Category: opinion

Artisans and craftsmen (and craftswomen)

There’s an article going around about on of the founders of Bungie starting his own studio. In the article (ok, its more of a press release, really) he says that he is going to outsourse a lot of the development. THe article ends with an interesting quote:

“It’s kind of broken,” Seropian told Reuters, speaking about the current model of development used by the bulk of publishers. “It’s kind of antiquated – it’s how they were making films in the ’30s.”

Well, I don’t think that is really the “problem” (if there is one). The difficulty isn’t that videogames are made like 1930’s films. It is like they are made like 1730’s items — that is, by hand and not mechanical reproduction. I left this message about it over on Slashdot:

I don’t think this will be as cost effective as one might think. Basically the videogame industry is still in the pre-industrial artisanal (sp?) era. Everything is still made by hand. If you want to make a chair, you still need to build the chair piece by piece. There is no equivalent to a factory-made chair. So rather than the unskilled labor we now have in most factories, we have skilled craftsmen and artists.

Until technology exists for the equivalent of unskilled labor to design the chairs, wheels, and furniture of a gaming world, the costs of developing games will still be high.

I forsee a day soon when a start up will open that specializes in creating the props of vidoegame worlds so that game designers will have a situation similar to that of the players of the Sims where they have a wide variety of chairs (or whatever) to pick from and they just plop it into the game pre-fab without having to employ someone to exclusively make such props.

Now certainly there is something to say for props that are build explicitly for the game. They provide a sense of stylistic unity. But I really do see a day when pre-fab props will come to be used.

EA Continues to sink its claws into university life…

So not only is EA paying some guy to cover the campus in stickers, but now they are coming here officially. Their “Games Live Tour” is coming to IU (pdf file).
They will be here tomorrow. I plan on going. Hopefully, I will get to talk to one of the people running this show and get some info on just how much money is wrapped up in this. It amazes me the amount of money that EA seems to be wrapping up in just this campus. One would think that videogames had turned into a business if one didn’t know better…

I can’t escape it!!!

OK, this whole “I’m researching videogames” thing has started to get to me. I’ve been on spring break this week (whooo party! …or not) and I have been visiting friends who don’t own videogames (I know, I know, it is hard to believe that a) there are such people and b) that I, of all people, would be friends enough with them, but it is true). Now I”m home and trying to get caught up on school work. All day I’ve been looking at my lonely X-Box and thinking — “Man, I really should play a little bit. It’s been a week since I’ve played” but not out of some (at least overt) addiction, but out of obligation, like I am somehow obligated to play.
I know I’ve talked about it before, but it is weird that a hobby has now become some sort of job. A great job, but it still feels weird.
Anyone else feel that way?

A shocking, I say shocking, revelation

I was doing some reading this morning and found out something I didn’t know. We remember about the guy who shot Reagan back in the day, right? He did it to impress Jodie Foster. This story is pretty commonly known. Any time when they do a biography of Reagan they say this. While I was alive at the time, I didn’t remember WHY shooting Reagan was supposed to impress Foster.

The reason was that he was imitating Taxi Driver. That little bit of info goes pretty unreported when we the assassination attempt is discussed, at least as far as I can tell. Certainly, I might just be out of the loop. Now if he had done it in imitation of a video game, you can gaurantee that bit of information would be mentioned every time.

Look at Columbine. When it first happened, it was often said that there were three things that the kids were imitating. Now, chances are, if you ask the person on the street they will only say videogames. However, at the time there were also comments made against Marilyn Manson (I think though that it might have been shown that they didn’t even really listen to him) and the film, The Basketball Diaries in which there is a short scene where the star shoots some people in a school while wearing a trenchcoat.

It’s funny how the film accusations have fallen to the side. Now, this may come as a shock, but I am beginning to suspect that the media might be just a little bit less fair and balanced than they would like us to think….

Go with the flow

There is some discussion of work and how we need a way of talking about fun. In thinking of this I have long said that we need think of playing videogames as a performative act. We need to stop looking at the games and start looking at the players. (I’ve been saying that for almost 3 years now! That is a lifetime in videogame studies!) The fun is in the players, not the game. While his work has been criticized and it has ventured close to new age self help territory, I think that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on “flow” can be of help in focusing on what goes on with the gamers and what is fun and how to talk about pleasure. I really recommend taking a look at Beyond Boredom and Anxiety for a way of thinking about pleasure and what happens when we are in the zone and why work sometimes is pleasurable.