Weekly Update: Blocks World

After two weeks of nose-to-the-grindstone paper writing, I am delighted to return to writing that no one will pay me for with Players Are Planners, a new feature up at Robot Geek. This was inspired by a volley of blog posts that went down while I was away, starting with Michael Abbot’s Games Aren’t Clocks and followed by Dennis Scimeca’s Games ARE Clocks and Kate Cox’s Win, Lose, Or Fail. As is frequently the case, this post came together over beers in a loud bar with my boyfriend, and I must credit him for part of the argument here. Also, I apologize in advance if I haven’t quite shaken off the academic tone. Or should I say: under hypothetical circumstances in which a somewhat academic tone has been employed in relation to writing, the current work argues that apologies are a potentially appropriate solution [32].

So here’s what I’ve been reading this week, other than that kind of thing.

On process intensity and procedural narrative. Procedural narrative is hard. Robert Yang does a rundown of the workarounds people have come up with to make stories feel procedural without digging into the ugly stuff, with advantages and disadvantages of each approach. A valuable resource for anyone concerned with procedural stories.

Guessing Games. An interview at Kill Screen with the developer of a game in which you guess the race of a person in a photograph. This actually strikes me as a good idea for a political game (most political games do not strike me this way).

How Can We Understand Code as a “Critical Artifact”? Also via Kill Screen, an interview by Henry Jenkins with an academic at USC who is studying the aesthetics of code. This is something I heard about a while ago at the day job, so it’s interesting to check in on it again. Ultimately I think it would be hard to develop an aesthetics of games without including something about aesthetic qualities of code.

5 Film-School Violations in Videogame Cut-Scenes. Makin’ fun of cutscenes, by Jason Schreier. This kind of thing is entertaining, but I don’t think it’s a great idea to start applying rules of thumb from filmmaking to scenes in a game. I think cutscenes are an awkward hack as it is, but if they are to be used, I doubt it makes sense to measure them by the same criteria as movie scenes. Movies and games have different needs. Information doesn’t need to be fast in a game; it needs to be useful. And movie-style pacing is a ridiculous metric to apply when players go through a game at their own pace.

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