[MUD-Dev] DGN: Reasons for play [was: Emergent Behaviorsspawnedfrom...]

Sean Kelly sean at f4.ca
Thu Oct 13 08:41:54 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


On Tue, 4 Oct 2005, Sean Howard wrote:
> "Amanda Walker" <amanda at alfar.com> wrote:

>> I agree on My Little Pony, but I don't agree that "a good game is
>> a good game".  There are some with broad appeal, but in general,
>> one person's "good game" is another person's "waste of time."

>> "good game" is subjective.

> That's like saying a "good movie" is subjective, and yet somehow,
> despite my wife not being able to sit through it without falling
> asleep 10 minutes in, The Seven Samurai is a "good movie" and
> Dude, Where's My Car? is not.

Not true.  A context is necessary to forumlate any judgement, and
I'm not sure you'll be able to convince me that there is a single
universal context for measuring movie quality :-).  That your wife
doesn't consider "The Seven Samurai" to be a 'good' film should
offer sufficient support for this.

> The reason for this is because we have a more complex way of
> objectifying movies than we do games. The Seven Samurai uses
> excellent composition, visual metaphors, a well structured plot,
> and superior acting. Dude has...  um... pot. It's funny, sure, but
> there's nothing more to it that we can judge as being a "good
> movie".

Sure there is.  "Dude, Where's My Car?" is a more recent film and is
placed in a modern cultural context, it is filmed in color, contains
a tremendous amount of humor, has physically attractive main
characters (as far as a good portion of the target audience is
concerned at any rate), etc.  While you and I may prefer "The Seven
Samurai" for a multitude of reasons, I don't think it's fair to use
those reasons as a universal critera for film quality.  And this
example doesn't even address the difficulty in comparing different
types of film: thematic vs. story-based, for example.  And what
about study films (ie. Jane Goodall with Gorillas or a documentary
on Afghani culture)?

> but make no mistake about it, objectively speaking, while
> entertainment may entertain you, they are not all created equal.

Certainly not.  But I think this is a subjective rather than an
objective issue.  And what if opinions change?  I used to enjoy WoW
and now I find it incredibly tedious--the game itself hasn't
changed, but my perspective has--does that make it a good game or a
bad game as far as I'm concerned?

> So, how do we judge WoW? How do we say whether or not it is a
> "good game" based on anything other than our own enjoyment? This
> is why I think we need some honest critical review in the game
> industry. Real hard asses who are impossible to please with
> extensive understanding of the breadth of games as well as their
> history. If we had a dozen of these critic superstars that
> actually had some freaking insight into gaming every once in a
> while, it wouldn't take long to develop something.

See above.  A year ago I might have called WoW a 'good' game, but I
wouldn't do so now.  A good deal of this can be attributed to
significant experience with WoW since my initial judgement, but the
fact that my opinion changed is evidence that abstract judgements
are difficult.  All that might be gained from my experience is that
the early game is enjoyable while the end game is not.  Or perhaps
each quality should be evaluated separately?  I'll admit to liking
Guild Wars a great deal in the same areas that I dislike WoW, but
the reverse is true as well.  By comparing the two, I have to weight
different qualities based on what I am looking for in a game.
Neither is perfect, but Guild Wars fits the bill better than WoW
does.

> But instead we've got propaganda magazines that spend most of the
> pages in previews, praising things they've never played, only to
> give it a three paragraph review once it comes out saying that it
> sucked and giving it an 8 (because magazine reviews only go from 6
> to 8, with 9s reserved for high profile works like Halo and Fable,
> regardless of actual quality). The reviews in the magazines out
> there aren't just critical in the wrong ways, they aren't even
> consistant or accurate.

Reviews are opinion pieces.  And I suppose they should be considered
in light of the advertising revenue they rely on.  Personally, I
look for in-depth reviews and decide whether I'll like a game based
on the information the review presents.  The score isn't something I
care about.  As for WoW--I decided to play after years of having
sworn off MMORPGs partly because the game mechanics sounded "fun"
and partly because my friends were all going to play.  I've since
changed my mind about the game mechanics and the fact that my
friends still play wasn't enough to keep me interested--it was a
contributing factor, not a deciding factor.

> We need some real, live critical review out there of something
> more substantial than art and sound, and we're not getting
> it. That's why something like Mortal Kombat can even remotely be
> considered a good game.  I mean, people enjoy playing it, but when
> you can uppercut your way through the whole game, it makes Dude,
> Where's My Car? look like a deep mediation on life...

There are such reviews, but they're online, not in magazines--Ars
Technica's game reviews come to mind.  The problem is that the need
to be profitable conflicts with anything pretending to be objective
journalism--probably because people seem to prefer bias because it's
more engaging.

Sean
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