Still Street Fighting After All These Years

In response to “Mid-Level Exceptions” from The Escapist Forum: Loved the article; it captured exactly what’s a big part of what makes Civilization and some soccer management simulation game I used to have back in ’99 so replayable: Seeing how things unfold from the early game to the mid-game, and then how the rest of the game is channeled by the way things unfolded. Other games this reminded me of are Master of Orion (every game the ships were different), the Railroad Tycoon series (every game the rail net/industry distribution is different), and the Europa Universalis series (every game each county winds up with different provinces by the end/the composition of the armies is different).

In fact, to take it back to board games, reminded me of what I loved about the old Avalon Hill monster games like Empires In Arms and Siege of Jerusalem. Also brings to mind an old GDW title, Bloodtree Rebellion. Really wish those would just be ported over to the computer by Hasbro for Avalon Hill, and whoever owns the rights to the other developers’ titles.

– Cheeze_Pavilion” title=”” target=”_blank”>In response to “Knowing Your Enemy” from The Escapist Daily: “If gaming is to be mainstream, it must accept its own civic responsibilities and realize that not all criticism is ill-informed.”


“Can gaming make the same claim?”

Not always.

You are looking at this entire situation from the same bad angle the mainstream press does. Let’s assume that games can cause people to act violently, that still would not give the federal government of the USA the right to regulate the sale of video games. As long as they are protected under the first, which should always be the case, then congress’s power to regulate commerce cannot be construed to be used to deny the rights of others whom are trying to express themselves.

I can say things that can cause violence in other people, that does not mean my act of saying them is the criminal offense, and it can’t be.

– FatHed

The Author’s Response: Let me clear a few things up.

First of all, any suggestion that government regulation is what is needed was mistakenly inferred, and not implied. And although I am not in favour of government regulation of games content, please do bear in mind that not everyone reading or writing on the Internet, including myself, is American and subject to the US constitution.

The point of the article was not that games cause people to be violent. I do not believe that for a second. I favour self-examination, not outside regulation. The point was that because we react, as FatHed has done here, in such a knee-jerk fashion to the very suggestion that games might cause violence or should be regulated, that we tend to miss the other issue. That is, is it really a good thing that so many games are so violent? Don’t we have any other ideas?

I believe that the use of violence in gaming stems from a simple lack of creativity. It seems that we don’t have any other thoughts for how to create or market games. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with violent content in and of itself – I’m a big fan of many violent games, and my favourite game of recent years, Resident Evil 4, was dripping in gore. But while I might enjoy 24, if all TV series were like that, you’d get bored very quickly. And sure, there are puzzle games and platforming games and sports games and so on, but as the reviewer quoted said, in games where you play a person what you’re most likely to be doing is killing people. I’m not saying either that games should hammer in moral messages, but art should have something to say for itself, and gaming very rarely seems to say anything.

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– Gearoid Reidy

In response to “Next-Gen Storytelling” from The Escapist Forum: The question of interactivity in narratives, I think, is still too new to give a real strong guideline to game narrative – which is why it’s a good thing that there’s articles like this. The Interactive Fiction movement has found a standardized set of tools in the Z-Machine interpreter, which is simultaneously freer and more limited than any video game. Would a better framework be preferable? Well, certainly a parser that doesn’t require a strict verb-noun construction, but that’s just a readability improvement. I’m not convinced that new ways to interact with the world are needed in IF’s case (just new ways to get that interaction from the user to the game).

Some stories are not well-served by allowing the player to interact with the game world in any way they can imagine. In fact, I would say that, generally, the most satisfying examples of any medium are the ones conceived of as if operating under severe limitations, and then made without them (but acting as if they were largely still there).

I would agree that, without any way to put real actors in an interactive medium, simplifications and abstractions of the story’s elements would without a doubt be the ideal choice. Don’t assume that’s automatically a “cartoon” thing, though. Even books provide only a very limited description of a thing’s traits. A cartoon is just one example of excluding detail in a visual medium. Detail does need to be excluded, however.

– Bongo Bill” title=”” target=”_blank”>The Author‘s Resaponse: Bongo Bill makes some interesting points. To clarify, I’m not proposing that more world interaction is necessarily The Right Answer and I’m CERTAINLY not saying that total freedom from constraint leads to a better player experience or story. I’m often accused of promoting the idea of choice above all else, but I don’t believe that at all – as you point out, operating under “severe limitations” often results in the best experience.

I guess my issue is with an industry and an art form that could and should be built around interactivity choosing to impose too MANY constraints on players. We do that routinely – i.e., limit player choices to which weapon to use… binary choices that are clearly Good or Evil, with little or no consequence associated with the choice… putting players on rails and giving them a “cinematic” experience that has almost nothing to do with player expression or creativity… That’s the stuff that drives me mad. And we do it to OURSELVES. Amazing…

As far as “cartoon” imagery goes, you’re absolutely right that cartooniness isn’t the only viable way of limiting graphical detail to accomplish some greater narrative or gameplay goal – it’s just a personal preference of mine. (Given the games I’ve worked on, most people have no idea how cartoon obsessed I am. But that’s probably a subject for another time and place…)

– Warren Spector

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