The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for hoping the weather is good so you can go out for a walk, but if it’s not, making a batch of roast potatoes and gravy at home instead… Maybe I hope for a little rain.

We linked this in its own post earlier in the week, but Brie Code’s Videogames Are Boring is the week’s best article, so here it is again. Set aside the nitpicking and talk about its content, yeah?

So my friends want not to be repulsed, to recognize their own tastes, and to find depth. Because we as an industry fail at the first two, my friends don’t get to experience that gaming is perhaps the most powerful medium for learning and for growing and changing as a person. As gamers, we know that a well-designed game mechanic can convey meaning more efficiently than a novel or film. Papers, Please taught us that. Train taught us that. This War of Mine. Etc.

There’s nothing revelatory in this article about Japanese arcades, but it made me long to live in a country where games were a public, social activity.

While arcades in the West kind of died out when consoles became as strong as arcade cabinets, that wasn’t really a factor in Japan. Arcades were “where you go to play exclusive stuff” for us, but for Japan it became another social space. Something that also reinforces this is the complexity of arcade games I’ve seen. I’m not talking about actual gameplay-complexity as much as a focus on persistence. Almost every cabinet will ask you for some card or account (I’ve noticed Nesica cards primarily, but there might be more). For fighting games, this will primarily let you keep track of your stats, rank, costume unlocks and other similar vanity things. But for other games, it can be your actual progress. I’ve also noticed plenty of card games, where I assume you either use real-world cards that are scanned or digital cards that you collect to your account.

I love how Wind Waker looks and felt great despair that people pitched a fit over its bright, cartoon graphics at the time of release. To spend some time basking in it, I enjoyed this graphics analysis of the game water.

This effect relies heavily on a simple little trick — compound sine curves. These are really useful little curves that can break up the patterns and help to create a more realistic aesthetic. Plus they can be used to create so many different effects — I’m finding more uses for them all the time. I’ll go through them in depth in just a moment.

At Zam, Yussef Cole examines Brendon Chung’s games (Quadrilateral Cowboy, et al.) in the context of art history. I am always skeptical of articles like theses and the comparisons they draw.

Chung claims that the “monumental task” of modeling “cabinets, floors, tables, salt-shakers, egg-beaters, kitchen sinks… would crush [him] like a bug,” to explain why his work is so minimal. But it’s worth noting the objects that he does include: The wrinkled, distrustful face of the waiter in Gravity Bone; the solid, plinking geometry of liquor bottles and bullets in Thirty Flights of Loving; the greased, clunky feel of your deck in Quadrilateral Cowboy -all stand out precisely because they exist as islands of expression in an otherwise sparse world. His minimalism may be out of necessity, but is also responsible for more iconic imagery. In tightening his focus, we are treated to formal work that is far stronger than if he had spread himself thin populating his games with useless and carelessly implemented props.

At Waypoint, you can read an excerpt of 120 Years Of Vlambeer, the book about the creators of Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing and Nuclear Throne. We remember covering the start of the company, given that we’ve been covering PC games since 1873.

“We were in a bar with [Sony Europe’s then head of Strategic Content] Shahid Ahmad and he basically wrote the contract on a coaster and said, ‘So, what do you need, and what do you want?’ We discussed it, and within a week we had everything we needed to start developing. We got the contract the day after we got the [development computer] hardware, not the other way round, like ‘Sign this and then…’ No, this was just that he trusted us, and we trusted them. Done.”

At The Guardian, Simon Parkin writes about the rise of the videogame soundtrack, through the lens of Abbey Road Studios in London and the increasing number of orchestral game scores recorded there.

It’s been a swift invasion. Senior engineer Andrew Dudman, who joined Abbey Road 20 years ago as an intern during his third year of college, remembers the first orchestral recording for a video game, Headhunter, almost 15 years ago. “It snuck under the radar,” he says. “But soon after we got Tomb Raider, and suddenly everyone here started paying attention.” The 2003 score Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, written by Peter Connelly and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, was one of the first recorded orchestral video game soundtracks, and was a galaxy away from the bleeps and snicks that had defined the medium’s music. Since then, blockbuster scores, from Halo to The Sims to Uncharted, have been recorded here at a quickening rate. “These days, game music is expected to be on a level with the films people watch,” explains Garvey. “The sound must match the advances in gaming’s visual fidelity.”

Music this week is St. Vincent’s Digital Witness, which I cannot stop listening to.

From this site

65 Comments

  1. ButteringSundays says:

    The video games are boring article was a great read. Some interesting insights in there!

    I work in a creative field, but one where often my audience can be anybody. Literally the first part of my process is to identify who I’m making things for, their needs, wants, goals etc. This is crucial context for creating something interactive.

    I feel that the game industry skips this step, and mostly just makes games for gamers.

    The key difference I see between my industry and the games industry is subtle but important. What I do is design: I take problems and constraints, wrap them in context and deliver solutions. But ‘designing’ a game is anything but, it’s art.

    And the thing with art is that it’s self expression.

    So I don’t know how we solve this issue. Without someone providing a target demographic (for what end?) I don’t see why folks would stop making things they want to make – and I have a suspicion that most people that make games are gamers.

    If there are capable folks out there that want to make different kinds of games for ‘non-gamers’ – how would they reach them?

    Perhaps more interestingly what makes a gamer a gamer other than an interest in games?

    • Kolyarut says:

      Making games for non-gamers comes with a single enormous roadblock – non-gamers don’t have the physical equipment required to play games, unless they live with someone who does. You could develop the most complex, amazing narrative game with interlinked plots and systems and unprecedented levels of interaction, but you’ll still need to persuade the potential customer that this game is worth spending hundreds of pounds on a console or a gaming PC, and possibly hundreds again on VR equipment… and you’ll need to persuade them that even if someone makes another game like this in the future, if it happens in more than five or so years time they’ll have to buy new hardware for that too because their current stuff will be out of date.

      And all of that’s if you can even persuade your potential non-gamer consumers that they actually do want to play a game at all – which is a challenge in and of itself, since you’re battling with their preconceptions of what games are (as set out in the article).

      I’m sure phones and tablets make things a little easier – since non-gamers are going to have them anyway – but we all know there’s a difference in the way you engage with with mobile vs. full-fledged “proper” games, and they limit the types of experiences you can offer.;

      • ButteringSundays says:

        Great point. I think this is why mobile gaming represented such a revolution in expanded gaming markets.

        Even snake on the old school Nokias made gamers out of non gamers.

      • LogicalDash says:

        You can make all kinds of games in a browser. Hell, Unity exports to html5. There’s a performance penalty I guess, but there are lots of traditional games that work fine in 2d without a lot of shaders.

    • Babymech says:

      I find it odd that every subculture has fans who truly believe that their subculture is for everyone, or that it should be. “Everyone should play video games, everyone should read comics, everyone should listen to punk rock. We are failures if we alienate anyone, ever.” Don’t get me wrong – if a subculture just mirrors and reinforces exclusion patterns in society at large that’s obviously fucked up, but other than that, I don’t see why anyone would expect every culture to appeal to everyone. I’ve certainly given up hope of surrounding myself with dedicated readers, and that’s fine.

      Sure, some of the mechanisms of gaming could appeal to literally everyone – gamification and reward mechanisms are pretty basic human triggers. That’s a long long cultural drop from the gaming culture we have today, though.

      (I like that she undercuts her own article by using Skyrim – one of the more game-y Go to X, Collect Y, Level up Z games around – as an example)

      • Babymech says:

        (also – this was an exceptionally dumb sentence: “As gamers, we know that a well-designed game mechanic can convey meaning more efficiently than a novel or film. Papers, Please taught us that.” Yeah.)

      • Frank says:

        I find it odd that you’re referring to a medium as a subculture. If you also consider “things that one can read in a dedicated way” a subculture, I think you’re misusing the term.

        • pepperfez says:

          It’s kind of a demonstration of exactly what Code’s talking about, isn’t it?

        • Babymech says:

          Video games are a medium, of sorts, though Interactive Digital Entertainment might be more of a medium, or just digital entertainment. Gamers are a subculture. The article is primarily saying that gaming is off-putting to many, and is going back and forth between talking about the medium and the subculture.

        • Don Reba says:

          Games are just a medium the same way a skateboard is just a mode of transportation.

      • Shinard says:

        It’s been mentioned before, but I wouldn’t call gaming a subculture. I mean, look at your other comparisons, punk rock and comics. They’re subcultures, and they’re not comparable to games as a whole. They’re subcultures of cultural mediums (music and literature) and gaming IS the medium. And I think in every medium there is something for anyone, and the same’s true of gaming. And if it’s not, or it seems to people that it’s not, that’s a problem that needs fixing.

        • Babymech says:

          Too most folks (who aren’t already gamers) gaming is a very small subset of all the stuff people do with computers. You think that gaming is a significant medium in itself, and that there are subcultures within that, but to non-gamers that is as abstract as the difference between the various ‘-cores’ of punk rock.

          • Shuck says:

            Gaming is like punk rock if the entire music industry never produced anything but different sub-genres of punk. People would listen to punk rock, not like it and erroneously decide “I don’t like music.” Gaming is a sub-culture because it has always successfully filtered out people (both as developers and players) who didn’t like the existing set of games – in fact, the industry only wanted to hire those who were “passionate” about existing games. Which just meant that only those types of games – or minor variants – got made in the future. The possibilities for what “games” (a vague term that encompasses a wide spectrum of interactive media) could be is huge; games in their current forms take up a very small part of that potential space.
            So yes, right now gaming is a sub-culture, but it doesn’t have to be – in fact, it shouldn’t be.

          • Wulfram says:

            Do you really think Pong, Battlefield, Civilization, Mario, The Sims, Elite, Need For Speed and Football Manager and Dragon Age all boil down to “different sub-genres”?

          • Shuck says:

            @Wulfram: Yeah, I do. Given the whole potential space of what games could be, those are all occupying a fairly small, related region. They may not all be branches of the same tree, but they’re at least trees grown from the same type of seeds. You obviously picked them to demonstrate the breadth of gaming experiences, but they fit into a few small categories. The Sims may be the odd game out, but it’s still heavily rooted in the tradition of simulation games in ways that it still hasn’t had the time to get away from very much. It’s not just whether they are or are not “murder sims” (or sci-fi/fantasy) but it’s also about shared mechanics, UI, etc. Even if we look at the games most often shouted down as “not games,” they’re still very much coming out of the structures and assumptions of “traditional” games.

          • Wulfram says:

            You must be using some unrecognisable to me definition of sub-genre.

    • Kollega says:

      What resonated with me is the idea that we need more games about creating and caring – not high-stakes adrenaline-filled action blockbusters, but something more slow-paced that allows us to explore the many parts of the human condition that do not involve guns and/or saying “mofo” a lot.

      In other words, where are our management games about actively rebuilding civilization after an apocalyptic event like a nuclear war, or our RPGs that do not feature a single violent encounter, resolving events through non-combat skills and character conversations instead? Where are our social stealth games where you get to “be in different places with your many friendly faces in disguise”? Where is our glut of roadtrip simulators that are only emerging as a genre now in 2016, and our sequels to The Movies that allow pretty much anyone to be a film director? Where are all the games that could, through either simulation or mechanical allegory, show us all the parts of the world and human life that are not centered around “guns and more guns”? Not that I dislike games about guns, but there’s just so much more out there other than weaponry and combat.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        Quite!

        In fact I’m not really into point and click murder games myself (not to say I don’t indulge occasionally). It’s an evolving industry and the games I can play today much better cater to my tastes than 20 or even 10 years ago.

        I mean I can’t get enough of My Summer Car. Try pitching that to a studio in 1995!!

      • shocked says:

        What resonated with me is the idea that we need more games about creating and caring

        But we have a lot of games like Banished, Cities:Skylines or Harvest Moon that are about caring, growing and building things. Perhaps some non-gamers would enjoy these games, but they don’t know about them?

        • pepperfez says:

          It’s odd that the games with the most universally appealing themes are mostly marketed to people who are already interested in games while the ones with enormous marketing are all rip-n-tear-n-adolescent-male.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            But, that’s not true. If you look at the most popular movies, books and television shows, you’ll see the average person likes to either laugh or be thrilled. And, generally, that’s not with media where everyone just gets along.

      • Shinard says:

        …dammit, Alpha Protocol, you were so close.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      I’ve been thinking more about this.

      There’s also a potential issue with preferences with regard to engaged interaction. I studied cognitive psychology and remember reading a lot about the barriers with regard to interactive TV. It focused on attitudes to mediums and the users willingness to engage with their entertainment.

      Books, art, movies etc are passive activities. Gaming is active. It’s a fundamentally different form of entertainment that some people won’t click with, especially if they’re in ‘sit at desk and work’ mode or ‘recline and relax on sofa mode’. Even browsing Facebook or reddit is a mostly passive form of digital entertainment.

      So maybe it’s less about the content and more about the medium (or more likely both).

    • Turkey says:

      I don’t see a huge change in the industry unless the current AAA model crashes or becomes less sustainable. Publishers aren’t going to make more diverse, less costly games for smaller audiences and less profits unless they absolutely have to.

      • Shuck says:

        The number of studios that have the resources to make AAA games has been dwindling steadily for a while now. The dynamics of AAA games isn’t relevant to most developers. So yeah, there’s absolutely the possibility of making games for new markets (that could, in fact, be much more profitable than the niche games they’re making now). The problems are two-fold: the industry selects for game developers who are interested in making a very narrow range of game experiences, and the potential audience for these new types of games is convinced that they “don’t like games” because of how narrowly “games” have been defined in the commercial market.

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    Andy_Panthro says:

    I’m a bit torn about the rise of big orchestral soundtracks. They can sometimes seem a bit indistinct or forgettable compared to some of the bolder and more memorable soundtracks of past games which relied on a limited number of people with limited tools.

    I’m reminded of the Every Frame A Painting video on film soundtracks that did the rounds recently, and while I didn’t agree with everything about that video it did raise a point that sometimes modern film soundtracks end up sounding very similar, and I think to some extent that happens in games too (as you might expect, games being so enamoured with movies).

    Much like debates on photo-realism and pixel art, I guess my point is that games (and films) should be made with a consistent direction that lends itself to the different aspects complimenting each other. The quote: “The sound must match the advances in gaming’s visual fidelity.” makes me a little disappointed because it suggests all the great work done in the past is somehow less worthwhile or lacks anything we can learn from today.

    • phelix says:

      I agree with your assessment. Reading your comment, I am reminded of a YouTube discussion where it becomes obvious that the theme for Dr. Strange, a large Hollywood movie you may have seen recently, is almost completely self-plagiarised from the Star Trek reboot soundtrack, another large Hollywood movie that you may have seen. To me, this is a symptom of the undervaluation of good and complementing soundtracks and scores in modern commercial media production, to the point that soundtracks are essentially filler for the audio track. I like to snobbishly call it the Zimmerification of scores.
      When games, and media in general are a commercial product, good music becomes an afterthought. After all, very few people play games just for their soundtracks, and many people don’t listen to the music at all.
      So when the game or movie du jour is accompanied by a mediocre cookie-cutter “orchestral” (just as often synthesised) soundtrack, it is met with criticism from a small minority, and the overwhelming portion of the audience just shrugs their shoulders.
      And if videogames are a commodity to be produced at a lower-is-better cost, why bother?

      /music elitist rant

      Apologies for the unwarranted rant, I have to vent some frustration.

      • Premium User Badge

        Andy_Panthro says:

        So I found a direct comparison here: link to youtube.com

        It’s pretty damn close between the two themes. While there’s nothing wrong with the music, it lacks the distinctiveness that would make you be able to identify it as being from a specific film. Are people picking composers just to reiterate their previous work in a slightly different way?

        • tigerfort says:

          The increasing similarity in modern film soundtracks is explained in this excellent discussion (on the universally excellent Every Frame a Painting channel).

          In rough summary – the problem is that the edit is now almost always done using “stand-in” temp music, so you wind up with a film that’s cut to match specific beats in the music from an earlier film. Then the composer gets sent the list of temp music and basically told “the score needs to match this, because if it doesn’t then the audio and visuals won’t work together”. Composers hate this but, well, everyone’s doing it and they need to work.

        • phelix says:

          Cynical me thinks it’s just lack of care and/or laziness on the producers’ part. The composer may view it as “yet another Hollywood action flick” or “just work” and fail to become motivated. I’m not sure.
          What I do know is that personal motivation is intrinsic to art as opposed to entertainment and that sometimes, brilliance shines through regardless of context and orchestration. If I may rant a little more, please allow me to illustrate this. I assume the topic interests you.

          Take for example the über-recognisable Super Mario theme. Did you know that the piece, rhythmically speaking, is a tango? I only realised that after looking up sheet music for a piano arrangement. When you pull away the “chiptune” aesthetic and look at purely the composition, the piece is still unique and recognisable. (another poster alluded to this with their low art/high art comparison)
          Compare this to Hans Zimmer and his contemporaries – pull away the bombastic orchestration and you are left with simple melodies built on year-one-level musical theory harmonies and a few compositional clichés thrown in for good measure, with nothing hinting at the themes a film or videogame may address. The soundtracks composed in such a manner thus become forgettable.
          As you can probably tell, this frustrates me immensely.

          Another videogame soundtrack which still ranks high in my mind, though in no small part due to nostalgia, is the Morrowind soundtrack. Jeremy Soule, the composer, utilised impressionist harmony and minimalist composition (i.e. the slow buildup of repeated musical motifs) to create a mysterious, yet adventurous ambiance. This complements the almost alien world of Vvardenfell incredibly well, in my opinion. I’ve always considered the soundtrack of the Elder Scrolls in general to be one of the games’ strong points, especially once they brought Soule in.

          Whoa, look at that. Another semi-rant. I should probably go make a cup of tea or something.

          • Turkey says:

            Yeah, Bethesda games are pretty good at having orchestral scores with good, recognizable hooks in them. They’re fairly crap at utilizing them for good effect, though. Sometimes it feels like you’re walking around with an mp3 player set on shuffle.

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          FhnuZoag says:

          Hmm, I can’t really say that the two themes are really the same. There’s similarities but I think they push a different emotional tone. The Star Trek theme opens much more slowly than the Dr Strange theme and generally feels less positive somehow?

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      cpt_freakout says:

      It seems to me that the article itself is torn by the “high” and “low” art divide, and the sentence you quote as well as the very end of the text reinforce a close-minded way of thinking in which chiptunes are ‘less advanced’ than orchestral music, or that just because some of the players in the orchestra don’t like or play videogames that somehow means the music is struggling for approval, or at least that’s what I got from that puzzling, somewhat disconnected conclusion.

      I don’t know, the article mentions Richard Jacques, but I think that what makes his work great would be anathema to someone like Simon Parkin: his cheesy, tacky pastiches of lounge jazz OSTs for Sega games like Sonic 3D and Metropolis Racing are incredibly FUN to listen to, precisely because he very smartly uses some entirely clichéd structures. It’s not innovative music, it doesn’t need the LPO and an 18th century violin to be played, but it’s just good videogame music because not only does it fit the themes of the games it’s attached to and makes those games even more fun to play, it also stands on its own as a particularly good variety of pastiche music.

      I mean, I might not be going too far if I say that anyone who’s ever played Streets of Rage 2 can come to understand why videogame music is so great in the same way anyone who’s ever watched a Stanley Kubrick movie can come to understand why film STs are so amazing, whether in the context of the film/game itself or when listened to apart from it. For every Austin Wintory, whose work I find among the best in the field right now, and who has conceivably more caché amongst the ‘musically literate’ (ugh), there’s, say, a Brian Gibson (Thumper), or Bill Elm & Woody Jackson (Red Dead Redemption), whose work is, vs. someone like Jacques, new music.

      Regarding your point about orchestral STs ending up sounding similar – usually it’s a matter of styles and context. Hans Zimmer’s music was pretty cool when he started out, but now every damn action flick uses the same goddamn forms he introduced to film OSTs from elsewhere in the classical music world. That doesn’t preclude, however, that there’s still interesting and moving orchestral OSTs out there from lesser known composers, even in equally big films (Clint Mansell or much more recently Jóhan Jóhannsson, for example). One of them, or maybe someone else, will make a big OST that will be a hit in its context and then a trillion other movie composers will copy that style for some time… and so on and so forth. So don’t worry, all the Final Fantasy soundtracks in the world won’t take Austin Wintory away. :) (Sorry for the long post, I love this topic)

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        Andy_Panthro says:

        It’s a topic I didn’t give much thought to until recently, only really knowing which ones I liked vs. ones I disregarded or were forgettable.

        I’m not a musical person, I don’t have any real knowledge about it so it’s difficult to articulate, but music can be such an important part of a game/film, especially when the music compliments it well.

        Not sure how good Streets of Rage 2 is as an example though, because as much as I love it there was obviously a huge amount of influence from popular club tracks of the time. But it was certainly distinctive!

    • Sin Vega says:

      Agreed. The unimaginative use of bog standard orchestral soundtracks is a big factor in making many games feel boring and generic.

      One thing I always loved about older game music in particular is the way the limitations forced composers to get creative and resourceful. I grew up imagining how it’d sound when those tunes could be done with better quality instruments and orchestration. It’s disappointing that so many have instead just used the instruments and left the experimentation behind.

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      FhnuZoag says:

      One other thing I wanna say is that memorability is not necessarily a goal of game music. It depends for example on how the music is used – if it’s always part of a multimedia package with the music supporting the mood that is shown on the screen, it can be good for the music to fade into the background. It can possibly be argued that a lot of music in games are memorable not due to the specialness of the music itself but how the music is deployed, like if there’s a scene where not much happens and you can just enjoy the music.

  3. Babymech says:

    “…one of the first recorded orchestral video game soundtracks, and [it] was a galaxy away from the bleeps and snicks that had defined the medium’s music.” I understand why somebody who is writing for the completely uninitiated would put it that way, but damn it sounds dumb.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Yes. Think the .mod soundtracks of Epic Games, most famous being the one from Deus Ex. Those are hardly ‘bleeps and bloops’, it’s iconic music in a style unique to the format. Way better than ersatz Zimmermanesque (as a commenter above put it) film score, which is the norm for big budget games.

    • Turkey says:

      Yup. That’s ignoring a huge chunk of 90s video game music. Almost all of it actually.

  4. gwop_the_derailer says:

    Here’s an article about an American driving an East German Trabant 601 for the first time. As Europeans, you lot might be a bit more familiar with these commie crapcans, but I find the history behind these cars utterly fascinating.

    “The East German government had nothing. No plans, no resources, just an old, leftover DKW factory and a general idea that the East German people needed a car they could afford.

    Beyond that, the didn’t have shit. The Trabant is a triumph of making something from nothing. They didn’t even have enough steel to build the bodies out of, so Trabant engineers developed what was the first large-scale application of recycling to solve this problem: they took cotton waste from the Soviet Union (think Breshnev’s old underpants) and phenol resins from the dye industry and used that to make Duroplast, the fiberglass-like stuff Trabant bodies were made from.”

  5. Wulfram says:

    Nitpicking aside, I think the Video Games Are Boring article is pretty bad. I mean, it starts out well enough, but it devolves into waffle after the Child of Light screenshot and then concludes by dumping your standard Indie Snob rant against “murder simulators”, and “toxic pseudo-realistic pseudo-masculine nonsense” apparently because the author has little to say about what would actually make a good video game beyond catchphrases.

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      Jekadu says:

      As a gamedev student I think it’s a fantastic article. The problem that is outlined is that the video game industry is largely stuck in a rut — that all we really know how to make are games that contain violence, competition, challenge or a mix thereof. The idea is that by considering more carefully what our potential audience might actually like, we can create a broader range of games and expand the medium.

      All this talk about “murder simulators” and the like is an observation of how games are generally viewed from the outside. The author carefully outlines why this is the case, and dismissing it because we’re tired of hearing about it doesn’t make the critique any less valid or persistent.

      • aepervius says:

        The “murder simulator” thingy is pretty silly, sorry. There are plenty of games which go beyond killing, in fact some goad you into using stealth or even non murdering method , or even sort of diplomacy to bypass adversity. Look at the steam game, there are plenty of those. But they don’t get sales. Why ? Because they are not attractive to many of the current crop of gamer. It is not that the industry is in a rut, it is that the industry is satisfying the demand. There is a reason why the last Battle-of-duty or callfield is getting million of sales…. Yet other game like stardew valley while being successful, does not. The only counter example is minecraft, and even there , you kill stuff (in survival mode). Look at for example talos principle. And there are many other some puzzly some constructive. The principle obstacle against many people going into gaming is not that it is about killing, as there are games without. No the principal obstacle is that it is mostly a solo experience, mostly not a social one and THAT is a factor which will make a lot of people disinterested. As for gaming being a medium not a sub culture, man who said it did not think it through. Gaming in general is a medium just like comic book IS a medium (claim above non withstanding). Comic becomes a sub-culture when you start to do it in a fashion as a form of hobbit , or in a fashion which goes beyond the average reader, and use a vocabulary / knowledge which go beyond your average reader, using signs and meanings that only that sub culture will steadily use (while some outside may recognize but rarely if ever use the sign/imagery/vocabulary). Same for gaming. This is the error many do (mostly because they are not part of that sub culture). You can read comic book without being part of that sub culture, same for gaming : that does not mean such sub culture does not exists.

      • Wulfram says:

        No, “I’m not remotely interested in […] murder simulators” is the author speaking for herself, and “We want games that aren’t gritty, toxic pseudo-realistic pseudo-masculine nonsense” is the author speaking for her studio. And the latter statement is about as insidery as you can get, in terminology and sentiment.

        Which is a lot of the problem with the article. Listening to the outsider is drowned out by the criticisms of the jaded insider.

        But of course the jaded insider plays well with the likes of RPS. Particularly when it confines itself to safely orthodox denunciations of big bad AAA and the reassuring creed that there’s a big audience out there that wants to play your games if only you could escape the embarassing shadow of the murder sim.

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          Jekadu says:

          I feel I should point out that the website this was posted on is an industry site, not a consumer site.

          • Wulfram says:

            I’m quite aware of that, thank you. Not sure why you felt the need to point it out.

      • Archonsod says:

        ‘all we really know how to make are games that contain violence, competition, challenge or a mix thereof’

        That’s because it’s pretty impossible to make a game without those things; play evolved for a reason. Sure, you could produce a game where everyone sat around talking with each other, but I’m pretty sure that would be more accurately labelled ‘a chatroom’.

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          Jekadu says:

          It’s laid out quite clearly in the article that this does not have to be the case. Consider for instance the popularity of “story mode” difficulty settings or sandbox games like Garry’s Mod.

          Consider also the popularity of choose-your-own-adventure games, walking simulators and visual novels. The key is player agency. Make the player feel like their input matters, if only in the sense that they can choose to disregard the next input prompt and quit at any time.

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    Aitrus says:

    St. Vincent! Woot woot!

  7. draglikepull says:

    I’m sympathetic to a lot of what the author of “Video Games Are Boring” is saying. I, too, would like to see a wider variety of games that cover more thematic and emotional ground. But I also get the impression that the author’s non-gaming friends are very unrepresentative of most of the market. This bit really stood out to me:

    “When my friends talk about why they don’t like video games, they are talking about three things. The most important thing is that they think video games lack depth. They say things like, ‘Unlike books/films/podcasts, with video games I don’t learn anything or change as a person’.”

    In fact, most people don’t want those things from films or novels either. I like literary fiction, but literary fiction is only a small fraction of the market for novels. Most novels that are sold are genre works with predictable elements and structure. They’re romance novels, thrillers, sci-fi, and fantasy. People return to those things over and over again because they like knowing what they’re getting into and that’s comforting.

    (That’s not to say that there is no room in those genres for deep, thoughtful works, only that most of what sells is somewhat rote.)

    And look at what movies draw the biggest audiences. It’s mostly cookie-cutter superhero films and low-brow comedies. I’m not saying those things are bad – people like what they like – but audiences don’t learn anything or “change as a person” as a result of them.

    So why should we expect video games to be any different? I’d love to see the video game equivalent of Crime & Punishment or Catch-22. But most people don’t want that from novels, and they don’t want it from video games either.

    • aepervius says:

      Heck even beynod that the ” with video games I don’t learn anything or change as a person’.”” is actually an over generalization from a person not knowing the genre, and since it is left as is in the article I would wager the author too is limited in its knowledge and scope about games. There are a few games which I would wager would change a person if ever slightly or teach stuff, on a similar level as films or book. I can’t speak of everybody, but “this war of mine”, and “planescape torment” – for example – are games which left me pensive and thoughtful than 99% of the film I saw in the last two decades.

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        Aitrus says:

        I haven’t read the article yet, but Dishonored somewhat changed me. I’m more aware of how humans affect each other with their actions and emotions on a daily basis, and more intentional with my own behavior, as a result of that game. But I played it at a particularly good time in my life to receive that message, so to another it may seem totally irrelevant (or obvious).

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        Aitrus says:

        “and since it is left as is in the article I would wager the author too is limited in its knowledge and scope about games”

        I’m not the only one who didn’t read the article before commenting, I guess. :P Here’s what follows that quote –

        “So my friends want not to be repulsed, to recognize their own tastes, and to find depth. Because we as an industry fail at the first two, my friends don’t get to experience that gaming is perhaps the most powerful medium for learning and for growing and changing as a person. As gamers, we know that a well-designed game mechanic can convey meaning more efficiently than a novel or film. Papers, Please taught us that. Train taught us that. This War of Mine. Etc.”

  8. aRGeeBee says:

    My biggest issue with the Games Are Boring article is that the author doesn’t address existing games that do break from that mold. Animal Crossing, The Sims, Myst, throughout the history of video games there are numerous games whose appeal goes beyond core-gamers.

    Those are just the mainstream examples, I’m also reminded of the Nancy Drew series of games which has a strong following outside of the usual “gaming” crowd. I’m not convinced that the games the author and her friends want don’t exist, I think they’re just outside of her AAA-focused view.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jekadu says:

      That’s the rub, though, isn’t it? Unless you’re really into video games, like, really into them, you’re not going to have heard about any of those.

  9. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    So, the video games are boring quote talks about ‘Train’ the video game. What is that? Never heard of it and it’s the least google-able title in the world. Can anyone point me in the right direction? Am curious to see what it is. Thanks

  10. Crane says:

    While I enjoyed “Games Are Boring”, I can’t help but observe a trend with these articles:
    Not one of them ever seems to lay out a detailed design of a game which would overcome these problems. (If I’m wrong, then for god’s sake point me at it, I’d be fascinated to see it)

    I’ve seen quite a lot of articles in a broadly similar vein, with more or less emphasis on the overwhelmingly white/male/straight makeup of the games industry and the preponderance of games which revolve principally around killing things.

    But none of them put forth a reasonably detailed design for a game which fits their desires.
    “We want games about how each of us could be in the future, how the world could be in the future. We want games built on compassion and respect and fearlessness.”
    Pretty rhetoric. But not a jot of detail. Not even a vague elevator-pitch idea, like “why can’t I play a game about working on a suicide prevention hotline and gradually coming to better understand the problems different characters from different demographics face” (I’d play that)

    I’m not saying, I hasten to add, that the opinions of the writers are invalid just because they don’t sit down and make their dream game from scratch in their bedroom. But it so often seems to me that their dream game isn’t even fully formed enough in their own minds to describe clearly.

    On a side note, I do wish people would stop using the phrase “murder simulator” — not only is it cheap, Daily Mail-esque provocation, it’s also not really very accurate — none of the games people use it to refer to go into as much depth simulating murder as, for example, Train Simulator does with its simulation of trains.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      I suspect they can’t write it out because if they did it would turn out that they’re describing Minecraft or The Sims or Stardew Valley or a pervy Japanese dating simulator with tentacles or anyone of a billion management games and then they’d look pretty silly.

      I think the games are there, and Farmville showed millions of people traditionally not into games are open to play quite obsessivly – in conclusion: sorry they’re just not that into you games.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Captain Narol says:

    Assassin’s Creed, Hitman, Styx, even Shadow of Mordor… Yeah, talking of “Murder Simulator” is just a provocation, there’s no game that tries to simulate murder seriously…

  12. Chillicothe says:

    ..”is the week’s best article, so here it is again. Set aside the nitpicking and talk about its , yeah?”

    It’s already been proven by just to be too anecdotal and partial in scope to be much more than another attempt to set game design off in wierd snipe hunts. Please forgive me for my inability to maintain any further an endless font of respectful discourse over an article that kinda got more than it really earned already.

    also: video games music: it’s legit now that its philharmonic! /blech

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