[The following text is part of my upcoming master's thesis on the use of game mechanics in therapy games for children. This is just a rough first draft, and I gladly welcome all critique and suggestions – be it on a content level or regarding my use of language.
After having analysed some of the most-played Facebook games in previous instalments of this series (Candy Crush Saga, FarmVille 2, Puzzle Bobble Clones, Diamond Dash and Pet Rescue Saga), this final chapter looks at what is so "social" about these "social games" – if at all.]
It is a common assumption that games that are part of the Facebook platform are inherently more "social" than other games, since that platform offers the possibility to developers to tap into the social graph.
If it weren't for developers like [Defiant Development], you'd easily believe that creativity in the games industry is nearly extinct.
But those guys actually manage to take a really old and tired concept – i.e. a first person shooter – and spin it in order to make something else entirely:
A first person shooter.
Seriously. Hear me out.
Warco is a first-person game where players shoot footage instead of a gun. A work in progress at Brisbane, Australia-based studio Defiant Development, the game is a collaboration of sorts; Defiant is working with both a journalist and a filmmaker to create a game that puts you in the role of a journalist embedded in a warzone.
The game itself — the title of which is actually short for “war correspondent” — follows the story of journalist Jesse DeMarco. Players will experience the process of filming conflicts, going into dangerous situations armed with nothing but a camera. They will then edit the footage into a compelling news story. The scenarios range from intense bursts of action to quieter moments as you discuss the events of the day with fellow journalists in a hotel. Though the main mechanic will be filming the action, Warco is also very much about choice.
Well, this is how [WIRED] puts it, anyway. The developers obviously make it [sound a bit more dramatic]:
WARCO lets players shoot and record what they see ‘through the lens’ – framing shots, panning and zooming, grabbing powerful images of combatants and civilians caught up in war. They’ve got AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades – you’ve got a flak jacket, a video camera, and a burning desire to get the story.
When it comes to games, I often find that architecture can yield the best inspirations – especially when it comes from sources like the BLDGBLOG.
In this case, it's all about trapdoors. Funny things, trapdoors. Even funnier that they are not in much use when it comes to games.
Most levels are, when analysed thoroughly, mostly 2D: they might go up and down and wind around themselves a bit – but in the end, they're just long strips. Trapdoors undermine this simple structure, by opening up unexpected shortcuts. Yes, this might confuse the players … but couldn't this be fun, too?
I have not yet played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I do hope that this game uses trapdoors (and other unexpected shortcuts) more often.
A Spatial History of Trapdoors, as BLDGBLOG proposes, would be a good start to explore those devices:
Someone should write a short history of the trapdoor as spatial plot device in Broadway plays, literary fiction, Hollywood thrillers, and even dreams, CIA plots, Dungeons & Dragons modules, and more. How does the trapdoor, as an unexpected space of strategic perforation and architectural connection, serve both to move a plot forward and to give spatial form to characterization?
So it's no wonder I find Nothing's Time Tracker and Office Dashboard such an awesome idea.
Everyone continuously tracks the tasks they’re working on and thus generates his own stream of project Tracs, and there’s also a “team stream” running on a monitor in Twitter-like manner.
Project time tracking was now not only to be done as info to the project manager, but as statement of one’s own efforts. This new significance boosted meaning and quality of the Tracs. With that there is a much clearer picture of how different types of projects – and also for different sorts of clients – work.
The stream of Tracs is another knowledge tool that leads to many exchanges like “You’re having trouble with this? Maybe I can help.” or “Interesting stuff you do!“. Our latest “meta tool” therefore impacted positively on the internal communication culture: It was fun to add to the information stream with events and have an exchange in real-time. It repeatedly prevented task redundancies and helps tapping existing knowledge instead of creating it from scratch.
It functions similar to Twitter by keeping everyone in the loop.
I seem to lack the skills to express myself currently, it seems. Looks like I have to explain myself after my previous post on female characters.
She has a point there, of course. It was never my intention to suggest that in the end product there should be gender neutral characters. My thought was more along the lines that writers should maybe care more about the goals and wishes and flaws of their characters instead of attempting to write a token "strong female character" (which usually fails).
If those goals and wishes and flaws relate to the character's gender identity, then yes, gender becomes important, and needs to be a part of the story.
Again, the example of Ellen Ripley is interesting. Ellen Ripley in the first film is indeed gender neutral to a degree. She has her own character, her own goals and flaws, but there is hardly anything that makes her more woman-y than the rest of the crew.
It's only in Aliens, the second film, where the character of Lieutenant E. Ripley has already been defined as being female in the film before that the plot actually deals with it – and in my opinion in a meaningful way. Ripley gets a new goal and is established as being a mother. A mother that at first loses her child (because of her being 57 years in hypersleep, her daughter has since become an old woman and died) and then finding a surrogate daughter in the form of Newt, the lost girl on the space colony.
One of the reasons why getting into game design right now is so interesting is the fact that part of the business, of the creative process and of the production is still forming – and in a constant state of flux.
While on one hand, game production teams have grown larger in order to produce even more content (after all, many AAA titles boast to have 50+ hours playtime – which is 25 times as much as a normal action film), other people reduced their teams and are producing awesome games with teams of three or four people.
Jason Schreier over at Wired's Game|Life argues as well that games need auteurs: a single person with a vision for a game, as opposed to "design by committee":
Most games, like most movies, are a massive undertaking involving the work of hundreds of people. But many films — the best, some would argue — are driven by the central creative direction of a single auteur. No matter how many other people work on a project, auteur theory holds that it is possible for a single, strong creative vision to shine through. Bringing such a dynamic to videogames could result in stronger stories, more compelling gameplay — and fewer artistic and commercial failures that result from that well-established enemy of the creative process, design by committee.
And, which is even better, the industry is slowly adapting that as well.
Savage is an interesting sounding blend of RTS with a commander that has the overview over the game, while warriors have the first person view and might follow the commander's orders.
With the creation of a new game play genre, RTSS (Real Time Strategy Shooter), Savage expertly redefines the first-person shooter and real-time strategy genres by combining elements of both into one cohesive experience. As the commander in RTS mode, you will tackle resource management, develop a robust tech tree, plan your assault and lead real human players into battle. As a warrior in action mode, you will master many unique weapons, powerful units, and siege vehicles to fight a fast paced battle.
Cantr II is a text-based MMORPG intended to simulate a society, while still having some roleplaying aspects. Apparently, it is currently down, though.
Super Meat Boy – is supposed to have tight level design that continually adds new elements, just like World of Goo did.
Speedball for Amiga by the Bitmap Brothers was famous for its graphics and its violence (you could push your opponent!). It will be re-released for the iPhone (apparently? Maybe I misheard).
See what I did there? ↩
You need proof? Here it is:
More is to be found over here at the Radiator Blog – and no, Robert, as long as you keep digging up those handsome guys, your blog is far away from jumping the shark.
David Hellman is cute too. And Ichiro Lambe.
But seriously? Jon Shafer tops them all.
I have not watched those yet, but they might be wort a look:
Kurt Reinhard from the Institut für Theorie, Zurich University of Applied Sciences and Arts, recently posted on Vimeo a fascinating series of short videos on the future of storytelling. The videos juxtapose the perspectives of some key thinkers in this space, including Clay Shirkey (NYU), Joshua Green (UCSB), Ian Condry and Nick Montfort (MIT), Dean Jansen from the Participatory Culture Foundation, Joe Lambert from the Center for Digital Storytelling, and, hmm, Henry Jenkins (USC), among others. Each video is between five and ten minutes long and tackles some of the ways that shifts in the media environment are changing the nature of stories and storytelling.
The complete series can be found on the blog of Henry Jenkins.
I'm pretty sure I stumbled over this story before, but this is a longer article about the scientist that tried to weight the human soul:
That the human body should be home to a physical soul which survived death was at one time rarely questioned. Then came the advent of scientific disciplines such as anatomy, chemistry and physics, whose probing and measuring raised awkward questions about where in the body a soul could live and what physical form it could take. With no medical proof being forthcoming, in 1854 the German anatomist Rudolph Wagner suggested that there must be a “special soul substance” in the body, evidence of which should be sought out by experimentation. Wagner was much ridiculed for his beliefs, and some years later his rival Ernst Haeckel mocked that at the moment of death it might be possible to liquefy the soul by freezing it and then “exhibit it in a bottle as immortal fluid”.
The nature of a human soul was a much-discussed topic within Victorian psychical research communities, many of whose members were also eminent scientists. Different philosophical conclusions were reached, but none was based on empirical evidence, it being deemed too difficult to measure any of the soul’s presumed physical properties. However, not everyone was prepared to accept this, and in the winter of 1896 Dr Duncan MacDougall, a Massachusetts-based surgeon, came up with a novel idea.