Posted: September 5, 2016 by Twitchdoctor in Game Genres, Games and Marketing, Games and the Media
Tags: game design, game development, God Complex, Richard Garriott, Saints, Shroud of the Avatar, Tabula Rasa, Ultima
Saint Cuthbert? Or a modern videogame designer?
It shouldn’t by this point be any surprise that the mainstream media does a lousy job commenting intelligently on videogames. When they aren’t talking about videogames as a business (in which case they are always awesome) the standard narrative remains that playing games is bad for you. Games either actively damage you in some way or prevent you from engaging in activities which are supposedly a lot better for you. Sure, the mainstream media does occasionally flirt with the idea that games may be beneficial on the individual and social level. But this is really the equivalent of the fake compliment, something they know they have to say to keep the wheels of conversation moving, when what they really want to say is that those jeans do make you look fat. When something new and game-related appears, however, the media reach for their default frameworks. It took all of two days after the release of Pokemon Go, for example, for the Washington Post to come up with a story built around the stock “games are dangerous!” frame. Like all such stories, it takes a few anecdotes and while it never explicitly argues that this is a trend, strongly implies it, and relies upon readers’ familiarity with the broader frame to come to the necessary conclusion for themselves. (The Pokemon Go phenomenon is obnoxious but for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the supposed potential to make people so self-absorbed that they walk into lamp posts or in front of cars; in terms of massive levels of screen-based self-absorption society has left orbit on that one already).
But there’s at least some evidence to suggest that it may be making videogames that is hazardous to your health.
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Posted: March 11, 2015 by Twitchdoctor in Games and Marketing, Games and the Media, New Media, Technology and Society
Tags: alienation, artificial intelligence, emotions, Engnes of Empathy, identity, machines, Paul Mannering, Sherry Turkle, Technology
I’m not even going to pretend that there isn’t a conflict of interest here. A better, more ethical person would take steps to maintain their objectivity and protect their sense of integrity. But in a world where news anchor Brian Williams can singlehandedly drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan, and the US Supreme Court has declared that money is people, I will simply press on. In the immortal words of Brian Williams, once more unto the breach!
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Posted: July 24, 2013 by Twitchdoctor in game design, Game Research
Tags: casual games, game design, hardcore games, ipad, iPhone, Jesper Juul, Quark Games, research, Shawn Foust, smart phones, Video game industry
Apple Announces New Tablet Designed to Improve Paperweight Functionality (Image by Ilovebutter, CC license)
It has become increasingly obvious over the last couple of years that some gamers are convinced that after Obama satisfies his deep-seated yearning to take away our guns he is going to send in the UN black helicopters and take away our hardcore videogames. In the past I’ve written about how the irrational fear that casual games are “taking over” has produced pathological troglodyte behavior directed against women who have dared simply to voice an opinion about games. Recently I came across an instance that has at its root the same pathology (oh no! Games are being played by everyone!) but adopted a refreshingly different approach: denial.
Throw an Apple hard enough and it can really sting
In a recent opinion piece for Polygon, Shawn Foust, currently VP of Design at Quark Games argued that “In two years mobile and tablet games will be predominantly hardcore.” Admittedly this pronouncement could be seen as a little self-serving given that Foust’s company is dedicated to producing hardcore games for mobile platforms. But let’s give Foust the benefit of the doubt and assume that his work has followed his passions and beliefs. What justifies the confidence behind his statement? Simple. “Every media platform optimized for games eventually ends up going hardcore. Mobile will not be different.” The PC, the Internet, consoles, all started out as oriented toward casual games and moved inevitably toward hardcore. The reason, he argues, lies in the desires of gamers themselves: “For all of our faults as customers (we’re very torch- and pitchfork-oriented), we gamers — and I’m speaking of the hardcore variety — are loyal and dedicated. . . .For us, games aren’t an idle pastime. They are a commitment. We can’t be distracted.” Casual games, he makes clear, are all about simple distraction, passing the time.
Sadly, this piece simply confirms why people should not be in a rush to invest in Foust’s company. In the first place he’s exhibiting the classic circular reasoning evident among so many game developers. Notice the nifty little rhetorical sidestep? I’m going to talk about all gamers. . .by which I mean hardcore gamers. But this is typical of the industry more broadly (indeed, in a former age it virtually defined the industry): all we make are hardcore games which people are buying therefore all gamers are hardcore gamers which means that we need to keep making nothing but hardcore games. It is a completely fallacious argument to believe that your intended audience thinks exactly like you do and in the game industry it has led to some of the most problematic industry practices: the widespread hypersexualism (we like big boobs so of course everyone does) and racism (we like plucky black sidekicks, doesn’t everyone?).
Yet that all pales before the major problem here which is simply that Foust is wrong. He’s wrong about the past and he’s wrong about the future. But it is the reason why he is wrong that interests me.
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