The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for trying to go out for a Sunday lunch with a six-month-old in tow. Will we snaffle the roast potatoes quickly enough? Will he explode? It’s worth the risk.

Failbetter founder (and therefore former Sunless Sea writer/designer) Alexis Kennedy has been blogging a lot recently. He wrote this past week about No Man’s Sky and how easy it is, from his own experience on that aforementioned game, to mention features in public that then don’t end up present in the game itself. And how easy it is for the audience to find that out. There’s blockquote below, but I also like this: “IT HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER TO FIND OUT EXACTLY WHAT A GAME IS LIKE ON LAUNCH DAY, AND IF YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS, YOU CAN WAIT A WEEK AND YOU CAN BE ABSOLUTELY SURE.”

So for almost two years, Sunless Sea was my whole life. I didn’t often think about communicating its exact state to the couple of thousand people who cared because I was trying with my whole heart to make a good game, not even for the players, but for me, because it was an obsession. I noticed just now while I was reading this article that there are *still* some (minor, harmless) references to things that don’t exist in the game on the Failbetter site. We were just busy making the game and never thought to take them out.

Not that any of that necessarily makes it OK that developers don’t take the time to go back and update their audience about what things have changed.

Since leaving Failbetter, Kennedy has been doing freelance writing, including some for Paradox scifi 4X Stellaris. I enjoyed these notes about doing so.

4. I’m used to writing about people with nonspecific gender. Now I’m writing about people that may in fact be bird people or spider people. I just gave a character recurring nightmares and then thought, can I assume fungoid macrocolonies dream? Well, hell, anthropomorphism.

I read this last week but forgot to include it in the last Papers. This has been widely shared as ‘meet the real life Firewatch characters’ and, yeah, pretty much.

The challenge, Haugen said, was to accept nature’s rhythm. “New lookouts often have all these plans, they’re going to read all these books, or paint, or photograph, or learn an instrument. Then they’re amazed by how much they just sit there on the catwalk, watching weather. Those who can be content with themselves, and not having a list, have the most success.”

Claudia Lo wrote about the term “ludonarrative dissonance”, and why it ought to be replaced since, sometimes, that dissonance is deliberate and important.

My problem with “ludonarrative dissonance” is simple: with this term alone, how are we to distinguish between instances where it is undesirable, and instances where it is? Or when aspects other than ludic behaviour and narrative create dissonance? Where can we even draw the line between ludic elements and narrative ones? For example, is art direction something you group under “ludic” or “narrative”—are the distinctive silhouettes of Team Fortress 2 ludic or narrative? What about user interfaces and menu design? Sound cues? Level design? Environmental storytelling? I believe it is fairly apparent that, depending on context, any of these examples could fall into either or both categories. What do we make of the term then?

Eurogamer’s Robert Purchese wrote about what happens in the real world when a sword hits armour. I hear sword nerds be all “Actually…” but this is still interesting.

I had this steel breastplate on and I was holding a huge pike when I learnt a cool fact about swords. This actually happened by the way. I learnt that not all the edges of a sword were sharpened for slicing. I was like… what? But in the films and stories and games they slice people up like meat in a butcher’s shop. But the historian chap was like… no. The edges are blunt and the sword is heavy so that people can try and break the bones of their opponent underneath the armour, or at least severely bruise them, and immobilise them. It’s just the tip that’s razor sharp for the plunging stab that kills them. Oh and that groove down the middle of the sword: that’s there to let the air into the wound so you can pull the sword back out.

Here is your reason to hop down to the comments this week: Jeff Vogel wrote about how games aren’t art, they’re better. Enjoyably spiky.

SimCity Isn’t Art.

Nor is Civilization. Or Halo. Or Space Invaders. Or Castle Crashers. Or DOOM. Or Super Meat Boy. Or Hearthstone. Or League of Legends. Or Clash of Clans. Or Minecraft. Or Pac-Man. Or Solitaire. Or Pong. Not art. Why would they aim that low?

They provide consuming experiences. They are compulsions. I’m not going to argue that they’re High Art. They aren’t. They’re SuperArt. They take over your brain and let you get lost in them.

Meanwhile, Rob Fearon – who has often provided yer weekly enjoyably spiky article – wrote about why he’s happy to be working in games. Me too.

I had one of those days yesterday. People sharing graphs of the stock prices of companies during corporate announcements, enthusiast press getting in a jumble and worrying about whether a company with more money than I can realistically conceive can work on more than one game. I don’t get that. I sort of sit here and wonder how we let this stuff define videogames, why we concern ourselves with this aspect. Why business news leaks into everything. This wasn’t the 21st Century I anticipated. That’s not a jetpack.

But OK.

Because in the middle of all this, there’s genuine joy for a videogame coming out. I do appreciate that.

At Gamasutra, Simon “Parko” Parkin wrote about Steam Spy, its creator, and the specter of game sales transparency. This is about business news but I swear this juxtaposition isn’t a subtle comment on anything; I use Steam Spy.

Last week, in a post on the popular video game forum NeoGaf, Galyonkin, who now lives in live in Berlin, Germany, where he works as Head of Publishing for Eastern Europe at Epic Games, revealed that Paradox, Nicalis and Techland have all written to request their data be removed.

Twitch’s policy for banning games with nudity (while allowing games with ultraviolence and allowing users to spout abuse in chat) is both garbage, unevenly applied and poorly explained. A recent post on the company’s blog does nothing to allay concerns while encouraging developers to “trust your broadcasters” by cosying up to them during the development process.

Second, we strive to enable community members to find exactly the content you want, while avoiding content you don’t. That’s why our content reviews always start with a user report. If we fail at this, we’re out of business. It’s a hot, dusty road to perfection here; we are in it for the long haul, and are currently working on site features that will allow for responsible broadcasting and viewing of legitimate artistic depictions of nudity and violence.

I enjoyed this remake of the Battlefield 1 trainer in Team Fortress 2.

Spore endures.

Music this week is The Slits’ cover of Heard It Through The Grapevine.


  1. JFS says:

    Ah, Jeff Vogel :) I like his games. Read the piece earlier this week and it felt like maybe he’d had a little too much coffee. I still see what he’s saying, but I don’t know if “more gripping” and “addictive” really equal “better”. He’s also only mentioning music in passing, which I deem closer to these videogame qualities than sculpting and gets a little in the way of his hypothesis.

  2. Hedgeclipper says:

    Interesting that several developer comments on NMS so far seem to say you shouldn’t trust anything a developer tells you about their game. I tend to be wait and see anyway so it doesn’t bother me and I’ll often pick up a poorly received game a few years later to find it exceeds my low expectations but you’d think developers as a group would have a bit more professional pride.

    • qrter says:

      I think the point is more that talking about games and actually making them are two very different things.

    • Freud says:

      Here’s what I wrote in a RPS comment about No Mans Sky in May

      The gameplay videos of it made it look quite boring and empty. You go around, look a bit at the fauna. Shoot rocks with your gun because that’s mining.

      It looks beautiful, but procedurally generated content need a game with excellent game systems to work.

      The signs that it was a dud were obvious. People are just willing to ignore them because they want the game to be something it never was going to be.

      A small studio leaning on procedurally generated content, it just screamed Potemkin Village.

      • Vandelay says:

        Exactly this. I don’t really know where all of these stories about misinformation or accusation of lies has come from; it was pretty obvious exactly what No Man’s Sky was going to be for about the last 2 or so years and it looks to have delivered what anyone that even gave it a cursory glance beforehand would be expecting. The answer to that old question of “But what do you actually do?” that popped up in the comments on pretty much every trailer or preview for the game was exactly what was shown in the trailers/previews, explore a procedurally generated galaxy, naming planets’ fauna, collect resources and upgrade your ship to explore more of the galaxy. If people invented more on top of that they really only have themselves to blame.

        I feel that it was just a victim of a public created hype that painted it as something it was not, rather than any kind of calculated marketing campaign. The devs themselves said nothing that contradicts the final game any more than any other promotion for a product from any kind of industry. To be honest, the ranting and raving about it is just another example of the immaturity of “gamers” that makes me feel embarrassed to say I play video games.

        • Melody says:

          In support of your point, I really enjoyed this:

          link to

          (Don’t let the style scare you off, it becomes clear towards the end that it’s a parody of the “angry review”, he’s only adopting that style for comedic effect. Listen to what he actually says, he makes very good points)

          • Vandelay says:

            It is kind of worrying that, like the film version of Starship Troopers, you have to explain that it is not to be taken seriously. Unlike Starship Troopers though, I can actually understand why someone might misinterpret it as him actually delivering in that style seriously (as evidenced by the short snippet of the Angry Joe review in the middle of the video.)

            Great video though. On a similar note is the slightly more sedate video on the game and its marketing from a developer of Frozen Synapse – link to

          • GWOP says:

            Well, hbomberguy got another subscriber.

          • Buggery says:

            @Vandelay – in the nicest possible way, if you need to have someone explain to you that Starship Troopers is not meant to be taken seriously, you may need to readjust your sincerity scanners.

            Not to pick on you or anything, but I am often astonished when people cannot take things at anything more than face value. Reading some of the critical reaction to the 2012 Dredd film was an eye-opener because it seems so many people are unable to accept that it was not actually recommending the future and judge-based solutions portrayed within (and may even have been making a statement on law enforcement procedure today[!!!])

            With that said, being an angry video game reviewer is arguably impossible to parody, given that youtube games reviews are an awful hole of attention-grabbing sass, all of which is so drenched in faux-sincerity and meta-aware hype that the line between parody and sincerity doesn’t really exist. It’s like being an ironic racist – you’re still a jerk, even if you’re doing it “for lols.”

          • maninahat says:

            @Vandelay To get a bit defensive about Starship Troopers; to some it looks too much like an incompetent “straight” film for some people to realise it was taking the piss. If you weren’t familiar with the Director’s other work, but were overly familiar with the kind of crap 90s regularly dished out, or even the book itself, I could see how people would fall afoul of Poe’s law. I had a similar problem with the first time I read The Onion newspaper, immediately after reading, and was surprised to find out I had got it the wrong way around in terms of who was being ironic.

          • Vandelay says:

            @Buggery Err… You probably need to re-read what I said. I know Starship Troopers was a parody. I’m amazed that people can’t tell within the first few minutes what it is doing.

            In contrast, I can understand why Melody felt the need to say the linked video was a parody, even though it is so extreme.

            It was a rather throwaway comment that seems to have caused a bit of confusion :)

      • Captain Narol says:

        It’s a clear fact that many of those who played NMS found it boring and shallow.

        On the other hand, I’ve met a lot of people for who it’s an endless source of joy and see it as a wonderful work of art.

        For example, read this thread full of enthousiastic feedback :

        link to

        Why this total difference of appreciation between those 2 groups ?

        My personal opinion is that it’s a quite special niche game very different from the standard mold and absolutely not fitted for everyone’s taste.

        It’s not a game about mastering systems, it’s not a game about overcoming challenges, it’s not a game about fulfilling objectives that you are being given. It’s not a power fantasy nor an action game.

        It’s just a relaxing exploration game that sets you free to go wherever you want and where the journey matters more than the destination, in a procedural 3D universe like no other.

        To put it short, it’s not a game for hardcore gamers, it’s a game for hardcore explorers, the kind who doesn’t need a reason to go see what’s over that hill nor a material reward for doing it.

        • Leafy Twigs says:

          I kinda see both sides. It is absolutely a work of art. Visually, it’s amazing. The sound and the music are also incredible. The combination of all the above felt like being able to fully inhabit Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works. The writing is also very good at times.

          But it’s terrible as a game. And part of the problem of NMS is that it has the trappings of other more involved games. The inventory limitations, the crafting, doing the skinner box dance of upgrades. They failed to give any reason why any of that is worth the trouble, and invited unpleasant comparisons to games where the effort pays off.

          • Captain Narol says:

            Indeed, I have noticed that many of those who like the game clearly wouldn’t mind if the game was totally stripped of the few gamified systems in it (ie inventory, tech updates, crafting, even mining) to reduce it to a simple mix of Noctis and a procedural Proteus planet generator.

            The out-of-control hype made the game sounds as “The Ultimate Space Simulation that will bury all others” when it was never supposed to be that and misleaded many people that ended coming to it with wrong expectations and got utterly disappointed.

            I’ve even come to think Sony’s marketing team just didn’t understand what the essence of NMS really was and contributed to the reception debacle by insisting on aspects of it in their trailers campaign that were not representative of the core experience delivered by the final product.

          • Rizlar says:

            As much as I agree with both of you the language you are using is part of the problem. It’s not for ‘hardcore gamers’, it’s terrible ‘as a game’.

            Why limit what games can be? Personally I cannot stand competitiveness, even in single player games the pressure to optimise can ruin things for me. NMS probably shouldn’t have taken on the trappings of a ‘gamey’ game but this reflects broader views and expectations of what games are and should be.

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        zapatapon says:

        This! I’ve not played NMS, but from what I read from the reviews and comments, it looks like it is very much how I imagined it would be. And I’m not a voyant or a medium for pete’s sake. What is this all this enraged whining about being misled? And given the many question marks pre-launch about the gameplay, was it so hard to wait one week to know more?

        • sosolidshoe says:

          All the “enraged whining about being misled”, as you put it, comes chiefly from the fact people were deliberately and repeatedly misled.

          I know this whole “entitled gamer/blame the con victim” narrative is fun for people who like to feel superior to others, but there are supposed to be standards of behaviour(legally enforced ones, even) that those selling products are meant to adhere to precisely so that customers don’t have to do an essay-length comparative analysis of the company’s marketing over a period of years to determine if they’re being even vaguely truthful.

          Not everyone is an “enthusiast” who spends all their time plugged in to sites like this debating games in the comments; many see an E3 video on YouTube, maybe read a “roundup” article summarising previous articles, and decide whether or not to buy based on what they have every right to believe is the accurate information contained therein. In the case of NMS, the info was not accurate, because the E3 videos were clearly staged(sadly not an uncommon occurance) and the articles being summarised featured the developer spouting a pack of lies. Hell, last time I looked the other week there, NMS’ Steam page was still using picture and video that wasn’t representative of the product being sold.

          The developer of the game sat down and flat-out lied, multiple times, about a variety of topics and features. He carefully equivocated and prevaricated about several more, wording his responses to encourage interviewers to draw conclusions about features that made the game sound more appealing while knowing fine well it would never have anything of the kind.

          There is no interpretation of the events of NMS’ development and marketing that is even remotely related to reality in which the fault lies with customers. You can quibble over exactly how much responsibility lies with the dishonest devs and how much with the fawning press coverage, but in the end the devs had ample opportunity to correct inaccurate reporting, unfounded speculation, or their own explicit claims to include features that weren’t in the final product and chose to do none of those things.

          Maybe if folk spent a little more time “whining about being misled” and a little less blaming other people for being taken in by liars and sensationalists, there wouldn’t be so many bloody liars and sensationalists floating around in this industry.

          • sosolidshoe says:

            Oh and for the record, I didn’t buy NMS, and never had any intention to since even the false, dishonest presentation of it pre-release didn’t appeal – my comments are driven purely by my analysis as a consumer of the NMS devs’ & media’s behaviour.

          • invitro says:

            ‘Maybe if folk spent a little more time “whining about being misled”’ — or maybe if they did something more useful, like contacting the relevant agencies to pursue a case of fraud, which from personal experience is indeed taken seriously by prosecutors, at least if the complaints are genuine. (If they’re not genuine, it’s just a bunch of whining.)

          • bedel says:


          • Distec says:


            From my reading of the air, it seems a popular opinion that any such attempts to “get serious” about issues like this are further evidence of being entitled, whiny children.

          • BooleanBob says:

            @Invitro good post mate.

            @Distec the standard play is to acknowledge in passing that there *might* be some problems, but to insist that nothing can be done about it while there’s still somebody (, anybody) being a dickhead on twitter.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Lots of comments on NMS but if we bracket that whole debate what I’m finding interesting here is the developers coming out and saying (more or less) that we shouldn’t listen to them as a defense re people with disappointed expectations. Which really begs the question, if they’re asserting they can’t be listened to why are they putting so much effort into communicating?

      • welverin says:

        What you should be taking away from all of this is: games change during development and don’t assume that ever feature mentioned or hinted at during the course of a games development will be there when it’s released.

        The reaction to No Man’s Sky is one of the reasons big publishers are so tight lipped and controlling about the information that gets out about their games.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          “one of the reasons big publishers are so tight lipped and controlling about the information that gets out about their games.”

          You say that like its a bad thing.

          Did you read the article? He talks about Sunless Sea, which was pretty well received (I liked it and have no strong opinion on weather they should have gone with turn based or real time) and if I paraphrase states – a bunch of people were really upset about changing from turn based to real time combat but that’s on them for listening to things we said and anyway its all okay because we love making games.

          Pretty much everyone who’s been paying attention knows not to buy a game blindly but what seems new to me is developers outright stating that everything they say should be considered unreliable. To me that seems completely unprofessional – what other big industries work on that sort of basis? Real Estate and Used Cars? Is that the sort of company games developers want to be measuring themselves against?

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:


          “Be aware that games change during development” is not the same thing as saying “don’t believe anything we say”.

          Games change enormously during development and features are cut all the time for countless reasons: maybe X feature made the game unbalanced and boring, maybe it destroyed performance, maybe it proved technically impossible to pull off even though it initially seemed like it would work, maybe there was not enough time and budget to finish the feature to an acceptable quality and still ship a game in time. All of these are valid reasons and no game has ever shipped without cutting some features.

          The turn-based combat example is exactly the kind of thing where a decision was made to change a feature that made the game better and the change was transparently communicated, but some players still ignored that and bought something expecting it to be something else. If they can’t be bothered to read a review or check a current product description, that’s on them.

          You can’t treat every single thing ever shown or uttered about a game as a binding legal document. When a creative project is under construction EVERYTHING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE and anything said at that stage should be read as “this is what we’re aiming for right now as far we know”. If you can’t accept that, don’t look at previews and pre-release interviews, and certainly don’t pre-order.

          Unless you want developers to stop being transparent and basically never talk about any game in development ever stop treating them like they are permanently on trial.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            I will add that in the case of crowdfunding it’s more nebulous and while here too “games evolve and everything is subject to change” applies, if someone funded your game based on the pitch specifically promising a particular mode of play and that radically changes I think it’s fair to offer a refund, though I take the view that if you are not open to a project not turning out 100% as you expected you should not be doing crowdfunding anyway.

          • Premium User Badge

            iris79 says:

            I don’t expect an album, painting or film to be exactly the same as it was when originally conceived and promoted. Things change with creative projects. Yr favourite actor may be entirely cut from a film in post. It’s just a directors attempt to make the best possible film with the time/money they have. It’s why I feel crowd funding is so dangerous for creatives.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            The addendum about crowdfunding might seem a bit contradictory but yeah, that was kind of my point.

  3. qrter says:

    That Slits cover of Heard It Through The Grapevine is one of my personal favourites, too. I think I like it more than the original.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Nothing beats the 20 minute CCR version ;)

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        Clearly Michael Jackson singing with The California Raisins is the pinnacle of the Grapevine.

      • invitro says:

        I “hoid” that was the worst thing CCR ever did.

  4. Hedgeclipper says:

    And meat doesn’t slice like that in a butcher shop either even without armour, most games and movies make it seem like there’s no resistance at all.

  5. Melody says:

    Ok! Let’s talk about Jeff Vogel’s article.

    Games aren’t, strictly speaking, art. Games are a complex medium that intersects several classes of objects, including art, sports (from the more physical ones to the more brainy ones like Chess and Go), puzzles and more.

    Some games adhere to the elements that define one of these classes more than others. Gone Home or Firewatch are undoubtedly on the art side, and any competitive game is usually on the sports side. Games like single player FPS have elements of art (narrative, art direction, dialogue, characters, music etc) and elements of sports (the gameplay, with its strategic side as well as the element of performance of aiming quickly and accurately). Other games like point and click adventures have elements of art (narrative) and elements of puzzles (the, hmmm, puzzles)

    As such, if we want to read the very broad category of videogames, all the tools coming from other areas will be more or less useful depending on the game they’re being applied to, and the focus of the analysis. More than that, these elements interact with one another to form a coherent whole, so we need to bring these tools together. In excellent games, aspects of the narrative will come to bear on the gameplay and viceversa. (Trite examples: Brothers, Papers Please, Spec Ops: The Line)

    Games don’t neatly fit any traditional category, and that’s fine. Think back when film was invented for the first time, and people tried to understand the experience of watching a film using the tools they already had. The tools of literature, of theatre, of visual arts will all come useful, but they come together in film in different ways than in any other art form, and it ultimately needs to be analysed for what it is. We have developed an analytical approach that is unique to films, even while we incorporated film in the broader term of art, because it shared relevant characteristics with things we already called art.

    Games, as a whole, don’t seem to fit that name as easily, just as they don’t fit the category of sport. That’s fine. Games can be their own thing.

    2) Why does he feel the need to assert that games are better than anything else and art is trash in comparison? They’re different experiences. Is reading Shakespeare better than playing football better than playing Doom? They’re just so different as to make any comparison meaningless. Depending on their taste and what they’re looking for, people will choose one over the other.

    If anything, the need to assert the superiority of videogames speaks to a fundamental insecurity about their value that he claims to have overcome in the opening quote.

    The assertion that games provide “experiences” and “immersion” and “are simply awesome” and other activities and art forms don’t is, in my opinion, ludicrous. Also, I never liked the “we’re not watching, we’re doing” argument that claims to assert the superiority of the game experience.

    Again, it’s not worse either, it’s just different. The power of the player is not the end-all be-all of all experiences, artistic and otherwise. Watch a good movie or theatre play and you’ll find yourself equally absorbed, equally part of a compelling experience, even if you have no power and are not actually doing anything except observing.

    “When I force you to make a tough decision, for a brief moment, I can reprogram your brain and take your thoughts somewhere they’ve never been before. This is amazing.”

    Literally every other art form can do the same. Maybe in a book you don’t get to input your decision into the plot, but a good book will offer food for thought and change your mind about stuff in exactly the same way.

    “I love literature and theatre. I love great movies. Yet, I can’t remember any work of art, no matter how good, that consumed and drained me as much as the Cyberdemon in DOOM.”

    “We’re winning because we offer something better than art. We offer Experience.”

    Yes, that happens to everyone with their favourite activity or art form. It’s a combination of your taste, the kind of experience you’re looking for at that point in your life, your literacy in that medium and your habits.

    I don’t get any experience from paintings, because I don’t understand visual arts as easily as a I understand the language of videogames. I’ve also never spent time learning the language of painting, nor have I become used to the activity of contemplating an image for a long time, trying to analyse its details. But I can assure you that people who do get equally compelling and interesting and even life-changing experiences that Vogel claims only videogames can provide.

    (A small aside: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I deeply dislike this language of games as compulsive, as addicting. Being addicting is a *bad thing*, and it’s unhealthy. Give me interesting or challenging, not addicting.

    “I am coming to consume all your thoughts, all your attention. I want to absorb you to the point where it threatens your marriage and your livelihood.”

    No, thank you. I’d like games (and art works, and experiences) that enrich my life, not that take over it.)

    Finally, the argument that games are better than other things because they have more fans or make more money is equally invalid. Just look at what is popular within any given art forms: it’s usually what is accessible to a large number of people, not necessarily what is “best”. Some things are popular and also very good, according to critical consensus. Some others are popular and yet not very good at all, again, according to critical consensus.

    I am glad that he’s done “apologizing for his craft”, but no need to assert videogames’ superiority over *everything else ever*, especially if it’s done in such a way to dismiss any kind of experiences that is not the videogame experience.

    • yhancik says:

      I wanted to say something about the supposed superiority of “addictive” experience but then I saw your comment. It’s the true gem of this Sunday’s Papers, really.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      This was a joy to read. To the point, concise, fair handed, and not condescending; nor holier than thou/baiting for a fight.
      Thanks for your insight.

    • invitro says:

      Video games might be art someday, but they aren’t yet. There is objective proof. Something isn’t art unless it’s enjoyed many years after it’s created. Shakespeare’s works are art because they are still enjoyed by a large number of people, centuries after they were written. If a video game was art, there would be ten-, twenty-, thirty-year old games still being enjoyed and written about, much more than the occasional article on this website.

      • yhancik says:

        Conversations about Art are fun because there’s not a single definition of “Art”. Yours is one, among many others, some strongly disagreeing with it. So it’s hardly “objective” :)
        I would accept this definition more easily as a way to tell “””good art””” from “””bad art”””, but I still think that how-many people still enjoying it after how-many years is influenced by numerous factors outside of the intrinsic artistic qualities of the piece itself.
        That being said, there is still an interesting topic of discussion on the way videogames age, in relation to the strong link between (some) videogames and the (ever-progressing) underlying technologies.

        • invitro says:

          The proof is objective if you accept what I stated as a requirement for something to be called art, which I would hope would be accepted by a consensus. I mean, if something is forgotten and ignored, how can it be art?

          I’m not attempting to define art here, that is beyond my grasp at the moment, just to give one property that I think art must have. Please don’t misinterpret what I wrote to mean that the artistic level of something is proportional to how many people enjoy it. Certainly, yes, many other factors influence the number of consumers, with the dominant factor (toward old things) being whether something is a school material. I’m only saying that some somewhat-large number of people must enjoy a thing some decades after it has been produced, for the thing to qualify as art (or good art; I suppose I would equate “bad art” with “not art”).

          As for technology, I think most forms of art have ever-progressing technology. Good art can and is made with low tech… just consider Chaplin’s silent movies, and any number of popular music works that were recorded with far lesser tech than exists today. It’s easy for me to imagine a video game that was made in 1982 that was still being purchased and enjoyed by millions today. It could’ve happened, and if it did, that video game would have a solid argument to be called art. But it didn’t. Maybe some 2016 video game will still be bought and played in 2050, but I’d bet my house it won’t be. Still, I do believe that eventually, in my lifetime, a video game worthy of being called art will be made.

          • TheAngriestHobo says:

            Frankly, I’m of the opinion that the age of a piece has no bearing on whether it’s considered “art” or not. Why should there be an arbitrary waiting period before a work is deemed “legitimate”? Who has the authority to determine the length of that waiting period? And if a work is topical, it will have the most emotional and social impact immediately following its publication – so why should it be subjected to a probationary period before it can be considered “true” art?

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            If a Mona Lisa hangs alone in a forest is it still art?
            Or, were Mayan statues and paintings lost in the jungle unseen for centuries not art until they got looted and sold to museums?

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            alison says:

            Something transient can still be art. Even in the most high-brow art circles, there is respect for performance art. Street art is also often seen as a “serious” form these days, and its most famous works rarely last a year, much less 50.

            But even if we were to pretend that the only art that matters is art that withstands the passage of time, the point is not that people experience the work today in the same way that it was originally experienced. Let’s be honest, how many highly acclaimed works of art that have survived for generations are “being purchased … by millions” today? People can appreciate work of the past without having to buy a reproduction of it. I can appreciate the creative intent and cultural impact of a game from 1982 even if I never played it and never will.

          • invitro says:

            ‘Why should there be an arbitrary waiting period before a work is deemed “legitimate”?’ — Good question! And easily answered. As everyone knows, people will buy/consume new things (music, movies, books) just because they’re popular. This is not a measure of art; if anything, it’s a measure of anti-art. The passage of time certainly doesn’t eliminate this factor, but it does reduce it, and that’s why the passage of time is required to judge whether something is art or not.

            This waiting period is not arbitrary. It’s a gradual scale; something which is a thousand years old and still found to have meaning is almost certainly art, while the popularity of something ten years old is a slight indication of its artistic quality, but only a slight one.

            ‘Who has the authority to determine the length of that waiting period?’ — Anyone seriously interested in discussing the philosophy of art does. But again, it’s not a binary cutoff point, it’s a gradual, continuous scale.

            ‘And if a work is topical, it will have the most emotional and social impact immediately following its publication – so why should it be subjected to a probationary period before it can be considered “true” art?’ — transient “art” is not art. Art is timeless; it refers to the general human condition, rather than the human condition as it was for a few days in 1992.

            ‘If a Mona Lisa hangs alone in a forest is it still art?’ — It may have been art to the one person that created it. But the point of art is to communicate to all people in the present and future, and so if no one except the creator enjoys a piece of art, its artistic quality is vanishingly small.

            ‘Or, were Mayan statues and paintings lost in the jungle unseen for centuries not art until they got looted and sold to museums?’ — These things were seen by thousands of Mayans before they were looted, right? That’s enough to give them a shot of being of high artistic quality. But that shot expanded after they were in museums for millions to enjoy.

            ‘Something transient can still be art. Even in the most high-brow art circles, there is respect for performance art.’ — It’s a very low amount of respect. Unless transient and performance art can be preserved, it ceases to be art when it is forgotten. And if it is preserved, it’s not transient.

            ‘But even if we were to pretend that the only art that matters is art that withstands the passage of time,’ — This has been part of the definition of art for thousands of years, and will so for thousands more, and probably forever. That’s a whole lot of “pretenders”.

            ‘the point is not that people experience the work today in the same way that it was originally experienced.’ — Who cares? Viewing a computer image of a Picasso painting may not be exactly as enjoyable as viewing the actual thing, but it’s very close.

            ‘Let’s be honest, how many highly acclaimed works of art that have survived for generations are “being purchased… by millions” today? People can appreciate work of the past without having to buy a reproduction of it.’ — Are you serious? Millions and millions of highly acclaimed works of old art are being purchased by millions of people every year. Not the original thing, of course, but images in books, images found on the Internet, films seen on TV or on the Internet, CDs of music, downloaded music, etc., etc.

            ‘I can appreciate the creative intent and cultural impact of a game from 1982 even if I never played it and never will.’ — If you haven’t played it, you haven’t enjoyed it in an artistic sense, only in some encyclopedic or some other sense.

            Good discussion! Philosophy is fun!

          • yhancik says:

            Loving this conversation <3 This is also why I like RPS

      • Wulfram says:

        If I look at GOG, then I see that quite a lot of 10-20 year old games are being sold, discussed in reviews and so forth.

        • pepperfez says:

          The NES is 30! That’s like Lascaux-era in electronics terms, and it’s still got some of the most beloved games out there.

        • invitro says:

          Are they being bought and discussed by millions of people? If not, then who cares, as tons of 10-20 year old books/movies/albums ARE being bought and discussed by millions of people.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            Are you kidding? The rate at which we continue to not only play and discuss but even essentially *remake* classic games from the 80s and 90s has never been greater… This entirely aside from the fact that games fight a constant uphill battle against technical obsolescence and lacking backwards compatibility, rendering many older works literally impossible to play without software emulation, while other media have a much easier time preserving their history: literature could always survive as long as someone remembered to jot down a copy on some paper or parchment (thanks, monks and Romans!) and the only reason much of movie history was lost is that at the time no one thought it was important enough to keep and they melted down the celluloid for boots!

            So as far as that particular criterion goes, games are doing pretty well.

          • invitro says:

            You ignored my question. Do you think 10-20 year old games are being played and discussed by millions of people?

            I don’t like how you use the word “jot” to try to imply that copying a book by hand was a trivial process. It wasn’t. I would much rather have the job of obtaining the hardware to play Ultima IV than to copy the Holy Bible or The Elements by hand. But yes, eternal thanks are most definitely due the Christian monks of the middle/dark ages.

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            FhnuZoag says:

            I kinda question that “millions” of people were ever involved in discussing any particular major work of art to any level of seriousness. But yeah, millions do play the likes of tetris today, and some do discuss it.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            I don’t have exact statistics to gesture importantly at, but by all accounts: clearly yes.

            My point, which you’re ignoring, is that the manner of preservation is an entirely different proposition for games, rendering any direct comparison essentially meaningless.

            As for “jot”: that was just some playful wording, not intended to imply any value judgement or actual estimation of effort. I thought my nod to history’s keepers of ancient texts made that obvious.

      • Twitchity says:

        The art critic Dave Hickey points out that people don’t make art, they don’t make literature, they don’t make architecture; they paint portraits, write books, build houses. Culture deems those things to be art. Eventually, I think, culture will deem certain video games (or “digital installations,” or whatever) to be Capital-A Art, but until then I think it’s right and meet that people just keep creating without worrying too much about what ends up as part of the ivory tower canon.

        • invitro says:

          “The art critic Dave Hickey points out that people don’t make art, they don’t make literature, they don’t make architecture; they paint portraits, write books, build houses.” — That claim is a lot of hooey, and indicates that Mr. Hickey doesn’t know what art is.

          • yhancik says:

            I could say that it’s just another at a “what is art” theory, just like yours here above ;) It’s not entirely false, as “the culture” does indeed play a role in deciding what we collectively perceive as art. But it’s a bit excessive indeed, because most artists (especially today) are very aware of “making art”.

          • invitro says:

            Well, people ultimately decide what is art. I don’t know what is gained by saying “culture” does.

            The reason I objected strongly to the art critic’s comment is that it is my belief that modern artists consciously set out to create great art. I may be mistaken in my belief, but I don’t think I am, as I recall quotes from (at least) the early modernist painters saying just this. (I know that postmodern artists reject this goal, and usually even the idea of great art.)

      • Consumatopia says:

        You almost had a point, but you ruined it.

        “Something isn’t art unless it’s enjoyed many years after it’s created. ”

        It might be fair to say that creative works that are enjoyed many years after they are created are great art, and you could even make an argument that such works are absent with video games and this indicates that video games aren’t conducive to making a great work of art (though reasonable counter arguments would be easy to find).

        But it’s absolutely absurd to say that art is defined by the fact of it’s being enjoyed long after it’s created. And even more absurd to say that this is a widely accepted definition (do you have any dictionary to back this up?)

        Problems with this definition include:

        * Failure to include bad or naive art. Most people do not consider “Great Art” to be a redundant phrase. Your four year old’s drawing is still an attempt at expressing themselves and creating beauty, whether or not (most likely not) that attempt is successful. “Are video games art?”, as a question, is shorthand–obviously some video games are attempts to express authorial intention and create beauty, the interesting question is whether those attempts are any good, if so are the game-like attributes of those works necessary for the work’s success, if so does there exist a fruitful space of similar works yet to be created, and if so could the market sustain the exploration of such a space.

        * Defining a work’s artistic status by something that happens long after the work is created. If the world counterfactually ended in the mid sixteenth century then, under your definition, Michelangelo’s works would not be art. Most would say that the works are great *when they are created* not that they only become great later. (Though, if you really take objectivity in art seriously, you should insist that great works are great *before* they are great, that those works embody Platonic truths that exist outside time.)

        * Even more basically, if you only look at whether direct copies of a work are still enjoyed by significant audiences, then you’re missing the question of a work’s influence, the effect that work had on later works. Fashion would be a good example here–tastes are constantly changing, but future designers are influenced by what they’ve seen in the past.

        * Underestimating the contingency of popularity in the classics. No, it is absolutely not an objective truth that Gone With The Wind is the greatest classic film of all time even though it’s one of the most popular. (I’m not saying it’s objectively not the best, I’m saying it’s not objectively the best. RPS-reading GWTW fans, don’t @ me.) It turns out that mid-20th century Hollywood spectacle still appeals to a lot of people today, but those films aren’t necessarily the deepest, most meaningful, or most influential on later filmmakers. Also note that the songs they still play on classic rock radio stations today aren’t necessarily the best songs by their respective artists or even on their respective albums. Nor does the fact that there is a lot more classic rock on the radio than jazz imply that rock music is better art.

        * Whether you like it or not, transient art is still art. Note that this would still be true even if you insist that art has to refer to something universal and timeless–it could just be that it refers to universal and timeless truths that were accessible in the context of a few days in 1992, or even just a few people in 1992, but are lost to us today. I tend to think that objective beauty and meaning are real things, but there just isn’t any simple algorithmic or empirical test for them, no matter how much you want there to be one.

        You may (or may not) still be correct that video games, for one reason or another, don’t facilitate art any more than toilets facilitate art (other than Duchamp). But you’re wrong about pretty much everything else.

        • invitro says:

          Consumatopia: you win the award for worst reading of the comment you’re replying to. I’ve been generous with replies on this page, but I don’t see any reason to reply to your post if you can’t do a better job of reading comprehension. :( Great to meet another art fan though!

    • I_have_no_nose_but_I_must_sneeze says:

      This is a wonderful, wonderful comment, Melody. I’m especially onboard with your criticism of “addictive” somehow being considered a plus. That’s how we’ve ended up with MMO’s at the top of the food chain.

      As with literature and film, I’m also not comfortable describing activities involving games as mere escapism. Enhancement and enrichment, that’s more like it.

      • I_have_no_nose_but_I_must_sneeze says:

        *Literature and film and other art forms. Art forms including games. That’s right. Have we settled this debate now? Can we go home?

      • invitro says:

        “I’m also not comfortable describing activities involving games as mere escapism. Enhancement and enrichment, that’s more like it.” — Perhaps, but this sounds like someone desperate to justify the large amounts of money and time they spend on video games (which is the main reason why video games get called art). It needs justification with examples. Like, I think playing TIS-100 enhanced my interest in assembly language programming, and I can prove it: I read a couple of books on early computer chips & assembly, and wrote some code, as a result of playing that game. (I’m not sure what “enhancement & enrichment” mean, though.)

        • I_have_no_nose_but_I_must_sneeze says:

          If that’s the case, then I’m desperate to emphasise anything I choose to spend my time and money on as enhancing and enriching my life. Escapism implies that I’m using my hobbies to escape the dreariness of my existence. That’s the conception I dislike.

          Though I disagree that calling games art can only be a frantic attempt to portray them as a worthwhile pursuit, I do think there’s a collective insecurity that goes along with the medium. As it evolves, so will our attitudes.

    • GameCat says:

      Eh, I think he wrote it more in tounge in cheek manner than 100% serious.

      • valourfrog says:

        Yes it’s probably just a “conversation starter” piece but personally I find those a bit disingenuous. Not too far from proper trolling, really.

        And thank you Melody for writing this excellent comment.

    • Tempus Fugit says:

      Yea, I’m too tired to comment except to say that Melody nailed it. Back to sleep.

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      FhnuZoag says:

      I see Vogel’s statement as the necessary antithesis to the thesis that “games cannot be art” that has been around for a while. In that context I think a provocative argument that games are better is valuable, and I don’t think it’s bad to make that argument given that defenders of the book, or film, or music consistently make arguments that their medium is the best, even amongst other recognised art forms.

      As to addictiveness, again it seems the mainstream position that compulsiveness is bad. But I think still the opposite position is actually pretty arguable as well? ‘Great art’ does not have to improve the human character traditionally. Famous works have often been praised in terms of their intoxicating qualities. Books that “you can’t put down”, music that “can’t get out of your head”, films that “you want to watch over and over again”.

  6. Rizlar says:

    Not really on board with the criticisms of ‘ludonarrative dissonance’. Why try to pin it down? ‘Thematic inconsistency’ is a good term but no less vague.

    ‘Ludonarrative dissonance’ is really useful in highlighting an aspect of games, the relationship between what you are doing and what is being portrayed. Sometimes it’s good and intentional, sometimes it’s bad, sure, I don’t see a problem with that.

    Don’t agree that Hotline Miami is ludonarratively dissonant either, unless you are limiting ‘narrative’ to just mean the actions portrayed and not subtext. What she describes seems like a tonal contrast, of two ludonarratively resonant experiences within the same level. Amped up, hyperkinetic violence. Silence, stillness, reflection. HM is an incredibly tight in this way.

    • Geebs says:

      Most times people talk about ludonarrative dissonance, they’re actually talking about personaludic dissonance – not, “the gameplay doesn’t match the story”, but “the gameplay doesn’t match the protagonist’s personality. That covers the TF2 compliant quite nicely, since the characters’ personalities are exactly their silhouettes.

    • GWOP says:

      Yeah, didn’t quite buy the Hotline Miami bit. A narrative can have peaks and troughs – one moment it’s about the blood-pumping excitement of violence, another moment can be reserved for introspection – contrasting, but not necessarily inconsistent. The gameplay (and the music) is just adapting to the pacing of that narrative.

    • Melum says:

      Well I got the link right I just didn’t use reply right. Internet giveths, internet takeths away. Anyway Rob Fearon’s followup post also re:games > art.

  7. Creeping Death says:

    . Oh and that groove down the middle of the sword: that’s there to let the air into the wound so you can pull the sword back out.”

    Actually, no. And it amazes me that so many ‘experts’ still regurgitate this fact. There is absolutely no evidence to support it. The actual reason the groove exists is to lower the weight of the blade and the amount of metal needed to make it while still maintaining its strength.

    There’s actually a great article I read about that this once. I’ll reply with a link later when I’m at a PC.

    • JFS says:

      This confused me as well. If vacuum/negative pressure is the problem of pulling out, hiw doesmthat change when the shape of the sword stays constant during creation of the wound and afterwards? It would “stick” just the same, groove or not.

    • Otto Lidenbrock says:

      Often referred to by these experts as a blood groove, here’s a video by Matt Easton on this subject:

      link to

    • FFabian says:

      True. I actually studied and worked as archeologist (late antiquity and early middle ages) for nearly ten years. It’s the internet though so you can believe it or not.

      This groove “myths” was a regular thing I heard when I had to give a talk for interested laymen. The groove isn’t for letting the blood flow out or letting air in or whatever other bullshit TV docs like to tell. Those grooves reduce weight and price of the weapon. Thats it.

      Most people imagine a razor sharp edge when thinking about swords. Swords are essentially iron rods to hit people with. Bruises and broken bones where usual – the sharpened edge isn’t like your kitchen knife sharp it’s just an edge – nothing more nothing less.

    • Baines says:

      The claim that swords were dull is also wrong. If you wanted an iron rod to break bones, then you’d use an iron rod.

      You used a sword because you wanted to cut stuff (and stab stuff, and bash stuff. A good sword was capable of many things.) Joints had less protection, and could be vulnerable to cuts even if other locations weren’t. If you found the edge just wasn’t hacking it, you could use half-swording (which could be done safely with a sharp blade) to stab, or even hold the sword by the blade and swing it like a club/hammer (which could also be done safely with a sharp blade even with strong force.)

      • gunny1993 says:

        Does it mean dull in comparison to other types of blade? My knowledge is largely based in cookware but from what I understand the weight and thickness behind the edge are far more practical than outright sharpness.

        A butchers knife for instance is far far far less sharp than a sushi blade but because a sushi blade is light and thin it won’t be any Good at parting flesh in a human being kind of way.

        • gunny1993 says:

          I mean obviously a blade like that would still work to cut a dudes throat or what have you, but in a swordfish you’d proably go for the far less sharp but heavier and stronger sword

        • Baines says:

          Well, the Eurogamer article says (which is the part quoted Graham): “But the historian chap was like… no. The edges are blunt and the sword is heavy so that people can try and break the bones of their opponent underneath the armour, or at least severely bruise them, and immobilise them.

          You can take that to mean “duller than sharp, but still sharp enough to cut,” but it sounds a lot more like it was just saying “dull.” What makes the latter interpretation more believable in this case is that the source was wrong about the groove in swords, and the whole “blunt sword” thing is also apparently a somewhat popular misconception.

    • sub-program 32 says:

      The article OP was thinking of was On Cracked here: link to

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      phuzz says:

      Isn’t it possible that people have made swords thinking “I’ll stick a groove down the middle to let the blood drip out/allow it to be pulled from the wound”, when it’s not actually doing that. Or indeed, “I’ll stick a groove down the middle because that’s how dad taught me”.
      I’m sure some have been made by master sword-smiths who understand every aspect of their craft, but most will have been made by moderately skilled labour working to a template and probably having as much appreciation of the finer points of the design as the average internet commentator.

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        FhnuZoag says:

        I’m sure that a few idiot swordsmiths have existed. But a quick search on google ngrams will demonstrate that the idea of the blood groove is a 20th century thing, only really becoming popular in the 1990s.

        link to

  8. ButteringSundays says:

    Haven’t you heard? Game developers are LIARS and FRAUDS and we should be issuing class-action lawsuits against all of them because sometimes what they aspire to create isn’t fully realised and I DEMAND SATISFACTION.

    Seriously the gaming community has gotten really weird over the past year or so, couple of minor disappointments and suddenly everyone you makes a game is a cartoon villain.

    Are issues like these perhaps exacerbated by the demographic makeup of the community? RPS is mostly full of ageing Brits, like myself, so it can be a bit of a bubble, but I imagine the core demographic of hormone-fuelled teens throws things into disarray somewhat – they’re not great with nuance.

    • pepperfez says:

      The past two years, almost exactly. I think there’s something a little like the Trump phenomenon at work: There’s some legitimate discontent over industry practices (pricing, DRM, DLC, overpromising, whatever) that’s then seized upon by opportunistic neo-Nazis looking to start a culture war.
      And then suddenly we’re all yelling and don’t know why.

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        And a lot of them are just kids/teenagers who don’t know any better.

      • invitro says:

        “that’s then seized upon by opportunistic neo-Nazis looking to start a culture war.” — That’s a bit of hyperbole, isn’t it? I’d say it’s being seized upon by consumer advocates, hoping that someone will prosecute for fraud (I have no idea if this is a genuine case of fraud, and I know that certain consumer advocates are probably not too far away from neo-Nazis. :)

  9. Eight Rooks says:

    The ludonarrative dissonance piece was good, because it’s about time someone said “Uh, hang on, this is becoming something of a meaningless buzzword thrown out as the answer to everything wrong with videogames”, but I’d still like to see someone argue that, well, the “ludonarrative dissonance” in GTA IV doesn’t bother me because I never once ran around shooting civilians for the lulz, and never felt as if my experience was being overly guided or controlled by the developers as a result. Ho noes! The gameworld and my progression through any narrative within in doesn’t react with perfect fidelity to my every move! Ludonarrative dissonance, run for your lives!

    I mean, lazy sarcasm aside, it’s a perfectly valid issue, sure, it’s something that should be studied and debated at length, but I never seem to see people suggesting the player could maybe suck it up and get on with it, because until videogames offer a perfect one-to-one recreation of reality (and presumably the godlike powers to mess with it at will) there’s always going to be something that doesn’t quite function the way you think it should or want it to…? Do you criticize chess for ludonarrative dissonance because your opponent won’t let you rewrite the rules to acknowledge you’re free to pick up the pieces and dump them anywhere on the board you feel like?

    I’m pretty sure most people are happy enough to compromise, to acknowledge there’s a set of rules governing the “game” that provide a highly stylised representation of reality at best. Why can’t more people admit that’s kind of a necessary evil with videogames at the moment, or even the point of the medium – that the component parts don’t always fit together in a way that “makes sense”, the same as any other way we make-believe? Why is this or why was this ever treated as some kind of fatal flaw in the first place?

    • invitro says:

      Meaningless buzzwords being used in articles about video games? You don’t say!

    • pepperfez says:

      GTA is the model of ludonarrative consonance: you play a violent criminal doing violent crime. OK!
      It’s more things like Bioshock Infinite, which purports to tell a thoughtful story about race, fatherhood and redemption…by having its protagonist grind a series of guys’ faces off. It’s like the plot of Citizen Kane being told, unironically, through a slasher flick.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        I disliked Binfinite in large part because the writing was terrible in every respect to the point of near-incompetence and the grinding people’s faces off was boring and repetitive (I mean, I never actually used the grinding thing once beyond the tutorial, to be honest, but that’s another argument). Bioshock 2 involves shooting, stabbing and doing terrible things to a whole lot of people; it also led me to sympathise with the villain over the terrible things she did in part because of her genuine desire to ensure her daughter was safe and happy, and the (good) ending had me openly in tears. Buzzwords be damned – I mean, I know full well a significant part of this is my mind papering over the cracks, so to speak, but it’s still one of my favourite games of all time. Ludonarrative dissonance is undeniably important and a stumbling block developers ought to be considering every time they sit down to work – at the same time it’s simply not that much of a problem if the player doesn’t want it to be, and that’s a perfectly valid approach more people ought to talk about as well.

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        FhnuZoag says:

        The Ludonarrative Dissonance tag is generally attached to GTA *4*, which sought to attach meaning to its protagonist’s descent into violence – except the player could start mass murdering from minute 1 and the narrative still pretends that its protagonist is still an innocent.

        Bioshock Infinite, well. It wins few prizes for thematic coherence, for sure, but in this respect it’s not that bad. The game is *not* telling a thoughtful story about race, fatherhood and redemption. The story ultimately is actually an incredibly nihilist tale about the inevitability of violence, the impossibility of redemption, the inability of the protagonist to be anything even approximating a good father, culminating in you at the end killing yourself and wiping your daughter from existence in the process. Given that’s the story, the fact that you can only interact with the world via murder is actually fully thematically consonant. Everyone in the game is horrible and especially you.

    • Wulfram says:

      I think there’s a difference between gameplay/story segregation, which is essentially inevitable, and dissonance which is less so.

      The stuff the player can reasonably easily accept and mentally put to one side isn’t dissonant. The dissonant stuff is the stuff that breaks through the players willing suspension of disbelieve.

      Like, the player character being able to shrug off bullet wounds and slaughter their way through battalions is a very frequent bit of gameplay/story segregation, but its not dissonant because the protagonist is clearly supposed to be a total badass. But it becomes dissonant in Tomb Raider 2013 because that game goes to the effort to show the protagonist as human and vulnerable.

      Or how the oddity of people overlooking your being a Mage in Origins became dissonant in DA2 because Mages being hunted became a much more important part of the plot in that game.

      Or its like musicals. Everyone spontaneously breaking out for a big choreographed song and dance routine is pretty silly really, but you hopefully accept it as part of the deal of watching a musical. But it still matters that the right sort of music is played – there are happy songs for the happy bits, and sad songs or the sad bits and if you’re going to mix that up then you’d better have a good idea what you’re doing.

      • Premium User Badge

        zapatapon says:

        Nice comment – I love the musical comparison!

      • Eight Rooks says:

        Sort of? I just think the medium always comes with a certain amount of dissonance, but some people have started to think any of it is a disaster in the making. I’d argue musicals are fundamentally weird, for example – I’ve greatly enjoyed more than a few, but the basic “Uh… why are they bursting into song?” never completely goes away, IMO. I don’t think it does with anyone – just because an audience accepts it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s still dissonance. A lot of the people who complain about it in videogames – not all, by any means, but a lot – are the equivalent of people standing up in their seats and yelling “But but but they’re singing! Why are they singing?”

        “Ho noes, Nathan Drake went from smug wisecracks to straight-up murdering about a hundred guys! My brain can’t process this!” Uh, on the one hand they were clearly about to murder him first, and on the other hand it’s a necessary evil when you want to deliver the adventures of your sexy archaeologist as a Gears of War knockoff? (Though Uncharted features better shooting than any Gears of War – oh, I went there – which is yet another reason so many people are prepared to forgive the disconnect.) But nope; they’re singing! They shouldn’t be singing.

        I mean, sure, it’s worrying that the only way we can successfully pitch the adventures of a sexy archaeologist to the mass market is by throwing in hour after hour of wholesale slaughter, and sure, some of the weakest parts of Uncharted’s narrative come from trying to address that (the boss in 2, 3’s entire insultingly stupid plot). These are good arguments people have every right to make. Just whatever Clint Hocking intended in the first place, deploying the term at the drop of a hat as if it indicates something about cutscene -> shooting -> cutscene -> shooting signifies terrors that cannot be borne is disingenuous and misguided at best, IMO.

    • veerserif says:

      You make a good point! My angle was slightly different, though—it’s that ludonarrative dissonance can be a tool just like any other to advance the themes of a game, and it’s not as evil as those who use the term negatively might imply.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        Yeah, if you’re the author I did kind of hijack your original point a bit there. Apologies! It really was a good article, for what my opinion’s worth, and I do pretty much agree with the gist of it.

  10. Chillicothe says:

    There has been a replacement for ludonarrative dissonance: it’s Ludoscababib Discobiscuits.

    Also, it’s not that games ain’t art, it’s the judging of games via other media’s criteria (note how often one hears the comment “but where is video game’s Citizen Kane? *rabble*rabble*” in reguards to narrative, and the CRAFT of video game design and play. Spelunky in the making and play of is goddamn art, and art done right.

    • pepperfez says:

      the CRAFT of video game design and play

      Right: Great art is also great craft; that is, making a thing that is perfectly suited to its purpose. Criticism of games as craft is still embarrassingly limited, so expecting generally solid art criticism is way out there.

      • invitro says:

        I don’t know… since about 1900, craftiness and artsiness have been viewed as mostly independent measures. Something can be crafty without being arty, and vice versa.

  11. Shazbut says:

    Why does no-one ever talk about ludonarrative consonance?

    • zsd says:

      It is woefully ignored, along with ludonarrative sibilance and ludonarrative assonance.

    • LTK says:

      Because when it works, you don’t notice it.

    • shocked says:

      Here, have a few ludonarrative consonants:

      L D N R R T V C N S N N T S

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      zapatapon says:

      But they do. Take Brothers, or Papers Please, whose ludonarrative consonance has been lauded extensively.

      Actually I lifted these examples from Melody’s excellent comment earlier in the thread. Go read it now.

      BTW, my favorite example of ludonarrative consonance is Braid’s last level. Still totally blown away by that one.

  12. RaunakS says:

    Personally the most interesting piece from this week was the widely shared Doom graphics study, where Adrian Courrèges breaks down the procedures necessary to completely render particular frame in the game. It’s strange how far game dev has strewn from mainstream programming in that I had very little idea of the details and maths concerned. It really is a completely separate field of its own.

    link to

    • Geebs says:

      Thanks for the link, that’s really interesting. It’s kind of amazing that the overhead from all of that preprocessing and crazy hybrid forward rendering is still less expensive than just brute-forcing it.

      I’m totally going to steal the idea of using the previous frame as the screen-space reflection source.

  13. zsd says:

    Maybe I would be more in the loop if I were a developer, but the only time I ever hear ludonarrative dissonance mentioned is when someone does a piece on how it isn’t actually a thing.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      This is because everyone accepts that it’s a thing. It’s a fancy word for a really common, obvious concept.

      It doesn’t require a lot of discussion unless you want to write a dumb contrarian hot take about it.

  14. Michael Fogg says:

    >>> Oh and that groove down the middle of the sword: that’s there to let the air into the wound so you can pull the sword back out

    said the 14 year old larper to his buddy

  15. daphne says:

    “I am done apologizing for my craft.”

    I suspect that writing a lengthy article with a headline claiming that “Video Games Are Better” [Than Art, obviously] isn’t the best way to go about this. Combined with the endless posturing of the article, I am compelled to conclude, as so often happens in countless other contexts, that all this speech is symptomatic of a wound, not healing.

    I read his articles with great interest and usually find him with endowed a level-headedness most other talking heads of the gaming community do not display. This article, then, represents the reason why I wrote “usually” rather than “always”. A rare exception, and not exactly a plus for the video game self esteem scorecard.

    Try and do take over the world. I’m waiting, at least.

  16. Det. Bullock says:

    From the article about ludonarrative dissonance:
    “In the 2012 reboot of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is a shaky girl who breaks into tears when she kills a deer in order to feed herself, let alone later killing a man in self-defense.”

    I played through that game twice and don’t remember her breaking into tears, she just mumbles a “sorry”, gives the coup de grace to the deer and then we cut to her at the fireplace with some spit-roasted deer, there was dissonance but sure as hell wasn’t as blatant as the author makes it.

    • invitro says:

      I just restarted a game of Tomb Raider, and you’re right. I think Lara does cry when her mentor dies. She’s shaky at first, but quickly throws that off so she can get to the business of murdering hundreds of people.

      • Harlander says:

        Any thoughts on Iji as a portrayal of an innocent becoming hardened to killing?

        I mean, it probably doesn’t happen that fast in real life (I think the game takes place over several hours, a day or two at most), but still

        • invitro says:

          I’m sorry, I didn’t know what Iji was until I just googled it, and if it’s this 2008 game whose wikipedia page I’m looking at :). (In general, I don’t know nearly as much about video games as you folks do.)

  17. IaIaFhtagn says:

    That swords and armour article is… not good. Very few swords of the period would have been blunt – largely because the majority of opponents would have been lightly armoured, and because no matter how blunt a sword is, it’s going to be naff-all use against armour – and, as others have pointed out, the thing about the sword groove is also a complete myth.

  18. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    This video while not specifically about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s use of metaphor for racism it could easily be about Deus Ex:

  19. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Also, PROTIP: Don’t buy Spore on Steam. The online functionality doesn’t work meaning you only get to use your own creations and the pre-made ones.

    (Unless this has changed/is fixable since I last played)

  20. PikaBot says:

    The Vogel piece is one of the cringiest things I’ve read in a while.

  21. cannonballsimp says:

    The reasons given to replace the term “ludonarrative dissonance” are insufficient. They imply that we should replace the term “dissonance” as it applies to music, because it doesn’t tell us whether the dissonance was intentional or not. Ordinary English provides adjectives like “intentional” and “unintentional” for use when the context demands more specificity. Thankfully, the combinatorial properties of ordinary languages allow us to describe things without needing a separate word for each one

  22. invitro says:

    The comments here have made me curious: are there any of you that seek out older art to enjoy? Maybe that’s a naive question, maybe my knowledge of art is naive or limited. But I’m curious. I do… some examples by genre:

    I’m currently reading a lot of what is usually called “literature”, mostly fiction novels, and am using that recent Modern Library 100 list, and a Guardian list of 1000 novels, as sources. Some reads of the last couple of months: The Talented Mr. Ripley, No Country for Old Men, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Andromeda Strain, A High Wind in Jamaica, The Secret Agent. I mostly ignored literature until about four years ago.

    I think I’ve pretty thoroughly explored rock music as that’s been a top hobby of mine since I was a teenager. I still find things that are new to me, though. This year: Suicide’s first two albums, Station to Station, From Elvis in Memphis, CCR’s Pendulum. My main source has been Rolling Stone’s first top 100 albums list of 1987, but I listened to almost all of those by about 1995. I’ve been trying to sample some avant garde mid-1900’s stuff. I haven’t listened to much classical music, maybe because I had piano lessons for many years as a child :).

    I’m as unschooled on visual art as a person can get, but I own several of those enormous full-color modern art books and love to read & look at them. I think I love modern paintings more than any form of art other than rock music, my current favorites are Picasso, Ernst, de Chirico, and Klee. But I love finding artists/paintings that are new to me, especially modern art from 1900-1970.

    I’ve seen a pile of movies, but not many older movies. I guess I’m saving this art form for later. I guess the Sight and Sound list is as good a source as any, except it seems to me a little light on avant garde or experimental films, which I’ve enjoyed very much, the few that I’ve seen.