Saturday, April 28, 2012

Some Writing.

by Daniel Purvis

A quick post on a few pieces of mine that have appeared around the place this past week.

A piece I wrote several months ago has finally appeared on Kill Screen about the Modern Warfare trilogy and how despite its ultimately mediocre story, it tells it remarkably by understanding how easily interchangeable playable characters are. The artwork accompanying the piece (above) is by the ever-awesome Daniel Purvis. Purvis is hands down my favourite illustrators working in the videogame press and it's always a privilege to have him illustrate one of my pieces.

I wrote about Fez at Unwinnable, talking specifically about how the game made me think about what it must be like to experience a world beyond the one your own senses is able to perceive.

My last "You Know What I Love?" piece at Games On Net (almost a fortnight ago now) was all about playing games slow, and the unique satisfaction inherent in a game designed for such a play tempo.

And for the Australians among you, in the latest issue of Hyper (#224, with Max Payne 3 on the cover) I have an extensive preview of Medal of Honor: Warfighter that tries to address my uncomfortableness at the game's claims to unrealism. It includes a face-to-face interview with the game's executive producer, Greg Goodrich which I am quite happy with.

So there you go. As always, would love to hear what you think about any of these pieces.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Swinging and Shifting

I had a few articles published this week that are unrelated other than for the fact that I am really happy with all of them.

The first is over at Unwinnable and is about how Driver: San Francisco's use of the "it's all just a dream" trope is used to great effect to, paradoxically, reinforce the diegesis and coherency of the game's fictional world. I absolutely loved Driver: SF when I played it earlier this month. It is one of those games that just got my mind spinning and I have like half a dozen different articles I want to write about it. If you missed it late last year, I strongly recommend going back and playing it. It does so many interesting things very well. Also, I must say I was more than pretty happy with being able to use an entirely apt Wolf Parade song as the article title.

The second article is at The Conversation, a website funded by and run by a collection of Australian universities. It's not quite an academic website per se, but a website where journalistic articles and discussions can take place about academic research. I wrote about some research that claims to show gesture-based controls are "more immersive" than traditional, button-based controls, and why I find that very hypothesis highly problematic. This was the first thing I've ever written beyond the enthusiast gaming press, and it was a really interesting challenge to write about these things in an accessible way--accessible to both non-academics and non-videogame players. I think it turned out okay.

And in the world of print, I have two articles in the latest E240 issue of Edge Magazine. The first is a feature article called "Just Being There" (at least, that is what it was called when I sent it off to the editors; it could have changed!) and is about how games like Journey, Dear Esther, and Proteus are challenging traditional (I would say archaic) definitions of what a game 'is' but deliberately pushing at the borders of such definitions. I've seen a low-res screengrab of the article from when I had to do the captions and the visual design is incredible. I'm really excited to grab my own copy of the magazine when it finally makes its way to Australia.

The second article in the magazine is a studio profile of Bastion developers Supergiant Games. Greg Kasavin et al were nice enough to have me over to their lovely new studio space during GDC last month. I'm really happy with how this piece turned out, too. They are a fascinating group of developers with a really interesting and grounded approach to game design. Hopefully I conveyed this successfully in my piece!

If you read any of these pieces, I'd love to hear what you think.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How To Not Suck At Writing About Mechanics

Patrick Miller has this superb article at Insert Credit called "How To Not Suck At Ziggurat". It was published back in February, but I only just read it this week. I absolutely love it--not least of all because it is exemplary of a style of writing I utterly suck at.

I can easily write about how a game 'feels' in an emotive, affective way. I could write about how Ziggurat gives this great sense of stress and tension as you are slowly and inevitably swamped by The Aliens That Killed Everyone Else. I could talk for ages about the weird, unpleasurable-yet-awesome, discordant sensation of trying to hit a yellow alien with a charged up shot only to aim a pixel too low and have it bounce off the ziggurat into space, utterly wasted. But I cannot for the life of me write about how a game 'feels' physically, tactually, hapticly.

I love twitchy, precision games like Ziggurat, Super Crate Box, or Geometry Wars. I love figuring out what they want of me, and I get a real satisfaction of figuring out what to do with my fingers to kind of master the game's mechanics. I develop a real appreciation for these games and what I am able to do with them through my fingers, yet I can never find the words to succinctly describe these pleasures.

Miller's article does just that. He doesn't just list off the rules or goals or mechanics of the game, but successfully details just what you are able to do in the game and how it feels to do it. I tried to write something similar about Geometry Wars once, and at about 15,000 words I was no closer to describing the pleasures of that beautiful, beautiful game than I was before I started.

So Miller's piece is perhaps one of my favourite pieces of games writing for the year thus far, if only because it does so superbly something I wish I could do.