Wonderful new work from Matt Brown. So much going on in here, and such thoughtful development process; I'm envious of Matt's eye, ear, and capabilities. Hope this does well.
"The lesson games have for design is not really a lesson about games at all. It’s a lesson about play. Play isn’t leisure or distraction or the opposite of work. Nor is it doing whatever you want. Play is the work of working something, of figuring out what it does and determining how to operate it. Like a woodworker works wood. By accepting the constraints of an object like a guitar (or like Tetris), the player can proceed to determine what new acts are possible with that object. The pleasure of play—the thing we call fun—is actually just the discovery of that novel action." Not just this quotation, but all of this article, really. So good. Immaterials, again.
"Steve Reich’s Clapping Music is a free game that improves your rhythm by challenging you to play Steve Reich’s ground-breaking work – a piece of music performed entirely by clapping. Tap in time with the constantly shifting pattern, and progress through all of the variations. If you slip up or your accuracy falls too low, it’s game over." Must try this.
Modernist toy exhibition in London; Ken Garland et al. I must go sometime soon.
"But, I also think that in our efforts to define and legitimize our practice as a professional discipline we sometimes forget the history we inherit, the legacy of games made by communities of players, games made by amateurs, by dilettantes, by mathematicians, mothers, scientists, gym teachers, shepherds, inventors, philosophers, eccentrics and cranks.
And in honor of this tradition I would like to suggest other verbs for us to describe where games come from, alternatives to the overconfident precision of the word “design”. Words like invent, discover, compose, write, find, grow, perform, build, support, identify, copy, re-assemble, excavate and preserve." So much good thinking in this post from Frank Lantz
"Its weird really. You’re standing there in front of something, perhaps its an ancient artefact, buried for thousands of years – perhaps its a mummy, partially unwrapped. A real human being, you can see their face from all those years ago, see how they lived, what they ate. History, right there… But whatev’s. Look! There’s a telly over there!" Yep.
Brian Sutton-Smith has died; this is a solid – and impressive – obituary.
Wonderful interview with Tim Hunkin. Such a lovely chap, and so shrewd.
30 July 2014
That’s me, sitting on the ground in the Cosmodrome in Old Russia.
The Cosmodrome is an environment from Bungie’s Destiny. I played it during its public beta last week.
One of my favourite things in Destiny is its sit down button.
The directional pad is used to ’emote’ in a very limited manner in the game. Two of the emotes are very specifically non-verbal forms of communication, useful for players without headsets: you can wave, either into space or at another player, and you can point. I used these quite a lot with both strangers and friends.
One of them is daft self expression: the dance button. This is probably the most popular emote; it feels like many players hadn’t played enough MMOs to have had their fill of daft emotes, and so the idea that one can just dance – not just on your own, but with other people – for no reason other than you’d like to is a new and exciting one.
It’s actually how dancing ought to be, when you think about it: a fun thing you can do whenever. There was lots of dancing in Destiny.
My absolute favourite emote, though, is sitting. And the main reason for that is the sitting down animation.
If pushed, I’ll take the female sitting down animation over the male one for one simple reason. Male characters look more like they’re sitting down to kill time, staring either into their hands, or just above them – it’s hard to tell, and it feels critical. It’s how you might sit by a campfire with friends (if you were looking up) or in a dreary queue for a gig or festival (if you’re looking down).
The female characters, though, always look like they’re sitting down to look at something. Which is so apt, for Destiny; the skyboxes and vistas the game presents (when it’s not throwing Dregs and Thralls at you) are beautiful. They’re the sort of things you want to take in with friends; pass time watching the day-night cycle. I love seeing the massed Guardians in the Tower, all sitting at the edge, watching the clouds roll across the sky. What are they doing? What are they talking about in their Fireteams and Private Parties?
The idea that sitting is active – that you might sit to do something with your friends, not to indicate an absence of activity – is a lovely thing to be reminded of. It applies tenfold – no, far more, hundredfold at the very least – to the world outside Destiny.
I like that my Guardian reminds me of this every time she sits down.
But sitting down also had a functional purpose for me: I’d also sit down in Destiny to indicate I’d wandered away from my games console.
There’s no pause button in Destiny – it’s always online – but there are enough quiet areas of a map, especially when you’ve cleared out enemies, that you can just sit down and wander away with few ill results. You might even discover how lenient Destiny’s respawning is (as long as you’re not in a Darkness zone).
I was playing with some New York friends at the weekend. They were playing pass-the-pad, and I was on my own. They didn’t have a headset, so we IM’d on our phones to explain the things we couldn’t show with a point or a wave.
“Could we pause 30 secs while I put the kettle on,” asks my friend. And why not? There’s nothing around threatening. I say that I’ll go and do the same and wave when I’m back.
I push down on the d-pad, and I/my Guardian sit(s) down for a break. I wander into the kitchen to make tea and toast.
I’d been meaning to write about how much I liked the sitting in Destiny – the “looking into space” aspect of it. And today, somebody else reminded me the other reason that its sitting felt important to me.
She’s entirely right to be annoyed. Reading her post, I recognised a kind of bad behaviour it’s easy to slip into – and remembered what I used to do about it.
I know that whilst online games of all shapes and sizes encourage you to keep playing – and have no pause button – they also have a reasonable number of safeguards against it in their systems. Or, at least, they should. World of Warcraft has towns, safe from attack; PVE servers, where other players aren’t a threat. Lots of ways to park your character (although not, say, in dungeons or raids, just as all the multiplayer shooters I played lock you in for the scope of a single game). I had no idea how anybody played on a PVP server – it seemed to require permanent, always-on concentration.
Back in the months I played WoW, whenever I wandered away or alt-tabbed for a bit, I’d make sure my character sat down, showing the world they were absent. A little bit of playacting – something better than
I’m glad it still works in 2014.
You can do it almost anywhere. Take a step back. Find a quiet corner. Down on the d-pad. Your Guardian will sing a campfire song, and you can sign that rental agreement, hold the step-ladder to the loft, and talk to your relatives on the phone.
Sit the heck down.
Won't lie: nearly had a little sniff at Marie's presentation during Playful 2013; a love letter to a town in Animal Crossing, and also to London. Safe travels, Marie!
Ben on postboxes as boundary objects – with a nice map from Hello Lamp Post, indicating how the boxes were talked to, and suitable name-checks to The Crying of Lot 49.