"The campaign’s second big lie was that the UK would be able to have access to the single market without accepting the free movement of people from the EU. No country has this arrangement, and there is no reason to think it is possible. If Britain were to secure a deal whereby it had access to the single market and control over EU immigration, it would be the end of the EU – because other countries would leave the EU and demand the same. Leave campaigners don’t seem to understand that Continental elites feel just as strongly about the continued existence of the EU as the Leavers feel about Brexit. For the EU to survive, it will be important for the UK to be seen to pay a high price for leaving. We don’t know what that price is going to be, and I don’t look forward to finding out." Strong stuff from John Lanchester – a delight to read as always – but god, I don't half feel queasy doing so.
Alex's column on game mechanics is one of my favourite new RPS features – they're all cracking, and a good example of understanding games by going to the source, rather than guessing – and also highlighting the fact that games are made by *people*, not just conjured out of thin air. Really good stuff.
Lanchester writing about games, from the point of view of a smart person who's actually played the games he described. I certainly don't agree with all his points, but I don't disagree with them all, and he's not mouthing off: he's making smart connections and indicating more than a passing familiarity with the medium. Might write a tad more on this.
"1352 components driven by a 450 link chain and nickel silver drums, prices range from $275k–$400k." Ignoring the price: do want very much.
It's basically Outrun 2 SP, but in hi-def, and on XBLA and PSN. And it looks like it has all the music intact. Very exciting!
The metagame is the game. Use the elephant to earn achievements. Apart from earning slightly /too/ many instantly at the beginning, it's a lot of fun. Don't reach for the hints too early.
Yes, it's an app about weight loss. But: the UI is superb in its touchability and suitability for task at hand, and the reporting functionality is solid (and looks like it'll get much better).
20 December 2008
John Lanchester has an article in the 1st January 2009 edition of the LRB on games. It shares a title with this post, and I went into it a little apprehensive, with my deflector shields up. I like Lanchester as a writer, but was fearing yet another piece (be it inside or outside the traditional gaming press) touching the old “is it art and can we have a cookie yet?” chestnut. The best responses to that question are not “Yes” or “No” but themselves questions: “Does it matter?”; “Does it have to be?”; “What do you mean by art?”; “What if it is?”
For much of the article, Lanchester avoids that and takes a more interesting tack: he wants to write a smart, balanced piece about gaming for a by-and-large non-gaming audience (the readers of the London Review of Books):
Books, films, TV, dance, theatre, music, painting, photography, sculpture, all have publics which either are or aren’t interested in them, but at least know that these forms exist, that things happen in them in which people who are interested in them are interested. They are all part of our current cultural discourse. Video games aren’t. Video games have people who play them, and a wider public for whom they simply don’t exist. (The exceptions come in the form of occasional tabloid horror stories, always about a disturbed youth who was ‘inspired’ to do something terrible by a video game.) Their invisibility is interesting in itself, and also allows interesting things to happen in games under the cultural radar.
And from that point, he takes a whistle-stop tour of some recent highlights in games – talking about Bioshock’s take on Rand’s Objectivism, Miyamoto’s take on “fun”, the lure of having agency, and what creativity in games now looks like (among other things).
I’m not sure I agree with everything he says, and I think that’s OK – he’s not forcing his opinion onto anyone else. What he is doing is talking about games in a smart, informed, and adult way for an audience that values all of those things except, perhaps, the games themselves. More than that, he writes in a style that is suitably anecdotal in places: he has clearly played the games he writes about, and that, to my mind, is hugely important.
When, at the end, Lanchester says
It seems clear to me that by the time my children are adults, video gaming will be a medium whose importance and cultural ubiquity are at least as great as that of film or television.
he’s not just talking as a cultural critic and father; he’s talking as a gamer himself. At the end, he suggest that we might, if things go right, see a “new art form” emerging. I’m not sure what he thinks it currently is, but given the comparison to Film and TV, he might dismiss it as a “communications medium” or some kind of similar terminology; I don’t know, but I think the word “art” is being used a bit too perjoratively there.
As such, that feels a little reductive to me; scattered throughout the past 30 years of gaming, there are many examples that show we’re already there. There might not be a defining “starting point”; it might become clear long after the fact, but right now, in the middle of it all, it’s much harder to assign dates and times to things.
An article titled “is it art?” was always end up going that way; perhaps that’s as much an editorial pressure as an authorial impulse. I could certainly take or leave some of the conclusions. But a lot of Lanchester’s premise and exposition is really good, solid stuff, and it’s exciting to see this kind of thing in mainstream, critical language in a mainstream, critical publication. On balance, whatever you think of the art discussion being dredged up again, this time into the LRB, or Lanchester’s opinion, the article itself is very much worth your time. Like the best writing, it’s not about what it says; it’s about the ideas you’ll have reading it, the avenues it’ll lead you down.