Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday afternoon tidbits

Not sure how much time I'll have for games this weekend, but I plan to head back into the Shadow Complex and try to pad my completion stats a bit. I need infinite foam, damn it!

-Christian Nutt wrote a lengthy editorial about Shadow Complex and the Orson Scott Card question for Gamasutra, which is well worth your time to read, even though it doesn't have as many jokes as mine did. Take note of the comment by Peter David, the game's writer, who, understandably, is against a boycott:
I believe the answer to free speech is always more free speech. If you believe that Orson Scott Card is saying things that are wrong at the top of his lungs, then you say so at the top of yours. If he's donating money to organizations dedicated to infringing gay rights, you donate money to organizations that support them.

A society that embraces free expression depends on an unimpeded exchange of ideas.

The disconnect comes from those people who believe that boycotts are likewise a form of free expression. They're not. Boycotts are the opposite: They are designed to be punitive. To hurt someone financially.

I agree with the first part, but not so much with the second. I did not have a problem paying for this game. But choosing which companies you want to give your money to is a valuable tool in a citizen's arsenal, considering the structure of the society we live in. This almost gets close to suggesting that people should have to buy the game in order to express an opinion on Card's politics.

In fact, I do think that the conversation that has come up thanks to Shadow Complex has been a productive one, and that nobody at Chair or Epic is going be smarting financially, either.

-At Offworld, Jim Rossignol conducted a long interview with Valve's Chet Faliszek, mostly about Left 4 Dead 2, but also about the company, DLC, Steam, and much more. I appreciated how straightforward Faliszek was in responding to questions about topics like the fan boycott. He also sums up why Valve's games are always so good with this statment:

I've said this before, but when you first get people in to play your game you think: "Who are these morons? Can't they just see that's how it is supposed to work?" But you quickly learn: ten people in a row didn't figure that out, so the problem lies with us.

Creators of all types of content, not just video games, should consider the wisdom of that statement.

-While not a Madden guy myself, I really appreciate that the current generation of games includes free roster updates for things that happen after the game ships. For instance, you can download Brett Favre for the Vikings, and Michael Vick for the Eagles. The sports blog Deadspin has a little fun talking about Favre's player ratings.

-Speaking of Madden, Bill Harris's description of adjusting the game's sliders for maximum realism is essential reading. This is what engaging with a video game looks like.

-I was a bit surprised to read Matt Sakey call Far Cry 2 "a crime against gaming" in his monthly "Culture Clash" column. Sakey is a good writer who makes some excellent points here. Even in his original trashing of FC2, I can't argue with the factual accuracy of his observations. Yet his description of the game doesn't comport with my own experience at all.

When I think about Far Cry 2, I remember how dynamic and unpredictable every encounter was. I remember roaring across the savannah in a Jeep, taking my eyes off the road to consult the map on my knees as I bounced over hills and scraped against rocks. I remember scouting an outpost for five minutes, planning my assault with precision and care, only to have my weapon misfire and drop a hissing, smoking grenade at my feet. I remember these as things that I actually did, not as something that happened in a game. That's all I can ever ask.

-Lots of people, myself included, often complain about how game writing is missing its Lester Bangs. And while it's true that no game critic I'm aware of has achieved any mainstream recognition, this complaint does a disservice to the many writers who routinely produce excellent work. One of these is Jeremy Parish, whose Shadow Complex review is just fantastic: funny, insightful, surprising. If he's not getting the attention he deserves, it's not the mainstream's fault. It's ours, for not showing them what they're missing.


Matthew Gallant said...

I really don't understand Peter David's complaint. Boycotts are the corollary of "voting with your dollar", no?

Michael Miller said...

He has quite a lot to say in the comments of this thread at Gamasutra:

I disagree with him on two main points - I think a boycott is a legitimate way of voicing my displeasure as a consumer and I think that my opinion of an artist will influence my opinion of the art. I can't help it! That said, maybe the developers have gone down the Paul Verhoven - Starship Troopers route and completely subverted OSC's 'Empire'. I guess I'll wait for the reviews...

Mitch Krpata said...

I'm not sure it's any more complicated than this: if they're going to invoke Orson Scott Card to promote their game, then they have to be prepared for people not to buy it for that same reason. That seems perfectly fair to me.