On Super Columbine Massacre RPG


I just finished playing the Columbine Game something I’ve been planning on doing for awhile. Sure, it’s been awhile since the documentary was released, even longer since the Slamdance controversy and longer still since I first heard of it back in ’05, but I figured the hype and media attention were far more interesting than the game itself. Which proved to be more or less correct in regards to my own experience.

It’s a pretty poor “game” in most respects, but seeing as it’s meant to be a documentary I guess that is like saying that “Bowling for Columbine” had poor cinematography, or complaining that my thesis didn’t have a dramatic enough setting or used too complex words. What I can judge this game on is how well it uses the interactivity to help the player understand the tragedy, and I would have to say it’s something of a mixed bag. Subtle things like how a normal school corridor is transformed into a sneak game, how most students choose to cover and defend themselves even when they can attack you and the sarcasm with which you get stat bonuses from violent media are by themselves brilliant. They are more allusions than obvious references though, and without having played a lot of videogames prior to this you would miss them. This is fine since gamers are who this is marketed to, but Danny Ledonne sometimes seem to think he need to spell it out for everyone else by writing the effects on screen. “Less is more”, as people say.

I also felt the “Doom” part destroyed the experience, not that it was worse than the Columbine part – on the contrary – but because it was too different. The first half of the game worked reasonable well as a documentary, it provided some insight (although these were – of course – only Ledonne’s theories and research) and was genuinely uncomfortable to play, while the last part played out more like a conventional game, the narration and style was more reminiscent of a cartoon (and not only because satan from South Park was in it) and had little to no connection to real events. I can understand if Ledonne wanted to hold a deeper psychological discussion regarding the killers’ motives, I just don’t think it comes off very well and contrasted with the rest of the game it is somewhat in poor taste.

Posted on Feb 29/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

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More Portal from GDC


Portal lead developer Kim Swift and writer Erik Wolpaw said some insightful things at their postmortem at GDC;

Wolpaw introduced the “crackpot theory” which led to this integration: The feeling that games tell two stories: the “story-story” and the “gameplay-story.”

“If you lower the delta (the closer you bring them together),” he said, “it makes the game more satisfying.”

When you think about it – especially having played portal – it’s really obvious, but coming up with it is really the hard thing.

Posted on Feb 27/08 by Saint and filed under General game development | No Comments »

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Missing the GDC

… So I was in Egypt last week. I’d upload some photos if they didn’t have a weird compression error that’s strangely reminiscent of the way my TV broke over a year ago, but I’ll have to get back on that once I hear from support. Anyway, this also means I didn’t have access to the internet during the GDC so I’ll just summarize what little I learned from browsing through the news reports.

It seems Portal won big the Game Developer’s Choice awards, and while I certainly like it I had hoped otherwise. It undoubtedly deserves the “Innovation” award and maybe also the award for “Game Design”, but I can’t really shake the feeling that giving it the Game of the Year award is like giving the Academy Award for “Best Animated Feature” to, say, “Mike’s New Car“. Maybe Game Developer’s Choice needs a category for shorter, prototype-like games with smaller budgets as well – then again, maybe it’s simply the games industry that needs more shorter, prototype-like games with smaller budgets. So in a way, while I don’t think Portal deserved the Game of the Year award, what it represents certainly does.

Crayon Physics Deluxe took home the Seamus McNally Grand Prize at the IGF, which seems fair (even though it’s hard to give an informed opinion since very few finalists have released anything playable). World of Goo took home the impressive combo of Technical Excellence/Design Innovation award, so my prediction wasn’t completely off. I was also happy to see Fez taking home the Excellence in Visual Art award as it deserves recognition.

I have only glossed over the presentations so far but it seems that I once again agree with Ernest Adams. Also, Jonathan Blow – as always – had a lot to say about the state of the games industry, and while I usually think he’s just bitching about why he doesn’t like games anymore or reiterating what others have already said, he manages to come up with a few interesting points.

Posted on Feb 23/08 by Saint and filed under General game development, Meta-blog | No Comments »

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More on “girly” games

Girl Gamer magazine
A while back, I had some harsh words for Ubisofts “Imagine” -series of games, and the recent appearance of the above free magazine has graciously given me an opportunity to explain my position on this issue. I don’t know how well “Imagine” has fared, so whether I was right or not is not the issue.

While the rest of the world doesn’t care, most of the gamer community that does seems to harbor some ill-will against “girly” games and related items as they promote stereotypes. I consider myself a feminist (post-feminist or butler-ist to be exact) and I do think that in order to have a fair society we need to – as far as possible – judge people by their merits and not their gender, ethnicity or whatever other involuntary attribute they might have. This would maximize freedom for each individual and would thus benefit society as a whole without really costing anything. I do not think that the best way to achieve this is to force individuals away from a stereotype, however – that isn’t really much better than forcing them into the stereotype to begin with.

What I am saying is that we need publications like Girl Gamer and games like Imagine since they create a new market for people who are happy with a “girly” lifestyle. Sure, I don’t like it personally and it seems like a lot of female gamers today agree with me, but it’s neither for them nor me.

If anything, I would like to see a little more gender-neutral example as I’m sure there are boys who would be interested in – or benefit from – playing grooming, parenting and cooking.

Posted on Feb 12/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

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Mass Effect

Mass Effect

In the intense release period of the autumn, I used to joke about not wanting to play Mass Effect because it was bad – judging it completely without having even seen it played was supposed to make a point that I think got lost along the way. More than any other game during the last year, though, this has proved very hard. Like some others lately, Mass Effect comes from a group of games I’ve largely ignored in the past – thus my reluctance to play it in the first place – but like named others, it got enough praise that I figured I’d try it. I pride myself in being a rather experimental gamer, but every time I do something like that I get a glimpse of how narrow my selection really is.

That is not to say Mass Effect is perfect – for starters, it is not very pretty as the constant rendering glitches never stop to let you just enjoy the design. The frequent loading and constantly dropping framerate doesn’t help. Also, there are some really annoying design choices in there – the exploration/vehicle sections often seem very hastily planned and the few variations of instances you enter get repetitive really quickly – though I can understand why they chose quantity over quality for the sidequests. What I can’t see is why they bothered to include an autosave system if they weren’t gonna have reasonable checkpoints anyway – more than once I had to spend an hour replaying some part.

But that isn’t what Mass Effect is about, bringing us to the important part of the game – the roleplaying. Even though I know how these things usually work, for once I really felt like there was some weight to the in-game decisions I got to make. Sure, the story that unfolded was slightly naïve at times, but then again that might just be a reflection off the goody-two-shoes- way I played the character. Of course, I can’t say if this feeling would’ve remained had I chosen to play a less honorable character – or better yet, if I had chosen to sway between “good” and “evil” throughout the game – but that hardly makes any difference as long as I get to play the game I want and feel that actions that I choose have reasonable outcomes.

On top of that, Mass Effect sports decent action-based combat as well as a well-balanced take on stats management (although there is an overabundance of resources), it’s easy enough to play that I didn’t mind too much when I had to repeat something. It is somewhat reassuring to see that by picking up games I normally wouldn’t play, I sometimes find gems that leave me wanting more after 25 hours of gameplay.

Posted on Feb 09/08 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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World of Goo Preview

It seems I missed the World of Goo preview a couple of weeks back, but this testament to brilliant journalism shall go unnoticed no longer.

World of Goo

… I’m not particularly fond of escort gameplay, but Kyle Gabler has managed to make me play seemingly short-lived games for hours before (most recently Robot and the Cities that Built Him) so chances are this game will be a highlight in a seemingly boring season of game releases if it is released soon.

I see big things happening for 2D Boy at igf.

Posted on Feb 06/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »