Friends, put down the controller and don your finest headphones. Come, sit by my fire.
Brandon Sheffield, Senior Contributing Editor at Gamasutra and Editor Emeritus of Game Developer magazine, has announced in a recent op-ed that it’s time to retire the word “gamer.” This meme comes up once in a while – don’t call them games, don’t use the word gamer, etc. – always with the same basis. It’s derisive. It minimizes the medium and the hobby. Yadda. These articles, including Sheffield’s, usually leave something out, though: what “gamers” should be called, if they can’t be called “gamers.”
This month’s Culture Clash column is inspired in part by a chronic affliction of mine: every twelve months or so, I undergo a strange frenzy of attention-paying to the work of Ice-Pick Lodge, the inscrutable Russian developer of Pathologic, Cargo!, and The Void. The studio’s website rarely sees substantive updates, but nevertheless I always tend to find something new there – though it rarely is anything about their activities. This time around I found a series of papers and lectures on game development, the translation quality of which was… quite poor.
Still! I like that stuff and it formed the basis of what I have to say in this month’s column. Despite it making complete sense to me, I have a feeling this is one of those installments that will make the eyes of other readers cross. Like Penny Arcade’s Twisp & Catsby comics, I try to only do that once a year or so. Enjoy!
Here’s the first article in a planned few-parter on shooters. Think of it as a preamble. To keep my ambition in check for this first installment, I’ll just talk about two shooters in particular that have piqued my interest.
So a couple weeks ago I’m minding my own business when the email dings – it’s a rep from the New York Film Academy’s School of Game Design, asking about the possibility of one of their people doing a guest piece. Technically it was from their marketing department, which always makes me suspicious since I get about eleventy-five of those a week and eleventy-four of them wind up trying to sell me Cialis™, which I’m told is for Whenever the Time is Right®. Every now and then I bite though, which in this case was a great thing since it turned out to be both legit and totally worth it.
Thus do I introduce Iron Man Mode Blog Overlord, freelance writer, Guitar Hero master, and NYFA staffer Zeke Iddon, who for reasons soon to become clear is slightly less than overjoyed to share with us his feelings on Tale of Tale’s latest nongame Bientôt l’été, which I just know is going to mess up the site’s text display. Despite the pain, he even made us a video. You gotta watch the video, it’s freaking awesome.
Take it Zeke!
It consistently amazes me that I’ve written this column for over ten years now. Not the length of time, the fact that they haven’t wised up and fired my ass yet. After all, aside from my unique ability to employ unnecessarily laborious and Byzantine sentence structure, the only thing I bring to the table is a crushing inability to stick to my thousand-word limit. There are actual people with actual things of value to say, yet the folks at the IGDA keep me around, like the weird but tolerated uncle. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t complaining!
I missed last month because I was knocked out by a cold. I’m back now, though, with an unnecessarily laborious and Byzantine 990 words (hah!) that basically say “games can be about things.” So there you go. I guess… I guess that means you can skip the column, then. I wouldn’t blame you, but our SEO demands that you at least click the link. Otherwise it’s all for nothing. Enjoy!
This is a barely legible meditation of how chasing Hollywood audience and Hollywood dollars (but without having the advantage of Hollywood accounting) is absolutely killing AAA games. At this rate, there won’t be any left mid-next generation. Remember, you read it here first.
It’s on the books, people: EA CEO John Ricitiello is out. The #2 publisher isn’t going to hit its numbers for the quarter and has been underperforming for some time, even as it endures a hailstorm of ongoing negative press. In his memo to employees, Ricitiello takes the high road, assuming all the blame for EA’s revenue problems and stating unequivocally that the buck stops with him. I respect that, and I’ve always had at least some respect for John Ricitiello. He may not have been God’s gift to CEOs, but there’ve been worse in this industry; the truth is EA’s suffering can’t all be laid at his door – though the culture that allowed it probably can.
I’m at IndieCade East, in New York City, watching Kevin Cancienne and Margaret Robinson talk about Hokra.
Hokra is one of the SportsFriends games, a local multiplayer game funded by a joint Kickstarter. It’s like a very stripped-down digital soccer game. It’s a four-player game, two players on each team playing keepaway with a with a square pixel ball. It’s basic but holds surprising depth for high-level players. It’s hard not to get enthusiastic and cheer, watching every pass, every tackle and upset and score.
As I allude in the body of this column, I didn’t intend to write anything about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school. In fact I kind of instructed myself not to. What could I say? That I’m sorry, but I still don’t think video games had anything to do with it? Or just that I’m sorry? Nothing at all seemed best.
But in the end I buckled, I guess, though this month’s column for the International Game Developers Association is less about Sandy Hook than it is about our society and how we react to things. I don’t know what the long-term fallout will be for the games industry; it has weathered such storms in the past. But maybe it can still be a wake-up call, about the medium’s content, and whether it’s all it can (or should) be. Enjoy!
For those who’ve read and commented on my medical adventures and subsequent musings, my thanks and an update. It’s been a little over a year since I walked out of the hospital and I can report that readers of Tap-Repeatedly know more about my medical history than the medical professionals treating me. Seem odd? Tag along on my most recent doctor visit and judge for yourself.
This has been percolating for about a week now, but it’s official – Epic Mickey creator Junction Point Studios has been shut down by parent company Disney, putting Warren Spector and about 140 others out of work. Coming as it does so quickly on the also-anticipated-but-also-sad THQ fire sale, one can’t help but feel that attrition seems awfully high for early 2013. Hopefully it’s not a harbinger of things to come.
Last year around this time Mat C started a project where we all confessed to our “backlog” sins. This was particularly useful for me, since at the time, I had also made a sort of New Year’s Resolution with my husband. “No new games, until you beat games you already own.” Seemed simple enough, and with the Log of Shame I did my best to tally my ratio of new games to games completed.
But there were some problems.
A completely rhetorical question. The answer is obviously “no.”
But Square Enix spent a lot of energy last week trying to convince people that Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, was a game that they wanted. Many game journalists were invited to attend a press conference to this effect. There, they asked questions like “Why exactly is Lightning returning?” and “No, seriously, is that the real reason why?”
I was not at any of these press conferences. I do get press releases from Square Enix, where I have been getting information for a few months now about an “epic return to Lightning’s saga.” This generally passed me by, because it was not a saga I was personally invested in. However, I can offer some insight anyway.