Belated Thoughts on the 2017 DICE Awards


This past week had the 2017 DICE Awards. I have a few thoughts on the awards. Continue reading “Belated Thoughts on the 2017 DICE Awards”

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A bunch of random thoughts related to discussion coming up around the closure of Irrational Games


What bugs me about people who rip into the stories of games which try to tell good, interesting stories but fail (at least in the eyes of the people doing the ripping), like, for example, Bioshock Infinite, is that the language used to mock the games often comes in the form of saying “Games can’t tell good stories, why should you try?”

Not that they’re saying games can’t be art – they know that games can be art, and often the people saying these things want more games to be art. However, dismissing the narrative of the Bioshock games as being too simplistic or too trite or playing with the players heartstrings too much is a bit like making fun of little league baseball players because they’re not hitting home runs like the pros. They may get there someday, they may not – but what good can mocking them for trying do?

If you really, really want better video game stories, then signal out the people who do what you want to see for praise, and if someone does something wrong, don’t just mock their decisions, talk about why it didn’t work for you.

I can’t code well enough to work on a AAA, but I can tell when a story works, and when it doesn’t and if it doesn’t work I can tell why. Hell, depending on why the story doesn’t work, I can tell you what it would take to fix it.

Shifting the topic somewhat – games like EVE Online and DayZ aren’t “fixing” game stories, or “telling” better game stories. People are using those games to tell interesting stories, sure, but describing them as the future of game storytelling (as I got the impression Patrick Klepek​ was kind of alluding to in his discussion of the Irrational Games closure with Alex Navarro), is at best erroneous. EVE Online and DayZ aren’t telling game stories to or with players – they’re giving them handycams and a box of props. At best the cameras will get used to make some interesting stories, sure. However, the difference is that EVE Online and DayZ have the added “feature” of facilitating a kind of electronic “happy slapping” that games like Dragon Age, Bioshock, Final Fantasy, The Elder Scrolls or other more single player, narrative driven games can’t really do.

There’s certainly a place for Minecraft and DayZ, and I don’t begrudge the people who enjoy those games the fact that they like them. However, I really don’t want the future of video games to be more games like that.

One last thing – if Ken Levine’s plan is to make games like The Way Z with his smaller, leaner team, I find the fact that Shawn Elliot lost his job at Irrational Games because of this slightly ironic – at least to me. You see, back when Shawn was on the Games for Windows podcast, he liked to talk about how he enjoyed griefing people in video games. In particular, one incident that has permanently stuck out in my mind is one where he, and another host of the podcast discovered a Grand Theft Auto IV Multiplayer Role-Playing server.

Shawn and his friend found this example of emergent gameplay in a sandbox environment utterly hilarious, and decided to stomp all over everyone’s sandbox. They logged in, and went on a rampage until they were kicked. Then they posted on twitter about this, and got a whole bunch more people to go into the server and continue rampaging until, ultimately, the server was shut down. Mr. Elliot considered this a wonderful success. That even probably happened about 5-6 years ago, but I haven’t forgotten it, and it’s forever colored my impression of Mr. Elliot. And thus, while I feel bad for the other 184 other employees of Irrational Games who have lost their jobs because of the new creative direction that Ken Levine has decided to go in, I don’t feel bad for Shawn Elliot.

With Shawn Elliot, at least, the bully has gotten his just desserts.

Editorial – Harlan Ellison’s Lawsuit


This week, I’m going a little more topical with my videos and discussing a current event – Harlan Ellison‘s attempt to stop the release of the film In Time.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYLTvCUA width=”1280″ height=”750″]

Interview with Ralph Baer at Retromags


Normally, I don’t do much in terms of blog posting on my weekends, instead preferring to take the time to kick back, relax, and get some serious gaming done (as opposed to gaming for work). However, I came across this little update on Retromags.com. It’s an interview with Ralph Baer, who worked on the development of the Magnavox Odyssey and Simon. You can find the article here, and I encourage all of you to give it a read and enjoy it.

The Handly Case – This Is How Liberty Dies (or is at least Badly Wounded)


One of the news stories I’ve been following recently is The Handly Case, which is an obcenity case in Iowa – the state which was sufficently progressive enough to legalize gay marrage (an act I support), involving Christopher Handley for posessing recieving child porn – in the form of a Hentai (porn) Manga (or Japanese comic book) containing sex involving people who are underage.

I’m not going to defend Lolicon here. For starters, Lolicon isn’t my thing – and in any case, if the material was prosecuted as being obcene for an entirely different reason (bondage material) that still wasn’t my thing, it’d be hard to defend it – because it’s hard to defend a kink that’s not yours, especially to a someone who doesn’t have that kink (and besides, if they already have that kink, you don’t need to defend it to them). I’m going to refrain at this time from going into my kinks anyway because they’re irrelevant (and if you really care what they are, you can post a comment and ask – this doesn’t mean that I’ll answer, but I’m not getting into them in this blog post).

I’m also not going to get into the free speech reasons why this case is bad, because, frankly, Neil Gaiman did it better than I possibly good. I strongly encourage you to Neil’s post, because it’s excellently well written, and explains why you can’t slack off in the defense of free speech – because unfortunately, if you let icky speech be outright banned in a particular medium (video games, comics, film, etc.) it becomes easier to ban speech you support. This doesn’t mean you can’t marginalize certain types of icky speech (hate speech, NAMBLA), but banning icky speech outright bad (note: I’m not defending actual photographed and filmed child porn as icky speech – a crime must be committed in its creation, thus making it by its nature illegal – though I find the prosecution over sexting absurd, but I’m digressing – just read Gaiman’s essay.) Continue reading “The Handly Case – This Is How Liberty Dies (or is at least Badly Wounded)”

Fighting For A Skate Park Part II – Electric Boogaloo


Taken by Patrick Johnson for the Wilsonville Spokesman
Taken by Patrick Johnson for the Wilsonville Spokesman

So, I previouly wrote a letter to the Spokesman, arguing against those who would reject skateboarders out of hand, and argued in favor of a new skate park. Aparrently I was not the only one who felt this way, as last week Monday some of Wilsonville’s skateboarders and their families came to the city council meeting to argue in favor of a skate park. I can’t give any specific information on what was covered, as video of City Council meetings are only available through their cable access channel, which, as is the nature of the beast, you can only have access to if you have a cable subscription, and the Work Session isn’t covered. Consequently, if you don’t have a cable subscription (or instead have Satellite or FIOS TV), then you can’t watch the meeting if you weren’t able to attend. No, there isn’t any streaming video available.

Isn’t transparency in government great?

Fortunately, the Wilsonville Spokesman did an article about the meeting, so I was able to find out some of what was discussed, and the discussion at the council meeting lead to a seperate meeting with council members Stephen Hurst and Michelle Ripple, as well as representatives of the parks department to discuss what actions skateboarders and their families (and me) can do to get a skate park together. I managed to get enough notice on this one (8 hours notice – from the article in the Spokesman) to attend this one.

Continue reading “Fighting For A Skate Park Part II – Electric Boogaloo”