Chungking Espresso

News & Games Digest, 8/19-9/10

Posted in Miscellany by Simon Ferrari on September 11, 2009


So I’ve decided to stop double-posting my News Games articles here and on that site, because I realized it was probably annoying for my readers. But I also don’t have the time to write clever sidenotes for each one, because I’m writing like four research papers right now. In any case, this is still just as much an archive as it is a blog, so here’s what you missed if you don’t follow the News Games blog.

Making Stimulus Readable & Playable is about an interactive map of California that helps you track where stimulus money has gone, breaking it down by county and category of each project funded. Made by one of the alumni of our project studio, it attempts the ideal of directed activity through an infographic. Basically he added a quiz to the thing, and the quiz requires you to teach yourself how to use each feature on the map. Pretty cool stuff.

Red Faction Guerrilla: Proceduralizing Terror? takes apart a Kotaku interview with some dude from Volition wherein he claims the game has nothing to do with the Iraq War. Rather, they looked to the struggle of Afghanistan against the Soviet Union for inspiration. Really? Of course it’s about Iraq. In attempting to create a blank slate of a space, they wrote all their own ideas about the conflict onto it. They also allow players to do the same. So you get people crashing airplanes into buildings.

Batman and the Rhetoric of Incarceration is my take on being Batman and the evils of Arkham, including a healthy portion of what it means to practice non-lethal apprehension of criminals and the thin line you walk when you depict the mentally infirm. I don’t really know if Arkham Asylum is an evocative space; it’s pretty drab for the most part. But I suppose you can treat it like it’s the primary antagonist, because it’ll kill you more than any stupid mutated thug with a peashooter will.

Game Bloggers Search Engine I created this nifty thing with Google Custom Search (beta). One of the things I hated about blogging was that I always had to sift through a million archives and ask people stupid questions on Twitter, all because Google was clogged by press releases whenever you searched for a game. This thing only searches independent, non-commercial blogs that avoid printing news and previews. Also, I created tabs that let you parse the search for gameplay, narrative, social issues, etc.

I got in a fight with a Joystiq editor a few days ago, by the way, because I maligned the writing of one of his fellow snarky aggregators. Basically, this dude wrote a “column” on Batman that had a neat three-part structure: 1) you play a role when you play videogames 2) this game’s role is a flying ninja 3) this ninja doesn’t kill people. This wouldn’t be something to comment on if the article didn’t begin with a warning that it was “pedantic” and “verbose,” or if the commenters on the site and a number of other Joystiq editors hadn’t told the guy that he was the best critic on the Internet, a genius, and various other honorifics he didn’t deserve. As long as these morons continue to clog my Google queries and ignore actual game critics, I’m going to make fun of them on my Twitter feed. And I’m going to be mean if they try to talk to me.


12 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. deckard47 said, on September 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I really wanted to add the search engine to my blog, but I need to have more control over it/pay them. Crappy. Oh, and I like the Batman article. It makes me want to play it more (than I already did), and it cements the unpleasant feelings I experienced when simply playing the demo. I’m glad you’re back in action it’s been a while (but you just dropped a ton of posts, so no complaints).

    • Simon Ferrari said, on September 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm

      Oh, that’s lame that they won’t let you embed it. Maybe if I just give you the code for it directly that they gave me it will work? It didn’t ask for permission when I embedded it in the News Games blog.

      Yeah, I was out of the game in June and July writing the book, and I’ve slowly picked up steam since the beginning of August. I’m way swamped with schoolwork this semester so I won’t be writing as much on this blog so much as linking whatever I write for my interactive narrative class.

      Glad you liked the Batman piece! I wanted to praise it more, but there’s plenty of that going on everywhere else. I played it in two sittings, if that tells you anything about how much fun I had with it. I just think it’s a lot more broken than people give it credit for. Your piece on Alone in the Dark from way back helped me figure out why. I only played one level of it before getting tired of how broken it was, but the item and body systems were soooooo cool that I want to see them work in a more polished game.

  2. deckard47 said, on September 12, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Search engine added: it is fucking great. Searched for Metroid (for no reason), and didn’t get a single hit for IGN reviews of every game in triplicate. Thank you.

    • Simon Ferrari said, on September 12, 2009 at 4:43 pm

      Oh, right, I see the problem now: you’re on WordPress too. WordPress breaks whatever code magic, I think it’s Javascript, that the search thing uses. I can see it on your blog but I can’t interact with it in any way.

      • deckard47 said, on September 12, 2009 at 5:42 pm

        Well, I’m not surprised. They want me to buy their fucking 14 dollar a year domain, which will let me change my CSS and html, I think. Assholes.

      • Simon Ferrari said, on September 12, 2009 at 5:43 pm

        We can’t embed video either. If I weren’t planning on buying a domain soon anyway, I’d think about switching to Blogger.

  3. John said, on September 12, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    People keep talking about how unique Arkham Asylum because you don’t kill people. It just seems to me like the game just gets away with that through a technicality. No one dies in Pokemon either, they “faint.”

    • Simon Ferrari said, on September 12, 2009 at 8:30 pm

      I don’t know if this frustration is directed at me or just “elsewhere.” In fact, I don’t once say that Arkham Asylum is unique in any way in my article. I’ll take a stab though. In Pokemon, are you at a disadvantage because you’re not killing the animals? Not really. There is an added complexity when you consider the difference between weakening a Pokemon so that it’s easier to catch and just bringing it’s HP to zero outright.

      You’re not really at a disadvantage in Arkham Asylum either, because Batman is more than capable of getting by without sticking his enemies with a blade or gunning them down. But it certainly would change things if you could sit on top of a gargoyle and snipe people. You can do this, if you remember, in Mirror’s Edge. But it makes the game kind of stupid. So it’s nice that they didn’t let you do it here, and it has the added contextual bonus of being a game where you play someone who doesn’t have the option either.

      My article isn’t about Batman being awesome because he doesn’t kill people, it’s about how the creators screwed up their depiction of Bats with an environmental puzzle, some overly brutal combat animations, and a few cutscenes. If you have a specific problem with the article, feel free to highlight it!

    • Simon Ferrari said, on September 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm

      Oh blah now I see! You were referencing the final paragraph where I made fun of the Joystiq article! Yeah, now I see where the frustration comes from. It’s nothing special in itself, but rather something that has to be considered along with all the other enemy behavior. Like: what does only being able to use melee mean when I come across a group of melee fighters in a tight circle. What about when there’s a room for of patrollers with guns? What if two of these patrolmen are together? Obviously the Batarang basically works as a stun gun, and you can hit up to three people at once toward the end. I just see the non-lethality thing as one of many factors that has to go into calculating how the combat mechanics and AI all work together.

      • deckard47 said, on September 13, 2009 at 1:09 am

        Yeah, from the demo (again, no full-game hands-on yet), it seems like any “non-lethality” is completely by accident. They don’t want to make Batman non-lethal, they just *happened* to make him less lethal. People confuse the two. More of a coherent response when it is not 2AM and I’m not wicked drunk.

      • Simon Ferrari said, on September 13, 2009 at 1:21 am

        I wouldn’t go that far, but I’m also not drunk and belligerent right now. Check back in an hour or two and maybe I’ll agree. They hammer home in cut scenes that they’re definitely playing on the fact that Batman won’t kill anyone–he has a chance to kill the Joker quite a few times but doesn’t. They essentially just forgot that the Batman of the comics doesn’t grab pipes out of the hands of his enemies and smack them in the face with them. In an effort to out-badass Epic Games they didn’t think about the fact that if you give somebody a concussion and there are no medical personnel around it essentially results in death.

  4. L.B. Jeffries said, on September 14, 2009 at 8:43 am

    What’s the title of that joystiq piece? You’ve got my interest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: