Good games, bad games, ugly games

Reading through the avalanches of comments on the inappropriate appropriation of Jeff Minter’s recent Livejournal posts by video games news sites, makes me realize the extent of the immaturity of games as a medium and a culture.

Mr Minter made a personal statement in his journal about how he is saddened by the fact that remakes of old games sell better than new original games, based on sales figures he got from XBox Live Arcade; where his own Space Giraffe game is competing for some measly Dollars with age-old classics like Frogger. In any other subculture, the audience would sympathise with the underdog. Not so in the games industry. Most of the comments advise Mr Minter to “stop whining” and “make a good game instead”. The latter really bugs me.

I may not personally like Space Giraffe as a game any better than Frogger (I don’t know that because I don’t own an XBox). But does that mean it’s a bad game?
Gamers, in general, and often hand-in-hand with the games press, seem to think that there is an objective standard for games to be judged by. That there’s good games and bad games. And more importantly, that everybody better agree on what constitutes a good game. Because if you don’t, then you’re an idiot, a moron, somebody who knows nothing about games, etcetera.

Hey, I may have been guilty of this myself on occasion.

But it’s horrible, isn’t it?

Whatever happened to personal taste? Why can we not simply like or dislike a game? Instead calling it good or bad? And how about different people liking and disliking different types of games? That they don’t like to play a certain game, does not mean that they are illiterate idiots, does it? And even if they are not very knowledgable about games, don’t they still have the right to like or dislike a particular game?

Space Giraffe

I may like or dislike Space Giraffe as a game. But I have no end of admiration for what Jeff Minter is doing: to make a game from his own personal vision, to experiment with game structures and aesthetics, to make something that did not exist before! I wish that the games industry would be more supportive of that. If only because it is thanks to the work of people like Mr Minter that the medium grows and the industry expands.
Or is that exactly what those commenters are afraid of?

I don’t think we can do much about the trolls who comment to blogs. But we can support this work on a higher level. Microsoft, for a start, should realize that games like Space Giraffe require special attention. They need to create a custom-made marketing campaign that prepares the consumer for what the game is really like. And they probably need to create a special channel on their service for games like this. So that it doesn’t seem like they’re competing with games that fall in a completely different category. Next, the press should try to educate the audience about this. Instead of circling around people’s personal online journals like vultures waiting for a juicy bit to rise to the surface. Surely journalists have the experience and know-how to realize the importance of exploration and experimentation in the games industry. They should support this practice as much as they can!

I hope, in the future, releasing a game does not feel so much like taking an exam. As developers, we are interested in hearing people’s opinions. But they are only useful when we know where they are coming from. And nobody has the right to “grade” our work. Games are not right or wrong. Games are liked or disliked. By people. Different kinds of people like different kinds of things. There’s nothing wrong with that.

And game developers are only human. They don’t owe gamers a “good game”… Developers owe it to themselves to follow their vision and make games with love and care.

Get Trigger Happy

Trigger Happy, originally published in 2000 with the subtitle “The Inner Life of Videogames”, is a book about the aesthetics of videogames: what they share with other artforms, and the ways in which they are unique.

And now the book is available as a free download from author Steven Poole’s website. I’ve not read it yet, but from a quick browse it seems like a good one. The aesthetics of video games (not just dealing with how they look) is an under-discussed subject.

And while you’re at his site anyway, you might want to give his archive of articles originally written for Edge magazine a look. He writes in a very provocative, very real way about the games he plays and video game culture.

got via wmmna

Brussels Chit-Chat: 20 slides, 20 seconds


We’re going to be presenting our work at the first Pecha Kucha Night happening in Brussels this coming Tuesday. Never heard of Pecha Kucha? Well then let me give you the standard intro:

Pecha Kucha, which is Japanese for the sound of conversation, is a series of show-and-tell evenings for designers, architects, artists and creatives, started by Klein Dytham architecture in Tokyo in 2003.

Since then, groups have sprung up in cities across the world (over 80 so far) and adopted the Pecha Kucha format: each presenter has 20 slides which are displayed for 20 seconds each.

Pecha Kucha taps into a demand for a forum in which creative work can be easily and informally shown. With the 20×20 format, presentations are concise, the interest level goes up, and more people get the chance to show their ideas.

Pecha Kucha is a gathering of creatives to talk about their work in what is supposed to be an informal setting… but we’ve been told over 300 people are coming to the inaugural event!

Thanks to Alok Nandi for the invitation… we think. 😉 We’re just a little nervous about the time thing, but hey, if all goes well we’ll be famous for 6 minutes and 40 seconds!

List of speakers:
Bud Blumenthal – choreographer & dancer
Salvatore Bono – architect Buro2networks
Thierry Brunfaut – BaseDesign
Bart Cardinaal & Nadine Roos – HunkDesign Rotterdam
Walter De Brouwer – Pajama Nation
Auriea Harvey & Michael Samyn – Tale of Tales
Jan Kriekels – JAGA
Maja Kuzmanovic –
Giovanna Massoni – independent curator
Francis Metzger – Ma² / Metzger et Associés Architecture
Kristof Michiels & Peter Schelkens – Living Lab Brussels
Fran̤ois Pachet РCSL Sony Lab Paris
Paolo Pellizzari – photographer
Peter Scholliers – historian on everyday life and food
Diane Steverlynck – designer

Worlds, not pictures

Envying the precision of the framing through which Almodovar tells the story of “Todo Sobre Mi Madre”, I was reminded of something a visitor of Vooruit’s birthday party said. She was wondering how come the image of The Endless Forest that was being projected large in the room was not the same as the image that was seen on the interactive consoles. I told her that it was different on every computer: the same world but seen from different angles.

I think this is very meaningful and often underestimated. Framing is a powerful technique but games are not about pictures. They are about worlds. And much like film tells its story through framing more than through acting, as theater did, games need to find the technique that tells their stories. And it’s not framing. It must be related to the worlds that games create. It probably has something to do with interaction, with agency. How does one call the technique that manipulates interaction, like framing manipulates vision?

Interview with Simon Carless

Simon Carless by SimonikerIt took about 4 months to finalize this interview. We’re all very busy, I guess. But here it is. Chairman of the Independent Games Festival and publisher and editor of several websites and magazines about games and games development, Simon Carless is a busy bee. Which doesn’t stop him from dropping by other forums and blogs to participate in this often turbulent community. Or giving interviews to the likes of us.


Photo by simoniker

Exhibition: The Kiss @ Nano Nu

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Commissioned by curator Edwin Carels of Muhka Media, we have remade an old experiment in realtime 3D, entitled The Kiss: Incorporator. This remake will be premiered at Nano Nu this weekend, in Brussels. For the occasion of the installation, a special pedestal was made that allows the visitor to navigate through the piece by means of two sturdy joysticks.

See more of the project here:

Nano Nu is a two day festival about Nanoscience and Nanotechnology featuring scientific experiments, commercial products and artistic interpretations of the theme. It takes place in the Flemish Parliament on 9 and 10 November 2007. Other artists in the show are Honoré d’O, Peter De Cupere, Louis De Cordier, Nick Ervinck, Angelo Vermeulen, Jodi, Annemie Van Kerckhoven, Dirk Vander Eecken and Patricia De Martelaere.

The Path in EDGE Magazine

What more to say than simply that. An interview and a few kind words appear as a 4 page feature about our game in development, The Path, in the December 2007 issue of UK games publication extraordinaire Edge Magazine. It’s a great article and it looks beautiful so you should pick it up!

Edge Magazine December -Tale of Tales - The Path - spread1

Ahem, to say we’re happy about this would be an understatement(!) For now, I think I’m still in shock.

We’re brilliant!

If you don’t believe us, read the well thought through article by chris on The Artful Gamer. I quote:

They are brilliant.

Seriously, the article contains a very interesting analysis of different forms of play. And how many computer games seem to miss out on a lot of opportunities for play. It reminded me a bit of our own post about Player-created gameplay but it takes the concept even further.