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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for medals. You’re going to get one just for reading this article. Will we award zinc discs of achievement to any of this week’s word-producing individuals? Let’s find out.

  • This is a strange article. Simon Parkin meets with Nolan Bushnell and frames him as “gaming’s absent father”: “I don’t like to go into red oceans. If I don’t have a significant innovation I don’t like to try it. It’s just too much hard work. And right now, iPhone games – even if you have a great game, discoverability is really hard. The reason I’m in education right now is because it’s massively screwed up, and the technology is manageable and doable. And so, in the classical definition of a poet who interprets God for the masses: I want to interpret technology for the education business.”
  • While at Eurogamer, it’s also worth visiting Rab’s most recent column: “If acceptance of reality means that the games industry loses its giant studios, and it all shrinks back to small teams making smaller games and charging less, then so be it. It’s said that the recent Kingdoms of Amalur had to sell three million copies to just break even. That’s ridiculous. That’s a sign of a broken, dated system starting to shut down.”
  • Alan Williamson writes about the importance of subjectivity in games criticism: “Mechanical analysis tells us nothing about what it’s really like to play these games: how our emotions intertwine with the story, why you feel a strange dissonance when Max Payne kills all those dudes, the drive to persevere against impossible odds. Subjectivity acknowledges these artistic value of games: what better way to educate people who don’t play games than by describing how those games feel, beyond what we can see in a momentary glance? A game like Nier may seem outwardly crude, but by dipping beneath the surface we can bring its inner strengths to light. I wouldn’t advise my grandmother to play it, but the knowledge is still there for those who seek it.”
  • On game preservation: “Game preservation has an extra problem that film doesn’t, however, and that is the rapidity with which technology advances. Many early games were made for and distributed on hardware that no longer exists—in any form. And the clock is ticking on everything that remains. The lifespan of a floppy disk or magnetic tape is estimated to be around 30 years, if it’s well cared for and you’re lucky. Once bit rot sets in, it can be nearly impossible to recover the data.”
  • On Spec Ops, No Russian And Interactive Atrocity: “I present a counter-argument: in the real world, there is always a choice. The claim that a massacre of human beings is the result of anyone– a player character in a video game or a real person– because “they had no choice” is the ultimate abdication of responsibility (and, if you believe certain philosophers, a repudiation of the very basis for a moral society). It is unclear to me how actually being presented with no choice is more “emotionally real,” because while it guarantees the player can only make the singular choice, it is also more manipulative. It is like the educational game that wears its assumptions on its sleeve in the name of “simulation”.”
  • Steve Fulton on permadeath in games: “Developers have pandered to weaklings and whiners for far too long. There is a revolution coming in the form of true, emotional feedback from games, and difficulty levels to match. Eve Online kick-started the concept, although was by no means the first. Flying a ship worth billions of ISK (the money alone would have taken a player months to accrue), only to be blown up by a clever gate-camp. It’s terrible, painful, heart-breakingly tragic. But it’s also one of the reasons for Eve Online’s success. The brutal nature of the game rewards patience, intelligence and erring on the side of caution. Flying a ship you can’t afford to replace is one of the first rules of Eve, and you will only learn it once.”
  • VG247 talk to Arcen: “All my life I’ve been a gamer, and that involves a lot of looking at what other people actually make as well as what you think they were going to make. So sometimes I’d be reading previews about a game and getting really excited, then play the final product and realized I’d misunderstood what they were going for. And sometimes I thought my original conception of their idea was cooler, and I’d mentally file that away. I think that all game designers do this, unconsciously or not. It certainly was unconscious for me.”
  • No idea how real this is, but it’s amazing/terrifying: “The Baining—one of the indigenous cultural groups of Papua New Guinea—have the reputation, at least among some researchers, of being the dullest culture on earth. Early in his career, in the 1920s, the famous British anthropologist Gregory Bateson spent 14 months among them, until he finally left in frustration. He called them “unstudiable,” because of their reluctance to say anything interesting about their lives and their failure to exhibit much activity beyond the mundane routines of daily work, and he later wrote that they lived “a drab and colorless existence.””
  • Elon Musk knows what to do.

Music this week is actually a series of short films, called Silent City. Filmed in New York’s abandoned spaces, it has something, even if the fight is a bit rubbish.

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