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Worth Reading: 11/15/2013

You know, in case you need a break from all this next-gen talk.

It's here. You can argue next-generation kicked off with Wii U, but our traditional definition of "next-gen" comes with a certain advancement of graphical fidelity, and that's finally coming with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Soak it in, folks! It's probalby going to be a long, long time before we're here again.

But while everyone else is streaming, talking, and reviewing, I want to highlight something very important that's happening.

Ana Kessel worked as a graphic arts intern on Insomniac Games' Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus. It's the studio's latest platformer, and one that, by most accounts, is a surprising and appreciated return to form. But Ana's adventure into gaming development has been interrupted by a painful, horrible car accident, one that will require a new leg. She is currently raising money to pay her medical bills on the service GoFundMe:

"Ana is at Wake Med in North Carolina recovering from a serious car injury. Her leg has been amputated as a result of the crash in which a man without a license hit her and then fled the scene. She will be in and out of surgery for the next few days. When she wakes up she will endure a life changing moment. Losing a limb is never an easy obstacle to overcome for anyone and with the healthcare changes currently being revamped there is no telling how much this could affect her recovery. Ana is a recent graduate from Full Sail University with a very unique talent. Although, given that Full Sail is a very expensive school to go to she will be having many financial issues with medical bills and college loans. I as well as all her friends and family are wishing for a full recovery and hopeful future using her talented skills with as little complications as possible."

Her friends and family are hoping to raise $150,000 to help Ana out. That's an ambitious goal, but we've seen what passionate people have accomplished with crowdfunding in the past, and it'd be lovely to see this one become a success story, too.

Give an extra hug those close to you this weekend, too. You never know what the future holds.

Worth Playing

And You Should Read These, Too

And lo, Simon Parkin did write a new article, and Patrick did insist that you read it. Parkin continues to do wonderful work at The New Yorker, and in this piece, we have the results of Parkin's research and reporting on game players in Iraq. The most surprising revelations from the story involve the current way many Iraqis currently acquire games over Steam (paying people in other countries) and the reactions to games set in their own region, such as Battlefield 3 (they sell exceptionally well, and are viewed as catharsis for a region used to terrorist-driven conflict). I'd love to se more region-specific stories of gaming habits.

"For Abdulla, playing these games in their real-world settings isn’t problematic. 'Any video game that’s set within Iraq and involves killing terrorists becomes instantly famous here,' he said. 'Everyone wants to play it. We have been through so much because of terror. Shooting terrorists in a game is cathartic. We can have our revenge in some small way.”' Alanseri agreed: 'Any game that has a level set in Iraq is popular. They always sell more copies than other games because they are related in some way to our lives.' The games have even established a kind of empathy for foreign gaming partners that Alanseri said he would not otherwise have. 'I have learned a lot of things, like Western-world values, culture, life style, and even the way that they think through video games.'"

By coincidence, the other story I've plucked expresses similar sentiments with the anxiety-inducing Papers, Please. Becky Chambers is intimately familiar with the wondering if someone is going to stamp her papers or not, having spent years unsuccessfully trying to have her partner immigrate to the US from Iceland. When Chambers started to consider why she was playing the game she was, her understanding of what it means to be a small piece in an enormous bureaucratic machine was transformed. What were the people who approved (and denied) her papers like? Where they just having a bad day? What were their families like? It's a powerful piece about the empathetic potential of games.

"I’ve spent countless hours in airports. I can tell you how security differs, depending on where you’re flying to or from. The different kinds of questions, the typical length of lines, the thoroughness of the frisking. I always smile when going through checkpoints, and keep my voice easy. I comply as quickly as I can. “She’s just doing her job,” I tell myself, as a stranger runs the backs of her hands over my breasts. And then, as anger starts to creep in, the thing that always mollifies me: 'Don’t. You can’t afford another ticket. You need to get home.'

I watched people in the game comply just as quietly. I fought back queasiness as I examined naked photographs of strangers’ bodies. When they did not comply, I detained them. I detained more people for lesser offenses after one of the guards promised to cut me into the bonus he got for making arrests. I found myself feeling spiteful toward mistakes — no, not toward the mistakes themselves, toward the people who made them. What a bunch of idiots. How could they not know the rules? They’re so clear! I felt smug in my undeserved power as I slammed the red stamp down. Smug, and ugly. Hollow."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

  • Interstellaria seems to reflect a growing interest in PC games exploring space.
  • Interference was highlighted on Worth Playing, and now you can back it.
  • Dino Run 2 is a video game called Dino Run 2. Again, it's called Dino Run 2.
  • Dropsy may contain the creepiest god damn clown in video games.
  • Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works looks like a wonderful coffee book retrospective.
  • Reset is that game with the sad robots traveling through time.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

  • Eurogamer asks Shuhei Yoshida about review scores. His response is humble and genuine.
  • Robert Yang continues RPS' excellent designer-interviewing-designer series with Thomas Grip.
  • Steve Beynon writes about how the Battlefield games helped him with grapple with PTSD.
  • Cara Ellison has never played Half-Life before, and she's writing about her reactions.
  • Vince Pearson reports about tracking player behavior is changing game development.
  • Ian Williams makes a strong case for why developers should consider unionization.
  • Lucas Pope reflects on the development process for Papers, Please.
  • Mike Bithell used to be a developer on the outside looking in. Now it's the opposite, and it's weird.
  • Russ Pitts has this profile on the groundbreaking development of the original Xbox Live.
  • Jeff Vogel responds to criticism leveled against his piece on indie marketing from last week.
  • Nathan Grayson pushes Blizzard to better articulate its online requirements for Diablo III.
  • Terry Mulachy considers how games may be finding success embracing non-standard characters.
  • Ian Hardingham provides advice on how to respond and internalize feedback to a beta test.
Patrick Klepek on Google+
49 Comments
Edited by Dezztroy

Sports games are the only games that improve as they get more realistic? Yeah, it's not like there's a market for realism-focused military sims or anything.

Edited by Fobwashed

@dezztroy: Racing sims also come to mind -_-;;

Thanks for this Mr. Klepek. Look forward to it weekly even though I may not always comment.

Posted by wohlf

I'd say that as a game become more realistic, it's less about having fun and more about accomplishing or experiencing something.

Edited by cooljammer00
Edited by MrSpaceMan

The post from @epicsteve was incredible. Super funny and informed dude, listened to some of his shows and met him at PAX. Can't believe he isn't doing that stuff for a real job yet. Wasn't he a GiantBomb intern?

Posted by Hassun

That list of tweets is hilarious. Looks like a great example to show that people should probably think a bit longer and harder before posting their thoughts on the internet.

Posted by cloudyimpulse

That Markus Persson interview was pretty funny.

Posted by omg87

Oh man, I love me some realistic murder sims.

Posted by Wintermute

Bennett at the very least let's his bias be known right away by calling games that contain violence "murder simulators". So take his opinion with a grain of salt. And he says the high from games like NBA Jam and 2k14 are very different. Well, likewise, the high from games like Doom and Battlefield 4 are very different.

Posted by hanktherapper

I have such great memories of playing Half-Life when it was released. I look forward to Cara's future articles.

Posted by Dallas_Raines

Wow, that Asslevania was a real piece of garbage, I'd hate to know anyone who would laugh at such a thing.

Posted by EODTech

Wow, that unionization article is from Jacobin. Were the sites for Mother Jones and Worker's World Weekly down for maintenance?

I quote verbatim: "It would be a bad socialist, indeed, who would dismiss people working on something they love as worthless."

That is priceless. As if there are any good socialists.

Posted by Y2Ken

Some great stuff in here, Patrick. It was really sad to hear about Ana - it's awful when anything like this happens, and I only hope for the best for her and that she is able to get back to doing what she loves as soon as possible.

Read Steve's article the other day too, and it was fascinating. Definitely a choice pick.

Posted by Nekroskop

Why would anyone leave Iceland for the US? That just blows my mind.

Edited by Accolade

Feel bad for someone who worked on one of my personal favorite franchises getting in a hit and run/coma/amputation. Probably gonna donate.

Posted by Nasar7

Why would anyone leave Iceland for the US? That just blows my mind.

So they don't have to bone someone they're related to.

Posted by Saganomics

@hassun said:

That list of tweets is hilarious. Looks like a great example to show that people should probably think a bit longer and harder before posting their thoughts on the internet.

Why? You're free to disagree with him (I certainly do), but it's not like he said anything particularly ridiculous or offensive.

Posted by Parsnip

How about that Max Scoville.

Almost makes it seem like there's more to the story of him leaving REV3. Time to put on our conspiracy theory hats!

Posted by edgeCrusher

I've always been amused by video game makers aversion towards unionization. The kool-aid must be strong for those folks. I've known video game development was a shit job when I was 15. I don't know why anyone keeps wanting to "break into the industry."

Edited by infectedhero

@edgecrusher: You got a point i agree with what your saying.

Posted by Roadshell

Murder simulators? Jesus, I know FPSs aren't for everybody but when did the gaming press turn into Jack Thompson?

Edited by BisonHero

@saganomics said:

@hassun said:

That list of tweets is hilarious. Looks like a great example to show that people should probably think a bit longer and harder before posting their thoughts on the internet.

Why? You're free to disagree with him (I certainly do), but it's not like he said anything particularly ridiculous or offensive.

Was I missing something with the tweets? Like, was there another half of the conversation? Why does the guy @fullbright only on the last two? Is there a Fullbright Company response? Are the tweets from some random clown, or is that that Twitter account some known guy in the industry? As presented, I just don't think those tweets were very interesting.

The guy has obviously never seen the Giant Bomb Flight Club, or else he'd know that realism is also appreciated in flight sims.

Posted by Ulquiorra

That Markus Persson interview was really funny, and it's great to see Max Scoville at Destructoid as I recently heard Jim Sterling was leaving :(

Thanks for the read Patrick.

Posted by Nengjanggo

Thanks for posting the link to the Pakin article. I really enjoyed reading it.

Posted by Gaff

@wintermute: @dezztroy: I somehow don't think realistically modelling the impact of bullets, knives and explosions on the human body is going to be happening very soon. And at that point, if you're going to be you might as well call it a "murder simulator".

@saganomics said:

@hassun said:

That list of tweets is hilarious. Looks like a great example to show that people should probably think a bit longer and harder before posting their thoughts on the internet.

Why? You're free to disagree with him (I certainly do), but it's not like he said anything particularly ridiculous or offensive.

Was I missing something with the tweets? Like, was there another half of the conversation? Why does the guy @fullbright only on the last two? Is there a Fullbright Company response? Are the tweets from some random clown, or is that that Twitter account some known guy in the industry? As presented, I just don't think those tweets were very interesting.

The guy has obviously never seen the Giant Bomb Flight Club, or else he'd know that realism is also appreciated in flight sims.

"Bennett" is an indie developer. "QWOP, GIRP, Little Master Cricket, Winner vs. Loser, Too Many Ninjas". At least that's what it says on his twitter profile.

Posted by cooljammer00

@parsnip said:

How about that Max Scoville.

Almost makes it seem like there's more to the story of him leaving REV3. Time to put on our conspiracy theory hats!

The way he makes it sound, he wanted to do more goofy stuff that he was in complete control of, Rev3 obviously could not afford him that opportunity, and he thought Destructoid was done, so he left to do Comedy Button full time...until Destructoid said "you can do your goofy shit here and we can pay you" and he probably got his head out of his butt and said yes.

Posted by audioBusting

@bisonhero said:

@saganomics said:

@hassun said:

That list of tweets is hilarious. Looks like a great example to show that people should probably think a bit longer and harder before posting their thoughts on the internet.

Why? You're free to disagree with him (I certainly do), but it's not like he said anything particularly ridiculous or offensive.

Was I missing something with the tweets? Like, was there another half of the conversation? Why does the guy @fullbright only on the last two? Is there a Fullbright Company response? Are the tweets from some random clown, or is that that Twitter account some known guy in the industry? As presented, I just don't think those tweets were very interesting.

The guy has obviously never seen the Giant Bomb Flight Club, or else he'd know that realism is also appreciated in flight sims.

You can click on the date/time on the tweets to see the full conversation. Anyway, I'm pretty sure by "aesthetic realism" he meant graphics-wise. Like, the more realistic sports game looks (e.g. athletes' sweat, Triple H's hair) the better they are, but realistic-looking bullet wounds would probably turn people away from a game.

Edited by Chokomofo

"It's here. You can argue next-generation kicked off with Wii U, but our traditional definition of "next-gen" comes with a certain advancement of graphical fidelity, and that's finally coming with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Soak it in, folks! It's probalby going to be a long, long time before we're here again."

"Soak it in, folks! It's probalby going to be a long, long time before we're here again."

"It's probalby going to be a long"

Is this the first @patrickklepek spelling error on the site?! Document this! Build a tiny statue. Pack it in, boys. It's all over.

Posted by Hassun

@saganomics: The list and times of the tweets makes it look like first he's saying something and then, after getting replies or thinking about it, tries to edit his original message.

On top of that it's pretty idiotic as well of course. Realism and cartoony game styles can both work perfectly in sports games AND violent games. The whole thing comes off as diarrhoea of the brain.

Posted by TheHumanDove

excuse me sir r u a murder simulator

Edited by Boopie

Wonderful work Patrick thank you for sharing

Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

@dezztroy: Racing sims also come to mind -_-;;

Thanks for this Mr. Klepek. Look forward to it weekly even though I may not always comment.

Racing is a sport.

Posted by SatelliteOfLove

Vince Pearson reports about tracking player behavior is changing game development.

A wise man once said:

It seems to me that one of the bigger reasons for the perceived decline of curiosity and boldness in video game design is a general increase of information and prevalence of knowledge. There's been a hell of a big caesura (for lack of a better word meaning both 'change' and 'break').

When Miyamoto created a game like Zelda, he didn't know how its audience would react, what its audience would expect -- and more importantly: what people it comprised. He had an idea of a game and watched it unfold.

What spawns games today is the knowledge of what their audience -- or rather: possible video game customers -- will like and come to expect. Developers aren't feeding us crap. They're well aware what the most beloved whine of the widest possible group of people is. This isn't capitalism, it's the result of a previously unknown breadth of information tough to ignore. The turn happened here, and there are few ways back.

There's no lack of talented people. Greatly talented people still exist and work in the business. They simply now know who they're working for, both in the mainstream and in the niches.

It's interesting to see LPs of games, to read about the development of games, and to play games where it seems they had doubled down on what they knew from metrics feedback and avoided ideas, methods, and motifs that the metrics didn't lead to.

How many mechanics or narrative tropes where dropped where a handful of people said they hated it, yet they were something no one felt was worth fighting for at the time of it being questioned? How many ideas died on the vine because there's no evidence it's worked before?

Posted by crithon

I need to play Terror Dome, it looks like it plays like Primal Rage

Edited by AssInAss

That Papers, Please article is great. The bit about her losing compassion while playing, reminds me a lot of Zimbardo's psychological experiment where he gave random people roles of prisoners and guards in a made-up prison under Stanford university. Once you assume the role, all previous empathy can be shifted.

That Max Scoville announcement is confusing! But ok, subscribed back again to DTOID.

I don’t feel like realism ever improves shooters or fighters or strategy games or stealth games, etc etc

— Bennett (@bfod)

I strongly disagree with this. Stealth games having more realism led to better and more reactive AI, like in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory where a guard will check up on a room where you've turned off the lights. In a more arcadey game, that would seem pointless, but in a more realistic game that verisimilitude is a benefit.

Fighting games like Fight Night Round 3 got more enjoyable because the photorealistic graphics of people getting pounded by punches felt more painful, emotional responses from the player were easier, and the idea of no health bar meant the fights felt more spontaneous so that any time you can get KO'ed.

Shooters? ArmA, Ghost Recon, SWAT 4, and other squad tactical shooters absolutely benefit from the realism. In SWAT 4, It helps you assume the role of a SWAT officer even more. There are more options available, like shouting at an enemy to drop their gun and knowing they can fake it or pull out another gun. You can use real world logic in how to tackle situations just before you open->bash->flashbang->clear onto a door with possible enemies inside the room.

(bear in mind that this game is from 2005)

Edited by pocketroid

The article about game development conditions by Ian Williams is great. Along with the recent article by Jeff Vogel, the industry seems so screwed, as I've thought for years.

Posted by GunstarRed

So glad you mentioned that Mega Drive book. I doubt I'd have ever heard about it, that thing looks awesome.

Edited by Bam_Boozilled

Been keeping this page open in a tab so I can incrementally watch the Minecraft Documentary. Good stuff. Kind of emotional at times. My favorite part is the class that is based around the game. I'm very jealous of those kids. When I was in elementary school I had a super strong sense of imagination. I wish I had minecraft when I was that age.

Posted by mrfrox250

Wow !