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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for being on holiday, and still remembering to compile a list of the writings from the past week of the internet’s Eye-Of-Sauron-like concentration on the activities of games. Will a tiny person finally chuck an evil ring into the volcano of our gaming philosophy? Or will he get accidentally eaten by a giant spider? I just don’t know.

  • This is basically essential reading, whatever your level of interest in the game, Quintin Smith on DOTA 2: “I am Luke on the Millenium Falcon, being told to fight the drone blind. And when you succeed at that in Dota 2 – when you retreat down a lane, only to see some huge bastard with an axe burst out from the bushes to land, violently, where you just were – the high is outrageous. Two things: As of today, I’m not just curious about Dota 2 anymore. I’m having an absolutely incredible time. I’d also never have gotten this far if I wasn’t playing with friends.”
  • From Cyberspace to Composite: Two Fantasies of Hacking: “Watching the trailer for Ubisoft’s forthcoming Watch Dogs reminded me of those nights because I feel sure they couldn’t have come from the same planet. Ubi’s game belongs to the world of Foursquare, Girls Around Me, and geotagged Twitter posts, where I can sit on a train and watch my best friend’s kid nephew’s tween Twitter spats. But I didn’t get social networking until I was 18 and didn’t ‘get’ it for another year after that. My adventures took place in the world of another hacking game: Introversion’s 2001 classic Uplink. Existing more than a decade apart, these games represent two very different fantasies of what role technology plays in our lives.”
  • Joe Martin’s podcast series continues: “When discussing fear in games, it’s almost impossible to ignore the shadow cast by The Shalebridge Cradle, the infamously chilling mission from 2004′s Thief: Deadly Shadows. So, what better way to start Season Two than by talking to RPS co-founder and comics writer Kieron Gillen to tackle that topic directly?”
  • GI.biz examines Penny Arcade’s Kickstarter: “It isn’t financially motivated at all. We’d actually be making significantly less money this way, but we’re banking that the guys that used to do advertising will pitch in in other revenue-generating ways.”
  • What if Ultima iV came out today? [worth nothing that the subtext is “if it were done by one of the major RPG producers”, rather than “wholly recreated by indies”, which is much more like a counterfactual, given the idea we’re talking about here]: “Just for kicks tonight, I played a little bit of Ultima IV. I don’t think that there’s a CRPG that is more legendary or revered than this one. It received rave reviews when it was released in 1985, and pretty much defies criticism today. It is a milestone for the genre and for gaming in general. And for many people, it represents a glimpse into what might have been – a step along an evolutionary branch of roleplaying games that was never fully explored. Seeking a peek back into this crown jewel of computer role-playing games, I sunk some precious time into this game to remember what the fuss was all about. And as I played, I began to wonder what Ultima IV would have been like if it had been developed over twenty years later. We can look at the later sequels for some answers, but remember that they were predicated on the success of their prequel. So let’s play a what-if and pretend that Ultima IV was a brand new game in a new genre. What would a newly-release Ultima IV be like today?”
  • Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Shooter“, Tom Bissell on Grantland: “I left the Blacklist demo sick and infuriated, which was a shame, because the person introducing the demo was a game designer I admire and have long wanted to meet. I really wanted to ask this man how he felt, demo-ing that. Ask the programmers and artists, too, how they felt, bringing that moment into this world. I wanted to ask them all what the deal is with this industry we’re a part of. I didn’t. Couldn’t. I know people who’ve been tortured. Someone I know was tortured because of something I wrote about him — a cold little bibelot I’ll take with me to my grave. I described my Blacklist experience to some gamer friends, a couple of whom thought I was overreacting. Overreacting to a blithe, shrugging presentation of the very definition of human evil, all in the name of “entertainment.” I spent a couple days feeling ashamed of being a gamer, of playing or liking military games, of being interested in any of this disgusting bullshit at all.” Can’t say I wholly agree with this, but some interesting material. I feel I need to revisit this topic myself in the coming weeks.
  • And on a similar subject, SomethingAwful’s Zack Parsons argues that you are the new Call of Duty villain: “This latest turn into the realm of modern politics is more disturbing than a heap of dead bomb vest guys outside a stairwell on a survival map. Goyer has managed to take the cold brutality of drone warfare – a terrifying reality – and somehow create commentary that we need to watch out for the gullible Occupy movement. It isn’t a creepy arms manufacturer or a rogue general, not even the drones themselves going haywire, it is literally the “Messiah of the 99%” who subverts our drones and starts shooting at us. Because you let him on Youtube. You did this. You broke our arsenal of liberty and it’s your fault.”
  • Walter Garrett Mitchell argues that Alfred Hitchcock would have made great games: “”Dialogue,” he told Truffaut, “should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.” By the same token, a gaming auteur theory would prize the titles that express themselves, first and foremost, in gaming-specific terms: choice, cooperation, competition, challenge, reward, repetition, modification. Within this ideological framework, one could even argue that narrative in games should “simply be a sound among other sounds,” a side dish to the real meat of the interactive elements and gaming’s answer to the mise-en-scène. It goes without saying that story-less romps like Rayman Origins, not to mention Tetris and every other abstract puzzle game, prove the appeal of the narrative-free experience.”
  • David Kanaga on the bell game.
  • Split Screen on “the challenge”, which is a thought we have all had a variation of, I suspect: “Here’s the thing, though: I don’t know if I like playing Spelunky. I am compelled to play it in the same way I go to the gym- because it’s a goal to overcome. Yet I don’t like it when I’ve got two dumb bells suspended above my head. I like the satisfaction that comes after the training, but not the event itself. A lot of people don’t see the appeal of a gruelling gym session, just like many gamers don’t see the appeal of Dark Souls and its brutality. One of these enriches both body and mind, letting us experience things we never could have imagined… and the other is Dark Souls. I understand why people are dissuaded from playing tough games, and it’s not just a matter of taste. It’s about how we choose to spend our free time and how we derive enjoyment as individuals. Craig, for example, generally dials back the difficulty so he can enjoy the story- and also because he’s rubbish at games, of course.”
  • Yang on narrative systems.
  • Some interesting procedural generation thoughts on ProcWorld.

Music this week is the 1939 version of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

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Jim Rossignol

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