Search This Blog


News and Entertainment

So I'm a member of the IGDA's Writers' SIG email list. (That is, an email list for the International [Video] Game Developers Association's Special Interest Group for Writers. It's basically a forum that invades your inbox every day).

Recently, an e-debate has been raging over the validity and relevance of game journalism websites/blogs. One guy thinks they're completely pointless, inane, and badly written; another guy says this is because "The priority of a games journalist, like any other journalist, is to produce something which people want to consume. That’s the harsh reality. News is an entertainment product."

Here's where I had to chime in:

The mentality that "news is merely a form of entertainment and always has been" is not only wrong, it's dangerous on multiple levels.

First, with regard to news: Freedom of information is the single most vital, most basic element of a free society. Real, truthful news is what separates us from the Fascists and the Communists. When journalists (Fox) lose sight of this, they commit a despicable evil.

Second, with regard to art: the notion of separating what's "True" from what's "entertainment" implicitly and unfairly denigrates our profession. Knowledge and wisdom come in many forms. Creative expression is no less important than factual information. A world without art is no better off than a world without news. Both news and entertainment media are (and should be) vehicles for Truth.

The idea that art /entertainment is somehow frivolous, fluff, or a luxury commodity makes me sick. If that's your attitude, please go do something else with your life, because you'll only get in the way while the rest of us are busy creating something meaningful.


Dragon Age: Origins:
Too Many Choices

I sometimes still have trouble passing myself off as a "real" gamer. I mean, I love video games, and I've been playing my whole life... but no matter how much time I spend, I never seem to get any better.  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I just too old and slow-witted to ever hope to have mad skillz?

Perhaps video games favor youth in the same way athletics do. Both make use of the same cognitive abilities -- reaction time, sensitivity, adaptive muscle memory, spatial reasoning, etc.  So maybe I suck at video games for the same reason I've always sucked at sports in general. Well, I may always get picked last, but at least I play.

Questions of physical dexterity and hand-eye coordination aside, I also wonder if it's just a matter of evolution, and the next generation of kids (and games) is simply more intelligent than I am.

I'm currently playing Dragon Age: Origins. It's mostly fun, but also tends to drive me insane. I find I spend more time browsing through radial menus than I do actually playing the game. There are just too many choices!

Take armor, for example. In World of Warcraft, it's pretty easy to tell if a piece of armor you just picked up, or are considering buying off a merchant or the auction house, is better than what you already have. You know your character pretty well, and you know what direction you want to take him or her, and can easily estimate how much the item might be worth to you.

In Dragon Age: Origins, on the other hand, you have to manage armor sets for a whole mess of characters (I have eight right now, but the list keeps growing). You have to remember which characters can wear which types of armor. You have to know which characters would benefit the most from which increases in stats. You get a bonus for matching sets of armor, but it might not be worth it depending on the relative difference between the pieces according to the game's 7-tiered, color-coded materials system.

Furthermore, all your characters can't share items out of the inventory at the same time. You can only ever have your primary character plus three others in your party, which ends up requiring multiple party swap-outs between when you buy and sell items from a vendor and when you actually equip them. And good luck finding a vendor when you need one, and good luck getting anything from vendors that's really worth a hoot (unless you pay through the nose for it), since all the good stuff gets dropped anyways.

The whole thing is completely maddening, for me at least. There are plenty of ways the game's designers could have made this process easier: to provide some kind of best-option auto-equip feature; to have an easier gauge for comparing items against one another (or, dare I say it, fewer / less-complicated stats); to allow for some way for all characters to share the inventory simultaneously, or for easier swapping of equipment; to give players a "bank" at camp where they could store excess inventory; to organize gear according to class, and filter inventory items accordingly; to further limit the range of equippable gear with some kind of minimum, etc.

What I really want is fewer options. That statement right there probably proves I'm not a "real" RPG gamer. But maybe it's not about what I want... maybe it's too late for me. Maybe my only hope is that my children might grow up to be better at assessing all of this information; either that, or that they can figure out a way not to obsess over it, set the difficulty on "Easy", and just enjoy playing the game.