Monday, October 21, 2013

October 2013 Miscellany

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

I was reading a free RPG ruleset recently.  " features a long and exciting list of rules that are outside the normal scope of today‘s top most role-playing games."  How many gamers get excited by the rules?  The rules are only a means to allow a game to be played.  It's the play of the game, if anything, that should be exciting.  *Shrug*.  Perhaps the domination of the tabletop market by D&D/Pathfinder frustrates RPG designers who want to do things "differently".

Looking at the analytics for my free game design class, I'm astonished that Chrome is used more than twice as much as Firefox. (Top 2)  Internet Explorer is even behind Safari (MAC).

How reliable are reviews of games and game-related materials?  One thing you can do is compare reviews from different sources.  Of course, if you look at Metacritic you sometimes see a wide variation in the number ratings for particular games.

But here's a striking example.  GameInformer rates the Alienware 14 gaming laptop 8 out of 10 (very good), and in particular "loved the gentle feel of the systems soft-touch rubber keys" (which, I confess, sounds bad to me as a typist or a gamer).    PC Gamer gave it 56 out of 100 and heavily criticizes the trackpad on that same keyboard.  Five laptops in that review got much better ratings, only one worse.

For all of its colorful presentation, Magic: the Gathering is an abstract game.  Only by the greatest stretch of the imagination can you say that player actions, or occurrences in the game, correspond to something that happens in a (fantasy) reality.  There's no "analgousness" to any real (or fictional) reality.  Nor do I believe the designers think in terms of modeling something, they are thinking about how to improve (or just change) an abstract game.  The atmosphere is tacked on.

Gamer Psychology can be really odd.  There are many (most) people who always want to know what they need before they roll dice, when they could save time by rolling first, then figuring it out if it isn't obviously too low or easily high enough.  (One person says, well it's good practice to become familiar with the mods.  But most people do it even when they know all the mods. )  It's as though the player subtly thinks he can influence the dice roll.  Sure wastes time, though.

Some articles I've recommended through twitter:
Warren Spector: Industry must recognize both good and bad effects of games

Game Developer Magazine complete archives:

James Mathe lists Facebook groups that may be helpful to game designers and publishers:

Some thought-provoking insight on games and stories from Chris Crawford:

Eric Zimmerman's How I Teach. (prologue):

Warren Spector's "commandments" of game design

Ian Bogost   What are MOOCs good for? For proving that MOOCs might be good if they were good.

Parody of game design school commercials (stick with it) :

Most Dangerous Game Design: Scaffolding Choice: Ease Players into a Game's Choices.

Extra Credits: Game Schools. (The Truth.)

Occasionally I encounter people who are absolutely convinced that there are no generational differences, even though businesspeople widely recognize and account for such differences. Think about this and then ask yourself why my point of view as a Baby Boomer is very different from the point of view of a Millennial (30 and under, more or less):

When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, if you were lucky you had three black and white television networks to watch instead of two, there was no Internet and consequently no e-mail, no cell phones, slide rules not personal computers (or printers, CDs, or DVDs), no World Wide Web, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube. A long distance call of any length cost real money. We had a "party line" phone shared by four households, which was common, so you listened to the ring to determine whether the call was for you or another party with the same line, and if you picked up the phone while someone else on the party line was having a conversation, you heard it all.  If you had an emergency and someone else was already using the line, you'd have to ask them to get off so you could make the emergency call.

I first saw color TV in a person's house when I was 10 (trick-or-treat: the owners let the kids come in and see their cool color TV). Books and magazines and newspapers were the major sources of information, not radio, not TV, not the Internet.  (Though if you wanted the most up-to-date news, you listened to the radio.)

Music was on 8-track tapes and vinyl LPs (33 and 45 revolutions per minute, though older 78 still existed). If you wanted to watch a movie, if on TV you stayed up after 11 (old movies only), or you went to a theater, there was no way to record a movie other than film. If you wanted a single song after its initial popularity you had to luckily find an out-of-print 45 or you bought an entire album. Or, once cassette tape became available (but by this time I was an adult), you recorded it from the radio.

There was no instant replay on sporting events because videotape had not been perfected. There was no three point shot in basketball, dunks were illegal for a few years, and high school women's basketball was played six a side with only two allowed to play both offense and defense. There not only was no Superbowl, the NFL championship game was not televised until several years after I was born.

Communication satellites came into use when I was a teenager, before then our foreign news came onto TV only with voice, via telephone undersea cables. The biggest recent events in the minds of adults were World War II, the Korean War (I was born during the Korean War), and the continuing Cold War. Nuclear Annihilation was on everyone's mind, an ever-present danger. (When I was 11 I walked home from school a few miles, alone, to test the possibility for sending everyone home that way if the Cuban Missile Crisis turned into a war.) Terrorism was something that happened far, far away.

My mother had grown up during the Great Depression. She would do things like collect the little bits of bar-soap left after use and melt them together to make new multi-colored bars for us to use. Waste not, want not. How many people do anything like that today, even the officially poor people?

I remember at age 9 watching the United States Army ensure a black girl could go to school in Little Rock, Arkansas - because the local National Guard couldn't be trusted to do it.  I was 17 or 18 the first time a man and woman, one black, one white, kissed on national TV.  No one expected we'd have a female or black president in our lifetimes.  Same-sex marriage was impossible.  "Made in Japan" was a bit of a joke.  The Japanese were former badguys seen on war movies (and adults all remembered "the war"), not the objects of near-worship by young people that they sometimes seem to be in the age of anime.

In that era, as for generations before, a book was a treasure trove of information, something to be read carefully and absorbed as much as possible.

Nowadays people are much less impressed by books because there's so many other sources of information, but if you really want to learn about something in depth a good book is a really good way to do it.

Makes for a quite different point of view. Yes, I know what Plato says that Socrates said about young people. This is not "oh, old people always say that", this is a result of real differences in life and culture, which change much faster than they used to.

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