Letters to the Editor

Symphony of Destruction


In response to “Confessions of a GameStop Employee, Part Four” from The Escapist Forum: So you know how the NES just saw it’s 25th anniversary here in the US? How many of you still have your NES? Or SNES? N64? Sega Genesis? Dreamcast? How many of you play any of those consoles regularly? Or at least often enough? Personally, I’m playing through Chrono Trigger on the SNES right now (which is AWE. SOME.). Here it is, 25 years later, and if I can find the hardware that still works, I can enjoy those the same as I did decades ago.

Now how many of you love the modern classics? GTA4? Mass Effect 2? Assassins Creed 2? Fallout 3? Borderlands? If I still have a working 360/PS3 25 years from now, I can enjoy those too… at least the main story. If it weren’t for the ‘GOTY’ and ‘Ultimate/Complete’ packages, I’d be out of luck if I wanted to play The Ballad of Gay Tony, or Broken Steel or Lair of the Shadow Broker.

This doesn’t really apply to the PC guys though, you guys are in another league here. Still love y’all though.

Don’t get it twisted, digital distribution and DLC is great for expanding the story/gameplay, fighting piracy/used games sales etc, but once the servers hosting the content go down, it more or less gone forever.

I guess my point here is if I want to play Earthbound today, I could take on the internet, buy it, and play it. If I want to play Sonic 4 15 years from now, I’m boned (as of now at least).



In response to “The Shadow and The Sword” from The Escapist Forum: My dear Mr. Main, I believe you’ve hit the head of the nail of the term “epic.”

This term is a term that is much misused in today’s society. The word epic denotes scale, a feeling of the small affecting the massive, like in some of the earliest epics: David and Goliath, the epic of Gilgamesh, the Homeric epics, and some more recent ones – such as Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.

Many video games don’t really show this. You don’t feel like the underdog. Outnumbered, maybe, but not overpowered. You are THE man, the only one that can do it, and you could defeat any odds. Best example, far past anything else: Master Chief. Just think about that for a minute.

Then there’s games like Shadow of the Colossus. Wander does not feel like a typical hero. He feels like a kid who is way out of his league, but determined to accomplish this monumental task to save his loved one.

The other part is the weapons. Think of all the heroes, in any (fiction) genre, in any medium. Most of these heroes will have items attached to them – usually one or two. Whether it is a lightsaber, Anduril, or even a pen or a voice, they have one main tool associated with them. Even video game heroes such as those mentioned in the article, like Link or Master Chief, usually have their primary, identifying weapon, and sometimes armor or other secondary item, even though oftentimes it isn’t really the main or even the most common weapon you use in the game.

More games need these. Specifically, more games need these to truly be the defining weapon, and have differing uses for the one weapon instead of relying on huge inventories to provide interesting gameplay. Surprisingly, many RPGs manage not to do this, despite the fact that they are the ones that really should the best. They don’t even have one at all, most of the time, instead letting you choose your own – but then they don’t capitalize on it. These weapons, instead of becoming your own Excalibur, become “Uber Sword of Awesome”, with no personality, no story, and no individuality, identical to thousands or millions of others across the world. The main thing they need, even if you choose it yourself, is permanence, a name, and a distinctive style of some sort.

P.S: My favorite example of a truly defining weapon, both in the minds of the fans and in the canon of the game itself: the Keyblades.


That was a beautiful article, and I agree that setting the tone for weapons and the searching thereof defines how the game is to be played and paced. Most games that inundate you with weapons and items seem to almost be overcompensating for something. “Here’s a big new shiny sword!” “Well, gee, it’s okay I guess. Can I get some bombs next?” You’re usually going from one place to another in search of the next weapon. (Zelda, anyone?)

And while it’s a mechanic in and of itself, games of that sort usually preclude your ability to sidestep bits of story because you need X item in order to pass Y obstacle, and there’s simply no other way around it. There’s only a few games that say, “You don’t have to get X item in order to pass through Y area, but it helps.” THAT tends to add to the realism for me. Okay, I can forget about going to pick up the lantern, but then I have to play this level in pitch blackness. That’s a bit shit.

The Shadow of the Colossus was definitely EPIC in that there was nothing else to focus on aside from you and your quest. That kind of immersion, going about your tasks, not wondering if you would get a bigger sword or other weapons or items, brought you straight to the action — searching out the monsters and killing them. Other weapons and items would have been a distraction, and probably would have scaled back the feeling of immensity of the game.

Sometimes you can’t get a bigger sword. You’ve just got to use what you’re given.



In response to “Philosophy of Game Design, Part Four” from The Escapist Forum: One small nitpick: Bogost’s “Proceduralism” is actually a very specific artgames movement that includes games like Passage and Braid. Think of it like the videogame version of Cubism or Impressionism. What you describe in the article is actually what he calls “procedural rhetoric”.

I don’t blame you for mixing them up though. As much as I enjoy reading Bogost’s work, he has a tendency to create some very “ivory tower” sounding terminology for the ideas he’s trying to describe.

Now, in regards to the article:

Robert Yang:
There’s a “bad” out there that’s not even on our radar. A “bad” that is difficult to articulate or even fully conceive of.

Are you referring to something like the idea of art as propaganda (like what was prevalient during WW2), or racist art like Birth of a Nation? If so, video games are also certainly capable of this, and even participate in it to a certain degree right now.

And for better or worse, games have certainly influenced our generation as much as movies have changed previous generations.


Chris Crawford used the term process intensive rather than procedural. One is about the game processing the action of the player and the other is about the player mostly processing the content and doing what the content tells them to do. (Or doing the opposite of what the content tells them to do, surprise, the designer is a philosopher!)

Content intensive vs process intensive is a clearer comparison in my opinion as procedural isn’t really the right term unless it is only used to refer to the generation of art assets and not the game rules or design. I suppose that distinctions like this is where the language of computer science collides head on with art language and the forensic philosophers have to be called in to identify the cause and time of death.

More Fun To Compute


In response to “Pop! You’re Dead” from The Escapist Forum: I think Dr. Wily doesn’t necessarily plan to be weak to these ridiculous weapons. I think it’s more than the game designers realized that certain weapons are nigh useless and so they throw it into the final battle so you at least use it for something. Although at least the Top Spin weakness in MM3 did make some kind of sense. The Bubble Lead weakness in MM2 is just…strange. 😛

Also, I love the reference to Elite Beat Agents. That game has one of the best final stages in the history of video games. The cover in the game is much more upbeat than the original, and I love it. Plus, where else do you get to destroy aliens with Jumpin’ Jack Flash? Pure awesome.

Dorkmaster Flek

What? Discussing hair as a weapon and no mention of Kabuki: Quantum Fighter? For shame.

And the weapon weaknesses for Dr Wily in the Mega Man games finally made sense when I realised that in basically every game, he’s weak to the weapon that’s hardest to hit him with: specifically, the ground-based attack. Even Sigma in the X games seemed to borrow from the same playbook (and a logical one from a design standpoint).

Though why MM3!Wily was weak to two weapons still baffles me. (I spent years using Top Spin to kill him before finally understanding why people talked about using Search Snake…)


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