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Thursday, Jun 23, 2011
Commons is a crowd-sourced city improvement game that asks players to investigate, report, and rank problems facing particular areas of a city.

The basic idea behind the dilemmas represented by “the tragedy of the commons” is that a group of rational, self-interested individuals will eventually deplete a shared resource. This will occur because they attempt to maximize their personal gain—even when the depletion is detrimental to every one’s long-term interest. No matter how “rational” we are, the theory suggests, public commons will ultimately vanish because our own rationality drives us towards maximizing the extraction of non-renewable resources. But what if our own self-interest directly contributes to the preservation and improvement of public resources? By creating a game specifically about making a city better, Commons by Suzanne Kirkpatrick, Nien Lam, and Jamie Lin, is a game that aims to exploit self-interested gamers to foster public good.


Specifically, Commons is a crowd-sourced city improvement game that asks players to investigate, report, and rank problems facing particular areas of a city. Graffiti, cracked sidewalks, poor disabled access, etc., are all reportable offenses. The idea of having the public monitor their own neighborhood for persistent problems or improvement opportunities is not particularly new. New York and several other cities across the US offer mobile apps and services that allow residents to photograph and report public nuisances and hazards.  Commons, commissioned by Games for Change and part of the Come Out and Play festival and River to River Festival in New York City, evokes the same “public participation” mentality through play.


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Thursday, Jun 16, 2011
While it may not allow players to craft their own stories, God of War III's presentation allows players to experience and perform the game's message.

While games like Far Cry 2 or Minecraft create beautiful stories by leaving the vast majority of the plot and game dynamics up to the player, heavily-scripted games must convey their messages by carefully constructing narratives supported by their most basic components.  Every decision, even ones that seem obscure or incidental, are integral in communicating a linear game’s rules as thematic elements.  As an example, we can analyze God of War III’s camera and how it functions as both a tool to explain game systems and as a storytelling device.


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Thursday, Jun 9, 2011
With the announcement of Modern Warfare 3’s Elite, a new era of content delivery seems guaranteed.

Game announcements are spewing out of the Los Angeles convention center as E3 2011 is in full swing. Promises from developers and publishers reveal more than factoids about specific games. They indicate broader trends of the gaming future to come. Now, with more and more cards laid out on the table, a simple divination is clear: an information revolution is brewing and multiplayer gaming will never be the same.


Although Valve’s Gabe Newell has predicted (and notably advocated for) the delivery of games as a service, his vision has only slowly come to fruition. With the announcement of Modern Warfare 3’s Call of Duty: Elite, a new era of content delivery seems guaranteed. Meanwhile, coupled with the continued growth of alternative distributions models, a wave of player-tailored information is dramatically changing what we come to expect from our multiplayer experiences.


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Thursday, Jun 2, 2011
Unlike games like Uncharted, in which players must willfully ignore ludo-narrative inconsistency, Vanquish acknowledges its mechanical challenges and lets them exist independently from the plot.

Games might not be sentient, but their creators can imbue them with distinct personalities.  Vanquish, helmed by the eccentric Shinji Mikami (the man behind innovative and bizarre games such as Resident Evil, Resident Evil 4, God Hand, and Killer7) is a playful trickster that dances back and forth over the line of parody and self-seriousness.  To play it is to witness a game in conversation with its contemporaries in the third-person shooter genre.  Vanquish’s campy story matches its outrageous visual style and hyper-kinetic gameplay, while also poking fun at the solemn plots of its contemporaries.  Alongside all this irreverence is a game earnestly committed to learning from the advances made by previous games while also offering innovations that push the shooter genre forward.  Vanquish relishes its absurdity, even as it flaunts its serious accomplishments.


Tagged as: game design, vanquish
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Thursday, May 26, 2011
Jorge Albor interviews GameSave, the sponsors of a competition to develop disaster response games.

Beginning June 10th, impromptu teams of game designers, programmers, artists, humanitarian aid experts, philanthropists, and anyone with a passion for changing the world will participate in GameSave, a “hack-a-thon” like competition to develop disaster response games. Over five weeks, small collections of thinkers and do-gooders will brainstorm, design, and produce games that might save lives. With a 48-hour jam session in Seattle, Washington, a final public reception in San Francisco, and potential GameSave events in the future, creators Annie Wright and Willow Brugh aim to make entertainment and humanitarian aid long-term partners. The two GameSave founders graciously took some time with me to discuss the event and the role that games can play in mitigating the impact of disaster,


PopMatters: Can you explain how the idea for GameSave came about?


Annie Wright: Well, basically it was a comment thread on a Gamer Melodico article. I shared it via Google Reader. I believe it was actually about PAX East coverage.


Willow Brugh: It turned into this fantastic conversation, and going back to face to face time, Annie and I wanted to sit down to talk about it.


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