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Not Just Another Podcast

As some of you may already know my good friend Noah Sasso and I have been working on a podcast about the New York game scene called Another Castle. We’ve been recording interviews all summer and as we go speeding towards the fall we’ve finally released our first episode.

Our first episode is a conversation with the co-founder of the innovative game development firm area/code and interim director of NYU’s new Game Center, Frank Lantz. We range from topics such as designing games for social play to the creative process and the lessons to be learned from the 20th century regarding the status of games.

I conducted the interview with production and editing handled by Noah and with music by Chris Graves (www.kracfive.com). Our cover (above) was designed by Rachel Morris (www.rachelem-illo.com).

You can subscribe to the podcast  on iTunes or you can download it from here:

Another Castle Episode 1 – Frank Lantz

We’re releasing a new episode every other week and next time we’ll be talking to independent game developer and critic, Anna Anthropy.

Hope you all get a chance to listen and any feedback you have would be greatly appreciated!

12 Comments

  1. The bit about silliness versus engagement with the rule system at the end has stuck with me. Do any of you know if there is any research that might suggest that the process of interacting with a skinned game is dual and not a gestalt? I mean, is it possible that when I’m interfacing with the game through the controller one mental process is engaged with the rule system while a separate process takes the visual stream in as a pure cinematic experience?

    Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 6:52 am | Permalink
  2. I just looked through your archives thinking about this. The bit about David Sirlin seeing frames more slowly… he’s looking straight at the rules and receiving them more rapidly than the visual data. I apologize if you mention this more in the podcast. I’m not accustomed to listening to them and I did so while writing, so I zoned sections of it out.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink
  3. Charles J Pratt wrote:

    This is a common topic around these parts so we didn’t go into much detail about it, though I should have been doing a better job as a moderator and spotted a subject that not everyone is familiar with.

    The source of the idea is that for most high level video game players most of the graphics in a game don’t matter at all. You might look into the phenomenon of skilled Quake players turning everything down until the game is graphically just blocks of color.

    As far as academics goes I think this most closely resembles Jesper Juul’s ideas that video games are real rules combined with fictional elements, but there may be other sources.

    I had a conversation with Wesley Erdelack a few months back on the idea that gamers have ‘double vision’, they absorb and interpret separately the visual/textual/auditory (representational) layer and the underlying rules of the system. As you move into high level play more and more of the representational layer is filtered as noise so you can more accurately identify and react to the important signals.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Frank Lantz wrote:

    I think the research that really matters is one’s own experience. We’re not studying the cultural practice of some exotic tribe, we’re talking about games, the things we love, the things we spend our days doing, our evenings discussing, our nights dreaming about. You have direct access to your own experience while playing a game. What does it feel like?

    But that sounds so clinical. So, instead, what do you feel like? As in, what do you want?

    Friday, September 18, 2009 at 3:59 am | Permalink
  5. Oh, I can easily dig talking about how awesome the phenomenon is. I do it constantly. When I was asking about research, I didn’t mean a study that watched people playing games and asked them stupid questions, I was asking if neurological analyses bore the duality out.

    Friday, September 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  6. But, okay, I’ll play by your rules since I’m in your house. As far as knowing a game so well that all of a sudden time slows down for me… that’s never happened. I’ve never loved a rule system in a competitive game enough to dedicate more than a few months to it (and that was in a MUD and WoW, not a fighting or strategy game), so I’ve never been the guy who knew the ruleset and moveset of a single game inside and out down to the rock/paper/scissors of it, the timing, etc.

    That said, I guess I’ve experienced something like this in Space Giraffe and Geometry Wars. When I really get into the groove, and when things really get hairy, I cease trying to figure out exactly where my avatar and its hitbox are compared to the visual mess. At that point I just move into a freeflow defensive pattern that I’d never planned for consciously before. And sometimes it works.

    Friday, September 18, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Permalink
  7. Frank Lantz wrote:

    Cool, but also, how do you experience a regular old 1-player story-based videogame? Is it dual? Gestalt? Something else entirely? All I know is my own experience which is nothing so neat as either duality or gestalt would imply. It’s a mess I am not trying to clean up.

    Friday, September 18, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink
  8. daphny wrote:

    hi
    you said episode two was up
    i dont see episode two
    i would like to listen to episode two
    why do you tease me so charles j pratt

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink
  9. Hi guys,

    I’m a little late to the party here but think I heard my name and I wanted to pop in.

    charles,
    I remember this talk about double vision and I think you’re basically right about how games habituate players. Maybe you’re struck by the visuals at first but the more you play the more you internalize the representational layer and you begin to “see” the world itself as a system of environmental cues showing you the way to the correct behavior.

    However, (and here I think I’m in agreement with frank) I think the type of game really effects this dynamic. I think that this phenomenon is extremely strong multiplayer shooters, but not as strong in single-player games in other genres. That is, the double vision in a matter of degrees and it depends on the type of game– I think there’s a pretty wide spectrum between, say, Heavy Rain and Quake with the settings all the way down. This is important, and i don’t think you want to explain either extreme away.

    Also, just as an aside: I still don’t know what Juul means when he says that rules are “more real” than fiction. Aren’t rules just another sort of fiction?

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  10. Charles J Pratt wrote:

    Hey Iroquois, I see your point. Still, I would make the observation that maybe the reason that it seems like there is a difference between multi- and single-player games when it comes to double vision is due more to the fact that we don’t play single-player games over and over again, while this is common in multi-player games.

    For instance, I’ve recently been speedrunning Shadow Complex and I can say that by now (about 30 runs in) I basically don’t ‘see’ anything but the environmental cues. In other words, I do see all the thematic stuff but for the most part I just filter it as noise. I’m sure that if I played Heavy Rain thirty times I would start to do the same thing.

    As for your point about Jesper’s dichotomy: I think what he means is that rules are actual prescriptions on player behavior, while a dragon in a game is not an actual dragon. In other words, rules are not representations of rules, they are actual rules.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink
  11. Just stopping in to be a jerk:

    Isn’t a dragon in a game more real than a representation of a dragon anywhere else? What happens when you represent something that was only a representation in the first place? Also, doesn’t the dragon represent a ruleset that is just as real as the mechanic for stabbing it?

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 3:09 am | Permalink
  12. Charles J Pratt wrote:

    Jerks are always welcome at GDA, Simon! As long as they’re clever jerks.

    Hrm, okay, what I think Jesper would say is that the ruleset that the dragon represents is as real as the mechanic for stabbing it, however that representation is arbitrary. The ruleset could also be represented by a rabbit, or a bookcase.

    The rules that the dragon represents however, do actually have an effect on the possibility space of the game they govern. For instance, if the dragon does 100 points of damage per second and I do 10, and the dragon has 100 hit points and I have 20, then I’m always going to actually lose if my goal is to get the dragon to zero hit points.

    The mathematical inevitability of my failure is real, the dragon is not.

    So, my guess is that Jesper would say “no, a dragon in a game is not more real”.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

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