The Sunday Papers

Sunday mornings are for waking up to hear about a meteor. Poor old space rock, burning up in the atmosphere. All it wanted was a closer look at that big blue-green thing. Oh well. Perhaps I can distract myself from the melancholy of its demise with some writings about videogames. Yes, let’s try that.

  • Rowan Kaiser on “How Mass Effect challenged my definition of ‘RPG’“: “The big question surrounding Mass Effect in genre terms is whether it is a role-playing game or not. Unlike most games, especially every other major BioWare release, the answer isn’t obvious – it depends on how you look at genre. That’s a big concept, but it can be examined in a few different ways. I tend to think there are three main ways that people try to define the role-playing genre, which parallel the three questions described at the start of this piece: “Do you play a role in the game?” “Does the game work like other role-playing games?” And, the most complicated one, revealed by the oddity of the film grain, is, “Where does this game fit in the history of role-playing games?””
  • On making the natives playable in Colonization: “if (!isNative()) appears in CvPlayer.cpp, one of the core game’s files, 23 times. When it is put in the context of if (!isNative()){return false;} the logic of the sentiment reads like a sentence. If a given people “isNative” then the game should “return false,” that is, the system should negate a given rule set in place for all of the other peoples who have not explicitly been marked as “isNative”. What matters here is that the isNative label is used to turn off the abilities and characteristics of what it means to be a people.”
  • Amazing analysis of the medusa’s head. Here’s a sample of what to expect: “Note that a challenge based on this visual concept, wherein an enemy moves between the two viewports, would not work with anything other than the medusa head. A ground-based enemy has one dimensional movement, so it doesn’t move enough. The heads are not the only enemies which can leave the ground, but all the other flying enemies have AI, and so their unpredictable behaviour takes center stage when you fight them. Only the medusa head is sufficiently simple, variable, and clean.”
  • Meanwhile IGN asked: “When a game becomes a service, what do publishers owe their customers?
  • “Body horror” in the The Binding Of Isaac.
  • Eric Lockaby’s “Art Game Thunderdome” is worth a watch.
  • Giant Bomb summarizes the events of the fighting-game sexual harassment furore: ““This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20-years-old and the sexual harassment is part of a culture,” said competitive fighting game player Aris “Aris” Bakhtanians on a recent live stream for Capcom’s Cross Assault show, “and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.””
  • The story of the man who created Final Fantasy: “Hironobu Sakaguchi is a designer exceeded by one of his earliest creations. This rare press trip to the UK, the first in over a decade, is to promote his studio Mistwalker’s latest Nintendo Wii title, The Last Story. Later that night, at a public BAFTA interview an audience member asks him if he’s bored talking about Final Fantasy and he admits that, yes, after an afternoon being quizzed about the series by so many European journalists he is so very tired of it.”
  • A Podcast interview with Sheldon Pacotti, who was the writer on Deus Ex.
  • A private military contractor discusses the portrayal of soldiers in videogames: “My friends and I are not represented anywhere in mass media. People need to realise that their wars are not fought by the guy on the news that lost a leg and loves his flag — he was the FNG [ed: fucking new guy] that got blown up because he was incompetent, who left the fight before it turned him into one of us. The world needs to be made aware of my kind: the silent majority of fighters, those that do not care about politics, religion, ethics, or anything else other than war for war’s sake.”
  • Should More Indie Developers Be Saying ‘Just Pirate It’? Yikes.
  • There’s going to be a lot of writing about Mass Effect in the next couple of weeks. There’s this Gamasutra interview with the team, too.
  • Not exactly a piece of writing, but sort of amazing as an undertaking – and certainly something you will, as a PC gamer, end up using one day if it works – PCGamingWiki, a wiki which intends to put the fixes for all the PC games ever in one place. If they manage it, this could be one of the internet’s greatest resources.
  • With DLC still not seeming to have a standard model, Craig Lager offers some suggestions.
  • The Three Moves Ahead podcast discusses Conquest Of Elysium 3.

Finally, more beautiful noise from Bvdub. I’m going to get back to Mass Effect 3. I wanted to link the track that was played at the most melodramatic part of the game so far, but I haven’t been able to identify it. I am pretty sure it is by one of the numerous electronic artists I listen to and link on here, and hopefully I’ll track it down soon. Anyway.


  1. AndrewC says:

    The rock didn’t mind, Jim. It’s OK.

  2. pakoito says:

    > “When it is put in the context of if (!isNative()){return false;} the logic of the sentiment reads like a sentence. If a given people “isNative” then the game should “return false,”

    OH MAI GAWD worong worng wrong wrong and (journo?) idiocy. ‘!’ in that language is a NEGATION of a logical statement you CENSORED CENSORED, what means that if a unit is NOT native return false.

    • tomeoftom says:


    • Mike says:

      Not only that, but extracting moral themes from code is pretty weak at the best of times. It’s just a shuffling of data. It might have easily been called isPlayable instead.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      This is another reason why journalists should stick to what they are good at (Writing) and leaving coding and politics to the experts. That article is a failure on so many levels. Political correctness run amok by an idiot.

      How the hell is it offensive that a game explores something that happened? Are we supposed to blindly ignore history because it is sometimes unpleasant?

      Also, this is why you do not use double negativess while coding. How about a simple

      return isNative();

    • LarsBR says:

      That doesn’t do the same thing, BobsLawnService.

    • jalf says:

      Seems like a very long-winded way of saying “because the game code has different code paths for natives and European civilizations, it…. uh, treats the two as separate things, and you can’t easily make them the same.

      Well, duh. I’m not really sure what the story actually *is*. Of course the code looks like that, how else would you model different types of civilizations?

      And of course, if you make a game about *colonization*, then the ones who *colonize* are going to be the ones in focus.

      There seems to be some underlying theme of wanting to turn this into proof that Colonization is an evil racist imperialist game, and they use a quick search in the code for isNative() to somehow prove that it is. Or at least to give the impression that they have proven it.

      I just don’t get the connection between their peek into the code, and the claim they’re trying to make.

    • pakoito says:

      >That doesn’t do the same thing, BobsLawnService.

      You could do return !isNative(); but still, you only want a return *IF* it’s true. If it’s false there’s a bunch of code it has to execute.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      if (!isNative()){return false;} == if (isNative()) {return true;} == return IsNative()

      For clarity of code that should be the exit condition at the end of the logic block. At least that’s the way I’d write it given the code that I can see.

    • LarsBR says:

      That is completely nonsensical.

      “if (!isNative()){return false;} else { return true;}” == “return IsNative();”

      The “if (something) { return whatever; }” idiom is primarily useful if you want to do something interesting in the OTHER case.

      Of course, this is hateful code in the first place, because they didn’t just abstract the natives’ behaviour out into a different class.

    • pakoito says:

      The code is

      void method DERP(Object[] args){
      if (!isNative()){return false;}
      //stuff stuff stuff stuff
      return true;

      So your solution is not correct.

    • spindoctor says:

      I sometimes read code for fun, and that article was such a perverse blend of tenuous and tedious I couldn’t finish it. Still, it makes me glad that Political Correctness isn’t a stage in most code reviews, “I realise this is the way it’s been up to now, but I really can’t agree with ‘if(isNative()) exec(“MyNativeCPP.dll”)’, I think it sends some very negative messages about what we stand for as an organisation”.Pah!

    • BobsLawnService says:

      void method DERP(Object[] args){
      if (!isNative()){return false;}
      //stuff stuff stuff stuff
      return true;

      So your solution is not correct.

      I’d write that as :

      void method DERP(Object[] args){
      //stuff stuff stuff stuff
      return isNative;

      Much more concise and much easier to maintain depending on stuff, stuff, stuff

      Although on further inspection I see where you are coming from.

    • pakoito says:


      Or we can assume an else for that if where the rest of the code is executed. And you’re still returning isNative(), when what you want is the negation.

    • sinister agent says:

      Let’s hope they catch on to this, so that for their next game, they’ll use “isStupidNegro” instead, just to wind people up. I mean, honestly. Sometimes a penis is just a line of code.

    • RodeoClown says:


      You’re still reading the code wrong.
      What it is saying is:

      If this is NOT a native, return false.
      Otherwise, do a whole bunch more stuff and then return true.

      Whatever function is calling this needs to know if it was a native or not, but there is more code to run if it is.

      In effect this code is dropping out if the civilisation is NOT a native. It’s not erasing them at all, it’s giving them their own special code (an exceptional example of affirmative action)! I believe it passes the PoCo test with flying colours! Huzzah!

    • ThTa says:


      Actually, didn’t Dead Island have an issue with political correctness due to something in its code?

    • onodera says:

      This article is ridiculous. It reminds me of a chapter in Teranesia (which is not the best book ever written by Greg Egan) where the protagonist’s aunt and her separated partner are introduced. Both are Canadian academicians that earn their living by looking for male chauvinism in completely inappropriate places like binary arithmetic.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The stupid.

      It burns.

    • Gap Gen says:

      More to the point, learn to use some goddamn dynamic polymorphism, Firaxis. Jeez.

    • Quirk says:


      >I’d write that as :
      >void method DERP(Object[] args){
      >//stuff stuff stuff stuff
      >return isNative;

      If you stick “stuff stuff stuff stuff” in identically to before, you’ve just executed a whole bunch of code that should only be executed for isNative() objects on !isNative() objects. That would be a bug that would wreck your whole method. You can wrap it all in a massive if():

      void method DERP(Object[] args)
      //stuff stuff stuff stuff
      return isNative();

      however, you’re scarcely gaining much in clarity and concision by doing so over bailing early.

  3. HexagonalBolts says:

    Hurrah, videogames criticism engaging with literary theory – more people need to do this! I’m talking about Kristeva and abjection in the Binding of Isaac. It’s a great start that more people should try.

    • Jackablade says:

      It is good to see smart people discussing games in a positive and intelligent fashion, but sadly I don’t think I’m smart enough to understand most of what the writer was on about there.

      Does make me feel like starting my 76th hour of the Binding of Isaac though. I may have a problem.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      It’s never as complicated as it looks, don’t be put off! The main reason literary criticism is made to be so complex is because otherwise everyone can usurp an academic by saying ‘No! It’s more nuanced and complicated than that!’. This means that although a very simple idea may be at the core of an argument, essay writers have to explore topics in as much depth as is possible to make sure they have covered every minuscule aspect of the subject.

      Bahktin’s ideas on ‘the carnivalesque’ take the concept of the medieval carnival, where everyone’s societal roles are thrown in the air and all sorts of debauched things happen. Kristeva’s ideas on the body are all about the horror people can experience at their own bodies, the bodily fears that we possess. These are both parts of our ideologies (the ways in which we think and perceive the world) that have been around for thousands of years in all kinds of myths, religions and literatures. It’s interesting to see how these ideas exist in a text, or even a videogame, and how they interact with the other themes or ideas to create meaning.

    • InternetBatman says:

      It’s all well and good to use literary criticism on a game. I don’t like literary criticism because it’s generally for an insular community and does not focus on education or communication, but if it’s your thing go for it I guess. I have no idea why anyone would spend this much time on the Binding of Isaac though. There are plenty of games that deserve that level of scrutiny, but Isaac isn’t one of them.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      “The main reason literary criticism is made to be so complex is because otherwise everyone can usurp an academic. ”


    • Apples says:

      How is lit crit insular and not focused on communication? It’s all about communication, it studies communication. You can look up any theorist or term, and you might have to spend a while reading a Wikipedia page but it’s not exactly written in a secret code, and what they say usually has to do with general sociological or psychological concepts. Some of it is ‘criticism for criticism’s sake’, but if you accept that media says something about the society and people that created it then, uh, thinking about that stuff is what lit (or game, film, etc) crit is for. PC gamers are a pretty insular group too, by the way, so that kind of thing should be right up our alley :V

    • InternetBatman says:

      This is just my personal opinion so it’s not like it’s the absolute truth or anything, but I feel that any work that requires you to look at other sources to understand it is generally poor construction and represents a failure to communicate. There’s nothing wrong with a huge vocabulary, especially when the use of an unfamiliar word is necessary because that word has a meaning that others can’t convey. Literary Criticism frequently crosses a boundary, and the vocabulary of the author becomes exclusionary, unnecessary, and increasingly esoteric. The writers uniformly start with the assumption that the piece they’re writing will be understood, and make no effort to explicate themselves to anyone who does not read literary criticism.

    • NathanH says:

      It’s insular because the target audience is usually itself, I suppose. At its heart it seems to be mostly academic in nature, which tends to be insular. For instance, you could probably understand the gist of my thesis (on a very different subject) if you concentrated hard while reading it and read a few references, but that would be entirely accidental; I do not care if you can understand it and put no effort into making it readable for an external audience. I imagine it is the same for good literary criticism: their target audience is small and focused, and the point is to impress those people.

      I don’t know too much about the subject, so this is mostly speculation and anecdotal, though.

      Constrast this with the types of books I read: history books written by academics for non-academics. These are usually self-contained; indeed, if one requires reading of many other sources then I don’t think it’s doing its job well. I don’t see this very much from literary criticism, perhaps because it is difficult to do without just spouting a combination of obvious facts and spurious nonsense (basically, the literary equivalent of Andy Townsend’s football punditry).

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      InternetBatman, I think I understand what you are saying. The terminology is alienating, but this is only to the same degree as it is in, say, physics or political science. There is such a wealth of incredible ideas that people could think about in connection to games, and much of it is easily understood with the help of someone else to guide you through it or with the help of some of the many explanatory books. Edward Said, for example, is readable and astonishingly intelligent. I wish more people would involve the idea of the ‘other’ with games criticism.

      The audience may be limited, but I do not think the point of the best literary criticism is to impress other academics, it’s to allow other people to see the ways in which humans perceive, conceive and communicate their existences, and that is something pertinent to everybody.

    • InternetBatman says:

      @ NathanH

      I guess it wouldn’t surprise you to learn that I have a History degree, and I’m reflecting the ethics widely shared by those in my field. I’m not saying they’re right, they’re just my criteria of evaluation.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      @NathanH actually, literature has a vast quantity of entry level texts available. Just search ‘literature introduction’ on amazon and a huge number of results come up for literature in general (I can recommend both Eagleton [world’s no.1 literary critic] and barry results if anyone is interested). There is usually at least one focused on every major text or writer. There are at least four books just named after ‘Salman Rushdie’ alone, let alone after all his books.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      Literary criticism is like going to watch a ballet and instead of just enjoying it like a not-crazy person, following the principal dancer home, kidnapping them, killing them, and dissecting them.

    • Apples says:

      Yeah, only total weirdos would want to think about things! Normal people passively watch media and then never think about it again beyond the level of “It was good” or “it sucked”.

      “any work that requires you to look at other sources to understand it is generally poor construction and represents a failure to communicate” Wrong. How can the author know what your level of knowledge is? In your estimation, every critical text must begin with a summary of who Freud/Lacan/Barthes/etc are,whichi is a complete waste of words when you could simply look that person and their theories up and then take that knowledge and apply it to every text requiring it. Do you think all academic papers are bad because they have so many footnotes or what? Also there is literally no text that doesn’t require SOME outside source, even at the level of understanding the language it’s written in or basic cultural knowledge.

      re: xkcd – yeah i think a guy who is all about maths and programming might be a tiny bit biased and ignorant about lit crit. just a guess

    • choconutjoe says:

      XKCD succinctly sums up the problem with lit crit: link to

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Damn you internetbatman! I disagree with what you’re saying (in this specific instance) but you put it in such a balanced and thoughtful way that I have to engage with a nuanced debate rather than intellectual mud slinging!

      I basically think that all communication of ideas requires someone to have access to sources external to it, because all language and ideas are relational. Sometimes, and I’d argue in this case, it would not be efficient to provide the low down on all the concepts within a piece of writing, so some foreknowledge of the concepts tackled by the reader must be assumed. But as you say it’s a matter of balance between alienating people not read up on the field and utilising the concepts available to people who are. Damn you and your balanced opinion.

  4. CyberBrent says:

    Anyone else get an Invalid Url page for the soldier portrayal article? Dead link?

    • jalf says:

      Worked for me a moment ago. Interesting stuff

    • CyberBrent says:

      Indeed. Very heavy stuff.

      Also: The link works for me now if that wasn’t figured out.

  5. TNG says:

    That Aris Bakhtanians sounds like a rather unpleasant fellow.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Seems to have completely misunderstood the nature of sport too – he can rattle on about playing basketball with a football all he likes, but obviously that’s something totally different to the professional – or otherwise – conduct of the players.

      Of course responding to a female character’s defeat by a male with “rape that bitch!” is completely out of bounds, let alone making suggestive comments to a female player herself. You can’t even try to defend that. I can’t imagine why he did. If he’d just said “yes, that was wrong of me, I was caught up in the heat of the moment, sorry, won’t happen again”, he’d neatly avoid being the focus of a minor scandal.

  6. newc0253 says:

    it’s odd. i never had much doubt when i was playing Mass Effect that it was anything but an RPG.

    not that it matters much to me how games are categorized – i think the genre definition debate is pretty sterile most of the time – but did the shooter elements in ME2 really confuse that much?

    • Ajh says:

      I think they did. To me any game that has you telling a story and somehow growing stronger over the course of the game is an RPG. Of course this puts games like Zelda in the mix too, but I don’t mind, since I like Zelda. And theoretically it puts things like Assassins Creed in the mix, which for me.

      Mostly I don’t see what all the fuss is about on whether it’s an RPG or not. You like the game? Go play it. Fretting over genre seems like people trying to be elitist.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      So your definition of RPG is ‘things that I like’?

    • bwion says:

      It’s as useful as any other definition of RPG that’s out there.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Genres are really useful to consumers buying a game, and useful to people criticizing a game because they can talk about how it meets, defies, or falls under genre conventions and expectations. Personally I think Mass Effect is much more of a shooter than an RPG because it fails to meet so many genre conventions.

    • theleif says:

      Problem is, those conventions are pretty much based on a conversion of one PnP RPG, D&D, a system that (in my opinion) is only suitable to dungeon crawling. If you look at the PnP RPG:s that’s been released in the last 20 years, you’ll see that many of them are very different, in both mechanics and scope to D&D. There are diceless systems, there are character-less systems, card driven, and even practically rule-less systems today. Even so, no one is arguing these games are not RPG:s. On the contrary, many of them are celebrated for their systems and their way of letting people tell a story.
      But if a cRPG strays from the D&D formula it’s decried as not being a true RPG.

    • Kadayi says:


      Indeed. D&D was only one model of the P&P RPG and was very much about delving into dungeons and acquiring loot. Personally I was more a fan of Traveller myself where the emphasis was more on succeeding at a mission, with loot/cash being less of an issue on the whole. It’s kind of funny how the former is presumed to be the only model, when the latter was equally valid (and relatively popular).

    • malkav11 says:

      Of course Mass Effect is an RPG. It adopts shooter trappings as a combat mechanism instead of the more tactical turn-based party-based combat of the genre’s roots (something which I feel is appropriate for the type of story they are trying to tell in the Mass Effect franchise, but would not be in favor of as a direction for the genre as a whole), but it preserves virtually the entire rest of the genre’s defining characteristics. In particular, the player’s skill at shooter gameplay is substantially modified by the character’s firearms skills.

      The relevant question is more whether Mass Effect -2- is an RPG (and for that matter, what has become of Mass Effect 3 – I guess we’ll only know that when it releases), as it jettisons many of the genre elements in favor of a heavy emphasis on a rather dull emulation of Gears of War in its combat. I can see where people are coming from in arguing that it’s not, although I tend to still assign it to the periphery of the genre. Something which makes me rather inconsistent, since I could easily see arguments that, say, Deus Ex has more RPG to it than Mass Effect 2, and I always tend to think of Deus Ex as an FPS that happens to include RPG elements.

      Also, the videogame RPG genre may have its roots in D&D, but that was a long, long time ago. They are their own thing now.

    • theleif says:

      “Also, the videogame RPG genre may have its roots in D&D, but that was a long, long time ago. They are their own thing now.”

      The thing is, every time the discussion about whether a certain game is an RPG or not, what people really are discussing is if the game is like D&D (or GURPS). If a game doesn’t have tactical combat, frequent skill checks and character creation at the start of the game, it’s not an RPG.

      This might be somewhat OT, but I’m including it so you can better understand from where I come from in this discussion.
      I could be an exception, but 2 of my most memorable PnP experieces was one where I started with a pre generated character (in an RPG named Kult), and the second one was an adventure, that lasted 3 sessions, in which I made only 1 roll, using my archaeology skill to find a book in a library. The rest was pure role playing. That was a Chutulu adventure, but the rules the GM used was a simplified version from another game called Chill. Not that it mattered to me, as I only rolled the dice once. And in the end I ended up locked in an asylum completely mad.

      My experiences as an PnP RPG player has led me to think of rules and dice rolls amlost as a necessary evil, and only used in situations where just role playing (playing your character) is not enough. Don’t get me wrong, there are games and situation where I enjoy that as well, but that’s not what RPG:s at it’s core are about.
      There are exceptions, of course. If I play, say Warhammer Fantasy RPG, I very much like to roll dices. And probably die, impaled on the horns of a beastman. Sidenote: The rules in WFRPG (3rd ed) are horrible from a technical standpoint, but they fit the “mood” in the game perfectly, so it doesn’t matter.

      Anyway: My point is that rules, skills and combat are just one of many parts that makes a great RPG. But somehow, when we are talking about RPG:s on the computer it’s almost as if it’s the only thing that matters.


    • D3xter says:

      If Mass Effect 2/3 are RPGs, then by association even games like Dead Space, Bioshock, hell probably StarCraft 2 is an “RPG”, so no… if you go around corridors with guns aiming and shooting at things it isn’t an “RPG” but a 3rd Person Cover-based Shooter.

      I don’t even consider games like Diablo, Torchlight, Titan Quest etc. to be “RPGs” but “Hack & Slash” games, often also called “Action RPG” by the press.

    • theleif says:

      “I don’t even consider games like Diablo, Torchlight, Titan Quest etc. to be “RPGs” but “Hack & Slash” games, often also called “Action RPG” by the press.”

      I’d argue that they are less of an RPG than ME 2, as those games are not about experiencing a story, but mostly just combat and loot. While both combat and loot are common in many RPG:s it’s not in any way defining characteristics of the genre.

    • malkav11 says:


      That is because the genre of videogames that has, for better or worse, acquired the label “RPG” is defined by characteristics like that. The genre of tabletop gaming that goes by that label is defined by different attributes. It’s confusing, yes, but there you have it. I personally would be fine with giving said videogame genre a different, more apropos label that leads to the end of arguments like “well, it’s an RPG if you’re Playing a Role” (with the corollary that that definition covers basically all of videogaming so is remarkably unhelpful as a genre definition), but that’s the sort of ossified language convention that’s awfully hard to shift.

      I’m well aware that tabletop RPGs have a wide spectrum, with much more story driven systems than D&D out there (I’m currently ramping up for a Burning Empires campaign, and would like to run Apocalypse World one of these days), but I would argue that that kind of gameplay doesn’t translate well to a videogame format, and that any attempt at translating it would very likely represent a separate videogame genre.

    • NathanH says:

      Malkav has found the nail and struck it squarely on its head. It doesn’t matter if you happen to think that putting the three words “game” “role” and “playing” in a particular order when discussing computer games ought to mean a particular thing. If everyone goes around defining genres based on what they individually think it would be good if everyone else adopted, then we get this sort of mad confusion. If instead you accept that there’s a well-established (though of course evolving, like any genre definition) meaning to “RPG” when applied to video games, then you’ll find yourself much less confused and we won’t have nearly so many arguments.

    • theleif says:

      @NathanH and malkav11
      “if instead you accept that there’s a well-established (though of course evolving, like any genre definition) meaning to “RPG” when applied to video games, then you’ll find yourself much less confused and we won’t have nearly so many arguments.”

      That’s the thing. I believe we have reached a point where it’s necessary to redefine what we consider an RPG, that’s why we have this confusion in the first place. Until the last few years, it’s been enough to (and I’m of course generalising just to make my point clearer) define and RPG by comparing it to D&D or it’s computer derivates. That’s not longer the case though, with games like the ME:s and the Whitchers, to just name a few. Mass Effect 2 have (consciously or not) much more in common with the story driven PnP RPG:S than more combat focused (D&D).

    • malkav11 says:


      The games defined as cRPGs still exist. The type of gameplay defined by that category still exists. The fact that games now exist which have a tenuous connection to that definition but mostly fall outside it is not a reason to change the definition. It is a reason to define a new genre, at best.

    • NathanH says:

      Dragon Age and Dragon Age 2 are RPGs in the traditional sense. Mass Effect, Witcher, and Skyrim are clear examples of the action-RPG genre. Action-RPGs are becoming more popular than classic RPGs, but we already have a language to differentiate between the two, so we don’t need to update very much.

    • theleif says:

      Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that they will forever be the defining games. Take music genres for an example as how definitions change and evolve. Once there was a thing called blues. Now, you have this many sub genres and even the “first” blues songs are now a sub category. That’s how it goes for the most time. Pool of Radiance and Fallout and other classical games will keep being part of what defines cRPG, but they won’t necessary be what primarily defines the genre.

      Why is DA2 more like a traditional RPG than ME2? Both games have pausable combat, and both games have both manual targeted abilities and autotargeted. ME2 has more of the former of course, but still. Both games lets your character influence the story by skills, actions and conversations. They both let you play and develop a character, and both games reacts to how you roleplay him/her.
      ME2 is far from an Action-RPG. I assume you are talking about Diablo-type of games and they are very very different beasts. If we must place them in a sub category (and maybe it’s time to define such), then “guns & conversation is a much better term.

    • NathanH says:

      I explain this on Page 2. In Dragon Age, the player is operating on a higher level than the character: you click on an opponent (you have active pause, so no dexterity required) to target them, and every aspect of the attacking is handled by the relative skills of your character and your target. In constrast, in Mass Effect the results of your standard attacks are determined by your real-time aim and your character skills.

      Edit: Page 3 now, not page 2.

    • Baines says:


      I think the reason that rules define the RPG on computers is because that is what computers can do.

      Computers can’t really GM a story. You can have a PnP RPG session where you only roll one die in an hour’s time, but you are fully interacting with the human GM and other human players for that hour. You can try to do something unexpected. You can argue to bend the rules or the situation. You interact and you create part of the story yourself.

      With computer games, you are effectively reading a Choose Your Own Adventure story. Everything is pre-planned. Your only contribution to the story is picking which pre-determined path to follow. Where “bending the rules or the situation” in a PnP RPG is stuff like debating a point with a GM, with computers it is again one-sided, but in this case is the player finding exploits or simply doing things the game wasn’t designed to handle.

    • theleif says:

      Almost all special abilities in ME2 are handled in the exact same way as DA2, so the only real difference in combat is how standard attacks are handled. That’s not, in my eyes a big difference. Yes, DA2 is more similar to the classic cRPG:s, but not by far.

      Your perfectly right. But still, we have games like Sleep is Death (a story telling cRPG) and the many GM led Neverwinter Nights sessions that are still being played, so it’s not like it’s not possible.
      But of course, using a computer as a GM severely limits the possibilities for a game to adapt to your character, while still weaving an interesting story.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Ajh: You don’t need to grow stronger in an RPG. You just need to be able to define your character the way you want to. In other words, an RPG that ends before you reach level 2 is still an RPG if there was a significant character creation stage. Zelda isn’t an RPG precisely because you get better in a fixed way. You don’t make character choices and you can’t customise how good your Link is at certain things.

      @theleif: Well, yeah. But a rule-less “RPG” isn’t an RPG. It’s just role-playing. You didn’t need D&D in 1974 to tell you how to collaboratively tell a story. And dice-less systems or card driven systems could work fine in a CRPG because they still encapsulate a set of rules. It wouldn’t result in a better RPG though, because the number crunching complexity of D&D derivatives is what computers are best at. It’s best to rely on the rules themselves to make a PC game fun than masses and masses of hand crafted content (like a choose your own adventure book requires).

      @Kadayi: Perhaps if a more competent developer received the license to make Traveller computer games instead of Paragon Software, we’d have seen another school of CRPGs as early as 1989. As it is, only D&D and The Dark Eye licenses were given out to competent game developers, SSI and Attic respectively.

      @theleif: With regards to: “I’d argue that they are less of an RPG than ME 2, as those games are not about experiencing a story, but mostly just combat and loot”. That’s silly. You’re basically saying that Monkey Island is a better RPG than Wizardry VI.

    • Jade Raven says:

      I see RPG’s as only a sub-genre, admittedly a large sub-genre, but one all the same. When I categorise my own games I put them in only for genres; action, adventure, strategy and simulation/other.

      Adventure games for me are defined by the focus of the game being on story and characterisation. This encompasses all known RPGs for me. RPG is a technical genre, related to its mechanics (like an RTS is part of the broader Strategy genre).

      There are difficult games like DX:HR, which I put in the action category due to its First Person Perspective. Although to be sure it is an Action-adventure hybrid. Note that it switches to third person for story elements.

      TL;DR: RPG is not a proper genre, it is part of the larger Adventure genre and so is ME3.

    • Wizardry says:

      So Wizardry, Might and Magic and the like are about story and characters? Yeah right. There’s hardly any characters in them.

      It’s funny how you believe that RPGs are a sub-genre of adventure games when RPGs are actually derived from wargames. They fit far better under the strategy label than the adventure label. Isn’t it interesting how one of the biggest CRPG developers of all time, SSI, who published perhaps more CRPGs than any other company, were a strategy game company? Strategic Simulations, Inc.

    • Jade Raven says:

      I never played the older style RPGs like Wizardry, but yes, Real-time or Turn-based Tactics games would usually fall under strategy.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Shouldn’t we be less focused on pigeonholing Mass Effect and more focused on ascertaining whether or not it’s good at being whatever it is?

      If you lot require a definition, here’s one: an RPG is a game in which a character or set of characters is progressively and meaningfully defined, in whole or in part, by the actions of the player(s). That pretty much covers everything anyone thinks of as an RPG, and the “meaningfully” excludes weird outliers like Call Of Duty.

      There. Done.

      And yes, that allows Bioshock to be an RPG. That’s because it is one, albeit a rather shallow one. If you don’t like that, that’s kind of your problem.

    • malkav11 says:


      But all of that music that falls under the label “blues” must necessarily share at least some degree of the defining characteristics that make up “blues” as a category. I have no clue what those characteristics are, because I don’t understand musical genres except in the very most general terms. But they’re there, or the label would not be a meaningful distinction. Similarly, cRPGs as a genre share characteristics defined by their roots, aka the characteristics that are shared by those classic cRPGs. There will inevitably be subgenres of that that eschew some portion of those characteristics and have their own defining elements – e.g., the Diablo clone hack-n-slash, which marries some level of basic cRPG character building and loot grabbing with clicky action gameplay, randomized drops, hordes of enemies, and whatever else aficionados would consider key elements of that subgenre that are not themselves common to all cRPGs.

      But a game that eschews most of those elements is probably not so much a cRPG as a game that falls properly under another genre category that has chosen to borrow some minor elements of the cRPG genre (i.e. action games like God of War that implement some sort of light skill/experience system, Call of Duty’s multiplayer levelling, etc). And a game like Sleep is Death that eschews all of them isn’t a cRPG at all. If it can’t be readily mapped onto an existing genre, then, well, perhaps it’s time to define a new one based on that game. (Remember, although Sleep is Death is one of the most pure roleplaying implementations in the gaming space, roleplaying is not actually a genre defining feature for cRPGs, despite the name.)

    • malkav11 says:


      How can we determine if it’s good at what it is if we haven’t determined what it is? Mass Effect 2 is pretty terrible at providing meaningful character building choices, character-skill-driven gameplay, and several other features I consider core to the cRPG genre, but it’s great at providing entertaining dialogues, decent at world building, and some people that are not me really like the combat. So if it’s a cRPG, it’s not very good at being one of those, but if it’s a Guns and Conversation game, it presumably rates much better.

    • ffordesoon says:


      Seems fairly simple to me. If you must compare ME2 or Witcher 2 or whatever to games that already exist (which, while necessary in order to properly evaluate stuff critically, is in my opinion secondary to a more holistic evaluation), then compare it feature-for-feature like you just did.

      Sample rephrasing of a couple of your criticisms so you can see what I mean: “Is Mass Effect 2 as good at providing meaningful character building choices as [say] The Witcher? No. Are its dialogue scenes entertaining? Yes, very much so.” And so on and so forth.

      Personally, I’m less interested in whether a game conforms to the often arbitrary traditions of a certain genre and more interested in whether or not it succeeds at what it’s trying to do. I would argue that the Mass Effect games succeed at their objective, 2 in particular.

      I’m extremely tired at the moment, so do tell me if you don’t get what I’m saying, and I’ll try to explain it more clearly tomorrow.

    • theleif says:

      Damn, if my understanding of the English language was better, I could probably explain myself in a much clearer way, but I hope I get my point through. Anyway…

      Wizardry: “With regards to: “I’d argue that they are less of an RPG than ME 2, as those games are not about experiencing a story, but mostly just combat and loot”. That’s silly. You’re basically saying that Monkey Island is a better RPG than Wizardry VI.”

      I’m not saying anything even close to that, I think. Monkey Island is an adventure game, and is nothing like an RPG. You can not influence the development of the story nor the character in any way.
      Sadly, I have not played any of the Wizardry games, as they came out in a period when I had little access to computers. Anyway, I have played PnP and cRPG:s since mid 80:s, starting with a Swedish altered version of D&D and Pool of Radiance on the C64, so I think I have a pretty good understanding of both types of RPG:s.

      What I’m saying is that what defines an RPG is more than just the rule system, and whether you create a character or not. Telling a story is a major part of what makes an RPG. In the early days of cRPG:s, storytelling was in most games pretty limited for obvious reasons, hence the focus on combat in games like Pool of Radiance, the Bards Tales and the Might and Magics. They still tried, though, and I still fondly remember almost all my characters in my first PoR game: O’Hara Y’Sinda, Hassan O’Koch, Bruno den Grae, Orogon Speke, Elinder Heeth and one more I can’t remember the name of at the moment… I was 13 at the time, but they are still there. Not because the game made them into believable characters, but because I did. SSI did an amazing job creating an RPG on a machine as limited as the C64. But there was only so much they could do. But it was still trying to tell a story. In games like Diablo, the story is just secondary, not by limitations, but by choice, that’s why I consider them less of an RPG. And that’s why most roguelikes are not RPG:s at all. Not because they don’t contain RPG elements, because they do, but because what they contain is not enough to make them an RPG. And they don’t tell a story.

      Basically, my point is: RPG:s on the computer have evolved, diversified and got cross-influenced from so many other genres in such a degree that one definition of what makes an cRPG is not enough anymore. I think that is a wonderful thing, as it means that RPG:s, one of my favourite types of games has a huge influence on computer games in general, and that developers are innovating in the genre. It does not always work, but that’s only natural. It does not mean that I don’t like “classical” cRPG:s, I’m very much looking forward to Age of Decadence.
      Fallout 2 is one of my favourite cRPG:s. But so are Vampire: The Masquerade, and Mass Effect 2. I hope that explains my standpoint, malkav11.

      Ok, I have another point. Or maybe more of an counter argument:
      Saying that cRPG:s should be considered something distinctively different from PnP RPG:s is wrong, I think. A strategy game is a strategy game, whether it’s played by moving chits on a map on your table, or on your screen. Same for squad based tactical games, or puzzles. Same goes for any other genre that shares common roots. cRPG:s are not different enough from PnP RPG:s to be treated as a completely different genre.
      Noir is noir, no matter if it’s a game, a film or a book.

      “…a rule-less “RPG” isn’t an RPG. It’s just role-playing. You didn’t need D&D in 1974 to tell you how to collaboratively tell a story.”

      No you didn’t but what D&D, and all other RPG:s after Chainmail did, was creating a frame work to enable you do it in a structured way. That’s what an RPG is, at it’s core. Creating a game out of telling a story.

      “…number crunching complexity of D&D derivatives is what computers are best at.”

      That was true at a time, but not any more. Now, we have both the processor power and funding to create other types of RPG:s, even on such a limited system as a PC.

    • Wizardry says:

      Your argument falls down really quickly under any sort of examination. You claim that RPGs are about story, but the vast majority of games have a story regardless of genre. If you mean that RPGs need branching stories, then most of the genre including Pool of Radiance, Might and Magic and Baldur’s Gate aren’t RPGs. But you claimed Pool of Radiance was an RPG for some reason that doesn’t relate to anything solid regarding your definition of the genre. The only story Pool of Radiance has is a linear one.

      So obviously “a good story” doesn’t define the genre, because non-RPGs would fall in too. “Branching story” can’t define the genre for you either because you’ve named RPGs without them, and it would also include heavily branching Japanese porn games that branch far more than even Alpha Protocol does.

      So basically, even though you think story is important, you haven’t given a solid reason why it defines the genre over mechanics.

      Oh yeah, and not considering roguelikes as RPGs is laughable. Rogue was a seminal RPG with as much story focus as the early Wizardry games. If Rogue is an RPG while its descendants are not because it had a decent story “for its time” then that’s just stupid.

    • malkav11 says:


      The computer format introduces both strengths and limitations in comparison to tabletop gaming, and while there can be some overlap (mostly in the form of computer recreations of boardgames, or the adaptation of tabletop mechanics to underly a cRPG, or the cribbing of a computer game’s setting to tabletop play) they are usually genuinely distinct. The limitations of the format in this case prevent the roleplaying element that is so crucial to the tabletop genre. So, yes, they share some roots. But I wouldn’t play tabletop D&D the way I do Baldur’s Gate, and I can’t play Baldur’s Gate the way I can tabletop D&D. They’re different animals that happen to more or less share a ruleset. (And even then, every D&D game ever made has had to make compromises because some aspects of the ruleset simply don’t work in the videogame format, or because they wanted to adapt a turn-based combat system to a real time format like in Baldur’s Gate, or…)

      Similarly, while there are strategy games on PC that could work as boardgames or vice versa (often because they -are- boardgames), there are plenty of strategy games on PC that simply couldn’t work on the table. The entire RTS genre, say.

    • theleif says:

      I only claim that one of the defining characteristics are story. Of course a good story is not enough, and I thought I was clear about that. I’m talking about story in the context of PnP RPG:s not in the context of film or books.
      Yes I claim Pool of Radiance is an RPG, because that was the intent of the creators. To make a computer role playing game. Did it have a branching story? No. Did your decisions impact the game in any way? Except for making battles easier or harder, depending on level, skills and equipment, no. But the intent is what matters. Creating a RPG on a computer. And I think they did a tremendous job, considering they had 64kb of RAM to play with, and a processor with a whooping 1 MHz of computing power.

      I do think I have given reasons aplenty why story is important, but basically it boils down to because it’s fudamental in a PnP RPG.
      Which leads to:
      The gist of my argument is that cRPG:s should be compared to PnP RPG:s on the ground that the games we are today considering as defining the genre are just attempts to make a PnP RPG on a computer, in many cases even using the same rules as the PnP games.
      That’s where we come back to why I think it’s necessary to, if not redefine the term, at least accept that what we 10 years ago considered cRPG:s, today is just part of a wider genre.
      Let’s compare it to music genres again, mostly because it’s another subject I’m fairly knowable of:
      As I said, classical cRPG:s do not differ enough from PnP RPG:s to be considered something unique, primarily because the intent of the creators of the games that are now defining the genres was not to make something unique, but to emulate PnP RPG on a computer.
      RTS is a whole new genre, because even if you probably can trace it’s roots back to board games, it has become something else. Like rock music, even if it has it roots in blues, are today considered a separate genre. Same goes for rouglikes. I’ts obvious where it’s stem from, but it has evolved into something unique.
      And again, my point is not that the classical cRPG:s should not be considered RPG, but that it’s probably time to accept that there are other games than D&D derivates and Diablo clones that are and should be defined as RPG:s. They are not the the same as the classics, but they are still RPG:s. So I think we either have to accept them all as RPG:s or come up with new sub genres to define them by.

    • NathanH says:

      The definition I give on a later page, as inspired by Wizardry, captures pretty much all modern RPGs and pretty much all classic RPGs. It’s also a definition-by-mechanics, and has the advantage that most people will classify any given game in the same way. It doesn’t need any vague ideas about interactive stories, or the intent to make an RPG on a computer, or choice’n’consequence, and it will do its job very well. It may need tweaking and will need adapting as video gaming changes, but today it works well. It’s also not a new definition.

      We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The only confusion in the definition of RPGs is from people who don’t like the idea of definition-by-mechanics. That’s fine, but those people just don’t give a good definition of their own, so we can’t even check if their idea of a definition works well, because it basically doesn’t exist.

    • D3xter says:

      Why do you people have to make it so complicated?
      Why don’t you just go about it on regards to how a game plays, for instance as someone said you make a distinction between a Dungeon Crawler and a “Roguelike” because it plays a certain way…
      It should be really simple –> Mass Effect 2/3, do you go around the galaxy hiding behind obstacles shooting at things with the camera over your characters shoulders, YES –> Cover-based TPS with talky bits, same thing goes for Dead Space for instance (even though it has ugradable Armor and Weapons and whatnot and offers some different ways to play) it’s still a TPS based on gameplay alone, Bioshock on the other hand is an FPS. Now the likes of Baldur’s Gate/Ultima/Planescape etc. are the definition of cRPGs.

    • NathanH says:

      “How the game plays” is much too vague a concept. You can guarantee that with such a method you’ll find that nobody can agree on the genre many games are. One of the main goals of classification is for most people to classify any given game the same way. “Here are some games that define each genre, classify a new game by deciding which of those games it is most like” is not a rule that’s likely to achieve this goal. It is a good start though, you just need to take those example games, determine what common features it is that make them a Whatever, and then turn this into classification rules.

    • malkav11 says:


      I would argue that cRPGs differ enormously from tabletop RPGs, as the former does not meaningfully contain roleplaying, whereas the entire purpose of the tabletop RPG genre is to provide tools, context and support for roleplaying. It’s true that cRPGs have adopted some of the mechanics, but not their purpose or spirit.

      And I’ve been saying all along that these new games that you are arguing redefine the genre actually define a new one, so, yes, defining new genres based on them is what we should be doing. I suppose they could even be considered a new subgenre of some barely meaningful overarching genre the way RTS and turn-based wargame are despite having vastly different gameplay and little actual overlap in appeal.

    • Wizardry says:

      @theleif: Wait, so Diablo and Mass Effect are RPGs but Incursion (a roguelike) is not? My mind has been well and truly blown!

      Also, what’s the point in Crusaders of the Dark Savant and Mass Effect belonging to the same genre when Mass Effect fans are 1000x more likely to prefer Gears of War to it? Kind of defeats the point in having genre classifications in the first place.

    • theleif says:

      “Wait, so Diablo and Mass Effect are RPGs but Incursion (a roguelike) is not? My mind has been well and truly blown!”

      If you read what I’ve written here, you should know that I’ve stated that I hardly consider Diablo an RPG at all. Diablo is more akin to a real time roguelike.

      “Also, what’s the point in Crusaders of the Dark Savant and Mass Effect belonging to the same genre when Mass Effect fans are 1000x more likely to prefer Gears of War to it? Kind of defeats the point in having genre classifications in the first place.”

      I think it’s probable that many would be 1000x more likely to prefer any game (say Fallout) to a 20 year old game, probably very hard to even get hold of, and even if you do, would have a hard time to even get to work on a modern computer. But I don’t see what that has to do with what we are discussing.

    • Wizardry says:

      @theleif: Deny it all you want but Mass Effect’s appeal isn’t the same as the appeal for cRPGs.

    • theleif says:

      That would be silly of me to deny, but I still don’t see what the appeal has to do with anything.
      The appeal of War in the East and Civilization Revolution are not the same, but they are both strategy games.

      Edit: It seems I’m not making my argument clear enough. I am not saying that ME are the same as Wizardry, but they are both RPG:s, just very different ones.

      To make a music analogy again, take jazz for example.
      Traditional jazz and experimental jazz are all considered jazz, even if the appeal of experimental jazz and trad jazz are extremely different.

    • Wizardry says:

      But why are they both RPGs? One of them is almost purely mechanical, where character building and combat is what is has in common with D&D. Mass Effect, on the other hand, has adventure game style dialogue options instead, with very weak character building and third person shooter combat. There’s no reason for the two games to sit in the same genre.

    • theleif says:

      Both of them are RPG:s, albeit not the same type of RPG:s. One is a turn based tactical RPG, and the other is a guns & conversation RPG, or whatever you like to call it.
      Like Experimental Jazz and Traditional Jazz are both Jazz, even though they sound very different..
      Like Rolemaster and Nobilis are both PnP RPG:s even though they share nothing in common in the fundamental mechanics.

      It seems we have very different standpoint on this, and a comment thread is probably not the right place for having this discussion in the first place, so I’ll leave it at that.


  7. buzzmong says:

    That interview with the PMC chappie was interesting.

  8. NathanH says:

    There shouldn’t be any confusion about the genre of Mass Effect. They are Action-RPGs. They could almost be the very definition of Action-RPGs.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think the whole fps thing throws people off. Also you have people writing saying something like this:

      “This idea that a role-playing game demands the player play a role, a puzzle game demands the player solve puzzles, etc., seems overly limited to me.”

      That kind of thing just muddies the waters.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Yea, I’d definitely put it in there along with Fable, Skyrim, Deus Ex, etc.

      I think the only reason people are “questioning” ME’s status is because it’s from Bioware, who may have “once upon a time saved western RPGs” but their current output is no longer a genre effectively exclusive to them. They are not “saving” western RPGs any more since it has been “saved” for now and is quite healthy among developers.

      RPGs just aren’t very well defined, so it’s very hard to argue a game “(not) being an RPG”. If it could really be nailed down, most of them would be effectively called clones or rehashes of each other. Even if you compare Bioware’s new games with their old games, there is barely any resemblance.

    • NathanH says:

      I suppose it can be confusing because Mass Effect is also a third-person shooter. The Action-RPG part governs the sequence: player aims in real-time, action is executed at aimed spot, result of executed action is determined by (customizable/progressing) character skills. The TPS part governs how the player interacts with the game in step 1.

    • ThTa says:

      A lot of people seem to define an RPG by its complementary mechanics, not the actual aspect of roleplaying.

      Some people are very upset that Mass Effect 2 decreased the amount of different “stats” and “loot” relative to its predecessor, they feel that these mechanics were actually the essence of RPG gameplay, because they’ve been part of so many games of the genre before it. They’re mechanics that have taken their design from pen-and-paper RPGs that needed them to convey character progression and older (J)RPGs that needed arbitrary grind to pad out their content. The latter, in particular, has conditioned “old school/hardcore” gamers to perceive more, and more complex varieties of these mechanics as a good thing.

      They’re mechanics that can certainly lend very well to a roleplaying experience, allowing a character to specialize itself, but more often than not (and such was the case in ME1), these just result people seeking out the best items and grinding for the best stats (potentially trying to come up with some sort of “optimal” combination). People don’t wear a particular set of armour because they feel it suits their character in terms of aesthetics, backstory or even playstyle, but because it’s simply “the best” (as an example, note how Blizzard needed to implement a system that would allow people to convert the look of their “best” armour to that of another, “worse” alternative).

      I think it’s absolutely horrid, brain-dead yet convoluted game design, in the same sense something like the completionist (“Catch all the Pokémon”) goal is awful; but I’m not one to judge other people’s preferences. However, I will argue vehemently that these mechanics are not part of what makes an RPG, and insisting they should be has strictly negative and restrictive consequences. BioWare has always offered a primarily story-focused RPG experience, one that uses the flexibility of the video game medium to allow people’s decisions to have an influence on said story in a meaningful and perceivable way; not to offer ever more complex dice-rolls and spreadsheets of statistics, as some seem to desire. BioWare could do away with all of their stats and loot, and I’d still argue their “combat and conversation” design offers a stronger RPG experience than most competitors. (Which is not to say I don’t appreciate their current implementation of different armour, weapons and stats; which does seem to be aimed more towards specialization than a direct increase in power.)

      edit: My word, I only just read the comments on that Gamasutra article. They’re the absolute perfect example of the attitude I just decried.

    • Jimbo says:

      “A lot of people seem to define an RPG by its complementary mechanics, not the actual aspect of roleplaying.”

      Yep, and that’s where they lose me.

      Also a lot of people seem to treat terms like ‘Shooter’ and ‘RPG’ as mutually exclusive, even though they aren’t at all. Being a TPS doesn’t prevent it being an RPG; being ‘Guns ‘n Conversation’ doesn’t prevent it being an RPG. The roleplaying makes it an RPG as far as I’m concerned.

      The game genres are not set up to neatly fit games into one category like that, and to be honest, they don’t really need to be. They’re just descriptors, not a scientific classification system.

      Once you start going down the ‘Guns n Conversation!’ route it becomes slightly ridiculous because you’re gonna end up with almost as many genres as games. At that point you might as well just say “It’s like Mass Effect”.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      As a minor note, Baldur’s Gate basically uses squad-sized RTS combat , which is arguably no more “appropriate” (or inappropriate) to RPGs than First-person shooting.

      Perhaps, it’s a bit of a weird cousin to that “skip combat” discussion, where combat and the “story dialog” aspects of Bioware games appear so segregated that you can simply change out one half of the game, and still retain the other unaffected.

      Of course, this is the same company that said JRPGs are not “real” RPGs.

    • NathanH says:

      “A lot of people seem to define an RPG by its complementary mechanics, not the actual aspect of roleplaying.”

      That’s because otherwise you end up with empty definitions like “a roleplaying game is a game where you play a role”, which is utterly useless. Also, you can’t just throw away years of history of the meaning of a term just because you don’t think the words in the name of the term are accurate. We all basically know what an RPG is. If someone tells us a game is an RPG, we know roughly the sorts of things we can expect. Maybe it’s not the best term, but it doesn’t matter now.

    • Jimbo says:

      Not really, because roleplaying isn’t the same thing as just having an avatar in the game. Most people understand the difference between playing Marcus Fenix in Gears and roleplaying Commander Shepard in Mass Effect.

      I’d argue that it’s RPG in the ‘RPG mechanics’ sense which has actually become useless as a differentiator now, just because of how ubiquitous those mechanics have become. If by ‘RPG’ you mean ‘levelling etc.’ you might as well just say ‘game’. Far more games have mechanics traditionally associated with RPGs than actually make an attempt at giving you the ability to roleplay your character.

    • NathanH says:

      That’s pretty much always been true. In my experience it’s true of non-computer RPGs as well. If you’re going to concentrate your definition on “roleplaying”, then I imagine what will happen is that you lose a lot of the games that have been universally regarded as RPGs, and you gain a lot of games that are universally not regarded as RPGs.

      I might be wrong, but I have yet to see an attempt to define this “roleplaying” aspect in a coherent way. If someone can do this, can catch most traditional RPGs, and not catch most traditional non-RPGs, then we might be in business.

    • ThTa says:

      Nathan, “a game where you play a role” is hardly an “empty” definition. People can argue that, in that sense, you could call any game an RPG due to the fact that you always control at least some sort of character and perform a role within the boundaries of the game. That by including games that don’t feature the mechanics I’d mentioned before, you’re somehow muddying the term to the extent that such a thing could happen.

      But that’s not what we think of when we say “roleplaying”, we assume first and foremost, that there’s some sort of narrative in which we perform our role. But even then, plenty of games feature narrative, don’t they? And we’re not calling Call of Duty an RPG, either.
      So what else? Well, when you assume a role in a roleplaying game, it’s presumed you are at least part of that narrative; not your character, you. You can influence the narrative through the character you control, you’re given a certain degree of freedom to do so. When you’re playing Call of Duty, you’re only following the beaten track, your characters say what they’re supposed to say and your only input is whether or not you succeed in the combat that surrounds it. You could say that’s some binary choice, some freedom, but if you do not succeed, the narrative simply ends and restarts at a checkpoint, it assumes there’s only one path from start to finish.

      With an RPG, there’s still boundaries through both narrative and code, but the characters actions are much less defined. You can often choose what your character says, how it reacts to combat and how the story progresses. These boundaries can be either broad or small, but what defines an RPG is that the developers have accounted for the fact that there’s multiple ways a player could fill his or her role: when you’re playing Mass Effect, you’re always Commander Shepard, supposed saviour of the universe; when you’re playing Skyrim, you’re still the Dovahkiin of the prophecy, but how you fill these roles is up to you. BioWare even goes as far as to offer failure as a possible outcome in most of their games.

      An alternative form of roleplaying would be a player-generated narrative, where the developers simply give you a sandbox of sorts, which is more akin to PnP. It’s assumed the player(s) would form their own boundaries within a certain lore and the game mechanics. (This is arguably a bit less clear, if you create your own narrative within the boundaries of the game mechanics, you could claim the game over screen of CoD is your true ending and call it a day. But it’s about the developer’s intentions here, and CoD was obviously never intended as a restrictive sandbox in the way something like Minecraft was.)

      Roleplaying isn’t so much a gameplay mechanic in the sense that shooting is for Shooters and racing is for Racers, it’s something allowed within the context of the game itself. In the same sense “Action” isn’t a strictly defined gameplay mechanic, either. Hence why they’re not called Roleplayers, but Role Playing Games.

      I feel this is also why a lot of people were so very upset with RAGE. They saw a lot of mechanics that reminded them of RPGs (different armour types, quests), but it wasn’t one, and the developers never intended for it to be one. Yet they expected it to be one, and judged it on its lack of freedom, most of all.

      Also, Hoaxfish: I, too, would argue a great deal of JRPGs can’t be counted as real RPGs, considering some purely feature the mechanics I’d mentioned in my previous post and then leave you with a single path through the narrative. But then again, some people feel that just being able to pick your own class, skills and items is enough choice for it to count as an RPG, so I’ll refrain from making my statement definitive. If anything, if anyone would like to tell me of how much of their own personality and/or narrative they’ve managed to express in such a game, I’d gladly listen.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      It’s an odd time to be talking about what is and isn’t an rpg, since traditional rpg elements are being used in so many games, like Thta’s example of Rage.

      I like RPS’s solution wherein they called the Mass Effect games “guns and conversation” or something along those lines. More specificity is a good thing. The term “RPG” is becoming increasingly nebulous despite anybody’s attempts to define it, much like how “Thriller” now describes approximately half of the Hollywood movies released at any given time.
      Even “action-rpg” has an overly wide range of usage, considering that term is also used to describe the Diablo games.

    • theleif says:

      I tried to convey the same points in the discussion above, but you put it way better, and without relying on the PnP RPG heritage.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      The thing about JRPGs isn’t that they’re not “real” RPGs… but that they’re “not” WRPGs.

      WRPG and JRPG are both very distinct subgenres of RPGs in general.

      By coincidence, “Extra Credits” picked up this specific topic for a multi-part series last week.

    • NathanH says:

      That sort of Choice’n’Consequence definition basically makes, say, Dungeons of Dredmor not an RPG and makes, say, Football Manager an RPG. I’m not having that.

    • ThTa says:

      “That sort of Choice’n’Consequence definition basically makes, say, Dungeons of Dredmor not an RPG and makes, say, Football Manager an RPG. I’m not having that.”

      That’s a shame, but yes; I’d argue that Football Manager is an RPG (at least to some extent, I’m not all that familiar with it), but Dredmor may just as well be, if for different reasons. Dredmor’s narrative consists out of the life and death of your character, which is something you can heavily influence. It’s not a terribly complex narrative, but Football Manager’s isn’t, either.

    • theleif says:

      I wouldn’t call Dungeons of Dredmor an RPG anyway. It’s a dungeon crawler. It’s not about creating/telling a story in any way. Having stats and levels in it doesn’t make it an RPG any more than it does CoD online.
      As for Football manager, while it does include RPG elements, is not either. It’s primarily about managing a team and emergent gameplay, not about playing a character, even if, in away you can “role play” (i.e choosing dickish responses in a dialogue, just because you feel like it).

      I doubt many will agree with me on this, but I’s day that Sleep is Death is one of the purest RPG:s on the PC.

    • malkav11 says:


      In that case we’re back to Gears of War and Call of Duty being RPGs, because you can absolutely influence whether your character lives or dies. In fact, it’s very nearly the only thing you -can- influence.

    • ThTa says:

      Malkav, as I mentioned before, your death in such games isn’t an option; the narrative assumes you live, no matter what.

    • malkav11 says:


      Of course it’s an option, every bit as much as it is in Dredmor. I die over and over again in all sorts of games, and it can at any time be the end of the narrative as I simply decide to walk away.

      Of course it’s a silly way to define a cRPG, but then, so is any definition that ignores the actual traits of the genre in favor of extrapolating a new genre based on the label that happens to have been assigned to the one we’ve got. The actual genre in question heavily features things like levels, character skills, loot, tactical combat, dice rolls, at least some sort of rudimentary narrative etc. In more recent years it has also incorporated elements like dialogue, branching narrative based on player decisions, exploration, etc. But make no mistake, those things add to the picture. They did not define the genre in its formative years (or even exist back then), and certainly don’t constitute the entire definition.

    • ThTa says:

      I feel like you’ve either not read what I’ve written above or are choosing to ignore it in order to stick to your “it’s muddying the definition” arguement. Stats, dice-rolls and levels do not define RPGs; they can be used as mechanics to allow for roleplaying (in particular for low-tech games), but they are not essential. They’re used to indicate character progression and resolve conflict, but we’ve plenty of other mechanics in place to do the same. If you’d like to argue semantics using only partial descriptions to fit your preconceived notions then by what you’ve just said, Call of Duty (MW)’s multiplayer is an RPG.
      It’s not what you meant to imply, and I know that, so I hope both of us won’t have to resort to such arguements again.

      And just to respond to your first paragraph: there’s a difference between you choosing to end a game when your character is dead, and the game directly stating that your character is dead and that it’s the end of its story. Yes, you can create a new character, but it isn’t the same as restarting from a checkpoint or even from the start of a game like CoD. That’s where the nuance of both randomly generated levels and the elements you hold so dearly make it an RPG, it’ll never be the exact same character or level (unless you deliberately make it so through some serious effort), there’s so much variation that it’ll generate a whole new narrative for that new character. (Yes, picking up different weapons can do something similar for CoD, but again, they’re not intended for that purpose. It’s all about intentional design, consider how the mechanics are used.)

    • malkav11 says:


      You are correct, stats and levels and such do not define a roleplaying game. cRPGs are not, in the classic sense, roleplaying games. Some games in the genre do allow for a certain amount of metagame-level roleplaying, and some of them even allow for certain explicitly defined roleplaying choices to be reflected in the game’s play, but despite the genre’s rather inaccurate label, there is little to no true roleplaying to be had in any of them. Those elements do, however, constitute a substantial portion of the definition of the cRPG genre.

      And yes, other genres have begun to adapt certain of those mechanical elements in other contexts. That’s why I would speak of Call of Duty multiplayer as having “RPG elements”. But as you correctly note, it is at best at the periphery of the genre. Its roots are much more strongly tied elsewhere.

      As for Dredmor being an RPG because you can “really die” in the context of its “narrative” (which, let’s be fair, it doesn’t have in any explicit sense), well…is it still an RPG if you turn off permadeath, which you can easily do at character creation? If yes, then clearly there’s some other reasoning at work. If no, well…I’m back to feeling your definition is silly.

    • ThTa says:

      I wasn’t aware you could turn off permadeath in Dredmor. (I haven’t played it, just read a few reviews, might do so in the future)
      I was under the impression that it was a roguelike; but it seems it’s more of a dungeon crawler, then. And, indeed, not an RPG.

      Edit: Actually, that was a bit rash. It could still be played as an RPG in the same sense the kinds of JRPGs I’d mentioned before could be, but I’d still argue it isn’t intentional design.

      And I feel I’ve spent a bit too much time on this discussion today. But I may continue tomorrow.

    • Wizardry says:

      @ThTa: Sorry but an RPG isn’t defined by role-playing. Role-playing is what you can do with an RPG. If the player chooses not to role-play, by selecting options at random, or always clicking on the top dialogue option, they are still playing a role-playing game but they aren’t using it to role-play. It’s like playing D&D with some mates but only using the rules to do successive battles against tougher enemies. They are playing D&D, a role-playing game, but they aren’t using it to role-play.

      What I’m saying is that role-playing is what the player can choose to do with a product. That’s why it’s worthless to say that RPGs are defined by role-playing and not the game part.

      @NathanH: I made a good stab of it here:
      link to

    • ThTa says:

      That’s actually an interesting point, Wizardry. I’ll sleep on it. But I’m currently inclined to fall back to my “intentional design” arguement, along with the fact that I’ve already stated that roleplaying isn’t so much a gameplay mechanic but something that’s possible within the context of the game. It’s still an RPG because it’s been designed to allow for roleplaying.

      I’m sorry, but I’ve been on this discussion intermittently for the past five hours or so, and I’m feeling that I’m getting a bit too incoherent and irritable.

    • malkav11 says:

      Dredmor is a roguelike, yes. Permadeath is a common mechanic in roguelikes (and one that is -by default- present in Dredmor) but it by itself is not the defining trait of that cRPG subgenre.

      A dungeon crawl, insofar as there is a meaningful distinction between the two terms, would be something more like the Wizardry games, or early Might and Magics, or Etrian Odyssey, or The Dark Spire….all of which, by the way, are solidly cRPGs. The former two even are core genre-defining series.

    • theleif says:

      @Wizardry “It’s like playing D&D with some mates but only using the rules to do successive battles against tougher enemies. They are playing D&D, a role-playing game, but they aren’t using it to role-play.”
      No they are not. They are using a game to play their own game, in the same way one could use Risk to play a conquer race game across the globe, using the risk rule set. You use Risk, but it’s not a game of Risk.

    • Kaira- says:

      Even good old Gygax said that if you are using D&D for role-playing, you are doing it wrong. And on top of that, “The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don’t need any rules.

    • ThTa says:

      Right, I’ll try my hand at a proper response, now.
      I’ll start off by repeating my two fundamental standpoints:
      1. RPGs are not defined by gameplay mechanics, but by how they allow for roleplaying within the context of the game.
      2. That context is determined by game design; this game design stems from narrative form (allowing for player input or altogether player-generated narrative) and is complemented by and often achieved through game mechanics, game mechanics which indicate freedom of choice and potentially progression. Again, these game mechanics are not strictly defined, the latter can easily be achieved through narrative and freedom can come in many forms.

      But my most important point is the issue that you can’t define a genre through its historical or common usage. At least, not in the way you are all doing.
      This may seem odd; after all, isn’t that how we usually define words?

      But the issue here is one I can probably best explain through an example:
      Say we take a genre within another medium, such as horror in films. How would you define horror? At its base form, probably as something that scares you in some way or other. But if we take a historical/common usage approach, we’re going to resort to tropes, things like supernatural elements and darkness are both things that are highly common in horror films, new and old; but they’re far from necessary or defining. They’re also not exclusive to the genre. In the same way, we can’t define the RPG genre through its tropes, either; something I’ve hopefully made clear throughout my previous posts.

      And this historical perspective raises another issue: are games that were previously considered RPGs no longer such, because their mechanics and narrative are simply too weak to be perceived as anything other than a weak dressing for normal gameplay? That’s also a no. Coming back to my horror films example; do you think truly old horror films, such as Nosferatu, are really all that scary? Probably not, but you’d still be willing to define them as horror films, because they were intended as such. When we assign a genre in other forms of media, we’re willing to look past their shortcomings and perceive them for what their creator intended. Even now, there may be extremely poor horror or comedy movies, but that doesn’t mean we change their genre post-mortem; we judge them by the context their creator has given us. (Which is not to say a creator can create something that’s quite clearly a horror movie and then label it as a romantic comedy in marketing; it’s quite clear we’re able to see through that, no?)

      So yeah, I want everyone to look at things from a design perspective when it comes to defining context-based genres, not a purely superficial, trope-based one.
      In fact, there’s hardly any genres in other forms of media defined by their tropes and methods; as such, I’m not quite sure why we started doing so with videogames. There’s things as perspective and style, sure, but those aren’t considered “genres” like FPS, Platforming and other gameplay-derived terms are. “Comics” aren’t a genre of their own, either, are they? (Then again, perhaps this is where the real issue lies. Whether gameplay is always more important than narrative when it comes to defining and judging videogames.)

    • Wizardry says:

      @theleif: Absolutely nonsense. There’s nothing in the D&D rules that says you need to role-play to play D&D. Role-playing games merely facilitate role-playing. You can role-play without any game at all.

    • malkav11 says:


      At this point I will just say that I respect but fundamentally disagree with your premises. There’s really not much more to discuss.

    • theleif says:

      “There’s nothing in the D&D rules that says you need to role-play to play D&D.”

      And there is nothing in the Risk rules that say you can’t do a battle race round the globe with your armies. But if I did that I wouldn’t say I was playing Risk, I would say I was playing a battle race across the globe.

      And I’ve used role-playing rules to just fight battles myself, but then I wasn’t role playing. I was using the combat rules in an RPG to fight battles.

    • Wizardry says:

      Finally. Now we’ve all got confirmation that your definition of an RPG is one that depends on the player playing it. According to you, no game can be called an RPG because it’s up to the player to make it an RPG. Therefore your argument doesn’t make any sense.

    • theleif says:

      Well, it’s up to the players to decide if they want to play an RPG session or just do a tactical battle, using the combat rules of an RPG. For the latter, you are using parts of a game to play another game, something pretty normal in board game and RPG circles. That’s obviously harder to do with a game on the computer, unless you are playing an open source game and know how to program.
      I thought that was pretty obvious.

    • Wizardry says:

      Have you ever played an actual pen and paper RPG? There is a DM that guides the sessions and directs the encounters, narrative and non-player characters. This DM is included within a CRPG product. It’s what the developers put into their game. It’s the content they stuff in: the dungeons you can explore, the characters you can meet, the villages you can discover and the quests you can do.

      When you decide to not role-play in an RPG, pen and paper or otherwise, it doesn’t mean the DM resorts to throwing random encounters at you. The DM can be playing sensibly, reacting to your actions and telling their story. But you, the player, can choose not to role-play back. This is just like picking random dialogue options in a cRPG. Or always clicking the first option. You’re still seeing the dialogue, you’re still doing more than just fighting random tactical battles, but you aren’t actually role-playing.

      In other words, the content stuffed into a CRPG that you download through Steam or buy in a box from your local game store has no effect on whether you can choose not to role-play. This is why RPGs cannot and will never be defined as “games where you play a role”.

    • theleif says:

      If you’d actually read my posts you should know I’ve already explained that I’ve played RPG:s (PnP, cRPG and since the early 90:s even LRPG games) since the mid 80:s.

      You’re not even arguing against what I wrote. I said that if a group of people choose to use the combat rules of an RPG and just do battles against each other, they are not playing an RPG, just using combat rules from that game to do battles. In the same way I could take out my copy of World in Flames and just do a gigantic naval battle. I would not be playing World In Flames, I would just be playing a naval battle using the naval rules of that game.

      What would happen if one person in an RPG session stopped to role-play has nothing to to with that. But even so, in all the RPG groups I’ve played with, if a person would do like in your example, it would be considered as that person not playing the game anymore. If it happened more times, he would not longer be welcome to play with us, because he is not playing the RPG.

      And it seems like we’re not getting anywhere here, so I’ll leave it at that.

  9. BobsLawnService says:

    “One of the tenants of critical code studies is that there is often extra functional significance to code. It would seem like code written to model indigenous peoples within a game already critiqued for its offensive nature would be a likely candidate for extra functional significance. On one hand, the fact that indigenous peoples are so close to playable, literally one character away from being playable, is intriguing. Once we flip that switch, the game exposes exactly how limited the Natives are.”

    Those articles are making me seriously annoyed now. Maybe the fact that the “Natives” share a subset of the functionality of the player is because of code reuse. Are the developers supposed to copy/paste all shared functionality? Maybe the glorious tenants of critical code studies didn’t think about that. The obvious answer must be that the developers are FILTHY RACISTS! WITH ADDED SPITTLE!!!AAARRRFGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Apples says:

      Yeah exactly. What, a non-playable class doesn’t have playable code in it? RACISM!!!! I hope the authors of it realise how ludicrous the concept is, no matter how much wanky critical language they wrap it up in. Do any of them code or are they just sitting down reading and interpreting the code as if reading a Shakespeare play?

    • NathanH says:

      Don’t worry about it too much. I think the Sunday Papers is contractually obliged to link to one piece of utter crap per week. It would be less interesting without this obligation.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Perhaps critical code studies ought to study some English. Then the discipline would a) stop misspelling things when writing code, forcing others to also misspell things, and b) not look near-illiterate when writing articles because they use the word ‘tenant’ instead of ‘tenet’.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Why I get so annoyed is that when the creators of “New Games Journalism” is that even supposedly good journalists like Jim can’t tell the difference between journalism and tripe. Just scream sexism/racism at the top of your voice, spout garbage and you’re suddenly afforded respect, credibility and column space for you faux pretentious drivel.

      This is why games journalists should go back to writing about games and whether they are good or not.

    • Unaco says:

      Yeah, I’m almost ashamed that I gave that site a visit. It’s one page view I wish I could take back. It reminds me of the nonsense with Johan Andersson/Paradox being ‘racist’ because of how the game (and I think it’s important we remember it is a game) handles certain factions.

      Also, I might be reading too much into this here, but it is interesting to see that on their site they use a not-quite-black text upon a white background. I don’t know what that means, but if someone here comes up with a conclusion, I’m sure we can shoe horn this fact in as an argument in support of said conclusion.

    • Orontes says:

      Such a strange article: inquiring about limited functionality for native factions when under player control. Well of course they do! They are under AI control and are not meant to have all these functions. Implying any racism in the game from limited functionality for the AI is just stupid.

      The game is all about the colonists and dealing with natives, not the natives themselves.

    • Apples says:

      I think saying games journalists should only write about “whether [games] are good or not” is also really stupid though! There should absolutely be critical thought about games, but preferably from people who are a) not idiots and b) have some knowledge about how games are made, including coding. They could certainly have critiqued how the game presents the ‘natives’, but they have no right to fiddle with the code to create their own broken, unintended version of the game and then critique THAT in terms of its presentation of native Americans – especially when they don’t understand what they did to the code in the first place.

      It really is in opposition to the one about the Binding of Isaac, which, while personally I think it looks way too far into a very obvious “lol religious American moms” set-up, at least looks at the actual game and brings some relevant theorists into it.

    • The Hammer says:

      “This is why games journalists should go back to writing about games and whether they are good or not. ”

      Uh, so that games journalism consumers can write about everything else…?

      Games journalists are, I know it’s hard to believe, people too. They haven’t all come down the same funnel to get to their careers. If they can mix disciplines, then that’s fine. In fact, it’s not just fine: it is to the benefit of games journalism as a whole.

      A few dodgy pieces from amateur chin-strokers should not negate all the good, thoughtful journalism written – a lot of which we see every week, linked to by the Sunday Papers (and written on RPS itself, natch).

      Gaming is a navigator of the moral maze just as film, literature, music and television is. Personally, I’m glad that we have journalists willing to dissect it, especially when a lot of gamers so angrily reject the idea that a journo would go beyond saying how nice a virtual gun feels when you use it to shoot a virtual man in the noggin. Sure, this results in occasionally silly, tenuously constructed articles, but it can also result in much more.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      “It really is in opposition to the one about the Binding of Isaac, which, while personally I think it looks way too far into a very obvious “lol religious American moms” set-up, at least looks at the actual game and brings some relevant theorists into it. ”

      But that is kind of like finding the deep and meaningful religious and sociological commentary being expressed by Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. There just isn’t any. The vast majority of games are popcorn entertainment

      This “New Games Journalism” lark stems from a deep-seated inferiority complex amongst gaming journalists. The fact is that they are 35-40 year old men who make a living writing about pretend dwarves, wizards, spacement and aliens shooting each other on our computers. And they need to get over it because that is ok.

    • bill says:

      @Bob…. so, er… why hang out on a NGJ website when there are plenty of other ones that just report release dates and give reviews?

    • NathanH says:

      Well, there could be some deep meaning underneath Transformers that is worth thinking about, even if it wasn’t intentional. For instance, if you have infinite monkeys, then you will at some point end up with a deep and meaningful novel. The monkeys didn’t intend it, but that doesn’t make thinking about the novel worthless. Once someone has created something and it leaves their hands, what they think it is supposed to mean isn’t really relevant any more.

      Other than that, I also get the impression that some people get embarrassed about liking games, or don’t really like games very much.

      Bill: It’s mostly for the puns, really.

    • The Hammer says:

      The comments system ate my first post, and no matter how much I rubbed its tummy in order to convince it to puke my text back out, it wouldn’t budge. So here I go again:

      Saying that “games journalists should go back to writing about games and whether they are good or not” is pretty daft, if you’re taking that view based on this awkward piece, and some others. Games journalists are journalists just like any other, and a lot of them have received university education, probably on subects entirely unrelated to games. Because of this, they often have insights and knowledge outside of the gaming sphere, and if they can apply those specialities in their day-to-day writing, then I think that’s grand. Games journos haven’t all gone down the same funnel to get to the jobs they have now, and the qualities of their writing vary considerably.

      The gaming medium is gradually maturing (if you peer past the mainstream at least), and so too is the journalism that covers it. Along the way we’ll get pieces that don’t gel well together like this, but wow, guess what: if you had been on holiday this weekend, you wouldn’t have seen it, and thus you’d have no knowledge of how it was perverting games writing as a whole.

      This sounds like I’m at a protest march, but I’ll state it anyway: games journalists are people too. They have opinions, and because it is their job to track and rate the trends and produce of the games industry, they’ll have informed opinions on that. Reviewing goblins and wizards needn’t be so simplistic, if those Gs and Ws are allegories, or seen as part of their creator’s world view. In the field of games journalism, there are some strikingly intelligent people, and if they want to cover social issues within gaming with a dab hand, then let them? It’s not as if they’re all unqualified to do so: Steven Poole writes for The Guardian as well as EDGE, and just last week there was a piece about Martin Amis writing about the gaming scene a decade or two ago.

      If you just want games reviewing, rather than games criticism, then there is already plenty of that on the web. Go and look at some to console yourself if the notion of New Games Journalism makes you huff and puff so much. But no, I don’t think games journalists should have to keep mum about topics they care about, because their readers will growl if those topics aren’t the traditional “Hey look at this new game, lads and lasses!” fare.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      RPS is the only gaming site I actually read. When they stick to talking about games they’re a great read. Typically when they stick to writing about games they’re brilliant. Their forays into deaper gaming commentary on the other hand is pretty much terrible. Who can forget Quintin Smith going completely off the rails about that Norlander (I think) game about inbred Norwegian hicks. Or John Walker ranting about how shit Lord British was as a human being because of the starving African children surviving on$5 a decade or whatever it was. Or how sexist a game was because it had a female nurse as an NPC.

      I disagree with peopple when they say that gaming is growing up. New Games Journalists gush about shit like It’s Not About You, Babe which is the gaming equivalent of Dawsons Creek. Hardly mature literature.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “Hardly mature literature.”

      Yes, because nothing other than mature literature warrants commentary, does it?

      Also you seem to have entirely made up the definition of New Games Journalism. What you are talking about is entirely unrelated, and very little of what is on RPS is actually NGJ as it was originally proposed.

      The best bit, however, is the extent to which you are simply pissing in the wind. We will write about whatever like on this website, because it’s our website. The same is true for most of the people I link on the Sunday Papers. You are welcome to write whatever you like on the internet too. That’s just how it works.

      (Incidentally, the stuff I link here isn’t stuff I necessarily agree with, on the contrary, much of it is stuff I think should be read because it is part of a wider debate or is simply an interesting take, however wrong. It’s worth reading what your opponents are saying if you want to win wider arguments.)

    • Unaco says:

      It was children from Burundi, and they were living off $82 a year, I think.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Jim, I remember Kieron’s first blog post on the topic of New Games Journalism. It’s basically about the journalist becoming a subject in the review. It sounded like a good idea at the time but increasingly I’m deciding that it doesn’t seem to work.

      I’m seeing more and more poorly informed opinions and conclusions being drawn due to games writers being qualified to write about games. They aren’t generally economists or lawyers, or programmers or sociologists. They typically have fine arts degrees if anything and they allow their ill-informed opinions to take centre stage in their writings which just annoys people who do know about these things. The Colonization article linked above is a perfect example of this (Although not the only one.)

      If I recall correctly John Walker was involved heavily in the finance industry before moving into the games industry. This doesn’t make me want to listen to him rant about how capitalism makes him feel, it makes me want to read about what he thinks about the economy in Eve Online and how it fits in with financial theory as he experienced in the real world.

      As for my comment about Don’t take it Personally, it’s a game that is held up as being an example of bold new mature game development when it really isn’t.That is my beef with it.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “If I recall correctly John Walker was involved heavily in the finance industry before moving into the games industry.”

      Haha, you do not recall correctly. I wrote for a finance newsletter for six months before I was sacked for playing Quake all the time, which might be your mistake. Either way none of us have been “involved heavily” in anything much outside playing games and working in publishing. (John’s background is in youth work, and he still runs Christian youth groups in his spare time.)

      Re Don’t Take It Personally, those games don’t interest me either – don’t mistake the arguments of a couple of the writers for the whole. Part of the strength of sites like RPS is that they don’t have an editorial line, and you can see how writers’ own opinions match or sit against your own.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      As a quick aside, I think everyone getting irate over that article are misunderstanding their argument entirely.

      In the previous article they’ve argued the game is racist in its mechanics*. This is about the how-ing of it, in terms of what on a code level separates the natives from the colonizers. I mean, it’s a little state-the-obvious (In the game the natives basically sit there, so the code makes them basically sit there**), but going into the hard maths of it all is at least a bit unusual.

      In other words, it’s not racist because its code is iffy – its code is iffy because it’s racist.

      Not that I’m being dragged into this one***, but if you’re going to drag something over the fire, at least insult it for the right reasons.


      *Though they actually argue that it’s not offensive enough.
      **As opposed to – their example, if I’m reading correctly – Civ, where the natives have the same autonomy of the colonizing people. They do admit it’s a bit state the obvious – though then get excited about how they can explore the simulation better now by tweaking stuff. Hell, if I’m understanding the subtext, the idea is that they’re going to continue these columns and mod it until the natives basically operate something like they’d want it to.
      ***i.e. Don’t assume I have a position on whether Colonization is racist or not.

    • NathanH says:

      I read the first article too. It was also utter crap.

    • Unaco says:

      No KG, I don’t think we are “misunderstanding their argument entirely”. I think most of the people irate over it have a pretty decent idea of what their argument is… maybe not getting every single intricacy (which is understandable when they themselves seem to have it confused… poor reading of code and failure to understand the !isNative statement, failure to state their argument clearly, and instead dancing around with insular academic references).

      But to say we’ve missed their point entirely is far from accurate.

      Besides, they may be saying that the code is iffy because the game is iffy/racist/colonial… but they ARE saying that the code is iffy/racist/colonial… “we can see the colonialism of the game represented in the colonialism of the code.” Which is what people seem to be objecting to.

    • Hanban says:


      Thankfully they don’t always write about just games. Which is why I still come back when I’ve stopped reading the other gaming sites.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Let’s be fair: it’s an academic blog. In a real way – academic word-hidey comes with the territory.

      “but they ARE saying that the code is iffy/racist/colonial… “we can see the colonialism of the game represented in the colonialism of the code.” Which is what people seem to be objecting to. ”

      Well, yeah. That’s how it creates a racist game. Which is their argument. “Natives are basically like colonizers, minus a bunch of abilities which are simply stripped”. The alternative would be “this code appears to create an entirely egalitarian game, but somehow magically it becomes racist when it runs.” By looking at the code, they can see precisely the functionality of the game’s racism, as created by the code.

      (And by altering it, they can explore its limits)

      A “how can code be racist? it’s ludicrous” position which everyone is forwarding, and getting hung up on coder-styled literalism is missing what they’re saying. Fundamentally, they’re saying by taking apart the code they can see exactly how the game *is* racist.

      I’m going to have to double-stress I’m not arguing Colonization is racist.


    • jalf says:

      In the previous article they’ve argued the game is racist in its mechanics*. This is about the how-ing of it

      Well yeah, I sort of gathered that. I didn’t read the previous article, but it’s pretty clear that that was their agenda.

      Now, that’s actually an interesting point, and definitely one that could bear debating and some looking-into.

      Where people are balking in this article is their attempt to tie this argument in with the source code of the game, without really making it clear how the source code is at all relevant, and without showing that they actually *understand* any of the code.

      In the end, that degrades their argument to an attempt to mislead by technobabble. As if, by mumbling enough code’y terms, they’ll confuse the subject matter so much that no one will be able to disagree with them.

      As I said, the *original* point is interesting, although like KG, I do not want to get drawn into *that* argument. But the article linked to here is really worthless tripe. An attempt to strengthen their case by drawing in something they don’t understand, and making baseless claims about it.

    • Apples says:

      They have not argued their point well enough, though, and in a way that suggests that they have a poor understanding of how code works. They have demonstrated that, when player-controlled, natives have almost no options presented to the player. This in itself is not problematic – they are never intended to be player-controlled. Someone who understands the code would then delve into whether that is a GUI issue, a PC-control issue (i.e. do the undisplayed options function when AI-controlled, are there AI-controlled alternatives to the options that usually display to the player), or a complete lack of functionality. They don’t. They just assume “well, it’s not shown to me, so it’s not there! Natives can’t do anything!”

      What they have failed to demonstrate is their argument that the natives are formed purely by stripping away the capabilities of colonialists. In their source code screenshot, they simply display individual lines of code relating to whether the actor is native; these do not show whether abilities are being removed or added. (they also miss the rather line “if (!isHuman() && !isNative())” which allows for literal non-human natives). Of course natives will have different abilities from colonists. They will functon differently. But examining the code in this case reveals very little that observing the in-game behaviour of natives without code knowledge would have.

      One of the links embedded in their post (to a forum thread) actually gives a lot more useful and problematic information than their entire article.

      Also, saying “The Natives are only one digit away from being playable” is technically correct but they are not ‘playable’ in that way in any normal sense of the word, so it’s a completely irrelevant point to make. I don’t know why but that line really winds me up, it just makes me think they don’t know what they’re talking about.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I dunno, I think if people disagree with someones ideas, they should make an argument against them rather than saying they shouldn’t be heard at all. Maybe I’ve read too much Zisek but I think that culture is expressed in all human actions, and can legitimately be analysed on this level. Zisek insightfully analysed the cultural expression involved in taking a dump, so I don’t think code is off limits.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Disregarding the unfortunate fact that non-coders writing about code isn’t a terribly good idea on the internet, I think I can see their point.
      The game design is flawed on a very basic level. Play as natives? Who would want to do that? This exposes some implicit judgements. The player is supposed to sympathize with the western colonizing force, and natives are presented as an “other” instead of an equal. The natives’ only purpose is to be exploited in the game’s mechanics, and this is mirrored in the gameplay, and presumably, the thoughts of the player.

      In a literary critique, a lot of time can be spent nitpicking the use of certain words and phrases, but you have to know what you are doing if you want to prove a point. Applying the same method to code isn’t going to work well unless you are a coder. They lost the forest for the trees, in this case.

      @Eddy9000 you make a good point, but if one is going to talk about a subject one knows little about, one shouldn’t do it from a position of authority.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Authority has to be questioned by argument though, it isn’t enough to defer to notions of ‘expertise’ as a criticism because lets face it, people can and do make claims to authority, should and shouldn’t doesn’t come into it.

    • jalf says:

      I dunno, I think if people disagree with someones ideas, they should make an argument against them rather than saying they shouldn’t be heard at all. Maybe I’ve read too much Zisek but I think that culture is expressed in all human actions, and can legitimately be analysed on this level. Zisek insightfully analysed the cultural expression involved in taking a dump, so I don’t think code is off limits.

      Sure, I agree. The problem is not that “code should be off limits”, but that what they’re saying makes no sense. The problem is that they misread and misrepresent the code. As others have pointed out, the first line they describe in so much detail does the exact opposite of what the claim.

      And then they show a list of all lines which refer to the IsNative() function, as if that proves their point. It doesn’t, because they don’t show what *happens* as a result of this condition. They show those separate lines, and then argue based on this, that the game deals wrongly with native civilizations.

      The notion of analyzing the cultural expression of source code is very interesting. Not one I’d thought of before, but as you say, I see no reason why it should be off limit, and it’s as good as anything else. Code is very much structured according to how we think. So yes, of course that can be significant.

      But the authors in this case completely botched it.

      All they have shown is that the code follows the gameplay design (the gameplay dictates that native civilizations are different than European ones, and so the code is written to make them different).
      The `isNative()` function is called a number of times to determine the “type” of a civilization, because the gameplay required that the two are handled differently. In other words, their reading of the code taught us absolutely nothing new.

      The interesting questions still revolve around the actual game design, the gameplay, the non-code parts of the game.

      A more in-depth reading of the code *could* possibly reveal something interesting as well, about how the separate handling of natives and europeans was handled in the game code and what that might tell us about the thinking behind it, but what the presented in that article was worse than useless. It contained no information, and merely tried to mislead.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Yah, I agree that outsider opinions are valuable, whether they have expertise on the subject or not. Unfortunately, the article isn’t presented as such and instead focuses on details in the code. Most of the author’s points fall apart because of this flaw. The article would have worked better if the author had declared his familiarity (or the lack of) with coding, because his point was that even with modding, the game’s intended audience couldn’t play both sides fairly.

      Examining bias in coding could be really interesting, but I think it would require a significant investment of time and research for a layman. Not saying it can’t or shouldn’t be done, but dammit, do it right! Despite the article’s wonkiness, I’m interested in seeing more from this perspective.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Oh yeah, totally agree on that front, it is a bit embarrassing to write an otherwise interesting missive on prejudice within code just to have the first comment in the comments section tell you that the code line means the complete opposite to what you thought it did!

    • John Brindle says:

      I agree with Snargelfargen. That error was a howler, and writing about code without knowing about code is of limited value. Not to mention “tenants”, I mean geez…

      But I also think people are being really obtuse on this one. When you make a game about a subject (e.g. history), you have to make simulation claims about that subject, i.e. you have to write the rules as to how the subject will work in the game. In doing so, your rules are making claims about your subject (unless you deliberately foreground the game as somehow in no way related to the real world…which the historical edu-tainment strategy genre never has). If you believe that, it follows that claims are also made on the level of the code which “speaks the game into existence” – as far as what the code (read with understanding) is intelligible to symbolism and ideology.

      In THIS case, the game rules are making the claim that the natives are not merely unplayable, but actually less human than the other civilisations. And examining the code both foregrounds that and allows it to be revealed – since it was modding the code that produced the Zizekian ‘symptom’ which exposed the ideology at play (i.e. the empty city screen).

      Despite all this, the article is very noncommittal. It acknowledges that this is also an efficient way to program the natives. It represents its arguments as “preliminary thoughts”, noting “We’re not entirely sure what to make of this”. It does not scream “CODERS ARE RACIST” or “THE DEVELOPERS ARE RACIST”. As such, it almost feels like some people enjoy being outraged at accusations of racism more than they enjoy, say, reading.

    • NathanH says:

      Nope, I’m dismissing that idea too. Think about it. Suppose you’re going to make a game about colonization. You’re going to have natives and you’re going to have colonists. Obviously the natives must be unable to do some of the things that colonists can, otherwise the results are going to be silly. You could make it so that it is physically possible for the native AI to do all the actions the colonists can, but ensure that the necessary conditions cannot be satisfied. Or you can just restrict the natives from doing them directly.

      Clearly the second approach is easier and also doesn’t have the capacity to go wrong, so you choose that. Nothing wrong there. I imagine the same approach is taken in Civ 5 with city-states vs civilizations. Are we going to claim that Civ 5 is evil because it says that the people of Ragusa are less than those of Rome? Presumably we are not, because we are not muppets.

    • ffordesoon says:

      I thought it was an interesting way of looking at the game, and I think critical analysis of code will prove to be a rather neat trend in academic writing as games gain more respect as an artform.

      As to the controversy around the piece, I think the people reacting to it as if its intent is the same as the article that inspired it are missing the point rather spectacularly. The piece that inspired the piece under discussion was obviously written as a fully-formed, self-contained essay that posits an assertion (in that case, “Colonization would be a better representation and examination of history if it were more problematic and controversial as a piece of commercial media, because player agency enables player guilt”) and attempts to back up that assertion with reasoning and evidence.

      The piece under discussion was, as far as I can tell, not written that way, and is consequently not meant to be read that way. It was instead written as a provocative thesis around which to build a multipart analysis. I’m not using “provocative” as a pejorative; rather, I’m using it in the more measured, academic sense of, “to provoke discussion”. Put simply, it’s written the way it is to foster an interesting conversation, not to prove that Sid Meier is without a doubt a Klansman. That it’s the first in a series of posts suggests that the reasoning is quite deliberately “wishy-washy” and “incomplete”. The authors are presenting a topic for discussion, not an answer to a question.

      Speaking more generally, I always find it fascinating that those who so often accuse the people who write articles like this of being “too sensitive” and of “finding racism in everything” seem substantially more sensitive and paranoid about what constitutes an accusation of racism or sexism than the writers of said articles. They bend over backwards to find not-racism and not-sexism in everything, if you like. Not accusing anyone in particular of that; just an observation.

    • John Brindle says:

      NathanH: Nobody is using the terms “wrong” or “evil” for the very good reason that they are too simple and they are boring. You can claim they’re a background hum to these discussions, but at bottom this is an argument about what a text says, an evidential and analytical argument.

      So anyway, you’re saying…what, that there’s nothing worthy of discussion or comment in the claims the rules make? That rules can’t make claims? That it’s not in any way a claim worth discussing that the native peoples (which include the fairly ‘developed’ aztecs, incas and mayans) have no civic ability? Or that if they had no morale modelling, no culture values, and the Europeans did, that wouldn’t express ideology in its modelling? That anyone was suggesting it would make sense for Colonization to have a ‘colonial’ game but unused ‘post-colonial’ code? That “simple and easy for the developers” means “completely impervious to interpretation?

      You ask if we’re going to “claim that Civ 5 is evil because it says that the people of Ragusa are less than those of Rome”. Maybe not. But we are going to claim that the model, the simulation, the shape of the game, has ideological implications and that an analysis of these implications can be illuminated by looking at code. We may agree with the ideology expressed, or we may not; we may offer as little comment as possible. If someone could find anything interesting to say about the rules that separate Ragusa from Rome, they can be my guest.

  10. Xercies says:

    Yes! Indie Developers have the right track, not to say “Pirate it instead” but to know people will pirate anyway there is no defence against it and maybe you use that possibility to get the people that pirate it to maybe buy it. Advertisement and the like. I think most people who pirate things will buy things as well.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      In that case why do they bother charging for it in the first place? People like Notch should man up, put their money where their mouth is & release all their stuff for free. Oh wait then his money mountain wouldn’t exist & no one would have heard of him you say?

      This is one of the reasons I have a large amount of respect for Cliffski even though I can’t stand his games. He prices his products at what he feels is appropriate & stands by his decision instead of flip-flopping whenever a sound bite or tweet is required to keep him in the media spotlight.

      I honestly hope all future games Notch releases get pirated so hard he loses money on them. Then we’d be able to see whether he has the courage of his convictions.

  11. YourMessageHere says:

    The PMC article is sobering and superb. I agree with what the guy says, I want war games that are actually genuinely horrifying, but it won’t happen any time soon – look what happened with Six Days In Fallujah, which I really wanted to ‘play’.

    • Apples says:

      Agreed… more war games that are just bleak and devoid of Americanised oo-rah patriotic stuff would be great. I think the closest I’ve played is stuff like Stalker, where deaths are sudden and arbitrary, you spend a lot of your time crouching blindly in a bush being shot at from god knows where, and everyone is looking out for themselves.

      Also I’d like to see what Fox News would say about a genuinely horrifying, realistic war ‘game’ (like he says, it would barely be a game if it was truly realistic), given their supportive stance on the war and general opinion towards violent video games…

    • marcusfell says:

      Go back and read the comments on that article. There are several accounts of horrific scripts in Arma 2.

      Yeah, I think Arma may actually be the only game that comes reasonably close to realism. And you can tweak fairly easily if you need to.

  12. Walsh says:

    I’m kind of disappointed to see that commentary from the merc posted here. There’s some discussion about whether or not the mercenary is a phony. Read some of the comments from other veterans attached to the story.

    • Ajh says:

      I can tell you now, it fits for some of the soldiers I’ve met but not most of them. My old roommate had a father that was in the military that was much like this man. I know several people in the navy that are wonderful empathetic people. One of them was in my D&D group once, the other played RO with me.

      I meet a lot of air force people in this town. For the MOST part, they’re just people.

      The article is chilling because it does present a side of the truth. Some violent sociopaths DO go into the military because it pays them to be that way, and does so in a way that they usually won’t get arrested.

    • gganate says:

      I would think that veteran combat infantrymen would tend to be a little socipathic. If you kill people up close for a living, your mind is going to find some way to normalize that behavior. The vast majority of service personnel probably aren’t, however.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I think we also have to look at the difference between infantry and more distant roles like air or sea forces. The way that PMC dude is thinking just wouldn’t work if he was in a plane and shooting at some radar blips, he’s sitting on the ground with lead flying at him from every direction and his targets aren’t computer generated markers but humans. When someone gets shot they don’t disappear in a big ball of fire and smoke, they just drop dead. He’s not even a tank driver, he doesn’t have the protection of a meter of steel between him and the enemy.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I also raise an eyebrow at it, but there’s bits that ring true.

      Something which did ring true despite itself – is that people who are basically sociopaths project their sociopathy upon others. So someone who does think like that almost certainly would over-estimate the number of people who are just like him in the group.

      (Still – worth reading, if only for other Vets chipping in. Some call bullshit. Others go “no, I’ve seen that”.)


    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I always think about my dad. He was Special Forces in Vietnam, and it’s always interesting to think about how he is versus how veterans (especially Vietnam veterans, who kind of fit into a sub-category of their own) are typically portrayed. He doesn’t talk about it much, but I know he’s never said he was bothered by any of his experiences. I do know that he never hunted much after the war–my mom told me that–and he has a real respect for the Vietnamese people (but not their food, though he really likes Americanized Chinese food, which may be related), and that’s it.

      My impression is that a lot of soldiers just look at it as a job. A job they may enjoy for many reasons, and which may involve many things they don’t like, but that could be said about any job. Most of them form their opinions about why and how the war was fought, won, and/or lost, and move on. They aren’t haunted by the people they’ve killed because it’s hard to give a shit about people who are shooting at you. If the people in the place seemed friendly and understandable, they feel sympathy for them. Fayetteville, NC (around Ft. Bragg, a very large U.S. Army base) is full of Vietnamese families who immigrated, often with the help of soldiers, and many soldiers married Vietnamese women. They’re not sociopaths any more than they’re heroes; they’re just people.

    • Chandos says:

      I suspect it is not a simple issue of sociopathy or not. I’ve been reading the “Lucifer Effect” by Phillip Zimbardo, the guy who designed and executed the Stanford Prison Experiment, in which he makes the case for the overwhelming influence of situational powers over dispositional ones. The experiment itself (and it is supported by the accounts of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and the genocide in Rwanda) shows how everyday people are capable of committing horrific abuse when put under the right situational pressures. In other words they do not need to be sociopaths to commit atrocities. Any frontline combat situation would create the perfect conditions for people to flip like that.

    • Consumatopia says:

      The scummiest thing I’ve read in a while was this buried in comments by Karl Parakenings. Emphasis added.

      This is a real article, verified as best as I am able (and I am not very able), by a person who actually served in the UK military. Feel free to disagree, but be polite and respectful. We are to you.

      Look, I’m a peacenik hippie who would never wear a uniform, but if you aren’t able to actually verify that a person telling a story about a military actually served in the military, posting that story is not merely dishonest, it’s dishonorable. I guess you could have an interesting argument over whether the military attracts nasty people or conditions regular people to do nasty things, but the wrong place to have that discussion is in the context of someone who may or may not be a fabricator.

  13. Ajh says:

    Reading the DLC manifesto makes me wonder if I’m the only person that really doesn’t mind day one DLC.

    In regards to putting them on testing and fixing….what do the artist and writers do? For smaller games this might work, but in the context of major games such as Mass Effect it doesn’t. They very likely have separate testing teams.

    I DO mind companies that don’t patch their game. I DO mind game breaking DRM.

    I really do think day one DLC should be free to people that register their new copies regardless of collectors edition status or not. CE stuff should be cosmetic. Give the regular and CE buyers a really good reason to buy new by including dlc codes in all your new games. It counteracts the gamestop effect.

    You’re a company that makes multiple IPs? Give codes for tie ins. They’ve done this before.

    I do agree that store specific bonuses need to go. I don’t CARE what you offer me, I’m not buying from gamestop. My preorder experience with them has always been less than stellar with them often selling my copy to someone who didn’t preorder before I even arrived after work on release day. Thanks guys…

    Also, do not restrict your game to one digital service. If people want to play it on steam, just work with that. The more exposure the better, right? I’m not sure what to do with this little orange O on my taskbar but I don’t like it. I have no friends on origin.

    And it ties in nicely with the piracy article. It all boils down to getting people interested in your game. Used copies, new copies, pirated copies – If your game is good, people WILL talk about it. If nothing else, gamers talk to each other about games. You can count on that. We’re an opinionated lot, some of us are more idealistic than others, some have more money than others, but we definitely tell people about games we like. To a certain extent, exposure in the way the piracy and demos the article describes only bolster your sales. Combine it with the DLC for purchasing a new copy rather than making gamestop richer, and you’re going to see sales rise.

    I don’t know about other people here but there are many games I wouldn’t have bought if I hadn’t played a demo or tried it first.

    And…I’ll be playing ME3 in 2 days. I even upgraded my old 9800gt for a 550ti. I wasn’t going to buy it before I played the demo. Origin was too much of a barrier to me.

  14. dangermouse76 says:

    I sent this to the Valve Team edited version below:

    If I have understood this properly, I do not own any game I have paid for, but I temporarily own a limited liscence to access the software ( game ) exclusively via the steam client.
    1.Can you confirm if I have interpreted this correctly.

    2. I would add that ( if true ) I find it misleading to have a purchase button for ” buying ” games when I am actually subscribing to them acording the T&C’s and do not own them in the same sense as buying a disc version from a shop.

    Personally I would like to see this reflected in changing the purchase button to a subscribe button for renting� limited software liscence access to a game.
    My name.

    I was told they could not make a legal interpretation of the agreement. I countered that this meant that the only words in the English language that could be used to describe their service were also ones that could bear no interpretaion or clarifacation. And were therefore worthless as no one could confirm wether my interpretaion equated to a proper reading of those terms.

    To me the servive is a software liscence rental service – you do not own the game because the TOS of service define the game as a subscription. That is a subscription to a limited liscence to access the software through the Steam client. No client no game. To me that seems pretty legally clear as I signed up to it.

    I dont think it’s a great thing but I have got ” value ” from the service so continue to use it. But from what I see. I do not own the game in any practical sense.

    • Jackablade says:

      Read through a few of those EULAs on disk based games. You don’t own the data on a disk that you buy any more than you own what Valve is charging you for. You are -always- paying for a limited use license.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      I know I know. With the disk version I more meant stuff like right to sell it. The fact it feels like physical ownership. My point is not about the disk version really it’s about Steam as a ” service ” not as a seller of games.

      But a group that rents exclusive liscence access for other companys. Like shops but offering a few more bells and whistles.

      @ Bill.
      I know. I’d like to see EA come to my house and take the disks though. Steam can just shut down. People banned from steam loose access in some cases to quite a library.

      They may have broken T&C’s and that could be argued as the price you pay for signing up. But I would like something in the TOS service that gives some sort of promise to transfer the liscence to the publisher incase they go out of buisness.

      Or allow you to transfer the liscence outside of the service. That may be complex but I do not think it should be impossible.

      Or of course I could not use the service….. but where’s the fun in that.

    • bill says:

      Even the “not owning the data on the disk” thing is unclear though. Effectively you own the game (as it can be played) but you don’t own the code.
      It’s really hard to think of a non-digital example, but it’s kind of like going to a restaurant and ordering a chef’s signature dish. You now own that copy of that dish to eat, but you don’t own the recipe. er… you know.

    • marcusfell says:

      It’s like buying a museum ticket to look at a piece of art. Except coming to fully appreciate the art takes several hours and it’s the only piece in the gallery.

    • MD says:

      And it’s probably just a cartoon of a thousand people getting shot.

  15. asshibbitty says:

    You know how there are people who pirate everything and invent a moral high ground to support it? That pirates vs indies thing must be making their heads spin.

  16. InternetBatman says:

    The piracy article was pretty interesting. I think they’re adopting the same attitudes of a f2p developer without a f2p structure. It might even work for smaller studios. World of Goo developers rightly complained about the huge piracy rate, but the World of Goo developers also made enough money to each buy a house and and a new car without a mortgage. Obviously the point is moot for large developers though, their price point is higher, their games cost way more to develop, and they have way more people to support.

  17. Gary W says:

    So Eric Lockaby reads ‘Notes from the Underground’ and uses its themes to come up with an idea for a reskinned version of Killer7??

    That’s the problem with indie hipsters these days: “Let’s not bother playing older games, as they aren’t Art; instead we’ll get some ideas from books & films that our university professor tells us are good”. Then they inadvertently remake Rick Dangerous with ‘evocative’ graphics.

    That’s like claiming you rule Bartertown without having gone the distance in the Thunderdome.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I don’t think that’s an indie hipster thing, I think that’s just the way a generation approaches games. Going up a step in graphics or interface is often so gradual that you don’t really notice it, but going down those steps becomes progressively harder, especially when there’s so many new games that eat up attention.

    • Gary W says:

      Why waste time playing new games with poor level design and gameplay mechanics?

      Your point about interfaces depends on the game: you don’t have to be a genius to cope with the UI of games like Flashback, The Last Express or Blade Runner, for example. Moreover, if the interface is difficult, it’s often worth the effort to learn it if the underlying mechanics of the game are rich enough.

      Also, art direction >>> graphics — perhaps some older games have gone ‘up a step’ and have better art direction than newer stuff. Stranger things have happened.

  18. mckertis says:

    “The world needs to be made aware of my kind: the silent majority of fighters, those that do not care about politics, religion, ethics, or anything else other than war for war’s sake.”

    The world is aware, and we wish people like that to die. War and religion are the last great bastions of human barbarism.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the closest that dude had come to combat was reading old editions of Soldier Of Fortune magazine.

  19. bill says:

    I thought the “games as service” thing missed a few interesting issues.

    One that it kind of touched on is that services tend to have minimum requirements for quality and, er, service.

    But there’s also others such as:
    – what will happen to all these games after the services shut down. Imagine if NES/SNES/Dos games had all been services, they’d all be lost to us now.
    – is it possible to pirate a service? is that slavery?

  20. Vinraith says:

    Not the RPG argument again, please. When people can no longer agree on what a term means, that term has lost its utility. “RPG” used to be the term for a genre, and like all genre labels was defined in terms of the mechanics of those games. It’s been applied to enough games that do not fit that definition, and accepted in that usage by enough people, that it no longer qualifies as a genre label and has lost its meaning. That’s a sad thing, it was a convenient shorthand, but fighting over it accomplishes nothing. Since the genre (as previously defined) is essentially dead in mainstream gaming anyway (which is the root of its undefining ) I’m not even sure it matters all that much. Stick to the edges of the internet where these things still exist, and leave the mainstream to call their gun and conversation games whatever they like.

    • NathanH says:

      I don’t agree. RPG is very easy to define well. You just have to decide whether you want to have RPG and Action-RPG as different genres, or RPG as the genre with Action-RPG and Classic-RPG as the two sub-genres.

      You can get into technical arguments but that is true of pretty much any genre. For instance, if I go with something like (hat tip to Wizardry):

      1) The player controls one or a small number of characters
      2) The abilities of the characters are defined by the player in some way
      3) These abilities change as the game progresses
      4a) In an action-RPG, player and character skill often apply at the same level
      4b) In a classic RPG, player skill usually applies at a higher level than character skill

      then you probably won’t find too much fault in them, and we catch pretty much everything that is called an RPG in one of them, and we don’t catch very many games that we wouldn’t call RPGs.

      The only point of contention would be “in some way” in 2), but I’m sure we can deal with that fairly easily.

    • Harlander says:

      The other way around for 4b, I’d have said, but otherwise, if I was looking for a definition of RPG, I wouldn’t go too far astray by using yours.

    • NathanH says:

      As an example of what I mean (and what I assume Wizardry means) by “higher level”: If the player aims an ability in real-time according to their dexterity and then the effects of aiming that ability at that particular place are determined by the character’s skills, then player and character skill are working on the same level. If the player selects an ability in a turn-based game and clicks on an area, and then the effect of attempting to aim that ability at that particular area is determined by the character’s skills, then player skill is operating at a higher level than character skill.

    • Wizardry says:

      Well yeah. There’s little to no potential for role-playing during the aiming of a shot in real-time. It’s instinctive. On the other hand, there is potential for role-playing when choosing between swinging your sword at one enemy and casting a spell at another enemy in a turn-based game. Basically, RPGs should be about decision making, which is intellectual rather than dexterous. You need the abstraction to be able to coordinate a character without becoming that character (and thus imposing your own strengths and weaknesses on their ability to do their jobs).

    • Urthman says:

      Vinraith says, The term RPG is basically useless because there are 10 different definitions and everybody uses the label differently.

      NathanH says, No it’s not useless. Here’s the definition of RPG.

      Urthman says, OK, so now there’s eleven definitions of RPG.

      See also: link to

    • NathanH says:

      The obvious solution is for everyone else to drop their waffly non-rigorous definitions then, isn’t it? :-P

      Everyone else’s definitions don’t seem very solid compared with the above. Actually in the linked article, the writer had a pretty solid definition of an RPG, that he eventually found was too restrictive. So he was doing the right thing: have a rule that is quite clear, and amend it if it turns out to be poor.

      A good definition would satisfy the following principles:
      1) Classifies most of the games generally considered to be RPGs as RPGs
      2) Classifies few of the games generally considered not to be RPGs as not RPGs
      3) When used by many people to classify a new game, will usually have most people classify the game in the same way.

      I think the above definition is a good start on the road to fulfilling these principles, and I think that the vague alternatives being proposed don’t do this, and need a lot more work before they do. That’s why I think that the above definition is the most solid of those currently offered.

    • ffordesoon says:


      I think your definition is pretty good, but thinking about it more, I still like the one I came up with on page one, slightly revised here:

      “A cRPG is a video game in which a character or set of characters is [are?] systematically and meaningfully defined, in whole or in part, by a progressive series of reasoned decisions on the part of the player(s).”

      I like it for two reasons:

      1) It covers every game anyone could reasonably define as partly or wholly an RPG, and it excludes the most ignominious potential inclusions like CoD’s multiplayer component.

      2) More importantly, it identifies what separates RPGs from other games, and what “role-playing” actually means: you’re wholly or partly defining a character. In Mass Effect’s case, you’re defining a body with a weapon attached, not a weapon with a body attached.

      Which is not to say my definition is exempt from criticism. My writerly bias towards narrative and emotion is obvious, and my use of subjective words like “meaningfully” does leave some room for interpretation. That’s partly by design, as I think there needs to be some room for experimentation in there, but I’m sure it’s not perfect. Still, I like it.


      I actually quite enjoy the discussion. I just think it’s rather silly to get so very heated about it.

    • NathanH says:

      I think you also need “and the game responds to the character accorrding to how it is defined” or something like that. That should provide some meat behind the word “meaningful”. I would imagine that then our two definitions would behave similarly.

    • ffordesoon says:


      Fair point. Reactivity (however illusory) is key. Will work that in somewhere.

  21. Kleppy says:

    Seriously, the “this game is not in this genre” debate is even more tiresome than “are games art?!”. I have no idea why people even care about categorizing games. My categories for any type of media I consume are “good”, “meh” or “awful”. I find Mass Effect 2 to be in the “meh” genre. Discuss.

    • NathanH says:

      The “are games art” debate is more tiresome. People want to categorize things because they like to impose order, and if they cannot do that they like to impose the illusion of order. Also, it is fun. Finally, it serves purpose: “Mass Effect is a sci-fi TPS Action-RPG” is a short sentence with a lot of content. Mass Effect 2 is better than “meh”.

    • Kleppy says:

      Yes, I realize that “meh” isn’t an adequate description of a game. However, arguing about whether a game is an RPG or an action game is about as useless an evaluation. It’s just pseudo-intellectual filler usually written by people with way too much time on their hands.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Someone just needs to develop a sort of tick-box form for game elements

      Camera: first-person, third-person, top-down, flat panel
      Characters: solo, team-control, team-AI, instructions, abstract
      Setting: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Modern, Post-apocalypse, candyland, none
      Progression: equipment, character stats, none
      DRM: none, Steam, Origin, GFWL, always-on, one-time authentication

      or something

    • Kleppy says:

      Agreed. The less babble about genres and classification the more actual information you’d get about the game. Also, in an age when video reviews are available for free and number in the hundreds for each game, you can easily decide for yourself if it’s a game you’d enjoy without having to employ weird mental gymnastics about whether or not Mass Effect 2 is in the same genre as goddamn Baldur’s Gate.

  22. Skabooga says:

    With regards to the proposed PC Gaming Wiki, that would be very helpful. I am currently embroiled in trying to reconcile Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II with Windows 7 (64-bit). Certainly, I can Google up resources about possible problems and fixes, but to have them all on one page and just run down them, knowing I hadn’t missed any pertinent details, would be grand. It would be like the GameFAQs of PC game fixes.

  23. Radiant says:

    That Destructoid article and also it’s sister article in Kotaku are atrocious examples of games journalism.

    It paints the entire fighting games scene with a brush so broad it’s only dwarfed by the writers’ lack of research on the FGC.

    So the players who play Tekken and the kids who play Smash brothers are the same as the diehards who still play 3rd Strike and Super street fighter 2?

    What about the largely south american and asian players that play KoF?

    How about the Japanese SF4 scene? Or the Malaysian and Singaporean Soul Caliber scene?

    All those scenes act and behave the same way?

    What Aris did was completely unacceptable and defending himself through saying it’s part of the culture was idiotic at best.

    It’s part of his personal lifestyle maybe but an integral part of every single scene that comes under the umbrella term of FGC?

    Give me a break.

    link to

    This is the community I go to be part of; one that is accepting of all the players, all the games and all the scenes that fall within it’s vast scope.

    Also Final Round is currently going on [in it’s FIFTEENTH year] . SF4 finals should be on soon.
    link to

    The opening speech by the organiser:
    link to

  24. Amun says:

    Can we lay off the kotaku links in the future? I’m this close to changing my hosts file to redirect all the gawker websites to -_-

  25. Baines says:

    For the Castlevania Medusa Head article, it might have been better to have linked directly to the Kotaku Australia version. Whoever copied it to the main Kotaku site didn’t properly copy the formatting. Not only does the US version look worse and loses the bolding on a few words, it also messes up the final animated image and loses several web links. (The Australian version links to Where is My Heart, YouTube of the Blow/Bosch Designing the Universe lecture, the egoraptor YouTube, Sincar, Waveform, the Wikipedia page for sine waves, and a very nice YouTube video of a water droplets orbiting knitting needles in zero gravity. These are all lost in the US repost, where the reposter only restored the anna anthropy link.)

  26. theleif says:

    Edit: Supposed to be a reply.