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Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Trade gift games for items on steam (beta)!  I know, you can’t trade used games.  Interestingly, this will create additional mild demand for games, adding value as a currency (and increased liquidity).

I wonder if that means some indie games will become common currencies.  Also, if I were feeling speculative, I’d open a fresh steam account, trade currency games into it, wait for their value to become inflated, and then sell the currency account on ebay to get a return on my investment.

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Precisely

My thoughts exactly.

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WoW Web API

I know, I disappear for a while, and all I’ve got when I come back is…

WoW has a new web API that I only just now saw.  I’m late to the party, but man is that cool from a web-coder standpoint.

Yes, I’ve been stupendously busy with late nights at work…that honest to goodness is what I’ve been doing.  On the brightside, I’ve learned a lot!

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I picked up Shogun 2 and have been trying to invest as much time as possible into it.  They’ve addressed a lot of issues here; it’s a much cleaner, more focused game than Empire (whose awe-inspiring scope meant it had some…rough edges).

Anyway, I’ve taken the role of Uesugi Kenshin.  This apparently was sort of a mistake, as just about every ally I’ve had in central Honshu (the main island) has been swallowed by the Tokugawa.  Unnervingly, the Tokugawa under Ieyasu eventually united Japan historically, and I’m loathe to have that repeated in my fantasy game where I am supposed to cover the whole of Japan in enlightened warriors of Buddha, who eventually send monks back to convert the dirty Christians of Europe into regular bathers.

I’d actually had high hopes for the Takeda clan holding out for a bit longer, but it appears they suffered some provincial unrest, letting Tokugawa first eat up the western coast then pounce on their soft underbelly.  In the meantime, my longtime allies, the Mogami clan of the north, refuse to become my vassal and block my expansion.  Given that daimyo honor actually plays an important role in diplomacy, I don’t want to break that alliance and invade without provocation, so I’m just waiting for Tokugawa to attack me.  I’m basically the only thing they can move against, as their eastern border is occupied by the Takaoka clan with whom they’re allied.

It’s going to happen.  And I have a large force of warrior monks bearing sword and spear massing for the fight.

(Seriously, pick the game up if you dig any of the Total War series; it’s worth it)

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Look, I know that games and scores and measures give us something to look forward to.  They provide motivation and such.  Really, I get that.

But I don’t want my world any more like a game.  I have plenty of games, and in many ways we as game devs have been trying to peel the feeling of being a game out of the game.  Consider things like Dead Space, which tries to move the UI into the world…or the games that seek to do away with the UI altogether.

Look, trying to make the world more like a game, or address problems as games…sucks the life out of them.  In a sense, it minimizes both the problem and the solutions by entrapping them within a box, hollowing out the cores of their meaning in themselves, and forcing them to derive meaning instead from their alignment on an access of high scores and game-completion cutscenes.

A game is not a livable environment.  It is a one off.  Games do not continue, in general: they have some sort of end-condition.  So: let’s say you make a game to lose weight, where you score yourself on how many calories you didn’t consume, how much exercise you did, and how much weight you lost.  You lose all your weight, and reach your goal.  Now what?

The game gets boring, that’s what.  Every sort of scoring mechanism gets boring, eventually: we plumb it’s depths to the extent of our desire to do so, then move on.  However, not every problem is approachable in this manner, and so we inflict a sort of shallowness on things to try to solve them, only to find we have failed to do so for any serious length of time.  Instead, we’re left with the same problem and a bit of shame that we made so light of it.

TO go back to the weight thing, it’s not enough to lose weight: you generally want to keep it off.  That, however, requires consistent habits.  A game is not habit-developing except within the game world itself.  Since we exit the game world when we complete the game, we tend not to maintain those habits.  For the weight loss…well, we would no longer have that overriding game goal hovering overhead.  In general, we would tend to drift back to old habits…and regain the weight.

Now, games do teach meta-habits, but they tend to be things necessary to win at games.  To wit, a game that teaches us about reducing our carbon footprint will teach us two sets of things: factual pieces which may as well have come from wikipedia and additional ways for pattern recognition (which is used in general puzzle solving).  There’s nothing particular to games which makes them better conveyances for factual information than, say, a book or a movie.  At best, we can say certain minds are better able to remember the supplied information if it comes from a game and requires re-use (though I can reply that context has been shown to be highly important to recall, so outside of the game environment we might have issues remembering the facts the game taught us).

Stop getting your game in my life.  I have enough of them, and they had damn well better stay stored on my shelf and not go leaping about assigning point values to how well I can open a door.

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Via Rock, Paper, Shotgun, comes a trailer for a new zombie sandbox game.  The trailer is…well, amazing, I think.  An absolutely brilliant piece of mind-twisting cinema that is horrific from almost any angle.  For people who dislike horror: the trailer is not for you.  For people who dislike the reminder of the simple reality of gravity, this trailer is not for you.

For anyone else who dares, here it is.

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Kotaku linked to a piece on “All Things Considered” wherein a teenage girl talks about issues girl gamers have.  I haven’t listened to it.  I have no idea what she says.  For the purpose of this discussion, it’s immaterial, because I am more interested in talking about the commentariat at kotaku, who promptly launched into response.

There were two threads running through the responses, relating to two topics: how girls are depicted in games (and how girls themselves respond to that) and how girl gamers are treated when playing games with guys.

To the first, female and male characters are always stylized to create a visual caricature.  Think about what a caricature is: it isn’t a realistic depiction. No, it’s an artistic  rendering which has been altered to emphasize something about the subject, drawing the eye and the mind into the emotional territory the artist has conceived there.  A big reason for this is that games are metaphorical and poetic; the aim we game makers have for our worlds is to try and engage you rapidly and effortlessly into our world.  Reality is gritty, noisy, and difficult to read.  Stereotypes don’t hold when you start looking too closely; in games, they do, because the point is to focus the mind of players on that.  It’s part of engagement and drive.

But it’s also something we do because we can’t capture reality.  Our minds are filled almost entirely with caricatures, even of ourselves.  We don’t see people, we see the bits we’ve decided to focus on.  When we artistically project that back out, into our imaginative creations…we carry those caricatures along with us.  You can tell a great artist by their subtlety; you’ll note few games are terribly subtle.

So the characters in our games are…stereotypes.  To use a silly example, they’re like every character (ever) in an Ayn Rand novel: a larger-than-life stereotype, where the silhouette of a person has been blown up and colored until the stereotype has taken on some modicum of real complexity.

Bearing all this in mind, you see the commenters on Kotaku bringing up how no male ever, let alone the gamers playing the games, look like the males in their games, just like the females.  You don’t hear the men complaining about this unreasonable stereotype!  Well no, because nobody is outright opposed to artistic caricatures.  You choose what you’re gonna focus on, obviously, so you can bring it out, call attention to it, and care for it.  It’s more what it is that is focused on.

Tell me: how many male characters in video games are actually, genuinely sexy?  Where their overt sex appeal makes it difficult to see past that to get at a real character?  Not many.  How many female characters?  Quite a few.  There’s a difference, by the way, in scantily clad and sporting muscles and sexualized.  I think my barometer here may be the guys in Twilight, though I can think of other examples of male sex symbols.  How many guys in games qualify as male sex symbols?

Heck, a commenter pointed out what’s actually focused on in male game characters: BADASS.  That’s the end of it.  Muscles.  Strength.  Dedication.  The Anti-Hero.  The Hero.  BADASS.  I’m afraid BADASS does not directly correlate to sex symbol; I believe I am safe in saying most women are not particularly attracted to what amounts to a completely sexless killing machine.

Why are male characters huge, or constantly displaying rippling muscles?  Because that’s BADASS.

Now then: what is BADASS for a girl?  Rippling muscles?  Enormity?  Are we seriously somehow conveying BADASS by mounting melons on their fronts, slapping skin tight clothes on them (where there are clothes), and having them say manly things?  It doesn’t seem like it.  It seems like sexy is secondary to BADASS.  Yet all our video game heroines ooze…sexy.

I think that’s the issue girls have.  Not that they’re caricatured so much in how they are, over and over again.  And it’s not in a way that they feel comfortable looking up to.  Guy gamers happily look up to being BADASS.  A sex symbol, though?

Now, on to girl gamers dealing with boys!  To this, everyone seems to say “you just need to learn to deal with the ridicule; it’s how the internet is”.

No.  It’s how boys are.  Guys, girls aren’t like us.  We guys deal deal with each other through extraordinary amounts of assholishness.  Much of it we laugh off, because it’s how we talk to each other.  Aggression, anger, heck, even physical comedy, this is stuff we get and do, as guys.  This is a guy thing.  The subtle interplay of guy politics – and it can be extremely subtle – is a sort of metagame of things said.  Honesty is a general rule of thumb; politeness may not be.

Girls don’t seem to work that way.  I am not a girl, so I can’t really speak from first-hand experience, but watching and talking and more watching leads me to think that girls are less honest, but less…aggressive.  A girl doesn’t call a girl a “bitch”, for instance, unless it’s behind her back or unless some major breach in protocol has happened.  That shit gets held down and locked up tight behind smiles.  instead, little things convey everything.  Little things guys don’t notice, because we’re all focused on much bigger signals (like that person amiably calling us an asshat).

When you add to that the hostility between genders in school and the predominant feeling that gaming is a male activity (which comes through in multiple comments), then you get something of a volatile mix.  Yeah, girls are going to end up being shit on in this mix, because they’re invaders, a fearful presence which may subvert a beloved pasttime!  fear drives this, fear and protectiveness of some illusory destructive influence letting girls in might have.

It’s treated as a society of males by males.  Letting girls in is a rare thing.  You know, like the treehouse for the “No Girls Allowed” club.

Guys, eventually we have to grow up.  We have to figure out how to live with girls in our games, which probably means acting a little bit less like imbeciles.

Girls, for your part suck it up and come back swinging.  Learn guy language.  Hell, it’s easier than girl language, I promise.  Consider it from a pragmatic perspective: if you learn to deal with the guys on their home turf, you’ll have a huge one-up over them (and over a variety of other girls who haven’t figured that one out).  Because I guarantee very few guys will ever, EVER be able to learn girl language.

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