What we now know as open-world gaming took on a more definite shape this same year on the BBC Micro and its cheaper sibling the Acorn Electron (then later on nearly every other system). Elite changed everything. It was the home computer game to have in the mid-1980s—an open-ended spacefaring romp through eight 256-planet galaxies, which were fixed in their composition but cleverly generated on the fly by an algorithm in order to save on storage space. Its abstract 3D wireframe planets and spacecraft provided just enough detail to instil the appropriate sense of scale, with the rest left to your imagination. And there was so much possibility wrapped around that imagination.
Congratulations to Joey Pagano & Eva Khoury, winners for Best Game at NYU’s Global Game Jam!
For lots of gamers, the power of the medium is its ability to place us in the shoes of other people, making tough choices that we’d otherwise never need to contemplate.But how does that message of power and opportunity spread outwards, away from the mostly indie games that address serious issues, and the relatively small number of people who celebrate these noble efforts?
This is one of the first times that a video game’s plot and characters were designed before the programming. [Miyamoto:] “Well, early on, the people who made video games, they were technologists, they were programmers, they were hardware designers. But I wasn’t. I was a designer, I studied industrial design, I was an artist, I drew pictures. And so I think that it was in my generation that people who made video games really became designers rather than technologists.”
Some recent studies suggest that video games, even violent ones, can increase a child’s learning, health, and social skills, and many educators are now looking for ways to integrate them into school curriculums.
With that in mind, we reached out to some game designers who are also educators, or who work in educational software, and asked them to name some of the most instructive examples of games that teach effectively–whether they’re intended to be educational or not.
Dwarf Fortress is barely a blip on the mainstream radar, but it’s an object of intense cult adoration. Its various versions have been downloaded in the neighborhood of a million times… At bottom, Dwarf Fortress mounts an argument about play. Many video games mimic the look and structure of films: there’s a story line, more or less fixed, that progresses only when you complete required tasks. This can make for gripping fun, but also the constrictive sense that you are a mouse in a tricked-out maze, chasing chunks of cheese. Tarn envisions Dwarf Fortress, by contrast, as an open-ended “story generator.” He and Zach grew up playing computer games with notebooks in hand, drawing their own renditions of the randomly generated creatures they encountered and logging their journeys in detail. Dwarf Fortress, which never unfolds the same way twice, takes that spirit of supple, fully engaged play to the extreme
The American Dream shines a hilarious light on our digital obsession with guns, but it also poses the question: why are we still obsessed? In 2016, is the ubiquity of guns in video games holding the medium back? In light of several recent AAA titles suffering from ‘ludonarrative dissonance’ – an academic term meaning a conflict between a video game’s narrative and its gameplay – due to their inclusion of guns, it’s surely a question worth asking.
As the gaming industry matures and becomes an increasingly important form of cultural communication akin to painting or film, work created by both genders becomes ever more important. The Game Center, under the chairship of Frank Lantz, views their mission as primarily cultural and not strictly technical.
It’s easy to see why Undertale spoke to so many people. It’s rare to find a game that so thoroughly embraces nonviolence not just in mechanics but integral themes (though of course there are plenty of games with pacifist routes, from indie offerings like Iji to big fish like Metal Gear Solid). It’s a truly special game. And yes, I know the wave of praise for this game and the ensuing backlash have already both come and gone. Most people have not only heard of it but either played it or seen all the salient spoilers. As much as I liked it, I’d stopped thinking much about it months ago.
The videogame industry is bad at reaching mainstream audiences. It sounds like a cocky Buddhist koan, but one need only search the internet for a few Googles to see the game industry has not coexisted with the mainstream scrutiny and journalistic probing other entertainment industries have known for decades. Whereas film writing began in academic journals, videogame “journalism” and criticism began in enthusiast publications like Nintendo Power, where software companies and publishers kept information about products on a strict IV drip as prescribed by marketing plans. The dynamic hasn’t historically existed for picking up phones, chasing down leads, and taking scalpels to big systemic problems in the industry.