"Don't be a dick." That simple notion is the first of Victor Lucas' 3D rules. The others? Don't dick around and don't hang out with dicks. Some would lead you to believe the games press is filled with dicks. It's not. With this in mind, I seek out the best games writing - from news to interviews to reviews and beyond - and highlight it here.

Theme by Andy Taylor, modified by Aaron Hudspeth.

 

More Xbox One Talk

That newfangled Xbawks has sure been taking a beating, but it’s particularly easy prey, given the ludicrous costs to the consumer (and they’re more than monetary). But it does take a master to present the arguments as to why Microsoft is failing here. Rob Fahey and John Teti do well.

Read: The Xbox One Question: Why Did Microsoft Do It?

Why did Microsoft do what? Shoot itself in the foot, basically, with those, uh, features it has on Xbox One. Here’s part of why:

The first is that people are already familiar with the idea of licensing over ownership…This focus on technicalities to the exclusion of a broad understanding of a wider picture that includes complicating factors like sentiment and public opinion is a common flaw in the games business, as well as being easy to identify in other parts of the technology and entertainment businesses.

Read: Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?

A little different, this take, saying Microsoft is misguided in their marketing.

“Talking to us” is an exception to the rule at Microsoft’s Xbox events. Their default mode is to address a demographic caricature who was born in a marketeer’s binder. That caricature, as far as I can tell, begins with a 20-something white male who only loves to shoot at things, except he also thinks magic knights are cool, just not as cool as the shooting. Plenty of those people exist, but the other thing about Mr. Demographic is that he just fell off the turnip truck.

This article has some other gems in it, too, including why bugs and issues at these events mean so much to us.

Watch: Official PlayStation Used Games Instructional Video

Because you need to.

The E3 Chronicles

Some negative commentary (with positive spin) on E3 compiled. Two common threads—sexism and violence—emerge here just as they do in gaming at large. It’s predictable that E3 prompts these conversations, but it’s not going to go away. Sooooooo…

Kuchera, Ben. "Banning E3 booth babes isn’t good manners, it’s good business." (The PA Report: June 13, 2012) <http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/banning-e3-booth-babes-isnt-good-manners-its-good-business>.

The amount of female flesh on display before you even enter the show floor was impressive, and impossible to miss.

The message it sends is clear: This is a show for men, with advertising, promotions, and booth design aimed at grabbing male eyes.

Williams, Katie. “I Can Be Just As Capable. Let Me." (Kotaku AU: June 18, 2012) <http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/06/513794/>.

Katie talks about the issues she faced at E3—where she wasn’t treated as an equal:

It continued to happen through the next few days of E3. Upon checking into a booth, I would often be asked by the PR rep whether I wanted someone to play my “hands-on” demo for me. During booth tours, I would more often than not be guided towards the Facebook games. Following demonstrations, I was often offered fact sheets just in case I didn’t “understand”. People would regularly take note of the publications listed on my badge and say, “But you don’t really play, right?” I was assumed to be eye candy, the pretty face of a publication whose content was provided by people with actual talent. Every time I protested, the offender would say — as if it were a proven fact — “Well, girls aren’t usually into this stuff, you know.”

Then there’s the violence…

Handrahan, Matthew. “A History of Violence: So Where Do We Go From Here?" (GamesIndustry.biz: June 12, 2012) <http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-06-11-a-history-of-violence-so-where-do-we-go-from-here>.

Violence has been a selling-point in games for as long as I can remember. I’m not so naive that I expect that to change, and I accept that others may see things differently, but I can’t recall a time when it felt so dominant, so unapologetically central to how these companies see their audience and judge the value of their products.

This was never more clear than during than  during the climactic demonstration of The Last of Us at the Sony conference.

Boone, Steven. “The Last of Us, and other video games that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination”. (Capital New York: June 20, 2012) < http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/culture/2012/06/6026394/last-us-and-other-video-games-leave-absolutely-nothing-imagination >.

Steven Boone compares videogame themes as they stack up to film. It’s an interesting analysis…

2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the second highest-selling video game of all-time in the U.S., was in many ways the Dark Knight of gaming. It solidified an ongoing franchise while exploring themes of terrorism and reprisal from the point of view of American protectors working Dick Cheney’s “dark side” to produce results. As Seth Seichel wrote in New York Times review of the game, “Basically, the player, in the guise of an American commando, can participate in a massacre of unarmed civilians. ‘It will cost you a piece of yourself,’ your commander says of the mission. ‘It will cost nothing compared to everything you’ll save.’”  

And finally, a chap that ignored E3.

Holmes, Dylan. “Why I Ignored E3" (Nightmare Mode: June 11, 2012) < http://nightmaremode.net/2012/06/why-i-ignored-e3-19796/ >.

 Most conversations in the gaming community take place about games that have yet to come out, and if you don’t follow the trending news, you won’t be able to participate in these dialogs. I think this is the chief reason why gamers flock to E3: it’s the most-watched event in the industry, and discussions of the games revealed and debates about the “biggest trends” of the show will dominate gaming websites and Facebook alike for weeks to come…

[T]his year, I chose to sacrifice the conversation.

Rob Fahey Wants Debate, Not Petty Arguments

There are debates aplenty when it comes to videogames. Sexism is the hot button topic now, though, and there are plenty squabbling on both sides. “Straw man” arguments are often used to defend games that face issues of sexism and racism, and this is disappointing.

Can’t we act like adults?

The bulk of the rapid responses which have defended the Hitman trailer are complete straw man arguments. They defend things which are not being attacked, arguing for the right to include sexy women in trailers (which is a bit tiresome but not the issue here), the right to include violence against women in games (which again, isn’t the issue here) or simple arguments from the standpoint of freedom of expression (again, absolutely not the issue - nobody says Square Enix shouldn’t be allowed to make a trailer like this, just that they should have more sense). Absolutely none of the responses that I have seen have actually addressed the issues being raised.

Either those responding simply don’t understand the issue as it’s being presented, or they understand that the real nub of this matter is something quite indefensible, and that the best way to defend it is by distraction and whataboutery.

(Emphasis mine).

Fahey, Rob. “Can’t We Discuss This Like Adults?” (GamesIndustry.biz: May 31, 2012) <http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-05-31-cant-we-discuss-this-like-adults>.

Thanks Jamie!

On Hirai's First Test

Rob Fahey examines new Sony CEO Kaz Hirai’s position…and what it will mean for him in coming weeks, months, and years. Will Sony soar again? Will it crash and burn? Who knows.

I don’t think it’s right, though, to be too disappointed by Hirai’s failure to stand up to that inertia and rapidly divest the TV business. There’s no question that he’s going to have to take some incredibly tough stands against Sony’s elder statesmen if he’s going to turn around the company - and he’s going to have to seriously challenge much of the company’s corporate culture if he’s to rescue it from itself. Picking such a major fight within weeks of his accession, however, wouldn’t be a good move. Hirai needs to move his pieces into place carefully, and in that regard one could argue that he did a pretty good job on Thursday.

Fahey, Rob. “Hirai’s First Test” (GamesIndustry.biz: April 13, 2012) <http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-04-13-hirais-first-test>.

Future Proof: HTML5, Native Client and the Battle for the Browser

I’ve been following HTML5’s growth for some time — I’m quite optimistic about it. Matthew Handrahan explains why in his opening:

In that respect, the promise of HTML5 is a sort of Holy Grail: game experiences once only available through native apps and plug-ins, now achievable seamlessly through the browser on any device that can support one - mobile, PC, tablet, smart TVs, you name it. Write a game once, take it anywhere.

Grant Goodale, a developer, comments on the costs associated with development:

"Then along came the web and Flash, and we thought, ‘Oh great, we’re free. We can publish our games anywhere we like. We’re free of this tax to just put out a game. And then the web became Facebook, and all of a sudden it’s a 30 per cent tax on everything that happens."

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. There are downfalls to HTML5, and there are competitors. If you want to find out more, this is as good a read on the subject as any…maybe even the best.

Handrahan, Matthew. “Future Proof: HTML5, Native Client and the Battle for the Browser” (GamesIndustry.biz: March 23, 2012) <http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-03-23-future-proof-html5-native-client-and-the-battle-for-the-browser>.

The Best Stories You Can't Read

I thoroughly enjoyed the comparison in this piece between videogames and amusement park rides. We don’t really think about the storytelling going on at places like Disneyland, but there seems to be more thought put into these rides than I’d initially thought. It’s the type of insight that, of course, comes from someone on the dev side:

[A]s you move through the queue [of “Star Tours”], you see that you are in the docking area of a spaceport. You see laser scorching on the side of a ship, hear the droids talking about how the ships are breaking down, and all of the dialogue and actions are deliberately humorous. You know from simple observation that this ride is going to feature some wacky hi-jinks…Story mood, tone and foreshadowing can be conveyed through audio environment, visual design and smart use of images. The less that a player needs to actually read, the better.

Plotetcher, Matt. “The Best Stories You Can’t Read” (GamesIndustry.biz: March 20, 2012) <http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-03-20-the-best-stories-you-cant-read>.

Thanks Jamie!

Dark Horse: The Secret of Skylanders' Success

Skylanders surprised many with its release. Not only was the emphasis less on Spyro than a new cast of characters, but the emphasis was also less on longtime fans and instead on introducing the character to a new generation. Here’s just a little on that:

Among those plastic carcasses are more than a few unloved Guitar Hero instruments and unopened Tony Hawk: RIDE skateboards. Activision has sailed these waters before, and returned with only diminishing sales and, in RIDE, its most high-profile failure of recent years. The difference with Skylanders, Ness argues, is its focus: Activision may be a game publisher and Toys For Bob may be a game developer, but the popularity of Skylanders is all about the toys.

"Skylanders is bringing your toys to life," he says. "A lot of ideas as we were making the game got scrapped because they didn’t fit into that - making the toys come first.

Handrahan, Matthew. “Dark Horse: The Secret of Skylanders’ Success” (GamesIndustry.biz: March 12, 2012) <http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-03-12-dark-horse-the-secrets-of-skylanders-success>.