The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for rolling around on the floors of your new home in search of a stronger mobile data connection, while waiting for Monday to bring a BT engineer and a proper internet connection. Good thing Friday’s are for trips to coffee shops and advanced assemblages of fine internet writings about videogames.

  • I’m aware I link the Guardian here a lot, but they’ve been doing good stuff of late. This week’s piece on the current state of industry crunch – examining whether anything has really changed since 2004’s EA Spouse – is essential reading. So read it.
  • “This year is my first experience with long stretches of crunch, and my girlfriend, who I live with, feels like she hardly sees me,” relates one programmer at a leading games studio who, like almost everyone else we spoke to, asks to remain anonymous. “It’s a common source of tension. My generally much higher level of stress takes its toll on my mood outside work so it bleeds into everything. Work late, come home for a few hours of food and exhausted conversation, go to bed, sleep in between stressing about bugs and end up dreaming about code, get up feeling half dead then go back into work and repeat.”

  • Do you want to find a way to get your non-game playing friends to get in on the gaming fun? Then hey, leave them alone; they don’t force their interests or hobbies on you. But if you’d like to get involved in playing games yourself and you’ve stumbled across this website by accident, then this list of ten games for people who don’t play games is worthwhile.
  • This is a beautiful example of how games play with storytelling traditions. In this browser-based game you are redrafting letters to send to your high-ranking husband, who has cast you aside for a misdemeanor you don’t immediately understand. Meanwhile, through the choices you’re given in the letters, you discover that you’re in contact with seditious characters. A game of trying to work out – in several ways – whose side you’re on.

  • If you’re friends are all asking to get into videogames, then perhaps you should pair the above list of what to play with this Guardian article more concerned with how to play. It’s good on the basics of what newcomers will need to buy and play their first videogames.
  • However, you don’t have to spend big on a top-of-the-range mega beast: if you’re happy to turn some of the graphics settings down, £500-600 will get you a decent machine with an Intel i5 processor, AMD R9 280 graphics card and 8GB of memory. Even an old laptop with Windows XP and 512MB of ram will let you play a variety of smaller indie games and older titles. Classic point-and-click adventures, strategy titles and vintage shooters are cheap and easily available online (Good Old Games has hundreds of them), and don’t require state-of-the-art hardware.

  • I haven’t listened to this yet, but the recommendation comes from Adam and who wouldn’t trust him. Short design podcast 99 Percent Invisible – originally about architecture, now with a more expansive remit – turned its attention to games and the close of The Sims Online in its most recent episode. The end of fictional universes and the scattering of all that they contain is an always fascinating subject, and there’s streams and downloads here.
  • Nathan Ditum is a funny man, and never more so when he’s being mean (and right) about films and the Oscars. Let him amuse you.
  • The Theory Of Everything
    In which we learn: That eight best film nominees is probably too many.

    Why? Because this is the same fucking film as The Imitation Game, about a great academic and the delivery of his gift to the universe despite the obstacles the universe places in his way (a fact underlined by the fact Cumberbatch already played Stephen Hawking back in 2004).

  • Rab has started a new project and/or one-off article: Reviews Of Games I Haven’t Played. I hope it runs and runs.
  • Yeah, that’s the next thing. The guns in the game have no sense of “weight”. When I wasn’t playing the game, I just had no sense of the guns having any “weight”. I think it’s very important that guns in games have “weight”. It just seems ridiculous that anyone would release a game in 2015 that lacks “weight” in the area of guns. I have no interest in playing a game with guns that lack “weight”, so I haven’t. I was shocked by the lack of “weight” in this game.

  • I hope Adam Saltsman’s Overland is good, because I need more turn-based tactics games, and more games that sit somewhere on the spectrum between Hoplite and XCOM. If you feel similarly, the details in this Pocket Tactics article are worth hoovering up.
  • Saltsman’s core idea for Overland is that “cozy tactics game” concept. It’s not about stripping out complexity, says the noted Ascension fan, but it’s about making choices and outcomes crystal clear — a tactical game that anybody could look at and instantly grok, not just the die-hard grognard with the Vigilo Confido tattoo. “The cause and effect of everything is really clear because the interface is as simple as possible. It’s like when you miss a point-blank shot against a pinned down alien in XCOM — why does that happen? I think for a lot of other people it’s super confusing, so I want to make something that preserves the planning and strategy but strips out confusing things like that.

  • I sometimes, when visiting other countries, walk into bookshops and browse shelves of work I cannot read. It makes the world feel large and unknowable and I find that exciting. Meanwhile, the vast quantities of English-language culture I will never experience in my lifetime make me feel nothing at all. Consumption is not a competition and I feel no guilt or obligation to backlogs or canons, even as I build a life for myself dependent upon steady cultural consumption. Maybe you feel similarly to me. Maybe, like this article at Polygon, you see advantages to surrounding yourself with unplayed or not-yet played games.
  • There’s an old saying that goes something like this: When the pupil is ready, the master will appear. I’ve found that holds true for games and books as well. When I buy something that I know I won’t read or play in the next few days, if not the next year, it feels like I’m lighting a lantern and gently pushing it into my own future. It’s easy to imagine an evening, and perhaps it will take years, when I rediscover that I bought a book, or in this case a game, and will spend hours lost inside it.

  • New York Times media reporter David Carr has died. He was a complicated character, a great writer, and he alone made the NYT documentary Page One worth watching. I have conflicted feelings after reading his autobiography The Night of the Gun – you couldn’t not – in which he attempted report on his own indiscretions as a drug addict as he might have done with any other story, but I’ve enjoyed reading the outpouring of stories like this one over the past week.

Music this week is the endless loop of Stevie Wonder albums and recent pop hits played in the coffee shop I’m working inside. Could be worse, but back to more interesting selections next week, I hope.

109 Comments

  1. Lars Westergren says:

    I don’t play on my phone or tablet even though I bought some games and tried. It’s too fiddly (and the performance of my Nexus 7 is nothing to write home about), but I still read Pocket Tactics, it’s a really good site. They cover PC style mobile games – adventures, strategy, RPGs, and generally don’t cover the clones & microtransaction stuff which plagues the appstores. Plus they have mentioned RPS as an inspiration.

    I found Masquerada via that site for instance, turn based strategic RPG a-la Banner Saga or Fire Emblem, but set in a 18th-19th (?) century Venitian world where magic is tied to the carnivale style masks you wear. PC is the primary platform, mobiles being considerd. Going to keep an eye out for that one.

    • Gap Gen says:

      It depends which games you play (and of course on a personal level, your mileage may vary). I found Eufloria to work better on the tablet/phone than on the PC, where finger-swipes work pretty well. I even found Waking Mars pretty playable on the tablet, although I also completed an Imperium Galactica 2 campaign on my tablet, so I might be more forgiving of the platform than you.

  2. ribby says:

    Loved the reviews of games I haven’t played

  3. Gap Gen says:

    I’ve kinda stopped seeing meaning in awards. I accept that other people, even other people in positions of relative power, have different tastes to me and that’s not an indictment on either party. Although looking at that list of nominees, perhaps it is.

    • joa says:

      The Oscars aren’t really about taste though – it’s all about politics, voting in the right politically correct or ‘worthwhile’ film.

      • thedosbox says:

        At least one voter disagrees with you: link to hollywoodreporter.com

        • pepperfez says:

          Wow, that’s some high-proof racial resentment right there.

          • Frosty Grin says:

            It’s merely in response to all the criticism of the Oscars for having too many white nominees.

          • pepperfez says:

            Yeah, and it’s a response made entirely of racial resentment. The line about “cretinous, snaggle-toothed hillbillies” was what pushed it over the edge. Like, I’m supposed to take you seriously when you think only poor people from Appalachia can be racist? Fuck that. And criticizing the cast for “stirring shit up” by protesting people being murdered by the police? I forgot, filmmaking is a politics-free zone.
            If I hadn’t already thought the Academy had a race problem, that column would have convinced me.

          • Frosty Grin says:

            Well, poor, uneducated people not living in diverse communities are more likely to be racist, that’s for sure. And she didn’t say that only people like that can be racist. Finally, I don’t see how it’s worse than implying – loudly and persistently – that Oscars voters are racist simply because they’re white.

            As for the protest, you can see it as either a genuine attempt to use a high-profile event to attract some attention to an injustice – or an attempt to use the injustice to score some points for the movie. There is a similar debate about the publicity for Imitation Game.

          • pepperfez says:

            I mean, you can assume that these politically-aware Black people are cynically using the deaths of other Black people to sell their movie, and that they don’t actually care about systematized racial violence. But really, if that’s the first place your mind goes, fuck you (the general, not the specific “you”). How many “Boston Strong” and “Je suis Charlie” tributes have there been at nominally apolitical events? Is she going to call those out for stoking anti-Muslim sentiment?
            And she pretty clearly wrote, “Are we racist? No, we’re not poor Appalachians,” (except, of course, with the casual slur “hillbilly,” clearly strengthening her social-awareness creds) which is just unconscionably fucking stupid and offensive. Charles Murray, Geert Wilders, Donald Sterling, all those suburbanites questioning Obama’s birth certificate: They aren’t from some isolated holler in West Virginia. They’re well-off, socially connected, and should know better but don’t.
            Look, I get not liking Selma. It makes me grumpy that it sets up LBJ as a villain, for instance. But going on the offensive like this lady really proves that Black people aren’t welcome in the academy.

          • Frosty Grin says:

            It’s perfectly possible to care about a certain issue and still use it for your own purposes. It won’t even necessarily be wrong.

            She doesn’t say that every single one of them isn’t racist – your interpretation is outright ridiculous. Pointing out that they’re less likely to be racist than the popular stereotype of racist whites isn’t as egregious as you’re trying to make it look. She probably doesn’t even agree with this stereotype – only references it.

            Did you miss that “not liking Selma” is being used as proof that the industry is racist? In this context, going on the offensive is very understandable.

          • pepperfez says:

            And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance — they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies.

            I mean, either this is a total non-sequitur or she thinks not being “cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies” absolves them of charges of racism. There’s no talk of probability here, just an assertion that not being grotesque savages means not being racist, a logical corollary of which is that only those savages are racist. I agree that’s a ludicrous claim, but she’s pretty obviously making it. Also, “cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies” really is straight-up offensive. Why should I assume someone who unironically puts phrases like that in writing has a handle on issues of social exclusion?
            As for whether the academy is racist for not nominating Selma, I don’t know. I don’t really care? But taking those criticisms personally and lashing out is not OK. It’s not about her, it’s about the system.

    • sinister agent says:

      The concept of a singular annual award for a non-competitive thing is fundamentally flawed anyway really.

    • RARARA says:

      The Oscars are a joke. Nightcrawler gets snubbed while American Sniper gets a nod? When you see Forrest Gump winning over Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption, you know the Oscars go to the movies old people feel good watching, not necessarily films that are pushing boundaries.

      I mean, Tom Hooper getting awarded twice? That idiot can’t even frame a scene properly!

  4. Turkey says:

    link to polygon.com

    Noticed that a lot of gamers use the groan-worthy steak dinner analogy when they talk about quality over quantity in games. Turns out developers do it too when they talk about their own games.

    • BooleanBob says:

      If I had a penny for every hack that compared a game to junk food or snacking I’d have killed myself with McFlurry ice creams a long time ago

    • Terragot says:

      Takes a lot of gall to compare your game to a $100 dollar steak, and then compare everything else on the market to jerky.

      It would be a fair comment if they’d made Journey, which was 2 hours, was wonderful to play and had a meaningful take-away at the end. But they didn’t, they made the Order : 1886. Which is significantly longer than Journey, but introduces nothing new to the medium and gives me nothing close to a take-away other than the feeling I’ll have to pay for another 2 the Order games in order to finish the story arc.

      If they insist on doing food comparisons, then I’ll offer them mine. The Order is a derivative game, that feels like the cover based shooter experiences of 5 – 10 years ago. It looks wonderful though. The meal with which I associate the Order with then is Tofurkey; It looks like a real turkey, but it’s actually just tofu.

      • pepperfez says:

        It looks tough, greasy and unpleasant, but then you bite into it and find it inoffensive and nutritious, if somewhat old-fashioned?

        • Hex says:

          Yes, being “inoffensive,” the white whale of game designers everywhere….

      • jonahcutter says:

        Journey has a fair amount of replay-ability as well. It has hidden items to find and unlocks in the progression of your cloak designs. As well, every experience can be a bit different depending upon the people you’re linked up with through the co-op feature. I replayed it multiple times, with the experience evolving a bit each play-through.

      • Josh W says:

        That game is so pretty though, I’m just watching a friend play through it, and we have episode breaks and everything.

    • Asurmen says:

      Any reason it’s groan worthy?

    • Gap Gen says:

      I mean it’s a valid complaint to raise in connection to Cow of Duty: Advanced Beefware 2, but granted it gets a bit long in the tooth when applied to other games.

  5. Philopoemen says:

    That Guardian article about crunch seemed to me to be relevant to any job where you do it for for personal satisfaction rather than just monetary gain.

    Police, nurses, military, even teachers etc all put in unpaid overtime (and not just at the end of a project) because they feel the pressure to “be part of the team.” Games development staff aren’t doing the job to get rich, they’re doing because they love making games – and just like policing, nursing etc etc, if you’re not willing to make that sacrifice, there will always be someone who is, and you’ll be pushed down the advancement queue to make room for them.

    Is it right? Probably not, but its the reality of a supply and demand economy where jobs are hard to come by.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Indeed. The system is basically working fine. People are willing to work long hours for peanuts, so long hours for peanuts is what they’ll get. If you don’t want to work long hours for peanuts, get a proper grown-up job outside of gaming and you’ll get (a better chance of) proper grown-up job boundaries.

      • DanMan says:

        I’m glad that’s exactly what I did. I now do web stuff, and it’s a walk in the park in comparison. Much more job opportunities where I live, too.

      • sinister agent says:

        Yes, it’s okay to exploit people if other people don’t. Sure.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Oh wait you’re right, abusing your workers is fine.

      • Stromko says:

        Except that ultimately it is a creative profession. Even programming takes creative solutions. So what we end up with is terrible games from people who have nothing left to give. These are AAA developers we’re talking about, which is probably why AAA games cost so much money and are routinely so bad.

    • Baffle Mint says:

      “Probably” not?

      What in god’s green earth is “probably” doing in that sentence?

      Game designers are not government employees; they are working for for-profit entertainment companies. Unpaid overtime is somewhere on the continuum between theft and slavery; the company is getting your work, and the profits that come from your work, and in return you get nothing but the ability to continue providing unpaid labor.

      At best, this crunch thing is a way to lie about how much you’ll get paid, by saying “You’ll get a salary of $52,000 a year!” without mentioning that you’ll have to work 80 hours a week.

      The Guardian article quotes a QA guy who said,

      “I was a quality assurance tester at Rockstar, and at its worst, we worked 72 hours a week. I was one of the unlucky ones to be working the night shifts. That’s 8pm-8am, six days a week, testing Grand Theft Auto. It was horrendous. I didn’t see daylight for months. This was perceived as a requirement and if you had issues with it, you were told ‘Well, you can go stack shelves at Tesco instead or answer phones at a call centre’. You were treated as disposable.”

      Now, dude’s working 72 hour weeks. They don’t say what he was getting paid, but there’s a good chance that Tesco or the call center are, from an hourly perspective, paying as much or even more than that QA job at Rockstar.

      Companies are getting skilled labor at minimum wage rates, and in exchange the people working for them get the satisfaction of selling their own skilled labor at minimum wage rates.

      A union of some sort would be the classic solution to this problem.

      • LionsPhil says:

        It’s not even slightly slavery since other employers exist and they are free to leave for them at any time.

        • LogicalDash says:

          That only matters if the other employers offer better terms. I expect that such game developers exist, but I suspect that the line between exploitative vs. non-exploitative employment is also the line between AAA development vs. indies.

          • LionsPhil says:

            If we could still edit posts, I would have said “other employers looking for the same skillsets and qualifications”. You can be a software developer/tester outside of the gaming industry, and thus get better terms.

            I can sympathise with the position “I just want to earn a living with the skills I have without destroying my life”, but not “I want to earn a living with the skills I have, without destroying my life, and it has to be doing this specific thing“. Nobody is obliged to create that opportunity for you.

            (Incidentally, this is why gaming-specific university courses are terrible ideas and you should stay well away from them.)

          • joa says:

            Or those developers could consider going in to non-game software development, where everything is fine. It’s because a lot of these developers have a childish notion that they want to “make videogames” because they love videogames so much are why these bad conditions exist.

          • FCA says:

            Yes, because finding a new job outside game development is so easy, especially if your entire resume is game development.

          • Windows98 says:

            Yes, finding a job outside the games industry with only industry experience (at least if you are a programmer) is very easy.
            Same probably goes for production and art.

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          Sounds like someone has never dealt with the “freedom” of an extended period of unemployment/underemployment/job-hunting.

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          Exploitation seems more accurate. Still bad, though.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yeah, that’s a better term. “Slavery” is better saved for the likes of company scrip.

            And I’m sorry, but no matter how miserable jobhunting is, if you’re in the developed world with the skills and qualifications to do software development you have a degree of job mobility a lot of people would kill for. I can’t consider this being trapped in the games industry when put on the same scale that locks people into customer service.

      • Goodtwist says:

        This is a splendid point; how come there’s an – albeit only slowly – emerging fair trade momentum for food but there’s almost none concern for the living and working conditions of the game developers (ie all that folks working with games)?

        How’s that different? Is it justified? To my mind comes quickly the notion that food is regarded essential while games maybe only as luxury. But still, it’s people working under atrocious conditions.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Because a college-or-better educated worker in a first-world country has considerably more opportunity to find alternate employment than a farmer in a developing country.

          • Gpig says:

            The abuse wouldn’t stop if that employee quit, would it? Another person would be abused. I don’t see how this is a real solution to abuse. It seems shortsighted, and, as a result, unnecessarily callous. You need to be more careful and think your suggestions through before you post.

          • LionsPhil says:

            As long as people are willing to dive into “abusive” situations despite having the real, practical option not to, there will be “abuse”. It will only stop if people stop agreeing to work under such conditions.

            So long as they do, on their own heads be it. Nobody forced them into the games industry. Nobody is forcing them to stay. They have consented to be there and work obscene hours for no additional pay.

          • fauxC says:

            Umm…is this deliberately ignoring centuries of complicated labour relations which make your facile and simplistic argument absurd, or is it accidental ignorance?

          • Shuck says:

            @LionsPhil: Oh, piss off. “Lump it or leave it” just defends the status quo and isn’t contributing anything of worth to the conversation – you’re just being part of the problem. Especially since that’s exactly what developers do – they leave the industry when they can no longer stand the conditions. Which means the industry loses experienced developers and continues to have the same problems – that’s not good for either the industry or gamers. The medium doesn’t grow or change because the industry and its workers don’t, and the workers still in the industry are too worn out to be doing their best work.
            Also, that flexibility you ascribe to game developers isn’t necesssarily even true – we’re not all programmers. Game artists and designers don’t necessarily have a skill-set that applies directly anywhere else. I know developers who feel trapped in the industry – they’ve risen to upper level game positions and now have families they need to support, but to do so would mean starting over in some other industry at an entry-level income that wouldn’t support that family.

          • LionsPhil says:

            fauxC: A little from column B, a little from column “half-hearted Internet discussion”. Go on, hit me.

            Game artists and designers don’t necessarily have a skill-set that applies directly anywhere else.

            Ok, yes, this is a good point.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Call centre guy here. We get paid for overtime.

        That article is jus underlining the need for strong uninons. Why people don’t understand that is beyond me. Employers are not our friends and the work place is a struggle between employers and employees. So we bloody well need unions so those fuckers don’t get free reign.

        • jonahcutter says:

          Indeed. The weakening of unions over the past few generations has an overall negative effect for even non-union workers:

          link to dailykos.com

          • jonahcutter says:

            No edit function, so:

            It’s not really a big discovery actually. Many have spoken about it for years. They’ve just been waved off by centrists and self-proclaimed “serious people”. It’s gotten so pronounced though, that even the traditional media outlets are starting to have to acknowledge it:

            link to nytimes.com

    • thelastpointer says:

      My personal experience is that game developers have a sense of pride when dealing with crunch times; it’s like crunching makes you a “real” game dev, like a club of veterans or something. I didn’t notice anything like this while working in other fields.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        And frankly, that’s dumb as hell.

        • LionsPhil says:

          They get the working conditions they deserve.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Well, insofar as it’s somewhat self inflicted due to not unionising properly, you’re right.

          • LionsPhil says:

            More specifically the masochistic streak where you’re wearing lousy (first-world) working conditions as a badge of pride.

            Now, since I’m increasingly looking like a callous prick in these comments, I should clarify that this isn’t a good thing. People with the whole “I will work harder” martyr complex are self-destructive, and damaging to the work of those around them (the quote from Chris Avellone about being responsibly passionate is spot on), and what they need is help to let it goddamn go, not an employer who is gleefully standing by to hand them more weight like a greasy burger van following an obese man around and offering him two-for-one discounts.

            But in the mean time: if you’re going to be a macho idiot about overworking, there are plenty of employers who are totally willing to oblige. This is self-punishing behaviour.

          • Andrew says:

            Lionsphil you’re an absolute blight on RPS comments and have been for years and you’re just awful in every way please consider changing literally everything about yourself bye

          • LionsPhil says:

            You’re welcome!

          • sinister agent says:

            People with the whole “I will work harder” martyr complex are self-destructive, and damaging to the work of those around them (the quote from Chris Avellone about being responsibly passionate is spot on), and what they need is help to let it goddamn go, not an employer who is gleefully standing by to hand them more weight like a greasy burger van following an obese man around and offering him two-for-one discounts.

            Okay, this I completely agree with and will not even attempt to improve upon, lest the secret society of comment adjudicators destroy my flesh with bees.

          • LionsPhil says:

            …lest the secret society of comment adjudicators destroy my flesh with bees.

            …they can do that? Crap, I’d better get back to just making puns.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            Blaming the victim. Classy.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            I could tolerate your views on labor if you didn’t repeat them so obnoxiously. You made your point the first time. And the second. . .

          • LionsPhil says:

            It’s…a conversation? Tends to involve more than one reply. I’m trying to credit people with more than just, y’know, ignoring them completely.

          • thelastpointer says:

            I half agree with you, but bear in mind that these people are not masochistic and they are not specifically asking for punishment — it’s just that with each and every project, they succeeded against “impossible odds”. (You can easily see how this reinforces their macho attitude.)

    • Geebs says:

      If the author’s teacher had been putting in overtime, they could have pointed out that it should be “with whom I live” :-E

    • Hanban says:

      “Police, nurses, military, even teachers etc all put in unpaid overtime (and not just at the end of a project) because they feel the pressure to ‘be part of the team.'”

      As a teacher I would have to say that I’ve never really heard of anyone doing it because of pressure to “be part of a team”. When I and colleagues work overtime it’s because we feel an obligation to our students. This is something that principals will take advantage as much as possible instead of easing the workload. We have ourselves and our cowardly unions to blame, I guess.

    • FCA says:

      It is not right. Not for the developers, not for gamers. The situation exists because there is a large oversupply of people who aspire to to be game developers. They go to game development college, learn how to be a game artist/ programmer, incur a huge student loan, and look for a job. They might have heard by then of the dire conditions in the game development industry (they most likely did not know this when starting college), but they need to pay off a loan, and hey, it’ s the job they’ve been trained to do.

      So, if they find a job, after 2 years they’re let go, because game development works that way. They look for another job (student loans need paying…), possibly move to this place, and repeat, until they quit because of the bad conditions. Then, they start applying for positions in other fields. So far, doesn’t sound too bad if you’re a capitalist (it sounds horrible from any other perspective though).

      Problem is: outside game development, companies look at your resume and reject you for not being able to hold on to a job for more than 2 years. At best, you can hope for a job that 1. Requires no relevant degree (because software companies have enough applicants who have reasonable CV’s) and 2. Is in an industry that doesn’t care whether you’ve been able to hold on to a job for 2 years.
      These type of jobs tend to be on par with game development for working conditions, so you’re not actually better off.

      Why is it bad for “us gamers”? It means all our games are made by young-ish people, without much experience, who know they will be laid off when the game is done, and are making it in highly stressful situations. To me, this doesn’t sound like the ideal environment to make fun, engaging games, without too much bugs. I’ve heard something along the lines of “The next Sid Meier/Will Wright/John Carmack probably worked for 2 years in game development, then decided that enough was enough, and got a nice job in some other field instead”.

      • Windows98 says:

        Working somewhere for 2 years is pretty common in software, although 3-5 is more common. This is across the board, not just games. I’ve helped hired people and seeing multiple jobs of 2-3 years on their CV would not adversely affect my decision.

        It’s actually the only way to make sure you get a decent salary, as the jump in pay between companies is far higher than internal promotions.

    • Shuck says:

      Where I live, the police and nurses at least do get paid overtime. Unlike those other jobs, the game industry has always had the attitude that “you’re lucky to work here” and pay and employment conditions are adjusted down accordingly. The thing about the game industry is not just the overtime during crunches – the overtime is constant. You go from working time-and-a-half to working so many hours you don’t even have time to get 8 hours of sleep – in the worse cases for more than a year on end. In the most extreme cases, I’ve heard from developers who literally went home once a month at best, living at work, spending 24 hours a day at their desks, cat-napping in their chairs to stay alive.

      • Philopoemen says:

        It depends where you are, and whether you’re on salary or agreement etc. Frex, I just came back from working through a large bushfire with multiple towns being evacuated, and me being helicoptered in and out after a town was cut off by the fire. I worked a 122 hour week. I got paid overtime for some of that, due to my rank. Conversely, my boss who was on officer-in-charge allowance did not get overtime for the extra hours he worked, just the allowance (which is minor). Is that fair? It wasn’t that week for sure.

      • Philopoemen says:

        and that’s what I wanted to clarify – games developers are seemingly all on salary, with no penalty rates. Perhaps a union would be able to set some rules, but “creative” industries have always been lax with work/life balance.

    • Arathain says:

      I find the whole continuous crunch thing bizarre. Study after study, throughout different industries, for the past hundred years shows that you’re only shooting yourself in the foot.

      The pattern is this: for 2 weeks to a month, depending on the employee, you get increased productivity. Then it falls off quite rapidly to below a normal 40 hour week, and continues to slide. The kicker is this: once you stop crunching and return to normal weeks productivity actually takes a while to get back up, so your net productivity over this period is less than continuous 40 hour weeks.

      It stands to reason, especially for games. How many bugs are introduced by fatigue? How long does it take to find them when you can’t think straight? How do you plan a project as complex as a large game? How productive are your meetings going to be?

      • LionsPhil says:

        The article covers this, and cites conclusions that for game development this isn’t the case(!) for the goals they’re after:

        The answer, as Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter point out in their book, Games of Empire, is that the big players don’t address it because it’s in their economic interests not to. “Normalised crunch time points to an elementary fact: it is a good deal – a steal, in fact – for game companies,” they write.

        Crunch was the desired outcome – not because it would allow for better games, but because it was the cheapest way to meet the deadline.

        At a wild (and quite possibly completely wrong) guess, the big difference is going to be that game development (outside of tech platform work) is less building on and maintaining previous work, and more a hose of new content. Maintainability matters less, quality isn’t essential, employee churn hurts less if there’s not so much pertinent product knowledge to build up, and hence anyone who’s too burnt out can be discarded and replaced from the endless pool of fresh faces lining up to be next for immolation.

      • pepperfez says:

        The games are worse, but the extra control over your workforce more than makes up for it (financially, which is the only way that really matters). A hyper-macho environment where suffering is respectable means your workers won’t ever do inconvenient things like unionize, and that both saves tons of money and makes owners feel warm and fuzzy inside.

        • Hex says:

          Lack of unionization is the result of the opposite of being macho. These people being taken advantage of here are nerdy, socially awkward weaklings, unwilling and/or unable to stand up for their own interests. “Macho,” confrontational, manly-men created unions in the first place.

          • April March says:

            I don’t think so – in order to stand up for your rights you have to admit your current work environment is bad for you, which means you can’t take it, which means you are vulnerable. The ‘macho’ thing is being stoic – allowing yourself to be worked to death because Real Men Don’t Shirk Work. Folk heroes are supernaturally good at laying rails, not negotiating better hours.

            Plus, it could be both – there are plenty of nerdy, socially awkward men who put on a mega-macho façade to give them a script to face the world.

    • DrollRemark says:

      I do wonder whether Early Access games might fare better in this regard (as well as just better practice in general). Part of the trouble with games development is that projects are so large, and have a single deliverable date of “everything,” right at the end. As such, it becomes tricky to properly plan that far ahead, and when it comes towards the end, the bug-fest is a nightmare of trying to fix whatever you can, as quickly as you can.

      With Early Access, you have a system where you can actually release a game incomplete, and then prioritise (and better quantify) the bugs and features as they’re needed. It then becomes more like general software development, and you can iterate through much smaller release cycles. I’m such all the consumers (and reviewers!) will probably hate the idea of everything going the way of Early Access though.

      That said, the biggest part of games that has an issue with crunch is the AAA side, and I don’t see them going towards an Early Access model any time soon. It’s also completely incompatible with console development at the moment.

  6. Monggerel says:

    Have to echo Graham’s sentiment about the “games to introduce to people that don’t actually play games” article. You don’t push your hobbies on other people because it’s pretty fuckin rude.
    It also seemed to me like yet another “But games really is teh arts! you guyse!” listicle with a bunch of indie darlings. And the fact that I happen to know and love most of the games mentioned doesn’t make the thing any better.
    Why is this kind of thing necessary?
    If you genuinely want to suggest games, then why do you not start with something actually accessible and enjoyable to eg. a grandmother, like Super Mario?

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Board games are way better for that sort of thing, because at worst it’s still a social experience with friends.

      As for introducing people to artsy single-player indie games…why? As you suggest, it seems like needing to prove a point or justify themselves.

    • aldo_14 says:

      Super Mario might be a bit hard, though; the last time I went back to Super Mario World it shocked me how tricky it was compared to how I remembered it.

      To be honest, I’m not sure what they were trying to do with that list. I’d have put World of Goo on it, though.

      • MattM says:

        I Love World of Goo, but I remember it having one hard level particularly early where you have to build out and around some spinning blades above you that could stop a lot of less experienced gamers cold.

      • green frog says:

        My experiences with introducing total non-gamers to the Wii taught me that even video games we think of as “simple” or “casual” aren’t actually anywhere near as accessible as we think they are to a completely untrained audience.

        Mario games felt to me about as approachable as video games can get, but I was surprised at how long it took to explain the basic controls and gameplay structures to someone who was starting from scratch. Even once they understood how to play, they were generally so bad at it that they would really struggle to complete even the easiest courses.

        I found that most people could handle Wii Sports/Resort but going beyond that the learning curve proved steeper than I expected. And this is the Wii. A system that took a ridiculous amount of abuse from so-called hardcore gamers for allegedly “selling out” to the mass market casual audience.

        The accessibility conundrum is really hard to sort out. Experienced gamers are already lamenting the “dumbing down” of mainstream games, and yet at the same time the barrier to entry for many non-gamers seems insurmountably high. A lot of people feel that if they didn’t grow up playing video games they’re basically screwed.

        Given finite money and resources, the video games industry’s struggle to satisfy the needs of the existing audience and also remain inviting enough to expand that audience, is perhaps the single biggest obstacle to full mainstream acceptance of games there is. Fixing the other issues, maturity, diversity, etc. actually seem pretty straightforward by comparison.

    • Wulfram says:

      To be fair, the article describes itself as “a list of ten games for people in the arts who wouldn’t put their hand up when asked “do you play games?””, and it’s on an art website. So it does actually make sense

      • Monggerel says:

        …shit. I am fucking dumb.
        Yeah, the audience is not a general purpose one. I reckon I was so caught up with righteous tirade that I kinda failed to notice.
        fffffffff

    • welverin says:

      Interesting The Guardian followed up the what you need to start playing video games article up with a list of twenty games for people new to gaming, that has actual diversity, there are even links to other lists.

      • April March says:

        That’s a better list, I think, but I pity the poor sap who thinks all those games are equally accessible, plays The Walking Dead, and then goes straight to GTAIV.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      I… kinda wish my friends *would* push their hobbies on to me, actually. I don’t consider it rude, I consider it a way of getting to know them better and to learn something new.

      • welverin says:

        There’s a difference between pushing and sharing, you want them to share with you.

        If they were pushing them on you they’d constantly harassing you to try something even after you told them you weren’t interested.

    • MattM says:

      I love the Watchman comic, but a lot of that love comes from seeing it riff and react to traditional superhero comic conventions. Someone who doesn’t read comics might get a lot less out of Watchman. I think that there would be a similar situation with some of these game.

    • Distec says:

      “Great games you can introduce to non-gamers!”

      [i]Looks at first game on list and sees it’s The Mountain.[/i]

      Le sigh.

  7. Saarlaender39 says:

    Am I the only one thinking, Rab’s Review is lacking some “weight”? ;)

  8. bonuswavepilot says:

    Argh, OK – grammar nazi point: sorry but I can’t help myself on this stuff.

    “If you’re friends are all asking to get into videogames…” you want ‘your’ there, you’re is the contraction of “you are”.

  9. Geebs says:

    Re: recommending that somebody who doesn’t really “do” videogames should pick up an old laptop running windows XP;

    No. Seriously. What the fuck are you thinking?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, everyone knows you want Windows 98 for games.

    • pepperfez says:

      I assume he means that if you have an old general-purpose laptop sitting around you don’t need to buy anything.

      • Geebs says:

        Yeah, the money your theoretical punter has saved will come in really handy when they follow the advice to go online to but games and immediately get all their files encrypted by ransomeware running on that out of date OS they were recommended.

        • pepperfez says:

          They were taking it online and buying stuff already, because that’s just their computer. The cyber-security discussion is totally separate from the “Can it play games?” discussion.

  10. gp says:

    If i were looking to get into playing videogames and was told to buy a £600 computer i’d not get into playing videogames

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Yeah, that is a weird angle. If someone doesn’t own a PC or a smartphone already in this day and age, I feel like either they are really constrained by poverty, or are making some kind of statement.

  11. Frank says:

    Wow. If Saltsman & co pull that off, they’ll be my favorite developers of all time.

  12. avtrspirit says:

    I love 99 Percent Invisible. It’s a great podcast for making you think about hidden aspects of design. And now they’ve done an episode on Sims? Awesome.

  13. Faxanadu says:

    RPS plz make an article covering all the split-screen games you know and love. Split-screen or same screen. Because. You know. Girlfriends.

  14. April March says:

    I just want to say that the article about games for non-gamers was great for suggesting BANGBANGBANG. I’m not sure if it really is a good match for non-gamers – it’s pretty gamey, I think, and some things are kinda counterintuitve if you’re not used to them – but it’s an excellent game that is rarely mentioned. I had a friend over just today and we played several rounds and I LOST URGH but it’s an amazing thing. Then we played Eggnogg which was even better and we finally found out how to pick up dropped swords.