than Voyager, and it generally had more modern ideas than Voyager going on, too. It also had a planet of Telvanni-like mushroom cities, that’s win.

    Someone should do that sort of thing with Doctor Who.

  19. Miidgi says:

    Thanks for linking us to tvtropes. and to think i had stuff planned this afternoon.

  20. drygear says:

    I was disappointed when the link about the future being well documented wasn’t this: link to