Saturday, September 29, 2007

What You Can't Put Down

Yesterday's Op-Ed in The New York Times encapsulates much of the discussion that's been going on at international game studies conferences for the past few years. In "The Play's the Thing," Daniel Radosh complains that videogames are failing to evolve, even as they produce more visually dazzling graphics, because players are ultimately let down by games that rely on cinematic cut scenes and derivative media that are graphics-intensive rather than process-intensive and thus defer interesting design questions about creating original player-experiences of procedural play. This isn't news to anyone who has heard Greg Costikyan, Warren Spector, Raph Koster, Scot Osterweil, or anyone affiliated with the studio producing Will Wright's Spore at a conference, but it may be a new argument to readers of the mainstream press, where video game reviews still play a relatively minor role in comparison to film criticism.

What I thought was interesting was how Radosh tried to convey the gripping qualities of the two big critically acclaimed games of this summer: BioShock and Halo 3. As I write, BioShock is next to me at my PC, since I write about games of crisis and contamination in the context of government media production. Sadly, I have to put off installing it in my machine, given that I have two articles to deliver in the next two days. One of the ironies about Radosh's criticism of the dearth of games that are "profound" and "resonate" with players is that one of the games that's winning awards and critical attention for doing this -- Bill Viola and Tracy Fullerton's The Night Journey -- owes some of its user-friendliness to Halo 2.

The relationship of perceived addictiveness or intensity or immersion in game play to media merit is certainly one in literary studies as well, in which "page turners" rarely make it into the canon.

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Blogger bob c said...

as someone that spent years playing "Miles Bournes" (I was a good gamer, not a good speller) I can say that play is more important than look in keeping a game interesting. One can tire of a game quickly even if the graphics are great but it doesn't have "game"!!! Classic chess pieces come to mind. Although I DO know some people that are interested only in the killing factor and quantity.

7:42 PM  

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