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Catching Up

There were a few things that popped up in my RSS reader last week that I thought were pretty interesting and didn’t get a chance to link. So here they are, just in time for the holiday.

James Portnow posted his notes from a talk he gave at this year’s Meaningful Play conference on the ethics and responsibilities of game developers working on ‘persuasive games’. His thoughts actually echo a great piece by Chris Sullentrop from a year ago. An argument that the fears of Portnow and Sullentrop may be misplaced could be read into a recent post by Michael Abbott over on The Brainy Gamer, about the admiration he had for the game design of Fallout 3. I would say that we give far too little credit to players in assuming that they are unaware of the biases built into a game’s design. Video games haven’t nearly reached a level of immersive quality that we have to worry about intentional, or even unintentional, brain-washing.

On a different topic (or is it?), Matt Thrower at Boardgame News has another good post that applies to video games as well as board games, namely the idea that games are simply “carefully dressed up mathematical exercises”. He then goes on to discuss how obvious the intrinsic mathematic nature of a game should be in its presentation, and how that affects the reception a game receives, especially among more neophyte gamers. 

Hope you all enjoy these and I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving!

One Comment

  1. Nash wrote:

    Re: Michael Abbot’s Fallout post

    Quick comment here…I’m surprised no one mentioned this in the responses to his post on Brainy Gamer…

    In the first 15 or so hours of F3, I was absolutely blown away. In fact, I even saved my game in a separate spot atop the Washington Monument, feeling the same sense of disturbed nostalgia and awe that Abbot felt. Then the radio doesn’t smash…but that’s the least of F3′s problems.

    It almost seems that the closer a developer gets to really “nailing” the truly “free” open world, the more it shatters my suspension of disbelief. The more free I am, the weirder it is that I can’t smash the radio. Granted, approaching this bottom-up and accepting the conventions and restraints of game development, I can easily accept this. But it becomes harder to accept these things when the rest of the world is just so damn real, I’m free, forging my path, creating my own story.

    It’s not the radio. It’s the fact that everything feels like a simulation. I finally meet my dad, and he asks me to run with him to Rivet City. I spent my entire 20 hours searching for him (and found him in an amazing way!). Then we run, together, finally united, on a quest together…and he says nothing to me on the way. There’s his character model running through the wastes. Fall back X feet behind him and he slows to a walk. Fall back another Y feet, he stops and waits. See an enemy, start shooting, play a little audio clip. Another enemy, audio repeats.

    You want a crazy narrative experience, and then you interact with simulations, not people. In a way, Half-Life 2 felt more narratively immersive, despite it’s complete linearity and utter lack of role-playing!

    Why track morality with a number? How come when I give a stranger some pure water, I get “good” points (Karma, in this game), and then travel 20 miles away, and people treat me like a saint. Surely they didn’t know I was a charity. How do you stay nuetral? Give pure water to enough homeless people, and balance it with killing enough innocent people. Does the town get to tough to survive after killing an NPC? Simple. Leave town and reneter. They’ll forget the whole thing ever happened. But you’ll keep your “bad” points.

    I don’t mean to lampoon Fallout3, as I am truly enjoying it. It’s just frustrating when an interactive storyworld (it’s barely a game, but that’s another conversation) does so many things right, and yet that only makes the computer program itself so transparent. Ironically, the most rich and emotional part of the game is when you literally enter a computer program a la the Matrix…suddenly the NPCs felt “real.”

    Fallout 3 is a step in the right direction, but more than anything exposes the weaknesses of these noble story-simulation goals, and the things developers and designers will have to face as they near true virtual reality.

    Friday, December 5, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

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