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The Sunday Papers

Sunday mornings are for waking up back at Rossignol HQ and being pleased that Rezzed was a success. Wish you had been there, etc. But anyway, let’s get back to the usual way of things and examine the evidence for people know what they are talking about when it comes to games.

  • This is great: Fun Is Boring on Gamasutra. “Fun is a lazy word. A bit like “game”. On first blush anyone can grin, nod their head, and think they understand what you’re talking about — but there are breathtaking gulfs between Today I Die and World of Warcraft, between Monopoly and Foursquare (both social networking or playground variants). Pete Garcin wrote a good piece last year about the problems of broad language, though he wasn’t looking to, “pick on ‘fun’ specifically.” Let’s pick on fun, specifically.”
  • Cobbett discusses “guilt by association” over on Eurogamer: “Games never have much difficulty making us feel like a hero. Cheerful psychopaths are the bread and butter of entire genres. Guilt? That’s trickier. It’s a rare game that even tries, and only a tiny fraction of those even come close to making it good to feel bad. Spec Ops: The Line is one of them, and while I am about to be critical of one of its big scenes, make no mistake: it’s a seriously impressive piece of narrative, blisteringly dark, and phenomenal in both storytelling and character development. I could enthuse about much of it, and almost certainly will at some point – when the big scenes no longer reside in Spoilerville and more than six people have actually bought a copy.”
  • Patricia Hernandez argues that the best ending for Mass Effect 3 is not to finish it: “Right now, that crew—what is left of it, anyway—is aboard the Normandy. We’re on our way to the Illusive Man’s headquarters, and from there, we’re going to finally put an end to this galactic war. The game asks me, as is customary to make sure that I know that there’s no turning back now, if I am ready. No. No, I’m not ready. I refuse to say goodbye, especially when I don’t have to say goodbye. I haven’t beaten Mass Effect 3 yet.”
  • Here’s a splendid article at Lost Garden about “Building Tight Game Systems of Cause and Effect”: “Not all systems are readily amenable to the intuitive formation of models of cause and effect. As a game designer, it is your job to create systems that are intriguing to master without being completely baffling. If the system is too predictable, it becomes boring. If it is not predictable at all we assume that the system is either random or spiritual in nature. Both of these are failure conditions if you are attempting to encourage mastery.”
  • The connections that Uplink made in Rich Stanton’s head are not for a mainstream audience, apparently. While you’re reading Stanton, head back over to EG for this Metal Gear Solid retrospective.
  • Designing for grace: “What strikes me about articles like Raph Koster’s “Narrative is not a game mechanic” is that for all intents and purposes, they might as well come from a parallel universe. People try to respond to them, but it’s impossible. To say that story is a form of feedback rather than a game mechanic is not so much to make an incorrect statement (well, it is, but let’s not go there now) as to make a statement about a different matter in a different language on a different planet in a different universe. It’s a statement entirely alien to the essence of what story actually is. It’s like describing people in terms of their chemical reactions. Not strictly false, and sometimes quite relevant, but missing the point by a margin of infinity.”
  • Electron Dance speaks to Johann Sebastian Joust dev Doug Wilson: “I’m personally very interested in design theory and new approaches to thinking about game design, but we should remember that not all games research is focused on design. I’m one of those idealists who believes that research can be an end in itself. Research can have practical applications, but we shouldn’t demand that it does. On this point, I think about some of my intellectual heroes – Hannah Arendt, Michel de Certeau, Dave Hickey. None of those writers have easy “applications,” but I still feel like reading them has made my life immeasurably richer.”
  • FeedTheRobot is reblogging some great content.
  • In related robot news, Tom from Big Robot explained the British Countryside Generator.
  • This gallery over on PCG shows the awesomeness of the Minecraft Westeros map. Incredible.
  • Your obituary is unlikely to be this exciting.
  • This is silly but also wow: Top 10 most promising technological inventions inspired by science fiction.

Music this week is some droning grinding sounds from Sleep Research Facility.

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Jim Rossignol

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