March 27th

March 27th, 2011 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on March 27th)

It’s This Week In Videogame Blogging. Short and sweet this week as I have videogames I need to get back to playing. Straight into it then.

At the intriguing new blog Gamamoto, Pietro Polsinelli looks at Dinner Date, and has a nice wine to wash it down with it:

This is a game where living the story is everything. The story is completely canned, there is no interactive storytelling – thank god, actually. The craft went in the writing, and then supporting the story in a fitting environment, creating the right atmosphere. You must be a player capable of enjoying this atmosphere – it’s not a game for neurotic teenagers.

Jaime Griesemer at The Tip of the Sphere blog talks about why he plays every game as if it’s a 7.5, and what that means for designers:

At the beginning of a project, when you are prototyping a new game mechanic, you are not going to have a polished, tuned experience.  It’s going to be noisy and buggy and awkward.  You are going to need the ability to spot the glimpses of fun, no matter how obscured or faint, even if they only exist for a few seconds at a time.  You need to lower your flow barrier, learn to ignore distractions and technical errors, to focus in on fun gameplay instantly before it slips away.  You need to spontaneously create a polished form of the game through imagination and mental tricks like making your own sound effects and storylines.  All so you can snatch up those seeds and grow them until everyone on the team can see them.

Nicholas Geist at the Saved Games and Lost Lives blog writes about the idea of treating the “Reviews as a Lens” – i.e. ostensibly using the review format to look at games, irrespective of age, etc:

The more I think about it, though, the more I feel like reviews are more valuable to us than recommendations. For me, the importance of reviews isn’t rooted in whether or not to buy the game in question. It’s the value reviews offer as a genre of writing, as unique as the essay or the letter, that serves as a lens for looking toward a game. What reviews offer is a chance to change our stance toward the games we play, to think about them in a new and different way, and to draw conclusions about what the game means.

A pair of pieces from the Kill Screen website, the first: ‘Radical Dreamers’ by Jason Johnson talks about Timothy Leary and videogames:

Leary had lofty ideas about the role and function of games. He wanted them to be intimate experiences. He thought they could exhibit the ultimate potential of the mind. As a result, overambitious ideas sunk most of his projects before they ever got started.

The second, by Brendan Keogh, is a story about fun times had at GDC, itself masquerading as a review of the full-body-action game Ninja. Even the piece is in a Ninja disguise!

Another duo this week, but from the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog. Scott Juster grasps at the meaning behind Jason Rohrer’s Inside a Star Filled Sky, and Kris Ligman regales us with tales of ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsless Rogue: ‘Dragon Age II”s Isabela’.

At GayGamer, Denis Farr gets in touch with Irrational’s Ken Levine to talk to him about the flamboyant character of Sander Cohen in Bioshock:

…as Levine confided, “If you asked Sander Cohen is he was gay, he’d probably say no.” It’s in the details.

The Escapist magazine has a very interesting piece by one Robert Rath called ‘Ghosts of Juarez’, exploring the violence plagued Mexican city’s relationship with one videogame, namely Ghost Recon: Advance Warfighter 2:

…bad press wasn’t the only issue. In GRAW2, an attempted Mexican army rebellion backed by Central American mercenaries spreads to Juárez and spills over the border into El Paso. The game follows the Ghosts, a U.S. Army black ops unit that assists loyalist Mexican forces in putting down the insurgency. Though absurd to American audiences, this plot was incredibly provocative from the perspective of the Mexican government.

Do you remember the real-time, asynchronous multiplayer, browser-based space strategy game Neptune’s Pride? Joel Goodwin of the Electron Dance blog was part of a cadre of videogame bloggers who jumped into a game about a month ago and who has now written up the experience. Here’s the index page for the series, and this is how it kicks off, in the part titled ‘Sartre was right’:

Jean-Paul Sartre famously opined, “Hell is other people.” Actually he opined “L’enfer, c’est les autres” but I don’t understand a word of that.

This is the story of four weeks spent in a Sartrean hell known as Neptune’s Pride.

At the Alive Tiny World blog, Katie Williams writes about the iPhone game Sally’s Spa, putting herself inside the rapidly fraying mind of the titular Sally.

The author of The Gwumps blog wrote this week about ‘Post-Traumatic Wastelands’:

…whether or not you choose to have sex with a bi-curious elf who sounds like Antonio Banderas, the trend seems to be continuing – game developers are trying to incorporate more and more “realistic” elements of adventuring as they expand what an RPG can do.  Two games especially – Dead Space II and Fallout: New Vegas – have tackled with various success two key elements that I think have been horribly, almost criminally, overlooked.  These are: 1) The effects of violence on the psyche and 2) The emotional tolls of dealing with that violence.

Dear Readers, you’ve been keeping up with Leigh and Kirk’s Final Fantasy VII email series, correct? It’s up to part IV. Good.

Something for those interested in Game Preservation: at Bitmob this week, Rus McLaughlin talks to Chris Melissinos of the Smithsonian Museum’s ‘Art of Videogames’ exhibition.

And finally for this week (I did say it was going to be short!) the ‘Overthinking It’ blog author ‘Stokes’ looks at ‘Grand Theft Auto and the Problem of Evil’. An interesting music on an old subject, and one that could definitely see its implications fleshed out into a book chapter length investigation.

March 20th

March 20th, 2011 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on March 20th)

Sunday is for pulling oneself together and pretending to be a genuine chronicler of the latest and greatest pieces of videogame writing, blogging and criticism. It’s also for celebrating the 50th Birthday of the woman who mysteriously decided that giving birth to me would be something akin to a good idea. Happy Birthday Mum, and sorry for being such a difficult baby. It’s time for This Week In Videogame Blogging!

Brendan Caldwell writing for RPS about Garry’s Mod discovers what the harsh world of online tinkering is really like. Featuring the odd stabbing, face shooting, and wetting of oneself, it’s really quite a ride: ‘Living and Breathing in Garry’s Mod’.

Matthew Burns of Magical Wasteland writes the deadly serious, ‘Why we don’t have female characters’:

Women are difficult to model because they have– they’re sort of put together– well, let me put it this way: male bone structure is mostly made up of ninety-degree angles. Right? Maybe a couple forty-fives here and there. But it’s simple, and that makes it easy. I guess I shouldn’t say “easy,” but I mean more straightforward.

Jim Rossignol on his personal blog designs the ideal Williams Burroughs game, “where you battle the forces of control by distributing fucked up ideas across the city.” I’d play that.

Brendan Keogh writing for the Kill Screen Magazine website this week tells us, ‘Sackboy says no words’. Keogh plays LBP2 with his significant other, and relates how the non-verbal communication goes down in the game. It’s very cute:

Instead of Helen telling me to “go over there,” and pointing at a corner of the television screen, Helen’s Sackgirl herself points at a switch within the world and my Sackboy goes there. When he finds the wrong switch, Sackgirl shakes her head angrily and points again. This time my Sackboy gets it right, and Sackgirl grins and gives a thumb up.

The Border House + Able Gamers + Gay Gamer + Pax East = a nearly one hour video of the Pax East talk entitled ‘One of us’. It’s all about what it can be like at times for an all-too-often excluded minority within the already decidedly minority that is the life-long, serious, quote-unquote “hardcore” gamer.

The author of the Quiet Babylon blog writes this week about videogame architecture and how it,

…focuses on the journey, not the destination. Whole cities are laid out in a way that only makes sense if you are trying to have as much fun as possible going from point A to point B. They do not reward or even allow efficient transit. Video games are about long strings of interesting travel. They have few loops and many way-markers. Video game architecture drives you forwards to the next thing.

Over at community site Bitmob, Rob Savillo has written an interesting piece about storytelling in two zombie/strategy games: Atom Zombie Smasher and Trapped Dead.

Missed this last week: Dierdra Kiai on her personal blog responding to Brian Moriarty’s talk at GDC explains why she appreciates the fact that games are hard to shoehorn into the typical categories of ‘Great Art’ which are often uncritically presented as holding universal appeal (even though they’re made by mostly dead white men):

…the very reason games are so compelling to me as an artist is that they’re more removed from notions of “high art” than any other medium. There’s more uncharted territory and less tradition, fewer obstacles to surmount in getting unknown voices heard.

Karl Parakenings at Design Robot writes about what he learned from GDC, and it’s all good points. The one I picked up on as the most worthwhile however was, “It’s not who you know, but who interests you and is interested in you” which I think is the key to a whole lot of things. If I could give one piece of advice on what would help people get the most out of GDC it would be to “make sure you are interesting and/or are doing interesting things”. Tales! Of! Interest!

Have you been reading Leigh Alexander and Kirk Hamilton’s letter series about Final Fantasy VII at Paste Magazine? Hamilton is the wide-eyed rookie and Alexander is the tough-as-nails FF veteran in this excellent series that covers some genuinely new ground on the now decade old game.

JP Grant writes up Jane McGonigal’s PAX East keynote for Gamer Melodico. Having attended her talk at GDC, it seemed to cover very similar ground and Grant shared many of the same criticisms people made at the time. Definitely worth reading and thinking about though:

Jane McGonigal occupies an interesting position in the industry right now. She’s one of academia’s most highly visible proponents of gaming, yet she also inspires a certain degree of cynicism. Her new book, Reality Is Broken, outlines her eager conviction that gamers are a powerful force for good. I can see why it’s hard to reconcile that outlook with, well, Dickwolves. Sometimes, all you can hope for is that Reality Is Alright.

Riffing off of McGonigal’s book title, Matthew Burns writes about the GDC experience from the perspective of an indie developer trying to pitch his game to publishers, in ‘Reality is Bokeh’. A nice alternative take on GDC.

He ain’t heavy…  Denis Farr at the Vorpal Bunny Ranch responds to the character of Carver in Dragon Age 2, in a post titled ‘Carver’s My Brother’:

By the time I was running around Kirkwall, earning coin for an expedition into the Deep Roads, I found the arguments my brother and I kept getting into rather endearing. Well, not endearing. Intriguing? I overuse that word–it’s become as meaningless as interesting or stuff.


Another hugely fantastic piece by Tanner Higgin on space, mapping, and race in videogames and Left 4 Dead in particular:

Mapping, often associated with level design, is the active manufacture of gamespace. When a designer makes a map they are creating space. The aspect of this process that interests me is how this process of arrangement of space in videogames is yet another site where racial difference is constructed. Space in games, and its active creation through architecture, geography, maps, and sociality, affects the negotiation of identity within gamespace in ways that mimic and exacerbate our current understandings of space and identity.

Michael Abbott looks at some community created maps in LittleBigPlanet 2 that are being used to teach children, in ‘LittleBig Classroom’.

Dilyan Damyanov has a very well thought-out piece at the Split/Screen Co-op blog this week, where he writes about Fallout’s currency arguing that,

On the surface, Fallout’s bottle-cap currency is a clever gimmick, that seems to lend realism to the world in which the games play out. Dig deeper though and you will find its very existence is logically unjustifiable.

Hmm, somehow I missed this last week, but we still have tome to rectify that – At Game Set Watch, Andrew Vanden Bossche wrote about the strange indie game Beautiful Escape: Duneoneer, and in particular how it deploys dialogue decisions:

Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer has some of the most compassionate dialogue options of any game I’ve played, perversely appropriate for the psychopathic protagonist. This is a game in which you lure innocent strangers to your basement to be tortured to death, but it’s also a damning critique of how video games use dialogue to represent relationships.

Aaron Poppleton at Pop Matters wrote this week about the critical darling No More Heroes and ‘The Meaning of Meaninglessness’ in said game.

The Rampant Games blog looks at indie tower defence game Defender’s Quest and what happens when you possibly end up ‘Over streamlining the CRPG’.

Troy Goodfellow at the Flash of Steel blog is back and has picked up his series on ‘The National Character’ as portrayed in strategy games (primarily the Civilization’s) – this time it’s the French taking a turn.

Last, but by no means least, Mark Sample writing for the Play The Past blog talks about Tropico’s virtual prisons:

Once a prison is built and you have enough money in the treasury to pay your guards, it is possible, in what the game calls the “Edict Mode,” to arrest anybody, at anytime. The edict mode shifts gameplay into a state of emergency, what the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls the “state of exception.” Put simply, the state of exception is the power to suspend the rule of law in the name of preserving the rule of law. If we follow Agamben’s argument that “the [concentration] camp is the space that is opened when the state of exception begins to become the rule” (168), we begin to understand the entire gamespace of Tropico as a virtual camp. That is, it is possible for the entire island in Tropico to become a semi-permanent nether-region, in which individuals who are already tracked, traced, and tagged can be stripped of their political and social rights without any legal protection.

Thanks again to everyone who sent in their own or other people’s work – please don’t hesitate to do the same.

March 13th

March 13th, 2011 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on March 13th)

I’m back from San Francisco and the Game Developers Conference (where I had a blast and, incidentally, got to meet some of you fine readers. Thanks to everyone who came up and said hi!) so it must be time to catch up on some reading. First a thing or two I missed while away, then a bunch of GDC related stuff, then finally a few things written this week. Settle in for the long haul, it’s This Week In Videogame Blogging.

I’ve been looking for an excuse to link to the Persona Matters blog for a while and now I have one. Johannes Koski is self-confessed not “the kind of person the GTA games are marketed for” and yet, she is interested in finding out what she can find to like about the game. A new and different perspective on an old game! More of this, bloggers! Surprising herself, Koski even enjoys the killing:

GTA games have a lot of killing, no surprise there. But it’s very interesting! The violence is so varied and presented on so many different levels. There’s the very obvious in-your-face violence of the cut-scenes, the killing sprees the missions demand, and the often overlooked collateral damage of carefree driving the game mechanics invariably lead to. No matter what the plot of the game is, there’s always a narrative of bullets and carnage weaving in and out of the player’s focus.

Here’s another thing from a little while ago: the temporarily dormant blog ‘Touché Bitches’ is back, and providing readers with a travel guide to the new maps being added to Starcraft 2’s 1v1 game. A clever approach.

Courtney Stanton of the Here Is A Thing blog wrote during GDC (how does anyone do it?) this piece full of brutal honesty and self-reflection that, frankly, has been really helpful to me in understanding some of what Jane McGonigal has been talking about lately. Here’s how Stanton describes ‘Staying Alive in a Broken Reality’.

Tom Chick was on a panel at GDC and I was silly enough to miss it! But he’s written about the experience so that’s good then: it’s all about what happened when he was sitting down next to a bunch of the designers of the games he panned recently. Yes, cringe worthy moments abound, but also some great points.

Hello Mr Brian Moriarty! I was in the audience for your talk at GDC. I was there when the audience reacted to your agitation and hyperbole. I was there tweeting about it with disdain. It was a rather confusing talk, wasn’t it? Taking up one position before refuting it just as quickly. It was a real rollercoaster and it got people talking, I’ll give you that. But no. Not without problems. At least you’ve put the text (and slides) online for all to see. At least that’s something.

Jamin Brophy-Warren gave a micro-talk at GDC all about communicating gaming to non-players, and he’s shared the text of that talk on the Killscreen Magazine website. I’m on the same page with this one. It’s an important thing:

What videogames lack is a vernacular. A native tongue that all who play games can converse in openly. The lack of this common narrative culture frightens me as we are moving out of a world where people ask, “Are you a gamer?” and moving into a world where we ask, “What games do you play?” We are finally crossing that precipice, but when we finally find our voice, we will have nothing to say.

Another Tom, Tom Francis for PC Gamer this time, on ‘How mainstream games butchered themselves and why it’s my fault’, although to be honest it’s not really his fault but if it makes him feel good I can roll with it. As Francis sees it, mainstream games are:

…locked in a destructive cycle of dickification: I resent when you take control away from me, so I’m as much of a dick as the controls permit. You see dicks like me being dicks in your playtests, and you think of new ways to be bigger dicks back: to force me to watch your scenes, play out your script, follow your high-school reading level plot.

Tanner Higgin writing this week for his personal blog, aimed at the more academic sections of the audience, on the topic of ‘videogames as critical race pedagogy’ has this to say:

We need to not only create new games that educate, but reflect back on games of all kinds that have already been created. There’s a lot to be learned about our culture from Call of Duty. The problem is that this learning often takes place without basic literacies of the videogame medium.

Tim Stone at Rock Paper Shotgun talks about the dilemma faced by game reviewers who hold the competing desires of maintaining honesty and integrity while also trying to depict a game (through screenshots) in an eye catching way. A more sexed up headline might be ‘Are game reviewers lying about games through screenshots?!’ but the title is actually the much more sensible, ‘No Flash Photography: A Fraps Fiend Frets’:

As that ambulance-chasing reviewer, I’m really not sure it should be my job to ensure a game looks its absolute best, yet find it impossible to stop myself searching for pleasing compositions. As a reader, I don’t want to give up my kabooms and my sunsets, but I think I’d also appreciate the odd ‘control’ image or some acknowledgement that the pictures I’m perusing may be rare delicacies rather than the set menu. It’s a sticky situation for sure.

Laura Michet mentioned this simply incredible article on twitter this week: it’s from the Minesweeper Wiki describing the saga behind the near-mythical intermediate difficulty ‘Dreamboard’ and the word record times it produced. It’s like King of Kong, but with more participants:

Gernot then set a new world record of 12 seconds on 7 Oct 2000. There was a delay before Damien updated Authoritative Minesweeper then Matt McGinley (USA) posted 16 Nov 2000: “Wow! 12 in intermediate! And Gernot got the SAME EXACT BOARD AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hmmmmm, something’s not right in the game of minesweeper”. The new record was accepted, but this meant one person could get the same board multiple times. Over the next few months more players completed the Dreamboard or found other duplicate boards, but it was still believed these boards appeared by chance.

Stunning to read about the history of competitive Minesweeper, of all things. And once you’ve read that, perhaps you might want to know how the issue was resolved? The Winmine Congress, “established in response to controversy over the Dreamboard and Board Cycles. Seven members were elected to resolve these problems.” That’s good then.

Laura Michet has been busy this week then, blogging for Second Persons shooter she found time to reflect on the PAX keynote of last year, the kind of message it sent, and why she’s excited by the choice of speaker this year.

Pippin Barr wrote this week about ‘How To: Commune’ in Multiplayer Minecraft.

Responding to the Tom Bissell / Simon Ferrari back-and-forth on Paste a few weeks ago, Patrick Holleman at The Game Design Forum discusses ‘The Architecture of Dreams’ (which sounds like it could be about Inception, but it isn’t).

Brendan Caldwell at The Shore blog writes about, well, a dream or hypothetical situation in which he tells the UK Prime Minister David Cameron a joke about a Human, a Turian and a Salarian. ‘From Here to Eternity‘. Mass Effect and The Real World collide.

Okay, so I’m super duper conflicted on this next video and here’s why – I think it’s kinda wrong. Or to be a little more kind, it’s a simplistic treatment of a whole category of issues that many people smarter than I have devoted entire careers to. Is it unfair to judge a 7 minute flash video by the standards of nearly a hundred years of scholarship? Probably, but I’m going to do it anyway: So watch this ‘Extra Credits’ video from The Escapist on what makes a good or ‘True Female Character’ and know that it’s probably the best you’re going to get from a 7 minute video at the present time.

But maybe it got you thinking about some of the statements it makes like, for example, “For the majority of great characters their gender doesn’t really matter…”. This is really only something that someone with the privileges associated with (in this case) being male could really say. “Great character status and X-issue are not related” is a line of reasoning that’s been explored before; swap out the issue of gender with the issue of sexuality and there is a fantastic post by Robert Yang that demonstrates why this kind of reasoning is both flawed and pernicious. At any rate, if the Extra Credits video makes you wonder about these terribly complicated issues, perhaps this page at The Border House is your next stop.

And speaking of The Border House, they’ve posted a near exhaustive list of women working in videogames, primarily with the aim of being able to follow some or all of them on twitter. I know my twitter feed heavily trends male, and this list has already helped correct that some ways.

Have we reached the end? We have! But wait, who’s that over there – ‘Mr Schafer, I presume?’ Yes.

March 6th

March 7th, 2011 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on March 6th)

GDC is over and Ben is recovering from a hangover [Oh god I have no sense of balance – Ed.] so I’m picking this up for one more week. This is my actual one-year anniversary for starting to write TWIVGB.

Since Dragon Age 2 is being released next week, we start this round up with the bloggers looking back in preparation for the new one. Kirk Hamilton and Denis Farr look back at Dragon Age: Origins and what the new direction the sequel is taking could mean for the franchise. Denis continues writing about Origins over at GayGamer looking at some under discussed characters, Hespith and Branka. And Kris Ligman in her Miss Anthropy column at PopMatters expresses her appreciation over the first game’s creation of real characters and women she actually liked to play.

Also at PopMatters this week, Aaron Poppleton asks, “What is scary in Horror Games?” and looks at three different examples to see what makes each type scary. G. Christopher Williams contends that Bulletstorm fails to be camp since it doesn’t go far enough in making fun of stupid games, being too close to the truth of it. Nick Dincola continues to talk about the latest Medal of Honor, this time looking at what made the multiplayer such a disaster.

Maggie Greene, this week, found out she has become a chapter in a PhD dissertation and decided, since she is still alive unlike most sources, to create a few more sources, detailing in broad strokes her history at Kotaku, to help out in the research.

Brenda Brathwaite on her personal design blog transcribes her GDC rant from the section called Social Game Developers Rant Back. Simon Ferrari on his blog Chungking Espresso writes an “informal, uninvited rant” called “How to Write a Book About Games.” Also riffing off a GDC talk, Michael the Brainygamer Abbot talks about “Rollercoaster bias” of David Cage when it comes to his own work. And finally Tadhg Kelly explains the implications of the two revelations, which happened within minutes of each other of different sides of the city, between Satoru Iwata and Steve Jobs.

Rob Zacny has been playing War in the East recently and writes about how strategy games have become too much about systems and so little of the personalities that caused many of the mistakes in the real war. Meanwhile, Jonathan McCalmont has a post at Futurismic: “Seeing like a State: Why Strategy Games Make Us Think and Behave Like Brutal Psychopaths.” The title says it all, but here’s a taste:

Stripped of the moral fig leaf of historical context, Syndicate asked us to assume to role of a corporate CEO who used cybernetically enhanced slaves to battle rival CEOs for control over a virtual environment that enslaved the entire human race. For the first time, players were asked to embody not mythical beings or historical princes but ruthlessly exploitative capitalist tyrants. The fact that playing a corporation was no different to playing a god or a warlord merely served to drive home the moral message: You are a complete bastard.

J.P. Grant writing for Gamers with Jobs talks about the stats that video games keep track of and their usefulness to the gamer.

The three big critics that work at the Escapist Magazine, Yahtzee, James Portnow and Moviebob come together in a written round table to talk about the current console gaming environment.

Ben Villarreal writes a literary video game critique by looking at the Victorian literature influence and thematic similarities to the modern survival horror genre. Love this piece:

This area of interest began while I was first playing Resident Evil 5 in 2009. As I played it, I was struck with the number of plot similarities between it and Sir H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines — one of my favorite novels. Haggard epitomizes one of the most popular late 19th century British literary genres — the adventure story for boys. Many of its characteristics are found in Resident Evil 5 (and even Resident Evil 4): travel to a distant land, horrific events, exotic women, and treasure of some kind, all found on the route to “manhood.”

Mark B. at KokuGamer writes a call to arms to video game critics to start fixing the over inflated system of review scoring, saying it’s unhelpful and deceptive to consumers and harmful to the industry as a whole.

The Boston Phoenix’s Maddy Myers’ article on the Dickwolves controversy has gone up. She explains it for people who have no idea what it is all about and while it is may seem slanted, it is deservedly so.

Laura Michet at Second Person Shooter talks about the cost of art and how public art is paid for. She then suggests, maybe a museum fund some a public art game for display.

Justin Keverne writes about a “Framework for Systemic Storytelling” and a list of things that create believable characters and more important character interaction through systemic means.

Radek Koncewicz from Significant Bits looking at 20 level design lessons from Super Mario Brothers 3. For contrast, Tevis Thompson explains how Sonic the Hedgehog‘s recent failure may be because the design was never good in the first place.

Eric Schwarz at his blog Critical Missive explains the difference between open-world games and sandbox games and how size isn’t what really matters between the two.

On the surface, what makes these games might seem obvious: the sheer scale of the world and options available to the player. After all, most games of this nature in the past have featured immense scale when compared to more linear games. But looking a little deeper, that can’t just be what it is. Although the size of the world is especially a consideration in an open-world game, to say that sheer size is what makes such a game is foolhardy. After all, FUEL had the largest 3D game world in history, yet its design utterly failed to capitalize on the scale the technology was able to provide, nor did it manage to motivate players to continue through the game after the initial “wow” factor. No, the differences between open-world games and sandbox games are much different, and are largely due to the fundamental differences in design approach.

Matthew Gallant, back to writing at his blog The Quixotic Engineer, explors one of the best Team Fortress 2 multiplayer maps, ‘Steel’, and the dynamic ebb and flow it offers.

Kill Screen’s Kyle Chayka looks at how the abstract nature of the first arcade games, most notably Pong, and their artistic similarities to the abstract artists of the 1920s and 30s.

Paul Sztajer at Fabula ex Machina explores the differences between real-world and on-screen fun using metrics of Uniqueness, Unpredictability, Physicality and Storytelling.

And to wrap up on a lighter note, “The Many Faces of Tim Schafer.” (I was ordered to include this one. [A picture is worth a thousand words! – Ed.])