Electron Dance
13Sep/13Off

Marginalia 5

marginalia_5

Looking out from the Bridge of Sighs, Venice 2006

Marginalia is an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Amanda Lange (GameSprout), Clara Fernández-Vara (NYU Game Center), Christoffer Holmgård (ITU Copenhagen) and Nicolau Chaud (Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer).

In this edition: how games trivialize serious subjects, political videogames, videogame communities that refuse to die and non-linear storytelling.

Our Suggestions

Amanda Lange suggests "Finishing Each Other's Sandwiches: Arrested Development Discovers Non-Linear Storytelling" by Tom Abernathy. Amanda notes that even though she hasn't seen Arrested Development, this is a good read.

Nicolau Chaud suggests "The McDonalds sim and September 12: what does it mean for a videogame to be political?" by John Brindle. Nicolau writes this is about reading meaning into games, sometimes more deeply than they're intended to be read.

Joel Goodwin suggests "Fingle marketing effort and numbers" by Adriaan de Jongh. Another honest, detailed analysis of an indie developer's sales figures.

Amanda Lange suggests "Who Wins the IGF?" by Cipher Prime. This is an analysis of two years of IGF winners which Amanda found really interesting.

Clara Fernández-Vara suggests "The limits of play: ludic meaning and trivializations," a 20 minute lecture on YouTube by Jonas Linderoth (part 1, part 2). She adds, "Jonas is a fantastic scholar, who thrives in shaking down some of the myths of how we understand games, and their potential to change us and make us learn. In this lecture, he tackles the issue of how games are often controversial because by turning a situation into something 'interactive' they make it more real. He flips the problem around, saying that the problem is that they actually trivialize their subject by presenting it as a game. The presentation uses Erving Goffman's frame theory to explain how the trivialization takes place; it's all highly theoretical but he manages to get it across with clear examples."

Joel Goodwin suggests "Further notes on developing games for virtual reality" by Robert Yang. The arrival of the Oculus Rift means a lot of developers are having to rethink their understanding of 3D videogame spaces and how players operate within them. Yang offers one such musing.

Christoffer Holmgård suggests "The First Level of Super Mario Bros. is Easy with Lexicographic Orderings and Time Travel ... after that it gets a little tricky" by Tom Murphy. There are two videos that explain the research as well as a PDF. Christoffer writes, "The presentation is an interesting showcase of an AI approach in and of itself, but I also think it raises some interesting questions about how we approach the construction of AI's for playing games. What are the affordances of games, what is rational, and what is optimal? Why is it so hard to build a general game playing AI? I particularly like the AI's approach to Tetris."

Amanda Lange suggests "These Neopets Have Been Alive for 13 Years" by Max Knoblauch. Amanda found this thought-provoking on "how weird little on-line communities sometimes don't die against all odds".

Joel Goodwin suggests "The Simulation Dream" by Tynan Sylvester. This piece discusses complex world simulations intended to generate emergent experiences and how such systems are often too opaque or too boring.

Clara Fernández-Vara suggests "The Puzzle Instinct: The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life," a book by Marcel Danesi. She explains, "It's a taxonomy of puzzles, including discussions of how we make sense of them, and how they are fun. I used it a lot in my dissertation, and I find myself going back to it all the time when I discuss puzzle design."

The Saturday Paper

Michael Cook writes The Saturday Paper, which explores academic papers related to game development.

  • A World Just For You. "a world generator that understands stories – and can adapt to both the designer’s and the player’s preferences"
  • That, But Bigger. "the user produces abstract sketches of what a map should look like, which the tool can quickly work on to produce alternative versions, suggested improvements, and detailed renditions for final output"
  • Procedural Guneration. "use computational evolution to keep producing and mutating the weapons as players play the game and test the weapons out"
  • In Absentia. "If you like procedural content generation, though, I do have something for you to read…"

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  1. Some intriguing stuff, as always. Particularly interested in the deconstruction of an IGF winner. And the Tamagotchi business.

  2. The Lecture on the limits of play is very interesting although requires concentration. It’s not something you listen to in the background. Clara wanted to suggest some of Linderoth’s papers but they are not that easy to follow of youre not up on the academic lingo.

    Also that AI Tetris strategy is so funny.

  3. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS MORON TALKING ABOUT

    “But through all those centuries of storytelling, the stories had one thing in common: Like time itself – a phenomenon not just subjectively but, as articulated by Isaac Newton, objectively unidirectional – they were all, without exception, linear in form. This happened after that, and then the next thing happened. Stories started at one point and then ended at a later point. Causes led to effects.

    “And when I say ‘all,’ I’m not being hyperbolic. You will search in vain the works of Homer or Shakespeare for a single instance of, for example, a flashback. Stories unfolded in an entirely linear fashion, which makes sense since that’s the way we experience life and, in the days before writing, they were easier to remember that way. The very idea of moving around in time for narrative purposes did not yet exist.”

    NOT ONLY DOES THIS VIOLATE THE RULE THAT IF YOU MAKE A GENERALIZATION ABOUT PRE-WHENEVER NARRATIVE THAT IS INSTANTLY COUNTEREXAMPLED BY TRISTRAM SHANDY, YOU GET A COPY OF TRISTRAM SHANDY SHOVED UP YOUR ARSE

    BUT THE ODYSSEY IS ABSOLUTELY CHOCK FULL TO THE MOTHERFUCKING BRIM OF FLASHBACKS

    YOU KNOW, THE ODYSSEY BY HOMER

    PERHAPS THE REASON THAT GAME WRITING IS SO, UM, PROBLEMATIC IS THAT PEOPLE WHO WRITE FOR GAMES CAN’T READ

  4. If you didn’t like Amanda’s choice, Matt, you just had to say so. Uh, okay, so it looks like flashbacks have previously existed and that point is invalid. We discovered this during a Mattback.

  5. Oh, it’s not that I don’t like the choice. I mean, it gave me the opportunity to do that, and the stuff I found out about Arrested Development’s new season was interesting, and maybe I’ll read it again to find out about nonlinear storytelling and just close my eyes when I get to that point. It’s just that hasty generalizations about “X device didn’t exist in storytelling until the modern age” make me caps lock.

    (And there’s even a well known term dating back to antiquity for this stuff — in medias res. How could he… OK, I’ll stop.)

  6. LOL. It’s cool because I was amused by your rant. I just thought the Arrested Development part was interesting!


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