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IGDA Writers Panel: Players Versus Characters, 2

This is the second half of an article on the IGDA Writers Panel held at BAFTA, London, on October 26. The first half was published last week.

Last year’s panel was held in a lecture theatre at South Bank University which was spacious and desk-enabled. At BAFTA, the audience were not as lucky. Dinky chairs jammed us into snuggling distances with our neighbours and I had to be careful not to poke out someone's eye with the careless flick of a pen. The panellists got to wave their arms about and express themselves with gusto, but I didn’t have enough room to swing a gnat.

But every crowd has a silver lining – at least I got a free drink.

Just The Player?

The third act of the discussion addressed whether it was just the player alone that defined character. Could genre come into it? Or even the controllers?

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IGDA Writers Panel: Players Versus Characters, 1

October 26, 2011. It was time to attend another IGDA writers panel. Last year's panel write-up on Environmental Narrative had been well-received, so I was encouraged to do a repeat performance this year.

The panel's theme this time around was “Players Vs Characters” - the games writer's pocket incarnation of “What happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object?” The four writers, convening at BAFTA, were almost the same as last year's line-up:

The panel was run differently too. Last year, each of the big names delivered a short presentation, followed by questions. This time it was a freeform discussion with Walsh chairing.

In another departure from last year's panel, I'm going to pepper the write-up with my own commentary.

What Is Character?

With a picture of David Caruso looking down on us, because that is what Caruso does, Walsh opened with the first question: what is character? This shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer, Walsh said, because character has been around for a long time in other media.

Stern got first dibs and tackled Walsh's implication that there should be much in common with other media, saying he saw games “as more dissimilar than similar”. Things which look like character aren’t because of the issue of interactivity. The cinema-goer is expected to be passive when watching a film, he said, but the gamer gets to play with perspective and pacing all the time.

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Expo Man 2011

Here it is! Ten minutes of warm, moist footage taken directly from my wanderings around Eurogamer Expo 2011. And in an Electron Dance first, this video actually features me in person.

There's also a special appearance at the end from members of Bits 'n' Bytes Gaming and Tap-Repeatedly, meaning the Alliance of Awesome is fully represented. (And the final, touching scene won't make any sense unless you watched the video and read the words from Men of Science last week.)

Here are some more considered thoughts - with links - on the games I spent some time with.

The Indie Games Arcade

The arcade was still a bit small and, for some reason, held in a shoebox flat. A crush of visitors struggled to explore the arcade and something like B.U.T.T.O.N. would have been a disaster this year. Yet there was plenty of space around the indie prison, begging the question why it was built as if space was tight. Another problem was its proximity to the Just Dance 3 demo which belted out music tracks at nightclub volumes all day. "TELL ME ABOUT YOUR GAME." "WHAT? DID YOU SAY IT WAS LAME?"

I didn't get a chance to play everything but I did engage the developers a lot more this year.

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Eurogamer Expo 2011 – Live

[electron dance logos]

Okay, so last year I went to the Eurogamer Expo and came away wondering why I went. I made a few observations:

  • Make arrangements to meet other people. Co-op is more fun than the singleplayer campaign, as demonstrated in Tuesday's post.
  • Play games properly, don't just dabble.
  • Keep your notepad handy.
  • Don't bother interviewing.

And against my better judgement, I've decided to give it another go. I'm going for the Friday session and will probably make it to the RPS drinks in the evening. Do say HELLO if you're in the vicinity.

Now, I won't be able to tweet from the expo, but I do believe I'll be able to transmit via the medium of Electron Dance comments. I'm going to turn the comments on this page into a sort of live feed from the show floor. I have no idea how this will turn out. You can subscribe to the comments via e-mail or use this page's RSS comments feed. At least I won't spam my Twitter account with inane updates like WOW MET KERRY TURNER SHE IS A WOMAN IT SEEMS.

If all goes well, there'll be a couple of Expo articles next week - I'm not doing the six-days-in-a-row thing I ended up with last year. Sheesh.


IGDA Writing Panel: Environmental Narrative

Which of you are writers or want to be writers?” Many hands went up, including mine.

How many of you want to be writers for games only?” Only a few hands survived.

Don't limit yourselves.”

On November 23, the IGDA London Chapter ran a discussion panel on “Environmental Narrative: Interactive Story Telling for an Interactive Medium” at London South Bank University. I had chosen to attend merely to extend my cyber-stalking of Tom Jubert into the physical world but anything I learnt about games writing would be a clear bonus.

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Expo Man VI of VI: Survey Says

Four hours after I'd appeared on the expo floor, I exited via a dusty, decrepit passageway and put the glam behind me.

Desperate for something else to do, I'd even sniffed around the recruitment area, not for a job but just to see what was going on. Considering the ridiculously skewed gender ratio of the games industry, I found it interesting that all of Crytek's reps on Sunday were women. I'll just leave it at that.

My expo was over. I didn't feel energised. No spiritual enlightenment. No freebies. On the way home, I wondered exactly what I was supposed to write about the Eurogamer Expo. My own experience was a bit... unfulfilling. I arrived with a glass half-full but left with one half-empty.

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Expo Man V of VI: Enslaved To The Rhythm

I knew nothing of Ninja Theory's Enslaved, because it was built in Console City on the other side of iPhone Forest. I only have one home, these days, a mortgage-free property in Windowston. The neighbours are nice and the picket fences are white.

It was another one of those WTF am I doing here moments; I'm never going to play this as I have no room in my life to flirt with a console. I attended because it appeared on the list of Laura Michet's optimistic non-brown games. As I got my seat, I had a feeling that I should've gone to The Witcher 2 presentation instead. Ninja Theory made Heavenly Sword, the demo of which I'd watched Yahtzee dismantle. Hoo boy.

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Expo Man IV of VI: The Floor

Be very, very goddamn wary. Don't join a queue for food assuming the target material will be edible, because you can't see what you're lining up to buy until you've waited ten minutes to get near the head of the queue. By that point, you'll be so hungry you won't want to switch to another ten minute queue for something else.

TOTAL EXPO ROOKIE LOSER MISTAKE: Joining a food queue without checking out the food first.

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Expo Man III of VI: Arcade Town Ghost

There's a big fat lie running through this series like a vein of fool's gold. The Eurogamer Expo is not the first computer show I've been to.

In 1986, I went with family to the Atari User Show held at the Novotel hotel in Hammersmith. We were an Atari 8-bit family and remained so even through the subsequent reign of the 16-bit Atari ST. We bought up the Invisiclues booklet for Infocom's The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy because I couldn't work out how to get past the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal even with a towel wrapped around my head. I watched Jeff Minter demonstrate Colourspace before a live audience with a crazed look in his eyes and fell in love with a game called Time Bandit for the Atari ST that I would never play.

It was all very genteel. This formative childhood experience 25 years ago conferred no skills appropriate for gaming expo combat.

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Expo Man II of VI: Ghost Town Arcade

NO to the cacophony of the Def Jam Rapstar stage, NO to the disco lights razing the floor, NO to the console-saturated air. I came to Expo for one thing and one thing only. Pixel-Lab's Mudlark's Indie Games Arcade. I've been immersed in a lot more indie stuff in recent months plus it was the only part of the expo likely to have some PC focus.

I reached the Indie Games Arcade about 5-10 minutes after the expo opened and... that's it? Tucked away in the corner, far from all the neon excitement and noise was something that looked like the laptop section of PC World. Hmm... and even better there was hardly anyone around. Was I too early? Would the developers turn up later? When would The JBurger show?

EXPO ROOKIE LOSER ALERT: I had assumed developers would be present. Well, some were, yes. As for the rest, you had to pretend they were there, peering over your shoulder like a spirit guide. I'd hoped to have a conversation or three with some indie developers and thus give me something interesting to write about my time at the expo. As it is, I've just got to make shit up.

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