Grasmere, 2006

Marginalia is an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Amanda Lange, Ben Serviss, Raph Koster, Tale of Tales and Miguel Sicart.

In this edition: the mundanity of excellence, violence as narrative, and the price of secrecy in game development.

Our Suggestions

Miguel Sicart suggests “Concepts, Notations, Software, Art” by Florian Cramer. Miguel has a lot to say about this one: “This is one of the smartest pieces written on the relations between computers, software, and the arts. We tend to discuss “games” or “videogames” as art, or even as artistic objects, but we tend to forget to define what makes them objects, or at least to critically reflect about their materiality – this is a good text exploring the idea of software as material for artistic expression.”

Raph Koster suggests “Below Kryll“, an online platformer where all the levels have been created by players.

Amanda Lange suggests “The Last of Us, BioShock, Hotline Miami: Violence as Narrative” by Dan Olson. She writes, “It might be treading old ground in a way, but it asks a question which I think is at the heart of these sort of games, which is, is condemning violence while indulging in it sort of trying to ‘have cake and eat it too’?” Spoilers for Bioshock Infinite, Hotline Miami and The Last of Us.

Joel Goodwin suggests “Setting Up Your Indie Gamedev Business: A Primer” by Zachary Hoefler. This is US-focused but probably a useful guide for anyone trying to get a new venture off the ground.

Raph Koster suggests “The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers (PDF)” by Daniel Chambliss. He writes, “This has a lot to say about both how players improve at games (seen through the lens of swimming), and also perhaps about how designers improve at game design.”

Ben Serviss suggests “In the Name of Love” by Miya Tokumitsu. It’s about “the hidden baggage that comes with the ‘do what you love’ ethos that’s so prevalent today.”

Tale of Tales suggests “Game of the Year” by Davey Wreden, about the unexpected depression that is borne of success. Tale of Tales particularly likes the line “critical success does not simply make your insecurities go away”.

Raph Koster suggests the site “Imaginary Realities“. For those interested in the early history of online multiplayer worlds, this site has brought back the archives of all the old issues of this zine about MUD design. “Also,” Raph adds, “the Living Game Worlds videos featuring the Pioneers Panel (folks behind MUD, LambdaMOO, Meridian 59) are also once again available after a hiatus of many years.” Scroll down to the bottom for the Pioneers Panel video.

Ben Serviss suggests “Hit iOS Puzzle Game Threes Almost Had Monsters and Sushi” by Eric Johnson. He writes: “It’s a great look at the iterative design process in the context of a hit game.”

Miguel Sicart suggests “Fibreculture Journal Issue 22: Trolls and the negative space of the internet” edited by Jason Wilson, Glen Fuller and Christian McCrea. Miguel writes, “I have a thing for trolls (trolling can be a sublime form of (dark) play), so this issue of the Fibreculture Journal, focused on trolls, is a gem.”

Tale of Tales suggests “Ten rules for writing fiction” by The Guardian. This is what happens when you collate ten rules for writing fiction from practically every author you can get your hands on. Note this is in two parts and the second part features rules from authors such as Michael Moorcock, Annie Proulx and Sarah Waters.

Ben Serviss suggests “Game a Week: The Whole Kit and Kaboodle” by Adriel Wallick. Ben explains that Adriel has been doing a Game a Week challenge for the past few months, and her summary of the first 12 weeks is “a great example of the imposter syndrome that seems to affect many indies”.

Miguel Sicart suggests “Institutional Alzheimers: A Culture of Secrecy and the Opacity of #GAMEDEV Work” by Casey O’Donnell. This examines the culture of secrecy in game development.

Joel Goodwin suggests “The Refrigerator Box” by Jack Monahan. This looks at the problem of embodying the player in a first-person shooter, explaining that “if FPS players ever feel as though they’re a walking refrigerator box in the game instead of a person, it’s because they are.”

Tale of Tales suggests “Dear America, I Saw You Naked” by Jason Edward Harrington. The confessions of an ex-TSA agent. What has this got to with videogame development? Well, you might be travelling to GDC…

The Saturday Paper

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

  • Exhausting. “brute force search and parallelisation to explore the space of possible puzzles”
  • Ludus Ex Machina. “a system that tries to connect the real world to game mechanics”
  • How Does Your Content Grow? “a study of procedural generators, and an interesting means of classifying them”
  • Mechanic Miner “a system I put together just over a year ago for generating simple game mechanics for platform games”

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2 thoughts on “Marginalia 8

  1. Oh, man, that Dear America article – good choice. I think I read that over twice when I saw it; it’s fascinating.

  2. It’s a bit of cheeky addition to the a game development link round-up but I decided to let it slide.

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