August 2010

30
Aug
2010

In Defence of Gamers

Posted by Cha

The hip thing to do at the moment is apparently to reject the use of the word 'gamer' and tell people not to identify themselves that way. Maybe I'm just not fashionable, but I have some reasons for standing up for the label (though not without limits).

The first issue is a lack of alternatives.

When I named this blog I accepted that including gamer in the title has its problems, but it is still meaningful. Game can mean all kinds of things, but gamer is probably going to be about video games -- or possibly pencil and paper roleplaying, which is also accurate in my case.

Now, I could have tried to come up with a clever name without needing to include games as a term at all. I could have incorporated something people might recognise from gaming culture, perhaps. "Giant enemy crab set us up the bomb" isn't very personal really. More seriously, I doubt I could have come up with something to fit.

23
Aug
2010

Freeplay 2010: The Design of Everything

Posted by Cha

It's been over a week since the Freeplay Independent Games Festival, which might be enough time to start properly gathering my thoughts.

I want to start with a massive disclaimer. I am not about to do the festival or the many excellent presenters justice. The positive energy and ideas are better covered elsewhere.

For example, in Brendan Keogh's write-ups on Gamasutra:

Brandon Boyer Tells Indies To 'Be Yourself, Be Wonderful'.
Why Adam Saltsman Makes Video Games.
The Difficulty of Understanding A World That Can't Exist.

16
Aug
2010

Play Is Everywhere

Posted by Cha

I spent the weekend at Freeplay Independent Games Festival here in Melbourne. I wasn't at my most interactive that's for sure, but did sit quietly and listen to a lot of great speakers. I'm still turning it all over in my head.

Others will probably write about more specific ideas from the various sessions. As usual, I'm going to write about a more individual experience.

I wasn't too sure what I might get out of Freeplay, given that I enjoy playing and writing about games, but have never been interested in making them myself. I expected some new ideas to think about, possibly also a bit more insight into the development process.

I didn't quite expect the level of passion and inspiration. I also didn't expect to start making connections in my mind to my day job, and where there might one day be great synergies. I keep different aspects of my life fairly fragmented, so crossovers come as a surprise.

15
Aug
2010

Star Ocean: The Last Hope Review

Posted by Cha

My latest review is for Star Ocean: The Last Hope - International (no, I don't really know how I should punctuate multiple levels of subtitles, damn them). I guess it was about time for something I don't like. And as much as I love roleplaying I've yet to find a JRPG I can really appreciate.

Also, I know I probably shouldn't call these "reviews" exactly, but it's more convenient than trying to explain what they actually are. This particular example is more typically review-like than usual for me, but still doesn't cover all the usual checkpoints.

13
Aug
2010

Non-Sexual Nudity

Posted by Cha

What makes character design sexualised?

I've been thinking about this question a lot recently. I've encountered a few game characters lately who show a lot of skin, but don't imply (to me) that sex was objective of their design. I find this quite encouraging, but of course not everyone sees these particular examples in the same way.

It's possible that being a straight female makes it easier for me to see female nudity (or semi-nudity) as something other than sexual, but I suspect that's being unfair. It's also quite possible I'm just horribly naïve, but even if my examples turn out to be poor the idea remains interesting.

Some people do continue to complain about nudity in painting and sculpture, but there's mainstream acceptance of the artistic merits. I don't see any reason games shouldn't also be capable of meaningful exploration of the human form.

08
Aug
2010

Adventures with DeathSpank

Posted by Cha

I am not the target audience for DeathSpank. My partner enjoyed it though, and since I was curled up sick on the couch for a couple of days I gave it a try.

DeathSpank is a stupid but well-meaning hero, searching the land for a mysterious artifact and aiding the downtrodden. It's the standard action-rpg formula given a cartoon make-over and infused with constant attempts at humour.

I have to wonder now, who exactly is the target audience for DeathSpank? Even on hard difficulty it often feels like skipping through the landscape casually squashing enemies. I can't imagine that's very satisfying for fans of games like Diablo and Torchlight, where I am assured there is more chance of being swarmed and overwhelmed.

06
Aug
2010

Maestro Review

Posted by Cha

This week I review something far less serious -- rhythm platform game Maestro! Jump in Music.

I wrote about silliness, which is like another world to me right now. I'm in a serious mood. It's my birthday on Saturday, and that usually makes me withdrawn. Getting older is inevitable and not particularly sad, but I associate my birthday with a lot of memories, and often spend it indulging in melancholy.

01
Aug
2010

Heavy Moments

Posted by Cha

Heavy Rain is like a painting best viewed from a distance. I could run with the emotions of the moment, as though it all made perfect sense. Once you analyse the details it's clearly full of holes and falls apart.

I will certainly stand up for Heavy Rain's potential and vision. But there is something more than just that. I'm an easy target emotionally, but it wasn't just sensitive people like me who were affected. I watched friends trying desperately to overcome a stressful situation. They were caught up in the moment just as strongly as I was. There's a power to that, however easy it may be to pick on the game's flaws.

There are many flaws I can't defend, and wouldn't try. But something I believe helped my Heavy Rain experience immensely was not interpreting everything literally. It's (mostly) a real world setting, yes, but I find it's more concerned with painting an emotional picture than a logical one.