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Belief in Games PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Diamante   
Tuesday, 02 September 2008 00:00
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Tim Rogers is a genuinely interesting person. He is witty, full of knowledge, and generally good at what he does, which is: communicating the joys and pains of video games to the thousands upon thousands of crazy hardcore and wannabe hardcore video gamers out there. He is also vegetarian, but that’s not why I can’t stand him, and yes: I do find him absolutely insufferable. How can I not when being around him and reading his articles makes me feel that he is incredibly and utterly wrong...

Or maybe that's me who's wrong...

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t try so desperately to compensate for this maybe-present wrongness. Tim's ideas and outbursts were like a buffet table for my ravenous mind; I’d take anything I could and ram them into my own being to fill up the vast wasteland of my own perceived uninterestingness. Honestly, it was really quite awful; I'd make a fool of myself and become a nuisance to all around. I’m really glad that a good friend thought to call me on that, but that's another story...

Tim Rogers, thankfully, is pretty easy to avoid (what with him being in Japan 99% of the time and me not spending any significant time outside of America.) Out of sight, out of mind. What I didn’t plan on happening was his online writing influencing me to drift away from the games journalism space. It didn’t exactly help that Tim wrote for the website that I co-founded. Since I was moving more and more into this support/backend role at insertcredit, I couldn’t help but read everything that Tim wrote for the site.

And how could I write anything after reading stuff like that? Grandiose, illuminating, exhilarating writing that took thousands of insertcredit readers on epic journeys into far off experiences only a living room away.

Now the reason I bring any of this up is because I was recently reminded of yet another games writer that gets me feeling the way I did back when I hung around Tim Rogers. That guy is Alex Kierkegaard. Now, I haven’t personally met Alex, but in the years I’ve been familiar with his work, he’s struck me as similar to Tim in a couple of key areas. One: he knows a lot about a lot of gaming stuff, and two: he seems to be able to write incredible amounts of stuff, with most of it having some sort of good point. So, of course, I find him absolutely insufferable. Alex, like Tim, makes me feel that one of us is incredibly and utterly wrong.

I really enjoy thinking about video games... and I really enjoy imparting those thought processes and results on others. Thing is: I don't think about games the way those guys do. And it doesn't help that sometimes I get this sense that their beliefs are somehow more right than the beliefs I have and share. How can their ideas and concepts not be right with the quotes from Nietsche and Wittgenstein alongside the sheer brazenness of their statements and masses of readers?

So here is the way I think about games...

The comment was not found.: ArticleID=0; (Child ArticleID=16)
Comments (3)
1 Tuesday, 02 September 2008 16:27
so, upon reading this article, i understand some of how i see you because it is some of how you see "them". not exactly, of course, because i dont believe that its your goal to be heard (as i usually believe it is tim's) but to be understood.

i can think in all sorts of ways and see from all sorts of perspectives, but when it comes down to it, my analysis of people is really just analysis of their ideas. if i can see the patterns, i can predict them and i can see a shadow of their thought processes. my analysis of games and stories is mostly similar (though with those i of course impose my own world view on things).

i think a part of what does not offend me about people like tim rogers is the fact that i can see something interesting underneath all of the talk. i think that it is because i like stories. and wow. i totally did not say what i meant to say.

ok, so back on track now, i agree that it is the job of the artist to make his art understood... i just have trouble understanding the concept of belief of a game. is it the games belief in people? belief in fun? is it a belief constructed by the artist to impart an idea, concept, or feeling? or yet more abstract, is it a belief that the player should somehow [have an] experience? (ok, so these questions were answered by the article edit)

as a final counterpoint of my own, though i agree with you, there can come a point where an artist will need to move beyond the lowest common denominator to make a game interesting and to allow it to present itself to an audience with a little more frame of reference and context or a little more age or know-how.

i think most gamers and good game journalists (and yeah, even game devs, believe it or not) can see this and will at times design a game beyond (lets say) the general audiences willingness to "accept the games beliefs". i think that the ending of a game i recently played "assassin's creed" was a bit like that. i also think that the game "shadow of the colossus" was a lot like that (or at least, i did, until i kept getting hints while i was playing).

these games move a step beyond the understanding and willingness of a typical person who games (casual gamers?) to believe, because they ask the player to mentally leap. in this case, it seems like perhaps the artist did a disservice to the audience.
i would say that the thinkers, analysts, and gamers will be set apart as believers where those who fail to make the leap will probably remain 'casual's... but being a simple consumer, i will also say that in this case, the "new video game journalist" complaining that someone does not understand the ending (or game, respectively) lacks something probably has a point, as good, bad, or pretentious as it may be.
2 Tuesday, 02 September 2008 16:38
edited out
3 Wednesday, 03 September 2008 00:48
Albino Grimby
I think I understand the concept of "belief of a game," but I think it's really more like the interpretation of a game by the player. Some games that I play, I can see the developer's artistic intention behind the game. For instance, Shadow of the Colossus. I believe that the developers did intend to make the controls feel vice-like. Your experiencing hanging onto the colossus just like your on-screen avatar by having to hold the shoulder buttons. The Wii makes me wonder if players get the artistic intent behind a control scheme. A lot of Wii games tend to de-evolve into a "waggle-fest" and I think it's because players (and even developers) don't buy into Nintendo's belief that a new generation of games should be based on theatrics and miming -- at least that's how I interpret Nintendo's use of motion controls. I also remember seeing something about Lair for the PS3. Someone on youtube demoed the sixaxis controls. When he rocked the controller around willy-nilly the game didn't respond right but when he slowed his actions down the flying dragon on screen followed his movement better. To me it sounds like the intent from the developers was that your holding onto the reigns of a giant beast and nudging him to do what you want. I think it's clever, but I could see why people might hate that anyway.