"But this would be a sad and pitiful rant indeed if I focused solely on the age of the protocol… No, my reasons for disparaging FTP are more substantive." A good reference to point at the next time I lose my rag at having to use insecure FTP.
A process of elimination leads to discovering when Ice Cube's "good day" was.
26 January 2012
Very last minute notice about two talks that are going on!
On Friday 27th January – tomorrow – I’ll be talking about Games Design for Designers – or rather, talking to designers about games design, at The Design of Understanding. It should be a marvellous event – it’s a great line-up, and I’m looking forward to the whole day (especially following last year’s excellent day).
Then, on Saturday 28th, I’ll be talking as part of “Death Bites” at the Southbank Centre Festival of Death. There, I’ll be giving a short, fifteen minute essay, perhaps with illustration:
A short, personal history of dying in videogames: a medium where death is common, and lives are plural but rationed. Why is it that “dying” such a common metaphor in games – even supposedly non-violent ones? Does it have any meaningful significance compared to the process of death in the real world? Tom will present a short exploration, based on a life in which he’s died thousands of times.
Bit last minute, but wanted to document these before they popped up online. And then: next week, another speaking announcement with a bit more notice!
William Mayne (1928-2010): or what if the greatest* 20th-century children’s author were to present us with an intractable moral knot? | FreakyTrigger"Mutual misunderstanding was not a new topic in fiction — or even in children’s fiction — but surely few explored it with Mayne’s insight, humour, gentle delicacy or subtlety: how children are not party to adult agendas, compromises, habits and assumptions; and of course vice versa, that in growing up adults have very often lost or set aside a valuable way of seeing the world. That there’s a thread of trust that marks the path everyone is treading, and that this thread is sometimes very fragile indeed. Can sympathetic intelligence and wisdom — wisdom precisely about such trust — sit alongside deep selfishness and a capacity to abuse? Well, yes, sometimes I think it can." Complex, thoughtful piece about William Mayne and difficult questions.
"When another scholar worries that if one begins with data, one can “go anywhere,” Ramsay makes it clear that going anywhere is exactly what he wants to encourage. The critical acts he values are not directed at achieving closure by arriving at a meaning; they are, he says, “ludic” and they are “distinguished … by a refusal to declare meaning in any form.” The right question to propose “is not ‘What does the text mean?’ but, rather, ‘How do we ensure that it keeps on meaning’ — how … can we ensure that our engagement with the text is deep, multifaceted, and prolonged?”" Which is interesting, as is the whole article – the author is not convinced by the 'digital humanities', but he still links to some very interesting stuff about algorithmic criticism.
This Is My Jam – The Future Of Music Sharing Online? – NME Blogs – NME.COM – The world’s fastest music news service, music videos, interviews, photos and free stuff to win"I also think there's tremendous value in creating a dedicated music graph (as opposed to a social network that also has music); it's in your best interest to follow (or unfollow!) someone regardless of whether you're strangers or best friends. It's all about the music you're going to get from that person in your playlist of jams." Yep, this – which is the thing I always try to explain about TIMJ. I don't follow the list of people I follow everywhere else; I follow people who make my playlist of music better/worse. It means I discover all manner of new music, but I hope nobody takes it personally. (About the worst thing you can do on TIMJ is just import all your Twitter contacts and not add anyone else ever).
"HBO and producer Scott Rudin have acquired remake rights to Indie Game: The Movie, the documentary by first-time filmmaking duo Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky that premiered in Sundance on Saturday afternoon. Rudin will develop the film as a fictional half-hour comedy series for HBO and he will be executive producer." What is this I don't even
Will Cameron’s call for popular films mean more silent comedies? | Stewart Lee | Comment is free | The Observer"…maybe David is party to a formula for popularity, despite the fact that no art of any real value, including all Hollywood films of the past 30 years, has ever been made by pursuing one. Good artists do what they believe in and don't merely court public approval. In these respects they are the opposite of politicians. Zing!"
22 January 2012
Robert Yang recently did a series of interview with game designers over at Rock, Paper Shotgun. Entitled “Level With Me”, it examined designers’ approach to their work, whilst culminating in them adding elements to a Portal 2 level that Yang was designing with them.
Having realised the completed level in a mod – bookended by two of his own – Yang has written up some commentary on the reaction to it. He’s a bit frustrated and sad. And I think I would be too, if I were him.
I was shocked, then, by the most common line of criticism I saw: a refusal to read, an insistence that a level without a puzzle-y Portal puzzle is a bad level. It’s like the rhetorical equivalent of donkeyspace. I literally can’t go through the mental gymnastics required to conclude that challenge is the only interesting thing about first person single player games. Comments like that make me miss all the people who said it was pretentious; I want a higher level of criticism.
That’d be a nice enough quotation in Pinboard, but the whole piece is great, and had enough meaty thought in it that I had to break it out a bit more. It especially chimed with my beliefs around games as mechanical systems, and a literacy in those systems being what emerges from learning how to read them.
I don’t think I’m demanding much of players because we all already have the ability to read just by virtue of playing. Frank Lloyd Wright could read houses; as Portal players, you know how to read Portal levels, and you know when Portal levels don’t make sense. What if we used the “words” of a Portal level in different ways, to say different things? What if we used the “words” that form video games, and used them in different ways?
I think I agree with that. And Yang goes on to talk about materials a bit:
Puzzles and mechanics (like narrative, graphics, or sound) are just different materials you can use. (I think Dan Pinchbeck said something like that.) It’s the house you build in the end that counts. If that house uses wood but not concrete, that’s okay.
But if you want to argue that the resulting house isn’t actually a house, by your narrow reductionist definition of “house,” and it’s “totalitarian and unamerican” like Frank Lloyd Wright said about the Farnsworth House, then just know that history, if it remembers any of us at all, will think you were a silly person. Or you can ignore how architecture had the same debate we’re having right now.
One of Yang’s great disappointments is one of literacy. At the end of the mod, you walk into another Test Chamber. Not one of the many Test Chambers in the Aperture complex – but the Black Mesa Test Chamber, from the very beginning of Half-Life. And so many players just didn’t notice; didn’t get the reference; didn’t see the point being made. They were illiterate in the medium they enjoy.
…maybe it’s a problem of education. We force kids to read Shakespeare; we should also force kids to play Myst, Fallout 2, Half-Life 1, Planescape: Torment, etc. and their ability to read and ask questions will be much richer for it. A “Game Studies AP” class might assign System Shock 1 and X-Com. I mean, if you play Battlefield 3 for hours every day, shouldn’t you, at the very least, know that its core design is practically untouched from the original Quake Team Fortress mod nearly 15 years ago?
Or, you know, I guess we could just keep letting those players get upset when a game calls them out for thinking / studying so little about this thing that they invest so much time into.
And I think that’s important. In the comments on Yang’s post, readers have pointed out the “difficulty” of doing that – that the medium restarts itself every n years or so in a “hardware generation”, that only players “actively engaged in critical play” care about that sort of thing.
I don’t think that matters. Very few works are solely referential: they may call out to history, but by dint of existence they are also their own thing. So some players are, of course, going to miss the Black Mesa reference. Level With Me still exists, still has something to say, but those players will have a different – perhaps, lesser – reading of it. But that doesn’t mean Yang should stop trying to make the point he believes players can read; he’s right to assume the level of literacy he does.
We have to fight the “forgetting every seven years” a little. We need to make sure that somehow, we talk about old games, educate one another on things they haven’t played. Fifty-odd years into electronic gaming, we shouldn’t already be at the Fahrenheit 451 point of having to each take it upon ourselves to memorise particular works, particular publishers. This isn’t retro fetishism; this is basic history – and basic historiography. And that’s important to a work.
So, you know, keep on reading games. Keep on reading games that didn’t come out this year. It’s all useful.
"This TV is playing a built-in MPEG of static, instead of just displaying solid blue or solid black like they used to do. I think that's kind of awesome. The map has become the territory." Blimey.
"When I started writing this post, I didn’t have a conclusion in mind, but now that I’ve got to the end, the thing I want us to remember next time is just that: all the scales matter. Every part is important. The two days Sarah and Brian spent moving small pieces of vinyl, Ivan’s 4am printing-and-cutting, FOUND’s jumping-up-and-down to see if crowd movement broke their tech, last-minute shopping trips for slightly larger balls, all the things. Worry about it all. Fix everything." Lovely write-up from Holly of the big thing we did in Edinburgh. Also: good about the nature of the huge, and good about the nature of work. Worry about it all. Fix everything.