Game Addiction and Compulsion

Written on August 26, 2011 – 12:54 pm by Ding

The guys behind my favourite web show, Extra Credits, have recently done a two part episode on the issue of game addiction, the second part of which is a wildly different format to their usual set up due to the fact that it’s a subject that’s close to home for show writer James Portnow, and consisted of a very heartfelt retelling of his own personal experiences with game addiction/compulsion.

They make the point that games aren’t addictive in the medical sense as they don’t create a chemical dependency, but that they can be remarkably compelling and grown adults can turn away from real life to sink themselves into a virtual one.

They also make the very valid point that if you have fallen into this sort of lifestyle, you are not alone.

I know there are a couple of people who read this blog who politely (and often quite rightly) complain whenever I write something a little bit more personal than usual, so for you guys, this post might be one to skip.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Game’s Worst Enemy

Written on August 25, 2011 – 10:32 am by Ding

Any careful development or thoughtful planning on the part of anyone making games can be undone in one fell swoop from every game’s worst possible enemy.  Their nemesis.  Their one stumbling block on the way to greatness.

The player.

Any player has a unique ability to completely and utterly destroy any game.  There are several ways they can do this with some of the most popular methods being to play another game along the lines of making sure everyone else isn’t having fun, but the one that can scupper just about anything, online or offline, is where the player is given free reign to exercise their creativity.

Playing Space Marine at the preview event I went along to the other day (and look, here is my write up over at Bit-Tech), I started thinking about how the developers must dread players when we started playing the multiplayer part of the game.  Space Marine comes with the option to customize your power armoured super soldier down to the colours of individual parts of armour.  The intention here is that you can create unique designs or anything you might have painted if you happen to have been a fan of the miniatures.  The reality in most cases is however wildly different.

Read the rest of this entry »

Space Marine: How to treat your source material

Written on August 24, 2011 – 1:26 pm by Ding

It’s inevitable that in this modern era, a lot of media that gets green lit and produced is going to be based on a franchise.  This is for the simple reason that the sheer amount of time effort and money that goes into these projects is enough to make you sink into a little inadequacy filled puddle of awe and they have to stand a decent chance of making a profit or at the very least not cause a loss.  If your project is based on a pre existing franchise with a pre existing fan base, then some of your work is done for you.  You don’t have to market the thing quite so aggressively, you’ve got people providing the hype for you, and you’ve got a large group of people who will pay you for your work regardless of the eventual quality.

It can be heartbreaking to see something handled badly.  There is a lot of resentment towards fan-loved properties that are somehow distorted beyond recognition by a translation to a different medium.  Sometimes it even comes from the original creators and you suddenly realise that you attached more significance and meaning to something that was somewhat a fluke.  Although it happens a lot with sequels and reboots, it’s even more common when something goes from one form to another, for example a line of toys to a line of blockbuster action films that seem to be focused on borderline racist one liners and extended screen time for American military types.

Every now and then though, somebody gets it right.  Somebody manages to take something that is complicated, dense, rich and sometimes awkward, and usher it into a new form.  The world of franchise translators and rebooters and sequelisers should take notes from Relic Entertainment for their work on the upcoming video game Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.

Read the rest of this entry »

What a Game Can Be

Written on August 23, 2011 – 10:00 am by Ding

After playing through Stanley Parable which I mentioned yesterday and having a bit more of a think about Swordquest, I started to reflect on what a game can be.

The more I learn about computer games (and indeed board games) as a medium, the harder it is to accurately define what a game actually is.  Even the notion that a game requires a specific win condition is starting to get increasingly hazy.

Many games now no longer resemble anything remotely game like and are often more accurately described as digital interactive experiences that in many respects are introspective explorations of the self rather than anything else.  In a similar way that comics in larger and longer formats tend to be called graphic novels, I can see that video games in some cases are going to lose the game part of their description in the future.

I foresee that playing a game pretty soon will often feel less and less like an actual game.  We already see this in the sense that high scores haven’t been a core aspect of games for a very long time.  Many games of course still have them, but many more don’t and even when they are present, they are rarely a driving force for playing, mainly being included because it just feels like they should be there.  Outside of online multiplayer, games are now story driven as opposed to skill driven.

Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Morning Fuel: The Stanley Parable

Written on August 22, 2011 – 11:06 am by Ding

Making a habit of coming in late to any party, last week I was clued into The Stanley Parable, a fan made mod for Half Life 2.

Playing this has the potential to redefine what you think of as a game, and its very existence as an entry to the medium makes actual definition of what a game is increasingly difficult.  It’s an exploration into the nature of free will, of fate, of futility, and of the way we are conditioned to respond in certain situations.  At least, that’s what I got out of it.  It’s also grimly rather funny.

There were also moments where I identified that the narrator was starting to sound a lot like I do after GMing for Dungeons and Dragons with a particularly inventive group of players.

The mod can be obtained here.  It is possible to play on Mac and PC through Steam and you require the Source SDK Base 2007 (If you have Half Life 2, you’ll have this).  Further instructions can be found on its download page.

In their words, the game is best if you don’t know anything about it before you play it, so actually, sorry for telling you something about it, but my original post of just a link and a name didn’t seem like enough.

This Week’s Tortoises – 15-21 August 2011

Written on August 21, 2011 – 11:00 am by Ding

This week we have talked about games, their potential, and I’ve noodled around with trying to learn some new things.

We started the week with  a recommendation for Desktop Dungeons.

I talk about nostalgia attached to arcades and the problems they face in The Death of the Arcade.

I go through the awe inspiring Swordquest and submit a plea for something similar to happen again.

Revisiting a theme that I touched on the other week, we take a look at Steam and Digital Distribution.

The first in the Learn By Doing series, Sick of Ninjas, a silly short film made with lego.

On Friday, it’s not that I had a bad day, but I did have a rant about something that was playing on my mind with Uninspiring Television.

Finally, another Learn By Doing film with Curiosity Killed The World, wherein I learn about poor sound quality.

Hope you’ve had a great week and see you again tomorrow for more gaming, technology and hopefully some more film making.


Curiosity Killed The World

Written on August 20, 2011 – 10:30 am by Ding

As part of my Learn By Doing series of films like my stop motion adventure a few days ago, I did something in live action this time.

Lesson learnt from this video:  You can cover a lot of sins with sound.  I think every one who offers film making advice online says it, but you never really appreciate it until you record something horribly crackly.

There are some out there that might say “well if you’re not 100% happy with it, why publish it?” and to them I say good point, but also I want to share my mistakes to maybe help someone else not make them, or to feel better also making mistakes.



Uninspiring Television

Written on August 19, 2011 – 1:24 pm by Ding

Nothing gets me more depressed than watching an excessive amount of television.  There is something undeniably soporific about the process but it can easily lead to you watching things that you’ve seen before or things you have absolutely no interest in just for the sake of slumping in front of it for a little longer.

I very rarely come away from a television show, no matter how good it is, with a fired up sense of enthusiasm.  Even a short five minute webisode can instead just leave me wanting to watch more moving images, but no matter how much I get dragged down by television that is actually of a high quality, it’s nothing compared with the way I get dragged down by something that’s trashier and as I often think, if this is happening to me, it must be happening to other people as well.

I can’t help but feel we are being fed poor ideals by the box of flashing lights that sits in our living room.  Cheap to make easy to digest competition shows, such as the box opening non-game No Deal or No Deal, the Weakest Link or Who Wants To Be a Millionaire have all set the tone for what should be desired and sought after and that is money.  I remember watching game shows when I was little where the prizes were somewhat a bonus as opposed to the goal, with any monetary incentives being incredibly small and the prizes taking the form of washing machines and fridges presented on slowly rotating platforms.  It was the actual taking part, being on television and playing a game that was what was important.  I suppose when Countdown starts offering money to its winners, then we know we’re doomed.

The other form of cheaply made easily digested yet simultaneously nauseating show is the reality contest.  Thankfully survival shows like Big Brother seem to be on their way out and really in later years I got the sense that Big Brother was abusing the mentally ill rather than providing solid entertainment, but they have been replaced with the trend for talent shows.  There’s the excruciatingly drawn out X Factor, or Britain’s Got Talent (And Must Be Stopped) or the inexplicably popular Strictly Come Dancing, the show with a title which has never quite made much sense to me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sick of Ninjas

Written on August 18, 2011 – 11:59 am by Ding

For a while now, as you might be able to tell from some of the comments I made about online broadcast technology a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been dying to make a video series of some sort, because I can’t quite work out why I haven’t already.

Today, I have taken a short break from clattering away at my keyboard to try and learn a few video editing skills, using the first few things that I could find near to my desk.  Two of those such things happened to be some LEGO figures, so that goes to explain this stupid little stop motion clip that I’ve created to try and teach myself the basics of video editing.

I found the music on a creative commons royalty free site called incompetech.  Creative commons licenses seem to be a wondrous thing that I’m going to have to learn more about, because it strikes me as the most incredible thing the internet is able to provide right now.

Things I have learnt today:  Stop motion is hard and time consuming and a real art form that I would love to dive a bit further in to and Creative Commons is the future.



Steam and Digital Distribution

Written on August 17, 2011 – 12:50 pm by Ding

Last week in talking about constant internet connection requirements, I mentioned Steam, a digital distribution service from Valve, one of the most respected, beloved and successful studios.

Steam is a service where you can buy digital copies of games and manage them under a single utility. You can download your purchases to any other machine you own with Steam installed, it will update and patch your games automatically, it will resolve several troubleshooting issues for you, and you can even maintain a friends list making it very easy to jump into multiplayer games with people you know.

The service also requires an internet connection to function properly, and is a form of digital rights management and not only restricts but prohibits the resale of games that you’ve purchased.

I initially was never a fan of Steam because I didn’t like my games all being tied into a single service and didn’t like being held hostage to an intermittent internet connection, but more recently I have come to accept the service. It gets my seal of approval just because it provides enough extra value to justify what it takes away from me. It did this by offering me older titles that I can no longer get working on my modern machine fully patched and running fine, by offering me newer titles for prices that are less than a pint and by introducing me to the world of crashing other friend’s multiplayer games and all of us as a result grabbing impromptu unplanned entertainment.

However, Steam is not without its drawbacks and in my view can only operate in a vacuum. There are several other companies that are trying to do the same thing and this could make for an awkward gaming landscape in the years to come.

Read the rest of this entry »