A lot of focus on the macro of gaming is stewing about in this weekly. To start off, Peter Skerrit enumerates some gritty aspects of the evolution of the gaming industry in "A generation of disappointment." It outlines many anxieties of the gaming community feels, especially concerned with the methods larger game companies use to secure money from players. I am party to many of the points brought up, especially the diminishing of single-player experiences and the full pricing of games despite having pre-launch and Day 1 DLC for sale. This isn't a rabid, misanthropic rant thankfully, which is why I recommend it for a read and ponderance. If that's a word.
Also commenting on the nature and culture of the gaming industry, Line Hollis draws an interesting argument by using a narrative perspective to tackle the "problem" of players not finishing games. "Ending v. Resolution" uses conflict to describe how a player stays submerged within a game, and how games often fail to provide true conflict. This reminded me of my time with Catherine; while the game definitely inflict pain on you for your failures, there's an implicit assumption of the game that you're eventually going to succeed and win. The narrative of the game clearly shows this as the NPCs and character dialogue are optimistic of Vincent's chances, and the rest of the game's features hinge on his narrative success. From this perspective, there is little outside puzzle-solving that could keep the player hooked to the game, which is problematic in this particular case.
It's possible that I'm already going to be partial to everything that comes out of a blog called Ludonarratology, but Sparky Clarkson's "The Crying Game" had a particular point that really struck me. Clarkson argues against the claim of a game's mechanics being unable to make a player cry, and easily picks it apart as a claim made from (how I'd interpret it) an assumption that this isn't a medium made to be emotional. The article shows that it isn't the lack of potential for mechanics to shake someone's feelings but that the current conventions of gaming that block genuine tension in a player's emotions. As Clarkson points out, a player isn't going to be torn up about a character's death because of their decision because it's easy enough to save before hand or try the game and make one different choice to save them. I would add in that the process of a game would have to start off wanting to be an emotional trip from the start of the design rather than something to add on later, which gives a hollow feeling in the end.
Michael Abbott broaches the ever contentious issue of game reviewing, taking a seemingly radical position of dismantling "Gameplay" as the focus of game reviews. I teeter back and forth on this one; I like the idea of changing game reviews from something quantitative and trying to sell the game to a buyer, and I'd like to move reviewing from assessing worth and quality to something else. "Games aren't clocks" highlights how the community might be restrained in the way it thinks about video games by its name; if we can only think of this medium as games in the digital format, how can we assess it outside of the means of entertainment value?
While we're on the threshold of the "games as art" feeling, Brady Nash responds to G. Christopher Williams' article "Why video games might not be art" with "Reader Response Theory and Video Games." Just seeing the title crystallized a lot of the unsettled thoughts I had about Williams' article, especially about the idea of art being defined as something that is experienced without the audience members' interference. I felt the article had excluded a lot of Postmodern theory in favor of everything before it, and Nash does a good job using Reader Response as a counter point.
Taking a much needed examination of the 'New Game+' feature of many games, Nick Dinicola discusses the dissonance created by this second mode of olde in "Cyclical Stories in Video Games." The article resonated with the empty feeling running through a somewhat enhanced game when you are experiencing pretty much all the same content. Most games fail to keep narrative integrity with New Game+ by not supporting its existence in the original playthrough. This echos what I mentioned in "Creation vs Destruction in Bastion's Narrative" concerning the problematic relationship of the player's final choice in the game and the availability of New Game+ afterwards.
To tie things up, I wanted to throw in a little bit of FYI for those interested. "What is a Narrative Designer" caught my eye in my feed because I had the same exact question upon seeing it as I never heard of one. Stephen Dinehart, possibly involved with the generation of this title in game production, outlines the function and expectations of a Narrative Designer, and better yet, lets it be known that the role exists! It shows that an attitude shift is in progress to include art at the beginning of production to tie into the starting game design. I am particularly interested because it is something I see myself doing, and wanted to let others know such an option exists for those who love narratives in games.
Until next time, happy gaming!