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.