Welcome to Context Clues, where no blog post is an island. Seems sort of a thin week. You could blame me for not spending as much time reaching further into the seedy, uncharted depths (beyond this place, there be Dragon Age
"romance"), or you could blame yourself for not creating or disseminating more thoughtful writing. Either way, I enjoyed playing Space Hulk
without you. Alternate heading schemes for this week included "Successes, Struggles, & Semantics," "Forward, Backward, & Inward," and "Positive, Negative, & Deeply Brooding Cypher."
Look, I'm fully aware that No One Likes Superman Anymore
, but sometimes we need a Cyclops or Leonardo to keep our confidence up, OK? I can only keep up this facade of aloof cynicism and reactionary elitism for so long before I need to recharge! Here's discussion about successes and maps toward success in game design and games thought.
L.B. Jeffries (PopMatters' Moving Pixels section) gives an overview
of Alexander Galloway's Gaming: Essays On Algorithmic Culture
Eric Hurdman (Gamasutra Expert Bloggers Featured Post) celebrates Constitution Day by looking at the Constitution as rule set
. Unfortunately (or, given my dislike of political bickering in comments or anywhere else, perhaps fortunately), Eric does not go into analyzing the resulting dynamics of the Constitution's rules. Regardless, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, taking into account all 27 "patches," it's a pretty solid game.
Tim Dean (Trembling Hand) connects some dots
between "theorycraft" and philosophy. While the connections may seem obvious to some, the difference is in the context of the processes analyzed for meaning
. While it may seem fairly simple to analyze the processes in, say, Animal Crossing
, it may not be so easily understood that processes in "meatspace" are also open to analysis.
Tutorials need both
information and practice, according to G. Christopher Williams (PopMatters' Moving Pixels column).
Tim Stone (Rock, Paper Shotgun) presents an apologia for hunting games
. It is interesting how our feelings of the simulated acts can be so central to our feelings about some game genres while there seems to be a large disconnect in other genres.
Michael Abbott continues to encourage everyone to take The Sims seriously
and offers accounts and further reading
from the converted. I have yet to find/make time to play, but have a copy at home and regularly use the series to help explain my love of games study to folks outside "gamer" culture.
As a child, I was often reprimanded for "not reaching my potential." I think that usually was code for "not turning in homework on time" or "obviously printed an Encarta article instead of writing a report," but as sports fans have learned to point to the scoreboard to justify ugly play, so I learned to point to my report card as vindication--and so have game developers learned to look to sales or MetaCritic to rationalize missed opportunities in game design.
Eric Swain (The Game Critique) explains how historical shooters are crippled by their need to cater to player expectations of power, influence and victory
. The article comes to a concise climax when Eric writes, "The reason there is no game where you play a Nazi is less to do with the moral ambiguity of the premise and more to do with the fact that they LOST THE WAR." (In truth, it's probably a fair amount of both, but the "sad songs and waltzes aren't selling this year" issue is certainly a part.)
We must teach these machines to fear: Bryan Ma (Gamasutra Blogs) wants to run and hide
Steven Poole (Edge Blog) worries that extermination is the dominant paradigm
Matthew G. Kaplan (Game In Mind) examines the Atari Jaguar as artifact
. While the Jaguar may seem an artifact of a failed civilization, it was truly an artifact in its own time--no matter how much I love rooting for the underdog.
Martin Gaston (Resolution Magazine's The End Is Nigh column) describes how Halo: Combat Evolved
sputters as it puts narrative before gameplay
. Daniel Johnson (Daniel Primed) finds flaws
in the title as well.
Enrique Dryere (Gamasutra Blogs) sees the MMO quest hub as a grind dispenser
that often forsakes narrative harmony for convenient geographic organization. But then, is there perhaps meaning in ghettoizing those with problems, even if the solutions lie far afield?
Gerard Delaney (Binary Swan) assesses the aesthetic properties of achievements
. (Via Critical Distance
) Then again, seeing a screwdriver clumsily used as a hammer doesn't invalidate the other uses of the tool.
Denis Farr (Vorpal Bunny Ranch) assays the implementation of Uncharted's everyman
protagonist. Next step: What does this implementation or characterization of an "Everyman" say about common members of our culture? I may have to rent it to find out. Feel free to beat me to it, though!
Michel McBride-Charpentier (Big Apple 3am) looks at the ludo-narrative dissonance in the Riddler's implementation
as "achievement unlocked pop-up made diegetic" in Batman: Arkham Asylum
. Stepping back from passing judgment, does the Riddler's location outside the game's narrative make him one step closer to being inside Batman's head? Is the next leap
from there to inside the player's head
? At what point is the player told to reset the computer?
-everybody in the room
Enrique Dryere (Gamasutra Blogs Featured post) thinks that comparisons of games to video media miss the mark due to the relative lack of granularity in video games
when considered a medium. Video has shorts, commercials, art films, blockbusters, and many other categories, not to mention genres, while games, Enrique argues, are stuck with scarce categories with flimsy definitions such as "casual" and "hardcore." This is not
a new notion
, and I've expressed vigorous ambivalence on the topic of classification schemes here before, but here's my take: Classification schemes and jargon can be great for furthering discussion without having to redefine the wheel in every conversation or paper. At the same time, shorthand can exclude new audiences and classifications can become a mental trap when considered too rigidly (or, indeed, at all rigidly).
Enrique Dryere (Gamasutra Blogs) also resurrects the "are games art?" horse, as if to beat it yet again, but in fact conjures a red herring in doing so. Enrique's main point is that gameplay can be performance art
. The post compares the potential for beautiful play in video games to the potential for beautiful, even artistic play in sports. This mode of thought strikes me as quintessentially Greek
, but my mind is prone to making large leaps--Perhaps writing Context Clues every week is starting to reinforce my predisposition to seeing everything as a potential anchor tag.
Nels Anderson (Above 49) doesn't just want us to drop the "Citizen Kane
" talk, but to drop film as our favorite comparative media for games. Instead, Nels argues, we should compare games to TV
Justin Keverne (Groping The Elephant) breaks down analytic modes
in players, discussing aspects such as where narrative elements best fit in these modes.
Of special note to fans and participants of the Blogs Of The Round Table
, Martin Nerurkar (Game Architecture) lays out three basic elements of game spaces
. (This post also appeared on Gamasutra as an Expert Blogger Featured Post
Lyndon Warren (Digital Kicks) offers an overview of "nonlinear"
as a term of art. (Via Critical Distance
News & Reports
Raph Koster spoke at GDC Austin on games as math
. Raph links to a liveblog
of the talk by "Xemu."
is next month, October 11-13.
The deadline for abstract submissions to Stephanie Boluk's zombie anthology
is next month, October 15.
As always, feel free to contact me (here via note or comment, or @erik_a_hanson on Twitter) if you would like to point out something you think I missed, or if you'd like me to check out a site to add to my weekly review. And be sure to check the VGHVI events section, both as a reference and to add any events you think are worth including.