Author Archives: David Sahlin

Finding Gold in the Wasteland

October 7th, 2009 | Posted by David Sahlin in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Finding Gold in the Wasteland)

HL2 Developer CommentaryWhen Valve started to put ‘director commentary’ into their games, it opened the conversation of game design to a wider audience. Personally, it allowed me to enjoy the game even more than my first playthrough. It’s a wonderful bonus, and I’m very thankful to Valve for them.

Gerard Daleny, of the blog Binary Swan, is assembling ‘The Wasteland Commentaries.’  It will be a mod for Fallout 3, and will include locational commentary by the gaming community into the game itself – much like what Valve has done.  The comments will have a wide range; anywhere from “anecdotes, commentary, analysis or even humor relating to their experience with Fallout 3.”

This is a really nifty idea, and a fantastic way of serving a lot of particularly dense discussion into a more savory dish. A lot of people, including myself, can get lost or distracted while reading something that tends to be more academic in scope.  Adding an audio/visual anchor to the process could be a novel way of including folks who are stronger at learning things spatially.

(In the interest of full disclosure, he has invited me personally to contribute.) [And I’ll have a bit more to say about The Wasteland Commentaries in TWIVGB this weekend – Ed]

Is Legitimacy Irrelevant?

April 17th, 2009 | Posted by David Sahlin in Link-out - (Comments Off on Is Legitimacy Irrelevant?)

Leigh Alexander, News Director at Gamasutra, has an opinion piece which attempts to mellow out the masses.  As the influence of video games continues to grow, so does the desire for cultural acceptance.  She quotes Ian Bogost’s thoughts on the topic, who frankly thinks we have more important things to be worrying about.

According to Bogost, legitimacy simply can’t be judged in the current era in the same way it could when we had few radio stations and fewer television channels, and all art and entertainment existed in individual walled gardens.

“Legitimacy has become distributed, a mesh,” says Bogost. “We should all just work on our little vertex of the mesh, like we’re weaving a big macrame of legitimacy.”

Professionals and fans so involved in the game industry can forget that the uninitiated population may still consider video games as a whole to be worthless or simply juvenile.  It can be frustrating, perhaps even infuriating at times, being unable to just grab and shake these people out of their misconceptions. They can’t be reasoned with.  Though if they were to experience something profound–like playing Flower perhaps–it may change their tune.

We don’t exactly need a standard bearer to rally behind.  Time is on legitimacy’s side, and if we all keep doing what we’re doing eventually there will be no one left to discount the idea.

Limited by design: history through games

April 16th, 2009 | Posted by David Sahlin in Link-out - (Comments Off on Limited by design: history through games)

Luke Plunkett, Associate Director at Kotaku, wrote a Feature column discussing how video games present history.  He spoke with Dr. Cliff Williamson, who teaches Modern British and American history at Bath Spa University in Britain – as well as communications manager Kieran Brigden, from Total War developer The Creative Assembly.

“There is the potential for games to mess it up as badly as the film industry has at times, because for every Das Boot made there is a U-571 just around the corner”, he says. “The tension is always there”.

Knowing how to navigate the line between potential quality and potential disaster can save a designer a lot of potential headaches.  When designers don’t want to find the line, or don’t need to, or simply are unable to, we find ourselves with either shallow games or cultural trainwrecks.  Publishers seem to prefer the former.  It’s a shame really, because games which push the wrong buttons – even if unintended – can still sell very well while fostering needed discussion, reflection, and understanding.