The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for catching up on emails, commissioning words about videogames, and plotting for a Christmas break. Let’s go.

  • Andy Baio – he of Waxy.org – wrote this week about an experiment of sorts he carried out with his son, by introducing him to videogames in chronological order. I’ve seen a lot of different opinions of this, but it seems to me like a lovely story of a parent being active in playing games with their kid.
  • Start with the arcade classics and Atari 2600, from Asteroids to Zaxxon. After a year, move on to the 8-bit era with the NES and Sega classics. The next year, the SNES, Game Boy, and classic PC adventure games. Then the PlayStation and N64, Xbox and GBA, and so on until we’re caught up with the modern era of gaming.

  • We’re two days away from the full launch of a new Elite game, which is weird after such a long time. I’m looking forward to it, but some people less so:
  • And I hate that there Elite, I hate Elite’s place in the videogame pantheon because instead of making space a wonderous place to explore, instead of visualising a myriad of breathtaking things, it made space a job. It made you a courier in a vast nothing. Sometimes it let you shoot lasers but lasers in videogames are abundant things. Wonder, I fear, not so much. It made space small because work is work is work. I never wanted to work in space. Truth be told, I never really wanted to work at all but needs must and all that.

  • Over at Kotaku, some guy called Nathan writes about Three Fourths Home, a game that will make you feel bad about your familial relationships.
  • Three Fourths Home is a game about family. Created by Bracket Games, it casts players as a 24-year-old girl named Kelly who’s moved back into her parents’ house in rural Nebraska after an extended period of living away from home. She lost her job. She was out of options. So now she’s back home, but things have changed—and so has she. One day, Kelly wakes up early, hops in her car, and decides to just… drive. Into the pouring rain, past the vast expanse of nothing and corn fields that is her hometown.

    Midnight Resistance are celebrating the season in style – not Christmas, but Dogcember. A month of features celebrating dogs in games, or dogs in general. I like Dogital Foundry.

    Once again the Pug underperforms. You can display him up to 1080p, but it’s actually upscaled from 720p. He’s always got a tagnut hanging out too, which drops it into sub-HD standard. His owner needs to grit his teeth, think of England and get that out of there. This isn’t 1999 anymore, we won’t tolerate sub-HD dogs with poopy bums.

  • I’ve taken to ditching any old saved games whenever I hop to a new computer, but I can understand the desire to hang on to them and revisit. Pop Matters writes about what happens when those saved games reveal uncomfortable truths about your past self:
  • Such phenomenon occur in other areas of life all the time. People return home for the holidays and find their high school posters and bedsheets, items that betray the embarrassing fandoms that they belonged to in adolescence. I’ve stumbled across old doodles and term papers that left me baffled or embarrassed. In the information age, this type of embarrassing discovery has migrated to the digital space. Someone discovers your angsty LiveJournal or you find a foray into MSPaint pixel art on an old hard drive. As simulations and systems, video games offer a unique form of this self-rediscovery.

  • Eurogamer have turned their old Saturday Soapbox slot over to a regular bunch of columnists, including Rich Stanton, Cara Ellison, Jon Blyth and developer David Goldfarb. Here’s the editor’s blog introducing them – in case you don’t know – and here’s the first column, which is Rich on Grand Theft Auto V‘s uncomfortable transition to modern technology.
  • GTA has handled the leap between generations superbly in a technical sense, but it hasn’t dealt nearly as well with the consequences. GTA now looks and feels closer to the real world than it ever has before, but tonally it remains stuck in cartoon land – and so many of its elements seem different, despite being mechanically unchanged, because the look means they are different.

  • What are the best boardgames of all time? Shut Up & Sit Down have been running through their favourite 25. Here’s the top 5.
  • Spend a while at The Obscuritory, learning about obscure games.
  • I enjoyed reading about Norway’s Slow TV, a genre of programme which is hours or days long and focuses, without pause, on cruise journeys, knitting, fires burning, among others.
  • They’re hybrids of endurance tests and hypnotizing ambient happenings, television that aims to be the opposite of what we’re accustomed to. They’re plotless and unedited, very low on drama and without many cues as to how to feel while you stare and listen.

    Music this week is Dave Brubeck again with a background of Noisli. Thanks to A Person On The Internet for submitting many of this week’s links.

    60 Comments

    1. Brinx says:

      I love how Cosmic Encounter is at the top of basically every board game list.

      • Synesthesia says:

        And oh so rightly so.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          Just like diplomacy it is entirely dependent on having several quality opponents. A big weak point IMO. A lot of people can play a more mechanical game well and be fun while doing it. CE and Diplomacy, while wonderful, are things you need people who are both good at the game and good humored to play with.

          • Synesthesia says:

            I don’t think I agree.
            It’s not difficult by any means, and your argument about the humour can be applied to all but the most robotic of boardgames. It’s a gem, and it’s rightfully won its throne over and over again.

            • Joshua Northey says:

              The way the rules interact is very hard to track for casual players in my experience. It is much harder to follow than Puerto Rico, or Power Grid, or whatever. And I just totally disagree about it not requiring extra good humor. Both it and Diplomacy (which I love), almost always involve lying/betraying people to win. Many many games do not involve that. It is not at all common to need to lie to win in most games.

          • Baboonanza says:

            I agree. I bought it because it’s rated so highly but after having a couple of attempts at it I realised that it’s a game that only works with fairly capable game players. It requires to much forward reasoning about how the rules affect the way the game will play for casual players to get to grips with IMO.

      • malkav11 says:

        Mystifyingly so.

      • falconne says:

        I can’t take a boardgame list that has so few of the top rated Euro and Euro-like games on it seriously. Where’s Agricola, Puerto Rico and Twilight Struggle? I get the feeling their ranking is biased towards more recent games rather than the classics from 10-15 years ago, due to burnout. That’s understandable but then it shouldn’t be a “Of All Time” list.

        BGG’s list of games ranked by overall votes: link to boardgamegeek.com is a much more objective measure of game quality, for anyone wanting to get into the hobby and aren’t burned out on the best of the best yet.

        • malkav11 says:

          It’s their favorite boardgames. They make no claims of objectivity, and as far as I can tell, are generally not terribly moved by Euro-style games even if they admire some of them for the cleverness of the design.

        • Synesthesia says:

          It’s about objectivity in Boardgame reviews.

          But seriously, it’s never about objectivity. Most of the games up there are good and all, but not even close for a newly formed group diving into boardgames, or even an old one trying to have fun. If I was having a beer or two with friends, and suddenly pulled out Agricola or Tiwghlight struggle, the room would be empty in 4 seconds flat.

          • falconne says:

            Sure, not Agricola or TS for new players, but when it comes to introducing “geek” friends to boardgames, I always have success with Puerto Rico, Dominion, Pandemic, etc, because they’re easy to grasp and they can quickly see the depth in the game which keeps them interested.

            I guess it depends on the crowd, but Euros seem to to quickly convince skeptical geek-minded folk that a boardgame is worth spending a whole evening on.

        • Steven Hutton says:

          Maybe those games aren’t in the list because they’re absolutely boring shit.

    2. Faldrath says:

      That Elite article sounds a lot like the Romantic criticism of capitalism – capitalism, instead of making work liberate humankind of the dependency on nature, enslaves both humankind and nature to work.

      Which is probably spot on, since Elite is purposefully an attempt at space capitalism (I say probably because I haven’t actually played Elite yet, but I’m pretty sure Braben said something like it). I do hope to be able to play it as an explorer (with minimal trading and combat – trading just enough to have enough fuel and a decent engine to go wherever I please), but I’ll wait for reviews to make sure I can do that before buying it.

      (on a different note, people who say driving is difficult always baffle me. But that’s another discussion!)

      • jellydonut says:

        I’m not going to listen to criticism of a game being complex instead of being a walking simulator from a grown man who refuses to drive a car.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        “capitalism, instead of making work liberate humankind of the dependency on nature, enslaves both humankind and nature to work.”

        Or you know, when given the choice people would rather use capitalism to live a more comfortable life rather than laze around all day in a hovel. You think capitalism enslaves mankind? Try subsistence agriculture. That is slavery, 14 hour days and a good chance of starving anyway!

        This is not some Lockean paradise, there are not enough resources for 6 or even 3 billion people to be a gentleman farmer (not even getting into the fact that gentleman farmers mostly were gentleman because other people were doing the real labor).

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          —-Try subsistence agriculture. That is slavery, 14 hour days and a good chance of starving anyway!—-

          And yet not the only alternative – you could try pacific island hunter-gathering, a little fishing, climbing a tree for a coconut , lazing about on the beach.

          Subsistence agriculture is bad, but most people who bring it up are generally referring to a feudal arrangement where a git with a sword is taking all the surplus – historically given enough good land and a lack of gits with swords (or ones that didn’t take too much of the surplus) farming was a fairly decent lifestyle.

          • Geebs says:

            Fine until you get an insect bite and die of septicaemia

            • Hedgeclipper says:

              Well sure, but the same could happen to kings, popes and patricians not exactly a risk you could avoid by leaving the farm.

              I’m all for capitalism – in a Chruchillian its the worst option we have except for all the others sense – but I get pretty sick of the fairly constant drumbeat of ‘market forces are all that is good and true’ and corresponding ‘every other social arrangement ever was unremitting horror’.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            A) How exactly do you propose ridding the world of gits with swords oh enlightened one?
            B) Sure farming is great on great farmland. There is not enough of that for everyone. Plenty of people the world over were farming for home consumption and producing very low surpluses for centuries.

            • Hedgeclipper says:

              No need to be snarky
              a) there’s an institution called democracy, it seems to be a viable alternative to having a feudal overlord. Variations of communism, anarchy, familial and clan organisation have all also worked historically although they don’t appear to scale well.
              b) modern civilisation is built on those surpluses going back long before capitalism was the dominant economic system
              Your argument was that the choice was between capitalism and “lazing around in a hovel all day” and its just manifestly untrue.

          • Volcanu says:

            Subsistence farming by it’s very definition rarely generates a meaningful surplus. And the margins between success and failure (i.e. starvation) are often perilously slim.

            In the rush to malign modern capitalism and ‘the financial system’ in all it’s forms people often forget that it’s that system that allows a subsistence farmer to borrow money, which he can exchange for labour saving machinery, fertiliser and so on in order to boost his crop yield meaning that his children wont starve, and that he can sell the surplus to pay back the loan (and in time) further improve his land, or educate his children (who are no longer needed to work on the land for 14hours a day) and so on.

            Its that system that means that we can support specialists, like full time doctors, engineers, scientists, teachers etc etc, that improve the lives of society (and even humanity) as a whole. Over 50% of the worlds population wouldnt exist today if Fritz Haber had been grovelling about in a turnip field fretting over that evening’s dinner rather than developing the process that bears his name. Ditto Alexander Fleming. I could go on.

            It’s a little strange to decree that it was historically ” a pretty decent lifestyle”. It doesn’t sound that great to me to be honest- back breaking physical labour, ominpresent threat of bad weather/crop failure/pests/war destroying your means of survival, rudimentary medical care (at best), no prospect of an education, high infant mortality, low life expectancy.

            • Hedgeclipper says:

              I probably wan’t clear in the distinction I was trying to draw – true ‘substance’ farming can’t produce a surplus that’s tautological – but its a product of circumstances either overpopulation leading to small farm sizes or surpluses being taken. And its being used here to paint everything not-capitalist as “living in a hovel” but if you look at the history of say England excluding the famines of the 14th C (climate change) the rural population did reasonably well; it wasn’t 14 hour days 7 days a week, you worked hard during harvest and planting but had Sunday and a whole range of feast days off, life expectancy wan’t great but a lot of that is down to child mortality and lack of antibiotics, and nutrition was good enough over the period that adult heights which dropped sharply with the introduction of large scale capitalism and industrialisation didn’t recover until the 20th C. Being a medieval peasant sucked but it wasn’t subsistence and the difference in quality of lift between a peasant and a king was so small as to be meaningless from our perspective.

              Finally you mention a ‘subsistence farmer’ under capitalism borrowing money to mechanise – a subsistence farmer doesn’t have the land to make that work by definition, he just goes bankrupt and the bank sells the land to a big agribusiness.

    3. Laurentius says:

      Rick Stanton’s type of criticism really irks. Like he starts with: “My favourite thing to do in GTA is drive nowhere in particular. You see all sorts. The sun fading over mountains, random fights between pedestrians and – at night – you can feel the whole vibe of the city change.” and given the rest of article, this is not just a brief and insignificant note is a premise of atypical and unique game experience that vast majority of GTA players are void of and that somehow his obeservations are more insightfull and valid. Well hello, I bet milions of people who play GTA games do just that. So maybe instead just start with analyzing yourself, you are not an unique snowflake, you are spineless coward.

      • Lexx87 says:

        Christ!

        And you’re just ridiculous for such hard words against an insignificant sentence.

        • airmikee says:

          I think Rich covered Lauren’s comment in his second to last paragraph about Trevor.

    4. PlanetTimmy says:

      Although it’s true in Elite you spent a lot of time either trying to make money to upgrade your ship, or getting into fights to upgrade your rating, to me when I played it despite the star systems all looking very similar, a lot of narrative crept into the game. Your decision on whether to ship narcotics, whether to risk that fugitive rating, whether to risk the short route through the anarchic system built up a little story about you and your ship.

      However, I’m not sure how Elite is meant to have ‘ruined’ space games as it seems to me so few followed in its footsteps.

      • Cinek says:

        Ekhm… So… these few binary choices are a narrative that crept into the game? Sorry, but: no. For game to have a narrative it’d have to have a narrative, Elite does not – it’s a sandbox with toys thrown around and you left in there playing.

        As for the article itself – IMHO that’s a testimony to the failure of a procedural generation. I still remember people saying how procedural generation is not inferior to the dedicated artists creating a game as we’ll have an infinite wonderful worlds to explore. Meanwhile brutal reality is that we have an infinite clones to run through, as this sense of wonder very quickly fades away. You actually get it only when seeing bits of the puzzle for the first time – eg. your first asteroid belt, your first planet with multiple moons, your first exit from a jump looking at the sun… but these quickly run out and soon you are left with very repetitive iterations of more-or-less the same. After a while you can’t go out to explore wonder, which is what procedural generation promoters imagined, you go out to cash out planetary scans and a few things found in between them – sort of Euro Truck Driver: Space edition. And don’t get me wrong – game looks wonderful – just these puzzle pices quickly become obvious.

        • malkav11 says:

          Yeah, I am always intensely skeptical of people getting all starry-eyed over the wondrous possibilities of procedural content, because in my experience it ends up being, well, random. Frequently disjointed, often bland and repetitive. It tells no stories, creates no worlds worth exploring, because it’s just an algorithm put on screen. At best, at least to date, it can perform the broad brushstrokes that compose the canvas on which actual human craft can create the artwork itself. It’s great for filling a lot of space quickly, not so great for making that space memorable and rewarding to visit. Though I will admit it can sometimes create accidental vistas that are quite beautiful.

      • DrollRemark says:

        Nah it definitely is. As Rob said, there are two settings for space games: either combat or trading/mining (with a little of the former thrown in). Seriously, fuck mining.

    5. Rao Dao Zao says:

      Never mind hanging on to saved games, I’ve still got ancient Age of Empires II and Warcraft III maps I made back in the day that are… well…

      It’s not so much posterity as the nagging feeling that there might be something recyclable in there, if only I can bring myself to start digging. (Then I realise that I made the same silly jokes then as I do now and not as much has changed as I’d like to think.)

    6. Gilead says:

      It’s probably unfair, but my first reaction to that Andy Baio piece was ‘what, the only PC games he tried were a few adventure games?’ No Civilization? No RPGs? Still, hopefully being brought up on older games means he’s more likely to go back and try more of them on any of the systems, because the graphics/interface won’t be such a big obstacle.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Yeah, its an interesting article, but suprising that as a PC gamer he seems to have left the PC out of his nostalgia ride.

        • cthulhie says:

          I wonder how much of it was just the difficulty of troubleshooting. DOSbox works pretty well, but I think he could be forgiven for wanting to simplify the experience with his son. It’s a shame DOS was such a terribly mutable platform, if only for archival reasons.

    7. Josh W says:

      Hmm, I like the idea of a space train game, something about getting into slingshot orbits maybe then enjoying the ride.

    8. Salicath says:

      I wouldn’t be a pedantic dick about this if I wasn’t a huge fan of the man, but you misspelled Dave Brubeck. Good taste in music, though.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Yeah, Brubeck rocks! Cool guy, too. I played in an Afro-Caribbean jam band that covered Take 5, but we always ended up in 6/8. I finally convinced them to just name the dang thing Take 6 – and call it our tribute to Brubeck and Desmond.

    9. elderman says:

      I haven’t played any GTAs after San Andreas, but I have to say that in my experience the series has been shallow, unfunny, and puerile from conception.

      I think Rich Stanton wants to say that the move to higher resolution graphics and a more realistic game world brings out the ugliness of the fiction, but that’s the been the rap on the game at every generation, as far as I can remember. It’s always been a widely-admired technical achievement that produces mostly-fun gameplay all wrapped in a fantasy that makes the sensitive (like me) want to wash their hands.

      Does driving though a GTA city in 1080p really change the meaning of the game, or has Rich Stanton just got squeamish at he gets older ?

      • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

        It’s a fair question, but for myself I feel that GTA has been trying to eat its cartoon violence cake and have its serious examination of modern American life cake too. (Wait, I broke this metaphor.) I don’t think this has anything to do with the resolution, though – I just feel that after San Andreas Rockstar jettisonned most of the things that made GTA GTA – on account that, since no one had really followed on their footsteps well enough, any game about a crime bloke wot steals cars is what made GTA GTA for many people – and kept just enough of the wild colourful world that it becomes a jarring tonal shift that just brings out how inept they are at portraying the real world of real crime for real that they really want to portray.

      • Geebs says:

        I do get a bit of a vibe of how talking has ruined silent movies and how colour has made movie violence worse than black and white, and how sonnets are so much leader than limericks, and so on ad infinitum.

        Thing is: presumably, Rockstar are partly playing up to their own obnoxiousness out of bemusement at how they’ve been getting away with it so long.

        I haven’t really enjoyed a GTA since Vice City, but I think that a) at least it’s consistently horrible, which is more honest than Saints Row’s frantic mugging and b) it absolutely can’t be accused of glamorising anything

      • Contrafibularity says:

        You’ve probably got a point. In GTA’s defence, the 2D (okay 2.5D but pre-3D) top-down games were brilliant at what they did. I may or may not have been terribly shallow and puerile when I enjoyed them, but they had a fantastic and fast rhythm to them which combined wonderfully with the player’s agency.

        I never really enjoyed the 3D GTA games as much as I did those. Though I have much enjoyed its satire and mostly fictional recreation of entire cities (or rather cultures) which is probably GTA’s enduring redeeming quality.

    10. Phier says:

      The anti-Elite blog doesn’t resonate with me, because I like at least a shell of realism in my games. Exploration and wonder are great, but you gotta pay the bills too. Elite did the best job it could at the time due to the limitations of hardware. I played the living crap out of it. I’ve preordered the new one already and yea there are times I’m going to be a space trucker and yea I won’t mind at all.

      Now I won’t get started on things like “farming sim” or “Eurotrucker” or all the work sims out there. I at least need SOME fantasy in my games.

    11. Bart Stewart says:

      The reference to Slow TV reminded me of the burst of journalism from a year or two ago about “slow games.”

      Chris Dahlen’s Polygon article on slow games (which referenced Cara Ellison’s Sacrilege) was a brief but well-written piece on the kind of pleasure one can get from interacting with a game’s content without hurry.

      It’s about 180 degrees removed from the “I win because I finished fastest” approach enabled by many games. That approach is not wrong. But it’s not the only valid experience that a computer game is capable of delivering. I like the reference to Slow TV as a reminder of that.

    12. melnificent says:

      The exciting part of the elite experience so far, is trying to get a refund from frontier. There is more selection of routes than there are things to do in Elite.

      3 different “support” sites, with the tickets not being carried across to newer ones.
      Differing refund offers, Full, partial, tiny and none.
      Varying lengths of silence. 1-3 weeks minimum
      Boilerplate responses, which one will it be this time?
      Payment processor dispute routes, Paypal, Kickstarter, Debit card, credit card, which did you pick?

      All in all it’s quite the adventure.

      link to reddit.com

      • LionsPhil says:

        There’s a subreddit for everything.

      • Horg says:

        Looking more and more like Frontier are running on fumes, trying to kick the refunds down the road until after they get post launch revenue. If that’s actually why they are being so stubborn over refunds, they could have saved a lot of ill will by just saying so. I doubt too many people would have been upset if they had come out with ”sorry guys, we can’t process refunds until after launch because we spent the money you gave us to make Elite on making Elite.”

      • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

        Elite: Dangerous Refunds

      • Synesthesia says:

        They are on crunchtime, 2 days from release. Sadly, refund priorities might be a bit lower on the ladder than I don’t know, finshing the game.

        • DrollRemark says:

          If the same people making the game are those handling refunds, then Frontier must be in a pretty terrible state.

    13. Sidewinder says:

      Regarding that Sandoval article- does this guy not realize that what you do in a video game doesn’t actually affect the real world? (Multiplayer aside, of course). I played games of Master of Orion 2 wherein I’d go out of my way to blow up every single planet in the galaxy except my homeworld, yes, but no one was hurt. Is he ashamed of the fact that he’s descended from hundreds of millions of years’ worth of survive-at-any-cost lifeforms (remember, the humans who didn’t have a primal urge to kill were all wiped out by those who did)? Or is he just ashamed of the fact that he found a peaceful, harmless way to indulge these impulses?

      • LordOfPain says:

        Not true. Humans advanced by banding together and eventually moving from hunting and gathering to forming civilisation with specialised division of labour and agriculture, not ‘primal urge to kill’.
        But your broader point about a strong survival instinct is certainly true. And for living things in general. Except it doesn’t just involve killing of course, but running away, hiding, safety in numbers, etc, etc…

        • Tukuturi says:

          While Sidewinder is quite a bit off, I believe he’s talking about biological evolution. LordOfPain, on the other hand, appears to be talking about cultural evolution, and an idea of cultural evolution that hasn’t been taken seriously in many corners for over fifty years.

          There is no teleology to human social change, nor is there a single direction in which such change proceeds. The idea of an evolutionary march toward civilization was a socially constructed myth to justify colonial expansion and exploitation. Simplifying a bit, but there are plenty of cases where people hunt, gather, and farm for subsistence, and there are plenty of cases where people who primarily farmed for subsistence decided to give it up for hunting and gathering. I won’t even go into how the categorization of farming vs. gardening vs. gathering is absurd in its own right.

          As for the role of violence in human biological evolution, the jury is out. There are people who argue strongly for the importance of violence. Others argue for the greater importance of cooperative behavior. Most everyone acknowledges that both of these things were important factors.

          • Sidewinder says:

            Actually, I’m not off at all, just woefully incomplete. Human society certainly couldn’t have emerged without cooperation; it’s a bit of a stretch to assume multicellular life could’ve emerged without cooperation. While I didn’t quite assume that went without saying, I simply meant to bring up that Sandoval seems to think such… let’s say ‘animal’ desires are somehow beneath him. But the fact remains that aggression and violence, beyond that which is necessary for a predator/prey cycle, played an enormous part in driving the human race forward, and to deem these drives as somehow inferior or undesirable (not the side effects of wantonly indulging these drives, but the impulses themselves), shows not only blatant disregard for history and biology, but a frightening lack of self-awareness.

            • Tukuturi says:

              This is a bit of a late reply, but thanks for clarifying your point for me. I understand better where you were coming from now.

    14. jezcentral says:

      Nathan’s article was interesting, but it’s none-more-New-Games-Journalism approach left me baffled as to whether I would enjoy the game.

      • El_Emmental says:

        It seems to me the question is not exactly “whether I would enjoy the game”, this is an interactive story-system more than a “game” : there is more experience to live than gameplay to “play”.

        Oh, please don’t lynch me for saying the words, “not a game” – I’ve had a much better moment in terms of immersion and story in these interactive experience softwares than with most “games”. Being branded a “game” isn’t some kind of ultimate goal, the final recognition – it’s extremely difficult to get gameplay and deep experience in the same room, thus why I truly respect developers who accept that and don’t try to shoehorn some repetitive game mechanics in the middle of a wonderful experience, just to get the “you’re a game!” medal. It wasted too many story experiences.

        Like I wrote in the first paragraph, it is an experience one needs to live rather than play – that article is basically guiding us through that moment, like when someone tell you their story, a defining moment or element of their life.

        Beside the feelings and empathy the article brings to the reader, if we look at the design and story writing side it’s interesting to note that the writer (of the article) constantly drew parallels with his own personal life experience, alternating between the story and his story.

        To me, it reveals how important it is to leave some room to the person living that experience: if the system is constantly throwing story elements at you, to fully build the world and its characters to keep you interested, you’ll spent more time trying to understand the story, learning it, rather than living it by adding your own elements.

        At the same time, it’s really a tricky business: refuse to “complete” your story/characters, and a lot of people will not fill the gap, they won’t project their personal life experience into the interactive story-system (or game).

        One of the reason behind that lack of projecting might be that they don’t want to do that here and now, because it makes them depressed or worse. Instead, they’re trying to live the story of other (fictional) characters to escape for a brief moment, to take an existential breath from the inevitability of life. I’ve never felt like that (preferring to face the abyss), but met a lot of people in that situation and I truly respect that approach.

        For that audience, the story will simply be full of plot holes, an empty shell of a pretentious minimalist story designer, who’s hiding laziness behind a smokescreen. Plenty of video games suffered from such accusations – the writers and designers tried to leave something in the shadows, beyond the first impression, to hit two birds with one stone: avoiding the commercial-viability censorship while letting the players complete and live the story themselves. It almost always ended with the same argument: if the game doesn’t tell me what I did is right or wrong or vengeful or kind, by having immediate consequences directly affecting the gameplay, it doesn’t matter at all.

        To draw a parallel with the interactive story-system in question, that would mean having “good” and “bad” dialog answers, all leading to specific endings – no choice would be up to the person experiencing the story, everything would be predicted and directly integrated into game mechanics. The “game” would be understanding what structure the designers/writers built (and the traps and dead-ends they left in the way) to finally reach the end and win.

        In conclusion, from reading that piece I now know that if I’m not in the mood of projecting my personal life into interactive story systems, it’s very unlikely I’ll enjoy the experience and find it interesting. Like Glitchhikers, it’s a story system where subjects need to actively invest themselves into the experience to get something out of it – a feeling, a memory, a thought.

    15. Merus says:

      We have slow TV in English-speaking countries as well, except we call it ‘test cricket’.

    16. valrus says:

      The Obscuritory is exactly what I’ve been wanting to read this week, thanks!

    17. particlese says:

      The blurb about old game saves had me struggling to think of ways I’ve changed with respect to games, other than that my imagination and time seems less free to create maps and mods these days.

      Reading the full article gave me a few ideas, though. I have on a Game Boy Color backup cartridge a ton of unsavory or at least punny Pokemon names. I’d probably do similar today, but perhaps without such gems as “Penischew” and “Turdstring”. The last Pokemon game I played (Diamond) had nothing so memorable…

      Then there’s the issue with Commander Shepard. I was never fully pleased with the character creator, but I have to believe I could have made a better mouth for my Shepard: When I imported her into ME3, it looked like she had just chugged a cup of tea which had been steeped for an hour and had the leaves squeezed into it.

      It does make me want check out some of my other old saves and whatnot — I was pretty good at keeping them.