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The Sunday Papers

Sundays. Sundays are for making quips about pig-racing. Sundays are for watching the rain dry up. Sundays are for pondering the future, and the past, and the flavour of videogames.

  • Quite a few people forwarded me this article about the end of 38 Studios this morning. If you are interested in what went wrong, then this is one of those classic tales of misfortune mixing with poor-judgment: “Schilling knew he’d been treated well during his baseball career, and wanted his staff at 38 Studios to feel the same. That meant gold-plated healthcare, for which employees had no paycheck deductions, and top-notch 401(k)s, with the company matching to the legal limit. As 38 Studios grew from 20 employees in 2006 to 42 in 2007 to 65 in 2008, there were plenty of other goodies along the way: free gym memberships, two homes the company rented to temporarily house new out-of-state hires (though that perk was short-lived), and, one year at Christmas, new laptop computers for every employee. Gifts like the computers came out of Schilling’s pocket — he says he spent as much as $2.5 million on that sort of largesse over the years.” It’s all very sad.
  • Why Viktor “City 17” Antonov left Valve: “Valve is a great place, but I’m interested in projects, not in companies. I went to Valve specifically for Half-Life 2. I went and I collaborated with Arkane to do The Crossing and Dishonored. I put the project above everything else… Valve has grown into a much bigger company… and what I really enjoy about the philosophy of Arkane is that it’s a small, core team that does risky creative projects. And when I went to Valve, they were a small company. They’ve grown now, they’re much bigger, and I’m interested in a certain level of creative risk taking and a certain energy that can be compared to jazz, jamming or rock n’ roll, where it’s small, it’s intense and it’s about making revolutions in the media.”
  • One of the weeks most important articles seems to me to not be a good or interesting piece of writing at all, but instead a job ad for Irrational, in which the developer was required to have worked on a game with an 85%+ Metacritic score. There was an outcry over it – well documented here – and then it was removed entirely. Even though the company realised their mistake, it leaves a lingering thought out there over the idea that people are taking Metacritic seriously as a measure of the worth of a developer’s work. Some developers I spoke to privately even defended the idea, saying that at least it was a score, and not the number of sales. Still, I remain convinced of the general worthlessness of scores as a way of evaluating games, and this seems like a critical juncture for that. (As for the people who saying “scores are a good, quick shorthand for consumers to judge a purchase, I say that if they are going to spend the time it takes to read a number to evaluate spending $40, then they deserve to be dissatisfied with their purchase.)
  • The New Yorker on Christopher Nolan: “Nolan, though more critically praised than many directors and more commercially successful than most (“The Dark Knight” is the twelfth-highest grossing film of all time, and its sequel promises to crack the top ten), has been dismissed by many cineastes as slick and quasi-intellectual. I think this is because they misunderstand what his films are doing. Nolan’s entertainments, the best ones, anyway, are games. I don’t mean that they resemble puzzles or tricks (though they do that, too), I mean that they are most satisfying when understood as games, not as novelistic narratives. They are contests with rules and phases, gambits and defenses, many losers and the occasional victor, usually a Pyrrhus type.”
  • On Knightmare: “I am nine years old and I am running, the frost cutting into my thin pallid cheeks, the winter wind searing my ears raw, the sneering Scottish sun throwing its Vs at me from the red horizon. As my uncomfortable school shoes pinch, I imagine I am in the opening credits: I spring down the steps of my chosen shortcut, my books a shield on my arm, my schoolbag the knapsack of yore; the hood obscuring my view is that sacred helm. Knightmare is on in ten minutes, and there is no way on earth I am missing the opening gambit.”
  • Keith Stuart is very old: “I am aware, when I go on press trips now, that I am old enough to be the father of some of the other journalists I am with. I mean, that can’t be right. Increasingly often I reference games they never played, or that exist for them as dim childhood memories. I am ancient enough to remember playing games in black and white, on old Grandstand consoles; I played Pac-Man in a Blackpool arcade when it first arrived in Britain; I even remember when Sega was a serious force in the industry. That stuff makes me feel like Rutger Hauer as the majestic yet dying replicant in Bladerunner – I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. And I have, and they are part of me.”
  • Videogame Tourism looks at the beautiful work of screenshot bloggers.
  • Speaking of old people, does anyone remember Spy Vs Spy? “Black chops White in half at a tollbooth, White gives Black a hat filled with acid and his face melts off. Forget the cold war context, I had brothers and sisters. That was enough to ensure I understood the rules of this cruel new world. I would have killed for a real-life Trapulator.”
  • This is a really interesting thought on magic in games. (Magicka anyone?)
  • Lady Armour.
  • If only we could talk to the authors of Edge reviews. Now that would be something. Ten controversial Edge reviews.
  • Music this week is more Son House. Did I link this before? Probably. Amazing.

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Jim Rossignol

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