This is one more entry in the Current Times series, which basically means a link dump. Sometimes it happens because I have several things I want to talk about, but I don’t have too much to say about them. Sometimes it is because I am busy and I don’t want to work very hard to make a post. YOU DECIDE.
1. Zach at Hailing From The Edge talks about Prototype 2. I like his affective reflection on the game, and I wish more people talked about how games make them feel. Not what mechanics work or how the story was written, but rather how you feel about you mow down random henchmen or civilians for two hours at a whack. SPOILERS in the quote:
The bad guys are bad because their “tests” are “what happens if we release some monsters onto some caged civilians?” Oh, and a prominent plot point involves torturing an eight-year-old girl. I almost had to stop playing at that point. Between torturing a child and the incessant, overwhelming amount of gore, the game was actually starting to affect me. I had dreams full of the red, gushing organic material that coats the Red Zone. I put down the game for a few days. Picked it up for another hour to finish it off, just to get a sense of closure. Haven’t picked it up again since.
2. Greg Saw posts at Nightmare Mode about the measurement of fun. I take him comments to be more global than how he applies them (it is an indictment with the video game criticism industry as I read it.) I agree with basically everything here. The faster we can understand that games are subjective experiences, the faster that games can grow out of the criticism ghetto it has built for itself. I am so tired of the “yet something is off” articles and op-eds. It is fake criticism, formalist at best, that needs to be replaced with actual analysis.
Clark’s article, I suspect, is meant to be a personal plea to every gamer, but it comes off as a brash sentiment to that overarching and overused theme of “games have so much potential, yet something is off.” They sure do have potential. They’re brimming with the stuff. But the gamer is the one empowered, not whoever Clark imagines sits in the holy throne. Gamers define what’s fun for themselves and they define what’s successful and how strong the interplay between fun and success is.
3. Hayley Campbell interviews Tom Gauld at The Comics Journal. I had never heard of Gauld before this interview, but his art is damn good, and I am buying Goliath as soon as I have enough money to safely buy books without starving to death.
4. Nick Robinson has a bit on Unwinnable: “Winning Sucks: In Defense of Defeat.” There is always a danger in games to see oneself as a hero–part of the destructive logic of games like Call of Duty is that everything the player does (torture, for instance) is implicitly justified because the subjective embodiment of the the player in-game is always “on the side of the angels,” so to speak. So what happens in a multiplayer world? This just gave me a whole new set of ideas about ragequitting that will probably get their own blog post later.
In any competitive game, you’re someone else’s villain. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Stephen felt, as the hero, that he was supposed to win every game of Magic we played. He was owed victory and the cognitive dissonance between how good he thought he was and what was happening on the battlefield seemed to kill him.
5. You should play this game that shows you how goddamn hard it is to be Chairperson of the Federal Reserve. Take the warning that there is a time delay in action versus repercussion VERY SERIOUSLY.
6. The state of New York, in another stupid move that violates free speech rights, is attempting to make anonymous commenting illegal on sites hosted in the state. (A side note: if you don’t read GamePolitics, you should.)]
7. I think this Kill Screen bit by Michael Thomsen is thoughtful in the way that it considers the reversal or reinterpretation of mechanics as a way of “opening up” design. I thought the last segment of Bulletstorm was awesome because it did that.
Most striking the demo footage reveals a sequence with the be-furred space hero trotting along a frozen plane with no weapon while being attacked by a space slug with claws in its mouth. In the first game these dopey little creatures were the weakest in the game but a player’s relationship with an enemy can be completely changed by a simple change in design, in this case taking away the character’s gun.
8. Dominic Pettman is pretty cool. Check out the video trailer for his book Human Error below, and anticipate his newest book, The Technopoetics of Capture, with me right now.