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Worth Reading: 05/04/2012

In which we ponder the most profound question of all: pray tell, are video games DUMB?

Anthropy's book is quick, a great chapter-per-night read over the course of a week.

I’m almost finished reading Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, and I’m starting to get the itch to download Game Salad, design software aimed at non-programmers. I have no interest in becoming a professional game designer, but going through the exercise of designing a video game sounds really worthwhile.

We’ll see?

Even when Anthropy is merely walking through the basic steps to designing a game with today’s tools, you feel pushed to do...well, something. Anything. A compulsion to create. She is looking over your shoulder, and you’re compelled to give this damn thing a shot. Anthropy’s whole book feels like a pitch to the apathetic creative who’s always wanted to make a game but figured actually doing so was out of reach. It’s not. The difference between making a game and not making a game is doing it.

Never following up on this musing would neatly line up with the horror screenplay I’ve always said I’m going to write. I’d tell you the title of said screenplay, but, hell, I can’t even find the document anymore. Clearly, it’s a priority.

Hey, You Should Play This

If you finished Fez, and by finished I mean go for a ride on the off-the-rails cryptography train, you probably weren’t ready for another set of logic puzzles by the end. I mean, I guess you could, but how the hell is your brain not total mush? I’m expecting a series of games directly influenced by Fez in the next few years, and Phi is one of them. Phi came from the Ludum Dare, and it takes but only a few moment of roaming around to realize just how much designer Thomas Bowker took from Phil Fish’s insanity. The world itself reminded me of Proteus, actually, especially when I found myself unable to crack the puzzle, despite seemingly having the evidence, and I kept chasing down frogs.

You already had me with your name, Intense Staring Simulator, and slayed me with your writing. There isn’t much to Intense Staring Simulator (if you’re stuck on the last puzzle, try looking around), but when I mull the kind of game I could possibly make with zero design skills, a game like Intense Staring Simulator comes to mind. The dream of democratizing game development is to allow people to craft interactive experiences that play to their individual strengths, rather than conforming to the traditional expectations of a game, which they (me?) may be no good at.

You Should Read These, Too

Jonathan Blow is already a subject that’s sure to rub some people the wrong way, and when Taylor Clark profiled the designer of Braid and the upcoming The Witness for The Atlantic, Clark took a swipe at games by categorizing most them as pretty dumb. Not Vinny thinking about Prototype 2 dumb, but Jeff thinking about Prototype 2 dumb. You know, dumb. Clark’s overall message was lost in his word choice, and so Kotaku provided Clark with a platform to respond. Clark doesn’t believe we have to settle for nonsense when it comes to our video game narratives, and to accept the status quo as anything games are capable are achieving is selling the medium short. I’m inclined to agree with him, and figure more people would, too, had he not used the word dumb. That was dumb. But...

Of course, this issue might not bother you. You might point out that one shouldn't really expect much brainpower from a bullet hell shooter in which one rocket-slides around battlefields aiming glowing energy balls at flying men in super-suits, which is an argument that would hold more water if the same problem didn't afflict virtually every mainstream game. It doesn't even strike me as controversial to point out that there is way, way, way too much of this thematic juvenility in games. Vanquish, like so many others, is a product that makes us say, "It's incredibly silly, but hey—it's fun."

...then I read Matthew Burns’ response to Clark’s piece, and wondered if I’d been wrong all along. Make sure you read the pieces back-to-back. I’m not a game designer, and I’m only at the beginning stages of becoming anything resembling a critic--I just don’t have enough experience to draw from yet. Burns has neither of those problems, and in his public reply to the question of "dumb," makes the argument that we’re all expecting something that isn’t possible. It’s not to say video games are not capable of delivering the strong storytelling found in other mediums, but that we’re asking game designers and writers to graft that into places where it’s either impossible or very, very hard.

This point about dissonance has been made before in several “mechanics versus narrative” debates, though narrative versus mechanics, like art versus technology, is ultimately a false dichotomy. (Someone always points out that lots of games exist entirely free of narrative. To me this is like pointing out that some animals don’t need backbones. It’s true, but that doesn’t help us, because we are animals that happen to need backbones. Some games need narrative in order to work.) It’s the reason why games that explicitly exclude combat— Dear Esther, Journey, and others of their kind— seem so promising right now. As an industry, we still haven’t developed anything as mechanically complex as our combat, but at least we’ve figured out that we can remove it.
Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek
Anthropy's book is quick, a great chapter-per-night read over the course of a week.

I’m almost finished reading Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, and I’m starting to get the itch to download Game Salad, design software aimed at non-programmers. I have no interest in becoming a professional game designer, but going through the exercise of designing a video game sounds really worthwhile.

We’ll see?

Even when Anthropy is merely walking through the basic steps to designing a game with today’s tools, you feel pushed to do...well, something. Anything. A compulsion to create. She is looking over your shoulder, and you’re compelled to give this damn thing a shot. Anthropy’s whole book feels like a pitch to the apathetic creative who’s always wanted to make a game but figured actually doing so was out of reach. It’s not. The difference between making a game and not making a game is doing it.

Never following up on this musing would neatly line up with the horror screenplay I’ve always said I’m going to write. I’d tell you the title of said screenplay, but, hell, I can’t even find the document anymore. Clearly, it’s a priority.

Hey, You Should Play This

If you finished Fez, and by finished I mean go for a ride on the off-the-rails cryptography train, you probably weren’t ready for another set of logic puzzles by the end. I mean, I guess you could, but how the hell is your brain not total mush? I’m expecting a series of games directly influenced by Fez in the next few years, and Phi is one of them. Phi came from the Ludum Dare, and it takes but only a few moment of roaming around to realize just how much designer Thomas Bowker took from Phil Fish’s insanity. The world itself reminded me of Proteus, actually, especially when I found myself unable to crack the puzzle, despite seemingly having the evidence, and I kept chasing down frogs.

You already had me with your name, Intense Staring Simulator, and slayed me with your writing. There isn’t much to Intense Staring Simulator (if you’re stuck on the last puzzle, try looking around), but when I mull the kind of game I could possibly make with zero design skills, a game like Intense Staring Simulator comes to mind. The dream of democratizing game development is to allow people to craft interactive experiences that play to their individual strengths, rather than conforming to the traditional expectations of a game, which they (me?) may be no good at.

You Should Read These, Too

Jonathan Blow is already a subject that’s sure to rub some people the wrong way, and when Taylor Clark profiled the designer of Braid and the upcoming The Witness for The Atlantic, Clark took a swipe at games by categorizing most them as pretty dumb. Not Vinny thinking about Prototype 2 dumb, but Jeff thinking about Prototype 2 dumb. You know, dumb. Clark’s overall message was lost in his word choice, and so Kotaku provided Clark with a platform to respond. Clark doesn’t believe we have to settle for nonsense when it comes to our video game narratives, and to accept the status quo as anything games are capable are achieving is selling the medium short. I’m inclined to agree with him, and figure more people would, too, had he not used the word dumb. That was dumb. But...

Of course, this issue might not bother you. You might point out that one shouldn't really expect much brainpower from a bullet hell shooter in which one rocket-slides around battlefields aiming glowing energy balls at flying men in super-suits, which is an argument that would hold more water if the same problem didn't afflict virtually every mainstream game. It doesn't even strike me as controversial to point out that there is way, way, way too much of this thematic juvenility in games. Vanquish, like so many others, is a product that makes us say, "It's incredibly silly, but hey—it's fun."

...then I read Matthew Burns’ response to Clark’s piece, and wondered if I’d been wrong all along. Make sure you read the pieces back-to-back. I’m not a game designer, and I’m only at the beginning stages of becoming anything resembling a critic--I just don’t have enough experience to draw from yet. Burns has neither of those problems, and in his public reply to the question of "dumb," makes the argument that we’re all expecting something that isn’t possible. It’s not to say video games are not capable of delivering the strong storytelling found in other mediums, but that we’re asking game designers and writers to graft that into places where it’s either impossible or very, very hard.

This point about dissonance has been made before in several “mechanics versus narrative” debates, though narrative versus mechanics, like art versus technology, is ultimately a false dichotomy. (Someone always points out that lots of games exist entirely free of narrative. To me this is like pointing out that some animals don’t need backbones. It’s true, but that doesn’t help us, because we are animals that happen to need backbones. Some games need narrative in order to work.) It’s the reason why games that explicitly exclude combat— Dear Esther, Journey, and others of their kind— seem so promising right now. As an industry, we still haven’t developed anything as mechanically complex as our combat, but at least we’ve figured out that we can remove it.
Staff
Posted by Nameless2000
Posted by OllyOxenFree

Too much dumb in this article.

Posted by BeachThunder

@Nameless2000 said:

:o Now I have that music stuck in my head...

Posted by themangalist

I like dumb fun. What's wrong with fun?

Posted by Recall

doing the lantern run and posting articles at the same time, what is this witch craft!

:D

Posted by Video_Game_King

Is "Sturgeon's Law" an acceptable response?

Posted by ZmillA

I'm a huge jonathan blow fan. I'll read/listen/play anything hes involved with

Edited by DeadSpace

There's a typo in the third paragraph: "you you're."

Also the last sentence in that paragraph does not make sense: "It’s not, and the difference between making a game and not making a game the doing."

Posted by Little_Socrates

@BeachThunder said:

@Nameless2000 said:

:o Now I have that music stuck in my head...

Dammit...

Posted by dopplerganger

Great feature Trick Kleptok robot newsman.

Posted by unpopularkarama

I think you have to redefine failure in games and fundamentally rethink about design philosophy to make a good story in games. It is the stuff like Ester, Braid and Journey that are changing the conversation in game design.

Its stuff like the Walking Dead which really got me thinking. What if instead of dying when you failed to stop a zombie, one of your buddies saves you, then what if you kept failing to save yourself and he or she always had to come to the rescue. Maybe, he stops listening to you when you give advice and sides with other characters in arguments? Maybe, he starts to question are you worth saving? Maybe, it would be better for the group to put you down because you are slowing us, even putting us in danger?

I think, we need to stop using death as a test for skill but rather let the player be put into situations to solve, like Rick Grimes or Lee. Let, the player fail to save someone, instead of just going to a game over screen, so he or she feel gratified that they figured out away to save them.

Posted by MrKlorox

The title lied to me.

Posted by Atwa

NEVER FORGET THE FINAL LANTERN RUN

Posted by Panpipe

@themangalist said:

I like dumb fun. What's wrong with fun?

I like chocolate. That doesn't mean I want to constantly eat chocolate.

Edited by Soapy86

I'm not so insecure that I need video games to salve my ego and make me feel smart. I'm not saying vague concepts like "human emotion" and "intellectual sophistication" are unwelcome additions to games, but I feel more often than not they come at the expense of the game being fun, and a lot of times even being good. Which most certainly is unwelcome.

It seems like so many game developers and game critics are so desperate for video games to be taken seriously that they themselves come off as far more immature and unintelligent than the people who accept that there's nothing wrong with something being "dumb". What was it CS Lewis said? Oh yes, "When I became a man, I put away dumb things, including the fear that people might think video games are dumb and I'm dumb for playing them" ...or...you know, something like that.

Posted by Napalm

Why is there a screenshot of Vanquish?

Posted by tourgen

Great article

The tools keep getting better. The really grungy, nasty, tedious and technical problems are getting solved more elegantly. pre-packaged and ready to go for new game makers. This is great!

We may be on the brink of something spectacular in video gaming history?

Posted by DrJota

Nice feature.As far as the whole dumb game thing,I don't necessarily believe that most games have to be dumb,but then again,game developers aren't exactly novelists or folklorists.

Edited by MooseyMcMan

Now I want to play Vanquish again. I should too, I never beat it on God Hard...

Also, I don't understand why video games always get the bad rap for being dumb. Go look at most movies and TV shows. They're pretty dumb too. So are a lot of songs. Hell, even actual paintings (ie, art) are dumb a lot of the time!

Moderator
Posted by Yagami

I like the idea of DUMB. :P

Posted by Deathpooky

I don't think it's just the use of the word dumb, I also think his point is fundamentally wrong. By his standard, almost every medium is "dumb." Most popular movies are terrible. Most popular music is terrible. You have a rare hit that combines popularity and artistic merit, but for the most part you have few "smart" books, movies, or songs out there each year. To single games out for this sin and ignore the good games out there is basically conceding and expressing the worst stereotypes non-game players have about games, especially given that he was originally writing an article for a mainstream publication styled as "this man will save games from the artistic abyss that they are currently in."

The other major problem with his point is that interactivity and gameplay make games fundamentally different. A "dumb" game may still be an excellent game, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Super Meat Boy is a pretty dumb game. Geometry Wars is a pretty dumb game. Hell, the Mario series is pretty dumb. But they are still amazing games because of the gameplay. Indeed I would consider them brilliantly designed and can greatly appreciate that design when playing them. We ask different things from games than we do from other mediums, so expecting every game that we consider great to also be "smart" is pointless.

Posted by vinsanityv22

Concerning the dumbness of games, it probably wouldn't be a problem if Adventure Games didn't die out. It's shocking how much smarter PC games were in the decades past. Of course, they traded in gameplay for story, and that's a bargain I never wanted to make (clicking on things and walking around and picking up items isn't really gameplay). You could argue the same about console role playing games...but at least there are a lot of western RPGs nowadays. But by and large, everything now - EVERYTHING - is an action game. And action games are stupid as fuck.

There should be a focus on more variety. But the only thing marketers and advertisers support are the games that resonate with the retarded, meathead demographic physically attached to their Xbox Live headsets. They're pretty easy to take advantage of, which is why all publishers are making games for them.

Posted by YummyTreeSap

That Intense Staring Simulator was horrific. It was not only a total drag to play—arbitrary logic and pixel-hunting at its worst—but also downright mean-spirited. No thanks.

Posted by SatelliteOfLove

Two things from this noggin of mine: 
 
1) Inspired stupidity is an art. Having the intellect and creativity to craft truly entertaining stupidity is actually quite rare. That's why games with self-aware actually-funny stupidity is rare. Makai Kingdom, Tim Schafer joints, Vanquish up there; all very Pythonesque and glorious for it. 
 
2) The big problem comes from drek masquerading itself as like, so deep, man. Heavy Rain, Tales of, FFXIII, MMO storylines (blech), all commit the cardinal sin of narrative-crafting by punching WAY above their weight class like they're being penned by Dostoevsky but are really getting the Salvatore treatment. Fanboys with no history with the classics and less taste fuel this.

Posted by believer258

@Deathpooky said:

I don't think it's just the use of the word dumb, I also think his point is fundamentally wrong. By his standard, almost every medium is "dumb." Most popular movies are terrible. Most popular music is terrible. You have a rare hit that combines popularity and artistic merit, but for the most part you have few "smart" books, movies, or songs out there each year. To single games out for this sin and ignore the good games out there is basically conceding and expressing the worst stereotypes non-game players have about games, especially given that he was originally writing an article for a mainstream publication styled as "this man will save games from the artistic abyss that they are currently in."

The other major problem with his point is that interactivity and gameplay make games fundamentally different. A "dumb" game may still be an excellent game, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Super Meat Boy is a pretty dumb game. Geometry Wars is a pretty dumb game. Hell, the Mario series is pretty dumb. But they are still amazing games because of the gameplay. Indeed I would consider them brilliantly designed and can greatly appreciate that design when playing them. We ask different things from games than we do from other mediums, so expecting every game that we consider great to also be "smart" is pointless.

Well, that. There's also the issue of so many games trying to have deep narrative and ending up falling over, like a new skateboarder trying to grind on a rail and landing with one leg on either side.

Or, put more adeptly, this:

@SatelliteOfLove said:

Two things from this noggin of mine:
1) Inspired stupidity is an art. Having the intellect and creativity to craft truly entertaining stupidity is actually quite rare. That's why games with self-aware actually-funny stupidity is rare. Makai Kingdom, Tim Schafer joints, Vanquish up there; all very Pythonesque and glorious for it.
2) The big problem comes from drek masquerading itself as like, so deep, man. Heavy Rain, Tales of, FFXIII, MMO storylines (blech), all commit the cardinal sin of narrative-crafting by punching WAY above their weight class like they're being penned by Dostoevsky but are really getting the Salvatore treatment. Fanboys with no history with the classics and less taste fuel this.

Stupidity =/= bad in the same way that intelligent =/= pretentious.

Posted by Tomeh

Glad you enjoyed Phi Patrick! And you nailed the Proteus inspiration as well. Thanks a bunch.

Edited by BaconGames

I really want to address the assumption that stimulation, entertainment, and an intellectually satisfying experience can't come from design and aesthetics alone. I hate the idea that a game "needs" a narrative in the way we think of from books or movies in order for a game to be art or not a "dumb" game. I love narrative in games but I love design as well and it's the feeling that games need to be justified as more than just fun that leads people to reject design as just as valid as narrative. I think design can provide as satisfying an experience as narrative, "fun" or not. Let's celebrate what makes games games even if people think it needs to be more or something else. Only then can we feel good about pushing boundaries with narrative and not have it be for the purposes of "elevating" games.

Online
Posted by YummyTreeSap

@Tuffgong: Absolutely agree, aside from the “in the way we think of from books or movies” statement, just for the fact that there similarly have been movies whose satisfying experiences have come solely from design and aesthetics alone. Might be harder with books, but I'm sure it has been accomplished. Just a slight nitpicky thing, but otherwise you're spot-on.

Posted by Nert

@Tuffgong: I don't think that people who would like smarter narratives are opposed to great gameplay design. In fact, if you asked the people who want to see more from the medium what the problem is, they probably wont blame games like Super Mario Galaxy or Tetris. The games that are problems in this regard are the ones that claim to have narrative ambitions, devote much of the game's running time to cutscenes and the like, and then have all of the story beats be ridiculous or lazy.

The closest I've come to being really invested in a game's story has been with the Mass Effect trilogy. The writing was always pretty mediocre to poor, with most of the larger plot developmens being total cliches, but the game at least gave me a limited sense of ownership over the story's direction. Then, the third game came out, and... yeah, the fallout from that has been pretty clear.

So no, not every game needs a "narrative." It'd be nice if the ones that did had less terrible ones, though.

(And to be clear, I'm not saying that there isn't room for dumb, action movie sorts of stores in games. It would just be nice to have the option to play games with smart narratives, too; Journey's success shows that there's a demand out there for developers to satiate).

Posted by SpaceJamLunchbox

Great article Patrick! I wanted to mentioned that I've recently felt the urge to try making a game as well, and your coverage of PAX East and Molyjam was a huge inspiration. So as I pour over this C++ manual, I'll think of you ( or curse your name.)

Posted by jasondesante

the dumbness of the story opens the door to a disc gun that dismembers robots in vanquish. they are some of the smartest designed games I've ever played. I think narrative in games have never been the focus and will never be because its just like sound or visuals, they are there to get the gameplay across. Thats why games can have weak narratives but still be amazing, and others can have strong narratives that enhance the gameplay. Its balance. The truly dumb games are ones like Prototype 2.

Also does anyone agree with me that 'Trick is the most open minded of the group next to Vinny of course.

Someone needs to play Kid Icarus. The story will shock you as much as Saints Row The Third, honest.

Posted by Chadster

I managed to finish Phi in about 45 min - 1 hr without any research. Fun little Fez-lite game; not too tough to figure out what you need to do, but complex enough to need to take some notes and draw some glyphs.

Posted by ninjalegend

I understand why combat is so often used as a crutch in games. The mild adrenalin rush from combat in games is a great source of stimuli that resists dilution through removal of self. The same can not be said about drama, comedy and tragedy. It is not just a stigma of games, but movies and tv as well. Win a few hundred dollars on a lottery ticket, and you are really excited. If your friend wins that, you are excited, but to a much lesser degree. If an acquaintance wins, it's just "good for them". Move even further to an actor on a show or an avatar, and one could care less. That is why the cop shows on tv are always about murder or rape, and not so much tax evasion or civil disputes.

I compare it to the rash of reality tv. "No one is going to watch our cooking show, so make the chefs scream at each other." "No one will watch our camping game show, so make the campers scream at each other." ad nauseum. The entertainment is only dumb because the people who are watching/playing it are as well. It's just how humans are wired. Give me adrenaline produced by the need to keep my avatar alive over the human response to grandiose demoralizing cut downs any day of the week.

Posted by Korolev

Yeah, it would be nice to see a little more intelligence in video games, but it's not absolutely necessary. Frankly, I read books for my intellectual stimulation, and I play video games to relax.

Can Video games be smart? Sure - Fez, Bastion, Braid, BioShock (when it wasn't being hamfisted as all hell), Portal and many other games demonstrate that they can, and sure, I'd like to see more games like that. The thing is, those games aren't going to sell particularly well for a couple of decades. I know I'm generalizing, but most Teenagers don't seek out intellectual stimulation. Hell, most adults don't seek out intellectual stimulation. It's only when you get to around 50 to 60 that you start to read books, watch documentaries and stare at the sunset comtemplating life. Some of us do it now when we are young, but most young people don't, and never have and never will. It's a stereotype, but often wisdom does come with age. Most teenagers I've talked to are dumb as bricks. Well, not dumb - ignorant. And proud of it! They're also about as emotionally mature as you'd expect. They often don't want to play video games that are deep, preferring their Transformers 2 and CoD. And there's nothing wrong with CoD, I play CoD (there's plenty wrong with Transformers 2), but many teenagers demand to play ONLY that sort of game, writing off anything more sophisticated as "for queers" (their words, not mine).

The average age of a video game player is around 30. When that hits 50 (and it will), you'll start to see games like Bastion and Fez hit CoD numbers. Smart games sell reasonable well - Portal 2 did well, Bastion did well and BioShock did well, but not CoD well, not GT well, not Gears of War well. But one day they will. We just have to wait.

And yes, I play "dumb" games. I watch "dumb" films. I don't want those games and films to go away. And I know that they won't. And I don't think anyone should be ashamed of playing them. But I do think that the video game industry should be ashamed of assuming that those games are the only ones worth making.

Posted by Moonshadow101

I feel like Vinny-Dumb and Jeff-Dumb are now the proper way to distinguish between the two implications of the word.

Posted by upwarDBound

Guess what? Blockbusters are quite often dumb be they movies or video games.

It sounds like what this guy is really saying is that the industry should be led by arty games like Braid and not stuff like Call of Duty. It sounds like he thinks games should be purely intellectually stimulating experiences rather than be fun so that the medium can be taken seriously. What this guy needs to realize is that all mediums rely on the dumb stuff for their largest revenues. Books, movies, and games.

Edited by HerbieBug

Video games do not hold the market share on dumbness in mass media appeal AAA big seller titles. 

Edited by SatelliteOfLove

I am just very, very leary of intellectualism as its own end. I'd like to think erudite exchanges like what we're into right now is in service of a greater good of shining light on better games and solving problems in the field rather than wielded in a political fashion like certain manipulative golden boys who shall remain nameless.
 
@Korolev said:

Yeah, it would be nice to see a little more intelligence in video games, but it's not absolutely necessary. Frankly, I read books for my intellectual stimulation, and I play video games to relax.

Can Video games be smart? Sure - Fez, Bastion, Braid, BioShock (when it wasn't being hamfisted as all hell), Portal and many other games demonstrate that they can, and sure, I'd like to see more games like that. The thing is, those games aren't going to sell particularly well for a couple of decades. I know I'm generalizing, but most Teenagers don't seek out intellectual stimulation. Hell, most adults don't seek out intellectual stimulation. It's only when you get to around 50 to 60 that you start to read books, watch documentaries and stare at the sunset comtemplating life. Some of us do it now when we are young, but most young people don't, and never have and never will. It's a stereotype, but often wisdom does come with age. Most teenagers I've talked to are dumb as bricks. Well, not dumb - ignorant. And proud of it! They're also about as emotionally mature as you'd expect. They often don't want to play video games that are deep, preferring their Transformers 2 and CoD. And there's nothing wrong with CoD, I play CoD (there's plenty wrong with Transformers 2), but many teenagers demand to play ONLY that sort of game, writing off anything more sophisticated as "for queers" (their words, not mine).

The average age of a video game player is around 30. When that hits 50 (and it will), you'll start to see games like Bastion and Fez hit CoD numbers. Smart games sell reasonable well - Portal 2 did well, Bastion did well and BioShock did well, but not CoD well, not GT well, not Gears of War well. But one day they will. We just have to wait.

And yes, I play "dumb" games. I watch "dumb" films. I don't want those games and films to go away. And I know that they won't. And I don't think anyone should be ashamed of playing them. But I do think that the video game industry should be ashamed of assuming that those games are the only ones worth making.

 
No you wont. You'll just see old gamers with bad taste buying new bad games.
Posted by Rowr

focus groups = transformers 3 = money

Blockbuster games are no different.

It's all well and good for the pretentious indie developers of this world to complain about them, but the AAA titles are large projects built by large unwieldy teams of developers with a focus of delivering something working and playable as opposed to high art, i don't understand why anyone expects anything different? It's not as though things are drastically different to this in other media such as film.

Edited by Nert

@Korolev: I'm not sure that older people are significantly more inclined to seek out more intellectually stimulating media. The majority of the CBS prime time lineup consists of middling police procedurals that draw in an older demographic, and a lot of the books that older people read are unambitious genre fiction (anecdotally speaking, I have a grandparent that burns through spy and detective novels on an almost weekly basis). I agree that the average teenager isn't inclined to seek out Tree of Life or Mad Men, but surely plenty of college students and people in their 20's do.

Posted by LittleBigJono

4 2 5 3 1 6

Posted by RPGee

Excellent article hunting, again, Tricky. There's plenty of opinion writing in the comments already (I don't have a particularly clear opinion here so I won't share it, plus now is not the time for me), but they were legitimately interesting to read. Well done again. However, onto more important news...

Tom Bissell is one of the creatives on The Witness, according to Clark's write-up on Blow.

If anything were to make me more intrigued for this game, this is it. /shutupandtakemymoney

Posted by Gaspar

@LittleBigJono said:

4 2 5 3 1 6

DUDE!!! NOT COOL!!! YOU'RE GONNA RUIN THE SUPER HARD PUZZLE.

Light columns match to constellations; top pixel = 3, middle = 2, bottom = 1.

Phi probably took me less time than ISS, and both those articles are pretty weak if for drastically different reasons. Better luck next week!

Edited by Tomeh

@Chadster

Thanks!

@LittleBigJono

Shhhhhh

Actually you have reminded me of something I should do if I ever make another game like Phi. Randomize the answer!

Posted by csl316

If amazing games like Vanquish were to go away, I'd quickly start to lose interest in the medium.

Sure, I love my deep, emotional artsy stuff. But sometimes you just need to have a good time. Same approach I have to movies, and especially music. I'll take my King Crimson improvisations, but dude... that Selena Gomez song is catchy.

Online
Posted by notdavid

I was able to finish Phi without cheating, and felt pretty good about myself when I figured out what the columns represented. The solution was ridiculously simple, but it eluded me for an hour. Anyone know any other puzzle games like that? Other than Fez, of course.

Posted by TehChich

Is there anything for Windows that's similar to Game Salad? I'd really like to try Game Salad but it's Mac only :C

Posted by BaconGames

@Nert said:

@Tuffgong: I don't think that people who would like smarter narratives are opposed to great gameplay design. In fact, if you asked the people who want to see more from the medium what the problem is, they probably wont blame games like Super Mario Galaxy or Tetris. The games that are problems in this regard are the ones that claim to have narrative ambitions, devote much of the game's running time to cutscenes and the like, and then have all of the story beats be ridiculous or lazy.

The closest I've come to being really invested in a game's story has been with the Mass Effect trilogy. The writing was always pretty mediocre to poor, with most of the larger plot developmens being total cliches, but the game at least gave me a limited sense of ownership over the story's direction. Then, the third game came out, and... yeah, the fallout from that has been pretty clear.

So no, not every game needs a "narrative." It'd be nice if the ones that did had less terrible ones, though.

(And to be clear, I'm not saying that there isn't room for dumb, action movie sorts of stores in games. It would just be nice to have the option to play games with smart narratives, too; Journey's success shows that there's a demand out there for developers to satiate).

I completely agree but in the quest to achieve greater narrative there has also flared this "high class/low class" conflict. That conflict has resulted in narrative advocates dismissing the aspect of games that makes them games in the first place and gameplay advocates dismissing narrative as an attempt to change games too much or make them "art" when they should just be "fun". Both I think represent limiting our interpretation of gaming and ultimately damaging to our medium. What I prefer going forward is ultimately what's been going on in practice this entire time: the attempt to change and cultivate narrative as a new part of gaming beyond the mechanics but the appreciation of design itself as a way to achieve great experiences. I feel like game developers have been making games under this assumption that they should just make better games in whichever way that they can or makes sense. This has resulted in a lot of great games in a variety of ways but along the way there have been some problems with how people want games to stay too much the same and shirk spending time on narrative or change too much toward narrative and dismiss the rich history of gameplay and assume its "below" narrative as an art.

Is it too much to want both? I don't think it's unreasonably to assume this applies for most people who play games but it does no one any favors to prevent letting the cards fall where they may and appreciate whatever great games come from them.

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Posted by Shaymarx

What makes a mature game? Is it the game or the player? Asura's Wrath could be considered a "dumb game". But consider why he is so angry, it is not the betrayal but his inadequacies as a father that have stemmed his rage. This seed is sown during a flashback around the mid way point of the game. All fathers can understand Asura's pain, I know that I do. Is this not the sign thoughtfully mature piece of a work that communicates human drama to its audience, an audience that in turn empathises with the character and the author? Then again if you don't notice subtleties how will you know? What needs to mature the game or the player?

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