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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for wondering if you will ever sleep again, while cradling a steaming cup of hot drugs. Perhaps, in those grey autumn hours before the sun has managed to struggle out of its own slumberings, you will start going through the week’s writings about games. It’s been a good week for that, at least.

  • Chris Dahlen’s piece on imaginary games journalist Rachael Webster is quite the thing: “This was the one big hiccup in the project: nowhere on the site did we advertise that Rachael wasn’t a live girl. Alternate reality games are a special illusion that only works if the audience discovers the trick. The worlds they build aren’t stuck in a television screen, or cheap and obvious like the backdrops at a miniature golf course. They’re pervasive, delivering their fiction straight to your everyday world—to your email, your phone, even to spaces in the real world. They’re fiction without borders, and they can make the player feel as if, to use the most common expression, they’ve “fallen down the rabbit hole.””
  • TruePCGaming have been having a good week or so, with this feature on the work of “thinking man’s Fallout modder” Puce Moose, and this interview with Hard Reset creators Flying Wild Hog, in which Artur Maksara explains that: “I think that they don’t release demos because they are afraid. Most of the players nowadays are casuals, who play for 15 – 20 minutes a day. This is roughly how long a short demo should last. Probably they think that people will launch the demo, have some fun and then postpone the purchase. We wanted Hard Reset to be oldschool – all the oldschool games had demos, so Hard Reset also got one.”
  • Beefjack interviewed Susan Greenfield over her videogame-and-brains stuff. I am sure we’ll have more to say about this, but in the meantime: “having looked up BioShock, and discussed it with my more knowledgeable colleagues, it appears that such games do not use metaphor in the way I meant, i.e. expressing one thing in terms of another. For that, you need a conceptual framework that enables you to understand the parallels, such as the example I gave from Macbeth of the extinction of a candle as death. Books, i.e. words, can convey inner feelings: hence even with films, most people say that the book of the same story is usually better. What’s more, because the essence of a videogame is that there is ‘user input’, the user, through his actions alone, will change the outcome of a string of situations in the game in order to move the story forward: there is very little room for ‘storytelling’ in this context – only about enough to provide the setting.” Well there’s a determined misunderstanding of the one thing that Bioshock got right, eh readers? Dear oh dear.
  • Wow, everyone take a look at Steve Cook’s interviews with indie devs.
  • Extra Credits’ “The Diablo III Marketplace” on Penny Arcade.
  • VG247 have taken some time to consider the ways in which Minecraft might be changing the games industry: “In short, it filled in that abyssal canyon between playing and creating. The two are always one-in-the-same. While, say, LBP is a platformer/racer/puzzler/etc in which you can also create levels, Minecraft puts creation front-and-center. Of course, that may be changing with the arrival of dragons that sound like the end result of a night of passion between Skyrim and a bulldozer (don’t think about it), but there’s no doubting what gave the game its initial appeal.”
  • Arcadian Rhythms has been playing Tropico with a view to illustrating some stuff about UK politics, which is an interesting ambition. In the end, of course, he ends up being a monstrous dictator: “Playing Tropico is like holding a mirror to your soul. It lets you see the sort of person you would be if you were put in power, and it turns out that I would become a totalitarian prick of a dictator. When the military threaten to violently rebel, what do I do? I simply fire them and make their jobs obsolete. I deliberately don’t build schools because educated people don’t want to work in the lucrative tobacco farming, cattle herding and logging trades, and I routinely make jobs disappear in order to force people who live on my island to work miles away from where they live, or move into poor quality housing whilst the work they do keeps my country afloat and my Swiss bank account nice and fat.”
  • Scott Patterson argues that innovation has never been a cornerstone of the games industry: “Bottom line is this: innovation has never been the strong suit of the video game industry. Yes, there are probably a number of innovative game titles, both past and present, that could be noted here, but for almost every one of them a dozen clones that followed could be noted while other “innovations” were actually just clones of a previous concept themselves.” Mr Patterson’s argument is blatantly missing the point about what innovation is, what it means, and how it effects any industry, let alone games, but there we go.
  • Chris Hecker has some thoughts on the motives of developers to create free-to-play games: “…if you are making a sustainable living doing pay-up-front games, and you find those are the kinds of games you are most passionate about, but you feel the itch to try out free-to-play because some other people are getting rich doing it, then I’d take a step back and examine your motives and what makes you fulfilled as a person. VC-types look down on this kind of thinking with the awesomely cynical term “lifestyle business”, but isn’t that exactly what we want to create, a business that supports our desired lifestyle, which includes making games we’re proud of?”
  • Did you know that Irrational’s cancelled game The Lost eventually found its way to market in India?
  • Remember “crazy” game publisher Gamecock? 1up have taken some time to explore why they failed: “Gamecock was a rosy proposition, certainly, but Wilson started to feel that things weren’t working according to plan as early as, well, immediately. “The investors breached their contract literally on day one,” says Wilson. “They were supposed to give us $5 million to start, per the contract, but then told us that ‘all of their companies kept zero balance accounts’ — meaning they only put enough in to pay the must-pay bills each month.” This meant the founders lost control almost entirely. “So we were basically relegated to middle management from the start, even though it looked like it was Harry and my company.””

Music? Another Spotify link, so apologies to people who aren’t yet using it, I’ve been listening to David Lynch’s Crazy Clown Time, which is a whole lot better than you might imagine.

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Jim Rossignol

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