GWJ Conference Call Episode 261

Conference Call
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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Great Grey Wolf Sif - Dark Souls - http://www.preparetodie.com - 46:00

Main Theme - Rift - http://www.riftgame.com - 58:57

Comments

Whether games reflect our times starts with what we think the times are, and that of course will keep getting reinterpreted every few years. I feel like the struggle that defines the United States today, and perhaps the EU as well, is a deep-seated doubt about the efficacy of organized collective action, whether that action is corporate or governmental.

Against that backdrop we have the rise of a new form of games that I hear you guys talking about almost every week, the co-op. (Am I right in saying that this is a new-ish phenomenon for board games, too, not just video games?) And then there's the MMO, especially the ones like WOW that rely on guilds and other forms of voluntary association. Maybe this has nothing to do with the cultural-political zeitgeist and everything to do with technology. Or maybe what I wrote about in the last paragraph is wrong, and actually we hit bottom on collective doubt in the 1980s and have been rebounding ever since.

Or perhaps the fact that I make games about civics for a living makes me extra-sensitive to this particular division in society.

Anyway, great conversation, enjoyed listening to it as always!

I think that games are inherently a sign of the times by virtue of their being an entertainment product, which is inherently a cultural product. This is why it's really, really hard to translate some of the more complex Japanese narrative games. They're a sign of their life and times, just as American games are sign of the life and times of Americans.

9/11 is a cheap and obvious way to get the conversation going, but the way games reflect culture often goes in more subtle and more fundamental ways. Idiom is different depending on the time the game was crafted, language itself can be different, as can mores, story structure, music, engine technology, virtually every single item in the game can be a clue as to when it was made, and even where it was made.

Even futuristic games give us a glimpse of their temporal signature based on how the future looks. The original Star Trek devices look positively primitive even compared to the current-tech iPad, whereas New Generation devices look sleeker.

Truly the future isn't what it used to be.

I really meant to try Demon Souls in the freeplay room at Pax East a couple years ago, but there were no PS3s open so I tried Brutal Legend instead.

That said, I've been waiting for a spiritual successor to God Hand for years now. The creator of that game has officially forsaken it (as I recall he blamed the publishers for it's commercial failure because they allowed him too much creative freedom) in favor of lhis ater, more commercially viable projects like Bayonetta.

What I loved about God Hand was the combat, which heavily rewarded near-miss dodges and timing, and the fact that the better you did at the game, the harder the game got. Did you pull off a twenty hit combo just now? Great, now all the bad guys are faster and stronger.

I loved that when I "leveled up" my character stayed the same, but everyone else got tougher. Because it was handled in such a way that it never got frustrating. If you started to falter, the difficulty slid seamlessly back down to your current level. It encouraged my to strive for technical mastery.

Also the dodge system was freaking awesome. No blocking or pressing a dodge button. The left analog stick controlled your torso. Depending on which way you leaned it, your character would juke, duck, or do a backflip away from his enemies.

Is Demon/Dark souls anything like that? I was hoping that Fist of the North Star would be it, but that one turned out to be Dynasty Warriors with motorcycles.

I think the way games are reflective of today's culture is pretty well summed up in the fact that Elysium felt the need to say "so called evil empire" when referring to the Soviet Union, and that nobody felt the urge to call him on it.

A society that can't accept men like Stalin and Kruschev as history's villains without a qualifier will naturally have problems sorting out what the villains of the present are, and will tell stories that are likewise confused about it.

I learned this.. the three of you should not talk PC hardware and graphics.. Sands didnt even know what video card was in his system.

/smh

TheGameguru wrote:

I learned this.. the three of you should not talk PC hardware and graphics.. Sands didnt even know what video card was in his system.

I felt bad that Julian was SLI-ing 8800's. Talk about the wrong cards to do that with.

Thankfully Certis saved the day by knowing what Elysium had.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Is Demon/Dark souls anything like that? I was hoping that Fist of the North Star would be it, but that one turned out to be Dynasty Warriors with motorcycles.

Not really. The DS series is button pushes and not stick controlled for attacks, rolls and blocks. It's tactical in how you time things and what you use (blocking at the perfect moment to stagger the enemy, roll to the backside for a backstab, etc.). Enemies don't scale, you do get more powerful when gaining levels and improved gear is important. You can never quite steamroll your way through the game though, but gaining levels opens up harder areas.

That said, you will probably find the combat engaging based on the things you're looking for even though the controls aren't quite what you want.

Padmewan wrote:

Whether games reflect our times starts with what we think the times are, and that of course will keep getting reinterpreted every few years.

LarryC wrote:

I think that games are inherently a sign of the times by virtue of their being an entertainment product, which is inherently a cultural product.

I just wanted to mention that games don't merely reflect a culture or time, but also speak to that culture and time. As a cultural product, they are part of the conversation.

I think the way games are reflective of today's culture is pretty well summed up in the fact that Elysium felt the need to say "so called evil empire" when referring to the Soviet Union, and that nobody felt the urge to call him on it.

I was using the Reagan language of the day, hence the so called. I wasn't really calling back to the days of Stalin.

I learned this.. the three of you should not talk PC hardware and graphics.. Sands didnt even know what video card was in his system.

Totally agree. I'd never pretend to be knowledgeable on the subject. If anything, I say things like that specifically so people know from where I come. I'm not a tech guy -- I'm a middle aged guy who likes video games. I didn't build my own system and I want no part of that life. It's all to say, "If you're like me, here's what you might think is important."

Hear hear, Ely (and all of you who thought until now it was "here here" - you're welcome ).*

I just finished building my first desktop in maybe 8 years, and I can safely say I've reached the point where it's not fun anymore. I did build a pretty good one, so I'll have a chance to see what the current PC hotness is, but if anything I feel more confirmed as a converted console gamer. I like having no or rare issues with a machine cheap enough to replace if all else fails.

*Another pet peeve of mine: It's "toe the line."**

**These notes have nothing to do with anything in this thread, or website. I just see those misused all the time.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

*Another pet peeve of mine: It's "toe the line."

How is this usually incorrect? "Toed"?

garion333 wrote:
Fedaykin98 wrote:

*Another pet peeve of mine: It's "toe the line."

How is this usually incorrect? "Toed"?

I see "tow the line" all the time. I recently saw something even weirder, but I seem to have blocked it from my memory.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

I see "tow the line" all the time. I recently saw something even weirder, but I seem to have blocked it from my memory.

Do you break into a cold sweat on seeing a line drawing of an amphibian?

Hans

Towed the Wet Sprocket covers Toto's Hold the Line?

Listened (in my usual one-week-behind fashion) to this en route to class last night. Thanks to Boston losing its sh*t over some rain, I was able to catch the entire thing in one go, and ended up popping into the closest Target on the way home at 9:30pm to buy Dark Souls.

Having played Demon Souls, I definitely see this as a similar title, but the removal of the harsher death penalties both makes the game somewhat easier and much more one I'm apt to continue playing. It's still unforgiving, but as with its predecessor, it grants a very specific sort of accomplishment on account of that difficulty -- as discussed on the call, it teaches the player to survive, rather than enabling the character to do so.

Kudos on a great show.