The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for sitting in disbelief at how a pinched nerve can render your right arm near useless, and then suggesting other people read things you’ve read.

  • Jim and I have been running with the Chess 2 joke for well over a decade. In fact, if anyone were able to get their hands on a copy of the briefly existing but wonderful 101 PCgames magazine, they would find the theme well explored. Someone’s taken it a bit further. Christian Donlan reports for Eurogamer on how two men are trying to help chess out of its current top-end rut, and how that relates to Street Fighter. “If I were to make a completely new competitive game, then tell you that over 60 per cent of games played by experts ended in draws, and it takes like an hour to play, it would be rejected right away as a competitive game I think. At the very least, it would be a bad property that you’d want to fix.”
  • Dr Mark Griffiths is always a voice worth listening to when it comes to stories of “gaming addiction”. I find myself wishing I could agree with him more, but frustrated by his lack of acknowledging another recognisable zone between “not addiction actually” and “my criteria for addiction”. That which Project Massive so helpfully referred to as “problematic use”. Essentially, irresponsibility or a lack of learned ability to self-regulate. It’s inevitably this that more usefully describe the sorts of “I don’t get around to doing my ironing any more!” stories that appear in the tabloids. Instead Griffiths’ wont is to relate things to gambling, despite simultaneously recognising that the rather fundamental aspect of gambling – the possibility of increasing your initial amount of something – is never a factor. I’m just not convinced that leap is yet justified. Anyway, my rant aside, he writes another interesting piece on Candy Crush Saga, in what appears to be a very tactful response to a half-arsed Daily Mail piece for which he was interviewed.
  • I’m not sure Andrew Groen’s initial argument in his piece about religion in Crusader Kings 2 is right at all. He begins, “Not many games approach subjects as prickly as religion. One false step and you can end up alienating or offending a massive portion of your player base.” I’m quite certain that has nothing to do with why games don’t feature the topic – I think it’s because it would be a sophisticated and complicated thing to do well, and most big-budget games avoid sophisticated like it’s made of contagious cancer. Of course, what Groen’s piece reveals is that Crusader Kings 2 absolutely doesn’t avoid sophisticated, and embraces the enormously complex subject of religions’ roles in political history. And the game’s soon to add the Sons Of Abraham DLC, putting in Jewish and Christian faiths. “They manage to strike a neutral ground though by not taking a stance on any single religion or sect. Crusader Kings 2 is something of a sandbox game in which many, many different things can happen. If a religious ideology takes over in your game, it’s not because it’s better. It’s just because that’s how things played out in that version of history.”
  • “Players are overrated,” begins Mattie Brice’s piece, Death Of The Player. I’m already interested. And rightly so. It’s a superbly smart piece, poking at that place people generally prefer to leave alone: she asks, agency in games is an illusion, isn’t it? “There is no such thing as agency in games. Agency is a lotus and we’ve all been asleep. I think The Stanley Parable strives for us to look at this issue, asking why we continue down this narrative of player agency. Can’t we still be taken through experiences without our every whim thought of and satisfied?” And then it keeps getting more interesting.
  • It’s my job to care about videogames. And I do. But watching a video like this one makes me realise what a fair-weather-fly-by-night-flip-flopping-fanboy I am. It’s a forty-five minute dissection of a unit in Starcraft II. I am but fluff.

Music this week comes from a YouTube URL jotted down on a scrap of paper and tossed onto the pile of documents on the Sunday Papers desk in Castle Shotgun. No idea who put it there, but YES. Seven hours of Robert Rich’s ambient excellence.


  1. astronaute says:

    “…over 60 per cent of games played by experts ended in draws, and it takes like an hour to play”: Sounds perfect to me, there is nothing to fix. Are you familiar with the one of most competitive sports in history, Football? Played in 90mns with lot of draws by experts.

    • John Walker says:

      One of over 8 million reasons why foot-to-ball is so achingly tedious!

      Also, for context, American sports are far less likely to tolerate draws. Most major sports there just keep going until someone wins.

      • Viroso says:

        Just because nobody won doesn’t mean nothing has happened. And sometimes a team may win and still nothing happened.

        link to

        A Wall Street Journal breakdown of what happens during an american football game.

        • welverin says:

          That’s not remotely accurate, it only adds up to an hour and thirty-five minutes and games take at least three hours on the norm.

          • Viroso says:

            From the original article that has that picture:

            “So what do the networks do with the other 174 minutes in a typical broadcast? Not surprisingly, commercials take up about an hour. As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps. In the four broadcasts The Journal studied, injured players got six more seconds of camera time than celebrating players. While the network announcers showed up on screen for just 30 seconds, shots of the head coaches and referees took up about 7% of the average show.”

            So there are three hours, but apparently most of it are ads and when there is a game it seems only 11 minutes of people actually playing it.

          • Nogo says:

            You realize just how much happens in those 11 minutes right? And focusing on those 11 minutes totally ignores all the decisions that go into controlling the flow of the game.

            I don’t want to get into a pissing match about sports, but it’s a terrible way to judge the game. It’s akin to claiming a single-player campaign is crap because it’s only 4 hours long.

          • Viroso says:

            Check the context where this started. Draws and tediousness.

            Also, it’s more like 4 hours of gameplay and 6 of cutscenes.

          • Gap Gen says:

            I like the idea that American Football is more a strategy game than an actual sport, and that most of the time is spent deliberating over where to move your big, burly pieces.

          • Martel says:

            Well technically an American football game is 60 minutes of play time, everything else is not “play time”. That includes timeouts, commercials, halftime, etc to add up to your 3 hours. That means 66% of a typical american football game isn’t a part of “playing”. Then take into account that in between plays it takes, time in the huddle, time in formation waiting to snap the ball, etc you’re talking about maybe 10-12 minutes of the ball actually being in play.

            That means that about 7% of a football game’s broadcast air-time is actual game play. And yes, I’m an american and love watching football, but this is exactly how it is.

          • malkav11 says:

            That sounds impossibly tedious to me, but then I enjoy a fair number of activities that other people would describe that way. So to each their own, I suppose.

        • bangalores says:

          American sports > football (SOCCER)

        • Wedge says:

          Professional American football IS boring. The collegiate level is much faster paced and more fun to watch though. Same for basketball as well.

      • welverin says:

        There is a great deal of hate here for ties, which I don’t share or particularly understand, but I also think the style of sport has a lot to do with it. The less likely teams are to score the less reasonable it is to continue playing indefinitely.

      • WrenBoy says:

        You can’t have draws in american sports?

        Basketball aside, they seem far more tedious that soccer though. American football has about 10 minutes of action in 3 hours and baseball seems designed to be enjoyed best while drunk.

        Hurling is the worlds greatest game in any case.

        • dangermouse76 says:

          Uh you mean curling …….yes ?

          • aoanla says:

            No, he means Hurling. It’s like Shinty but Irish.

          • dangermouse76 says:

            I know I was kidding. Scotland’s women’s team rule at curling.

          • Lambchops says:

            “Like shinty but Irish”

            The only people who would understand that comparison are the Scots and the Irish and we already know the difference!

          • SuicideKing says:

            Lol i’ve lived in Scotland for a few years when i was a kid, still no idea what Shinty is.

          • WrenBoy says:

            While I obviously know what it is I have to admit I have never watched a shinty game. Any classic matches on you tube to show me what I’m missing?

          • Gap Gen says:

            Hurling is like hockey without rules? I get the impression that, historically at least, nonlethal games were seen as rather dull.

          • WrenBoy says:

            Well its far more physical than field hockey of course but, the modern game at least, certainly has a rulebook.

            I’d say its only flaw is that the basic skills are too complicated for casual players. I was a rubbish hurler as a kid, always getting criticized for “playing hockey” for instance (not being able to easily raise the ball into the air which is a basic skill of the game). Once you can appreciate the basic skills its a really beautiful game to watch although I’ve no idea how it appears on first glance.

            Here’s this years final if you are really curious
            link to

          • Gap Gen says:

            “The Book of Conquests Part Four: The First Battle of Moy Tura I. THE HURLING MATCH OF MAGH NIA. With the battle delayed, the impatient hearts of the young warriors could not bear the tedium of waiting for the weapons to be prepared so Rua the Bloody and the twenty-seven sons of the tribe of Miled, allies of the Fir Bolg of Muma, sped westwards to the end of Magh Nia to challenge the Tuatha Dé to a hurling contest. The youth of the Tuatha Dé were eager to meet them at the hurling which was a strong and skilful game. But they were no match for Rua and his tough mountain men. They had scored but one cúl when the wrath of the Fir Bolg descended on them like a tidal wave. The skill and speed of the Dé Danann team could not match the brute strength and resolute savagery of Rua and his men; many bones were broken and youthful flesh bruised and gashed. The Tuatha Dé soon lost the game and Rua and his team left behind them the flower of the young hurlers of the Tuatha Dé Danann lying dead or grievously Injured on me field. It was a match that left great bitterness in the hearts of the Tuatha Dé Danann against Rua and the sons of Miled, allies of the Fir Bolg. From that day on they resolved to have their revenge upon them on the battle field of Magh Nia. The Cairn of the Match is the name of the cairn where they met, and Glen Cairn Ailliem is the place where the dead are buried.”

            (Although granted, football used to be similarly no-holds-barred, although possibly less lethal. Also I suppose this was people waiting for an actual battle.)

        • Don Reba says:

          Basketball aside, they seem far more tedious that soccer though. American football has about 10 minutes of action in 3 hours and baseball seems designed to be enjoyed best while drunk.

          Hurling is the worlds greatest game in any case.

          Because it can be played while watching baseball?

          • WrenBoy says:

            Americans and their funny words.

            Oddly enough drinking till puking is probably an even more popular pastime back home. The athleticism involved is limited of course.

          • Martel says:

            I don’t know WrenBoy, last time I played that game I felt more physically tired than the last time I played a real sport :)

        • jonahcutter says:

          In video game terms, I look at the differences like this:

          Football (the world, minus America) is essentially a real-time game, with the real-time micro manifested in the execution and athleticism.

          Football (American) is essentially a turn-based game, where each turn is decided by the execution and athleticism.

          In world football, the game flows continuously over large areas, so there is “less happening” at any given moment, even though the game is still being played. In Am. football, there is a lot “less happening” at any given moment as well, but you are notified when something is about to happen. Each down is a potential action-movie set-piece to perk up and pay attention to.

          Now, this isn’t really true. There is still tons happening in both game when it appears there is “less happening”. Strategizing, positioning, substitutions, gamesmanship, psychological warfare. But in both games, those subtleties are generally lost on the uninitiated and translate into tedium when there’s no intense action. A world football player who knows the game is riveted because he understands those subtleties. A casual observer sees the ball being kicked up and down the field and may be bored. But the same is true of the time between downs in Am. football. The game is still being played, but it’s become almost wholly a mental game at that point. It’s turn-based and we’re between the turns, thinking (and perhaps trolling our opponent on chat).

          Our (U.S.) most popular analogue to world football would be Basketball. Played largely in real-time. Give and take. Flow. Gameplay continues unless a time-out is called. Hell, the two sports even the same high level of shameless flopping (watch LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two of the most talented bball players are also two of the most shameless floppers). But basketball is more distilled than world football. It’s played on a much smaller field, and it ups the scoring tremendously. It feeds our love of the micro-drama of the shot. We all love to cheer or cringe when the ball goes towards the net/goal. Basketball feeds that love constantly. World football can be rather stingy with it. And we Americans love to gorge ourselves.

          • Reefpirate says:

            This was a fantastic synopsis and I found myself agreeing largely…

            But this whole thread is missing or forgetting about ice hockey (as Americans, and ok most of the world tends to do when talking about sports). Hockey is a sport with the ‘flow’ of basketball or football but with missing teeth and far more legitimate ‘flopping’ as you call it.

          • Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

            I really like this analogy. My attempts to explain American football to my non-native American wife (born in a country that loves world football) have been largely unsuccessful. She’s convinced that American football is just big men running into each other all the time. I will try this turn-based strategy explanation next!

            American football is even more exciting than just turn-based though because of the instant corrections that can be applied. Consider the great quarterbacks who, after receiving the initial play from the sideline, can read the defense’s strategy with 10 seconds left on the play clock. Then with 5 seconds left they change their offensive play. After the ball is snapped, they read the defense’s execution in 1-2 seconds and deliver a 20-yard pass with a 0.9 second release (while dodging 350-pound men that would love to bash your skull into the turf). Amazing stuff.

          • Hidden_7 says:

            Yeah, this whole thread would get a lot more sensible if the rest of the world (i.e. non-Canadians) would just admit that Hockey is the best sport. Good flow & pace, lots of exciting moments, no ties. In fact, probably the quickest way to “fix” Soccer/Football is to make it more like hockey: put it in a box, allow full contact. Although there’s already Lacrosse if you really need a summer sport.

      • jonahcutter says:

        You can have ties in regular season American football (our most popular pro sport), though it is indeed far more rare with the way sudden-death overtime is structured. An extra quarter is played to decide the game. Who scores first wins, with the other team getting one possession after that score to try to tie/win. If time expires in with no change in score/still tied, it’s a tie. The game is just too physically punishing to continue indefinitely. In the playoffs though, play continues indefinitely. There can be only one…

        Baseball and basketball both continue until someone comes out on top. I think hockey does the OT-then-shootout thing to decide ties.

        • Jason Moyer says:

          I wish the NFL would adopt the NCAA’s overtime system (which prevents ties), as OT in college games tends to be far more exciting than it is at the pro level.

          • Arglebargle says:

            NCAA’s collegiate football ‘excitement rules’ are crap. Like lots of the NCAA. Their tie football strategy devolves into a simple scrimmage, taking huge amounts of the game strategy right out. If you want to win the game for sure, score in the regular four quarters.

    • DiamondDog says:

      “Most major sports there just keep going until someone wins.”

      More time for ad breaks.

      • Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

        The jaded brainwashed consumer in me wants to believe this too. But I noticed during Thursday night’s Bengals/Dolphins OT there were no ads in between ball possession changes. Usually we’re blasted with manly truck and beer commercials when offenses and defenses swap, but during OT they just kept the camera on the field. It was nice! So maybe OT isn’t funded with commercial time.

        • Pundabaya says:

          I think its more that the TV companies struggle to sell ad time for OT, as it is reasonably rare.

    • jalf says:

      I’m pretty sure that the ratio of soccer matches ending in a draw is less than 60%. And even among the most soccer-happy people I know, “a high chance that no one wins” is *not* the reason they like the sport.

    • GameCat says:

      But you can still have some tense situations like goalkeeper who blocks 3-4 shots within few seconds etc. Chess game is like tic-tac-toe – it have only limited moveset that can be described by math. And you just can’t beat the math. Same with checkers (there was an article about this game some Sunday Papers ago) where two perfect players will ALWAYS draw.
      In sports based on reflex etc. you doesn’t have such thing.

    • TreuloseTomate says:

      The problem with highlevel chess is that so much of it comes down to memorization of opening theory. Some players, including GMs, may find that a little boring.

      • Strangerator says:

        Bobby Fischer, before he passed, was quite critical of the game.

        link to

        “No, I don’t play chess anymore, I play Fischer Random. It is a much better game, more challenge. Chess is a dead game, it is played out. Fischer Random is a version of chess that I developed or invented, you could say, where you shuffle the back row of the pieces, not the pawns. Each side has an identical shuffle, so that everything is symmetrical, just like in the old chess.”

        • tormos says:

          Granted, he said in the same interview that America was trying to detain him for torture, so you might not want to trust him 100%

      • Gap Gen says:

        One of the reasons I never got into Starcraft II.

        • Reefpirate says:

          There are games in SC2 that are called ‘build order wins’ that might fit what you think you hate about SC2… But there’s a lot more room for error in an SC2 match, and at the moment it is far from a solved game.

    • Lambchops says:

      Yeah draws are fine (apart from when they are because of rain despite one side being vastly superior, cricket is and will always be daft!).

      • NathanH says:

        Draws in cricket are great, they keep things exciting even when one side is clearly on top.

        • SuicideKing says:

          I find cricket more tedious than football, really. I’m not sure i even understand draws in cricket anymore.

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  2. Geebs says:

    The rustling sound you hear reading the “Death of the Player” article is that of a thousand straw men being created and then dispatched, backed by the echo from the inside of the author’s cavernous navel.

    • John Walker says:

      It’s okay, lots of other people don’t know what a straw man is either.

    • AndrewC says:

      The rustling is the sound of a thousand dreary man-brains struggling to dismiss alternatives.

    • Justin Keverne says:

      Has “agency” in games ever meant anything more than the ability to act within the given constraints of the system?

      It feels like she’s arguing against empowerment rather than agency, and conflating playtesting and an iterative design with an increase in empowerment. Iteration is to design as editing is to writing, to suggest that it will, by its very presence, push a design in a specific direction (in this example, toward greater “agency”) is based on unsupported assumptions about how iteration and playtesting works.

      That said, the underlying concept than the degree of agency or empowerment available can be used as a metaphor for the agency of the character is, I believe, a strong one.

      • Geebs says:

        Not to mention that to believe that art is intrinsically better for having sprung fully formed from the mind of one auteur in a vacuum is horribly naive. Why are most bands’ second albums disappointing? Because they had five years to dream up the first one, and then a year in which they’re pressured to make the second.

        People who make creation look easy did it by working REALLY hard when nobody was looking.

        • John Walker says:

          Sigh – you say “strawman” with no context, but then deliver an excellent example of the fallacy yourself. The article never makes any such claims, and in fact stresses that art is better for having variety, and not excluding one particular style.

          • Geebs says:

            On the contrary, the article makes a number of assumptions about what others’ creative processes are, what they are trying to convey through games, and what their intended audience is and then proceeds to say that they are invalid as forms of expression. I appreciate that what she’s referring to is her internal construct of what the games-as-entertainment industry is like, and I concede that most games are just entertainment; but there’s a difference between doing qualitative research and polling a sample size of me; you’re not going to reach saturation of ideas in that setting unless you’re very imaginative….

          • Wulfram says:

            To be fair, it may be less about a strawman and more about not knowing what on earth the article is on about.

            Because I’m definitely in the latter camp.

          • WrenBoy says:

            As far as I can tell the article would have made more sense without Father Johns introduction. It has nothing much to do with player agency and more to do with making the game the developer wants rather than the one the playtesters want.

        • Justin Keverne says:

          I don’t really think that’s what she’s saying. I think rather she’s simply calling for more creators to go with what they feel works over what feedback from players tells them is good. That’s not an uncommon, or particularly controversial position to have. What’s that Warren Spector comment: “If you ask 10 players what they want in your game, you’ll get a list of 10 features they liked in the last game they played.” It’s an overgeneralization but has a kernel of truth to it.

          The conflation of playtesting and iteration throughout that article is confusing and potentially misrepresentative of those two processes though.

          • bhlaab says:

            Her whole thesis is a solipsistic mess

          • Nogo says:

            It also gets worryingly close to the “feedback is author censorship” line of rhetoric.

            The article should be more “boldly stick to your vision” or “unlocks and DLC are forcing developers towards grindy, skinner box content” and less “listening to players might ruin your game.”

            A better example are two reactions to controversy from two different teams this past week: Stanley Parable plans to alter some imagery because it’s a relatively minor fix and it was sending an unintended message to some people. No More Room in Hell refused to remove child-zombies because they deemed player revulsion to be working as intended.

          • Blackcompany says:

            Among Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective people are two that I feel are key to both writing, and writing well:

            1. Begin with the End in Mind. Before starting, know where you are going, how you intend to get there and why you intend to arrive at that particular point.

            2. Seek First to Understand, then TO BE UNDERSTOOD. Listen well, and communicate clearly. Take responsibility for making sure your message gets through.

            I bring these up – and highlight a portion of that last one – because I feel the author of the ‘Death of the Player’ article failed on both counts. First, the author rambles on about what player agency means. Then they devolve into a monologue about whether and when it is even needed. All of which is fine for rambling on about in a friendly discussion among friends on a Saturday night. But to publish this inconclusive piece as anything more than a thought-provoking, personal blog is fallacious at best and borderline misleading.

            Which brings me to the point about Seeking to Be Understood. Something the author clearly did not do. The message – if indeed any coherent message exists – is unclear. I’ve seen no less than four interpretations of said message, at least two of which are diametrically opposed to one other, respectively.

            The player is unimportant, says one message. The player does not matter. The Play continues without them. Except…it doesn’t. What ‘play’ takes place without a participant? Go ahead, I’ll wait. So there’s that bit of philosophical irrelevancy addressed.

            Player agency is an illusion. It is given to us by developers and only in so far, and to such a degree, as the rules of any one system allow, does it exist at all. True. To a degree. Agency in any game is limited to an existence within the boundaries and rules of the game’s systems. Which, in our medium, must needs be finite. But even where limited, developer-allotted agency exists, IT DOES EXIST. Take Fallout: New Vegas, or even a game as linear as Dishonoured, as examples. Choices made in those games have measurable consequences that also appear within the game, and which directly affect game play going forward from the point where those choices are made. However limited in scope it might be, this is real, measurable player agency and thus, not simply illusory in nature.

            In that it requires a player to both turn the game on and make those choices, we can use these examples to also argue that, yes, the player is required in order for ‘play’ to take place.

            Whatever the author is trying to accomplish, personally, I feel they are simply excusing the lazy design that permeates so-called AAA development. The message reads to me like a love letter to the “Big Four/Five” of gaming, stating, “You’re doing just fine. These silly players, they have no idea what they want. So just stick to your cinematic, interactive films and don’t worry about these calls for more agency. It doesn’t matter; its just a flower and we’re all napping, blah blah blah.”

            Nice way to excuse lazy game design. Tell EVE Online players that agency doesn’t matter, is severely limited and is just an illusion. I’m sure they’ll be happy to tell you how that ‘illusory experience’ REALLY lost them an entire system last week.

            Of course, that was allowed by the developers, so of course, it didn’t really matter and probably didn’t even need a player in order to happen, according to this author.

          • gwathdring says:

            1. Begin with the End in Mind. Before starting, know where you are going, how you intend to get there and why you intend to arrive at that particular point.

            2. Seek First to Understand, then TO BE UNDERSTOOD. Listen well, and communicate clearly. Take responsibility for making sure your message gets through.

            Not a comment on the article, but on these. They bug me. Well, the second one less so it’s actually good advice as far as generic advice goes it’s just that generic advice doesn’t go very far.

            But the first one. If we ignore for a moment how varied both the artistic and the editorial processes are and how many successful stories and projects have started in the middle or at the beginning or have started at the end only to have the ending torn out and dramatically altered by time it was actually reached (and we shouldn’t ignore any of that): we’re still left with a yet more fundamental problem. If you know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and why you’re going there … then you’ve already written the story. Or designed the game. You have finished creating and are now merely transcribing. The thing is, in something long like a game or a book or a symphony, it takes a lot of work and drafting to get to the point where you have all of those elements down. So what’s our game plan for doing the 90% of the work that happens before we can even start to do things the Highly Effective way? For a lot of artists, doing that work in a zoomed out outline form and gradually moving closer and closer in to fill in the details just isn’t as efficient, satisfying or successful as a less Highly Effective approach.

            Every time I encounter The Seven Habits I am put in mind of a delightful joke I heard at the expense of the author of The Secret: if you want the secret to wealth and happiness just write a book describing the secret to wealth and happiness in generic yet convincing terms.

          • harbinger says:

            “It also gets worryingly close to the “feedback is author censorship” line of rhetoric.”
            But some feedback is supposed to lead to censorship or at least self-censorship.

            It’s basically what Fahrenheit 451 was trying to warn people about and a rather large message behind the book: link to
            “About two years ago, a letter arrived from a solemn young Vassar lady telling me how much she enjoyed my experiment in space mythology, The Martian Chronicles.

            But, she added, wouldn’t it be a good idea, this late in time, to rewrite the book inserting more women’s characters and roles?

            A few years before that I got a certain amount of mail concerning the same Martian book complaining that the blacks in the book were Uncle Toms and why didn’t I “do them over”?

            Along about then came a note from a Southern white suggesting that I was prejudiced in favor of the blacks and the entire story should be dropped.

            Two weeks ago my mountain of mail delivered forth a pipsqueak mouse of a letter from a well-known publishing house that wanted to reprint my story “The Fog Horn” in a high school reader.

            In my story, I had described a lighthouse as having, late at night, an illumination coming from it that was a “God light.” Looking up at it from the viewpoint of any sea-creature one would have felt that one was in “the Presence.”

            The editors had deleted “God-Light” and “in the Presence.”


            The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women’s Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feel it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.

            Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by the minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from the book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the library closed forever.


            For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversationalist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. If Mormons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmild teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture. If the Chicano intellectuals wish to re-cut my “Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” so it shapes “Zoot,” may the belt unravel and the pants fall.”

            I have the feeling that a lot of people (including an awful lot of “game journalists”) want to instate their very own “1954 Comics Code Authority”: link to or “1930 Motion Picture Production Code” on the game industry.
            A lot of the usual complaints and “criticism” certainly reads an awful lot like that.

          • gwathdring says:


            So … what? Are we supposed to never criticize anything? Are we supposed to never question the value, intention, or effect of a work if the author would feel their creative powers are threatened by our questioning?

            It’s all very well to say there’s more than one way to burn a book, but there’s more than one way to burn a heretic or stone a woman, too. What do we do in the balance between respecting the act of creating a work and respecting the power our approval has in crafting consensus and conventional wisdom and acceptance?

            I’m quite opposed to censoring or “fixing” works. Supply them in their entirety, adapt them more artfully in a true and creative re-telling (Match Point as a modern Crime and Punishment, countless re-dos of Shakespeare plays, and on and on), or leave them alone to die in peace.

            But that complaint cuts two ways; authors saying that their critics are all censor-happy book-burners are themselves breaking out rhetorical flamethrowers and refusing to take part in genuine dialog. I sympathize with Bradbury’s frustrations in the linked missive, but his frustrations have a very specific context and your use of it here smacks of the very running around with matches Bradbury himself was upset by.

            You write as though you want to shut up anyone who finds irresponsibility or social dilemma or distressing and painful echo of real-world injustice in their fiction. As though you want to set your own match to the whole world of critical perspective and label it censorship so your precious ears need not suffer the injustice of people daring to be offended, unsettled, annoyed, or otherwise critical with respect to art. I’d be happy to do away with self-appointed Experts and the stupidity of the Oscars and so forth, but you are brushing about with a very broad brand and I would have you douse it before you take the house down.

          • harbinger says:

            But that’s exactly what happened with The Stanley Parable: link to
            Someone was „offended“ over something in the game, made a big stink trying to get certain gaming media publications on the case like Kotaku and demanded the creator self-censors himself “not cool or funny. Please remove.” with the author abiding where Ray Bradbury would (thankfully) have not since he had artistic integrity.

            And make no mistake, these *are* calls of censorship and do harken back to the Comics Code Authority or Motion Picture Production Code (seriously, read them, they include almost every single complaint levied against video games nowadays in full): link to for instance regarding things like “Any licentious or suggestive nudity-in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture”, “Willful offense to any nation, race or creed”, “The use of firearms”, “Brutality and possible gruesomeness”, “Sympathy for criminals”, “Apparent cruelty to children and animals”, “Rape or attempted rape”, “The use of drugs” etc. to be either not included or only under very special care and input from the censorship board.

            It’s almost like they were visionaries of their time.

            There is a difference between criticizing works on the basis of the plot, mechanics and similar aesthetic qualities and criticism levied against said works made out of perceived moral superiority and the perception that it might impose “bad values” upon society.

            “There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.“ (Oscar Wilde)

            These are made under the guise of usual criticism, but with the goal to censor said medium and authors or shame them into self-censorship instead of respecting their rights to depict anything that is lawful or might bring forth unpopular ideas.

          • harbinger says:

            As Noam Chomsky also put it “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

            George Orwell also had to fight with these matters in his time and it also somewhat inspired his 1984: link to
            As he put it:
            ”The chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of … any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face. … The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.

            Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines — being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that “it wouldn’t do” to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralized, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was “not done” to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

            The reaction towards it of most English intellectuals will be quite simple: “It oughtn’t to have been published.” Naturally, those reviewers who understand the art of denigration will not attack it on political grounds but on literary ones. They will say that it is a dull, silly book and a disgraceful waste of paper. This may well be true, but it is obviously not the whole of the story. One does not say that a book “ought not to have been published” merely because it is a bad book. After all, acres of rubbish are printed daily and no one bothers. The English intelligentsia, or most of them, will object to this book because it traduces their Leader and (as they see it) does harm to the cause of progress. If it did the opposite they would have nothing to say against it, even if its literary faults were ten times as glaring as they are.

            The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular — however foolish, even — entitled to a hearing? Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say “Yes.” But give it a concrete shape, and ask, “How about an attack on Stalin? Is that entitled to a hearing?” and the answer more often than not will be “No.” In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses. If one loves democracy, the argument runs, one must crush its enemies by no matter what means. And who are its enemies? It always appears that they are not only those who attack it openly and consciously, but those who ‘objectively’ endanger it by spreading mistaken doctrines. In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought. These people don’t see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you.”

            And in closing he said:
            “To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.”

            Do you really think that suppressing certain speech or works out of some form of hive mind mentality and consideration for what is “proper” with the thought of nothing to ever be “offensive” or ever evoking negative reactions in people is wise or that that kind of thinking won’t come back to bite you in the end?
            I’ve lived under an oppressive dictatorship in the early years of my life where certain speech or listening to certain radio stations (in secret) was forbidden under penalty of incarceration with my parents having to brush against said things more than once and luckily getting away and trust me it isn’t worth giving up or losing this precious right over someone not getting “offended” over something.

          • The Random One says:

            It is madness to demand that an author change their work due to what you feel.

            It is also madness to demand that, after an author is decided to change their work, demand they do not do that, for it would taint the work. The author knows it best, and if your interpretation would suffer from having the work changed, then perhaps it should be readressed on entirely abandoned.

            I do not think I need two wordy posts to get that idea across.

          • harbinger says:

            Ah, but there’s a difference between an author changing something out of their own conviction or because they believe they can improve their work and applying self-censorship because someone demanded he remove “offending content” or popular opinion being against them.
            Some (as I said before) luckily choose not to buckle under the pressure and potential “controversy” ensuing or at least compromise: link to

            Changes before release are also generally at an author’s discretion and nobody can say anything against it. But once it is out the author should be able to stand by it. It becomes even more of a problem if it is only available in a digital world where you can’t get the original/unchanged/Uncut version anymore after something has been “patched”. Nobody will break into your home and take your copy of any “offending” movies or books that you have paid good money for and bought to replace them with censored ones (bar a dystopic reality as depicted in Fahrenheit 451), but once a game or a Digital book is patched with the “proper” political opinion and thoughts du jour the original is gone forever.

            It might seem trivial to some people why others would be furious over an act of censorship as simple as exchanging a single picture and what they don’t understand is that it isn’t the removal of the specific picture that upsets people, but the very act of enacting self-censorship at behest of various minorities and the symbolic character this might carry.
            If Nintendo could go back in time and change their games to please current “critics”, would they and what would that mean? (for the products, for their work as “art” and for the customers)

            There is already another similar recent example in Shank being irrevocably altered a year after the fact due to a similar “offense” ideology being employed: link to
            Companies or individuals could remove games, game features or change specific content forever to fit the current Zeitgeist and prevent controversies or bad PR at any point.

            Manhunt or a similar game damaging your reputation too much and not selling enough? Get rid of it forever or remove all violent content. A certain feature or spot in your game (nude scene, Hot Coffee Mod, particularly violent or controversial scene) giving you trouble with the media? Remove said content forever.
            This would only get worse with the Damocles sword of “cloud gaming” hanging in the air, where not even piracy would be an option to preserve and get the original vision anymore.

          • gwathdring says:

            I understand your concern, but again it cuts both ways. On the one hand, who am I to tell an author whether or not they should have written something? On the other hand who is the author to say people who were hurt or concerned or whatever by their work should put up with it or should have known better or should shut up and keep it to themselves?

            ““There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.“ (Oscar Wilde)”

            To me, this is a cop-out. No less so coming from Oscar Wilde than from you. Every work is connected to a broader context either through the creator, the audience, or both. No one should get a free pass here–not the author but also (and I’m partially in agreement with you insofar as this) not the audience.

            To me, by saying that works should never be changed, you’re saying that works are not powerful enough to do sufficient harm or that artists have some inherent right to cause harm just because they feel its worthwhile. You’re also presupposing that artists don’t *want* feedback. Some artists don’t want to make people feel a certain way … and if made aware that their work speaks to enough people in a way that’s different enough from their intent they *want* to change. They want that response from their audience. Unequivocally silencing such a response isn’t doing artists a favor, it’s doing a select subset of artists a favor.

            I don’t think artists need the protection. I don’t think communal pseudo-censorship is our greatest enemy–in fact it’s part of how society functions properly. It’s how we decide that we’re not supposed to just up and kill each other or steal each other’s stuff. By saying that works of art can never violate the social contract you’re either saying works of art have zero effect on society or denying that society should even be considered to have a contract. I find both of these ideas unsatisfactory. But perhaps you’re not saying works of art cannot violate the social contract, but that they should get some sort of special exemption when they do. I find that unsatisfactory. Perhaps you’re simply suggesting that art ought to be preserved and that if it violates the social contract it should be discussed and perhaps even apologized for, but not changed. I find this more convincing but ultimately unsatisfactory.

            I’ve lived under an oppressive dictatorship in the early years of my life where certain speech or listening to certain radio stations (in secret) was forbidden under penalty of incarceration with my parents having to brush against said things more than once and luckily getting away and trust me it isn’t worth giving up or losing this precious right over someone not getting “offended” over something.

            There’s an indescribably massive difference between government edicts against certain types of speech and someone sending a letter to the editor complaining about this or that or a blogger writing about how they think a work exemplifies one or more problems in our society. These things should not be equated as you’re equating them. Facing imprisonment is very different from facing disgruntled people on the Internet and disgruntled magazines that won’t cover your works.

            Do you really think that suppressing certain speech or works out of some form of hive mind mentality and consideration for what is “proper” with the thought of nothing to ever be “offensive” or ever evoking negative reactions in people is wise or that that kind of thinking won’t come back to bite you in the end?

            I’m not opposed to works that cause negative emotion, and I don’t think works have to appeal to everyone without offending anyone. That’s silly. But I think reducing socially and morally reflective criticism to this kind of absurdity is a pointless exercise. In a simplistic sense, every society is beholden to “a hivemind mentality about what is ‘proper.'” I fail to see how such universal and unavoidable products of our most basic mental and social processes represent some kind of path to oppressive hell. Everything in moderation, yes? That includes both speech and censorship.

            I’m utterly opposed to institutionalized censorship, though. And My preference is certainly to have authors and audience members enter dialog without changing the original work–but I think sometimes that *should* involve the author apologizing or recognizing that something they did was problematic in a way that wasn’t purely aesthetic. The idea that art has no connection to the real world or to the social contract doesn’t work for me; that means recognizing that art can be a mistake or a problem or a harm in ways that are not purely aesthetic.

          • Geebs says:

            Seriously, Ray Bradbury can get stuffed. No matter how much of his stuff you quote, that still tips over the line between reasonable discussion and self-righteous, offensive doggerel when it stops being an argument between him and his publishers about what’s acceptable and starts being that the Great God Ray is being oppressed by a bunch of hypothetical Hispanics and gays.

            Context is important and treating “people think I’m a dick for saying this” as “OMG EVERYBODY IS CENSORING ME” is at best hubris and at worst egomania.

          • gwathdring says:

            Also what Geebs said. :)

          • harbinger says:

            People always have the right to not buy or dislike as well as criticize specific content, but I see that more and more nowadays they seem to be confusing this with the right to borderline harass and lead a campaign to smear and shame specific creators because they think they have made something “morally reprehensible” that they couldn’t possibly agree with, and for me that is inherently wrong since freedom of expression and freedom of speech are probably amongst the most important rights humanity has achieved regardless of content and intent. Even Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” shouldn’t be forbidden, regardless of what one considers the societal implications might be. Quite the opposite actually, it might even be valuable as to ascertain how a sick mind sometimes thinks or what to avoid and might offer viewpoints that only reinforces ones initial belief.

            Tom Chick also recently made a good argument towards this: link to

            “The first problem with anyone defending Dennaton’s revision to Hotline Miami 2 is that there’s a clear difference between depicting something and condoning it. I’m always astonished at how often that’s lost on folks eager to whiteknight some cause, or condemn some perceived prurience, or declare something in poor taste, whether it’s a dopey horror movie tchotchke or a tentacle rape card game.”

            RPS is definitely often very guilty of doing this.

            Just because someone is writing [about] something or depicting it in a work, doesn’t mean the writer is condoning and glamorizing it, often it can be quite the contrary, Obsidians Josh Sawyer also put this very well: link to
            ”Anything that has been traumatic for an individual can be a trauma trigger when portrayed in a fictional environment. Fallout’s recurring theme is “War never changes.” Rape is an element of war (often a conscious and intentional tool of war) and is often an element of post-apocalyptic fiction used to show the depravity of humanity in the absence of law (e.g. The Road Warrior features rape directly, albeit viewed through a telescope). F:NV features two major powers engaged in an extremely brutal conflict with myriad small groups (like the Fiends) taking advantage of the chaos. They engage in a full spectrum of cruelty against each other including crucifixion, limb mutilation, torture, booby trapping wounded soldiers (and corpses), mass irradiation, enslavement, and yes, rape.”

            The best works are those that don’t hit you over the head with the moral cudgel, but present complex situations in complex settings and let everyone’s own value judgment of them set in. They are not endorsing any one doctrine or action, but presenting them as an element in the story’s content rather than a message that is sought to be delivered.

            Anyway, Chick goes on in the comments:
            “I have to take issue with your basic premise that a story has to “side” with a particular party. Whether we’re talking about Macbeth or Fritz Lang’s M, there are plenty of stories that challenge the audience by presenting something morally repugnant as the protagonist. Do you know the Austrian movie Michael? It’s an incredibly uncomfortable movie for how it refuses to take a stand on what you’re watching. I wouldn’t recommend it to many people, but I think it’s a valuable piece of filmmaking, and arguably capital-I important for what it forces the viewer to consider.”

            I have the feeling that lately often people don’t seem to want serious storytelling, having their opinions intellectually challenged or don’t want to be presented situations that are morally ambiguous, but that they just want propaganda that only reflects and reinforces their exact opinion and views. Personally, I have higher requirements, but I’ve already seen people on RPS argue that games shouldn’t include any serious thematic since it might make someone feel uncomfortable (god forbid!), so they say we should for instance even condemn RPGs for portraying racism or genocide in a fictional setting with entirely fictional populations or animosity due to differences like portrayed between dwarfs and elves often because it might “send the wrong message”.

            I think I’ve outlined above how stupid I find that line of thought.

            Regarding “There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.“ (Oscar Wilde)”

            What he is saying is that any one book can’t be “moral” or “immoral”, but only the action of men on behalf of it can possibly lead to moral or immoral acts. Similar to how a knife, sword or revolver doesn’t kill people but the men using them do. And near nobody will be affected by any one book or work of art to such an extent as to make them turn moral or immoral other than if they regard it as some form of guide to life (as people often do with say, The Bible) without scrutinizing or reflecting thereupon and at that point they probably have deeper seated problems than the bad influence of the few written words on a piece of paper. It’s basically the “violence in video games” debate or to a lesser extent the “weapons ban” debate extended to literature back in the day.

            He argues that artists don’t have the responsibility to only write “moral” works and you should judge them on whether they are good or bad on their own aesthetic qualities and merits as works of art and not some flight of contemporary morality or differing personal moral norms, which can be different from person to person and society to society, and also seem to be manifesting differently every 20 or so years apart. He also argues his points in “Art and Morality“, a collection of letters from his responses to magazines and newspapers criticizing his works on moral grounds.
            ”If a work of art is rich and vital and complete, those who have artistic instincts will see its beauty, and those to whom ethics appeal more strongly than aesthetics will see its moral lesson.”
            “It is proper that limitation should be placed on actions,”; “It is not proper that limitations should be placed on art.”

            The tight censorship systems of the past thankfully long since evolved into modern ratings systems with specific content descriptors to warn people of specific content beforehand so they don’t have to endure them if they don’t want but still allowing it to exist.
            Forbidding people to utter any opinion or idea, however unlikeable and repulsive it might be to you personally leads to censorship and censorship even if “for a good cause” doesn’t lead to good things regardless if imposed by the government or communal understanding.

            It is not the freedom to say anything as long as it isn’t considered “unpleasant” and considered to somehow be helpful to society at large that is important, but the freedom to say anything as long as it is not expressly unlawful.

            The thought that something like A Clockwork Orange, Irreversible or even “Srpski Film” or “Mein Kampf” are so unspeakably evil and corrupting to peoples minds that they shouldn’t be allowed to exist is in itself more “offensive” as well as condescending to grown adults with working brains that can make up their own minds and create their own opinions than any “offense” a work could possibly cause on any minority or damage it could possibly cause to people’s minds when being read. It is also attributing something which could be argued against logically or was meant to “offend” in the first place entirely too much power and influence.

            All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship. (George Bernard Shaw)

            It’s like you believe that concealing situations, thoughts and ideas that you find “unpleasant” from ever being mentioned or brought up in fiction will somehow change that they exist or that people will stop partaking in them in the real world.

            What many people fail to see is that works of art are a reflection of the real world and contemporary culture and not the other way around. Horrible people, murder and many other crimes existed long before video games, movies and even books.
            If anything, the amounts to which these are commited have only gone down since they existed.

            ”Seriously, Ray Bradbury can get stuffed.”
            Well, then there’s not much more to be said, the Internet mob has spoken… Censor everything!

          • gwathdring says:

            I get the picture; many famous people agree with you. Offense is some kind of imaginary self-righteousness and we can write off anything that looks like people taking offense without considering emotional impact.

            Please stop quoting people; it’s tiresome and uninteresting. Some of the people who quote say interesting things and tie back to your arguments in interesting ways but your posts are more quote than substance. I’m interested in what you have to say, not what has already been said (and in some cases what I’ve already heard a bunch of times because again these are pretty well known people). Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a flying toss who you quote. It’s the idea I’m interested in, not who said it.

            It’s like you believe that concealing situations, thoughts and ideas that you find “unpleasant” from ever being mentioned or brought up in fiction will somehow change that they exist or that people will stop partaking in them in the real world.

            No. It’s like I believe that ideas have power and affect the real world. It’s like I believe that violations of the social contract in art, especially in influential and famous art, take place in the real world and not in some magical alternate dimension where art gets stored. It’s like I believe that everyone has a responsibility to adhere to the tenets of society whether or not they express themselves through art. It’s like I believe freedom comes with responsibility and plenty of things that aren’t illegal shouldn’t be done.

            There are plenty of things I personally find unpleasant or other people personally find unpleasant that I’m content to leave alone. Plenty of others I’m content to critique. Yet others I’m content to insult. When discussions about sexism in games arise, I almost always say something to the effect of: in an egalitarian society there is room for works that objectify one gender more than another or depict one gender categorically unfavorably and so on and even in our nost-so-egalitarian society there is room for these things to a point, the problem being that it needs to be in rough proportion with more egalitarian works and works that spin out in different ways. Put more straightforwardly: our society’s values should be reflected in our media and while we should also have room for alternative values they should exist in sensible proportion. If we don’t think our society should be racist, most of our creative works shouldn’t support racist ideas or even present them except when providing commentary.

            There are a few problems here. The first is that subtle commentary can often be lost. Commentary can be unsatisfactory and fail to elevate anti-social ideas sufficiently. Society’s values are fuzzy and difficult to agree on. Society’s values can be “wrong” and anti-social all in their own right. Some ideas perceived as anti or pro social might in practice be somewhat neutral. I could keep adding caveats until the heat death of the universe; it wouldn’t make my core point less important to me. I’m comfortable with the idea that there’s no one truth, no ideal society, no absolute moral authority, and no true consensus about how things should be. But I also recognize that media has collective power and we need to, collectively, use it responsibly and discuss.

            Another thing I frequently say in discussions about game ethics is this: no one game on it’s own is likely to be powerfully anti-socil no matter how undesirable it’s ideas may seem, but if we have a collective anti-social element across many many games and we want to ameliorate that … we have to start somewhere whether that means making fewer such games in the future or simply making more games to counter-act such games or both. In the meantime, we should signpost that anti-social element when we see it. Discuss it’s merits. Critique it’s usage. Ask the author’s intent. Discuss the *intent’s* merit. And so forth.

            I have little sympathy for artists who feel that their works should be sovereign, that art somehow sits apart from society. It’s easy to draw a line between government censorship and literary criticism. It can be difficult to draw a line between emotional response to a work and your obnoxiously scare-quoted “offense.” It can be difficult to draw a line between crowd-sourced criticism and unjustified mob censorship. Between people not liking your work and people trying to silence you because they don’t like your work. Between people trying to silence you becasue they’re afraid your words encourage changes in society they won’t like and trying to silence you because your words encourage harmful effects.

            I can’t tell if you think drawing these lines is a trivial matter, or if you honestly don’t care that it isn’t. I don’t like the tar-n-feather corner of the Internet. I don’t like government censorship. I’m opposed to that nonsense. I already said this before:

            I’m not opposed to works that cause negative emotion, and I don’t think works have to appeal to everyone without offending anyone. That’s silly. But I think reducing socially and morally reflective criticism to this kind of absurdity is a pointless exercise. In a simplistic sense, every society is beholden to “a hivemind mentality about what is ‘proper.’” I fail to see how such universal and unavoidable products of our most basic mental and social processes represent some kind of path to oppressive hell. Everything in moderation, yes? That includes both speech and censorship.

            I’m utterly opposed to institutionalized censorship, though. And My preference is certainly to have authors and audience members enter dialog without changing the original work–but I think sometimes that *should* involve the author apologizing or recognizing that something they did was problematic in a way that wasn’t purely aesthetic. The idea that art has no connection to the real world or to the social contract doesn’t work for me; that means recognizing that art can be a mistake or a problem or a harm in ways that are not purely aesthetic.

      • AndrewC says:

        She’s using ‘agency’ to mean the payer’s needs are seen as paramount in the design process – that what they say goes. You can argue that she is using the word in a slightly-different-than-normal way, but it is not like she doesn’t explain fully what she means.

        So she isn’t against iteration, Geebs. That is you mis-reading the article. She is against the player-oriented iteration made famous by games like Halo.

        Even further, she’s not even criticising that kind of iteration that much, but simply arguing that there is an alternative that yields results too.

        • Geebs says:

          But her counter-arguments are games that she made with one specific person in mind which is the ultimate case of designing to the player

          • AndrewC says:

            Again missing the point: ‘normal’ games are designed to give the player what they want. Her game was designed to give a player what she wanted. It is irrelevant how many players there were.

          • Geebs says:

            Yeah, but art is communication – if you’re simply trying to dictate to somebody else what they should think or feel, you’re not making a game. you’re making propaganda. I don’t think that’s what those particular art games were about at all, so you must assume some internal representation of another person for whom you’re designing. The reason the Stanley Parable was funny is that it recognised how ineffective it is to try to force somebody at a remove to feel when you have no way of coercing them.

          • AndrewC says:

            I don’t understand the distinction between games and propaganda.

            Any game with a gun is propaganda for guns, for example.

          • Geebs says:

            Only a Sith* deals in absolutes

            (* or a chinless ageing hack who badly needs somebody to bounce his ideas off)

        • NathanH says:

          She can’t mean that agency means “the payer’s needs are seen as paramount in the design process” because she also argues “There is no such thing as agency in games” and clearly there can exist such a thing as “the payer’s needs are seen as paramount in the design process”.

          Edit: I can’t really see any clear attempt to define agency in the piece actually. It’s quite hard to argue with her idea of agency when I don’t know what it is. But it is at least reasonable for people to use the standard meaning of agency when they read the piece if it doesn’t define the non-standard meaning it wants to use.

          • AndrewC says:

            ‘Agency’ isn’t used until the fourth paragraph. So you’ve got four paragraphs explaining her point. It is introduced quite clearly in the first paragraph.

            In the fourth paragraph she describes what she means by agency- ‘our every whim thought of and satisfied’, and ideas of ‘domination’.

            Awkward usage I am sure, but I am equally sure a smart reader can get over it.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Ooh, nice bit of underhanded Internet arguing there, the implication that not putting up with “words mean whatever I want them to mean now because I can’t communicate clearly”-types means you’re thick.

          • Geebs says:


            That’s not an argument, that’s just projection

          • AndrewC says:

            ‘I can’t communicate clearly’. *nice*

            Now, she introduced her ideas clearly and developed them. You want to get caught up on one word, defined acceptably in context, then fine.

          • NathanH says:

            Again, AndrewC, I remind you that you said “She’s using ‘agency’ to mean the payer’s needs are seen as paramount in the design process”. Also in the article she says (or perhaps endorses someone else’s view; it isn’t completely clear) “There is no such thing as agency in games”.

            I suggest that, if we rewrite the sentence as “There is no such thing as ‘the payer’s needs being seen as paramount in the design process’ in games”, the sentence is clearly wrong—the player’s needs are sometimes seen as paramount in the design process of some games. I therefore further suggest that “She’s using ‘agency’ to mean the payer’s needs are seen as paramount in the design process” can’t be right. This also suggests that a smart reader *can’t* get over the confusion, since you did not get over the confusion.

        • Justin Keverne says:

          I don’t think the type of iteration she means is as clear as you’re making out. Either way I don’t disagree with what I see as the main point of the article. If I’m wary of praising it as profusely as some it’s because it’s an argument I’ve heard made before with less confusing rhetoric.

          • AndrewC says:

            The quality of a piece of writing is defined inversely by the amount of praise it has recieved? Are you *sure* you want to be saying that? It stops you having your own opinion for one thing and, for another, collapses into the hipster of only liking things before they were famous.

          • Justin Keverne says:

            You have managed to grossly misread my comment. For the reasons cited in previous comments I don’t rate the article particularly highly despite agreeing with the core argument. I’ve seen that argument made before, in better articles.

          • Cheradanine Zakalwe says:

            @ Justin.

            The problem with her argument is that its an excuse for bad games. To kill a mockingbird and 1984 address serious and confronting issues without being boring or frustrating to read. If you want to make a game about a serious issue, don’t hide behind it requiring a ‘mental understanding’. If people don’t like or appreciate your game on some level, its probably not a good game.

            And sure, you’re entitled to ignore that feedback and keep whispering to yourself that your’e just a misunderstood genius, but you’ll get no sympathy from me. Closing your ears to feedback and making up reasons for why they don’t like it is a far sight different from taking criticism with a grain of salt.

          • Justin Keverne says:

            @Cheradanine Zakalwe:
            To me the core of her argument is that “giving the audience what it says it want” isn’t always the best way to approach creative works; and additionally that offering the player limited agency can be used as a means of modeling characters who have limited agency in their lives.

            I found those points to be made in a muddled fashion with an assumption that what players want will always be “more agency”, but I don’t think that makes them any less worthwhile. I also don’t think either of those points contradicts the one you’re making. There’s a difference between using feedback to change your work to give people what they say they want and using it to know which parts aren’t being reacted to in a way you intended; when they are frustrating when that wasn’t the reaction you were seeking to provide. Being challenging and frustrating can be vital tools of expression, but if those reactions are being provoked at the wrong times it’s beneficial to know that so you can modify you work to say what you want it to say.

            Playtesting and iteration mean more than simply giving people what they want, that those terms are used frequently and somewhat inconsistently is one of the reasons I find the article frustrating to read despite agreeing with parts of it.

            The irony is that I might be reading that article very differently from the way she intended it to be read. She quotes Barthes and then falls foul of him.

        • WrenBoy says:

          Her misuse of the term made her argument seem a little confused rather than intelligent to me to be honest. Its a rare game that ever made me feel like a player of my tastes had any agency during its creation.

          I was a little disappointed as I would be interested to see if a case could be made for what the article was advertised to be about.

      • Nogo says:

        It’s surprising how many people think games are essentially hamstrung until they all begin looking vaguely like Dwarf Fortress.

        But I agree that she seems to blame the wrong thing. Oddly enough her example of EAT being stronger for not utilizing player feedback is a conclusion she can only reach by soliciting player feedback. It’s the difference between “we put a soldier with a pea shooter here to draw attention to this important piece of information players had been missing” and “we chose smooth jazz because no one hates it.”

      • NathanH says:

        There’s some interesting point about the relationship between agency (in the standard use of the word) and making a point about powerlessness. I don’t think it’s the one she’s making or anywhere near as simple though.

        Let’s suppose you’re making a game about poverty and you give little or no player agency, so the player’s decisions have little to no impact on the mechanical or narrative state of the game world. Here you have a game which is making a point that no matter what you do you’re screwed and going to lose. Does this point have much applicability outside the game world though? In order for a point to have applicability outside the game world you have to be able to take the point and say “this is like something that’s actually in the world”. The problem in this particular example is that the game itself is a very poor simulation for reality, because we know that in any situation we have lots of options that have lots of noticeably different outcomes. Even in cases when all the outcomes are “bad”, there are different degrees of bad and we can consider some actions and their consequences to be better than others even though they don’t achieve the objectives we’ve been set. It would be quite hard for me to take the point “it doesn’t matter what you do, everything is exactly the same” and apply it to many real cases (perhaps voting?).

        So, we can consider trying to improve the simulation to distinguish between outcomes that are manifestly different. We can still make our game impossible to win, for example by making the mechanics such that there simply isn’t enough money available in the world to stave off disaster by day x. We’ve now created a game whose simulation might be plausible enough for the player to think “it’s a really frustrating game, grr, and yeah, I can see that IRL poverty could well feel similar” and then you seem to have succeeded in your goal. But now that we have differentiation between different outcomes, a concept of success at the game actually gets born without our permission and outside our control: players of the game can now attempt to improve their survival, and may feel powerful and full of achievement when they manage to survive more days than last time, and if they ever reach the hard limit and realise they’ve reached it, maybe they’ll think “Yes! I’ve won the game!” and that isn’t what we’re trying to do.

        So, I have nothing really to conclude, but perhaps someone will find this interesting.

        • Alan Alda says:

          You’re right of course – in the real world very little is *totally unaffected* by your actions, so games without agency make very limited points about the real world. I personally believe that games only mean things through their dynamics. If your game allows no player expression or ‘agency’ then in my opinion you have not made a game but rather a particularly worthless performance art piece. Is agency an illusion? It certainly can be, especially in the modern era of gaming, but I challenge you: go play Deus Ex and try to make choices that DON’T matter. It is pretty much impossible – your decisions will affect the routes you take, enemies you kill, and even your character’s development.

          • gwathdring says:

            I don’t follow. Big Fish doesn’t allow you to make choices at all and Dixit limits your choices to seven cards at any given time; both of these contextualize their choices (or lack thereof) to create entertainment. One of them allows you to learn a little bit about your friends and practice various gamified versions of real social dilemmas and activities and the other speaks to family, storytelling and identity through a rather charming mix of some of the most delightfully mundane scenes I’ve yet seen in a film and wild through-the-looking-glass fantasy.

            I picked those examples somewhat at hazard, so don’t get caught up with them. The core point is that player expression is not the only route to meaning, unless you mean to imply that books, films, music, limited-scope IF and so forth is all meaningless, which I would find rather silly.

            I also make plenty of meaningless decisions in Deus Ex. Hyperbole accounted for, your statement still misses the mark. How much of that pathing is your expression and how much is the designers? If I design path A to be stealthy but require lots of lockpicks or high sneak skills and path B to require some other skill and make the guards tough but not so tough that they can’t be handled by a combat-heavy build … I’ve made decisions that will force the player into certain behavior patterns unless they’re really good at the game and can break sequence or they have a build that’s flexible enough to handle multiple available paths or I create multiple paths for each general build. But how “meaningful” are these different paths? I take the right corridor instead of the left, I pick the lock instead of shooting the guard … what does it mean? What does that tell me? What message does that send? Is that message impossible to deliver through scripted events or another medium entirely?

            I don’t understand where you’re coming from at all.

          • ComfortFit says:


            You must not have been paying attention while playing Deus Ex, as there were in fact consequences for how you chose to play the game. If you played it safe and took routes to avoid kills or being seen, it would be mentioned at the end of most missions and would affect the dialogue of the game. I remember there being a bit of extra dialogue with your brother Paul if you managed to not kill many people by the time he needed your help, and Navarre would treat you differently all the way to the point you are (optionally) captured by her if you chose to be a brute. Deus Ex is really quite a shining example of true player agency, so your rebuttal comes off as either ill informed or unnecessarily dismissive.

          • gwathdring says:

            You misread my post. My point was not that Deus Ex failed to provide meaningful choices. But that saying it’s “hard” to make choices that have no effect on the game is preposterous. If I wanted to be overly hard-nosed about it I’d point out that jumping and crouching instead of walking normally has little effect on the game except in very specific scenarios. Of course, figures of speech and all that, so rather than give better examples I’ll just cut to the more fundamental problem.

            Having your actions change the dialog in the game only provides as much meaning as the dialog itself plus any inherent value you place on interacting noticeably with the art you consume. As I said in my post, the OP misses the mark even my half-facetious first lines in both posts aside. If the designer changes the dialog when you do thing X … you are experiencing something the designer created for you. Unless you truly do something the designer didn’t expect to create a result the designer did not anticipate, unless you break sequence or evade intended forces … you are experiencing the game as the designer intended. You are reading written dialog and reading it s a result of setting off triggers someone coded into the game with creative intent.

            Simply put, pretending that games are fundamentally divorced from non-interactive media or that interactivity is the heart of meaning in all games is silly extremism.

            I’m not sure why you felt the need to beat your chest and accuse me of not playing the game properly, but it’s rather annoying. Stop that.

          • Alan Alda says:

            *Sigh* You get to make choices that have tangible impacts. When you choose to do A instead of B, in life as in games, you are expressing agency. The fact that options are arbitrarily limited in games is about as relevant as the fact that most people arbitrarily limit themselves to several concrete options in real situations. The way you walk has little effect on anything? Isn’t that something you could say about REAL walking? Also, call me a silly extremist if you feel the need, but interactivity really IS the heart of meaning in all games. If there are no actual choices to be made between alternative actions, call it a visual novel or a performance art piece. The added farce of dressing it up in all the trappings of games, and forcing me to pretend to have some control (as for example in Bioshock Infinite’s ‘Press X to do the only thing you can possibly do’ sequences) detracts from the art rather than adding to it, at least in my opinion.

          • gwathdring says:

            That doesn’t address my main concern. It address my half-facetious concern. Your sighing at such is perfectly appropriate.

            But in in life as in games, simply choosing to *do* something has an effect on how I feel whether or not I’m given explicit feedback for it. The way I walk has a significant impact on my life, just not one that I can easily point to as altering major life decisions and causing large branching points in my life experience. That example is, again, utterly unimportant compared to the point: meaning doesn’t have to come from influencing dialog options or choosing between different paths in a level. It can also from *the dialog options themselves,* choosing which enemy to shoot first, the particular kind of intimacy controlling a character in a game provides, the quality of the illusion of agency and the way it modifies my response to the work otherwise presented.

            Interactivity doesn’t have to be the most valuable part of the game–it just has to be valuable enough to function properly as a game. I don’t think we should go into a work and say “would this have been better as a painting?” when we can ask “is this good and how could it have been better?” Should films for which the dialog and acting is the main draw be plays or books instead? That just seems really petty to me.

            I don’t like pointless line drawing. I don’t see why we should be especially concerned with what makes a game or what the heart of meaning in a game is. Let’s look at what’s meaningful in *this* game. What makes *this* game. Is it enjoyable and meaningful to watch short movies about the character you’re playing in between shooty-bangs? Are the shooty-bangs designed so as to represent something more than just shooting? BINGO! Meaning in games. That you have never had this experience is not much of a reason for you to decide all games should be more like Deus Ex.

          • Alan Alda says:

            My point was not to quibble about some kind of essentialist notion of what games “really” are – that WOULD be pointless line drawing. My point was a nominalist one – “Game”, to me, is the answer to the question along the lines of “What shall we call an experience where interactivity drives the progression of events?” If you start to include things without that quality in the category ‘Games’ then it’s my argument that the language needs tweaking to reflect the fundamental difference between them.

          • gwathdring says:

            To me that’s calling a rose a red flower. Either way you’re quibbling about what a game “really” is. It’s just a matter of whether or not you believe game has a fundamental truth to it. I do not, so the fact that you do not doesn’t get you out of the soup. My arguments were not made under the assumption that you gave half a damn about what a game “really” is in a sort of fundamental sense but rather in a more casual and immediate sense.

            I don’t like games giving me control when I shouldn’t have it or taking control away when I should have it. I don’t give a toss if the existence of moments when I shouldn’t have control make a game less of a game to other people. I call that silly extremism and pointless line drawing.

            My main concern is the suggestion that moments when I shouldn’t have control are meaningless. That meaning in games can only come from moments when I both have control and should have it (I’ve been using shoulds because of course your mileage etc, I hope it’s not making the language TOO messy). In any case, I find that idea silly.

            Edit: ” “What shall we call an experience where interactivity drives the progression of events?” ”

            I guess I feel a lot of games thought of as “non games” still fit this phrasing. Unless you define progression of events as progression of the plot, in which case you leave out a bunch of games like Mario. I just don’t see how that narrow definition functions unless you allow in the very games you seem to want to not allow in. Do you see the inconsistency I’m having a problem with? It was something that bugged me before you put it so explicitly, but this gives me a nice way to make this discussion more productive for both of us. Also, I mean my flippancy in good humor; I apologize if it seems rude I assure you it is at least not MEANT meanly or angrily.

          • Alan Alda says:

            Okay well I feel like I made myself as clear as I possibly could, but still feel misunderstood, so I guess the conversation ends here. In a way, that makes my point again: language is infinitely ambiguous, and it’s generally up to us not to add to that ambiguity, for instance by calling an experience a game if it does not possess the defining quality almost everyone means by the word. NB: I did not mention anything about “moments” in games that leave the player no agency, and nowhere insinuated that makes something “less” of a game (although I did imply that it’s pointless and counterproductive to inject *pretend* agency into these moments); I specifically meant experiences that *wholly* deny the player any meaningful agency – the kind of experience it seemed was called for in the linked article.

          • gwathdring says:

            :( I’m sorry you feel misunderstood. I apologize if I’ve been frustrating.

            On pretend agency: I don’t see what that really means. Pretend agency can be part of the fun and the meaning can’t it? Sure, pretend agency can feel see-through and vapid sometimes, but isn’t it all pretend agency, to a point? Even in Deus Ex (again, unless you break sequence or truly do something the designer didn’t think of and didn’t write dialog branches for). We aren’t the character, the world is designed and constrained, our choices have little impact the designer could not have foreseen.

            On Game: I guess … Dear Esther is less of a game than Mario, yes? It’s less useful to call it a game let alone dress it up with game elements it doesn’t need, right? Well … here’s my problem. What are the game elements it has that it doesn’t need? Do they come from it trying too hard to be like a game or from it just not being very good at it’s job regardless of what hat it wears while doing that job? Yahztee of Zero Punctuation wrote a bit bout this recently, comparing The Stanley Parable and Beyond: Two Souls; both are more like 3D interactive fiction than 3D action games but one works and the other doesn’t because one knows when certain things other games do don’t work in a 3D interactive fiction and the other doesn’t have a clue (also the quality of the writing differs enormously).

            That’s all well and fine, but I don’t think The Stanley Parable is a bad model to follow; I think you can have 3D virtual interactive fiction with WASD controls. Hell, I think you could have it without branching narrative–like an audience participation performance art piece or a virtual museum piece. I don’t see why we should presuppose *bad* performance art piece, you know?

            Do we need a separate word for that other than Game? Not yet, in my opinion. Maybe eventually. By time we need one I’m sure we’ll have one. Language tends to do that. :)

            You make the case for ambiguity … I don’t see it. Game is already a uselessly broad category that people know to push for more details if they want information more useful then “requires my input, runs on some kind of gaming device OR happens on a field with a ball OR happens in an economics study OR happens at a table OR […]” see the problem with the case for ambiguity? If calling Dear Esther a game is ambiguous … why the heck isn’t calling Mario a game ambiguous? Or Mass Effect? or Solitaire?

      • The Random One says:

        @ Justin: I agree with you entirely. Her point is absolutely correct, but it has very little to do with agency. Her game EAT has very little agency, because the point was to play as a person to have very little agency. But Super Hexagon also gives the player very little agency, because its entire point is to allow you to solve difficult puzzles while having minimal movement, and I don’t think it’s trying to make any sort of overt socipolitical statement.

        She’s essentially arguing for more games like Super Hexagon, but she’s arguing more strongly against the metagame – i.e. even if you could get Bioware or whatever to make a game about a queer student of colour, and even if they could understand that it wasn’t meant to be a power fantasy, they’d still structure the game in a way that the mechancs become simpler and better understood as the game goes on, which is the opposite of what she was trying to convey. (This is very similar to what Liz Ryerson said in her interview with Robert Yang just this week; essentially, the game is hostile to the player and refuses to keep its own rules because it’s meant to convey a system that’s hostile to participants and doesn’t keep its own rules.)

        Her analysis of Encyclopedia Fuckme was completely out of wack though. The game is super clear about setting you up as someone who feels horny that may be eaten, and even though I had no such fetish I understood that as quickly as I understood that even though I don’t like killing people my character in Shooty Gun Blast Hooray America doesn’t have any such problems. I don’t want to imply that her approach was somehow wrong but it feels to me like unwillingness to engage.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      More apologia for non-games. They take little effort to create and are fundamentally uninteresting for the vast gaming masses. So what they try to do is blackmail the audience into accepting them (and preferably blogging/tweeting about them) because they talk about ISSUES. You don’t like them – that’s because you clearly don’t care about poverty/inequality/issue-du-jour! Go back to your colonial macho power fantasies, man-child!

      • Bull0 says:

        That’s right. They’re all out to get you!

      • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

        The fact that some people can feel “blackmailed”(!) by the simple fact of these games existing and people talking about them kinda proves their point, though, doesn’t it?

        • Wulfram says:

          Not unless their point is that using phrases like “gamers are set up to be colonial forces” is going to make your article seem like it’s an attack and make people defensive.

          • Michael Fogg says:

            Yeah, it’s not the existence of games themselves, it’s rather the highly polemical rhetoric (often very sophomoric) that surrounds them (painting with a broad brush, with-us-or-against-us attitude) that makes me dismissive. If you put out such statements anyone is allowed to reply, and that doesn’t mean I’m being overly defensive or paranoid (as some already pointed out with gracefull ad-hominems).

          • The Random One says:

            But you are being overly defensive and paranoid, because you’re calling the piece “apologia” (instead of ‘this lady seems to have a concept of games that is rather different to mine, what an interesting world we live in eh’). And she does defend her point of games as colonial forces, and I can certainly see quite a bit of truth in that. For instance, I hate how most games bestow bonuses to the teams that are winning, when it would be more fun to bestow them to the teams that are losing (it gives the losing team hope, and it makes the winning team’s victory more hard-earned if they pull through) and it’s hard not to see that as being the child of a society that thinks someone who gets some advantadge should win at everything.

          • Wulfram says:

            The analogy is kinda sort of justified in the way that describing games that deny the player agency as fascist would be kinda sort of justified.

            There’s logic there, but the choice of a profoundly pejorative label makes it hard it as anything more than an attempt to label something as BadWrongFun.

            (I also find the argument that agency is attractive to people who possess it in real life very odd too. I’d say agency in video games is in a large part attractive as escapist fantasy)

          • Michael Fogg says:

            Nongames are doing considerable damage to the scene. Case in point: the last Amnesia game. The Chinese Room managed to impress enough wimpy bloggers with their ridiculous first person stroller Dear Esther to get enough cred to be trusted with the respectable Amnesia brand. They promptly removed most gameplay elements (including the famed SANITY METER), turning it into effectively a Disneyland Haunted Mansion ride. It’s a disgrace and I will voice my respectful disagreement to anyone who argues for such things in the public forum.

          • tormos says:

            I would argue that when you say that the stuff that somebody makes “take[s] little effort to create and [is] fundamentally uninteresting for the vast gaming masses.” and then go on to accuse them of blackmail, you are doing a poor job of respectful disagreement.

          • tormos says:

            But even independent of that(because tone arguments suck), if these games are uninteresting and worthless, beloved only by wimpy game journos, why do they sell copies? It seems to me that if they were really so bad they would either not be made (in the case of mass market games like Amnesia) or be restricted to small groups of hobbyists. Furthermore, I don’t see how it hurts you that people are selling things/making words that you don’t like. Anyway, that’s my .02 cents (or shillings, or leaves, or whatever silly currency you not americans use)

          • The Random One says:

            “Nongames are doing considerable damage to the scene.”

            By creating experiences that you personally don’t like?

            Oh, of course, you’ll say those experiences are not “intereactive” and thus are “not games”, despite the fact that most people did found A Machine for Pigs unsettling, did engage it as a game, and a sanity meter is a lame mechanic anyway (This is how insane you are! You are 75% of the way to full insanity! YOUR CAMERA IS NOW CROOKED OOOOOOOH). In the same way people did found Proteus interesting, did engage it as a game, and didn’t mind its lack of objectives. This, in turn, creates new and interesting ways to engage games that weren’t available before because people were tied to preconceptions of what games should be. But because you don’t like these new and interesting ways, the scene is of course being “damaged”.

  3. pakoito says:

    Sirlin’s Chess 2 has been around for at least what? A decade? Why does this article pop-up now, are they making a PC/phone version?

    As for Sirling’s games I own p&p versions of all of them, have his blog bookmarked and await impatiently for Codex to be hinted. My only gripe is the monetization model of his web version of the games. They are fully playable but the roster is locked behind a paywall which mind you, I already paid a while ago. Every char at a couple of euros for every game, or a flat monthly fee is not cutting it for me.

    • pakoito says:

      New game for Ouya (*siiigh*), gameplay here

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      I think you’re describing the old business model there, they’ve switched over to a Memoir ’44 inspired one somewhat recently (along with fancy new graphics). You still have the subscription option, and a rotating free character, but now you spend tokens/coins per match. You get a bunch of free tokens each day, and buy coins with cash.

      Chess 2 will do something similar business-wise, though possibly with some slight differences, I think. As for the OUYA stuff, the game should also be out for other platforms not too long after.

      Codex beta is “soon”, according to Sirlin’s twitter. I’m guessing in a PnP and/or print-on-demand format, much like the recently added Yomi beta decks.

      • pakoito says:

        Oh right, I played that too but the one-game-a-day stuff didn’t cut it for me. Again, give an option of p2p which is covered by paying for the physical game and I’m in.

        • Steven Hutton says:

          I have a subscription.

          There’s always a free character with whom you can play as many games as you like though. And you’ll unlock a bunch of free uses of other characters by playing.

          It’s not perfect but it’s still pretty good.

  4. dangermouse76 says:

    Sundays are for being hungover ( from turning 37 ), sipping 18 year old Bunnahabhain as a hair of the dog, and trying to guess if the Nexus 10.2 will ever actually be released and if I should just an Ipad Air instead.

    Fuck my first world problems rock !
    Ouch that hurt my head.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Google’s website imagery seems to suggest a Nexus 8 instead.

    • tormos says:

      Sundays are for being hungover from watching recorded State of the Union addresses with your ex roommate and wishing you had the money to go hair of the dog

    • Contrafibularity says:

      Or, in your case, for advertising Apple products the way a really advanced spambot would do.

  5. LotKa says:

    Maybe i am falling for to the obvious troll but that critic of chess is incredibly ignorant and pretentious. Chess are balanced, and it is the richest occidental game by far and still evolving quite a lot. Draws happen and i prefer a game that is balanced and acknowledge the possibility of draws to a game, like SC2 for instance, that basically forces a side to win even if none of the players really deserved that win.

    It’s not that hard to design a competitive game but to design one as complex, balanced and easy-to-learn-hard-to-master as chess is basically impossible.

    sorry for my english

    • John Walker says:

      You may be missing that the piece is specifically discussing chess at a world championship level, where there is a serious problem. Nearly all games end up being players re-enacting other games they’ve learned, and each knows how to thwart the pattern. As the article says, it’s still a fantastic game for the majority of amateur and semi-pro players.

      • NathanH says:

        I think that’s a dubious view of chess. There is still an awful lot of fertile ground even at the highest levels, and even when games follow “theory” for a long time, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of opportunity for the players to fight it out themselves once “theory” is left behind, except for some lines that do just lead to clearly drawn positions.

        In most cases I imagine that the theoretically “correct” move that the GMs supposedly must learn is not the only move but just the one that seems to lead to nicer positions, so if you know it you may as well play it because we all like nice positions. But if you choose a different move, you might be a little bit worse than you could have been but you’re not necessarily out of the game.

        As an extreme example, you’re definitely not going to see either Anand or Carlsen play 1. e3 in the WC match. But it’s probably “objectively” a draw, like 1. e4 and 1. d4 are probably objectively draws too. But 1. e3 just makes your life harder so why would you do that to yourself unless you have a very specific reason to? (I once won a game with 1. e3 because I had misread the pairings and prepared as Black, so I provoked 1… e5 2. e4!)

        • Lanfranc says:

          Each game of chess
          Means there’s one less
          Variation left to be played

          Each day got through
          Means one or two
          Less mistakes remain to be made.

      • LotKa says:

        That’s exaggerating. If you look a Carlsen’s games for instance his strenght relies in the mid-late game where he has been able to consistently win finals that are considered drawish.

        The theory is fertile and every year comes a new trend for opening which shows how much evolution there is in chess.

        Criticizing the role memorization plays in Chess is similar to someone that would criticize the role of technicity in tenis or APM in Starcraft, it’s the core of the game. It’s where great players shine. Memorizing thousands of games and positions is truely an achievment and i very much doubt that you can create a strategy, turn based game with complete information where after some time memorisation doesn’t play a huge role.

        Also if you ask GM they will tell you they love the game, the idea that top players that have devoted their life to the game might not enjoy it at all is strange. Would you say that Nadal doesn’t like to play ? It’s not because causual chess players may not like memorizing opening that it isn’t fun for some.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Would not a better parallel be memorization and execution of build orders in Starcraft?

          From a rather academic armchair-game-design point of view, if a game starts with a rote execution of steps, those steps could be taken for granted and the game could begin from the state where interesting, reactive decisions start.

          (Such “quick-start” modes have certainly existed in 4X games. Which is actually a bit odd, since 4Xs tend to also have random environments, which leads to some variation and decisionmaking at the start.)

          • NathanH says:

            At the very highest level you’re not looking at rote learning of steps because people are constantly coming up with new ideas and trying to catch their opponents out with them. They’re not going to just look at a game that looks well-played and say “that looks good, let’s do that”, they’re going to look at many such games, and the games of their opponents, analyse them at key points, try to come up with improvements and innovations, and be ready for their opponents to try the same.

            I mean, it’s not like anyone really knows what the “best” response to 1. e4 is.

          • LotKa says:

            Build orders in Starcraft are easy to learn and execute, provided that you commit some time to it you will be able to replicate a build order. Whereas Chess relies on memorization but that aspect doesn’t provide a lot of power within the game if one doesn’t understand concepts behind moves : activity of pieces, openess etc… If you watch a game analysed by a top player (tons of awesome VOd on Youtube) they only refer to other games as exemples to prove that the activity of one piece doesn’t compensate entierly the better position of the other player and so on…

            Memorisation in chess isn’t just “learning BO” it’s so much more than that.

          • Bull0 says:

            Careful, if you take out those repetitive steps that always play out the same way you’ll be accused of dumbing the game down.

        • Frank says:

          “i very much doubt that you can create a strategy, turn based game with complete information where after some time memorisation doesn’t play a huge role.”

          Sean O’Connor’s Slay has many different starting maps. I very much doubt that there are not other such games.

          Generally, random seeding for the game’s initial state could help, too.

      • Quirk says:

        Calling it a “dubious view” of chess is generous. “Nearly all games end up being players re-enacting other games they’ve learned, and each knows how to thwart the pattern” is well, bollocks. It’s not remotely true, or even nearly true. It bespeaks a profound ignorance of the game. And yes, I’m talking of the highest levels here.

    • Geebs says:

      The points that Mr Donlan mentioned at the start about how the rules have chess have evolved are fascinating, but the article goes off the rails as soon as Sirlin starts talking (and being famous for the most controversial rebalancing of probably the least successful street fighter game is something I might have avoided emphasizing). By throwing in rosters and a bunch of different victory conditions, he’s basically just invented Warhammer.

      • Baines says:

        to be fair to Sirlin (as fair as you can by while knocking his product), Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remake was a developmental mess on just about every level. There are reasons why it didn’t take the world by storm beyond Sirlin’s rebalance.

        And the rebalance itself suffered the same developmental/bureaucratic issues, with the goalposts being changed as the game was being made. First it was a straight faithful port, simply with new art. Then the project was allowed minor changes, but the possibilities for those changes were restricted by engine limitations. And even those limitations changed as the project progressed. During development, Sirlin posted progress reports that included details like why he was changing a particular thing in a particular way, and they tended to include comments about the restrictions (beyond his personal ideas of balance) that he was under.

        And relevant to chess, SSF2THDR suffered the same rejection issue. SSF2T is not a balanced game, but it has been put on a pedestal by its fans who can not only refuse attempts to address its issues, but can refuse to acknowledge the existence of issues.

        • Steven Hutton says:

          Also HDR is great. It’s really, really great. It’s SF2, which is still the best SF, but it fixes some of the really janky weird stuff like how bad the Honda/Guile match up is.

  6. subedii says:

    Man I had a relatively lengthy post and it just got eaten by the comments system for some reason.

    Nevermind, I guess to sum up, I don’t feel I agree with the premise that the “player is dead”, nor that agency doesn’t exist in games (or that it serves no purpose), assuming that’s what the author was getting at.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m…pretty sure a game with no player agency would be more accurately described as a film.

      (Insert standard comments about sequence-of-QTE games being basically a film where you keep having to find the right button on the remote to unpause it here.)

      • NathanH says:

        Presumably the idea behind the “there is no player agency in games” idea is that everything in a game is a consequence of something the designers have done, and so you’re just doing what you’ve been allowed to do. This seems odd on many levels:

        1) It’s strange to say that if you’re only permitted to do certain things, you have no agency in terms of deciding which of those things you’re going to do.

        2) Does this apply to things that you can do in the game that the designers haven’t specifically designed for, or believed they had specifically designed against but failed to do it correctly? For instance, I’m sure that the Baldur’s Gate 2 designers didn’t intend for me to keep the Drow Full Plate beyond the Underdark, or kill that annoying Wizard who teleports in to take back Drizzt’s items, but I did both.

        3) Presumably if you are religious you think that the world has been designed by something. Does it make sense to say that there is no human agency in such a world? I’m no religious scholar, but that doesn’t seem right. And it seems like a bad idea to allow the existence or otherwise of player agency in video games to be determined by religious belief or religious doctrine.

        • Cheradanine Zakalwe says:

          It falls apart further when you realise that the act of playing a game isn’t just a mechanical process. We interact with games on an emotional level exactly the same way we do with books, films and art. My interaction with the game isn’t just me shooting a bad guy – its informed by my past experience with games, my life experiences, what I’ve read of history, what I’ve read about the game etc etc etc.

          To say that the ‘player is dead’ is to invalidate everyone’s personal and shared interactions with the medium. What is the basis of this gargantuan claim? It doesn’t help that she claims to know the reasons people didn’t like her ‘EAT’ game – apparently it was too ‘hostile’ for them and they lacked the ‘mental understanding’. Maybe it was just a shitty, badly designed game – but thats impossible, because apparently we can’t have interactions with the game outside of what is specified by the author.

          Its a load of tosh.

          • Mark Schaal says:

            “To say that the ‘player is dead’ is to invalidate everyone’s personal and shared interactions with the medium.”

            Or…..the phrase “Death of the Player” could be a reference to “Death of the Author” arguments. But you would have to read all the way to paragraph 3 to find that out, and that would be waaaaaay too much work.

      • Laurentius says:

        Did you play Football Manager ? When you resign or are sacked by a club game doesn’t stop and your agency is almost completly limited ( is reading news and match results and agaency ? ) and it’s certainly not a film.

        • NathanH says:

          You can still insult Sam Allardyce.

        • LionsPhil says:

          No, but I’m sure the sweeping generalization has gaping holes in it.

          (At a guess, FM in such a situation turns more into an ant-colony-style sim to watch, kind of like if you go hands-off in Startopia or Dwarf Fortress or such?)

          • The Random One says:

            It’s interesting because all of those systems you mentioned still have “players”, it’s just that they’re all computer-controlled.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Did you use the word which is the title of one of Blizzards much loved franchises but disappointed in it’s third game, the most recent one due to it’s auctions houses? Because that D word that spelt differently would be written Diahbhlow triggers the message block system, rather annoyingly on a games blog. John or any other hive mind, is this bug known, deliberate or fixable?

      • Baines says:

        It has to be know, considering multiple people have complained about it over the last year or more. It became pretty obvious to many when RPS was posting constant news about the 3rd game, and people were seeing their replies eaten without warning or explanation.

        Considering how long the issue has existed, and has been known, it appears that RPS either has no ability or no intention to fix it.

        Someone once said it triggered the filter to stop spam messages, but I’ve never seem spam related to that game on any site. (And considering how RPS is plagued by $X/hour laptop spam, maybe the site should investigate new spam filter options.) Personally, I wonder if RPS just wanted to reduce the number of reader comments about the game, considering the contentious issues over the third game and its various competition, as well as use of terms like ——like

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          It seems indeed to be deliberate, and unsurprising considering RPS’s often childish responses to criticism/subjects they don’t like. :(

        • dE says:

          It probably was introduced as a joke during the shitstorm around that game and RPS stance on it – and then forgotten in time. By now it’s a tad silly, because you can’t even discuss articles about that certain game without posts disappearing into thin air left and right. Which is especially infuriating because they don’t just end up in the spam filter, from where you could salvage it, but outright deleted.

        • The Random One says:

          It sounds to me like RPS should consider changing their site so that it is no longer made of WordPress, duct tape, and good thoughts.

      • Dave Tosser says:


        HAH! Not today, you bastard filter bastard.

  7. phenom_x8 says:

    Just some suggestion, music that pretty much worth listening while playin’ Proteus in rainy sunday afternoon:

    P.S. : Is there anything related to Naruto Shippuden 3 Full Burst on RPS? a WiT or something like that. Yeah, maybe RPS twat are not otaku’s. But, hey I think the games worth mentioning to celebrate how great PC as a game platform is that even an almost console exclusive japanese game company like Namco Bandai are starting to realise it. And I think the PC port of Naruto aren’t as lazy as Deadly Premonition or Dark Souls before.

  8. Fenix says:

    I only play starcraft casually but I have to say I found that video incredibly intriguing.

    Also, don’t want to be the nitpicker here, but it’s not a “45 minute dissection of a unit”, it’s about unit micro and abusing it.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s possible I’m not far into it enough to discern his motives, but I’m amused that so far it’s “Starcraft is not micro enough because of these details, here are some tweaks to make it more micro”.

      • Rane2k says:

        Yeah, it´s basially “we want the micro/twitch to be even more like BroodWar”, and then goes on to say things like “the damage point SHOULD be zero”… No, maybe it should not, maybe the game is balanced around an attack point of 0.16 insteand of 0.0.

        Edit: His proposals end at about 18:30, then its just micro-clips of BroodWar pros.
        Ultimately, I can agree with the suggestion to improve the agility of fighters (lateral acceleration), all the other points would transform SC2 into a SC2 i wouldn´t want to play.

        • iaguz says:

          The author (LaLush)’s point is not about game balance. Starcraft 2 is reasonably balanced as it is.

          His point is about trying to incorporate the flashier and exciting aspects of BW’s micromanagement system into the game, to create a game that has a higher skill ceiling and for opening up styles that were incredibly hard to do. He uses an example later in the video of a Broodwar pro called Leta, who often used Wraiths in Terran vs Zerg. Almost no one would use wraiths like this, but he did because he had the ridiculous amount of mechanical ability to micro them so well whilst executing the rest of his build properly.

          I would argue that such things did not arise necessarily because the engine allowed them to (though I’m all for units that are ‘better’ to control in this way), it’s also due to the mechanical difficulty of the game. Maybe you’ve not played broodwar recently but it’s fucking outrageous how fast and precise players need to be to execute everything. In this game there is only so much of your actions and attention you could allocate to handling your units and keeping your production as efficient and powerful as possible. I would personally argue increasing the mechanics required for professional level SC2 as a whole would help.

          There’s a lot of wonderful things about Broodwar that didn’t translate very well to SC2 for all sorts of reasons, and I support any dedicated fan who can construct a reasonable and intelligent argument like this video.

          • Rane2k says:

            Yes, I know that his points are not about balance, but nevertheless, they would affect the game´s balance severely, on many levels of play, not only pro.

            Specifically: kiting tanks, more potent muta/oracle harass.

            I can agree with the points he makes in the later part of the video, about consistent and reliable unit response to commands, that is a good thing to strive for.

            And indeed, I have not played BW recently, and agree with you that it´s a mechanically demanding game, but I fail to see the point of making SC2 a carbon copy of that.

          • Rane2k says:

            To be honest in this discussion:

            I haven´t played SC2 in about half a year (got HoTS, played through the campaign, and then a bit of laddering, but not too much because my usual allies stuck to Dota2 (where I returned as well)), so my opinion is pretty much that of an outsider, probably at least until Legacy of the Void hits stores in 4 years ;-)

            But let´s take the example of the tracking turrets:
            The suggestion seems to be: my tanks/immortals should be able to destroy the some/all zealots chasing them down. But why? My positioning-heavy tanks got caught out in the open by the shock-troops, my mistake, the opponent is rewarded by destroying them.
            Having them be able to kite the chasing units seems like something that´s not supposed to be possible for the role of a siege/map-control unit like a Tank. That´s something stalkers and roaches can do, but not tanks.

          • iaguz says:

            I don’t think it would be too difficult to rebalance one of these units. I like to think a simple cost increase or damage decrease would suffice.

            And sc2 is already sort of imbalanced outside of the most premier skill levels. Terran is less represented then the other two at almost every other skill level, especially outside of Korea. Terran is just harder to play, the micro required is finer and the units and strategies more fragile. I would argue the solution isn’t to make terran easier, it’s to make the other races harder!

            Also, moving shot tanks really wouldn’t be a big deal, it wasn’t in BW. It mostly existed in the space of time between when a tank was built and when Siege tech completed, but SC2 tanks have siege already researched. But having hellions with tracking turrets would be all sorts of nonsense, as I’m sure zergs would agree.

            I don’t think you need to create a carbon copy of Broodwar, but I think one of the most beautiful aspects of competitive BW was the insane mechanical skill of the players. Their speed and precision with keyboard and mouse seemed impossible. SC2 is a lot gentler in this regard and a lot of it comes down to the interface, with it’s adjustable hotkeys, multiple building selection, automining, smart casting and unlimited sized unit grouping. A lot of the top Broodwar professionals express a sort of disappointment at how much easier SC2 is in comparison and that’s not really a good thing.

            I”m actually fine with a better interface, nothing turns off a more casual audience then a piece of hard to control garbage. But I would like a game where we could respect players for more specific skills, and for the skill ceiling to be higher overall. That can only be a good thing for Starcraft.

          • Rane2k says:

            Terran is underplayed now? Guess I have already been gone far too long, last numbers I saw were sometime during vanilla SC2 with something like 28% Zerg. Heh.
            Always seemed to me as if terran actually has many “easy” stuff going for it already (really high unit ranges, best basic unit (marine), wall-off etc.). Zerg always seemed hardest to me, as a Random only player. :-)

            I´m all for raising the skill ceiling, in any competitive game, not only SC2, but I´m not really certain this is the way to achieve it. (I got no alternative to offer tough ^^)

            Oh, and I dare offer this: the BW micro occasionally looks really ridiculous for a spectator, probably impenetrably so for a casual observer.

            Edit: Oh, and I agree that tracking turret hellions would be hilariously good against zerg, but I can´t shake the feeling that this guy wants to have that too.
            Edit2: Fix.

          • Josh W says:

            Tracking hellions was what I always expected, to my amazement when they were first announced. Of course people would attach firebat guns to buggies! But how terrifying.

            I wonder whether you could add turret tracking to them both but pull them back in other ways; kiting tanks with higher damage points could be interesting, in that they would then behave in opposite ways when sieged or not; push forward a line and defend your range advantage or perform a controlled and constant retreat.

            Not exactly sure what you could do to hellions to compensate for the fact that they’d be so mobile though, it’d have to be pretty drastic.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I mean, I already think it’s too micro and stopped playing it a long time ago, so if the only people left playing are those who revel in micro then why not.

  9. Laurentius says:

    My favorite’s games are those that don’t necessarily require input from players or more precisely can go even without or with limited input from players. Back in 1998 I read interview with Oliver Collyer (creator of Championship Manger series) where he stated that his goal was to developed working simulation of football world and only then work out player role into it. Such games are rare indeed, out of my head I can only name a few that gave me this feeling: CHM and FM, Paradox Games, Uplink, Sid Maier’s Pirates. Most games go Truman Show route only acting infront of player, so yeah I would love more games being designed for games own system coherence then needs of a player.

  10. draglikepull says:

    John says he’s certain that games don’t stay away from religion out of fear of offending people for the way it’s treated, but if I recall correctly Soren Johnson has said that’s exactly why the religions in Civ 4 are identical. They didn’t want to offend anyone or create arguments about the role of individual religions, so they made them all the same.

    • MattM says:

      Imagine if someone made a big game with the desire to criticize a particular religion. X sucks and here is why. I feel like many of the people calling for videogames to contain more substantive art would backtrack quite a bit. “We just meant games should criticize things most everyone hates, like racism and the cost of war for civilian populations.”

      • draglikepull says:

        Final Fantasy Tactics can be read as a pretty critical attack on the Roman Catholic Church and lots of people (including me) very much enjoyed its story.

        • HadToLogin says:

          That’s because criticizing Catholic church, especially Roman is mainstream and cool. But while it’s normal to see TV-shows about catholics hating/killing gays, you need lots of luck and digging in strange places to find shows about Muslims killing gays or raping women.

          • Vinraith says:

            I’m sincerely curious what country you live in. Here in the U.S., anyway, Muslims are demonized as a matter of course in the media.

          • dE says:

            I too would like to know where you live. Doesn’t sound like either Western Europe or US of A.

          • HadToLogin says:

            Oh, I know media demonize them – but mostly through news. But I can’t recall any bad long-lived Muslims in TV-Shows (outside of normal “let’s kill infidels” terrorists, or sometimes, when episode is fully about Muslims), while there’s always some adulterating, pedophile or homophobic priests or believers in way-too-many comedy shows.
            Just recall American Dad’s priest or overzealous father from Family Guy or South Park and their Jesus and Satan – can you name any recurring Muslim characters like them?

          • dE says:

            I’m sorry, but your view seems extremely skewed.
            Media always focusses on the now, not the yesterday. When the world was on fire because of a comic containing a certain prophet, there were constant jokes and jabs in comedy shows at muslims. When the whole 9/11 thing happened, the suicide bomber and Osama became a standard metaphor for use in films and cartoons. Have you missed things like Achmed the Terrorist? Have you never heard about the public anti-muslim campaigns in, let’s say Switzerland? The whole idiotic notion and feeling of threat, that every muslim is a closet terrorist, comes from the media.

            There haven’t been that many “crazies” lately. So the view shifted to Priests when they had their scandal. And even that has already come and gone. For a while it was Miley Cyrus and I seriously don’t know who the current “let’s make a joke out of them” person or believe is in the world. But i’m 100% the next target is just waiting around the corner.

          • HadToLogin says:

            Ahmed – yup, I heard about him, funny skeleton..But what you talk about it’s mostly occasional stuff, not something recurring..
            On the other hand, stuff like adulterating priests and other crazy Christians are typical characters for comedy shows, not just an occasional situations or characters appearing once and never returning.

            I can’t remember any show where one of the main characters would be an Imam who would end his every ceremony with “remember to get your ‘ABC of Suicide Bombing’ after this prayer”. Or Family Guy with Muslim Quagmire who would sleep with women just to kill them after for adultery.

          • dE says:

            Did it occur to you, that it might be a problem with what you’re actually watching? If your “televisionary diet” consists entirely of Family Guy and Southpark, your viewpoint is going to be biased by these examples. These examples are made to offend as many people as possible under the ‘guise of satire. Kinda like GTA5 claims to be satire about the so called decline of american culture.
            This isn’t meant as an offense, but you might need to broaden your tastes in media a bit, if attacks on christians are the only thing you see.

          • Gap Gen says:

            I assume that both Islam and Catholicism in its strictest form is sexist, homophobic and authoritarian. But I suppose as a European institution, dogmatic Catholicism is seen as a more legitimate target for criticism in the hope that it’ll reform than fundamentalist Islam. Then again, there’s certainly a lot of cultural clashes between both Islam and Catholicism and the secular state in Europe; see the failure of the Manif pour Tous to block marriage reform in France, for example, or the number of North Africans who elect to be buried at great expense in the Maghreb because French cemeteries cannot recognise religious edicts like facing Mecca.

          • gwathdring says:

            Consider this: Muslims are considered far too much outsiders for Muslim religious leaders to be the targets of overly specific social and political jabs in television here in the US. Our collective point of reference for Islam is Sharia Law in the Middle East and Terrorism anywhere else–if you make it past those stereotypes, congratulations you’re probably portraying people without relying on casual stereotyping!

            Islam isn’t a religion with substantial political authority in Western Europe and the US; people care more about the institutionalized biases of various branches of Christianity here because people are familiar with and care about the institutions to begin with.

      • ffordesoon says:

        Because sharply criticizing a piece of art means you don’t think it’s art. Uh huh.

        If someone made a big game criticizing a specific religion, surely you’d ask the same questions of it you’d ask of anything criticizing a specific religion:

        1. Is the critique cogent and well-formed?

        2. Is the critique accurate?

        3. Is there any aspect of the work worth praising?

        At no point in any remotely sane* evaluation of the work would its right to be called a work of art be called into question.

        * – Yes, yes, No True Scotsman. But in this case, it’s justified.

  11. SuicideKing says:

    All i’m waiting for is the RPS WIT on BF4, Ars Technica tore it to pieces…and then said “go buy it and experience the highs and lows”. :|

    • Tams80 says:

      I only read the single player part of that review, but it made me cringe. Of course the author may have embellished some bits, but if Battlefield 3 is anything to go by, it sounds very likely there was much embellishment.

      It astounds me that someone/people wrote such a terrible story. How, as your job can you write such rubbish? Fan fiction I can understand being terrible in many cases, but whomever wrote that Battlefield 4 trite should be ashamed.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Haha i know. Dude who wrote it was/is apparently a Hollywood film writer. I really didn’t expect any better, after they released that 17-minute long gameplay video of “Fishing in Baku” a few months ago.

        Anyway, after feeling ripped off with BF3, and having confirmed from my friend that there still aren’t any servers in my country, i’m going to skip BF4.

        He tells me that the campaign is barely 4 hours long, for comparison Arma 3’s first episode was that long…

        • Gap Gen says:

          It’s well worth blowing through ArmA 3’s campaign, BTW. Only low point is the crapshoot mortar gauntlet at the end. That and I can’t fly drones to save my virtual life.

  12. Hastur says:

    Chess fans should give Chess960 (Fischer random chess) a shot. It is a ruleset invented by Bobby Fischer allowing for semi-random starting positions of the pieces, and it breathes fresh air into the game without adding to the game’s complexity as Chess 2 does.

    • Geebs says:

      I wonder whether the bitching about chess by players at the highest levels and this business of “screw regular chess, everybody should play my game” is as much of a reflection of the fact that brilliant egomaniacs are good at becoming chess grandmasters as of there being anything inherently wrong with the game

      • gwathdring says:

        I woudn’t say there’s something wrong with the game, but I’m neither an egomaniac nor a particularly good chess player. My experience, though, is this:

        Enough of chess revolves around pure knowledge (not pure memorization, mind, because context has to accompany the recognition for you to make the right move), punishing more organic tactics because of the sher complexity of decisions. A mismatched game is boring for both players–the new player can’t rely on their inferior knowledge and their organic tactics will only occasionally result in superior position or the element of surprise; the old player can fall back onto basic principles and memorized plays because they won’t be required to puzzle out a way around a better or equal play by their opponent except on a few turns in the game. Those few turns will be tense, of course.

        This is frustrating for me as an inexperienced chess player with a knack for puzzles and games. I quickly surpassed anyone in my immediate social sphere who did not study chess somewhat seriously … but such people can walk all over me in a way that’s not especially interesting for either of us. Some people love that chess requires this kind of study. I do not.

        Chess may or may not have a high-level problem–leave that to the collection of savants and life-long students who become Grand Masters. But like any game that requires careful study and has no “no randomness” it has a mid-level problem and a hidden randomness problem. The mid-level problem occurs in any game, really, but is most pronounced in games that have a formal history; it’s that point where you’ve stopped relying mostly on intuition and creativity but haven’t learned enough forms well enough (and haven’t unlearned enough of the mistakes you’ve internalized over your studies) to be able to once again rely on intuition and creativity but this time against masterful opponents. It even happens in physical activities, so this alone is by no means a condemnation of Chess! But chess provides players essentially no ways to mitigate the mid-level problem.

        Hidden randomness is the randomness that occurs without a formal randomizing mechanic. Chess is thought of as non-random. But it has so many variations even the masters are left with unknowns. This means that especially as non-masters, you must deal with the randomness of unknown moves even if you only make “safe” bets. You will encounter moves where you do not know if your opponent’s move is good or if your response is good let alone *how* good. Further, did you get enough sleep last night? Did you successfully recall that one game between Smith and MacMillan in which something close enough to this position happened and MacMillan used the perfect counter? Did a sound in the room distract your train of thought? Did you just completely fail to perceive a piece standing in just the right spot to screw with your plans as a sort of cognitive fluke? All of these things affect the game; what seems a strategy game of the purest sort has a great deal of randomness, but with none of the benefits formal, mechanized randomness can bring to a game.

        This does not mean “non-random” games are inherently inferior. But hopefully it shows, from a rigorous and logical perspective, why supposedly pure strategy games can be critiqued regardless of the state of high-level play. Also, let’s remember that chess is essentially crowd-sourced across a long period of time; the joy in the game comes from complexity, study and to some extent tactical decision making and those things are no less valid for the lack of true design in chess, but the conventional wisdom that sufficiently legendary games have had the kinks evolutionified out of them is about as shit as the conventional wisdom that cold water boils faster than warm water or that toilet water, when flushed, swirls in different directions in the different hemispheres because of the Coriolis effect. As with the products of genetic evolution, the kinks are very much still there and the products are quite often unfit for survival save for their exceedingly good fortune–just as some of those lost to time really didn’t deserve their misfortune.

        Last, but certainly not least, to say that Chess isn’t stale simply because we’re still learning more about it is sort of like saying the studying the environmental impact of barnacle trampling (I know someone with a degree in this) is fascinating simply because we’re still learning more about it. For some people, I’m sure it’s quite fascinating but I’m going to sit over here with Cosmic Encounter, Skulls and Roses, Dixit, Space Alert, Cyclades, and company. Oooh! That reminds me. Alice Chess–take two boards, set up one as normal. Every time you move, your pieces teleport to the corresponding space on the other board. Captures occur on the board the piece started the turn on, so the target space MUST be clear on the board the piece ends it’s turn on.Traditional openings fall apart and you have to push for a mid-game check-mate otherwise the king just gets WAY too slippery for practicality; I’ve had to work WITH my opponent to try and get me Checkmated properly twice now. :P Clearly more “flawed’ than regular chess, but also more interesting.

        Personally, if I have to pick a scholarly game that’s nigh impenetrable without years of study, I’ll take Go first and Chess second. Not becasue I think it’s a better “design” but because I find it more interesting when studied through play with only minimal scholarly contact; maybe I’d find chess more interesting if I were interested in moderate to high scholarly contact with the game, but I’d rather spend my scholarly energies on physics and music and neuroscience and writing and psychology and linguistics than chess.

    • Dave Tosser says:

      As a tribute to a man who could only write as if he were penning a sequel to the King James Bible, I rarely play anything but Dunsany chess.

      Tafl games are cool, too.

    • Josh W says:

      I quite like the idea of combining chess 960 with sirlin’s endgame rules. Midline rushes seem like they would put an interesting tension on using the king, whereas at the moment moving your king is basically a sign of trouble. Also the “loose if you cannot make a legal move” thing would make almost checkmates into checkmates far more commonly.

  13. Steven Hutton says:

    From the agency article:

    “This reminds me of an anecdote I remember Brenda Romero describing about Train. She said a person went to go play it, but with just looking at it, understood what it was all about and refused to play. Instead, Brenda thanked her for playing, because the actual act of physically interacting wasn’t necessary. The player isn’t needed for play, the player is more someone who can perceive play.”

    The person who wrote this should go to prison. Watching or observing is not the same thing as doing. It’s just not. I watched a football game today and the club were not so impressed with my play in the game that they immediately signed me to their team. After I watched Usain Bolt break the 100m world record Guinness didn’t call me about being in their book. No matter how many times I watch the London Marathon no one is going to give me a medal. I can stare at a plate of broccoli all day but I wont lose weight if I turn around and eat a loaf of bread. I have to eat the broccoli.

    If your argument relies on you totally destroying the concept of verbs then there may be something wrong with your argument. And your brain.

    • The Random One says:

      I do believe you should go read up on what Brenda Romero’s Train is about.

      • Geebs says:

        She Godwinned her own game :-(

        Doing this sort of setup just so you can tell people that they’re LITERALLY HITLER for engaging with you is simultaneously mean spirited and highly disrespectful to the memory of the actual historical victims and also to those who actually did something about it. The correct way to respond to genocide is not to refuse to engage with its play mechanics. It’s pseudointellectual attention-seeking and she should have stuck with the original plan not to show it to anyone.

      • Steven Hutton says:

        It’s about transporting prisoners to be exterminated during world war 2. It’s a game about the logistics of genocide.

        I already knew that. If someone doesn’t want to play that’s fine, If they learned something just from consideration of the game that’s fine. But they did not play the game unless they actually played it. The fact that the game is themed around an atrocious evil crime doesn’t change the meaning of language.

        • The Random One says:

          Do you not believe that learning, at the end of the game, what it is about, is an important part of the play?

          • Josh W says:

            The thing is that learning about what the game represents at the end may be part of play, but knowing a game exists and feeling the gap between your own perceptions during the game and it’s broader system is vast, absolutely vast. The very fact that you commit yourself to solving a certain kind of problem within the game is taking a completely different stance to it than that of the seperated analyst, considering it from a distance.

            To put that more simply, understanding a game may be part of play, but only part. Understanding a game from the outside in a way that sheds light on your own actions playing it, and what you felt and experienced while doing it, that is far more significant.

      • FluffyHyena says:

        Even after reading what Train is about, I still have a problem with “the player is more someone who can perceive play.” To use another example: I know what Call of Duty is about, but that doesn’t make a player of CoD. The author is just too lax with the words she’s using, instead of finding the appropriate one. In that case “participant” would have been better.

        • Eight Rooks says:

          No, you’re not, you’re quite right: that would be because CoD multiplayer is designed so that, y’know, having someone actually take part in it is important. Is it really that hard to understand how another developer might want to create something where merely having someone say “You made a game about what?” – and never actually touching the game in question – is just as important as someone actually sitting down with it?

          • Steven Hutton says:

            It might very well be just as important but it’s not “playing”. Words have meanings.

    • ffordesoon says:

      I confess I have a problem with that particular paragraph myself, in that I don’t agree with Brice’s interpretation of the anecdote. Train is a game about complicity, designed very deliberately so that not playing – and thus refusing to be complicit – is the only way to win. The point being made by Train is not that players should be content to “percieve play,” as Brice concludes, but that the refusal to engage with a system you find repellent is the ultimate expression of agency. Which, it could be argued, actually weakens her argument, assuming I’m understanding it correctly.

      That being said, saying Brice should “go to prison” and the like is an absurd overreaction.

  14. mpk says:

    Robert Rich is an excellent soundtrack to Path of Exile.

  15. smokiespliff says:

    Thanks for the music John.

    7 hours :D

  16. FluffyHyena says:

    My problem with “Death of the Player” is the author uses too many blanket statements such as “Many games that emphasize personal experience as design tools come from creators who are marginalized identities.” or “Because players have a tendency to want agency and a positive trajectory, their input would have been useless to me.”. She also completely ignores indie games such “Passport Please” and other games Porpentine writes about.

    Porpentine, in her RPS column Live Free Play Hard, makes a much better (and clearer) case for games trying to break out of the box.

    I wonder what John found superbly smart and interesting in that piece? And I’m not trying to be cheeky here.

  17. Eight Rooks says:

    “Because players have a tendency to want agency and a positive trajectory, their input would have been useless to me” seems like a fairly reasonable thing to say under the circumstances, but then I’m not under the impression I’m a beautiful and unique snowflake and every developer going ought to pay attention to what I want just because. Seriously, the dreary predictability of the negative reactions to this piece is depressing, and I didn’t even think it was that well written and have no interest in the author’s game. Dear players: you are not necessarily the developer’s god, and telling you to shut the hell up, whether saying it outright or indirectly, rudely or tactfully, is a perfectly valid approach to game design.

    • Laurentius says:

      “Yo, yo, yo people I’ll be making this game but i don’t need none of your feedback or anything so shut the hell up!”

      Valid – sure but wierd nonetheless.

  18. Josh W says:

    That article on the death of the player seems an interesting first step in something with a lot of pitfalls, I’m going to mainly focus on them here:

    It seems to me that this implies two parts of the game process; just as designers who follow this attitude will come with uniterated unplaytested expressions of themselves, players will come with the attitude of “trying to understand”, to read through the brokenness and get to the emotional heart, like talking to a friend who’s dealing with something personal/political to them. You know they’ll say a load of over-exaggerated and sometimes offensive things, but you put up with it to communicate with them.

    I predict if people start building such a play culture, there will be some very uncomfortable shocks here and there, feelings of betrayal.

    For example, at the moment, there’s a wonderful playfulness and back and forth in a lot of indie game design, a respect for the positions of both people. The games are not totally abusive and self absorbed, and the players keep both on one side an openness to meaning and patience; and a sense of absurdity and play.

    The designer both considers, messes with, and tries to communicate meaningfully with the audience, while making poor programming and design choices or mistakes, and the player tries to make something out of the game, give it time to do something, and generally sees what they can do with it, while wrestling with the limits of their skill.

    Players should not take on themselves a role of trying to do whatever it takes to earnestly understand the experience of a game work as a representation of and compensation for oppression and marginalisation in society, without consideration of their own experience, and game designers should not expect players to.

    This is because such a framework of indulgence is too childlike, too much of an abstraction of the behaviour of a caregiver into a framework not attached to an actual personal relationship. That may seem surprising, isn’t this just listening? Consider the emotional and relational aspect exclusively, what you have is:

    Someone setting up a game for someone else to perform in order to express their personal emotions without consideration for that other person, while that other person willingly engages in that collapse of the representation of their personhood and desires in order to make the other person feel heard.

    Think about that in terms of real interpersonal “games”, and you have an approximate description of a narcissistic-codependent relationship. It’s also what we do with babies all the time, or occasionally with the most demanding of friends when they need specific help.

    This is because the nature of creating games is inherently about controlling someone else’s environment, if only in a fictional sense. Conventionally games are created by people who want to play them, for a broad definition of “want” or who at least want people to want to play them. This idea of controlling someone’s environment is to bring out some part of the experience etc. it is viewed from the inside. In contrast, if your primary objective is not to really see yourself in the shoes of a possible player, or consider the player’s experience, then instead it is to control the environments of others for a little while to express yourself. You want to impress a role upon them.

    So leaving aside the bizarre issue of treating a game designer with so much respect that you paradoxically treat them as being emotionally under-developed, this means that some people will go into games expecting to take on this vicarious role, only to find in some cases that the game is not actually set up that way, but forms some kind of parody of these works, or whatever. The game doesn’t have that core of emotion or personal meaning, the demanding or pleading position is there, which is taken up in generosity by the player, and then nothing comes of that investment.

    And so betrayal.

    In contrast, one of the great strengths of personal but well designed games is that they have a sense of generosity within them even as they communicate something else. Even in passive media you can tell an author with a sense of fun, who considers the audience perspective in addition to their own, or with a sense of mystery, who can picture what it’s like to not have all the facts, etc. One of the strengths of entertainment that seeks to engage even as it exemplifies itself is the way it considers it’s audience, the way an implicit conversation between the self and other perspectives is built into it’s structure.

    You could look at how old novels formed the structure of correspondence with an interested party or confident, the way that modern action movies relax into the audience-facing spectacle of their special effects, all of these can act to create a kind of recognition of the possibility of an equality of relationship, that the designer could be in the player’s shoes.

    This isn’t even getting into the interactive nature of games, and it doesn’t have to go all the way; you can still have brutal and unintuitive or personally obscure games, but holding value for the player in your mind means never giving in to that relationship of a totally depersonalised ego-support audience.

    Now in the context of the examples given in this specific article, of course, the objective is to put the other player in your shoes, and so logically you can iterate and playtest the design on yourself, seeing if it represents whatever parts of your life to you, and so hopefully to others.

    That doesn’t mean the death of the player in any respect, it’s back to that original idea of the designer as creating an environment for themselves or those like themselves to be in, the designer as a player.

    I could go on more comparing how mollindustria’s agitprop games don’t loose their sense of personal and political in “educating and controlling the other people”, but keep their sense of commonality, or how what I’ve described as narcissistic-codependent can take on a different tone when designers create a larger conversation out of hacking games for each other, or indeed anything where these things become anchored in actual caring relationships, but whatever, this is probably approaching the length of the original post!

    • rock_paper_shotgun says:

      Before you read this take note that I am not good at being nice sometimes. You don’t have to read what I am going to say.

      People who write in a similar fashion to you amaze me. They spend all this time waxing philosophic about what-have-you with intense emotion and desire and yet, consistently, I walk away with the impression that is it more about their ego and being able to listen to themselves drone on and on than it is about the subject matter itself. I tried to read your post but your language is so littered with unnecessarily flowery and emotional tripe that I had difficulty getting through it.

      Case in point:

      “Players should not take on themselves a role of trying to do whatever it takes to earnestly understand the experience of a game work as a representation of and compensation for oppression and marginalisation in society, without consideration of their own experience, and game designers should not expect players to.”

      I am sorry, but in all seriousness if you want to communicate with people you need to figure out how to edit out this over indulgent, overly complicated look-at-meeeee hogwash. If you cannot par it down and get at the heart of what you are trying to say, just remove it entirely. There isn’t any context that I can see for this type of statement. And it isn’t even followed with anything concrete to give it a foundation. That I can see. It may well be that I am dense and didn’t read closely enough, but, lo and behold, we are back to the primordial argument: when does the author need to take into consideration their audience and to what degree does the audience need to bend to the author’s will. Regardless, the post feels sophomoric.

      • Josh W says:

        Yeah reading back, I considered sticking a thing on the end saying “wow that was convoluted, congratulations on reading through it”.

        The thing is, I’m trying to say something hard, and it’ll probably take a lot of drafting to make it come out smaller, it does seem pretty affected, but more than anything else, that’s due to sticking in qualifications into the sentences rather than reforming them to say the right thing more subtly. This is actually more true to how I think than a more casual looking bit of writing would be.

        • Josh W says:

          For example, here’s an attempt to unpack the bit you quoted:

          Suppose you were inspired by that article talking about how games sometimes come from situations of oppression and marginalisation, with the following idea that they are difficult to get into sort of as a reflection of problems of society itself, and hardships that person has gone though. Well from that, you could justify quite a lot of effort in trying to get into a game. Not just because you want to play something, but taking on those broader considerations of trying to think outside of your normal box, respect those who don’t normally have a chance to express themselves etc.
          The act of playing a game gains these overtones of trying to understand, of trying to right a wrong, or to grow into a more responsible and considerate person, and that’s quite a lot of significance to put on playing a random game someone made.

          This idea of trying to put political/self-challenging/caring attitudes into the way you do random normal things like playing games or buying stuff is pretty common, and loads of examples of it are really good, (supporting more ethical producers over less ethical ones, seeking out more challenging works that are unfamiliar etc) but in this case, what seems at first to be a more high minded stance is actually unhelpful.

          What I’m saying is not the usual lazy, “you’re overthinking this/taking this too seriously” sort of thing, because it should be pretty obvious that I’m on the side of overthinking already! Instead I’m saying that if you really start going down this avenue of considering the social-relational aspect of the player and the designer (which the person writing the article is clearly doing with the talk about colonial analogies in the behaviour of the player), then it’s all too easy to over-react the other way, and the way that was suggested puts too much “meaning” in the wrong kind of way into the role of someone playing a random indie game they found on the internet. It’s unbalanced, for various reasons I try to go into.

          Now that took ages, I’m not sure I can pull that off for the rest of the comment!

        • Geebs says:

          I’ve got a better TL:DR, actually, which goes like this:

          “There are two sorts of people whose only topic of conversation is themselves; bores and coke-heads. Neither is the sort of person you would want to spend a long lift journey with”.

          Thanks, I’m here all week

  19. rock_paper_shotgun says:

    Reading “The Death of the Player” I reflected on how much gaming has changed as a medium since its 8-bit origins. We now have something that can be just as much digital art as a painting can be deeply satisfying with its shockingly alien or comfortingly familiar themes. But, as with everything, there is a spectrum that is being discovered that connects the highly interactive player-centric game to the standoffish and forceful you-must-experience-me game that the author, Mattie Brice, seems so fond to be forcing down players throats. I have no problem with that. It should simply come as no surprise that fewer people are going to participate in that sort of thing just as fewer people are willing to enjoy fringe art that is risque or grotesque or morally questionable (or whatever other reason comes to mind for labeling it “fringe”). Perhaps it is just not very good art?

    I could make a game where you press a button and a monkey dances on screen. To what extent people are willing to interact with that game is questionable. In the event that it is a cow, success is probably on the horizon, but nonetheless a game is about constructing a set of rules that allow the player to make decisions. The richer the game the more complex the strategies involved in interacting with the world and other players will be. What Mattie Brice is describing is most likely (though I haven’t played her games) the most bare bones of what would be considered a “game” at best. Dare I say she isn’t even talking about a “game” but rather a passive experience that is not much better than what one does by pressing the start button on your dvd player. In this case you have to press a few buttons more often than once, but the experience is hardly that of a “game”.

    All in all the article wasn’t particularly interesting.

  20. LogicalDash says:

    I agreed with the Brice article insofar as there’s lots of room for games to explore ways to operate independent of the notion of player agency.

    When it got as far as, “There is no such thing as agency in games,” I balked because I defaulted to the literal reading like I usually do–“narrative” games, engineered to deliver some finite number of experiences that the author conceived of, might be said not to offer real agency, insofar as they are designed on the assumption that the player will try to have the experience you wanted them to. But going with death-of-the-author, there is nothing actually stopping players from treating your game a way you didn’t design it for, perhaps discovering interesting bugs that turn out to be very useful in speedruns. That takes agency, at least.

    I *think* what she was actually going for with that line was more to the effect of the phrase “death of the author,” which doesn’t say the author actually died, or even that they are irrelevant, since a lot of readers do care about authors. Likewise you might make more interesting games by disregarding the notion of agency. But the examples she gave all had something in common: she kept bringing up the possibility of not playing the game. Even in the case of Train, which is the kind of game that you win by refusing to play– and therefore, optimal play consists entirely of rejecting the game– it’s still on the player to accept or deny the notion that this act might constitute “play” of any kind.

    I don’t think it’s possible to critique art of any kind without using the notion of agency in some capacity. You can elect not to talk about it, and yeah, I guess I might appreciate having fewer arguments about how much agency you have and when–they’re tedious in the same way “What’s a game?” is tedious. Even so, if you want your arguments to matter to anything, you have to persuade someone to give a damn, and that’s not something you can force them into–or rather, if you *do*, I would not call it an argument. It might be extortion or torture, I guess. Otherwise, agency determines your audience, and if you really didn’t care about your audience, you would not even have a use for speech.