Welcome to the first edition of Marginalia, an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Clara Fernández-Vara, Amanda Lange, Miguel Sicart and Doug Wilson.

Our Suggestions

Amanda Lange suggests “Why the Next-Generation Will Change Games Forever” by Adrian Chmielarz. Chmielarz struggles to find the right language to express his argument, but it’s a broader version of the uncanny valley problem.

Clara Fernández-Vara suggests “It Is in Our Nature to Need Stories” by Jag Bhalla. Clara writes, “I was particularly happy to read that logic problems are easier to solve when understood as a story of breaching social rules.”

Miguel Sicart suggests “Your Body Does Not Want to Be an Interface” by John Pavlus. Miguel notes, “I thought this was a well-written, and clear explanation of why there are interesting limits to all these new fancy technologies that are touchable, lickable, sensible and ubiquitous.”

Doug Wilson suggests “Almost Too Beautiful” by Kyle Gann. This description of a performance of Morton Feldman’s String Quartet 2 articulates the importance of long experiences.

Joel Goodwin suggests “Dustforce sales figures” by Hitbox Team (h/t Jonathan Blow). It’s always useful to see the numbers from indies especially in such detail as this.

Amanda Lange suggests “Skyrim’s Modular Level Design – GDC 2013 Transcript” by Joel Burgess and Nate Purkeypile. Amanda writes, “My students found this inside look at the level design in Skyrim particularly helpful.”

The Saturday Paper

Michael Cook writes The Saturday Paper, which explores academic papers related to game development. Here’s a run down of recent entries:

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9 thoughts on “Marginalia #1

  1. Great job on these, everyone–like I was saying on Twitter, these are things I’m not really used to reading and some of this–particularly the last few more academic/technical ones–is a tiny bit above my head, but that’s awesome. I’m trying to switch Scenes, and it’s really great to have this, to realize there’s an alternative out there. Hooray!

  2. Great links! I particularly enjoyed the one about brains needing stories to make sense of things. I’m having a hard time buying it, but I love it.

  3. Thanks! I want to keep a diverse cross-section of links as much as possible and, if possible, links that haven’t been well-travelled. I’d like Marginalia to become a thing. Not a primary resource for developers or anything like that, but something that always turns up a few gems you might not have heard of.

  4. A good project, I should think. Oddly, I enjoyed the Dustforce link most. It was entertaining, I guess?

    A suggestion? Go through Chris Crawford’s site (Erasmatazz) a bit. There’s some stuff that’d be good for Marginalia, and some that’s just good. (I didn’t bother clicking on the second link because Crawford had written about it some time ago, for instance). Here:

  5. I visit Crawford’s site now and then but I really should go through the library some time.

  6. I forgot to comment on this and Marginalia #2 reminded me. I didn’t read all the articles but was interested in Chmielarz’s musing on ‘sim-toy’ dissonance or what I call weird-shit-that-only-gamers-accept. I was a big fan of Chmielarz piece on Bioshock Infinite too. It’s fascinating playing games with people who don’t play games so much (like Hailey) because they get ‘snagged’ on so many idiosyncrasies that we’re almost numb to. I think Valve do well to playtest lots even if it does ’round’ the experience off a little too much at times.

    This topic also ties into what Bennett Foddy spoke about with George Buckenham and unnecessarily abstracting things. I’d love to see a game that tries to represent as much of its ‘numbers’ as possible using visual, aural and behavioural cues. No health bars or ammo counters or hard stats. Enemy nearly dead? Have them battered and bruised, limping around and retreating. Strong character? Have them muscly and big. Dextrous character? Have them lithe and quick. Strong and dextrous? Have them muscly but still slim and quick. I’d sooner have ‘Hrun the Barbarian is exceptionally strong and capable of carrying the heaviest weapons’ over ‘Hrun the Barbarian has 24 STR’. It’s shorthand, yes, but silly and lazy.

    I also liked Almost Too Beautiful because I’ve recently been listening to a lot of Stars of The Lid, an ambient drone act that does these sprawling 2 disc albums with lengthy tracks that seamlessly transition into each other. Godspeed! You Black Emperor has also been on my stereo for a while too. It’s evocative stuff when you get into the groove of it, but a six hour long live set sounds intense. It’s something I’d love to experience.

  7. Thanks Gregg. The last Shooting Gallery piece “Léon Loves Tetris” is going to hit some of these notes about ‘games as toys’. I don’t know whether to put it out today, because everyone is talking about E3. Wonder if I should put it off to the end of the week.

    That “Almost Too Beautiful” piece is an importance contrast to that piece that popped out of the RPS Sunday Papers recently on “we need shorter games for maturity”.

  8. Haha, yeah, I read that one yesterday and funnily enough I’ve got time for both trains of thought. Sometimes you need time and space, provided it fits into or enhances the composition of a work, other times it can be regarded as filler or fluff. I wouldn’t dream of taking away those long car sequences in Half-Life 2 or the horrible sewer crawl in Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines or the endless metro tunnels in Fallout 3 because, while they may have seemed tedious at the time, I remember vividly reaching my destinations and feeling relieved that I’d made it. And I think that same quality exists in music where you have to get through a long and/or gruelling passage to reach a particular ‘state’. Wilco’s Less Than You Think is over 15 minutes long and features about 12 minutes of progressively louder and more excruciating droning white noise. I don’t like randomising albums or skipping tracks so that thing was a work-out to try and get through, especially with headphones on but it used to make The Late Greats (the subsequent and final track on the album) a real release. Having said this, A Long Day by the Polyphonic Spree can fuck off. 35 minutes of indulgent noodling right at the end of the album. I suppose that’s one way of bringing you down from a summery floral high.

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