Sunday, December 09, 2012

December 2012 Miscellany

Thoughts about some game-related topics that are not long enough for separate blog posts.


I said in my book Game Design that I thought video and tabletop games are converging, but sometimes I'm not so sure when I look at games like Farmville on one hand, and worse, the all-rewards-all-the-time games like Diablo III and many others, where anything that interferes with getting direct pleasure is regarded as a "fail".

It's important to most western gamers that games are "fair".  But I think the definition of fair has changed for many video gamers.  Where it used to imply that you got what you deserved, that you had to earn something, now it means "fair" in the way my young niece used to use it.  She'd say "that's not fair", but she meant, "that's not what I want, I'm not getting what I want".  Now video game players expect a game to give them what they want, when they want it, period.

While that's not necessarily bad, it's not what I'd call a game.

The deadline for submission of nominations for the 2012 Origins Awards was a month and a half before the end of 2012 . . . Say What?

Book Review – Game Design Posted on December 3, 2012 by Joe Huber on Opinionated Gamer

In the video game industry I see "freemium" used two ways.  One is as a synonym for "free to play".   The other is to indicate a game with versions, one that is free to play, and a bigger/better version that requires retail sale of some kind, whether through an app store or direct.  I like the more specific use, as we then have two separate things, "free to play" and "freemium", instead of one with two exactly-equivalent designators that can have two different forms.  But given the speed with which word meaning is degrading these days, I think the latter will win out.

Even people who read books, often don't want to read LONG books.

Which brings to mind that people who like movies, often don't like LONG movies.  I do.  Depends on what you're used to, I remember 4 hour movies with intermissions, "never happens" now.


In games, the more important the destination is compared to the journey, the more likely people are to cheat.

Have we had the era of the book, then the era of radio and TV, then the continuing era of the Internet, and now the era of videos (and podcasts) rather than the written word?

I recall my wife's experience years ago at Methodist College library (she was the Director).  Students didn't want to look in the reference books when she pointed out where they could find what they needed; they wanted it on computer - if it wasn't on computer, it didn't count.

In video games, makers have learned that most players don't read text of significant length even though that text might help them play better (and might be a good story as well).  Increasingly in video games, players want to hear, not read.


Lesson about writing things down:  Someone suggested a much better alternative title for something I called the  "Pathetic" rule (if you have no Victory Points cards at all, which is fairly rare, then when someone plays a scoring card you get one point, because you're so pathetic. . .).  But I can't remember what it was, and I can't find where I wrote it down - if I did.  Curses!

Classic "waste of air" phrase that I see far too often:  "maybe we can get it to the table tonight".  Why not say "maybe we can play" the game tonight?  Fewer words, more straightforward, cleaner.  And no hint of jargon.

If the name of the game tells you absolutely nothing about what it might be about - think all those games named after cities, for example - then it's probably not a game with a theme, nor even an atmosphere to speak of.  (Themes influence how the game is designed and how it plays; atmospheres don't.)


People have become more focused on consumption rather than production as the center of their lives.  (Some would call this another triumph of capitalism.)

And they expect perfection in their consumption, even though they are far from perfect and especially nowhere near perfect when they try to produce something.  More "not taking responsibility".

I've just read a "debate" in the January 2013 issue of PC Gamer magazine titled "Should gaming technology stop advancing".  "If we pause the advance of technology, we get to spend that effort advancing the actual games.  Everyone wins!"

I remember years ago when "Robert X Cringely" in InfoWorld advocated the same thing for all of computerdom, that of technology no longer advanced people could focus on making better software and making better use of the existing computer possibilities.  But this was before the broadband use of the World Wide Web, so we now have a possibility of "online" activity that did not exist at that time, along with the connectivity of smartphones.

Of course this suspension is impossible.  But we've already seen something like this in the console world.  When a new generation of consoles comes out, in effect technology stops until the next generation comes out.  What's the result?  Right now, at the end of a very long console cycle, a great many people lament that we haven't reached the new generation, and some blame poor console software sales on the lack of a new generation.

On the other hand we have great advances in PCs and in mobile gaming, so technology has not stopped entirely but only in the console world (and even there we have Kinect and Move).  Consequently I don't think we can draw conclusions even though there's an indication that stopping technology is not the best idea.  One of the things I like about PC technology is that it is always advancing.

"Art" originates in entertainment.  Da Vinci painted "Mona Lisa" to entertain someone.  Bach and Mozart wrote music to make a living by entertaining people (or by satisfying religious worship needs, in Bach's case, and we may argue indefinitely whether that is also entertainment).  Both, toward the end of their lives, wrote a few things without money in mind, perhaps as "art", or perhaps simply because they felt they had to.

Some of the entertainment people create can have a profound effect on some people.  At which point it has become art, if it wasn't already.  Some art may have a profound effect on the world as a whole (Ian Bogost: "Art is about changing the world; entertainment is about leisure.").  At which point it becomes Art with the capital "A".

Games originated as entertainment, sometimes the entertainment affects someone profoundly.  Has any game had a profound effect on the world, changed it significantly?  You decide - the players don't care.

"In general, in all publishing businesses, it's the middle man who's under pressure, it's not the talent."  Bing Gordon
Recent blogs (not all are posted on other blogs (e.g., ones heavily video-game-related aren't posted on BGDF and F:AT)).  Here's a list with links:

How Novice Game Designers can Be Taken Seriously by Publishers and Funders (cautionary advice)
The virtues (and sins) of using dice in game designs
Modifying chess conflict rules
Looking at game design as ways of introducing asymmetry
How many dice (to include with a game)?
Two Problems for Historical Game Designers: Barbarian "Push" and Tribute
Six words about role-playing games
The economic production cycle in games
November 2012 Miscellany


Anonymous said...

Your comment about games with meaningless titles -- particularly games named after cities -- is also true about rock and roll bands:

Lewis said...

True. Except, how often can a rock n roll band have a descriptive title? Beatles? Rolling Stones (well, maybe there's some description there)? Spin Doctors kinda. Supremes? And all the descriptive titles are likely already taken. Games can have the same title as earlier games (barring trademark, but then you add a subtitle to be different).

Angry Birds said...

Nice article...Thanks..