I take back what I said last week about Fable III. It is indeed entirely possible to achieve the best ending with no sacrifice to one’s morals, but it came at the expense of something even more valuable: my belief in the system.
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With all the furor surrounding Minecraft in the indie game community, the Moving Pixels podcast crew couldn’t help but have a discussion of the game.
While a couple of us have only had a more limited experience with the browser version, nevertheless, this sandbox building experience is worth considering and raises questions about what motivates us to play.
Normally I hate it when a game offers false choices, giving me two options when only one will actually progress the plot, the other simply halting things until I change my mind. It’s not really a choice at that point; it’s an illusion and a bad one at that. The first half of Fable 3 avoids this kind of blatant false choice but only because the game doesn’t try to hide its linearity. Instead of giving you two choices, one right and one wrong, it only ever gives you one choice and then just waits for you to pick it. Instead of giving players a false choice, it gives us a forced choice.
There is a board game called Pandemic in which players act as agents of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), stemming the onslaught of virulent diseases around the world. Conversely, there is a flash game series of the same name in which players create and evolve a disease to infect and kill every human on the planet. While not explicitly educational games, both experiences offer various learning opportunities. In fact, most games could be far more factually informative than they are. The genre of education games aside, how much room do we have for learning in games? How much educational information can we squeeze into digital games before players become bored, distracted, or indoctrinated?
Games are—by definition—learning experiences. Players procedurally come to understand the game world. Drop some seasoned gamers into any first-person shooter, and after a few moments of random button tapping and stray gunfire, they will be dishing out headshots with the best of them. But how much could the average Call of Duty fanatic tell you about the AK-47? Could they tell you how the AK has become the modern day weapon of choice for guerilla fighters around the world? Could they tell you how arms dealers traffic supplies of AKs from conflict to conflict? With some additional information in the game, maybe some could.
I bought a Kinect on release day. It’s what I do. Unlike when I bought a Wii on release day at the very same Best Buy several years ago or an iPad on release day several months ago, this time there was no line or waiting list. About a half dozen of us gathered around the doorway five minutes before ten o’clock and then strolled on up to the display and had our pick of the pile. I bought the Kinect sensor of course, along with the nifty thingamjig that lets you attach it to the top of your TV. I picked up Dance Central and Kinect Sports along with Kinect Adventures (which comes with the sensor). I’ve now been living with it for a week.
This new acquisition reminds me in many respects of those heady first days when I bought my Wii. It’s a nifty new technology that promises to get me off the couch and into the game. I’ve been inviting friends and family over to check it out and be appropriately amazed. I still lose in boxing to people that I could totally beat up in a real boxing match. The technology itself draws oohs and aahs but is far from perfect. Like my Wii, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be using it a month from now, but I hope that I will be.
// Notes from the Road
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