The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for filling in while the usual paperboy is away on holiday, squinting at the words through new glasses because your eyes are still suspicious that the world is too in-focus and it must be up to something.

Abby Denton looks at Flash games on Newgrounds after the September 11 attacks. It’s strange seeing these games after all these years and instantly remembering discussions, arguments, and jokes from online communities in the aftermath.

The first game posted to Newgrounds on the morning of September 11, 2001 came at 6:40 AM EST, 2 hours before the first Tower was struck. The last hurrah of the invincible America was Bush Aerobics, a browser toy where then-President George W. Bush dances to some jaunty tunes.

Over on The Verge, Megan Farokhmanesh talks to a number of current and former Telltale employees to build a picture of the studio’s problems following its explosive growth after The Walking Dead.

The story of Telltale — its rise, decline, and potential reformation — is not just the story of the missteps of one studio. It’s a shocking window into the $36 billion video game industry (which is now so large and lucrative that it rivals the film industry), and how its worst practices can grind down and burn out even the most devoted and valuable employees.

I keep failing to post about the wonderful Manifesto Jam organised by Emilie Reed in February. A load of developers wrote manifestos, dreaming of many different futures for games, game development, games culture, and beyond. I had intended to cover all this in a series of posts but ah, look, we’re here now. I like manifestos, and liked reading randomly through these. Many are both tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious, and it’s great. I laughed at lots while totally agreeing.

Manifestos are important precisely because they are impractical. Whether positive or negative, whether embracing potential worlds or outright rejecting the one you’re in. They are visionary, they demand, they refuse. Manifestoes can be of any scale, defining your personal aesthetic or how to fix the entire world, but they cannot be satisfied.

As for specific manifestos, sure, here are a few. Michael McMaster’s Against Introspection declared it illegal to make video games about video games.

Pixel art is immediately outlawed, of course — the clearest symptom of a regressive yearning for a past that no longer has any power or influence beyond that very yearning. A self-perpetuating feedback loop that produced countless beautiful works with absolutely no aesthetic ambition whatsoever; a display of polish and proficiency that makes no attempt to convey anything other than a worship of the past. Games described as “retro” are now declared pure expressions of Neoclassicism: a game development tradition that is ostensibly interested in exploring/innovating/maximising within a specific design space, but inevitably reproduces a tired rehash of misinterpreted ideals, reinforcing the (now illegal) monoculture.

Heather Robertson wrote the Meatpunk Manifesto:

1. MEATPUNK GAMES ARE ABOUT SURVIVAL IN HARD CIRCUMSTANCES
the world is super fucked up right now and we live in a giant capitalist machine that will grind all our bones into dust to make bread for the rich. there are no heroes in meatpunk games, only people doing their damnedest to make it through the day. the goal of success is not grace, in making it through the game unscathed, but in taking as many hits as you humanly can and stand up again and again to take more. there may not be hope but we have each other and we can trust our fists and that’s enough

The Inhumanity of Hit Points by “BabylonTheGreat” rebukes the limitations of game design built around these ubiquitous numbers:

When people criticize walking simulators or visual novels for “not being video games” it is tempting to think of them are merely being reactionary towards the breadth of the medium. But it is perhaps more apt to say that both the walking simulator designers and their critics have integrated the hitpoint so deeply into their conception of video games that they cannot imagine many video game verbs that do not include them. Games like Firewatch do not have much in the way of interactive activity (beyond doling out narrative via scavenger hunt) because so many of the other verbs that could be added have been taken over by the grasping hands of the hitpoint, and the connection with combat that that entails.

Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux ask What Should We Do With Our Games?

The greatest trick the videogame industry ever pulled was convincing the world that videogames were games in the first place.

And Tom Smith’s Skeleton Manifesto is strong:

– skeletons should not wear armour because if a skeleton wanted to wear armour it would keep its skin
– wizard robes are an exception but ABSOLUTELY no hats or helmets
– if a skeleton has big fat crystals all over it somehow from being in a weird cave that’s okay. that is in fact: way good.

Okay! Away from manifestos and over to… a load of other posts on the same topic. Waypoint have focused this past week on guns in video games. Austin Walker kicked the week off:

Great art doesn’t ignore violence, it actively explores the nuance of its power, using it as metaphor, as catalyst for major plot development, as the expression of a climactic release of tension. In the real world, the complexity of violence is even greater: A real appraisal of violence demands you contend with how it has shattered lives, yet also how it has protected them; how it has been a tool in the struggle against oppression, yet often works (whether performed or threatened, whether direct or indirect) to maintain the most tyrannical status quo.

But guns in games rarely carry the power of real violence. Instead, they gesture at power, the way a flexing muscle might suggest the possibilities offered by bulging biceps yet prioritizes first and foremost the pose.

Patrick Klepek talked with Daniel Rosen, the creator of Receiver – a game which simulates the mechanical workings of guns in painstaking and frustrating detail.

“A more interesting question to me,” he continued, “is ‘Could video games teach gun owners how to use them safely?’ Every year, about 12,000 people are accidentally shot in the United States. I’m hoping that spreading knowledge about how firearms work could have some effect, at least a little bit. Anyone who has played Receiver will know that a gun might still be loaded even if it has no magazine, that a revolver can still fire even if the hammer is not cocked, and that it’s easy to fire a gun by accident if you have your finger on the trigger.”

Danielle Riendeau talked with Ben Burbank, who has made a habit of playing shooters without shooting:

“I was at work and got a text from my wife that started with ‘I want you to know the kids and I are safe but…’ and she explained a shooting that they’d just been involved in,” my friend (and Campo Santo programmer) Ben Burbank told me by email, about the scariest message he ever received. “A man had pulled out a gun in the grocery store parking lot and had fired more than a dozen rounds in all directions before speeding off. She saw him look directly at her, our kids in the car, and she ducked and our lives haven’t really been exactly the same since.”

And Kelsey Atherton and Ian Boudreau delved into dressing guns up to look cool – “tacticool”:

It’s hard to define precisely—though you often know it when you see it—but it transformed firearms and associated equipment from functional specialty gear into elaborate statements of identity and belief. Its origins are inextricably connected to a modern gun culture that grew up around the AR-15, the civilian version of the US Army’s standard infantry rifle—and a video game culture whose development paralleled it.

The Game Developers Conference has just wrapped up but, before it started, Bruno Dias wrote a series of posts criticising GDC. We tend not to cover GDC itself, because we’re not too industry-focused, instead just using it to write about the developers and games gathered there. So hey, here’s something about the event. Dias explored issues from the negatives of hosting it in San Francisco to splitting off “advocacy” as a separate conference track:

“Advocacy” tries to pursue the cultural cachet of seeming like a progressive industry without actually integrating progressive thinking into the practices of the industry; it’s meant to ensure that if you follow your assigned conference track, you don’t encounter social critique of the work you’re doing.

Geoff Manaugh (of BLDGBLOG) in The New York Times talks with an amateur sleuth trying to find a man who went missing in Joshua Tree National Park eight years ago. This isn’t strictly games, but I am fascinated by people treating real-world tragedies as puzzles for funsies.

“Getting into missing-persons cases was a way for me to stimulate my brain,” Adam Marsland told me. We were hiking into a remote region of the park known as Smith Water Canyon, where Marsland had logged more than 140 miles, often alone, looking for Bill Ewasko. Marsland, now 52, was a pop musician living in the suburbs of Los Angeles. He calls himself a “desert rat” and told me he is used to taking long solo hikes in the Mojave and beyond. “I love being a musician,” he said, “but it isn’t an intellectual puzzle most of the time. Developing this hobby was like I wasn’t a musician for a while: I could be a detective.”

Music this week is Shannon and The Clams.

46 Comments

  1. kwyjibo says:

    Favourite thing I read this week was this tweet about how Eurogamer is almost entirely staffed by identikit beardy white guys, and its response.

    link to twitter.com

    • brgillespie says:

      “9. Perhaps this one is the toughest one, but don’t ditch a female writer so readily. I know I’ve missed deadlines and submitted bad copy, and it’s almost always down to anxiety. I’m not saying it’s ok, but it’s not necessarily an offence that merits being blacklisted forever.”

      Riiiight. Did someone get canned for poor work and decide to set the business on fire?

      • brgillespie says:

        Ms. Gray has a point about diversity and such, but some of her “guidelines” don’t sound too professional (or perhaps she’s simply naive/lacks experience about some things):

        1. Have clear, helpful editing & submission guidelines that don’t require jumping through 100 hoops.
        The business must cater to me, not the other way around?

        2. Be attentive while editing, and offer criticism and thoughts during the process – don’t leave your writers guessing and worrying.
        There’s something to be said about editors mentoring young writers, but maybe don’t expect or demand this?

        3. Specifically reach out to people. New writers, old writers, game developers, artists – don’t just wait for them to come to you.
        Recruitment. That make sense.

        4. Advise women directly to apply for jobs.
        Recruit more women. That makes sense.

        5. Refer women to your friends on other publications.
        Networking. That makes sense.

        6. DO NOT. EXPECT US. TO WORK. FOR FREE.
        No shit.

        7. If a woman lowballs you in an interview, and you KNOW you can afford more, you tell her. TELL. HER. She is not your budget-saving loophole.
        Hahaha, yeah, fucking right. It’s incumbent upon the prospective employee to research the position they’re applying for and request a competitive salary. Businesses aren’t charities, and if you lowball yourself, expect a lowball salary.

        9. Perhaps this one is the toughest one, but don’t ditch a female writer so readily. I know I’ve missed deadlines and submitted bad copy, and it’s almost always down to anxiety. I’m not saying it’s ok, but it’s not necessarily an offence that merits being blacklisted forever.
        Already commented on this one. As above, sounds like she wasn’t a good employee, or made too many mistakes.

        10. Recommend the female writers you use to others. Talk them up. Tell them when they do good work. Help them get the confidence they might lack.
        Networking makes sense, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be recommending writers who miss deadlines and submit poor work…

        11. For god’s sake, NOMINATE WOMEN FOR AWARDS. Nominate all of them. Not just the names everyone knows, but new ones, too.
        Makes sense. Still, employees who submit bad work and miss deadlines aren’t going to be nominated for shit…

        • Ghostbird says:

          So, in summary, you think her points make sense but also that it’s totally her own fault and she should be quiet?

          • Archonsod says:

            Pretty much anyone can tell you how to make a company good for employees. Actually being a good employee on the other hand is a much rarer skill.

          • brgillespie says:

            Pretty much. It’s ironic that her own problems for apparently being fired seem more attrituable to her being a poor employee rather than anything to do with the gender representation she discusses in the rest of her Twitter thread.

          • Someoldguy says:

            That’s not a fair assessment of the previous posters comments and I think you know that.

            Kate Grey’s absolutely right for calling out clear failings in publications like Eurogamer. I don’t have any demographics for how many people are trying to make a career writing about gaming or tech. The perception is that this is likely to be a sphere where men outnumber the women, but it’s clearly not 100-0. RPS disprove that consistently. Eurogamer’s recruiting process for getting staff or submissions from freelancers is clearly failing miserably to be gender representative. Maybe they’ve had their eye off the ball because they’ve been selecting for multilingual tech experts from diverse European nations first and that has inadvertently led to gender bias being pushed off the radar. They need to take a close look at themselves and move to address it. If we start inspecting for all bias someone will be flinging accusations at RPS next for having a small team that doesn’t include significant ethnic diversity.

            Her peripheral points about cutting staff some slack for missing deadlines or poor copy is unhelpful to her core argument. Any big organisation where I have worked, you need to earn credit by delivering high quality work. If you’ve done that then a bad patch gets support, sympathy and an opportunity to return to acceptable performance. When I did contract work it was different. One bad piece or failure to deliver and you knew your number went to the bottom of the pile of people to call for the next job. It’s not pleasant but it’s not discriminatory if it happens to everybody. If it was a tradesperson that did a shit job fixing a problem in your house, you would not be obliged to give them a second chance before looking to see if somebody else could do it better next time you want some work done.

          • Ghostbird says:

            I think my reading of this comment thread is at least as fair as all the attempts in it to represent a woman’s complaints about discrimination as a fit of pique about being fired. So much about What She Definitely Did Wrong and nothing for Eurogamer? I can see what makes you uncomfortable and what doesn’t.

          • Someoldguy says:

            That’s not a fair assessment of my previous comments and I think you know that.

          • Baines says:

            @Ghostbird
            brgillespie agreed with about half the points, and most of those honestly should have been gender-neutral points.

            The rest were pretty much asking for preferential treatment and extra allowances for bad female employees. (According to Ms. Gray, women specifically should be told if the salary they requested was too low, so I guess she is fine with men being paid less that the going rate. Female employees shouldn’t be fired for doing their job poorly? Every single female writer should be nominated for awards simply because they are women, regardless of talent or capability?)

          • Vespa says:

            As others have written much more eloquently, this response is unfair and is misrepresenting the content of the original post. It’s subverting something and turning it around to be inflammatory and/or forward another agenda. In essence, it’s pretty ****ed up. How about leaving this type of toxic behavior to unhealthy relationships… better yet, consider therapy. This is something that is happening too much in the world and, well, basically, **** off – You’re an ***.

          • Babymech says:

            @Ghostbird …”I can see what makes you uncomfortable and what doesn’t.” Why is this still a debate tactic people use? It’s both. Both is the answer. Both. Both things are bad.

            You can’t just say “Sure, I was disingenuous, but I note that you’re apparently more interested in talking about my disingenuousness than about global warming – WHY IS THAT, I WONDER”. The most damning fact and and most relevant statement was the 1% statistic. Her guidelines helped to undermine the impact of that statistic, by, for example, suggesting that employers who want to reverse a sh***y disparity have to accept subpar work and voluntarily overpay workers. Acknowledging the problem with those guidelines doesn’t change how damning the 1% statistic is.

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          It’s funny that these two which seemed to get most of your derision.

          “1. Have clear, helpful editing & submission guidelines that don’t require jumping through 100 hoops” and “2. Be attentive while editing, and offer criticism and thoughts during the process – don’t leave your writers guessing and worrying”

          Since those are to me, as someone who’s worked in text-based media for most of my life, completely reasonable bellwethers of an editor’s skill and professionalism. Not to mention part of the foundation for attracting and producing consistently good copy.

          They’re also the two things which, if missing, would make it hardest to know if you’re being rejected for editorial reasons or because, for instance, the editor found out you were a feminist, or you said mean things about some sexual predator friend of the editor, or just aren’t part of the club, or whatever. So I can definitely understand why they would be in her list.

          But, again, to be clear: they are things any editor worth their salt should be doing anyway. I don’t know anything about the author of those tweets, but the fact that she feels she needs to outline stuff this basic doesn’t speak well of the gaming press.

      • dskzero says:

        I thought I was imagining things, but she’s literally blaming her poor work on anxiety. I mean, it does result in poor work and it’s awful, but people don’t have to accept your poor work.

    • Chromatose says:

      Good grief, the comments on Eurogamer’s response were so unbelievably cringey. I really wish Angry Internet Mans would realize that in fact we do not live in a perfect meritocracy.

      • Phantom_Renegade says:

        I can’t seem to find the Eurogamer response, did they take it offline?

    • kwyjibo says:

      I didn’t see this earlier, but it turns out that Graham Smith, of “The Sunday Papers” fame had this to say about it.

      link to twitter.com

      • batraz says:

        Good lord… the sweet smell of pharisaic submission. But will it ever be enough ?

  2. aepervius says:

    “Hitpoints have strangled the imagination out of video games.” did not we have that discussion before ? I would have sworn….

    Well hitpoints are here to stay because they are a wonderful abstraction to communicate with the player on a failure state. Until the author of that manifesto propose a better abstraction, then we can discuss. But all I can see are throw away comment in the same vein as “cloth are constraining , maaaan. We should, what, ditch cloth”. Same level of discourse really.

    Fact is that alternative to hit points were looked at in PnP rpg, in games etc…. But the problem is that sooner or later it will come down to the abstraction of hit points because the player need to know how far he is from failure state. Even reflecting the failure state on the character model (e.g. wounds) does not help if it is too abstract e.g. the player not only need to know if he is at death’s door or only scratched, but also at more subtle graduation than those two.

    If you don’t properly communicate failure state, then you are not making a fun game. There was a game,a rpg , I can’t recall its name (for good reason IMO), but basically it used a system of NOT showing hit points but having re4d splotch or red shadow on the corner of screen. It absolutely sucked. It was very difficult to udenrstand if you were far or near total failure.

    Maybe somebody will do a game where not knowing such failure state is fun, but so far hitpoints have become a mainstream abstraction because of a very good reason. It works well to communicate state to the player.

    • wcq says:

      My issues with most implementations of hit points are as follows:

      A) They will actually fail to communicate the information you described. In many games, you have X hitpoints depending on your level, your gear and what you had for lunch. Enemies will do Y points of damage, depending on the move they used, their level and the current phase of the moon. Meaning, you will never actually know how many times you can get hit without extensive research.

      B) Hitpoints are completely detached from the world that the game presents, on a separate level of abstraction. Meaning, taking damage in hitpoints doesn’t mean that the character is actually wounded in the world.

      • aepervius says:

        Actually A and B comes down to poor or good implementation. In most game you know A even without research as you will know for your level roughly how much that Y is, there will be variation yes, but usually it does not go suddenly from 1/20 of X to 19/20 of X. There is in good game a good gauge on how many hit you can sustain. Bad one introduce wildly variation from scratch to one-shot (and I count the critical hit possibility on mob side as a bad variation).

        For the other issue B, it was *tried* to have such impact, e.g. the fallout series has such a limb damage location. Take too many damage and the limb does not work properly, including vision if it was the head. Other implementation included your abilities degrading with your health (That is what also the red fog is adding in XCOM IIRC) – which suffer from spiral cascade effect (you get hit, you handle the fight less well, which enhance the possibility of getting more hit, thus a spiral of death for you – not a good design IMO). So such implementation DO exists, but many designer avoid them. Why ? because done onto you the player, they *usually* add a not-so-fun layer. Heck, i love fallout localized damage, but they can be so debilitating and distract from the fun nature of the game…

        Again, there is a lot out there which was tried. There is a reason why it mostly come down to an integer value, or a lineal value (life bar).

        In the end the game has to be FUN. If your removal of HP remove fun…. Then… you missed the point.

        • wcq says:

          I just find implementations that don’t fall into either of these categories very rare. Especially in games with heavy leveling systems, which I think I just plain dislike at this point.

          Point B wasn’t really a call for realism, per se. I’m just saying that it breaks immersion if the game world doesn’t acknowledge in any way that this man you’re chatting with was beat to within an inch of his life just five seconds before.

          • aepervius says:

            Because of this spiraling problem mostly. I mean some rpg do take that into account under the form of wounds, which degrade your capacity, but from Vampire to DSA, they mostly make things more complicated and realistic without making them more interesting or fun.

            Look we all realize that that 1200 HP dragon in reality should fight sluggishly and with less precision at 1 HP than at 1199 Hp but for the sake of the game, it will have the same +tohit and +dam at both those HP levels. I play D&D and pathfinder every friday, and we often make fun of that. But guess what ? It is still more enjoyable than a degrading skill system.

          • Someoldguy says:

            It’s down to the level of complexity you are comfortable with and how fast you can process the information and make decisions based on it. Fallout could have a complicated set of injuries because it handled all the calculations for you and in a turn based environment there’s no rush to make your next decision. Plus in most cases you were dishing them out rather than receiving them; if you got your arm blown off you’d reload rather than play the next part of the game short of a limb. Very few people would find that level of detail useful in a realtime environment, or at the table where you’re having to adjust percentage hit scores by hand. Games where players take 5 minutes to take their turn are a real downer.

            One alternative is the sort of thing you see in arcade games like Mario Cart. You can activate powerups to produce a short term effect, but you’re rarely under the effect of more than a couple at once, plus you’re not modelling damage to the cart at all. That works nicely. It just gets out of control a bit when you’re in a game like Pillars of Eternity where you have a significant number of stats impacting your combat ability, a health bar and mana bar to monitor and potentially dozens of positive and negative buffs on you simultaneously. Some people love that shit but these days I’d rather dial the combat difficulty down a notch and only have to worry about removing a few key status effects that really cripple you and/or getting those states applied to the enemies.

          • aepervius says:

            But is mario cart really a good example of absence of hit points ? It is basically a one-shot-kill type of game. You get hit by a shell, that’s it you are slowed down, it is not on the 3rd hit with an invisible bar decreasing. This is a very poor model for rpg. This is not about having 100 stats, but the one-hit-kill model has not been used in rpg for a long time for a good reason. It is prevalent in hard plateformer and racing game – Mario is a racing game.

          • Someoldguy says:

            Mario was not intended as a separate example for how to do RPGs but as a segue into discussing PoE where the number of status effects you can cope with in a real time (with pause) game is finite and you can easily go over the limit many people are comfortable with.

      • Archonsod says:

        “They will actually fail to communicate the information you described. In many games, you have X hitpoints depending on your level, your gear and what you had for lunch. Enemies will do Y points of damage, depending on the move they used, their level and the current phase of the moon. Meaning, you will never actually know how many times you can get hit without extensive research.”

        The idea isn’t to know exactly how many times you can get hit, it’s to know exactly how much you’re risking at a given hit point total. If you know each hit does ten damage and the character has ten hit points you know they’re dead on the next hit, so the obvious choice is to deal with that via whatever mechanism is available. If on the other hand each hit will do between five to fifteen damage there’s an incentive not to deal with it at the risk of losing the character, which tends to make for more interesting gameplay, particularly if the means of dealing with the damage are finite.

        • aepervius says:

          It depends on the game. In some guy a little bit of variation can be fun, in other it distracts (slay the spire would be worst with varying HP loss). But that’s not a reason to say “hit point should be dead and removed” like that manifesto does.

    • ThePuzzler says:

      I was trying to think of something to replace hit points in an X-Com-like tactics game I’m writing.

      It would have to be something based on realistic injuries. A bullet hits a character, and instead of reducing a bar, it shatters their thigh, or pierces their large intestine, or something. Then I’d have to simulate the effects of that on their ability to move and fight, and come up with a realistic medical prognosis, assuming they survive the battle.

      But I’d also need a way to decide whether or not someone actually dies. Do I allow characters to drop dead instantly because they were randomly hit in the eye by a stray bullet? And should multiple smaller injuries kill you? How many times can you get shot in the hands and feet and still survive?

      I considered a ‘blood loss’ system where I keep track of how many pints of blood you have in your body, and if you lose more than a certain amount (either instantly from large wounds, or slowly from bleed) you fall unconscious, and if you lose much more than that you die. But then ‘blood’ is just hit points by another name…

      • aepervius says:

        Yes, I went thru such a phase 20 years ago trying to design a system without hitpoints, but had always to come back to a system which could be proxied to hit points at the end. Be it number of limb severely wounded, or amount of blood, at some points you have to set a qualitative limit. And when it comes to implementation… That qualitative limit will almost entirely certainly come to a numerical one. So in the end it comes to one trying to hide the HP abstraction from the player for no real good reason, and finally using it in the “background”.

        It is an old problem, discussed over and over on regular basis. But sometimes there is a good reason some solution are used. Hit points when you think about it is a fantastic solution to the qualitative and quantitative determination of failure state in fights.

        • Baines says:

          The big problem is that in the end, realism often isn’t particularly fun.

          Realistically, the same attack can be anything from an insignificant flesh wound to an instantly fatal hit, depending on how and where it lands. You can have that variability even within a rather limited area. People don’t really like this because it makes it difficult to judge risk, and everything becomes a game of chance (and people will rant and rave if they believe they’ve been ****ed by chance.)

          Realistically, getting wounded is going to degrade your abilities. But that can trigger a downward spiral, as being wounded makes it more likely that you will be wounded again, while simultaneously making it harder to wound your foes. And that isn’t always particularly fun to play. You end up in a situation that might as well have been modeled with limited hit points, as after taking a damaging hits you end up incapacitated or otherwise ineffective anyway.

          And realistically, most games are aiming at “fantasy” settings where realism is only given a passing notice.

    • Premium User Badge

      alison says:

      This week has a great set of links, so i have much more to read, but i’ll pause to take a crack at answering this.

      I think the author of the hitpoint article did offer up some alternative mechanisms, specifically mentioning the reward mechanics of walking sims and narrative games earlier in the piece as well as the more advanced emotional manipulation techniques of film toward the end. From my own experience I would put forward adventure games following the LucasArts philosophy as an example of a game genre that successfully evolved beyond using scores and arbitrary fail states to motivate the player.

      I don’t think the author of the piece is expecting every developer in the world to give up making certain types of games where the mechanics are entirely based around hitpoints, attack/defense stats and so on. I think they are just trying to open the minds of developers (and perhaps also gamers) to think about what else might be possible in the medium.

      Here’s my takeaway from the article. There are some real-world situations where a person might feel a sense of achievement based on a “score” – for example, they might get a bonus or raise at work. But there are also plenty of real-world situations where a person might feel a sense of great joy or satisfaction that has no “score” involved at all – for example, falling in love or making it to a mountain peak after a long climb or just taking a different route home and stumbling across a fabulous little bar. Similarly, we have all experienced great loss and failure in life without needing a score to tell us that’s what happened. Why shouldn’t game developers strive to tell their stories or bring us memorable experiences in this way?

      On to the next good reads…

      • aepervius says:

        Just a point though : the manifesto isn’t “get ride of HP from some video game like racing or adventure game where they have no place” The manifesto is completely getting ride of them. “Death to HP! Banish It From Video Games!”. Note the complete general statement.

        Look, speaking of adventure game, racing game or whatever is beside the point. We know those are not done with a failure state with HP (well mostly there are a few with HP hybridising adventure and rpg). The point is that he want with his manifesto to get completely ride of them. Look at the ehader of each part too , reinforcing that point.

        So let us concentrate the discussion on rpg and where HP are used nowadays.

    • Michael Anson says:

      There are other ways to communicate failure states, however. Take SimCity and similar games. Their failure state is bankruptcy. This can directly translate to action games: every hit costs you money (inevitable hospital costs) while critical hits end the mission in failure immediately. Tie in money to the acquisition of gear for missions and you wind up with the interesting mechanic where skilled and careful play is preferable because it leaves you in a better state to move forward.

  3. Faldrath says:

    The Telltale tale is depressingly familiar these days, isn’t it? Business culture in general is so warped, one wonders how anything gets made at all.

    Very good links this week, Alice. Thanks for that.

    • Faldrath says:

      And reading Bruno Dias’ series just strengthens that feeling. Although I think most of his comments apply to pretty much every kind of conference, business or academic – if it is “for profit”, it’s likely to be skewed in that way. I suppose gaming’s difference might be the “reserve army” of starry eyed young people hoping to “make it” and accepting outrageous conditions, which isn’t as prominent in other businesses these days.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Lo says:

    So.. many.. open tabs now x)

  5. Zenicetus says:

    In that “Receiver” article, the developer’s heart might be in the right place about educating gun owners to avoid accidents, but a video game isn’t going to do that.

    Operating a firearm is a *physical* process, not just a visual one, which is all a video game can represent. Safety comes from a combination of fixed rules and total familiarity with the handling of a specific model of gun. How to hold it, carry it, clear and inspect the breech, operate any mechanical safeties and so on.

    There are some general principles, but also differences in specific guns. The safety drill for a Colt 1911 style pistol is different from the drill for a Glock, and both are different from a revolver. Firing is different too. The trigger feel of a single-action pistol is different from the trigger pull of a double-action pistol or revolver, which affects aim and control. You don’t get that in a video game (until we get haptic feedback glove controllers, I guess). These physical elements have to be trained and re-trained often enough to be instinctive.

    Maybe the one thing a video game could do is start each sequence with unlocking a gun safe or trigger guard to enable the weapon, and then end each sequence with locking the gun up safely again. Of course, that goes against the grain of instant gratification in FPS games. Players would probably just skip that sequence or gloss over it.

  6. KenTWOu says:

    Ben Burbank, who has made a habit of playing shooters without shooting…

    Speaking of shooting, one of the main reasons I prefer Splinter Cell over MGS series is the lack of tranquilizer gun. Boy, I hate this silly thing. Because in terms of gameplay mechanics and game feel it’s a gun with the bullets which just happen to be non-lethal. But using it you’re still shooting enemies left and right aiming for their heads.

    Meanwhile in Splinter Cell you have special tools with different kinds of non-lethal projectiles: air foil rings, sticky shockers, gas grenades, different types of darts in the last game, etc. They have shorter effective ranges, parabolic trajectories, cool emergent effects. You don’t even need to point some of them at the enemy’s body.
    That’s why when you’re using non-lethal means in Splinter Cell it doesn’t feel the same way as shooting a gun.

  7. Arglebargle says:

    The tacticool trope seems to be oblivious to the fact that historically there are some extremely, elaborately filigreed firearms. The customizable, accessorizing elements are just modern streams of similar urges.

  8. Lawlcopt0r says:

    The skeleton manifesto is funny but I honestly hope it’s a mistake that he suggests I pay 2 dollars for downloading a txt document that contained maybe six sentences. You don’t have to but still

  9. duns4t says:

    i STRONGLY disagree with the skeleton manifesto on “ABSOLUTELY no hats or helmets” and the manifesto contradicts itself a few lines down:

    “skeletons need skulls for sure though, a skull-less skeleton is a pile of bones”.

    headgear makes skeletal sense.

  10. MrBehemoth says:

    Alice, I love that your copy of “Chat / it’s fate” looks like you dropped it in the bath.

  11. Babymech says:

    I don’t see why Half-Life 2 would be banned in the Manifesto Against Introspection in Videogames. If the problem is a lack of intertextuality, surely Half-Life 2 is sufficiently steeped in and referential to scifi and action movie cultural expression to pass muster? Is Half-Life 2 only a game about Half-Life? Is Dark Souls only a game about Demon Souls?

  12. Phasma Felis says:

    I need to get a sledgehammer with “PIXEL ART IS A LEGITIMATE STYLISTIC CHOICE, MOTHERFUCKERS” engraved on it.