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Thursday, Apr 22, 2010
The Lost Zombie site provides the bare bones of a background for a world, more than enough to fire people's imaginations along with plenty of room for individual creativity.

I wrote a couple of weeks back about my many disappointments with Heavy Rain‘s storytelling. I think that it’s a good game and an interesting story, but the many plot holes and inconsistencies distracted me so much that my enjoyment of the whole project suffered. Even so, as an interactive story, Heavy Rain does a lot of things right, and I love to see creators pushing the boundaries of how we can experience stories. This week I came across something from the entire other end of the spectrum, a project that’s all about the details and has only the flimsiest and most common of settings and plots. All of which is not only okay, but necessary for the experience.


Lost Zombies bills itself as a “community generated zombie documentary” and is not a game per se. Their main web site contains the fullest and most diverse presentation of the Lost Zombies material, but I came to it only after first coming across it as an app available on my iPad. Yeah, yeah, I bought an iPad, and the thing has scarcely left my hands since I got it. There are a ton of zombie related apps on the device, but the only other one that I purchased was the excellent Plants vs. Zombies (which I’ve now bought three different times for three different platforms). Lost Zombies piqued my interest because it was sold as an interactive story rather than just as a game, and while I’m tired of shooting the undead with anything that isn’t a plant, I’m still very excited about new kinds of fiction.


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Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010
Man of action or man of inaction? Inaction, but in this case, that's a good thing.

Hamlet, or the last game without MMORPG features, shaders and product placement is by no means an effort to directly adapt Shakespeare’s play.  Instead, the game is a point and click adventure set in a surreal landscape that might be Denmark.  But it probably doesn’t matter too much.


Indeed, the game begins when a nameless, bean-shaped time traveler accidentally injures the Prince of Denmark, and in order to set things aright, that same traveler finds himself playing the surrogate role of hero in Hamlet‘s ostensible tale.  I say ostensible because the plot here merely derives from its literary inspiration some loose semblance of the original’s plot.  Here our traveler must stop the evil Claudius from absconding with Hamlet’s girlfriend Ophelia.  You know, like the original Hamlet, sort of.


Tagged as: alawar, hamlet, mif2000
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Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010
"There is no culture, there is no game, without the labor of the players."

One of the most interesting shifts in MMO design compared to single player gaming is moving from an emotion centered design to something oriented around social spaces. Rather than focusing on making a game fair and fun for one person, you have to orient it around thousands. T.L. Taylor’s book Play Between Worlds is a careful study on the effects of design in Everquest over an extended period of time. Detailing her observations as a Gnome Necromancer, the book relies on academic research and interviews to paint a broad picture of how the design of the game interacts with the culture.


Taylor starts by pointing out that academics initially treated the relationship of real life and virtual worlds as a hard divide. There was your digital life, and then there was your real one. The approach emphasized the novelty of becoming an entirely new person independent of your old self. That proves to mostly not be true in the sense that the two spill into one another. Taylor writes, “What seems more to be the case is that people have a much messier relationship with their off- and online personas and social context . . . we have phenomena that are unique to both spheres and also occupy spaces of overlap” (18-19). Everquest and most other MMOs are a merger between the social aspects of forum culture and video game elements. Over time people get to know other players and develop relationships that go beyond mere in game rewards. She comments, “People create identities for themselves, have a variety of social networks, take on roles and obligations, build histories and communities. People live and through that living, play” (28).


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Monday, Apr 19, 2010
We consider how video games are seemingly partly plotted by the performance of their players.

There are the stories that developers want to tell us, but there are also those stories that just seem to crop up because of how we choose to play.


In our fifth episode of the the Moving Pixels Podcast’s six part series on storytelling in video games, we move away from the more scripted experiences in video game stories and consider the way that stories emerge as a result of our interactions with game worlds.  We consider how video games are seemingly partly plotted by the performance of their players.


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Friday, Apr 16, 2010
Why did Bayonetta generate so much controversy while Rubi Malone went completely ignored?

When Bayonetta was released, it sparked discussions in many blogs, news outlets, and podcasts about the portrayal of women in games. When WET was released no one really seemed to care. Buy why? Why did Bayonetta incite such discussions, both defending the overt sexualization of her character and condemning it, whereas nobody paid any attention to Rubi Malone, a similarly strong female character that (despite the name of the game) isn’t sexualized at all?


I believe that there are two reasons.


Tagged as: bayonetta, wet
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