Monthly Archives: April 2007
Every time I hear/read a designer talk about ”abdicating authorship” to players, a little part of me dies inside.
So Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar doesn’t allow gay or certain interspecies marriage. Brenda Brathwaite argues against this design choice:
“Players are still creating their own experience. In a video game, it’s about abdicating authorship and letting a player explore a world.”
What?! The decision to include gay dwarf marriage (dwarven gay marriage?) is just as much an authorial choice as the decision to not include it. How about we try to understand what authorship means in our medium before we abdicate it?
(Not to mention, don’t dwarven women have beards? Who the hell can tell if they’re not gay male dwarves?)
The game industry has lots of problems with vocabulary – not just with the term gameplay (that one’s more useful when describe different sets of mechanics within a game – open world gameplay, for example. And against his point, you do actually say a book is a good read).
But there are oh so many more…
Next gen, for starters – now according to every publisher, and pretty much everyone else, the next generation of consoles has started. Can we just stop using this as a freaking meaningless marketing term? “This is game is next gen” is completely devoid of any actual meaning at this point, if you look at the spectrum of games that have called themselves that. If any game has to proclaim that about itself, it’s quite apparently not. It’s like when a person actually calls themselves a “straight shooter”. They’re not. The fact that they have to sell this idea to anyone is the strongest case against it. By it’s very nature, it’s supposed to be obvious. As an industry we’re always trying to push boundaries and innovate in various ways (maybe not always good ones), but to slap such a overused term, laden with preconceptions, on that process does nothing to help it along.
“Casual” vs. “hardcore” - By now the notion that the term “casual” gamers actually applies to any specific type of demographic should be pretty ridiculous. We attempt to distinguish games with these terms by labeling by their supposed market, which is has got to strike someone else as being silly. We really want to label them by form. Every medium has short and long form works, and there’s typically different terms for them (so people aren’t so stupid, as the game industry is, to compare them). The short story, novella, novel. A short and a feature. You get the idea.
This one came up at work as a pet peeve yesterday – fun factor. That should be self explanatory.
But most important is the lack of any proper verb. Ok, a game designer designs, but what kind of watered down verb is that? A writer writes, a director shows, meanwhile you use the same term to describe picking the color to paint your living room wall, changing the font size on this web page, or making a game. Everybody’s a designer these days. Plus there’s less conveyance in that term of the notion of making a work for someone else. You write, someone reads. You show something to someone, naturally. You design something… for someone? Meh.
Pretty much every review I’ve read about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. goes something like this: “There are so many terrible things about this game, bugs, bad framerate, choppy animations, problems on Vista, unpolished, blah blah blah. But you should still play it because it’s cool and has a lot of ambience.”
These reviews say more about the crappy state of game criticism than the game itself, really. They simply fail to describe what makes the game compelling. My other complaint about most of the reviews of this game is that they don’t mention the Tarkovsky movie or the book by the Strugatsky’s.
The game is a milestone (at least for me). But not the milestone you might expect. Yeah, it combines exploratory open world mechanics with an RPG in FPS form in a post apocalyptic world, but The Elder Scrolls series satisfies most of those tags (sans post-apocalyptic, until Fallout 3 of course)…
From Ron Moore, on the serious themes in Battlestar Galactica (such as main characters on the show condoning suicide bombing):
“We get a pass on a lot of things because it’s science fiction. The religious stuff on the show, the political stuff on the show—a lot of people just don’t want to take it seriously, because it’s people in spaceships and robots running around. So a lot of the mainstream media just isn’t going to really take anything in the show seriously. Which gives us a lot of freedom to do what we want.”
Interesting how the game industry’s limitation is another man’s freedom.
So I’m gonna do what Jon Stewart did last Monday night with respect to the Virginia Tech shooting. Acknowledge that it was horrible and fucked up. Pause. And try to continue to function.
And bring the comedy. Or, more specifically, some analysis of the structure of comedy in games.
Wow, ok, I hope this is more interesting than that sounds. Fingers crossed, folks.