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Worth Reading 04/05/2013

It's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

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It’s been a wild couple of weeks, and it’s hard to believe the end of the week is already here, too.

I’ve been attending GDC and PAX for years now, but I’ve always been conflicted on the best way to spend my time there. Since joining Giant Bomb, both have largely been about community, whether it’s interacting with developers and getting to know them on a more personal level or getting face-to-face time with the great people who give us the chance to work at Giant Bomb. Those have been and are worthwhile pursuits that pay dividends down the line, but I always left the events feeling like there was a way do them a little bit better. How can I get what I want out of the event, while also providing for the people who can’t be there? Enter Interview Dumptruck.

Interview Dumptruck was conceived during the beta site, even though the idea has been kicking around for longer. I record my interviews so they can be transcribed, but the MP3s otherwise gathers dust on my hard drive. Giant Bomb’s audience has always shown a keen interest in transparency and accepting the weirdness of raw, behind-the-scenes looks, so it made sense to take those interviews and put 'em online.

Then GDC and PAX rolled around, and I wondered about how I “cover” them. Sites like Kotaku, Polygon, and others have more people to throw at each event, so does it make sense to be competing to write up panels? Does anyone even care about panel write-ups? Instead, doesn’t it make sense to listen to a panel, the chat with the person who was presenting? That’s the approach I took for both events, and tried to capture moments from conversations I was happening with developers, critics, and other interesting members of the games industry. It’s been gratifying to see how people have responded to it.

The future of Interview Dumptruck is unclear. For now, it will continue to function as a spot to place my interviews from features (see: Papo & Yo's Vander Caballero), but I’ve always wanted to do a longform interview series akin to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast but for video games. I want to make it happen.

Anyway, that’s where my head’s at right now. Plus, I’m trying to figure out how to operate a PC.

Everyone remembers Jurassic Park 3D comes out this weekend, right? You know where I’ll be.

Hey, You Should Play This

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I attended plenty of interesting panels at GDC this year, but one stuck with me longer than others. One struck a chord about the way I cover video games, and the ones I chose to cover. Super Hexagon designer Terry Cavanagh and fellow designer Porpentine convened to discuss the website the two founded, freeindiegam.es. If you’re tired of games riffing on the same mechanics, if you’re tired of games being focus tested to death, if you’re tired of not feeling anything when you play a game that isn’t adrenaline, freeindiegam.es should become one of your new regular stops on the Internet. Not every game will click, and you won’t like every game. You might dislike most of them, but you won’t be able to say they’re familiar. Cavanagh and Porpentine highlighted a series of mostly overlooked games from the past year during their panel. Many of them were made for very specific audiences, or at least aren’t concerned with appealing to a very wide one. Not all of the games they chose to who would fit traditional definitions of fun. Instead, they’re hoping to invoke empathy, push at your expectations, and often make you uncomfortable. Bookmark this site.

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SoundSelf was the trippiest game I played during GDC. It was also my favorite. It’s from Robin Arnott, the designer of Deep Sea, and takes the opposite approach. Whereas Arnott was once focused on making you fear for crapping your pants, SoundSelf’s goals are more along the lines of...meditation? It’s hard to say, since the game will provoke different feelings in different people. It sent me to a zen-like state within moments of strapping on a pair of headphones, and I began humming into a microphone. Making noises and manipulating the visuals is the player’s primary way of interacting with SoundSelf (right now, anyway), and it’s unlike anything I’ve played.

And You Should Read These, Too

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Tevis Thompson’s latest column at Grantland is as poignant as his first. Thompson, who became known for his dissection of modern Zelda games, has pointed his critical eye at the nature and attraction of casual games in the past, and continues to do so here. In this column, Thompson downloads some of today's most popular games on mobile platforms, games that specifically engage with the nature of in-app purchasing, and tries to dissect not only what makes them tick, but whether they're also exploitative.

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Yes, another piece from Grantland. There may be no one better suited to having a conversation about writing a game than Tom Bissell, who most recently helped write Gears of War Judgment. Bissell was invited to talk with Ken Levine after playing BioShock Infinite, and my favorite exchange between the two is when they discuss their structural approach to storytelling. Bissell is convinced the three-act arc used in Hollywood is not helpful for games, while Levine has largely relied on the structure his entire career.

If You Click It, It Will Play

Consider Making This If You Have Time

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Kickstarter Has Promise, Hopefully Developers Don't Screw It Up

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

fun thought experiment: imagine you’ve been put in charge of Doom 4 and you have to somehow make the concept interesting again

— Bennett (@bfod) April 3, 2013

GDC Prompted Some Emotional Responses From Its Attendees

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+