The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for freezing to death in a house that has a broken boiler, meaning no hot water and no heating. Let’s warm ourselves by the glow of our computer screens by reading some of the week’s best writing about videogames.

  • Joel Goodwin recently made a video version of Into The Black, which discusses the joy of exploration in games and the ways in which it can be ruined by extrinsic reward. I like Joel’s videos, which adopt a serious, almost academic tone, then continually pricks the pomposity with gags. Disarming. Joel is also this week’s winner for having both made a thing and also for emailing it to me so I can send people his way.
  • At the New Yorker, Patrick House interviewed Werner Herzog about virtual reality. Some of the questions are dreadful, but it’s Herzon, so the answers are worth reading either way.
  • No. I am convinced that this is not going to be an extension of cinema or 3-D cinema or video games. It is something new, different, and not experienced yet. The strange thing here is that normally, in the history of culture, we have new stories and narrations and then we start to develop a tool. Or we have visions of wondrous new architecture—like, let’s say, the museum in Bilbao, or the opera house in Sydney—and technology makes it possible to fulfill these dreams. So you have the content first, and then the technology follows suit. In this case, we do have a technology, but we don’t have any clear idea how to fill it with content.

  • Emily Short reviewed That Dragon, Cancer, which picks at the ideas around faith discussed in the game and is more generous towards it as a creative work than I was.
  • They are coming from a denomination of Christianity that places a fair amount of emphasis on healing miracles. Amy believes firmly up until Joel’s death that God is going to come through and save their son. Ryan is less certain. Much late-game tension is about the distance between Amy’s certainty and Ryan’s more tentative hope. The game doesn’t explicitly come out and say this, but I wondered whether the character of Amy thought that she needed to expect a miracle because expecting the miracle was the act of faith that would bring it to pass. As for Ryan, his doubt is bound up with feeling that he just isn’t important enough for God to care about his son specifically.

  • At Eurogamer, Ellie Gibson writes about her affection for manuals. That’s common subject matter, but Gibson has the advantage of having written them:
  • My favourite games to write manuals for were the ones Sony co-published with Namco. I would receive a hilariously translated version of the original Japanese manual, which I had to write up in slightly better English, then submit back to Namco for approval.

    The translation for Time Crisis 2 came complete with profiles of the main characters, V.S.S.E. special agents Keith Martin and Robert Baxter. These listed interesting stats such as their weight, eye colour, and home town. I decided to use a bit of creative licence in localising the text for the UK market, pretty confident Namco weren’t bothering to read the stuff I sent them anyway.

  • These are the games industry quiet times, when news writers curse the lack of material to write about and everyone else stares into space waiting for something to play. If you need a little help with thinking of something to do, Digitiser 2000 has seven suggestions for you.
  • 7. Organise your wasps

    Let’s face it, you should’ve done this months ago; the wasps are just lying around everywhere, getting in the way, and clogging up your domestic apparatus. Organising them into some sort of order is way overdue.

  • Cool Ghosts returned from holiday hiatus with a number of new things to imbibe, each of which is worth your time: Quinn’s Pony Island review; a series on Invisible, Inc.; an article on why Subterfuge is really good.
  • Our own Kieron Gillen recently appeared at VideoBrains in London to discuss the forgotten parts of the UK games industry, with a talk called History Written By The Losers. I haven’t watched it yet, will do so after posting these Papers.
  • At The Guardian, Simon Parkin has been writing a series of profiles on ‘the new generation’ of games designers. These sorts of articles always run the risk of creating a club of exclusion, but there’s a neat mixture of developers selected here. Including Meg Jayanth:
  • “I don’t think there was ever a particular moment when I decided I was going to make games,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to write and tell stories. Video games are one way I can do that.” Jayanth’s early forays into the medium were via text-based roleplaying games, played out via email, online forums and even journals. “They were games of creativity and world-building and character,” she explains. “There were no dice or traditional game systems.”

    That’s it for this week, as my fingers have seized up and icicles have begun to form at the tip of my nose. Soon I shall shatter like Boris from Goldeneye.

    Music this week is Pretty Please by Leon Triplett, which is a great bit of R&B that sounds like nothing else by him on Spotify. To the point that it might be mislabelled. I don’t know.

From this site

76 Comments

  1. Herbal Space Program says:

    I enjoyed Joel’s work, it has this soothing BBC vibe to it.

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    yhancik says:

    Digitiser 2000’s list is useful to anyone, even outside the gaming industry!
    (I have this xkcd-related Chrome extension that replaces words in webpages, and I was sure, until I opened the article, that “Organise your wasps” was the result of a substitution :p)

    • LionsPhil says:

      Just be warned that, in these tight times of auserity, your local council reaping service may not be able to keep up with demand. There’s currently as much as a seventeen year backlog in some areas, and you may be asked to reschedule your demise and accept a substitute, less overloaded, cause. “Quietly in your sleep after a life well-lived” and “snu-snu” tend to go very quickly and are unlikely to be available without special dispensation. Thank you for your understanding.

  3. brgillespie says:

    There was this book a few years back called “The Unincorporated Man”. The future history of the novel was a complete societal collapse due to virtual reality. People started out small scale with VR, then eventually lived their entire lives through their VR stations. Basically, people stopped doing anything outside VR because VR was so amazing. The children of the novel go through a VR scenario that takes them through the societal collapse to “always remember why VR was banned”.

    • Geebs says:

      Blindsight and Echopraxia cover a lot of similar territory, tangentially. Blindsight is brilliant while Echopraxia is good.

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        Mungrul says:

        Got an author for Blingsight?
        Looking for something to read after I get done with David Wong’s Futuristic Violence & Fancy Suits.

        • Geebs says:

          Peter Watts; his website is rifters.org. I think Blindsight is actually available for free, at least some of the time. I’m not much of a fan of his “rifters” books, which tend to be more depressing than thought-provoking.

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            Mungrul says:

            Cheers Geebs, thought that was the guy, but couldn’t be sure.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Luckily the individualistic Randian supermen from Alaska were there to rebuild civilisation… such a bad book

      Blindsight is indeed excellent.

      • crowleyhammer says:

        Another thumbs up for Blindsight, it really is superb.

    • Anthile says:

      Obligatory: link to smbc-comics.com

  4. Sin Vega says:

    That talk by Koren Gallen is bloody excellent and every word of it needs to be said more. The flourishing game culture here in the 80s and 90s and the way it was whitewashed by dull corporate-led bullshit is a major reason why mainstream games are so embarassing today.

    How come we’ve never heard of this guy until now?

    • kwyjibo says:

      Retro Gamer covers “History Written by The Losers” every single month, and has done for over a decade now. I’d actually prefer it if it was less UK-centric, it covers all sorts of Spectrum obscura, but generally limits itself with the big Japanese hits. I can obviously understand how a fairly niche publication can’t fund foreign junkets.

      So if you’re still paying for content, check it out.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      I think he was in Doctor Who. Kerun Gollin, I mean.

      He’s a brilliant chap!

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Kieron Gillen has interesting things to say when he turns into an analyst. It’s when he wants to become a journalist that I disagree with him. The whole New Games Journalism wave he created is one of the worst things that happened to game journalism. The almost complete removal of technical analysis and the (possibly unintended) side effect of turning game journalists into stars, has been a disservice to consumers everywhere.

      Anyways, I enjoyed this talk from him. Like I said, I prefer this Kieron Gillen. I think he even forgot one of the better gaming counter culture examples of the 80s. Skool Daze is perhaps the epitome of that typical British wave of early programmers. And it is impossible to describe the feeling of playing this game in 1984, just two years after Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

      I just disagreed on two accounts.

      One, his general unsympathetic look at American culture at the time. British game developers were doing nothing new or special. They were just following the counter culture movement of the 80s, when the punk subculture was at its strongest. Along with them, there were already plenty (much more in fact) examples of corporate gaming industry in the UK. British companies like Imagine Software, or Firebird Interactive (which was owned by Telecomsoft, a division of British Telecom), or Virgin Interactive (a part of the Virgin group), or U.S. Gold (that despite the name was a pure British company) are examples of the domination of corporate culture in the games industry of the 80s in UK.

      These companies are the British counterparts to american companies like Atari, or Activision, or Sierra Entertainment, and with one thing going for the American companies, that the British didn’t have: The American game industry dominated the western culture through the arcade machine years, which is exactly what eventually evolved these American companies into corporate cultures. Whereas the British had no such history to share and the corporate culture in video gaming in UK emerged immediately. So, no, the British do not hold this poetic notion having been destroyed by corporate culture. They embraced it from the start.

      And the irony is that “the French”, who Kieron just mentions by passing as the other guys who also did it, are in fact, along with the Spanish, the two European countries that actually embraced non corporate gaming culture before being conquered by it.

      The other thing is the idea that while British were trying to create fantasy, Americans were trying to incorporate D&D into games. That is just complete nonsense and I don’t know where he came with that idea. He uses Lords of Midnight as an example, but I could use Zork as a counter-example. That’s a tie. So any more examples? Besides LoM is in fact a strange choice since the game is, just as he admits, a clear example of an adaptation and not a whole original work. Meanwhile I struggle to find any clear adaptation of the D&D universe before the 90s by either American or British developers.

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        Grizzly says:

        Although you are, obviously, entitled to your opinion about mr. Gillian and the concept of New Games Journalism, I find it weird that you would choose to then subsequently place that comment on a website that was co-founded by him with the express purpose of being New Games Journalism, which would imply that you consider RPS to be one of the worst things to happen in videogame journalism.

        By which I mean to say: Mabye it’s not all that bad?

        • Mario Figueiredo says:

          Don’t. This is the best place to make that critic. Where it matters. Since I don’t own my own discussion forum, writing somewhere else, just feels like talk behind your back.

          And this is a criticism that I have been making for a while in here, in fact. I am an old reader of this website. And contrary to what you seem to be implying, I don’t believe in ignoring some place because I don’t agree to their method. There are many others aspects to RPS that make it a worthwhile visit.

          Besides, how can I better understand New Games Journalism and build my ideas around it, if I don’t expose myself to it? You know critics? Game critics too? They expose themselves to many things they don’t like. It’s how you build your critical mind.

          So don’t bring in the old, boring and tiring, “If you don’t like it, don’t read it”. That’s daft talk, suited for trolls. Which I’m not.

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            Grizzly says:

            Oh no, I am not really the “if you hate it don’t read it” type. I meant to say: “If you are willing to read it (because it has worthwile aspects) maybe it’s not really one of the worst things”.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            I think I can understand your point now. What I defend is that New Games Journalism is maybe a good tool for non-journalistic (non-review) material, but it is the worst thing that could have happened consumers hoping for objective and technical game reviews. And for gaming journalism in general for NGJ appetite to create gaming stars outside the gaming industry.

            So there are in fact many aspects to RPS that make it a worthwhile visit; Because not every material in RPS is a review, NGJ works extremely well in those type of articles. Many of which I enjoyed in the past and posted positively about them. But I am strongly opposed to NGJ style in game reviews or other type of analytic work. And unfortunately no distinction was ever made. Like the New Journalism from which Kieron got his inspiration, NGJ makes no distinction between where it is appropriate or not. They both share this rather unwitting notion that it can be applied to any type of material.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        “The whole New Games Journalism wave he created is one of the worst things that happened to game journalism. The almost complete removal of technical analysis and the (possibly unintended) side effect of turning game journalists into stars, has been a disservice to consumers everywhere.”

        I think that hinges on how you view games, fundamentally. Are they just a product or are they worth engaging as a cultural output?

        Speaking only for myself I’ll say that technical analysis doesn’t really tell me if I’m interested in buying/playing a game. The number of graphics and so on are not really important to me.

        I don’t know if the journos became stars but one of the reason I follow specific writers no matter where they write is that I know their tastes and weird blind spots by now.

        If Richard Cobbett reviews an adventure game and explains why he doesn’t like it that’s a lot more usable for me, since I know his tastes and can filter them through my own and use that to determine if I’m interested or not. It’s also a lot more interesting to read. If I wanted to bother with technical analysis I’d go watch one of the dire, tedious videos Eurogamer puts out from that section I can’t remember the name of. Forge something.

        I very much appreciate the subjectiveness of that way of reviewing games. As he mentioned in the video, the UK games journo tradition is more derived from the music journalism. I think that’s a good thing.

        • Mario Figueiredo says:

          I fully agree. Some manner of subjectivity must be present when analysing a work of entertainment.

          What I cannot agree is with a reduction, sometimes even complete removal of all the technical aspects of what we keep insisting in treating as works of art. Games cannot be reviewed and analysed merely on how fun they are to play, or how the game journalist felt when playing them. We aren’t reviewing drugs. I thought we were supposed to be reviewing games as a form of art. Art is *also* analysed on its technical merits. But we keep insisting in treating games as art without actually doing much to review them in that context. What about an objective analysis/review/criticism of the game artistic elements, the game hardware requirements, the game development bugs, the game mechanics, the game controls, the game UI, etc? These are almost completely ignored by NGJ, but that actually make the core experience of the gamer.

          And this is why sometimes we get this strange and schizophrenic environment here on RPS, in less known games games highly praised in a NGJ article are completely ignored for the rest of the year, while the more critical NGJ review of a more mundane AAA title gets covered to exhaustion in tens of articles in the upcoming months. What NGJ proponents can’t see is that this just demonstrates that NGJ is not offering anything of value. It is in fact contradicting itself, while at the same time removing whatever little objectivity we could have hoped for in the game journalism world.

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            Grizzly says:

            How would such an objective review system work? The first question that comes to my mind when I read your views is “How, in a world where art is reviewed via objective metrics, would one rate a Rembrandt to a Van Gogh?”

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            Rate? No. I don’t believe in rating games. Objective analysis doesn’t necessarily translate into a final rate. Even more so when you consider that I don’t support objective analysis as the sole element of a good review.

            And since you mentioned Rembrandt and Van Gogh, you will find, if you study them, how their works are actually analysed/reviewed by the experts; The combinations of colours, the size of the brushes, the color saturation, the framing of the scene, the several elements in the painting and how they combine, and more. All of the analysis combining objective and subjective elements, with just enough of the expert own emotional opinion on matters of beauty and excellence and overall viewing pleasure.

            But this is where the analogy stops. I don’t like to compare games to other forms of art. I think they are their own form and deserving of their own treatment. I also never intended for this to become a discussion on NGJ. I sort of regret having posted that first paragraph. In retrospect it didn’t even need to be in there. I was discussing his talk instead.

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            Graham Smith says:

            “And this is why sometimes we get this strange and schizophrenic environment here on RPS, in less known games games highly praised in a NGJ article are completely ignored for the rest of the year, while the more critical NGJ review of a more mundane AAA title gets covered to exhaustion in tens of articles in the upcoming months.”

            Why do you think NGJ is responsible for this?

          • thedosbox says:

            What I cannot agree is with a reduction, sometimes even complete removal of all the technical aspects of what we keep insisting in treating as works of art.

            Reviews which solely focus on those aspects are invariably boring, and of limited use to the consumer – especially when we’re talking about massively diverse PC hardware.

            Fortunately, forums serve that purpose much better. Perhaps you should look there for your reviews.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            @Graham,

            It’s not that NGJ reviews are the cause of it. This is certainly not exclusive of NGJ reviews. But they definitely make that situation more obvious and awkward. Because the very subjective nature of an NGJ review, results in a personal view of the game as well as a personal writing style, readers tend to connect with that review on a more personal and emotional level. When that connection ends up facing the obvious contradiction between the review and the future treatment of the game, you’ll end with some readers questioning whether they should take future reviews seriously.

            But the glaring differences between the reality of a gamer and a NGJ review go deeper than that. Forums (even these comment boxes here at RPS) are full of people discussing games technical aspects. The user-friendliness of some RPG UI, the quality, or lack thereof, of some 4x Strategy game mechanics, ways to improve a game, specific bugs, computer requirements, etc. These are all core interests of any gamer. They aren’t our sole concern, but represent a great deal of what dictates a gamer preferences. And yet, these issues are all usually completely ignored or just briefly addressed on a NGJ review.

            I think this disconnect between the style of the review and the gamers ends up resulting in reviews that are just consumed for their own entertainment value and not for an actual way of being critically informed of a game. There’s no J in NGJ. Reviews are entertainment themselves. And that’s just the story it.

            And this is why I trust RPS for some good laughs and a general way of staying informed on what’s out there. But I don’t trust it for game reviews and I usually don’t even hit those pages anymore. I just cannot see any value to me whatsoever in a review written in the NGJ style.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            You’ve pretty much said yourself: RPS writers write about what they’re interested in, then commentors pitch in and discuss what interests them. Seems like a good system to me. Aside from this I’ve read about CTD’s, fixed FOV, load times, unskippable cutscenes, etc. in many Wot I thinks. Seems like your desire for more objectivity is a matter of taste.

          • PikaBot says:

            I’m very curious how you would define ‘objectivity’ in the case of a games review, or how it would be achieved beyond a dry and fairly worthless rattling-off of the technical specifications.

            Even in technically-oriented art review, they only pause on objective facts (the basics of how a series of brush strokes was achieved) for a moment before progressing ok to discuss the effect it has, which is by far the more interesting topic. But this, too, is subjectivity at work, the reviewer interpreting the contents of the work for the reader and thus projecting him or herself onto it.

            What would a truly objective review even look like?

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            FhnuZoag says:

            The user-friendliness of some RPG UI, the quality, or lack thereof, of some 4x Strategy game mechanics, ways to improve a game, specific bugs, computer requirements, etc.

            How is the user-friendliness of UI, or the ‘quality’ of mechanics, or even the reasonableness of a game’s system requirements *not* subjective things? Furthermore, RPS discusses all of those subjects all the time when they are an issue with a game. From the most recent review of Dragon’s Dogma.

            Port-wise, this is a decent job, starting with the fact that it has no problem with alt-tabbing in and out. Hurrah! I don’t have a system that lets me test its 4K support, but it has it, the action isn’t capped at 30FPS, and it ran smoothly throughout. You can see its age, or to be more accurate, its generation target in quite a few of the details, with the bland landscapes being the biggest reminder. Its monsters can still impress though, from the wobbly bottom fat as you stab an Ogre to the sprawling snakes on the back of its chimeras when they make their occasional appearances. It’s no The Witcher 3, obviously, but it holds up better than a lot of JRPGs that come our way after a protracted gap. There’s no option to play with Japanese audio though, if you prefer the subbed experience over the flat, though not painfully terrible English voices.

            By your definition, RPS is not NGJ. Then again you say that you don’t even read RPS reviews, so it seems like your argument is 100% a strawman.

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        gritz says:

        “The whole New Games Journalism wave he created is one of the worst things that happened to game journalism.”

        Why are you even here?

        • Mario Figueiredo says:

          Oh it’s complicated. And I’m not even sure myself. Something to do with Earth being just at the right distance from the sun for life to evolve.

        • Hobbes says:

          Damn that tricky evolution hm?

          And as much as games can be viewed through a subjective lens, forgetting that they are as much code which could and should fundamentally work properly and reliably across a broad swathe of machines seems to have entirely evaded a lot of journalists.

          The simple “Does it run well, or even at all? Or does it only work when you brute force it on a monster computer?” is often an issue people are far to willing to overlook in their mad dash to praise something as fantastic or damn it as terrible for the artistic angle even when those may be fundamentally irrelevant questions to begin with.

          Reviewers often work on rigs that are way, way beyond recommended spec, which means they tend to be able to ignore performance and scalability and graphical fidelity issues. Maybe in future they should run a game on something -just below- the minimum spec and try doing a full run through on something that hangs and lags constantly, see how artistic it feels then? :)

          • iainl says:

            You don’t find “does it actually work?” a really boring question, then?

            It’s a useful thing to know. But it seems hard to miss when it does go horribly wrong; RPS weren’t exactly quiet about the whole Arkham Knight debacle, for instance, and the wide number of people who appear BTL act as a far wider post-release QA team than on writer is ever going to manage.

          • Hobbes says:

            No. Should I? Should I find a simple thing like “Does the game actually function as advertised?” boring? I don’t think so. Does the game run well and scalably so across enough computers that it’s going to be enjoyable for more people than just the ivory tower classes (reviewers, you’re particularly guilty of this, because like myself, most of you run monster rigs), is it going to look like (and run like) absolute arse if you have to turn off all the pretty?

            It’s all fine and well going “THE GAME IS SUPERMAZE BEST THING EVAR!” to all and sundry and calling the game the finest artistic achievement since sliced bread, but if it’s only achievable on a rig that less than five percent of people are only likely to even have, I’d call that a pretty big omission. It’s been one that’s been made more than once (because all those pretty screenshots are most certainly taken on rigs on -my- end the spectrum), and it’s far easier to gloss over a games warts if you can power through the rough edges or brute force any lack of optimization.

            So in short. Is it a boring question to ask? No. Is it A REALLY GODDAMN NECESSARY QUESTION WE SHOULD STILL ASK EVEN NOW? Yes.

            It shouldn’t be something we ask over and above whether the game is fun or interesting or innovative, but it’s not one that should be ignored or shoved into the corner either. The whole “games R art” mentality tries to do this, and it’s to the detriment to consumer information when they do so. It’s incomplete reviewing at best and lazy effort at worst.

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            FhnuZoag says:

            There’s specialised websites devoted to telling people whether games will run on their PC. I don’t think a paragraph in a review ought to compete with that, nor can it. Saying that a game only runs on 20% of PCs is meaningless if the reader doesn’t know whether they are part of that 20% or not, since if you are interested in certain sorts of gaming at all, you are likely to be in the upper percentiles. Some games require lots of RAM, while others are CPU heavy, and still others require good graphics cards – and what graphics card counts as ‘good’ is itself really complicated.

          • iainl says:

            But that’s part of my point. The really egregious cases of games being a nightmare to run well do get mentioned. At least one core RPS writer has a fairly midrange AMD card, if memory serves. If you need more detailed info, for example if you’ve got a fairly low-end machine, then there are places other than here that have both the time and inclination to give you more detailed technical info, apparently.

            But like I say, I think it’s a really dull question, so I don’t know a lot about them; is it “Digital Foundry” that’s RPS-partner Eurogamer’s pet pixel counter?

            A lot of what RPS are best at is telling me about weird games I’d have never heard of otherwise, and in that arena I’ve never met a good one that particularly stresses my GTX 770, because it’s rare that a small developer has much more, and nor do they want to limit their audience.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            @FhnuZoag

            Now you’re not being fair, sometimes there are lines like “OH yes, the game was sort of smooth” and that was the end of it.

            Sometimes we don’t even get anything as trivial as “Oh, i was running maxed at X resolution with upper 40 frames on Y card”. I think the readers will survive something as dangerously boring as that.

            But the most interesting part here is that we have a anti-NGJ dude here who actually is the only one that bothers to properly read everyone’s statement and respond accordingly, while everyone else is attacking him with out of context quotes and logical fallacies like suggesting he ONLY cares about certain parameters, or that he wants to force objectiveness on subjective manners.

            There are various thing to games as an artform, and the “feel” is indeed important and something best taken from RPS, which is a place with great writers and great people. But there’s more that makes the backbone and what’s under the hood, a lot more that deserves something a bit more involved than a lazy note or not even that, and even more important is being transparent about how you’re weighting all those elements.

            I think the schizofrenic assessment is correct: you’ll never know what gets a free pass for unknown reasons or not, or what was awful for sensible reasons of maybe just because someone woke up in a bad mood.

          • PikaBot says:

            I don’t think anyone here’s taken him out of context. I think some people recognize that he’s on much shakier ground where ‘objectivity’ is concerned than he (or, apparently, you) realize.

          • Hobbes says:

            Except I’m not, because I’m suggesting the problem is that in the rush to make “Games as art” people are forgetting that games are also code as well, and that code has to run well to begin with. A lot of the time reviewers don’t ever bother to cover the basics and as a direct result you wind up with very lazy reviews which focus on the NGJ side of things but often forget the more vital questions which might impact a consumer who hovers between say, minimum and recommended, and around the minimum.

            It’s all fine and well to praise a game for being amazing art but if the game ends up looking and running like a hot mess the moment you don’t have a ton of power to brute force it with, but because the reviewer in question has a monster rig doesn’t account for that (because they’re lazy or they haven’t dug around and found out say, that a particular game utterly collapses for people on ATI cards or NVid cards or whatever), and just goes on to slap an “Awesome, utter recommended” badge upon it without bothering to dig under the hood, then that’s just plain lazy, and is the worst of New Games Journalism showing through.

            As much as games might be art, they’re also incredibly complicated programs that may or may not on a given day crash because for whatever reason Ubisoft decided to badly implement Nvidia gameworks, or Eidos stuffed TressFX into their latest game and it tanks half the rigs it runs on if they forget to disable it, and then you get a lot of hacked off people wondering why the reviewer who breezily suggests whatever game they just praised is the best thing ever seems to have forgotten these oh so minor points.

            I abhor lazy journalism, and NGJ fosters it. It fosters the Polygon style of game reviewing which is the worst of all approaches imaginable, where you create a lot of style and very little substance. There’s no downside to actually digging into the game and finding out if it will run well on a system that isn’t a monster, and if it will look good if you turn the graphics down. None. If you find out the pretty game ain’t so pretty for the majority of people who are going to buy it, that’s worth mentioning.

            Of course, that is unless you prefer your reviews to be the equivalent of rice cakes.

          • Sin Vega says:

            I abhor lazy journalism, and NGJ fosters it.

            Lazy journalism is no more likely now than it was before NGJ. If anything, I’d say the latter takes more effort, as it’s harder to explain what the experience of playing a game is like than it is to just go down a “graphics are good and the sound is good etc” checklist.

        • Archonsod says:

          Personally I only come here to see how much that dude’s wife/brother/girlfriend earned working from home this week. I’ve never understood why they insist on hiding it behind this meaningless twaddle about video games.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Come now. That get’s us nowhere and is needlessly antagonistic.

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        alison says:

        I don’t know what “New Games Journalism” is all about, but i started reading RPS regularly because it’s the first industry press since Amstrad Action that i found entertaining enough to read for its own sake. It’s full of non-sequiturs, it’s irreverent, it’s gonzo, it’s wacky, and even though i don’t give the slightest shit about most of the games they cover, i look forward to it every morning anyway. As a kid i could never hope to find cracked copies of the games i read about (much less purchase legit copies), but the AA staff were totally bonkers; they even made reading about word processors entertaining somehow. It was like being down at the pub nattering with mates about a shared hobby. Except, you know, i was way too young for a pint back then.

        All that aside, i enjoyed this video too. I don’t have the perspective to comment on whether the British gaming industry of the era was more revolutionary or interesting than any other (i particularly remember the French having a strong aesthetic in the late 80s/early 90s), but it was definitely unique. Those of us growing up under the British wing in the microcomputer era had a very different experience to kids who discovered gaming via the consoles or the arcades, and our voices are rarely heard. I still to this day don’t understand the appeal of Japanese games, or those funny gamepad things, but that’s okay. I don’t agree with everything Kieron said, but i am glad that someone said it.

        Toot lives.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      That talk by Koren Gallen is bloody excellent and every word of it needs to be said more.

      If a version of the video exists without the constant sycophantic laughing from a small section of the audience it would be far easier to watch.

      Seriously those people should be ashamed to be seen in public.

  5. Geebs says:

    I thought Emily Short’s piece on That Dragon, Cancer was brilliantly even-handed in its coverage of the faith element. One thing that slightly bugs me, in retrospect, is that none of the preview coverage I saw anywhere mentioned the faith aspect, as if people were unwilling to address it before release. I guess being called “Numinous games” is kind of a give-away.

    • kwyjibo says:

      The most in depth preview I read was published in Wired a few weeks ago, it addresses the developers Christian faith.

      link to wired.com

    • The Dark One says:

      Radiolab ran a ‘guest’ episode about the game about a week and a half ago.

      • The Dark One says:

        Bah, where’d the ‘edit’ button go?

        An episode that covered the faith angle of the game.

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          Grizzly says:

          The edit button has been removed after it turned out that it’s usage put so much load on the servers that they would blow up.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I think that’s a cover story. Horace ate it, and they’re waiting for it to pass through.

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            Grizzly says:

            I think it’s more that, whenever somebody edits a comment, horace eats the old version and in the process crushes a few servers.

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        Thulsa Hex says:

        Yeah, it’s a collaboration with Reply All, a podcast about internet culture (which is, in my opinion, one of the best podcasts around). The episode is well worth listening to, and I didn’t even realise till a good bit in that it was going to be about the game. It has lots of first-hand commentary from Joel’s parents, so you can really understand where they’re coming from. Makes those Steam forum dicks seem even more cretinous. Here’s the link: link to gimletmedia.com

  6. daphne says:

    None of the Parkin pieces read like they are “closer looks” into anyone or anything.

    • Pockets says:

      It’s from a newspaper supplement last week, which I guess is why it’s relatively well-known stuff to anyone who reads RPS.

  7. welverin says:

    “So you have the content first, and then the technology follows suit. In this case, we do have a technology, but we don’t have any clear idea how to fill it with content.”

    Sounds like a recipe for failure.

    • Hobbes says:

      I’ve been saying this for quite a while, but nooooooo. What makes it worse is that Oculus decided to apply sticker shock to the problem and as a result has caused adoption rates to contract sharply. A lot of people I know who -were- considering the rift, and run rigs like mine, capable of actually handling VR?

      “Too rich for my blood. I’m out.”

      That’s a common refrain coming from the circles I inhabit. That’s coming from people who have no issue dropping serious notes on things like i7’s and 980ti’s. VR is untested as a field at this point and as mindblowing the experience is, until the content and developers show the “Must have” items to go with it? No, nobody is paying for it (except for people with more money than sense and reviewers who get theirs free)

      • iainl says:

        I’m one of the many saying it’s too much for me at the moment. But the way the Rift delivery date for new preorders continues to drift into the latter half of the year, I rather suspect this high price for the first model is partly about managing demand on a product they need to present the best impression possible on those who actually get one.

        Once those are done, I rather suspect we will get a more mass-market model with a cheaper screen and so on, just as graphics cards come as expensive high-end models first, then the midrange and budget ones turn up later.

        • Hobbes says:

          I suspect you’re right, but the fact they’re wrecking adoption rates at this point isn’t going to do them any favours. Most of the people I’m in contact with are now looking to see if Valve decide to do something with HTC and subsidise the Vive and use that to put the skids on Oculus.

          What a lot of people seem to fail to understand is whoever locks in the PC market on the first iteration will effectively control the conversation as to what API becomes the standard for iterations to follow. If the Vive becomes the defacto standard for headsets, then OpenVR becomes the default API, marginalizing the Oculus SDK and setting up Valve to have lock in with the VR market. That’s where the potentially *big* money is down the line, because at that point they’re looking at a slice of the VR market in perpetuity.

          Everyone keeps thinking headset costs right now but that’s really not what is at stake here, whoever locks in the API as standard is going to have the real big slices of the cake, and that’s what should be considered.

  8. Napalm Sushi says:

    In my early teens I would often buy games while on holiday in Wales with my parents. The manual would be all I could experience of the game for nearly two weeks and my obsessive re-reading of it over that period would drive my anticipation for the game itself to a fever pitch.

    Does anyone else’s affection for these ancient texts come from a similar place?

    • C0llic says:

      Definitely, though I don’t remember having to wait such a long time to play something. They were certainly foreplay though, and I do remember buying new games and reading and re-reading the manuals in anticipation of finally getting home to play it.

      A lot of this reading was done inside of cars, or at my grandparents on Saturday afternoon.

    • Shazbut says:

      100% yes. Except not Wales, so…er…93% or something?

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      yhancik says:

      I won the original System Shock from some contest on TV. It turned out it that my home computer was far behind the system requirements (it didn’t even have a hard drive to install the.. what? 9 floppies?). So for around 2 years, the only thing I could do with System Shock was reading the manual. And I barely exaggerated when I say “for 2 years”. I didn’t know anything about cyberpunk at the time, so this brilliant manual was full of mindblowing sci-fi concepts for me. Of course Shodan and Citadel fell nicely familiar when I finally visited it!

      (how strange were those days, when I could be living in such … cultural isolation. Although it certainly did add weight and mystery to a few things)

    • lylebot says:

      I somehow got ahold of a Super Mario Bros 3 manual in Japanese before the game came out in the US (I have no idea how). I remember asking my friend’s Japanese mom to translate it for us. She really didn’t give us much to go on, which was a bit disappointing at the time (in retrospect, I can understand why a middle-age Japanese woman may not have had the best grasp on the contents of an SMB3 manual). But with that at the recently-released movie “The Wizard”, my anticipation was at a fever pitch.

    • Josh W says:

      I remember bringing the incredibly slight unreal manual to school once, hoping it would be something like the old origin ones. What it lacked in content I was able to make up for with imagining things, most of which were incorrect.

      • Josh W says:

        But what I was going to say is that I definitely recognise the experience, even if it was just over what amounted to a films length of waiting. When you’re having to be quiet and to occupy yourself, and all you have is the description of that game, there’s basically nothing to do but want!

  9. malkav11 says:

    If you’re waiting for games to play, you either have extremely limited tastes or have been curiously strong willed in the face of the many, many sales that constantly go on. Myself, I’m frantically trying to catch up with games from a year or two back, much less the latest fall deluge, and have no actual prospect of doing so before more stuff (e.g. Rise of the Tomb Raider, the first couple of Sorceries) drop. At least I did just finish 2013’s Tomb Raider yesterday, so I’m not in the awkward position of not being done with the first game by the time the sequel comes out. For that. I still will be for XCOM and Dishonored. (Well, I finished the Dishonored main game back when it came out, but there’s still the DLC.)

  10. SuicideKing says:

    Most importantly, Cool Ghosts did a video on XCOM 2 and a Daft Souls podcast on it too. Matt Lees is a lot of fun to listen to!

  11. thedosbox says:

    That piece on manuals was fun. There used to be a site (gone gold?) that always mentioned how hefty the manuals were in their reviews – though I’m not sure they did so ironically.

  12. Merus says:

    I’ve got some objections to Into the Black, namely that it takes this incredulous tone about developers not understanding the appeal of exploring a space. It seems pretty clear why this is – most AAA developers need to prove to money men that what they are making is fun, and most smaller developers are developers, which means their conception of quality involves the beauty in meaning.

    The big difference between exploring a city, and exploring a game space like the ones featured, is that every corner of a city is pregnant with meaning to the people who live there, whereas a game space that appears infinitely complex is usually just a bunch of dice rolls. Any meaning there is something you bring to the table yourself and falsely project onto the game.

    There is a famous hoax in Australia called Ern Malley; supposedly a bush poet, his work was assembled by cutting out a bunch of words, drawing them out, and transcribing them. They were published as a new, undiscovered poet, and the publisher insisted, even after the hoax was exposed, that the effectiveness of the poetry has nothing to do with whether or not it meant anything.

    And to a certain point of view, there is. It’s not wrong to find beauty in mystery and to resent the need for meaning, it’s a very common view. But it’s not the only way to see the world.

    • Geebs says:

      I find that knowing how the procedural sausage is made basically ruins the exploration aspect for me. What’s the point of travelling when I know that wherever I go in the noise function will be exactly as interesting as where I’ve come from?

      Funnily enough it was possible to have the exact same experience in the early nineties, waiting for an hour or two for the latest zoom into the Mandelbrot set to turn out to be disappointingly similar to the previous one.

  13. Josh W says:

    Where does this leave the manual writer? Or indeed, the next generation of gamers? What are they supposed to read when they’re not playing games?

    The wiki! Particularly for a game like dark souls or bloodborne, while the game is still being explored, it has it’s own unreliable narrator charm.

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      Harlander says:

      I don’t like how, for many games, “you can look at the wiki” has become “you must look at the wiki”. It feels much more obnoxious to me than reading a manual once did.

  14. GWOP says:

    Hello! Archonsod has been waiting for you.

  15. mukuste says:

    The Herzog interview was interesting. I’m curious which questions Graham found “dreadful” because I found them quite thoughtful.