Games & Play
How we play everything from luck to social interaction, childhood through adulthood, from the table top to the sports arena.
Nintendo Power is not the terrain
Ostensibly, walk-throughs were there to help usher players through the obstacles of a game. In a pinch, the walk-through could also serve as a stand-in for the game itself.
Shuffling the Deck
Many have taken the news of Nintendo Power’s demise as a harbinger of what’s to come, lamenting that a flood of unpaid writers are undermining the market for gaming journalism. That depends on what you want from the future of gaming criticism.
Behavior Exploring Behavior
Even if we grant that games are the formalization of play, that leaves us with two terms in need of explanation. Formalization refers to any principle brought in as a means of defining play. But things get rather tricky when you try to define play.
The Politics of the Grasshopper
Discussions over the meaning of gaming are edging toward a state of crisis, and the spirit of the late philosopher Bernard Suits has been called in to referee. But his definition — that games are the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles — fails to cut through the vested interests.
If we wanted to, we could shift the emphasis back on the Olympic teams fielded by nations, rather than on standout athletes among them. The best argument against doing so is the need for maintaining the tension that holds the Games together.
What It Means To Win
By vacating 111 games from Penn State’s record, the NCAA has virtually changed what it means to win at college football. But doing so is unlikely to change the culture that made it possible for Jerry Sandusky to evade prosecution for more than a decade.
The Taster, the Tipping Point and the Tweak
Maybe we put up with so many uninspired games in part because the investment of time and effort required to learn a new game can be so daunting. So how do the less intrepid of us ever venture into the genres? Novelty comes to us in three ways: the Taster, the Tipping Point, and the Tweak.
There is another reason why sports fans should feel keen to maintain the tradition of the sports pilgrimage. Sport needs a witness. The increasing bandwidth given to sporting events hasn’t changed that.
Once We Had Thumbs
With Nintendo, evolution seems to move in reverse. Once, we used our thumbs to play. Then we graduated to a basic tool grip, our fingers clenching the controller like the bone-swinging primates in the opening sequence of 2001. And with the next iteration, we leave behind out thumbs altogether, drawing on a glass-fronted tile with [...]
Why Blizzard Doesn’t Need A Bill Of Rights
If you’re a gamer – that is, if you’re part of the consumer demographic that journalists and marketers have in mind when they use the term “gamer” – then you’re almost certainly aware of the fact that Diablo III hit stores last week. If not, then all you really need to know by way of [...]
Characters That Choose, Characters That Become
Lana Polansky at KillScreen makes a compelling argument for Oíche Mhaith, a small, independent game that might otherwise seem especially limited: Oíche Mhaith is a heavily scripted, top-down, 8-bit game, not dissimilar in tone or in style to Cavanagh’s creepy and poignant Hero’s Adventure. Aside from navigating the protagonist from room to room, this moment [...]
Sid Meier is famously held to have declared that, “a good game is a series of interesting decisions.” And for a while, that premise held wide currency. Lately, though, something of a dispute has arisen over it. It seems to have started with a post over at Chris Deleon’s HobbyGameDev blog, where he took issue [...]
Errors Pile Up and Accomplishments Disappear
This pithy little image has been making the rounds on the internet lately. It’s clever, of course, if a bit oddly formatted (maybe that’s part of the joke), and yet, I can’t help but think that it’s on to something. An ongoing theme of my posts here has been the value of play to gaming. [...]
Putting Story Above Play
Over at her blog, Interactive Storytelling, Emily Short has inaugurated a series of articles on plotting that’s worth checking out if you’re interested in games that center on narrative. The first installment gives some best practice guidelines for dealing with set-pieces, but it also vaguely draws into question the compatibility of story and play. “A [...]
Evolving Videogame Journalism: 9 responses to the relaunch of insert credit
The buzz among online videogame critics this past week has been the revival of insert credit and its nine-part manifesto reflecting on the current state of videogame journalism. While we’re charting ways to change videogame journalism for the better, I thought I’d offer the following set of nine responses: 1. The challenge is still to [...]
A Maze of Caves
Sam Anderson has an idiosyncratic little essay on caves in the latest edition of The New York Times Magazine. That may seem like an odd piece to highlight on a blog that concerns itself with media shifts, but there’s quite a bit on media in “Entering Darkness”: Werner Herzog’s first foray into 3D, cave paintings, [...]
The Dark City of Open World Games
Kirk Hamilton over at Kill Screen has written a, shall we say, interesting review of Rockstar Games’ newest release, L.A. Noire. You might even call it admirable, since Hamilton forgoes much of the usual jargon and minutiae usually associated with video game reviews. Instead, he focuses on the experience of what it’s like to play [...]
The Closed Door Problem
Judging from the comments over at Gamasutra , sci-fi writer Guy Hasson seems to have chosen a rather imprecise metaphor to illustrate his point in “World-Building Needs Closed Doors.” The gist of the article, as it was written, is that fictional worlds (and the particular focus here is on game-worlds) can be invested with a [...]
The Interpretation of Games
Charles Rosen has provided the New York Review of Books with an appreciation of the work of the late Frank Kermode, whom he calls [t]he most versatile and the most distinguished of English literary critics since William Empson [...] That’s an estimation I’m not inclined to dispute, even though my familiarity with Kermode is, at [...]
How Game Theory Went From the Arcade to the Academy
Timothy J. Seppala, over at ars technica‘s Opposable Thumbs blog, has a new article about how shifts in the market have resulted in shorter games. At least, that’s the perception we get if we limit our historical purview slightly. As Seppala points out, games actually started with short playtimes, thanks to the influence of the [...]
What Are Games If Games Are Art? pt. 3
If you’ve read my posts from Monday and Tuesday, you already know that I’ve been skirting an issue. Having acknowledged the question of whether games are art, I promptly put it aside. I did so in order to take a step back and try to cast the pivotal term “art” in a clearer light. Having [...]
What Are Games If Games Are Art? pt. 2
Yesterday, I explored two general interpretations of the term “art” that seem to characterize the two sides of the debate over whether or not games qualify under that heading. The interpretation characteristic of those who say “nay” implies that we recognize true art by its capacity to transform us. Because that interpretation focuses on the [...]
What Are Games If Games Are Art? pt. 1
Brian Moriarty has once again stirred up the debate over whether or not games are art. I was drawn in by two recent posts over at Emily Short’s blog: “Four talks at GDC“, and “Ebert & Moriarty Addendum“. Of course, Roger Ebert wasn’t the first person to instigate that debate, but categorically declaring from his [...]
The Broken Parser Is the Best Thing That Ever Happened to the Adventure Game
The interactive fiction community has been set abuzz by a recent PC Gamer interview with Jonathan Blow. Emily Short provides a handy index to some of the early comments in what will likely be a long addition to a discussion that had only recently gone dormant again. Blow, as you might remember, designed the justly [...]
A World Without a Long and Winding Road
Last week, BoingBoing posted a special feature by Prospect Magazine‘s Thom Chatfield concerning the impending release of the Cataclysm expansion pack for World of Warcraft. If you’re in the dark over what that even means, you can, if you like, try your luck wading through the WoW wiki page on the subject, but Chatfield’s article [...]