Letters to the Editor

Box Office Games


In response to “Gifted Youngster” from The Escapist forums:
Despite not really being a comics geek, I’ve always been fascinated by the X-Men. (I learned enough about them to not be able to watch Heroes without pointing out every character’s X-Men analogue…)

There’s something about the “you can never go home” change of the X-gene mutations that always struck me. Sure, a lot of them could maintain real vs. secret identities, but there were plenty who couldn’t ever even appear normal, and even the ones that could… well, they could pretend to be normal humans, but they couldn’t ever really be normal again. Kitty Pryde can dress, talk, and act like any other young woman, but she’ll never not be able to walk through walls. Mystique can look like anyone or anything she wants, but deep down she’ll always be a blue-skinned, yellow-eyed mutant woman. When a mutant is changed, she’s changed forever. That’s both empowering, and intensely lonely.

I’ve always tried to investigate that sense of being set apart from others than seems so ingrained to the X-Men in particular, so much so that all the characters I’ve designed for tabletop superhero RPGs always seem to have that aspect to them. They can’t ever really pass for human. A shapeshifter with a stable of cool forms… but none of them were her human self. A loner who got made to look like an elf… in a modern world where elves are fantasy.

When you don’t feel like you yourself belong in the world you’re in, it’s so easy to be captivated by others who don’t. And when you feel like there’s no way to even pretend to fit in, you get fascinated by others who can’t, either. Ask Hank McCoy.

Well done, Ms. Arendt, well done.



In response to “The Missing Pieces of Civilization” from The Escapist forums:
It would be interesting to make a version of Civilization where the goal is to do what’s best for your citizens rather than meeting win conditions. I didn’t like it when a happy little Amish nation declared war on me because they didn’t want me to colonize Alpha Centauri first.

I still A-Bombed them, but I felt really bad about it.

I agree with the author that Civilization is a good way to get someone interested in history. I disagree that combat is less controversial – there’s no way a wounded spearman could beat a tank so easily!


Very interesting, I had often wondered what a historian would think of Civ.

As to pride/lust for power being a powerful motivator, and the decisions people make in the past, I once read a very interesting article that basically stated human behavior is never irrational–it is always made within a cultural framework, and always seems rational to the person doing it at the time. There may be motivating factors-in a bad example, a king attacks out of pride, but that pride is based on having his elites/nobles respect and recognize his power (anything with a hierarchical power structure is based on the legitimation of power and authority). He will seem weak if he does nothing and so must maintain his image. I see this every time I play Civ. My actions are based on immediate need, whether its to keep people happy, keep them fed, or to keep France off my back-even if that means attacking their much larger fleet. Its fair to say others’ motivations are similar.



In response to “Sometimes, I’m a Cheater” from The Escapist forums:
I love the existence of cheats in single player. Sometimes I’ve had a rough day and I don’t want more challenge I just want fun. So depending on what game I’m playing I can either scale down the difficulty and feel like God of the wasteland (Fallout 3/vegas) or I can make the game silly by adding big heads, shooting paintballs etc.

I’m also not ashamed to admit that I will sometimes have been staring at a puzzle for hours before checking online to find that I just needed to hit a switch or something equally silly.

Multiplayer however is a different story. It’s bad enough that due to reward systems a lot of multiplayer games are elitist and favour those who have been playing the longest even though those players are more likely to have memorised where everything spawns let alone having to deal with getting sniped from the whole map away through several walls.

p.s Right, Down, Left, Left, Down, Right, Right, Down, Left, X, Square, Triangle ~Ion Cannon!


Others do what the gentleman above you was looking for–they allow you to bypass the “chores” of the game and skip straight to the parts you want. Cheats can allow for a more user-directed experience.

And that’s what it’s about, right? Us. The users.

Yes, yes indeed. But in talking about failings of game design I didn’t just mean things like bad puzzles. Some designers have begun to realise that, as you say, it’s all about what users want. People like to have all the weapons? Give them a mode where they do. And so on.

Also, I agree with your point that not every instance of walkthrough use involves a bad puzzle. However, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t use them at all if I could be 100% confident that all the puzzles were fair. For example, you’ll notice where I mention Machinarium above that I say it didn’t require a walkthrough. That wording was carefully chosen… because I did use one for one puzzle, then regretted it because it turned out there was no need. The problem was that my trust ran out before I solved the puzzle legitimately.

Dom Camus


In response to “The Economics of Meat” from The Escapist forums:
I’d be interested to play a very minimal, browser-based market game where players buy and sell resources, riding market highs and lows and trying to pull a profit from the margins. Think day-trading, at ten times the speed. Add in multipliers, conditional min/max buy/sell macros, etc…that could be pretty darn addictive for a certain class of gamer.


This reminds me of that incident where a viral outbreak in WoW let epidemiologists learn some amazing things about human behavior in times of pandemics, that the CCD’s computer simulations were unable to predict because of the human factor.

All this makes me think of a possible sci-fi scenario where governments worried about financial and biological destabilization would set up an MMORPG and run fantasy simulation of various outbreaks and financial crises, and base security and policy decisions on the outcome of those simulations. And the outcomes would start being manipulated by learning-program-equipped NPCs who have developed sociopolitical agendas of their own…


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