Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday afternoon tidbits

I am in lovely St. Louis, MO, for the weekend. We're going to visit the Gateway Arch, catch a Cardinals game, and barbecue. Oh God, how we will barbecue. Unless my plane crashes, that is.

What a morbid way to start a links post.

-Hardcasual is always good, but every once in awhile they really knock it out of the park. Such is the case with "Professor Layton Solves Brain Teaser, Grisly Prostitute Murder." Amazing.

-Leigh Alexander makes a good point about how the leisurely exploration gameplay of Shadow Complex seems to be at odds with its ticking-timebomb storyline. There is a point, at least, at which your character determines that he's going to go back in, which I took to mean that he was planning to arm himself to the teeth before taking on the bad guys. Still, I did follow the blue line most of the time, and I was more than satisfied with how things played out.

-Nels Anderson makes a point I often try, and fail, to make: that "fun" is the wrong word for most video games. For some people, fun clearly is the objective, and there's nothing wrong with that. But many people are seeking more meaningful interactions with games, and for those people, fun's got nothing to do with it. The more kinds of experiences games can give us, the better.

-The passage of time has enabled some more sober looks at Grand Theft Auto IV. Still a great game, but it's hard to argue with the kinds of criticisms Sparky Clarkson makes. "For me, this is the defining flaw of GTA IV — so many of the missions, cutscenes, and incidental moments actively undermine the propositions the game is trying to sell you on." Paradoxically, the more choices a game gives you, the more obvious it is when the game makes decisions for you. I've never felt constrained in a Half-Life game, for instance, even though I'm just a puppet on a string.

All right, time to party with the St. Lunatics.


Gary A. Lucero said...

Mitch, what is fun? Playing board games? Or with paper dolls? A roll in the hay? How about people into S&M? Is that fun?

Fun is like luck: It's open to interpretation. Am I constantly laughing with a huge smile on my face as I play video games. No, not usually.

But I still consider video gaming a fun part of my life. IOW, for me it is enjoyable and distracting.

Julian said...

That's exactly the point Nels is making though. A dark movie isn't exactly fun, but watching them can be a fun part of your life, and enjoyable experience. His post isn't about changing the way we approach games, but tweaking our discourse so that a wider group of people immediately understand what we're talking about.

Gary A. Lucero said...

But it's all open to interpretation. Changing the language might mean more people understand it but not everyone.

There are game reviewers who don't talk about "game play" because they think it's meaningless and instead talk about "experience" -- and maybe that's less nebulous for non-gamers but is "game play" really an improper or bad term?

At 48 years old I find myself less interested in what some call discourse and more interested in enjoying my video games.

As I've mentioned before to me game media today is entertainment. While many see themselves as having important conversations the predominant thing in game media is laughing, acting like an ass, and getting drunk while talking about games without first checking your facts.

And I'm not saying that's what Nels or Mitch do, I'm just saying that is my view of game coverage today.

It's largely fluff. Interesting fluff, but it's still mostly just fluff.

Tim Mackie said...

The lack of time sensitivity brought up in the context of Shadow Complex has been something I've been noticing for years. When I was in junior high and high school, I could scarcely stand to play any game that wasn't a JRPG (today, I can barely stand to play any game that is a JRPG), and this problem was all over the place there. The PlayStation generation of Final Fantasies in particular suffered from this (spoilers for those who haven't played but care, if anyone out there fits that bill):

FFVII: "Cloud, the apocalypse is in seven days! We need to defeat Sephiroth and destroy Meteor!" "But I'm breeding chocobos!"

And my personal favorite, the harrowing sequence in FFVIII where Rinoa is dangling by one hand on the edge of a cliff over spinning blades of doom which themselves are 150 feet off the ground, and no matter how long you take to get there (took me 45 minutes when I did it, and I was hurrying), you will always get to her just before she loses her grip.

(end spoilers everyone probably knows about)

The point being that, while Western games seem to suffer from this much less than Japanese ones, I at least have become accustomed to it.