Blog titles

19/01/2010

I spent ages thinking of a title for this blog. I dunno how happy I am in the end. Not sure if “Intelligence Artificer” would have been better. It’s really hard to think of a title that isn’t a pun or up it’s own arse. So now let’s play the game again.

I know some people who I would like to get to write posts about games. This blog was supposed to be about me and things I do and develop. I’m not really just supposed to scream and rage about stuff. I’m supposed to talk about neat algorithms I’m developing and PhP design patterns and that. So I want to start a team blog. So that needs a new name.

I love Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Citizen Game is alright, Idle Thumbs is great. All puns. Consolevania? Pun. Gamasutra? Pun. There’s good and there’s bad. Eurogamer is just descriptive I hope, and not supposed to be “you’re a gamer”. As for my own title, by the time I’d thought of “Lewd Icarus” it was time for a lie down. “Ludo Cress”? er.. we are the offshoots of the cotton wool revolution. Um, but about games?

Then what about not punning, but just using a jargon style phrase as is. Splash Damage are a development house, ragdoll physics, er… collision detection? Problem with your unique googlability of course. Infinite lives seemed like a good name for a blog about different games writted by different people about the many lives that we all can lead in many games and so on… Yes, that’s why it’s taken.

The other night I found myself moving from the pun to the pretentious. My dad used to say that the latin for “I hear, I see, I learn” would be “Audio Video Disco”, so I found myself wondering about “Ludo Scribo Disco” I tried concatenating to Scribodiscoludo or Scriboludodisco or Ludoscribodisco or Ludodiscoscribo. I am reliably informed these seem like gibberish. I thought that maybe “Ludo Disco” was enough. It was only then that I realised that my favourite “Ludo Scribo Disco” has nice initials. Try pronouncing it all stupidly too, Lu-Dos-cribod-isco. Or summat.

Pure pretentious is half a classic quotation and an ellipsis… I looked up loads of quotes. Best I found really was “Nothing is sacred to a gamester” Bernard Joseph Saurin 1706-1781, French Dramatist. Apparently. Not exactly famous enough really, and can hardly call the blog “Nothing is sacred…” Might as well go the whole cryptic hog and call it “Holy Zero”.

I’ll leave the comments open as per usual. Ahem.

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Maybe there’s still some horror, but it’s the existential horror of the banality of existence. You know the type.

In conversation I’ve come to realise that I didn’t really say all I could in my last post about Judith. I’m not going to say any of it now either really. I am going to say why I didn’t say some things about it, and then say them about a different game instead. Maybe I won’t say them about that either. Hey, this post sure is a must-read. This is the only Wittgenstein joke in it.

I didn’t really give much of a description of Judith, just told you to go and play it. Today I’m going to tell you to go and play Every day the same dream Okay WordPress took ages to do that bit then so I actually had time to read my last post and maybe I actually described the game as best as I could. Still didn’t explain why that was the best I could do though.

Today’s game is even shorter than the last one. Plus there’s no need to download, it’s one of them flash thingies. I was reminded of its existence by DO NOT CLICK this Gamasutra post DO NOT CLICK which annoyingly sort of says the thing that I didn’t say about what I couldn’t say about Judith. DON’T READ IT YET. Cos it says too much really, so maybe it’s crossed my invisible line and doesn’t really say the thing that I want to say.

YES that’s it. That article talks very nicely about the way that there are some stories and the way that they are told that can only be told in Video Games, or are better, or at least different. It then goes on to sort of tell you the story, describe the world. It tries to avoid spoilers, but THE WHOLE THINGS A SPOILER. If some stories are best told in video games, don’t tell me what it is. Just shake me by the shoulders until I obey you and play it. Well if it’s short. Make me a cup of tea at least. Is it alright to smoke in here?

Brevity is key. Plus it’s free and is Flash. Every day the same dream (which was a runner up in this Experimental Gameplay Competition is less than ten minutes long, and fuses the way it tells the story with the story. That is probably more than enough information. I mean it, I might delete some of the information in this paragraph. In which case I’ll definitely leave in the previous sentence.

If it cost you money, you’d want a review to tell you more than just if it was good. Unless you really trusted the reviewer. You’re never going to spend £30 on a game if you don’t know what it’s like. You might not want to know the whole plot, but you’d probably like to know the genre. However, in games the plot is so often neither here nor there. What matters is the gameplay. We’ll sit through 10 hours of shitty story that doesn’t really hang together if the bloom and explosions are right and we can pretend to be super soldiers. Yes that’s right I own Crysis:Warhead. I did not buy it for the plot. So a review can talk about how realistic the shotgun is, if that level of realism matters, the framerate, the look and feel, how cluttered the maps are, the freedom or no, they can certainly afford to tell you the set up of the plot. Probably the ending too to be honest. It’s like a Hollywood blockbuster in that respect. There are some films that you go to see to throw popcorn at the screen and have a good time. Having said that, imagine if you saw the film Predator if you’d only seen the trailers for Commando. You’d be enjoying Arnie the action hero and then be very happily surprised when it went all SF. Well I would be. Films always pick up when the alien reticules appear. Sod you then.

However, if someone was reviewing a 5 minute film or animation they’d restrict themselves to an analysis of the quality. Well they might. Just tell you if the actors in it were good, if the idea worked, whatever. Well I’m not going to tell you that much about this game either. Really short games I don’t want to tell you about the game mechanics. I’m not telling you if there are actors in it. Its short and free just play it. Then you can read that Gamasutra article.

Right. I’m becoming nicer and more like a proper blogger every day hongu. I’ve included links and acknowledged the existence of others. I’m even going to post a picture of the game I am reviewing. Oh noes surely that goes against everything I just said!

startup screen for every day the same dream

That's all you're getting

Or do I mean terror? I’m sure I’ve had a long rambling discussion with several folks about the distinction between terror and horror. However, that may not really be relevant. Hey, not being relevant could be what this here blog ting is all about.

Right. Subject matter, that’s what’s important hongu. As in, what is the subject of this post. I’m actually going to talk about Terry Cavanagh’s Judith. Hey, did you like the way I said “Terry Cavanagh” then as if we all know who he is? Actually “he” is really a “she” shows what you know. Well, actually I think he’s a he. With or without quotation marks, in all honesty I have little to no idea. What I gather though is that he/she/it write VIDEO GAMES FOR THE COMPUTAMABOB, which is relevant to my interests. MEME!

Dr T.Cavanagh is in the news this week because of new game called VVVVVV which seems like Jet Set Willy with a lot of save points. When I say “in the news” I mean that I read a post about it on Rock Paper Shotgun Interesting stuff there about issues surrounding difficulty and frustration. That’s one of the central issues in gaming really. If it’s a pain in the arse it’s not fun. If it’s too easy it’s not really a game. Issues of grind, wage-slavery, I paid for this I want fun, if it’s not a challenge it’s not fun nyarrnyarrr let’s have a paragraph break.

Welcome back! Before the paragraph break I was telling you about VVVVVV but I was NOT telling you about my internal argument about how to format the title of that game, and all other ones that I may write about. Oh well, that’ll help with the inconsistency, and I can get angry about it later, and that will help with the violence. BLOG POST MUST MAKE BLOG POST. So in that RPS post I linkied to about VVVVVV they mention that Terry Cavanagh has previously written more sort of arty games that are less pixel-perfect frenetic. They’re also a lot more free than VVVVVV so that’s a definite bonus. I click and so on to see what’s the score with Judith, and am happy to see that it’s free and SHORT.

Judith looks like olde worlde FPSsss like DOOM or Wolfenstein. Do you know what they are? Nevermind. It’s really lo-res and may not really be a game. It’s definitely interactive fiction. Whatever that means. It definitely manages to convey a sense of suspense and terror or horror or something. It’s flawed in some ways yes, but it was a really good way to spend the time waiting for dinner to be ready. Otherwise I’d have watched some policemen with dogs on the telly. I mean, I like dogs and everything, but filler low culture. Judith might be high culture. It might be, like, good for you. It’s definitely let me feel like I am being a good consumer of culture without having to pay anything, or go to Shoreditch. Certainly within the sphere of VIDEO GAMES it’s high art, and yet it’s still entertaining! Go figure. Actually, go download

Judith was co-written with Stephen Lavelle who I seem not to have mentioned until just then.

So I’ve been gaming on Sony platforms for the last decade and there’s a whole world of PC games that I’ve missed.  I’m a geek, so I know the culture, what jokes to make (the cake is a lie), but I suspect your supposed to play games and not just use their language as social camouflage… Well maybe.  There’s an idea from The Arts that I’m about to fling about without crediting anyone, it’s the Deficit Model of Culture.

Well, maybe that’s what it’s called.  I’m not going to check.  I could google it and find out it’s called something different.  But then again I could have capitalised ‘google’.  And not have begun that last sentence with a ‘But’.  Or that one with ‘And’.   I could have include the full-stops within the inverted commas, I could have spelt it ‘capitalized’ and then explained the joys of Elizabethan zpellings. Yes.  I could have used Google and Wikipedia and given you a pointless repetition of whatever piece of thing I originally half-remembered.  Then I’d be doing what the Internet calls “research”.  Yes,  full quote marks that time.   It’s not research most of the time, it’s copying and pasting.  That’s only one step up from colouring in.  Or coloring in if we’re getting all Tudor about it.   Right, onwards.

What does it mean to be an educated, cultured person?  What education must one have had?  What culture must one have absorbed?  This is the idea behind the deficit model.  That there is a body of work that constitutes CULTURE and you need to collect all the stickers to put in the culture album or you’re a pleb.  Arguments can then occur as to what constitutes proper culture and what should be included in the canon.  Long arguments into the night available.

Never mind the rights and wrongs (yeah, sorry to bring that all up) the real question is what are the CLASSICS that must be included in the canon for the deficit model of gaming culture?  Blimey.  I’m not looking now, but we all know have many manifestos and screeds there are about the nature of games.  I dare say I’ll do a proper one later.  Chess and hide-and-seek pre-date cinema and the novel.  Video games must be a new art-form, they’ve pissed off so many people.  Video games are still young enough that it’s possible we haven’t actually had the classics yet,   or maybe the best ever game was written by a 9 year old in Bulgaria in 1989.  only future archaeologists will know…

Right now though I return to gaming on a proper computer with a keyboard and everything and find that the scene has evolved in rather wonderful directions.   There’s the apparently thriving indie scene where the most serious and the most frivolous rub up together.  Kind of like animation really.  On the one hand you have kids cartoons, and on the other there’s sombre grim Eastern European worthiness.  There are also huge Hollywood blockbusters with massive development and marketing budgets.  They are often great fun, and occasionally surprisingly actually “any good at all”.  Somewhere in the middle must be the art that’s officially good for you but is also actually entertaining.  Something like the work of Iain Banks (maybe even Iain M. Banks) or Alfred Hitchcock.  Cultural artefacts that neither shame nor bore.  There’s no shortage of books one ought to read.  How many do you have in your house?  You don’t have to count The Bible or Ye Compleat Workes of Shakezpeore. What games are by Stephen Poliakoff?  Aw dammit I just googled his name to see if I’d spelt it right and I actually had done.

Look.  The upshot is that I’m turning a challenge into a problem.  No, er… life is full of problems and our mistake is to always view them as puzzles?  No.  right.  I have not had a PC and I have missed some great games but the advantage is that, with hindsight,  it’s easier to recognise which ones are the classics, and they’re also cheaper.

I’m playing old games.  I’m going to write about it.  If I ever press publish.

I’ve never really had a PC that I could use for games before.  I carried on using an Amiga for far longer than most people. So for the last 10 years or so I’ve played games on Playstation and used computers for work.  It was a fair distinction, it stopped a certain amount of procrastination, and provided a level-playing field for online play.  Now I finally find myself in a situation where my computer is better than my console.

I had made a deal that I was allowed to buy a Playstation 3 when I submitted my PhD thesis. Sony and I then engaged in a game of chicken. Each of us announced delay after delay until finally Sony broke and actually released the console. I had won. Or lost. Or something. The PS3 remains, I think, surprisingly expensive compared to the Green Other. Shrewdly, I went mental and ran away from my PhD. This does mean the I haven’t submitted anything, so feel that I am not really entitled to a PS3. I might instigate a new deal with myself about that later.

A deal I did make with myself was that I would build a nifty pooter as soon as I made some money from some job or other.  Like so many unemployed roboticists before me I found work as an archer in a Robin Hood film, so thanks to Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott I finally made the dosh to build my lovely Monster.  So now I have a decent PC that can actually run games that are worth running, and having been on the other side of the gaming pond for a while, I’m interested to see what’s here.

Alright, I blame Vlad f or this.

I’m currently “resting” and so I need to have some way to show off my talents.  Yes, that’s right, I can set up a blog on WordPress,  how’s that for talented?  Goodness knows what else I shall do with this.  It’s possible that you won’t even notice because I’ll just edit and muck around with things in WordPress.   Or maybe I shall use it to upload amazing reviews and comments about the world of gaming.

“Nothing is sacred to a gamester”  Bernard Joseph Saurin 1706-1781, French Dramatist apparently