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by Kris Ligman

19 Apr 2011


This week we continue unpacking the details of my recent conference paper on Let’s Plays, multimedia videogame walkthroughs, presented earlier this month for Rutgers. Last week offered an overview of the two main motivators behind game watching, creating types I called the Spectator and the Passenger. Today we look to Let’s Plays themselves to start drawing connections between performance and viewership behaviors as well as fan practices.

A standard text for this series in understanding the role of Web 2.0 in media sharing is Henry Jenkins’s Convergence Culture (New York University Press, 2006). I would also recommend Sports Fans (Daniel L. Wann, et al, New York: Routledge, 2001) for more about spectatorship theory as it pertains to both competitive and non-competitive sports, a connection direly critical to understanding certain aspects of online and offline game spectatorship.

by G. Christopher Williams

18 Apr 2011


It was a shooter that was nothing like a shooter.  Given the imminent release of its sequel, the Moving Pixels podcast crew felt that it was time to take a step back into 2007’s Portal.

We tried to spare ourselves from just revisiting the old “cake is a lie” memes and the like and instead found ourselves revisting the tight pacing, innovative gameplay, and, oh yeah, we talk about the rivalry between GLaDOS and Chell.

by Nick Dinicola

15 Apr 2011


Broken Sword: The Angel of Death (THQ, 2006)

Looking at the state of adventure games today, there seem to be three identifiable types: those that adhere to the traditional 2D point-and-click interface (Syberia, Gray Matter), those that embrace movement on a 3D plane (Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain), and those that do both, allowing you free movement in a 3D world while keeping the 2D interface (most of Telltale’s games). It’s interesting to see how each deals with the problems of a 3D world. One group avoids it altogether, another embraces it, and another tries to find a happy medium. And make no mistake, a 3D world is very problematic for a point-and-click adventure.

Nowhere is this more evident than when a traditionally 2D series tries to make the leap to 3D. I recently played and finished Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror and thought that it was an exceptionally intuitive and streamlined adventure game. When I started Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon, which made the leap to 3D, I was impressed by the new visuals but all the intuitiveness and streamlined design were gone. The series took a giant step back just as it took a giant step forward.

by Jorge Albor

14 Apr 2011


At this past Game Developers Conference, Brenda Brathwaite gave a talk titled “One Falls for Each of Us: Prototyping Tragedy”. She gave a nearly identical talk by the same name in 2010, which is available online and I would encourage all of you to watch. Brathwaite is a powerful orator, imbuing all her talks with vigor and emotion. Her six part, “The Mechanic is the Message” game series has drawn immense interest and critical acclaim for generating an equal amount of critical thought and emotional weight. One Falls for Each of Us, the fourth in the series, models the US slaughter of Native Americans during the Trail of Tears. While I appreciate the title of her series, the mechanical reconstruction of history is not the message alone. Or rather, the components of a historical system mean little without a conjoining emotional system. Brathwaite’s work exemplifies how game designers can create provocative player-imbued systems of emotion.

During Brathwaite’s presentation, one powerful and important statement stands out: “Wherever there is human-on-human tragedy, there is also a system.” This is particularly true during large scale tragedies. In the case of Train, her well-known boardgame about the Holocaust, Brathwaite creates a game out of the systems required to collect and transport millions of Jews to concentration camps. How could you make a game about the Holocaust? Well, it turns out pretty easily.

Creating a game system inspired by human tragedy need not succeed in creating a strong response. Brathwaite imbues her work with deep emotional resonance, and not by solely relying on her collection of relevant historical units. Numerous games draw upon human tragedy without evoking many feelings at all. As she states, “as long as they are decently abstract, they don’t make us uncomfortable.” Someone could have a strong emotional response while playing Civilization V, but that is incidental. The sensations of disgust, revulsion, guilt, and melancholy generated by Train are not. Brathwaite calls the games Puerto Rico and Sid Meier’s Colonization two different versions of One Falls for Each of Us, as they all draw upon the tragedy of colonialism and incorporate representations of the oppressed into the game mechanic. How can One Falls create such an emotionally moving experience with the same basic conceit?

by Rick Dakan

14 Apr 2011


Chapter 1 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 2 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 3 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 4 of Rage Quit is available in .pdf format here.

Randal had long ago pretty much given up on the whole going out to lunch in a big crowd thing. He still tagged along maybe once a week with the rest of his QA gang, especially if they were going to the Indian buffet place. The lunches were fun, he supposed. Lots of joking around and gossiping and griping about the game, and he thought it was important to keep in touch with all the various rumors and trends swirling around the company. But the whole rigmarole of choosing a place, deciding who was driving, and leaving at a time when everyone was ready got on his nerves. Most of the time he preferred to take his breaks when he pleased, often waiting until two or even three in the afternoon to have his lunch. That way it was sort of like having two lunches – he got the QA area to himself while the others went out, and then he could take some more time to himself when he grabbed a bite to eat.

The Fear and Loading cafeteria was on the ground floor along with QA, human resources, and marketing, and was actually a pretty comfortable space. It offered clean, round tables, comfortable brightly colored chairs, and a plasma screen TV where employees could play videos. It offered three microwaves, free soda, and coffee drinks from a Starbucks branded machine. The vending machines had a decent variety of snacks, including microwave-ready burritos and Hot Pockets. Some people were brave or confident enough to leave their lunches in the communal fridge, but Randal never had. Of course Randal never cooked anything at home, so it wasn’t like he had something to put in there anyway. He mostly subsisted on Hot Pockets and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Tuesdays were anime days on the plasma screen, with a larger than typical lunch crowd often ordering in pizza while watching some frenetic collection of big eyed, small mouthed characters cavorting excitedly across the screen. For a self-described geek, Randal had a very low anime tolerance, and it was in order to avoid that particular programming block that he first discovered the joys of the nice and quiet 2:30 lunch break. It was also how he met PB.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

In Motion: On the Emptiness of Progress

// Moving Pixels

"Nils Pihl calls it, "Newtonian engagement", that is, when "an engaged player will remain engaged until acted upon by an outside force". That's "progress".

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