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Opinion pieces that aren't long or detailed enough to be considered feature articles.
Matt Barton's picture

Fun in Games: It's Social All the Way Down

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what makes games fun. I've read quite a bit on the topic, including Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun for Game Design, and of course there are plenty of great articles on Gamasutra and in Game Developer magazine. However, it seems most people who bother with the subject end up with some very general criteria (just challenging enough, lots of rewards, etc.) rather than contexts. My primary thought here is that whether a game is fun or not may have little to do with the actual game. Rather, it's the context of the game and the gamer that's important. Even something like good marketing and packaging can have more to do with making the game fun than anything done by the developers or designers. However, the focus here will be on the social contexts that are often taken for granted by even the best game designers.

Bill Loguidice's picture

The Great Debate - Tablets versus eBook Readers and the Fight for our Senses

Over at another forum I frequent, a topic that ostensibly began, Dell Streak Available Next Month, AT&T Not Required, soon morphed into a discussion on the merits of an eReader, like the Kindle, over a tablet, like the iPad, and vice versa. To summarize the lengthy battle (though I recommend you read you yourself using the link), the argument on the eReader side essentially goes like this:

- eInk provides a superior reading experience
- The two top eReader devices offer free 3G
- Target will soon be offering the Kindle in their stores, so Kindle sales will naturally skyrocket
- The iPad is too expensive
- iTunes is too draconian
- Grandma and moms don't want a tablet

The argument on the tablet - and specifically the iPad side - goes something like this:

- The reading experience is just good enough for most people, and just good enough often wins over better
- Color eInk is still a ways away, and for black and white, static devices, eReaders are fairly expensive
- The iPad costs more, but also has many more features and capabilities
- If you're going to carry around a device the size of an eReader, it's not that much of a stretch that you'd carry around something only marginally bigger to get access to many more features
- The iPad has become a sexy, must-have device, thanks to slick advertising and the well regarded Apple brand; eReaders are unlikely to ever been seen as sexy, must-have devices
- In roughly two months, the iPad is closing in on the LIFETIME (since 2007) sales of the Kindle

The way I see it, while I'm a fan of eInk, especially for black and white and limited functionality devices, they tend to cost too much, even though the Kindle and Nook offer lifetime 3G service to purchase more books from just about any location you happen to be at (and a select few other online features to take advantage of the connection), though it's arguable if you really ever have to buy a new book every time you're out and about on the town. If they hit $99 or less, they might be able to gain more momentum outside of the successful niche I expect them to remain in for the foreseeable future, but I still find it unlikely, particularly with the coming onslaught of iPad-like tablet clones, which will continue to steal any new eReader thunder. What they really need though on the eReader side are color eInk displays, which right now are too expensive for mainstream price points. If they had color screens combined with a $150 or lower price point, they might stand a chance to be something a bit more than a niche product, though it's arguable how many truly avid readers there are anyway to support such dedicated products, no matter how refined they become (even recent tests with students at universities have not shown them to be reasonable substitutes for text books--at least in their current forms).

So to summarize, my main point is, is that the iPad's momentum will continue, price be damned, a ton of clone tablets will be released to further place the spotlight on the form and functionality factor, and as a result, sales of dedicated eReaders will remain at roughly the same rate and pace they are now. As a result, the dedicated reader's time in the spotlight has probably come and gone, and it's just a matter of time before the tablet format becomes the de facto companion (when called for) to cell phones, smart or otherwise, since they also give you full access to the same book libraries as the dedicated readers, as well all the other types of media (and games, apps, etc., etc.).

Even though I didn't lay out all the details in this post, I think you get the idea. Naturally I'm 100% correct in my prognostication, but I'm open to the remotest of possibilities that I might be a raving lunatic and don't know what the heck I'm talking about, so I would love to hear what YOU think...

Matt Barton's picture

Some Thoughts Toward a Non-Linear Game History

Over the past few weeks, I've been toying with an idea that sounds downright preposterous at first. I pose it as a Twilight Zone-esque "What if?" scenario: What if games haven't really "advanced" at all, but only changed, similar to how clothing fashions change over time? Let's explore some alternatives to the technological determinism so ubiquitous in our field.

davyK's picture

Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #5

#5 Outrun 2006 Coast to Coast (PS2)

I love a good driving game. The first one that really grabbed me was Pole Position in the arcade - particularly the sit down version. The immediacy of the control scheme with 2 pedals, 2 gears and a wheel meant anyone could sit down and play and for its time the sights and sounds were pretty immersive. Pole Position seemed to hang around in arcades for years and its more modern day counterparts such as Sega Rally and Daytona seem to have lasted even longer. You will still see Sega Rally in arcades and airports to this day despite its age - it seems I'm not the only one who loves a good driving game. The key word here though is arcade. I find arcade style racers far more enjoyable than so-called simulators such as Gran Turismo. I know that the likes of Gran Turismo are designed for the home in order to provide a deep and longer lasting gameplay experience but the seriousness and absence of that fun factor means I'll reach for an arcade style racer every time.

davyK's picture

Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #2,#3,#4

#2 Combat, #3 Video Pinball, #4 Kaboom! (Atari 2600)

1970's TV games allowing the family to play Pong was one thing, the Atari 2600 was something different altogether. It still delivered the "family playing together" experience (indeed many first gen titles have no 1 player mode and quite a few offer 4 player modes) but now there was a whole library of games to choose from. It was the first truly programmable console and required you to plug in a cartridge - each one delivering a unique game (at least in theory!) The early days of the 2600 were about the family playing together - and nothing like it was really seen again until the Wii came along.

Matt Barton's picture

Thoughts on Game Length and Difficulty

I was browsing Rampant Games today and came across a great editorial called Games – Too Big, Too Hard?, which was itself a response to an article by John Davison of Gamepro. The idea is that while gamers will always say that they want bigger and harder games, what they do is quite different. In short, once you start observing their habits rather than just asking them about it, you find that gamers tend to play games for 4-5 hours before giving up. Most of us buy games, play them for awhile, then stick them on the shelf without completing them.

davyK's picture

Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #1

Raiden Trad advertisementRaiden Trad advertisement#1 Raiden Trad (Mega Drive/Genesis)

For those of a certain age, Space Invaders conjures up many memories. Arcades used to have rows of Space Invaders machines - those big dark rooms lit only by the glow of the screens hugged you and made you feel part of something. The success of Space Invaders resulted in a great many games of that type being created; and for some time the vast majority of video games were of the "shooting" type. Indeed "Space Invaders" is still the generic name for video games used by some of the older uninitiated population. A genre was born when Space Invaders arrived and its a type of game I still love.

davyK's picture

A middle-aged gamer's collection

I'm a forty-something person who plays quite a lot of video games. I'm of an age when common consensus dictates that I should be doing something like playing Golf instead; but I don't - even though I'd like to take that particular pastime up (watch this space). I'm also of the age that means I was at a very impressionable age when video games first appeared on the scene.

Matt Barton's picture

What role-playing games had the most impact on you?

I was browsing the excellent Tales of the Rampant Coyote blog and was pleasantly surprised to find a great mention of my book on a post called Game Design: How CRPGs Warped My Brain, Part 1. After complimenting my book, R.C. goes on to mention the role-playing games that made the most impact on his design philosophy. Here's a snippet from the Temple of Apshai blurb:

The thing that stuck with me from that game is that while a picture may be worth a thousand words, sometimes those words in text descriptions can evoke thoughts, feelings, and understanding that a picture alone cannot convey – even with the best of modern graphics.

How true! I also remember enjoying the entries in the printed journal that accompanied Pool of Radiance and other goldbox games. It was so much fun when the game referred to you an entry; it was always worth taking the time to read it and gave the game a more authentic D&D like feeling. What CRPGs have "warped your brain?" Here's a brief list of my personal favorites and what they taught me.

Bill Loguidice's picture

A Reflection on Hero Worship (Danger, One of My Occasional Off Topic Musings!)

With the mashup video for Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot making the rounds on the Internet today - much to my delight - I was reflecting a bit on who I viewed throughout the years as what might be referred to as my "heroes" or "idols", or, as a more mature - and certainly more accurate - way of looking at it, people I've genuinely admired over the years and how and why they've influenced me.

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