What is with all the gaming, guys?

Like many of you, I read the piece in Fairfax media titled ‘The Games We Play’ about men and their gaming habits. I’m not going to link to it here, but you can easily find it with a quick google or twitter search. As Dan Golding over at Crikey has already pointed out, it feels like a continuation of an easy media narrative about games and those who play them. I also think that the responses from the gaming community are part of their own evolving media narrative which contains its own collection of faultlines – especially the industry-centric focus and language, but I’ve written about the use of that particular word many times and won’t revisit it here.

But, despite all that, I think that buried somewhere in the piece, the article does actually have a point. All media has an influence on us, and there are metaphors and ways of thinking about the world embedded in the systemic and thematic structures of games, and we should be conscious of them as adults when playing games, just as we should be conscious of the messages from the endless whirlpool of media that makes up modern life. We discuss and teach media literacy as ways of decoupling, understanding, and immunising ourselves from the subtle and not so subtle messages bombarding us, but we rarely talk about games literacy in the same way. I think we should, and I think, somewhere, deep in the piece, that’s what it’s trying to get at. It is buried though, and what it is buried beneath is what I find problematic.

Read moreWhat is with all the gaming, guys?

My thoughts on the R18+ discussion

Well, I guess Amnesia Month is well and truly over…

I wasn’t going to weigh in to the R18+ issue largely because for a long time I’ve maintained that it didn’t really affect developers, and there was already a well-motivated and very vocal contingent of gamers who had the time and the energy for the fight. I also couldn’t find a way to add anything more to the argument than has already been stated elsewhere.

But now I think I can.

…if the latest surveys about the average gamer being a 32-year-old single male who sits at home and plays games all day are correct, then what I am proposing is not going to have much impact at all.

From Gamespot.

Read moreMy thoughts on the R18+ discussion

The trouble with games reporting…

It’s rare that I feel the need to write any sort of opinion piece on this blog, but over the past few weeks, there’s been a sudden upsurge in the number of poorly researched and negative games pieces in the mainstream media, and I wanted to draw attention to them all in the one place and maybe start a discussion about what we can do to address some of those issues.

Every new medium, no matter how similar to what has come before, has had to deal with the cries of the earth falling or our youth corrupting or the very threads that hold our decent society together fraying and unravelling, and games are no exception, but recently the number of mainstream articles with exactly that form have appeared online in the mainstream news.

Read moreThe trouble with games reporting…

November EGP

Well, too many other projects took over last month – including helping to set up the Melbourne branch of the IGDA, presenting at iDef, and working on some other things that it’s too early to talk about. As a result, my October game didn’t really evolve beyond the previous iteration.  I did manage to hook up collision and put torches and coins in, but it still wasn’t really a game. Hopefully November will be different because this month, I’ve decided to follow the theme used on experimentalgameplay.com, and this month it’s ‘Art Game’.

Head over to the Freeplay forums to join other people in Melbourne doing the same thing.

October EGP

Ten days in, and I’ve put up the first iteration of my October game project:

Here, the player’s movement speed is based on the mouse’s distance from the character – and the faster they move, the more they can see, but also the more noise they make, which will attract the spiders.

The gameplay is based on the Token Studios group currently in the Games Program at RMIT.  Working with them, I really wanted to see whether or not their core premise would work in a 2D space – it’s too early to tell just yet.

Goals and opposition in Fabric

This latest build of Fabric introduces goals – helping the blue particles to coalesce and eventually form suns & planets – and opposition – in the form of the red spikey particles which can destroy the blue particles.

What’s interesting here is how much focus has been pulled away from the grid – which was the original element.  It feels like the more nouns that are added to the game space, the less interesting & dynamic it becomes.   All the player is really doing in this version is clicking on the red spikey particles, rather than balancing destroying the grid & stitching it back together.

Next step, I think, is to pare it back and consider how the player interacts with the grid because adding elements to the space doesn’t seem to work.  That might be some time because this week, there’s the Digital Distribution Summit, I’m running some workshops in Yarrawonga, and the flying to Sydney to do a presentation at Screen Australia – then we’ll be into October and the first of the Freeplay Experimental Gameplay Projects.

Lighting and Texturing in Fabric

I’ve added simple ambient and point lighting to Fabric, along with a (familiar to mac users) background texture.

I’m not sure either feature works just yet.  The texture in particular is too busy and seems to draw the eye away from the grid, and the lighting effect, rather than focusing the player on the mouse cursor, feels as though it’s making the rest of the grid feel less important.

Meaningful choices and feedback in Fabric

Playing that first tech-pass of Fabric, it was clear that unstitching the world wasn’t going to work as the core mechanic of a game – it isn’t particularly interesting to destroy something, even to save it in the long-term, if you don’t have the possibility of fixing it too.  Enter the ability to stitch things back together, which changed the dynamic of the game, and introduced choice into Fabric’s world.  The other new feature in this build is a simple particle system that indicates when the red blobs have been destroyed.  This first pass player feedback gives cues to where events are taking place without necessarily forcing them to shift focus.


Once I’d recovered from pulling the event together, I found myself really inspired by the people at Freeplay who were pulling together their own projects – and it made me want to do the same.

So, I’ve started two things.

The first is an attempt over at the freeplay forums to run monthly experimental gameplay projects in Melbourne, producing one highly experimental game every month within 7 days and fitting a theme.  The first will run in October and we’re still deciding on the theme.  Head on over and sign up if you’re interested in taking part.

The second is I’ve started putting together what I think will actually be a bigger game now that I’ve started it.  It’s called ‘Fabric’ and I’m going to try and document its progress here.

The original idea for Fabric came from thinking about expressing connections mechanically, and also about creating a game where you had to destroy part of the environment in order to protect it.

The fabric of the game world is essentially a cloth simulation – particles connected by springs – with charged elements that travel along the grid-lines, seeking out their nearest neighbour.  When those charges connect, they destroy a large area of the grid around them.  The only way to stop them moving is to destroy the grid-line they’re travelling along.  The overall aim of the game is to stop the fabric unravelling completely as you can see it doing towards the end of the movie.

It’s still early days, but even at this early stage, the nature of the technology has brought up restrictions in what I originally thought I could do gameplay wise, but it’s also opened up other possibilities too, which was the whole point of the experiment.