It’s been a long time since the last Link Drag. I've quaffed a lot of links in the interim and, today, it's time to vomit some of them back out onto the internet. Some of them are old but it's okay, because I'm old. So what can you find linked today?
The demise of the complex game compared to the decline of the comics industry. The booth babe phenomenon in financial tech conferences. The Greek crisis as a choose-your-own-adventure game. And three awesome free-to-play games.
You may proceed.
"The Master of Go" by Doug Wilson (Die Gute Fabrik), 19 February 2012. I always feel educated when reading one of Doug's rare essays. In a nutshell, changing game rules have all sorts of side-effects.
Whether we like it or not, there is always a certain degree of gamesmanship in negotiating how, where, and when the game should be played. This applies not only to tabletop games like Go, but also to computer games. My adviser T.L. Taylor writes about how even a game like StarCraft runs up against rule ambiguities and thorny tournament disputes. As T.L. phrases it, rule negotiation is a “consistent feature” of computer gaming. Total systemization is a myth; it is impossible.
"Katawa Shoujo eats your heart out" by Jack McNamee (The Machination), 14 January 2012. I didn't play Katawa Shoujo and I'm not going to, but this piece from Jack jots an interesting note in the margin about why it has significance.
Confessions, tears, hearfelt promises to start exercising. All coming in meme-laced english from people who booted the game up looking for masturbation material. “I was prepared to fap, 4chan,” sobs one poster, “BUT I WASN’T PREPARED TO FEEL.”
"Dark Souls Diaries" by Matt Sakey (Tap-Repeatedly), In Progress. So it turns out that I actually love Steerpike. Fine, manly love. I don't know if I'll ever play Dark Souls but reading Steerpike's words is always entertaining, particularly when he is demonstrating his gaming skills. Heh.
And I can’t stop playing until I kill him, because if I do, I’ll probably have lost my muscle memory by tomorrow and I won’t make it to his bridge on my first try and all those beautiful, beautiful souls left behind in the paste of innards that used to be me will be gone.
I hate you, Taurus Demon.
A Complex Problem by Gobi (Fuyoh!), 04 December 2011. A mighty long piece about the fall of complex games and how they might be lost for good. A compelling piece that should be starting some bar fights.
Just as comics went through a period of ruthless brand exploitation in the early Nineties with relaunches, spin-offs, collector-bait first issues and multiple cover variants, games are now experiencing the same thing as publishers and developers collude to produce designs calculated to extract as much money as possible from the consumer.
First Person Problems by John Brindle (Brindle Brothers), 26 November 2011. I've been following Brindle Brothers for a while now and I've come to the conclusion there is no Brindle family. Nonetheless, the essays posted here are interesting. The one I've linked laments the emphasis on shooting in the FPS and even chomps down on the RTS for obscuring game design opportunities.
They experienced, in part, the chaos and confusion of genuine command – something which rarely touches the player of Total War. When Napoleon says that the first thing in war is to arrive at a decision and stick to it, he’s not just being a stubborn git, but is speaking to the practical necessity of organising armies without radios, where confusion and misunderstanding mean death.
The Incredible Threat of Failure by Amanda Lange (Tap-Repeatedly), 12 August 2011. This is an essay I would probably have written given another couple of years of Electron Dance musings; both Amateur Dramatics and Those Honeymoon Hours signpost that I was thinking along these lines. But anyway, Amanda's beaten me to the punch: the importance of maintaining an illusion of danger.
I’m merely astonished that, among gaming circles, the “credible threat of failure” is not a more well-quoted phrase. I feel that it should be right in the game analyzer’s handbook, somewhere next to “ludonarrative” and “series of interesting decisions.”
On the Similarities Between Girls and Aliens by Trisha Gee (Trisha's Ramblings), 28 October 2011. I wanted to highlight an example of "booth babes" outside of gaming; a developer writes about her experiences at TradeTech, a conference for electronic trading technology.
I made the mistake of turning up in a skirt - for those who know my dress sense, it was not one of my arse-length ones, it was just above my knees - and everyone assumed I was selling something. I had a job to persuade them that I had actually paid for my ticket.
Strictly For The Tardcore by AJ (Arcadian Rhythms), 11 November 2011. If you ever wanted to know what shrieky dumbed down console kids thought of PC elitism, here it is. I take issue at the reverse-generalisation going on here, but it's good to read a considered piece from the other side of the fence. It's not really about controllers but about the physical space and social play afforded by a console.
Most people that know me might be surprised that I get a lot of enjoyment out of the company of others in close proximity to myself, but it is true: I am a sucker for couch co-op. Any opportunity to sit down and share an experience is certainly something I treasure, be it blitzing through a splitscreen campaign or hotseating a single player game.
- The Cat That Got The Milk (via RPS). Richard Hofmeier loved it, so you should too. I tweeted that it was like "sherbet lemon for the brain". Simple game but wonderful music and abstract visuals.
- SCP-087 (via RPS). Thanks to RPS I am now wasting my time ploughing through the curiously batshit SCP archives. This game depicts the SCP case called "The Endless Staircase". Claustrophobic with frightening audio work. Nerve-wracking.
- The Fabulous Screech. Jonas Kyratzes' latest foray in the Lands of Dream. Some players report shedding tears over this, although I cannot say the same. I much prefer the litany of absolutely ridiculous jokes that fill up it's small point-and-click world. I'm also in the game, if you search hard enough.
The Little Harbour Master loved playing on the Barbara Hepworth sculpture "Two Forms (Divided Circle)" in Dulwich Park and it even made an appearance in the Electron Dance article Seeing Games.
In December, after four decades of being left alone, it was stolen - likely by scrap metal thieves. I can say we've definitely felt its loss and the Little Harbour Master still asks where it's gone.
Zoe Williams, writing for The Guardian, poses the question: Does the stolen Barbara Hepworth show that caring makes us weak? (21 Dec 2011)
On the right, it's because governments interfered, over-regulated, overdid the handouts and overspent. On the left, it's because government privatised, outsourced, didn't regulate, and created a corporate plutocracy by failing to protect wages, grouting the gaps with benefits and ultimately subsidising super-profits.
Bonus! Greek economic situation explained via the choose-your-own-adventure format.
I Can't Read Show Me Pictures
I've tweeted both of these recently but if you missed them...
Commercial for Australia's Central Institute of Technology. For real.
Musician David Kanaga is not just working on Proteus, but he's also working on a game called Dyad. No, it is not coming out for the PC but the videos are awesome! I mean, just look at this shit.