The Importance of Being And Ernest

I’m deep in research-and-games mode at the moment, for no less than four money-gigs, one long-term project, enough game reviews to fill a small shed, and something so obscure that I’ll be amazed if I ever manage to actually sell it to anyone. Maybe I’ll be able to sell it to something like The Escapist which, while having some dodgy moments (they’ve got me writing for them! Bud-dum-tssch!), are actually churning out the good stuff on a regular basis. (How long can they maintain?) Greg Costikyan’s almost-too-long-to-read -in-one-sitting ‘Death To The Games Industry’ is just such a piece of excellent writing. Dull to those who have no interest in the cogs of development and marketing and dynamite to those who do, Costikyan is arguing, without obvious fault, that the current situation is wrong and broken:

“The publishers would have you believe that “we know what works.” In other words, that all of the local maxima possible for “the video game” have already been discovered.

But this is insane. Innovative, compelling novels are published every year, and that’s a medium that’s 300 years old. We’re only 30 years into the gaming revolution. Additionally, games are an enormously flexible form: They’ve been created with every technology from the Neolithic to the modern. And software is an enormously flexible medium, too; if you can specify it, you can implement it. We’ve gone from three genres to dozens in a few short decades, but we’ve charted only the merest coastline of a vast, virgin continent.

And we need to keep exploring it, or we’re going to get stale.”

It’ll be interesting to see whether developers (and publishers) will continue prove him right, and whether they’ll do something about it.

Elsewhere amid the mass of things worth reading on the web I see Mr Campbell also gets rather cross with points of view, and makes me play Goldeneye again. For the second time this month. And Ernest Adams over on Gamasutra is quite earnest in his Gamer’s Bill of Rights.

Also in the name of research I’m currently reading The Philosophy of Boredom by Lars Svendsen, which I am finding informative and infuriating. Informative because Svendsen’s book is incredibly well researched and, like all enviable scholars, he has a knack of digging up brilliantly apt quotes from the obscurest of authors and employing them in a manner that is both jolly clever and pleasantly educational. Infuriating because, well, I always feel a bit embarrassed when a writer produces something which is conversationally philosophical and then ends up wheeling out Heidegger and starts talking about ‘Being and Time’ and all the other obfuscation that the old Nazi produced. Yes, he was the other greatest thinker of the 20th century, but you can’t just go waving him about willy-nilly. People get offended, confused and disinterested when the existentialisms get exposed where they’re not needed. And that’s no use to anyone. Incredibly tedious metaphysicians need to be deployed only in times of extreme need, and Svendsen’s book could, I think, have done without the old fella. He pollutes it. Maybe. I’ll write more about this when I’ve finished and digested it. Tasty books.

3 Responses to “The Importance of Being And Ernest”

  • tom Says:

    stop it now u BRAINIAK! :)

  • bob arctor Says:

    I thought the Escapist article missed the point, strage seeing as he was a from a PC perspective, the point that the internet allows (as the shareware article demonstated) another point of retail. Or just amazing mods, released free for the fans, developed with love.

    The point is I am more excited about The Ship: Source, The Dark Mod, and other “indie” projects than Prey or Q4.

  • Rossignol Says:

    Notice that his article is “Part 1″. There’s a lot more to it, as you observe. And Costikyan isn’t a PC dev, he currently works in mobile gaming. Also: don’t ignore your own membership of a fairly elite community. You might well be excited by mods and indie projects, but the other 95% are excited about Halo 3 and the next GTA.