Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Tough Love: Left 4 Criticism

Left 4 Dead 2 came out and I all but dropped every other game for it. Was it worth the not insignificant cash outlay to obtain, plus the effort to get the uncensored international version? I think so. Does that mean it’s immune to the infinite gaze of The Critic? I think not.

The first thing I noticed about the new introductory video for Left 4 Dead 2 was that it did not do the same job as the one present in the first game. That video introduced not only the characters of the game to new players, but also began the process of familiarisation with the game mechanics. Virtually every important aspect of the game for a new player to get accustomed to is demonstrated in those first few minutes. The individual weapons; the need to melee infected away from players; what each special infected does; how tanks attack, and what to do to stay away from witches – these are all subtly introduced to players through the intro video. Even pulling up survivors that have fallen off buildings is covered. In contrast, the L4D2 video, while full of sound and fury, introduces the new aspects of the game not nearly as well and doesn’t cover some of the more critical additions.

In fact, the crux of my criticism of the newest incarnation of Left 4 Dead boils down to the fact that, in many cases, it just isn’t up to the usual valve standard of passively and actively teaching players about the game. For the longest time I ignored melee weapons because when I first used them (on the opening level of Dead Centre, naturally) I couldn’t work out how to best use them while avoiding taking damage from zombies – so I went back to what I knew how to use, which was pistols.

In this, the very first level of the first campaign, players don’t start with a primary weapon, so any choice to use a melee weapon comes at the expense of a pistol and any way of, say, shooting a smoker off of a target barring actual physical attack on either the smoker or the ensnared player. By forcing a choice of pistol or a melee weapon on players, valve do not make it easy for new players to best learn how to use melee weapons. It took another player using melee weapons to great effect in versus mode for me to fully appreciate the value of melee weapons. It’s wasn’t completely obvious to me, because at first it would seem the advantage to a melee weapon is in not having to worry about ammo, but pistols already have unlimited ammo, so the real advantage actually lies in not having a timer on melee attacks. Add to that the crucial addition that it also kills infected rather than simply push them back and you've got a real reason to drop that shiny 1-hit-KO desert eagle for a cricket bat or machete.

Another aspect that wasn’t introduced well was the special ammo types, being the incendiary and explosive rounds. The way they work currently they use up the slot shared by a medkit or defibrillator in a player’s inventory, which invites comparisons to the important role played by the medkit. Health is worth its weight in gold in Left 4 Dead, particularly in competitive game modes, so when first presented with an offensive item to replace the spot of heath; my immediate reaction was “Why in the hell would I want that?” By placing it in the same inventory slot as the medkit, Valve are saying this could be worth the health you are forgoing if used right, which is both counter intuitive and runs counter to my own experience, in which it has never been the case.

While I similarly rejected adrenaline initially for its low health boost compared to pills, it’s come to be my preferred item for that slot. Similar to the above case however, there is just nothing outside of a loading screen tip and perhaps a brief onscreen mention that explains the primary benefit of adrenaline, in that it gives you not only a movement speed boost but increases the speed of all your actions by a significant percentage. Used judiciously, an adrenaline shot can be the difference between life and group death, particularly in one of the new crescendo events. Many of these require that an object be reached and switched off to stop the ravening hordes and for these events adrenaline is a significant boon - but again, that’s never satisfactorily explained, and it is left up to players to learn through trial and error or by observing other players (often in many cases only by having it used against them).

Another example of the reliance on ‘trial and error’ for teaching players is seen in the game's treatment of the new weapons – looking at them all it’s impossible to tell which ones are “better” than others, so players have to try them all until they find which ones work best. In the original game it was quite clear which weapons were better, as there was a very limited selection of them and the “tier 2” weapons as they came to be known were clearly improved versions of the starting weapons available at the start of every level. Perhaps this clarity in weapon hierarchy was merely a result of the simplicity of the original game, but simplicity can be a virtue. Faced with too many choices, from experience, I know that people tend to stick with what they know.

A similar level of “decision overload” occurred to me when first playing Left 4 Dead 2 as the amount of on screen activity, coupled with the engorged dismemberment and plethora of viscera, resulted in a visual overload. The signal to noise ratio needed getting used to, coming from the decidedly clean and sparse levels of the original game. This could go either way, as either praise or criticism, and I’ve certainly acclimated to the new levels of visual activity by now. But still, even for as big a fan of the original as I, it was quite the learning curve.

Lastly on my list of gripes, and my major concern, is the four new characters. This is entering the realms of personal preference and taste, but to me it seems that Nick, Ellis, Rochelle and Coach aren’t as memorable as the original quartet. Perhaps it’s because they are less obvious archetypes. Coach seems the closest to a recognisable archetype and for his larger-than-life personality he remains my personal favourite. Nick and Ellis both feel too similar – Nick, I know from the pre-release publicity, is ostensibly a conman but he’s much too nice and average. That aspect of his character is struggling to shine through, however and the only quote of his that has stood out for me is most revealing of that aspect of his character.

In a game recently I heard him admonish someone for shooting him, saying “You did not just shoot the man in the three-thousand dollar suit!” Nick needs to be talking about his suit way more, and Ellis needs something to give his character a similar focus. Valve has said that they wanted him to be “southern” and innocent and naive, while avoiding representing him as a stereotypical hick. While this effort is laudable for wanting to portray southern American culture in a mature light, I wonder if the character suffers for it.

Perhaps Nick’s character too suffers for being in a game as devoted to cooperation as Left 4 Dead 2. Thinking on it, it's possible that a sharkskin-suited conman could still be an appropriate character for L4D, as he could easily be cast as The Reluctant Help, much like Francis in the original. Francis was a grouch, but he was a lovable grouch, and it was always communicated that his character had your back. But how does one pull off “the lovable conman?” I guess what I’m suggesting is that Nick is not wisecracking enough for it; he’s not even sarcastic enough.

I’m probably being a little unfair on Valve here, but I think it’s actually a bit of a shame that they used up their most memorable characters on the first Left 4 Dead game. Unless L4D2 is surpassed by a third game in another year’s time (yeah right) I hazard a guess most will still be playing the second game and not the first come this same season in 2010.

It might seem from all the above like I preferred the first game to the second, having tragically fallen into the “I liked their old stuff better than their new stuff” cliché, but that’s not quite accurate. I really like Left 4 Dead 2, but it’s a functional kind of like. It’s the same kind of like as one gets for Season 2 of The Wire – it’s great that there’s more of it, but it’s not exactly what I wanted. I don’t like it for quite the same reasons I liked the original (with one notable exception, but more on that another time).

The new explicitly linked campaign narratives also fail to live up to the ‘memorability’ test, and while there are a great number of excellent set-pieces very little left me saying ‘this is like nothing I’ve ever seen before’. And that was how I felt about every single campaign of the original on first playing. Take that with a grain of salt perhaps if only to offset the nostalgia and originality of the underlying mechanics, but even so I feel the decision to explicitly link the new campaigns chronologically was unnecessary. Like all well told stories, there will be gaps in which not much happens, and they get omitted. With everything now spelt out from beginning to end and the dots all lined up and connected for us, I feel like it was a misstep.

I’m still pleased with the L4D2 campaigns, but there was something uniquely fascinating in trying to piece together the story of everything happening around you – and even to you – in the original game. This sense of a mystery to uncover has been diminished in the sequel, and that goes hand-in-glove with a lessened sense that the graffiti on the walls of safehouses is part of uncovering the mystery. I’ve looked deliberately at a number of them, but from what I have seen they have retained little of the charm of the original – notably absent are any of the pithy one-liners such as “I miss the internet” from the first game, gone too are the scribbled out notes that tell tales of ongoing discovery by previous survivors.

Still! It’s early days for the game and some of these issues may yet get ironed out. Heck, play versus for long enough and half of these complaints disappear simply because you’ll see all the tricks, all the tactics clever players have already devised and you won’t need teaching. The issue of memorable characters however remains my biggest worry. The new quartet has a lot to live up to, and perhaps that’s the biggest problem – the previous ones were so good. So good in fact, they spawned memes. How can Coach, Rochelle, Nick and Ellis possibly live up to that?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Digital Archaeology; OR, A personal history of embarrasing comments

So I had this weird idea the other week. I wanted to go back and look at (read: poke fun at) some of the really old comments I’d left on Michael Abbott’s blog The Brainy Gamer. Follow the digital paper trail, as it were - do some digital archaeology. It’s interesting because it’s a piece of my personal history as a games-writer of varying description and it’s there for all to see.

I got my start at forming and articulating something resembling a cogent opinion on things related to games in those early, heady comment threads back in late 2007. Going back through them, the seeds of the author I've grown into are all present in those comments and it’s revealing to see those beginnings and following the threads back to the present day.

As an exercise in seeing what posts by Michael captured my attention enough to provoke a response, it can also somewhat acts as a tour guide for those that weren’t around at the very beginning of The Brainy Gamer. For a long, long time I read every single thing that Michael Abbott posted on TBG and while I still pay very close attention to everything he posts, I get the feeling it’s become increasingly difficult for him to come up with a steady stream of posts that, to my mind at least, for a while captured the essence of games criticism and discussion. He wasn't just capturing the zeitgeist, he was the zeitgeist. Being on sabbatical and having the time to devote to the blog probably played a big part in what I have come to think of as ‘the golden era’ of The Brainy Gamer. Every post was new ground, every idea was fresh, yet fully formed.

Anyway, onto the somewhat awkward comments that I posted on The Brainy Gamer in the heady days of late 2007 – here displayed in chronological order, from first to last, every single comment I ever posted on a Brainy Gamer post in 2007 (yes, I checked them all) copied and pasted, including time stamp. Please consider following the links back to the original post to see other gems and the original post that inspired me so.

A post called ‘Girls Play Games’ wasn’t the first post I ever read at TBG, but it was the first I ever commented on and here’s what I said,

Ben Abraham said...

Brilliantly put! I'm so tired of other guys who think that they have some God given right to comment away on issues that (lets face it guys) we really have very little of anything new to say about.

Lets toss the discussion over to some people who actually have some knowledge or experience in the area of girl gamers.

Thank you for such a well-rounded informative post!

October 16, 2007 at 02:04 AM

It’s an interesting comment from myself, and looking back on some more recent events I wonder if I shouldn’t have just stopped there and quit while I was ahead. Note that the hyperlink on my name links to my (now very long abandoned) Myspace music page. At this point SLRC was just a twinkle in my eye. Another interesting thing to turn up in the comments section of this article is a link to an Iris Network Directory of women videogame bloggers. It seems crazy to me that I didn’t know this existed until I found it again here, despite it once being in the very same comments thread as myself.

Moving on – the next post I commented on was ‘In praise of empathy and good teaching’ which was a look at Half-Life 2 and how Valve subtly teach the player about the game world without a tutorial. A million-and-one people have made this point since, but Michael was one of the first, making it all the way back in 2007. To call him a game criticism pioneer doesn’t even come close to doing him justice. In the comments,

Ben Abraham said...


This is a really insightful analysis of an element of HL2 I've never really thought about before... If you don't mind, I'm bookmarking this article for reference in my honours thesis next year.

October 20, 2007 at 03:58 AM

It didn’t get directly references in the thesis I completed almost 10 days shy of one year to the date of that comment, but it was at the very least played a part in shaping my thinking about games. The next post to attract the dubious honour of a comment from Ben Abraham was ‘Zelda, Meet John Ford’ which introduced readers to Abbott’s love of cinema and the western. Here’s how I responded.

Ben Abraham said...

Yeah, bad idea. Wouldn't want games to become too much like a movie now would we? :P Now... who mentioned something like that just recently...?

Now, if you WERE going to turn a movie into a game, you'd have to pick a David Lean film. I mean, Lawrence of Arabia or Dr Zhivago MMO anyone? I'd love to faction grind the Arabs to get them to attack Aquaba!!! Now THAT'S EPIC! :p

October 31, 2007 at 06:33 AM

My comment, in hindsight, feels like someone else speaking out from across the ages – am I really advocating that games should be more like movies? And if so, in what regard? I hazard a guess that it was in regards to videogames treatment of serious fare, which, FYI, many games still aren’t all that crash hot on. However we’ve seen a bit of movement in that direction from the indie game sector, so don’t colour me completely disappointed. Also – I’d still totally play any videogame that managed to capture the essence of a David Lean epic.

The next post to receive my attention was ‘Are game reviews culturally biased?’ to which I deigned to respond to someone called ‘Simon’ who posted a comment before me.

Ben Abraham said...

Hi Simon and Michael,

Simon said:

"The only thing a reviewer can be certain of and speak with any genuine authority on is how a game affects him/her and him/her alone."

This we know to be true, because we agree that opinions and tastes are subjective - BUT if we accept this, then reject the entire notion of a review (and particularly score based reviews) entirely, as any score the reviewer would give are entirely different from a score you would give.

Okay, I see the point that we find reviewers that share similar tastes to us, but the key is that they are *similar* not the same, so again, any judgment that the review would pass wouldn't automagically be at all relevant to us.

That said, there is obviously a place for review if for no other reason than because people want it - they don't want to trust the publisher / developer that their game is more worth their $120 (and yes, here in Australia that is the RRP of a new release Xbox 360 title), so we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water.

November 06, 2007 at 07:15 PM

Look, look! The SLRC URL finally makes its appearance in the hyperlink on my name! I doubt I had anything useful to say as yet, since my first ever post worth reading was the April ’08 entry into the Blogs of the Round Table, but still. The seeds were well and truly sown. The comment also displays my early reliance on the subjective nature of experience as a focal point for much of my thinking and writing, a trend that continues to this day. New Games Journalism didn’t know it yet, but I was coming for it and I wanted it bad.

My next Brainy Gamer comment was on a post Abbott wrote about the ultimately forgettable Blacksite: Area 51. In a post called ‘Blacksite: Where's my subversion?’ Abbott asks where the much touted ‘subversive’ part of the game was to be found, and laments its notable absence. I weigh in with my two cents,

Ben Abraham said...

Gamasutra had an interview with the guys from Army of Two just a little while before the Blacksite interview came out. THAT game has my hopes for the kind of politically aware shooter that you have in mind. Although I fear it could easily go the same way... I desperately hope not. We've got enough shooters, how about some morally interesting/challenging ones?!

Thanks for they update on Blacksite, as well. I was as intrigued as you, but I know I'm probably never going to get the chance to play it. Now I know I don't have to.

November 16, 2007 at 10:07 PM

And as far as prescient statements go, that one was pretty spot on – I never played Blacksite and Army of Two came and went without getting my dollars. I did however go looking for a video of Blacksite on Youtube and it really did look like it belonged in 2007.

In ‘Face time with Mass Effect’ Abbott notes that he wants to try and experience the game sans-pre-release hype. He also notes that his theatre background makes him particularly interested in how the acting and dialogue is handled. I added,

Ben Abraham said...

Michael said

"My training is in the theatre, so I come to video games with a strong predilection for vivid characters and well-told stories."

And yet... you don't think games should become more like movies. Okay, fair call that telling a good story doesn't automatically make it a movie, but I still think that it's interesting.

Don't get me wrong though, the more I think about it and the more I read about it, the less and less I want games to try and become cinematic. I also think that comparing them to movies, and analysing them in cinematic terms does games a disservice, so I guess I'm just playing Devils advocate here.

It's an interesting question that George poses too... how to tell a story with a lousy actor. I guess there's plenty of other ways to do it in film, though - camera angles and stuff. Hmmm. I dunno. Just thinking out loud.

Happy holiday season (as it apparently is for you Northern Hemisphere folks).

- Ben.

November 23, 2007 at 07:19 AM

What was I smoking in November of 2007? Did I really want games to become more cinematic? Did I even know what that implied? Or was I perhaps envisioning something like the more recent Call of Duty games or Uncharted 2 with their sweeping set pieces and roller-coaster ride experience? It’s quite amazing how much my taste in games has changed since November 23, 2007. That’s almost two years yet it feels like no time at all. At least I was showing signs of progress towards seeing that games are not like movies.

The next comment was on a post interestingly titled ‘Mass Effect: The game that wanted to be a movie’. Now what would Ben-Abraham-who-wants-games-to-be-movies have to say about this, given his predilection for cinematic game experiences? Funnily enough, nothing about the actual merit of Mass Effect’s cinematic approach, rather I chose to read far, far too deeply into the relationship between blank, unresponsive on screen avatars and blank, unresponsive gamers. Quoth myself,

Ben Abraham said...

Try this for a second. Think about how the camera and Shepherds actions, about what Duncan mentioned, lack any "reaction shots" and how everyone stands there passively swaying a bit - doesn't that seem to mirror *very* closely what we the actual PLAYERS are doing? That seems significant to me.

I wonder if this could possibly be why we can generally accept this kind of action from 'our avatar' - because we are doing essentially the same thing.

Think about it, we never really let out an audible gasp when a 'shocking plot twist'(TM) is revealed in a game, do we? Or maybe you have, but I know I've never had this kind of experience. I'm not really sure what kind of an implication this would have on the cinematic/non-cinematic debate, but maybe it represents a different type of engagement with the medium from film. (Seems self-evident perhaps, but then again, plenty of game designers seem to be arguing the opposite) For example, movies can make us jump in our seats and they can make us cry, which no video or computer game has ever done to me before.

*sigh* It could come down to simply being in the same room as a 50 other people all sharing the same/a similar experience, but I think that I could go on forever about this and I've got to end my comment somewhere... might as well be here.

Oh, and also, thanks a bunch Michael for taking the time (just about ever time) to answer and respond to our comments! Not every blogger does so, and it sets you apart! Here's hoping you never get swamped with a billion commenters... then again... you might like that. :)

November 25, 2007 at 07:34 AM

I certainly ask readers of my comment to ‘think about it’ a lot. I wonder what that said about me at the time. Think about it.

No really – please do. I assert that I’d “never really let out an audible gasp when a 'shocking plot twist' [was] revealed”, which was probably true at the time. But have I since? I rather like to think that I very well may have, but whether that’s to do with games actually improving or my choice to engage with games improving I have no idea. It’s certainly something that writing the Permanent Death story has forced me to think about – is Far Cry 2 the greatest game ever or is it just because I made it that way with my own efforts and attentions? And does it even matter? Also: note to self, if I ever use “maybe you have, but I haven’t” again in a sentence take it as a sign that I should probably stop talking from inexperience.

All these questions must remain unanswered for the time being, because it’s time to move onto the next comment, which as it turns out is about “listening to artists talk about their work”. In ‘That one big idea’ Abbott highlights how Super Mario Galaxy creator Yoshiaki Koizumi talks about one simple idea influencing the game in a profound way.

Ben Abraham said...

Wow. What a simple idea. And yet, so profound. If you think about it, the concept of a "flat" world is pretty foreign and artificial to us, as we ourselves inhabit a spherical world, and there are no walls to run into.

Neat stuff Michael, thanks for posting.

December 05, 2007 at 08:17 AM

The flat/round distinction is an interesting one and I wish I had a Wii to play Super Mario Galaxy on and experience first hand.

Next on our merry trip through time we come to a post about the general lack of original stories in games. In the plainly enough titled ‘we need new stories’ Abbott suggests some non-standard stories that game makers could use to avoid the Space Marine / Fantasy / Apocalypse tropes. Mostly it just boils down to games exploring stories about people other than hulking space men, but the comments thread takes off, running long and deep.

Ben Abraham said...

This is a long argument, so I'll try and keep mine input short,

I agree with Chris and Michael. If game dev's want their games to be taken seriously as an art form, then geeze, they bloody well had better get cracking on working to expand what their audiences expect from games. And the only way that I can see that happening is to make some mistakes while they experiment and do things exactly like Michael said.

I also wonder as to why you have made the arbitrary distinction between 'indie' developers and 'propper' developers, Simon. I just don't get it. Sure there are differences in team size, budget, etcetera, but they are both making games, right?

To bring it back to the original argument, that we should be encouraging the game development community to try telling some different stories, I would only like to say that I wholeheartedly agree that the current imbalance in storytelling is detrimental, but it probably will straighten itself out. I'm not an expert on art history, but I believe that with most new media forms, like film and television (and dare I include novels too? Perhaps turn of the 19th century Sci-Fi pulp novels, ala Jules Verne) that one success tends to send off a frenzy of copying and imitation. However I thing that, over time, it evens out. Here's to hoping that the gaming community matures as well (as we certainly are doing) and wakes up to the situation.

Up until recently Rock Paper Shotgun were saying on their 'Hey, developers!' page that the "Chance of the next annoinced MMO not having Elves: 3.062%" or something similar. :)

December 11, 2007 at 08:33 PM

Who is this contentious Simon fellow and where ever did he go? I’m presuming it’s not the same Simon as Simon Ferrari, but if it was that would be cool (let me know, eh Simon?). There was never a hyperlink in said persons’ name, so it’s entirely possible we may never know. I’m a bit yucked out by all those spelling mistakes; sadly I don’t think I’ll ever completely get beyond making those. Other things of note in the above comment: My love for Rock, Paper, Shotgun remains unabated to this day, in addition to being still just as interested in making future predictions based on past experience.

Next we actually have another comment on the same post – I would hazard a guess that it was one of the very first lengthy comments conversations on The Brainy Gamer. Somehow, everyone else gives up before I do and I pipe up at the end of it all with this comment,

Ben Abraham said...

Gosh this post is getting a lot of comments. And it's getting one more.

As to what Chris Stubbs said about emotion driving the games of the future, I can't help but wonder if current attitudes towards emotion are rather underdeveloped in the industry. Emotion is not simply an action/reaction response. We generally are quite unable to predict how one person will emotionally respond to something. Case in point being music. While we can make distinctions about the 'mood' of a piece, i.e. whether it is upbeat, sobmre, etc, we have no definite way of knowing how a person will emotionally respond to that mood, other than by projecting based on how we respond (a rather hit and miss kind of method).

The relatively young field of music therapy has established a general pattern, however, that if music 'meets us where we are at' emotionally, then once it has our attention, it can take us in to new places. The primary way that this is applied in music therapy is to calm down over excited patients, many of who have mental disabilities prohibiting normal verbal communication.

How would one apply this idea to gaming? I would propose that a game that wants to 'emotionally' reach me, would need to be able to somehow establish where I am 'at' before I could be taken anywhere, emotionally. At the moment, I think we have to put ourselves into the position that the game is assuming we are going to be in, and I would like to see that change.

Example 1: Valve's player monitoring stuff - they have the technology built in to examine how well or not we are playing a game - why not do things like dynamically change the pacing of the game according to our performance. Change the music, lighting or other aspects, depending on time of day. And that's not taking into account any kind of actual biofeedback systems such as pulse rate monitoring or anything. We can do so much better!

December 14, 2007 at 09:05 AM

Wow, I’m bringing music therapy into a discussion about emotion in games? Way to go 2007 self. Notice how my staunch belief in the subjective nature of experience rears its head once again. In hindsight, I can kind of see an unmentioned third approach to engaging player emotions – that the player chooses to engage and makes it so. Is it enough, however, to reach the theoretical heights of complete emotional involvement? Probably not, but either way I don’t think it happens without it, so it’s a bit of a conundrum.

The same day as the above, I also commented on a piece called ‘In search of narrative, character, and empathy’ which was an announcement that Michael was going to replay A Mind Forever Voyaging and Planescape Torment and write about them Game Diary style. I fondly recall both series. My own comment was this innocuous request for clarification,

Ben Abraham said...

I'm sorry, I wasn't entirely clear on this, are you actually going to go back and play these games? If so, sounds good! I look forward to hearing what you've got to say about games that I've never played before! :)

Growing up gamer in the 90's, I never played anything pre... maybe.. '98? At least, not in the sense of playing them the minute they came out.

December 14, 2007 at 08:41 AM

Which is true – I didn’t really play very many games, and certainly never on Day 1 of their release. The ‘Vintage Game Club’ that Michael would later establish in 2008 would do similar things with classic games of yesteryear, and I participated in a number of the first few playthroughs.

We’re coming up on the end of the 2007 year and the end of our little retrospective. On December 19 Abbott started writing about Planescape Torment. Picking up on something about NPC characters, I added this gem of a comment…

Ben Abraham said...

What about Murray from Monkey Island 3? He is still my favorite, lovable disembodied head from any videogame! :D

December 19, 2007 at 09:00 AM

It’s true. Murray remains my favourite, lovable disembodied head from a videogame.

Next, on ‘Day Three’ of his Planescape playthrough, Michael Abbott decided he wanted to slow down his playing, take more time and be a little more thorough. In response, I quoted Radiohead. As you do.

Ben Abraham said...

To quote the chorus of a song by a famous British rock band,

"Hey man,
slow down.
Slow down.
Idiot slow down,
Slow down."

Enjoy your leisurely stroll through Planescape.

December 22, 2007 at 09:03 PM

I was very much in the grips of a swooning addiction to the delicious ear noise of Radiohead. This is another thing I may possibly never get over. Also of note is Abbott’s philosophy that games are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, with the slow motif would coming back with his memorable use of the ‘Chew your food’ metaphor a year later.

The second last comment I would make in 2007 was on a post called ‘A plea for journalistic integrity’, which was a discussion of the tragic death of Zoe Garcia. If you recall, Garcia was killed when her older brothers allegedly tried out “Mortal Kombat” moves on the girl and abused her until she died. Amongst this is a discussion of how games had, and have, become easy targets for meadia beat-ups, and I posted this comment:

Ben Abraham said...

I really think that gaming is *just* about at the tipping point where so many people now play and have first hand experience of video games that, surely, public opinion will recognise this kind of story as exactly you have said it to be, a sensationalist, headline grabbing story, and that sooner rather than later, prominent media outlets are going to be left with egg on their face. Most people know better than this, and it is only destroying the media's credibility in the public eye.

So, don't get too worried about it - we'll get there.

December 26, 2007 at 11:56 PM

I’m beginning to think that we experienced the tipping point for this phenomenon in Australia perhaps just a week or so ago. Melbourne’s The Age Newspaper ran a sensationalist story about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and the leaked footage of a terrorist attack level. The piece was clear sensationalism at its disgusting best, and yet the comments thread on the article was full of commenter’s ridiculing the piece as exactly that. I can’t see this sort of level of awareness going backwards anytime soon, so I think we may be on the downhill run to wider game acceptance. Of course, game literacy and experience will get us only so far, but it’s certainly a start. Like I said in 2007, “we’ll get there”. Hey, that was another of those prediction things.

Last post for the year of 2007 was this, on Abbott’s “Don’t trust the skull: Final Thoughts on Planescape Torment”:

Ben Abraham said...

Spoiler warning might be a good idea. Then again... it is such an ancient game.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm intrigued by the game, especially its Momento like elements (I thought that was one of the most convincing movie twists of all time!) I think that your experience with the interface is a similar sentiment to one expressed by Leigh Alexander when she talked about 'going soft' in terms of difficulty in the Castlevania series of games. She found incredibly hard one particular reissue of an older one.

Is PST abandonware yet?

December 31, 2007 at 02:40 AM

No, Planescape Torment is most definitely not abandonware, younger self, it’s apparently about to be re-released by Interplay for about $15.

That was the year of 2007 according to Ben Abraham and his comments on The Brainy Gamer blog. Was it good for you too? This little retrospective-meets-introspection thing was good fun for me and If you’re trying to read (too much) into it you might care to make a prediction about the future of SLRC. From this navel-gaze of a post and the general quiet here in recent weeks, you would not be far wrong to wonder if I was contemplating something rather final.

In case that’s too much ambiguity for you, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with respect to SLRC. I guess it rather depends on what happens before the end of the year.

Also, you patient readers deserve an update on the Permanent Death novel-thing – I swear, it’s still coming and hopefully soon.