October 2010

24
Oct
2010

Unstructured Play Journey: Part 1

Posted by Cha

It's generally assumed that computer games are playful, yet highly structured experiences. That's certainly fair comment -- there are set rules, mission structures, or goals to achieve. Games are won or lost, and rules can rarely be changed. Stories and events are often highly scripted and pre-determined, with at least partly set pacing.

Googling unstructured play brings up a lot of articles about the importance of a freeform style of play for kids, and the need to have time away from structured play like video games. I don't disagree, but of course it's not really that simple. Structured vs. unstructured play isn't a true binary option, it's just one way of looking at a wide spectrum of play. Still, I'll run with the distinction for now, because I think it leads some interesting places.

Gaming communities are not well known for their inclusiveness, but how bad are they really? Which of the major sites are doing better or worse? Those are big questions to fully tackle, so I can only scratch the surface a little. You might call this a (very) rough pilot study about non-inclusive language in mainstream game blogs.

I looked through posts from this year at Joystiq and Kotaku. I was planning to analyse Destructoid too, but their search functions are inadequate for the purpose. From what I could see Destructoid are a pretty bad offender though. They sometimes excuse language in the name of satire (e.g., Gears of War is Gay). Satire can be used to reclaim language and highlight the ridiculousness of its use, but in these cases I don't think it's very clever or effective.

18
Oct
2010

When Not to Sidequest

Posted by Cha

'Roleplaying Game' is one of those awkward genre labels meaning different things to different people. I don't have a good personal definition, but one element I consider to be at the core of RPGs is questing.

It's a little contrived, but somehow I love being bossed around and completing tasks for people. Preferably something more involved than being asked to kill ten wolves, but World of Warcraft is the only game I've played where grinding quests were quite so ridiculously blatant and over-used. Usually quests are a bit more interesting, and reveal pieces of the world and its inhabitants I wouldn't see otherwise.

I'll usually happily do whatever characters ask, even when it gets silly. I'm supposed to be on a critical mission, but apparently still have time to rescue someone's cat, or run an errand. I don't usually question it much. There's a time to question game conventions and motivations, and a time to just be satisfied that I'm enjoying myself.

10
Oct
2010

Play in Progress

Posted by Cha

I'm insecure about works-in-progress. Whenever I'm working on something, part of me is constantly waiting for someone to tell me it's crap, or that I'm going about it the wrong way. It seems safer to put finished products up for judgement, and leave the procesesses and failed attempts a mystery.

I honestly like constructive criticism (I struggle with praise far more, because I can't learn much from it and it's hard to see the point). But in the past I've received a lot of the other kind of cricicism. Harsh, thoughtless words, often targeting unfinished elements rather than genuine mistakes. I didn't like being attacked, so I built defence mechanisms, and hid many ideas.

Yes, it's a silly thing to worry about and I could often benefit from feedback at an earlier stage, but some habits are ridiculously hard to break. I'm working on it. In the meantime, this can cause unexpected issues.

05
Oct
2010

LittleBig Your Turn

Posted by Cha

I have an article up on Screen Play today. It was fun to write, and looks at playing games with my parents.

There always seem to be more layers to uncover where family is concerned. There is another half to the story. It involved me becoming traumatised, and I haven't played Uncharted since for fear of association. Shame really, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the beginning.

But I'm sure no one wants to hear the details of my Mum's knack for pushing buttons, or the kinds of things that can happen when I'm hormonally unbalanced.

Such is life, and it doesn't invalidate anything I wrote in that article. And when I say I'll take any victories I can find, I really mean it.