Digital Doggie Biscuit

In response to “Time to Move On” from The Escapist Forum:
You should be writing more, Russ.

Now, let me disagree with you.

We’re about the same age, but I remember video games completely differently than you do.

First, they were never about escape. The games were too difficult to provide escapism. They were too difficult to be fun, really. The pleasure of video games came from their graphics, which were new and charming, even on an Atari, and the satisfaction of overcoming their challenges. Achieving that satisfaction was work.

Second, everybody played them. Everybody went to the arcades; everybody had some console or other. Jocks played them; nerds played them. The kids who got the latest console or hottest game were always envied, never derided.

Last and similar to the point above, the kids who could beat the toughest games were admired.

I think it may be a platform divide that separates us. Are you thinking of early PC games as the territory of the hardcore? That’s what your emphasis on immersion suggest to me–because I never thought of games as immersive in the way that books or movies are until fairly recently. I was never much for PC games.

Actually, this may explain a lot of my thinking about video games. I never had my own computer until 2006. My family never had one when I was growing up. For me, video games are social and mainstream, and they always have been.

I’ll have to think about this some more. Thanks for the thought-provoking piece.

Ray Huling


In response to “The Incredible Disappearing Teacher” from The Escapist Forum: Just a couple of random thoughts:
1. In the arcade days, you had to earn quarters. A quarter per minute was considered outstanding, and this idea drove design. Consequently, learning curve was a huge issue and design constraint. The only manuals were what you could put on the control panel or bezel and preferably would be just one or two sentences if that. The game taught you as you played. You learned by trial/error, visual clues, audio clues, watching NPCs, etc.

2. There are some really cool design thoughts in the book “Design of Everyday Things” by Donald Norman. It’s not new, and I’m sure several here have probably read it. But good to revisit. One of the ideas is that if the design is sound, you shouldn’t need a manual that tells you how to operate it.

3. If design is good, maybe “manuals” become more like liner notes.



In response to “A Risk of Romance” from The Escapist Forum:I’ve worked for a company which tried to hire people from outside the industry. We hired a film director and someone from the automobile industry. Four months later our studio was closed down and we were out of a job. Obviously there were other factors at play, but it’s not hard to see a relationship.

It all worked out well for us in the end, but if my current company ever hired a romance writer, I’d be looking for a new place to work, because I would know the company wouldn’t be around for much longer.

These ideas are fine for the huge companies, until of course something like the global economic crisis comes along. Or for that matter anything else which effects income streams of investors.

I understand the desires you have for the industry to open up, but the problem is the games industry doesn’t pay well. To be attractive to these outside people, they’ve got to offer competitive salaries.

So they hire these new people with high salaries, and what happens? There’s less money for making the actual game. Slipping quality, missing milestones, and heads are going to roll.

And the biggest problem is those people who are from outside the industry can weather losing their job, go back to doing whatever old crap they did.

Where is a games tester or level designer going to find a new career??



In response to “Memory Lane” from The Escapist Forum: I honestly think the divide between gameplay and storytelling is still wide enough that kids have gaps to fill in if they so choose while playing. And there must be some Charm to Master Chief, because just now it wasn’t too tough to find a youtube video of a kid dressed as him for Halloween. And if you really think about it, the Halo story isn’t too far off from the days of old. You’re a super soldier who has to win the war! We talk about progress, but how much has really changed? We have mature titles, but do we even expect kids to get all whimsical and creative about Max Payne?
One problem we have is that there’s nothing for us to go off of besides our personal memories, which of course we’ll say was a better experience than what these kids have to work with. You know… the same things adults said of us playing them newfangled video games. When this generation of kids is older and watching their kids play HoloTekken, they’ll look back fondly on the charm of 2D screens and the limitations they offered, and all the imagination they used to fill in the gaps. The more interesting question to me is what’ll stop kids from doing that all together? I don’t think it’s happened yet.

p.s. I’m willing to wager that us talking about games aimed at our age is doing no favors, either.


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