This is the fifth article in the series The Academics Are Coming.
Dr. Clara Fernández-Vara is a researcher for the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab and much of her research is focused on the integration of story and gameplay. She has been involved in the development of several games through her studies.
She's written an interactive fiction, Ariel, based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, but the bulk of her work concerns point-and-click adventuring. Rosemary (2009) adopted the "remembered past" as a mechanic (previously featured on Rock Paper Shotgun). Symon (2010) explored procedural generation in the adventure space using dream logic to sweep any narrative problems under the carpet (flagged on RPS just yesterday). The follow-up to Symon was Stranded in Singapore (2011) which aimed to standardize the procedurally-generated approach.
Fernández-Vara talked to Electron Dance about her work, what she loves about developing academic games and how research should not be constrained by the concerns of industry.
The second of a five-part video series. This time I abuse the hospitality of Gregg B of Tap-Repeatedly!
Contains swearing, violence... actually there's barely any swearing. Although there is a suggestion of cross-dressing. What you will discover in the video:
- Gregg talks about the experience of Bill Williams' Necromancer
- Faith wins out in Jesus Vs Dinosaurs
- Gregg and I team up in Shoot First, except it's not much of a team, really
- Gregg endures the terror of SCP-087 (via RPS also featured on Link Drag)
- Why do teenagers travel to the house of the Drill Killer? Nobody knows (via Free Indie Games)
- We drown our sorrows with Six Shots of Whiskey (via Dr. Doug Wilson)
- "Not many skulls have penises, do they?"
- Schafer vs Hofmeier deathmatch
I'm grateful to Gregg and Hailey for putting me up and putting up with me for two whole nights.
- Electron Dance: Waking the Crowd
- Gregg B on Vessel
- Gregg B on Cannon Fodder
- Tower Defence? NO! Immortal Defense
- Lewis B is insane into Guild Wars 2
- Armand K loves Skyrim
- Where We Came From
The third episode was posted on 12 June.
This is the fourth article in the series The Academics Are Coming.
Dr. Ian Bogost is one of the more well-known figures of games studies. He is the father of proceduralism, which is a way of reading and designing games with the "mechanics as the message".
He's written books, such as Racing the Beam, the definitive tome on the Atari 2600, with Nick Montfort. He's grown a studio called Persuasive Games which makes games from a proceduralist perspective and recently unveiled the Game-O-Matic for the rapid generation of journalistic games. He also developed the Facebook games critique Cow Clicker and a couple of titles on the Atari 2600 platform: A Slow Year which he calls a set of "game poems" (see the recent Kill Screen review by Tommy Rousse) and Guru Meditation.
I wanted to find out what Bogost had to say about being both an academic and a games developer.
This is the third article in The Academics Are Coming series.
"Why contain it? Let it spill over into the schools and churches, let the bodies pile up in the streets. In the end they'll beg us to save them."
Bob Page on the Second Ludology/Narratology War (Deus Ex)
Today, anyone and his granny can make a game and a new breed of street developer has emerged. Some of these new designers see the prevailing game paradigms as too constricting. Why the need to win or lose? What is the point of points?
Tale of Tales' Michaël Samyn views the conventional single-player experience as nothing more than a "test" and, a couple of years ago, he proposed the notgames "design challenge" – something he refuses to call an agenda or a movement. He wanted to encourage developers to put aside goal-directed play and aspire to make art with games.
Despite opposing notions of ludology, Samyn's restatement of the single-player formula as a test is a classic ludological, reductionist argument - tear away the shallow exterior, and you are left with nothing but naked hoops to jump through. And just like ludologists, Samyn is interested in crafting significant, unique work in the medium of games. Take a look at these "opposing viewpoints" on Myst:
Espen Aarseth in 2004: “Most critics agree that the Miller brothers succeeded eminently in making a fascinating visual landscape, a haunting and beautiful gameworld, but to experienced gamers, the gameplay was boring and derivative, with the same linear structure that was introduced by the first Adventure game sixteen years earlier. Nice video graphics, shame about the game.”
Michaël Samyn, the Notgames Fest 2011 keynote: “Why had people not realized that most of us were playing Myst for its world and its stories, and not the arcane puzzles?”
Aarseth and Samyn both make the same point, differing only in emphasis. Aarseth sees failure, but Samyn sees inspiration. Ludology says games are based on mechanics and goals; the notgames perspective calls goals and challenge out as clichés that hobble the greatest of video game art.
This is the second article in The Academics Are Coming series.
In 1998, Jesper Juul presented a paper titled "A Clash between Game and Narrative" at the Digital Arts and Culture conference, based on his ongoing postgraduate research. He asserted that narrative was not just unimportant in games but actually burdensome. Games and narrative were "two phenomena that fight each other" and attempts to merge them would inevitably "zigzag" between the two.
Juul also demonstrated that narrative ended up as digital paint which is a similar to an argument put forward by Brian Moriarty in last year's GDC and also here on Electron Dance:
"I illustrated this [using] a silly platformer with background art by Michelangelo, dialog from Shakespeare, characters from Ingmar Bergman movies and music by Bach... but it was still just a platformer... [Such games] may have an arty veneer, and explore important topics and themes, but it's all bolted on to familiar game mechanisms that are not essentially synergistic."
Clearly both men take issue with propositions like One and One Story (referenced last week) but I found some of Juul's arguments oddly anachronistic. It was published when game story was becoming more and more important to players and 1998 was notable for being the year that Half-Life blew everyone away. Players were no longer shooting blocks and dodging pixel balls; they were sweating and surviving in Black Mesa, fighting their way out of a catastrophe, trying to piece together what had gone so wrong. Was Juul swimming against the tide?