Please stop listening


"You are shaping the future of Xbox, and we are better for it." 
        --Phil Spencer, Head of Microsoft's Xbox Division

One way to understand E3 is as a series of carefully timed PR blasts detonated in the epicenter of America's entertainment industry. No wonder game journalists and pundits talk in terms of "bombshells," "megatons" and which console maker "won" or blew away the competition.. E3 is an awkward mix of artistry, cutting-edge tech and old-fashioned hullabaloo, filled of grandiose proclamations delivered by hucksters with $200 haircuts. It's a thing to see.

A more useful way to understand E3 is as an expression of values from the game industry's Big 3 and a crafted set of signals aimed at the audience each wants to capture or retain. If E3 teaches us how each console maker sees its audience, the lesson we learned from Microsoft this year was especially discouraging.

"[We wanted] to bring a diverse lineup that had something for everyone. We wanted to show broad appeal and we wanted to curate this show."
        --Yusuf Mehdi, Chief of Marketing and Strategy for Xbox [1]

It's hard to see how this "curated" presentation of forthcoming Xbox games could be seen as having "broad appeal" and "something for everyone." That is, unless Microsoft has narrowed its audience to a core group of gamers that 1) no longer comprises a diverse and sustainable base of consumers; 2) isn't growing; 3) has restricted its gaming appetite to mildly differentiated killing simulators.

I'm hardly the first to observe that the Xbox press briefing felt like a hostile place for gamers like me. As I've noted before, the problem isn't ethics. I have no issue with shooters per se - I'm currently blasting Nazis in the new Wolfenstein and loving it - the problem is homogeneity. I wasn't offended watching the Xbox briefing. I was bored.

"I thought overall we had a really solid cohesive collection of killing simulators."
"I liked the part in the Call of Duty trailer where they killed the guy by throwing the grenade, and it hit the guy, and he blew up."
        --Justin McElroy and Chris Grant sardonically wrap-up the Xbox briefing for Polygon

So how bad was it? I decided to break it down, and here's what I found (click to enlarge):

Xbox chart4

58% of Microsoft's E3 briefing contained images of characters killing, preparing to kill, or otherwise battling a deadly on-screen enemy. (52 mins out of 90 total). I applied this definition of "violent imagery" fairly lightly. Ominous situations suggesting pending havoc (e.g. Tomb Raider trailer at Xbox briefing or much of Bloodborne trailer at Sony event) were tallied as non-violent.

In comparison, only 26% of Sony's E3 briefing contained violent imagery (27.5 mins out of 106 total). To be fair, Sony's presentation contained far more talk (e.g. a 25-minute segment devoted to hardware, PSN, Playstation Now, Sony film and television, etc.). We can also fairly accuse Sony of delivering the two grisliest trailers shown at E3: Mortal Kombat X and Suda 51's Let It Die.

But it's telling to note that early in their respective briefings, Microsoft and Sony each devoted 8-and-a-half minutes (the longest game demos in each event) to important marquee titles. For the Xbox One: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. For the PS4: LittleBigPlanet 3.

It's also worth noting tonal differences between the two. The Xbox briefing began with a blackout in the auditorium, followed by pounding music, a brief image of the Xbox One hardware (somehow made to feel menacing?), then a chaotic sizzle reel of explosions, gunfire, and mayhem culminating in the appearance of Phil Spencer.

The Sony event began with piano music and swirling blue images of Playstation iconography, gently segueing into a 4-minute trailer for Destiny - ironically, a shooter - featuring a Mars landing, voice-of-god backstory (velvety VO by Lance Reddick Bill Nighy, thanks to commenter Jason for correction), and images of planets underscored by a Halo-esque vocal chorus. Finally, over halfway into the trailer, the shooting begins.

"There's one mistake that they all make, and that mistake is listening to their customers."
--Jesse Schell at the Barcelona Gamelab conference last August [2]

Microsoft believes the Xbox One stumbled out of the blocks because it focused too much on DRM issues and positioning the system as a home entertainment hub. That may be, but their original vision for purchasing and managing one's games was more progressive than angry customers claimed.

By capitulating to its base and sending the loudest possible "we got you, Bro" to its core customers at E3, Microsoft alienated a far larger, more diverse, and faster-growing audience of gamers - an audience Sony and Nintendo will happily serve. It's a classic case of "innovator's dilemma,"described by Jesse Schell at the Barcelona Gamelab Conference last August.

"The problem for that while the subsequent outcry came from a relatively small section of the gaming audience, it is nevertheless impossible to ignore. The problem is that the hardcore folks always want the same thing: 'We want exactly what you gave us before, but it has to be completely different.'[3]

If Phil Spencer and team genuinely want to "showcase the passion, creativity and potential behind the fastest-growing form of entertainment in the world" [4] they should listen a little less to their "core" market and focus on fostering the kind of creativity likely to realize that potential.


Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 42


In this episode I make my guest Steve Gaynor squirm uncomfortably in his seat. Of course, we also discuss his new game Gone Home, creating authentic characters, an important lesson from Ken Levine, and a secret room no reviewer has yet discovered. Plus other things.

I hope you enjoy.

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The games we deserve


What is a good man but a bad man's teacher? 
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost, however intelligent you are.
                --Tao Te Ching, ch. 27

We hear it said that games need to grow up, but when I look at the fractious, often hateful community surrounding them, I wonder if that's likely. I've written about this before, dating back to '08, and have always seen reasons for hope. Now I'm not so sure. I think we're getting worse, not better.

When we pillory critics for saying hard but true things; when our leaders who've championed inclusiveness issue (and defend) bigoted remarks; when we plod from one spiteful spat to the next, played out (performed, really) in online forums and social media with all the requisite snark and ad hominem attacks, it's worth asking what kind of audience are we? When we're persistently, thoughtlessly cruel to each other, aren't we getting the thoughtlessly brutal games we deserve?

I'm purposefully using "we" and "us" here because that's the unavoidable reality of our circumstances. Like it or not, the world is always we. It can never be otherwise. In our case, we all care about games. We all want a healthy thriving industry, indie to AAA. We all want to feel respected and free to be ourselves. We all want to have fun. Why is that so hard?

We have many new ways to communicate, but our powerful tools have outpaced our abilities to harness them responsibly. It's just so easy to be mean. Compassion and empathy are much harder, and their results are often inconclusive. When you launch a missile that hits its target, you get a big conspicuous result, and it feels good. Then it escalates, destruction ensues, and nothing remotely positive emerges from the rubble. Rinse and repeat.

We've got to stop it. Forget about altruism. If politeness and respectful behavior don't float your boat, then do it for the games. If you want the game industry to treat us like discerning adults with wide-ranging tastes, then stop acting like a bunch of selfish entitled brats. If you want games to grow up, then learn how responsible grownups behave.

What does that mean? Here's a set of tools drawn from my experience as a teacher, informed by conflict resolution principles that work. I offer them humbly, not as cure-all prescriptions or to censor ideas or points of view. They're merely tools to help build and preserve an environment for productive, respectful communication. Try them. Modify them. Whatever works.

  • The initial goal is increased understanding. Resolving conflict requires a genuine awareness of points of view. We may decide to disagree (even vehemently), but we must first seek to clearly understand each other.

  • Avoid the temptation to make another person look foolish, even when he clearly "steps in it" or "deserves it." Nothing degrades communication faster than an attack designed to humiliate.

  • Talk to each other, not to the crowd. I realize this requires a constructed approach that ignores the public nature of Twitter, forums, etc., but if you can avoid "performing" a conversation for onlookers, you're more likely to build honest, personal communication. Taking it offline is always an option too.
  • Focus on needs, not positions. When we say "don't take it personally," we ignore how identity is inextricably tied to beliefs and needs. Find out what the other person needs; let her explain why that matters; then honor that.

  • Be hard on the problem, soft on the person. We can attack an issue vigorously, but attacking each other (even when we feel provoked) seldom produces anything positive. Kindness is disarming. It can open doors that appear sealed shut. At worst, kindness allows one to walk away from a failed exchange without feeling that you made it worse.

  • Improve your self-knowledge. Every difficult exchange is an opportunity to examine your own beliefs and goals carefully. You may decide to adjust your thinking based on information received, or you may simply learn to better articulate your views to others. Be open and be willing to learn. Humility doesn't imply weakness or capitulation.

  • If you can manage it, let some accusations, threats, or attacks pass. I'm not suggesting you become somebody's punching bag. But if you accept the notion that most ugly behavior comes from a place of darkness or suffering, maybe you can overlook an attack and reach out to your attacker.

  • Persuasion isn't a win/lose state. Focus on being partners, not opponents. If you want to prove the legitimacy of your position, persuasion works better and lasts longer than rhetorically crushing your opponent. In our community, we might rally around the question, "Is this idea, statement, attitude, etc. likely to produce better games or a healthier community?" If the answer is no, jettison it. Everything we do and say models behaviors others will adopt.

I suppose everything I've written here boils down to "be good to each other," and I realize how simple-minded that sounds. Some people want to foster belligerent discord, and maybe there's little we can do to stop them. But most of the online hostility that I see occurs among people who might otherwise find much to love in each other. Maybe the simple tools I'm offering can help us live more peacefully in that place.

Addendum: Shortly after I posted, Gabe at Penny Arcade (referenced in the second paragraph above) issued an apology. You can read his remarks here.

A humongous adventure

Crash scene

This is about a train, a game, and a girl.

IMG_20130618_122233A few days ago I took my daughter Zoe on her first train trip. We boarded Amtrak's Hoosier State bound for Chicago at 6:58 AM. Zoe was exuberant, equipped with all the necessities for a 4-hour excursion: a stack of her favorite books, a bag of snacks, and her 3DS loaded with Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Zoe was eager to ride on a real train because lately she's a frequent traveler on the virtual train connecting her town to mine in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. We're both enchanted by the game, and we've spent many joyful hours playing it together. Her favorite activity - emergent gameplay runs in the family, folks - is filling her pockets with "presents" (i.e. junk she doesn't want), boarding the train to my town, and hiding them for me to find. She also loves making a gleeful nuisance of herself, digging as many holes as she can (loaded with pitfall seeds when she's got them) before I boot her out and close my gate. Apparently I'm raising a griefer. 

At approximately 8:30 AM, I boarded the AC train to Zoe's town with a fishing pole, which wasn't yet available in her local store. I had just begun teaching her to fish when our train (the real Amtrak one) suddenly lurched, thrusting us into the seats before us. Seconds later a large John Deere tractor careened past our window in a cloud of dust, metal pieces flying in all directions. The train hit its brakes, and we slowly came to a stop.

We had crashed into a farmer attempting to beat the train through an intersection. He was hauling a tank of anhydrous ammonia.

TankneartracksThe farmer and train engineer suffered injuries, but survived. None of the passengers was injured beyond bumps and bruises. We were extraordinarily lucky. I snapped this picture a few minutes after the collision. The proximity of the ammonia tank to the tracks illustrates just how lucky we were. If you heard about the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last month, you know the devastation anhydrous ammonia can wreak.

I powered down our 3DSs, tossed them in a bag and gathered our stuff, ready to evacuate the train. As we turned to head down the aisle, Zoe looked at me with an alarmed expression on her face. "Oh no, Daddy. We're going to get a big lecture from Resetti." I laughed. She was going to be fine. As this little video illustrates (shot accidentally while trying to text my wife), it all became an adventure to her.

Buses transported us to a small town nearby where the Red Cross was on hand to shelter us. After a few hours, other buses arrived to pick us up and deliver us to our destinations. Zoe and I reached Union Station in Chicago later that day, safe and sound.

IMG_20130618_121710In the days since the accident, we've tried to detect signs of trauma or stress in Zoe, but we've found none. She eagerly tells the "crash story" to anyone willing to listen, and she happily displays her Red Cross Mickey Mouse doll to all her friends.

Of course, we continue playing AC:NL every day. Now when she enters the in-game train depot, Zoe warns the stationmaster not to put us on a train that will crash. This morning I asked her if she would ever consider taking the train to Chicago again, and she replied, "Yes, Daddy, but two things. Only if we can play Animal Crossing the whole way and only if we tell all the farmers we're coming through, so stay out of our way!"

I have a feeling Zoe's healthy reaction to the crash is a mixture of childish naivete and a general sense that life is an adventure to be the games we've played together since she was 3. I can't prove that playing games has made my daughter a more adventurous soul. I'm sure many factors contribute. But I have a strong feeling that accomplishing difficult things together, relying on each other, and welcoming unexpected circumstances - typical game activities - have helped condition us in useful ways.

If you're interested, here's more info about accident. I'll return in my next post with some thoughts on Animal Crossing: New Leaf and why it succeeds so brilliantly as game design. Toot toot.

Notes on Genre


The term 'genre' eventually becomes pejorative because you're referring to something that's so codified and ritualized it ceases to have the power and meaning it had when it first started. --Christopher Nolan

Here's what we think we know about genre: it limits creativity. It binds artists to tried-and-true formulas and encourages derivative work. A creator must be free to follow her muse, unhindered by prescriptive rules. An artist working on a genre-bound project is like a caged bird. She can sing pretty songs, but don't expect her to go anywhere interesting.

Genres are agents of ideological closure; they limit the meaning-potential of a given text. --John Hartley, A Short History of Cultural Studies, 2003.

Artists aren't the only victims. As Hartley notes, genre may even limit our ability to interpret and respond as readers and viewers. We're constricted by formal conventions we're conditioned to ignore. When you can't see the walls anymore, you forget how small the room you're in actually is.

Some artists try hard to avoid genre influences on their work. Filmmaker and 5-time Oscar nominee Paul Mazursky once noted, "One thing I know is that I don't want to be a director for hire, making genre films. That would be death." Mazursky believed genre implied servitude, limiting personal vision and fomenting homogenized, focus-grouped entertainment.

So it's worth asking: what artist worth his salt would self-impose such constraints? Well, lots of artists, actually. Great ones.

Women in The Searchers

My name is John Ford, and I make Westerns. --John Ford, 1950

Lots of gifted artists have been drawn to genre because of its formulaic nature, and many of our greatest artistic treasures are clear expressions of genre inspiration. In fact, many artists routinely hailed as pioneers in their fields - Shakespeare, C├ęzanne, Virginia Woolf, Miles Davis, Akira Kurosawa - each demonstrated a keen awareness of genre and produced extraordinary work situated well within genre or other formal boundaries. These artists didn't steer clear of genre "limits." They embraced them.

Artists crave freedom, but most quickly learn that limits, even apparently harsh ones, can be more friend than enemy. In 1922, the great Russian director Stanislavski was invited to stage a production in America. He was asked how much rehearsal time he would require. "Six months," was Stanislavski's reply. Startled, the American producer informed him that it would be impossible to host (and pay) a visiting theater company to rehearse for that length of time. "Not a problem," replied Stanislavski, "Give me three weeks." The production was a triumph.

Sometimes a blank slate can be less inviting than a rough outline, especially to an artist who sees opportunity in an apparently moribund genre. When John Ford made Stagecoach in 1939, the Western was seen as a lifeless form mostly aimed at juvenile audiences. The lineage of post-Ford writers and directors drawn to the Western as a template for self-expression - Anthony Mann, Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, David Milch - suggests the "dead" Western springs back to life every decade or so whenever an artist comes along to imprint the form with his own personal vision.


Film Noir? I don't know. When I make a picture, I never classify it. I say 'this is a comedy' and I wait until the preview. If they laugh a lot, I say this is comedy ... A 'serious picture' or 'film noir,' I never heard that expression in those days. I just made pictures that I would have liked to see. --Billy Wilder

Sometimes an artist operates within the framework of genre without purposefully doing so. In the case of film noir - a genre with easily recognizable stylistic traits - it's worth noting that the term "film noir" was coined by critics years after these films were made. Noir progenitors like John Huston, Otto Preminger, and Raoul Walsh never arrived on a movie set to "make a noir picture." Rather, their work was inspired by a moral ambiguity brought on by a post-war malaise that found expression in noir form. Genre born from collective artistry, rather than a framework to contain it.


You put funny people in funny costumes and paint them green and we could talk about anything we wanted to, because that was the only thing that fascinated Gene (Roddenberry) about this particular genre. --Majel Barrett, actress/producer, Star Trek

A great paradox of creativity is that a wide-open possibility space can feel paralyzing, while a fixed set of constraints can liberate an artist to make inspired choices. Creative projects that succeed ask the right questions at their formative stages, and often these questions pertain to genre.

That's where video games come in. We read and hear a lot of talk lately about "broken" or "worn-out" genres. At this year's GDC, speaker after speaker bemoaned the state of an industry mired in me-too shooters devoid of new ideas. I don't disagree with that assessment, but the solution often proposed (stop making so many shooters) strikes me as similar to asking an impressionist to stop painting so many blurry trees. The problem isn't the form, but a lack of vision infusing the form with energy and life.

PortalPortal is a landmark game for several important reasons, but perhaps the most overlooked is that it repurposed FPS tropes and mechanics in service of its own cunning aesthetic. The player's "weapon" is a puzzle-solving tool essential for survival, but incapable of killing. Portal redefines the shooter while preserving most of its familiar attributes. Players with FPS skills will feel instantly at home playing Portal, but they will be reoriented to consider their experience differently than previous shooters. That's precisely what great artists do with genre. We see something familiar, but with a new set of eyes.

So why should we care about genre? Because it's a way for creators to communally explore an idea and a shorthand for the audience to help make sense of those new ideas. It's something that stretches across all matter of art forms, from impressionism in painting, to art deco in architecture to neoclassicism in sculpture. Simply, genre is one way design can explore and evolve ideas/styles rapidly. I'm certainly not going to prescribe that it's the only way, but it can be a tremendously effective one. --Nels Anderson, Lead Designer, Mark of the Ninja.

Into_pixel_03One recent game beautifully illustrates the power of genre to provoke shrewd thinking and artful design: Mark of the Ninja. Better than any game I can think of, MotN distilled the essence of its core genre (stealth), refined its best elements, jettisoned the superficials, and built a devilishly stylish player-centric world.

One (among many) seemingly simple design choice - limiting the consequences for failure - opened possibilities for the designers to be more playful with difficulty and offered players more enticements for experimentation...which led to greater replay value...which provoked more discussion among players...which added a competitive dimension to a solo-play game (especially in my house!). Big results from a deceptively small decision.

I suppose the best thing we can say about Mark of the Ninja is that it's perfectly situated in a tried-and-true game genre, AND that there is no game at all like Mark of the Ninja. Proof, it seems to me, of genre's best nature: boundaries that contain inspiration.

Note: If you'd like to know more about the story behind Mark of the Ninja's design, Nels has graciously shared the transcript and slides from his recent GDC talk. Chris Plante also wrote a feature piece on Klei Games (the studio behind MotN) for Polygon this week, and I highly recommend it.

Shooter apotheosis


Elizabeth: I can't believe you did that. They're all dead. You killed those people.
Booker: Elizabeth, I...
Elizabeth: You're a monster!
Booker: What did you think was going to happen?
                                                                                    --Bioshock Infinite 

Bioshock Infinite is a shooter with a problem, but the problem isn't the shooting. The problem is that Bioshock Infinite has nothing to say about the shooting. A game that earnestly tries to explore morality and personal responsibility ducks those questions by placing the player on a conveyor belt of hyper-violent sequences, shuttling the player from one narrative set-piece to the next. The shooting is what you do. The story is what you (mostly) hear. The two have little to do with each other.

The violence does have a function. Elizabeth realizes one demagogue is no less monstrous than another because she (and the player) witnesses the human toll of violence first-hand. Like both previous Bioshocks, Infinite guts empty ideologies that rationalize violence and unbridled power. No games portray "world gone wrong" better than the Bioshock series, plunging us into environments littered with loaded imagery: a defaced statue; a toppled champagne glass, a bloody surgical tool; a child's apparently innocent drawing. We taste brutality born from polluted ideas because these games make us navigate their debris. Whatever their limits, shooters like Bioshock, Fallout 3, and Metro 2033 can fly us directly into the eye of dystopia.

But as valiantly as it tries to explore social-political issues, Infinite is tethered to its mechanical nature as a shooter in ways that undermine its aspirations. It's possible to love the game for all it tries to do, but still feel smothered by its insistence that so much of our experience is delivered staring down the barrel of a gun or other deadly weapons. The issue isn't about being pro- or anti- shooter games; it's about how standard FPS design limits the narrative possibilities of a game that clearly aspires to dig deep. How might I have behaved, and how might I have reflected on Infinite's provocative world, had I not spent so much time shooting or avoiding being shot? The game's story isn't really about shooting at all, but the player's lived story is, and that collision is impossible to overcome.

I'll do my best to keep you supplied with remedies. --Elizabeth

LizMuch has been made of Elizabeth's role as a companion character. It's true that her story frames the narrative and delivers some punchy reveals along the way. But Elizabeth's primary function - her most direct impact on the player's lived experience in the game - is to keep him fed with ammo, scrounge for supplies, and open locked doors/portals.

Elizabeth's own needs (e.g. her desire to reconcile with her mother) are highlighted in Infinite as major dramatic events, but they rarely connect on an emotional level because the player's relationship with Elizabeth is constrained to physically protecting her through dozens of shootouts, ambushes and vessel upheavals. In between the gunplay sections, Elizabeth may share a fear or question Booker's motivations, but these moments feel no less mechanically triggered than the gunplay, and no less insulated from meaningful player response.

Ironically, when Booker points his gun at Elizabeth, she admonishes him to "Put that away." I yearned to respond "If only I could, my dear." In fact, the player has no authority over Booker's gun, aside from firing it. There is no option to holster it. This leads to moments of absurdity, such as when a mother and daughter stare at me blithely as I approach them, gun drawn and ready to fire.

I can behave no other way because Bioshock Infinite is resolutely a shooter, which is a fine thing to be, but I must surrender any illusion that I matter in this world. The game decides where and when Booker draws his weapon and when he puts it away. My only important job is to aim and shoot. Practically and experientially, I'm more gun than man, even when I'm not shooting.

When the shooting resumes, Elizabeth waits in the wings until bullets or salt run low. "You need this!" she yells, tossing Booker a magazine of ammo. "Much obliged!" he replies. When the shooting pauses and our enemies are properly mutilated, we'll pick up the conversation where we left off.

ComstockstatueInfinite delivers characters and drama like Epcot presents world culture. In lieu of dramaturgy, Infinite showcases its characters and themes through shorthand devices (signage, memorial engravings, diaries, confessional audio logs, etc.). These essentially function as narrative dumps, sketching out a handful of key points about each place, person, or conflict for the player's convenience.

Loudspeaker propaganda stands in for philosophy, and binary ideologies divide everyone into groups locked in antagonistic conflict. Columbia is a fun-house depiction of a broken society, which makes the player's travelogue through it feel sumptuous and memorable, if not especially meaningful.

It's as if Bioshock Infinite's creators have kept the full renderings of these characters to themselves, and we're left to peer at sketches through layers of production. This is a common problem for playwrights and screenwriters. Sometimes a writer knows so much that he forgets his audience knows so little.

Despite my misgivings, the team at Irrational probably exceeded any reasonable expectation, embedding a crafted narrative inside a game that's mostly about shooting things. The nearly uniform praise the game has received suggests I'm on the outside looking in with my critique. Maybe this game really is convincing proof (I'm reminded here that Far Cry 2 didn't sell) of the "true power of the medium to engage and inspire us." Perhaps it truly is "a breathtaking achievement in videogame storytelling."

I have a feeling that Bioshock Infinite will finally be seen as the apotheosis of the FPS genre, a culminating achievement that signals both a peak and an end. I'm sure other designers will take their shots, and I wish them well, but it's impossible for me to read quotes like the ones above without amending them in my head with "...for a shooter." That doesn't mean shooters are empty experiences. Not at all. It simply means that staring down the barrel of a gun as a default point of view may not leave your possibility space wide open.

Every genre has conventions that limit and liberate, and artists inevitably breathe new life into old forms. But I can't help wondering how much longer we'll mistake being a gun for being a person.

Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 41

Kirk   Brett

This is the final episode in my series of conversations about the State of Games. I encourage you to listen to the first three shows featuring a variety of smart and thoughtful guests.

In this edition I talk with Kirk Hamilton, features editor at Kotaku, and Brett Douville, Lead Programmer at Bethesda Game Studios.We discuss the impact of indie games on AAA developers, "Anita and the cesspool," and why now is the best of all possible times to be a gamer...among many other topics. 

I hope you enjoy.

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Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 40

TomThis is the third in a series of conversations I'm hosting on the State of Games. I encourage you to listen to the first two episodes and stay tuned for the final installment which will appear in the coming days.

In this edition I talk with Tom Bissell, essayist, critic, and most recently script-writer for the new Gears of War: Judgment game. We discuss writing for games, the perils of Metacritic, the future of storytelling in games, and many other topics. 

I hope you enjoy.

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Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 39

Chris-s       Steve

This is the second in a short series of conversations I'm hosting on the State of Games. I encourage you to listen to the first episode and stay tuned for the final two which will appear in the coming days.

In this edition I talk with Chris Suellentrop, video game critic for the New York Times, and Steve Gaynor of the Fullbright Company, an indie game studio developing Gone Home, a finalist for the Excellence in Narrative award at the Indpendent Games Festival later this month. We discuss the transitional state of the game industry, the relationship of the critic to the designer, and the need for a proper festival for games ala Sundance, among other topics. 

I hope you enjoy.

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Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 38

Leigh     Brendan

This is the first of several round-table conversations I'm hosting on the State of Games, an admittedly unwieldy topic, but well-timed, I think, in this transitional period for games and the game industry.

In this edition I talk with Leigh Alexander and Brendan Keogh, two of the leading critical voices examining games and the culture surrounding them. We discuss the "ecology of games," play as communication, the culture wars, and why we need to "talk about the tree," among other topics. 

I hope you enjoy.

  • Listen to any episode of the podcast directly from this page by clicking the yellow "Listen Now" button on the right.
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