Category Archives: Essay

What’s so social about social games?

Industry answers: “What is a social game?”

To toss my tiny hat into the game, my answer would be any game that encourages meaningful social interaction within the game’s mechanics and dynamics, more so if the main dynamic of the game relies on meaningful social interaction. To that end, a couch session of multiplayer streetfighter IV would fit the bill; (just as the random player selector of arcades) so would dungeoning and raiding in WoW, a co-op game of Borderlands, a round of Munchkin and Bridge. These are games (or sections of games) that ultimately rely on meaningfully interacting with other players to get the best out of the game. Farmville and Cityville don’t count. There’s no meaningful interaction beyond treating your friend’s list like a resource.

I think a better question to ask is what games fulfil our social need?

A lot of time, the definition of the current crop of social games boils down to casual games where we play on social media networks. The term did derive from the type of games typically seen on Facebook, while the buzzword social media was being bandied around. It seems games on these social media just borrowed the terminology without really applying the meaning of the word social. I don’t think the limited interaction afforded by the majority of facebook games count as social. At best, the make use of the social interaction of facebook itself, rather than bake it into the gameplay.

Games fulfil a certain entertainment need, or perhaps an activity need. We play them because they’re a good use of our time, we don’t feel like we’re wasting it by playing games. Whether this is through the experience of something new, the sense of reward that a game confers, (realistically or falsely) or because it allows us to interact with others of like-minded interest. The latter point is the most important for me, seeing as how the majority of my closest friends came from gaming, and gaming is still a conversational touchstone or activity that I can use to get to know a stranger better.

I’m not sure where social games fall into this. I don’t know of anyone who talks about farmville, or cityville outside of playing it besides industry types. I do know of people who talk about awesome moments in Call of Duty or Starcraft whether they self identify as gamers or not. I know guys who discuss in-depth detail about football manager, while shying from being labelled as hardcore gamers. The games are conduit while these people exercise a certain basic human need, the need to socialize; to communicate with out fellow man. To just shoot the breeze and feel like someone is listening and actually cares about what we’re saying.

The industry likes to debate about the social aspect of the games that’s currently in vogue,* (read: getting really popular) because, well, they’re trying to figure out how to capitalize on this. That’s great, but I think we’re approaching this backwards. Maybe we should stop looking at the games first and wondering whether they are social games or not. Maybe we can start looking to people and society and wondering what sort of games we can create that would fulfill certain social needs.


Games of 2010: Part II

Again, this is the second part of the games that have somehow impacted me during this year. Mostly on the way I think about story and presentation in games, not so much about the game play itself. It’s by no means a definitive list and there are a bunch of games I have yet to try out. (They’re at the bottom of the list), but it does represent my thoughts on these games and how good I thought they were at what they were doing. Onwards, in descending order to Number 1.

4> Stalker: Call of Pripyat.


There’s a certain existential dread pervading the Stalker worlds, something that Fallout’s post-apocalyptic Americana kitsch completely avoids. Maybe it’s a Russian thing, after all they do like their desperate struggles for humanity’s survival. (See Tolstoy, Doestovesky, or better yet, read Stanislaw Lem and play Stalker.) Either way, it makes the third Stalker a unique experience, an often cold, desolate, depressing experience, but a unique one.

3> Starcraft II – Wings of Liberty


The story of Starcraft II is not in its cliché ridden melodramatic hackfest of a single player campaign. No, as polished as that was, it was a side show attraction to the real meat and bones of a game designed from ground up to be competitive. The real story of Starcraft II lies in its multiplayer.

It tracks the rise and fall of wannabe generals, the careful strategic planning that give way to tactical blunders, the emotional rollercoaster to near misses and inevitable death. It’s the rush of adrenaline as you think you might just have a chance, but no, no, that one muta just murdered your entire ground army. It’s the frustrations and the recriminations of your own stupidity, followed by the burning desire to do better. Just one more game, I’ll be better. I promise. Maybe I’ll just quit. No wait, I can beat them. Ok I can’t. This game sucks. I Nuked! I win.

Every story plays out differently; every story can be recorded for your playback pleasure. Every story is a personal one against your arch nemesis for those few minutes, and every story has that one moment of dramatic glory, or pyrrhic victory, or triumph that can be shared. It’s often an intense story, but man, is it a personal one.

2> Fallout: New Vegas


Obsidian knows how to build worlds. They know how to put the player in a place that’s filled with vivid adventures, and colorful characters and unique locations. They know how to write a place that’s both fantastical and dangerous, and then give you the choice on how you want to shape that world. Fallout: New Vegas is a giant RPG sandbox, filled interesting things to see, do and talk to. It’s archaeology, reconstructing stories from the past, and seeing how they’ve shaped the present.

And it’s all built with a philosophy in mind. Specifically in Fallout: New Vegas, Hegelian dialetics, how do societies in a post-apocalyptic landscape reshape themselves. How do they fit themselves into the larger world. If society is largely a collection of tribal associations, what happens when those tribal associations go to war in a harsh, unforgiving, (but oddly humourous) environment. And what do you, as player want to explore with each of these ideals? What can you do to shape it.

The games doesn’t really successfully explore all these ideas though, but it’s massively ambitious an attempt to do so, and because of that, it’s a game that rewards thinking about the consequences of your decision and the fate of this fictional world. It’s a game that goes beyond the tropes of saving the world from a great evil, or from dastardly conspiracies and manipulative overlords. It’s a world where there’s a good and bad side to everything, so what do you think is best?

Shame the game is a bit buggy though.

1> BioShock 2


No other game hit me as hard on an emotional level. No other game presented a world so detailed in its conception and so ambitious in its ideals. No other game seems to be as mature in wanting to tell a story that can be emotionally affecting in a unique way, and then giving the player the ability to experience that story in his own way, at his own pace. BioShock 2 tugged at heartstrings that few games have ever done, and is likely to rarely do. It’s a game that takes its concepts and builds an incredibly story, action and adventure around them. Then it sucker punches you.

At this point, I’m waxing lyrical about a game and fully admit bias. If I were to speak objectively, I realize the emotional impact of a game is about as subjective a topic I can get from writing about anything. Objectively, Bioshock is merely a good game with many of its nits and picks to quibble about. Objectively, the story isn’t really for everyone either.

Subjectively though, this is one of those rarefied games that will enter the annals of my influences. This is how you build a level for game-play and story purposes.* This is how you pace a game to give player’s control of their surroundings. And this is how you get me to care about the characters in your game. Not by following clichés and tropes, but by taking a single idea and exploring all the perspectives around it, and then letting me decide which one is ultimately mine.

*Fallout 3 and Fallout: NV are great, but its identikit level design has nothing on BioShock’s aesthetic goals.

Honorable Mention #1
Mass Effect 2

It was a bold experiment in RPG design; in its own words, it’s all about Big Decision and Visceral Combat now. Mass Effect 2 is streamlined space opera, an RPG cut down to its very core. It’s all-action, all story, all the time. You are Commander Shepard and man, are you getting the band together to save the universe. But first, let’s deal with your issues.

It’s too bad the streamlining undercut a lot of interesting gameplay for cinematic immersion, and a lot of world building for an encyclopedia and corridor shootfests. It’s an efficient game, (we’ll not talk about planet scanning) and in that efficiency, some soul was lost.

As it is, Mass Effect 2 is a great window into the universe, but it always felt like I’m staring at one small corner of it, wishing I could explore more, talk more; wishing I could go deeper. There are touches of brilliance everywhere, bits and pieces of awesome scenery tucked away in a skybox, and hints of historical depth in random conversations. Yet I can rarely explore them, because the game is too busy hurtling me down the action path. I have to save the universe from the collectors, but first I have to play amateur psychologist, or undercover cop, or hacker supreme. Mainly though, I just have to play a guy* who runs and guns through corridors. Alrighty then.

In the end, Mass Effect 2 ends up feeling like an awesome collection of short stories, tenuously connected by an overarching theme, played over the same game. Great in short doses for the story, but the game was ultimately kinda shallow.

*(well girl really. FemShep is the only way to play)

Honorable Mention #2

WoW: Cataclysm, (and Wrath of the Lich King)


I’m late to the party, but it’s a party that never ends.

I actually want to talk about how Blizzard seems to be getting much better at designing zones. They’re now little subsections of the world where stories can take place. Yes, sure, it’s world, where the stories are a hodge podge of fantasy tropes and pop-culture references and there’s no serious attempt at building anything, well, plausible. It’s a fantasy theme park.

So what? Theme parks are designed to be incredibly fun. Take a ride, take many rides and remember the times. WoW is a game in all its gaming glory. The stories are there, but their fun tales to be shared by drunken barflies after work. The characters are there, but they’re broad fantasy archetypes meant to paint an epic picture, not tell a nuanced deep story. It’s all very entertaining, but it’s hard to care for any of it. In fact, the only thing worth caring in Wow are numbers, and the loot to make those numbers go higher.

And that’s where the game lets me down, because sometimes, more often than not; people over-caring about those numbers, really really suck.

Games I should get to playing.

Civilization V
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Greed Corp
Call of Duty: Black Ops


Game Design Philosophy Guidelines.

This isn’t so much a ruleset and several thoughts i’ve accumulated over the years as I consider the prospect of being a game designer.

This is more like the underlying fundamentals that I begin with as I think up game designs and begin to write more game design documents. Apart from the other stuff I’ve learnt such as the Mechanics / Dynamics / Aesthetic triptych, this is more an ongoing philosophy I’m building as I think about games. It’s mutable as I learn more, discuss more and get feedback, but I think it’s a good framework to consider when thinking of games and the stories I can tell with those games.

Onwards.

1> Games are a series of interesting decision. – Soren Johnson.

Games are a unique interactive medium. Making decisions is the method in which the game engages the player into its system. These decisions can range from anywhere between risk vs reward scenario, what to do next, where to go. The player is essentially trading time for a sense of reward in the game, and that sense of reward derives from making the right decisions at moments in the game. I don’t think this means that all decisions have to be big, hugely consequential decisions, just that those decisions are well defined within the context of the game and clear about the general outcome, if not the entire outcome.

We have to make decisions in games, that how we interact with them. If it’s just instinctual rote activity, the game becomes boring. WoW, for instance, has a fairly rote pattern of skill use after some time. Playing as such renders the game boring to all but the most masochist of players. But ask any wow fan, and they don’t cite the combat system as why they play. The decisions to be made in Wow is the efficient use of time to get the best gear, through whichever points are in vogue. The combat is just a method in which to get there. The skills are not the interesting decisions, it where to do with those skills that’s the interesting bit. Games without any interesting decisions are less interactive, because there’s little for the player to be engaged with.

These decisions also lead me to the second point; in the process of considering these decisions, players should be frustrated a little, because …

2> Games are the art of enjoyable frustration. – Andrew P. Mayer

Gamers want to be challenged. That’s not that controversial a statement when we realize the appetite for challenge differs among people. Some are content to be challenged with the concept of time, simply figuring the most efficient amounts of click to get to get  a sense of rewards, (i.e. Facebook games, Diablo). The frustration lies in the sense of time they’re fighting against. Others prefer a more mental challenge, or an uncompromising system that punishes minute mistakes, (i.e. Starcraft, Demon’s Soul) Games as enjoyable frustration demonstrate a safe environment in which we can conquer challenges and thus feel in control of our situations. It’s that rewarding feeling of beating a challenge that often more enjoyable than just a series of activities. The frustration comes in trying to beat the challenge.

Frustration isn’t about battling horrible UI, or poorly implemented design decisions, it’s about finding a careful balancing act between not giving players that easy a time such that they feel they’re wasting it, and enough of a leeway, and an idea on how to beat the challenge. This frustration is important, because it’s a key part of how players experience the game, and a key part of how they tell themselves they’ve conquered a particular game. That’s their personal narrative, which leads to…

3> The player’s narrative is more important than the game’s narrative

The stories we best remember are the ones that we can best relate to. In games, this often means the stories of what happened to us.

This doesn’t mean games can’t tell a story, it simply means that games are much better at making players feel as if it’s their story, not that they are watching someone else’s. Games can often provide the narrative tools in which players form their own stories. In civilization, it’s how your civilization rose up from the ancient age to conquer the world, in starcraft, it’s how you fended off the zerg rush and pounded your opponent with mass reapers. When we can insert our own imagination into the story, when the game supports our telling of tale, we can identify with the game better.

What’s difficult is getting the players to relate to that story. Supposing I want to tell a story that more epic, that touches of much greater ideals than good versus bad, or corporations are corrupt, and aliens are evil. It’s tougher to get an audience to relate to material they may not always be familiar with. Hegelian dialetics is more often than not going to fly over the heads of the average gamer, but yet seems to be one of the core tenets of Fallout: New Vegas. Similarly, Planescape explored the existential anguish of a man who has lived a thousand lives. Which of us gets a chance to do so.

What game can do is present it in the form of the player’s story, yet still introducing the player to these ideals, through whichever narrative tool a game has at its disposal.* Games are suited to this, we have an enraptured audience when the game is good. We can take the time to explore some concepts, because …

4> Games don’t need to say something, but they should be about something

This one is more a refutation of Richard’s Bartel’s original assertion that games must say something. I don’t games can say anything in particular. By the nature of their interactivity, they can say multiple things about a single subject. Games, unique to any other medium can react to the player’s input, and thus create branching paths, multiple outcomes, and various story threads. It isn’t limited to a linear narrative.

This is a semantic argument, as I’m not saying games can’t say anything, but that they can say multiple things on a single subject. Essentially, be about something, but be about the multiple perspective on a subject. Take for instance Brenda Brathwaite’s Train. The game itself doesn’t say anything. As a collection of mechanics, sans the knowledge of its reason, it’s a fairly simple game about transporting resources. The game doesn’t really say anything until it’s designer mentions what its about.

In other words, “art reflects the spectator, not the artist.”

Stray Thoughts

*- I should probably try and categorize some ways in which games can tell stories. Cutscenes are a perennial favourite, as is the level mise-en-scene. But I’m fairly certain that it’s worthwhile to sit down and think about some other ways in which games present a story from the designers point of view, and contrast it when it’s a more player owned story. Maybe that’s a series of posts I can begin.

– There’s always the case of a lot of this stuff sounded more awesome in my head than when I actually wrote them out. Maybe I really should be writing this late at night, when I’m not neurotic about my word choices.

– Interesting decisions tend to be a huge umbrella. Solving puzzles are composed of interesting decisions. What if I were to do this there, etc. The decisions are always what do I do, what can I do, and what tools do I have to do it.


The best games of 2010: Part I

The following is my list of best games I’ve played in 2010. There isn’t really a consistent criteria, just games that have opened my eyes, given me a wholly unique experience, is a fantastic expression of an idea, or just ate away a lot of time that I’m glad I gave away. They are in some form of order.

8> Dead Rising 2.


4 years in the making; the sequel to one of my favourite games of all time is exactly what I wanted in a sequel. It’s wacky zombie killing adventure, this time chainsaw paddle blades, wolverine claws and the automated Stephen Hawking kill chair.  As zombies may be entering the mainstream pop culture du jour, Dead Rising 2 remains one of the best expressions of just how goofy the idea is, and how seriously we can take it.

Take for example the daughter part of the story, it’s a nice touch in an otherwise balls to wall game of insane zombie killing action. Sure, I can feed her medicine while dressed in a top hat and a mankini, but the intent of trying to get at an emotion beyond just awesome killing or desperate survival elevates this game just beyond B-grade enjoyable pulp. The rest of the game just mashing on the necros, but every so often, you can be reminded why we bother.

7> Nehrim


A German mod team takes 4 years to show that they have much better imagination that world creation abilities that Bethesda. Nehrim is a mod that makes full use of Oblivion’s potential, but building a world that seems at times plausible, at times picturesque, but all fantastic. Playing the game is like wandering through a fantasy novel; meeting the people and stumbling into some incredible locations, being yanked along by a plot that seems not to stop, and coming into set pieces that Bethesda can only wished they had originally dreamed off.

In Nehrim, you’ll sneak your way into a sieged city, trudging your way through its smoking ruins, you’ll delve deep into tunnels, looking for the lost mega-city buried beneath. You’ll trek cautiously through a haunted forest, only to arrive to a site of massive devastation. No two dungeons are alike, no two locations are similar. It’s a game that’s build a world out of sheer imagination and grit and it’s worth the time to see what mod teams can do, when they put their mind to it.

6> Limbo


Limbo is this year’s Braid, and arguably a much better expression of an artistic idea. It’s a game that wears its aesthetic perfectly, the quiet echo of its soundtrack against the haunting imagery of its silhouettes upon shadows, a platform game with incredible simple mechanics, telling a simple story with just art. Also, those death animations are kinda cool.

5> Shatter


Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting to be smitten by this. It originally looked to be just an update to the old Arkanoid/Breakout gameplay, with tweaks to the gameplay mechanic. Playing it, on the other hand, is a different story. Props goes to the awesome soundtrack, which I could just listen to without playing the game, but goes a long to providing that “zen thing” trance groove the game will lull you into once you get going. Whatever the case, it’s nice to see classic gameplay mechanics get a spit and polish and remind us why they are classic in the first place.

Here’s the soundtrack because it’s just that awesome.


By Odin’s Beard, I shall smite Zeus with the Hammer of Ra.

Comparitive Mythology is a funny thing.

It’s come to the point in popular culture that there’s certain popular culture that’s safe to appropriate for whatever you’re doing, be it games, comics, movies, etc. No one bats at eyelid when the fine details of Greek Mythology is glossed over in Clash of the Titans or Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Yet, like Dr Oberts says, at some point, these were as true to the people that belief them as the religion we practice today are. It gives me some thought into my own Christian beliefs and practices. But that’s more personal than for a blog that supposed to be a dedication towards my thoughts on story and games.

Mythology, as far as I understand it, is a way to contextualize and understand the world around us. That’s how religion sprung up, as stories about abstract ideas that people can gather around. Morality, nationalism, the afterlife, these give people a community, a form of tribal identity that they aren’t so alone and that they can believe something that connects them with other people, and make sense of the world around them. I still think that the the fundamental principle that governs social behaviour is that people are tribal, and they’re willing to belief anything that supports their tribal identification and bolsters their position in a chosen community.

What this means for games and mythology is that, some are off limits, and some aren’t. Yet games are a useful measure of testing somehow real concept of faith and ideas. Since at the heart of it, games are interactive, and can tell a story in multiple different ways. Few games do though, since few games have mature writing enough to tackle the ideas of religion, let alone the more abstract concepts of faith and the heart of humanity’s belief.

Take this list for example, aside from Silent Hill, which I have little familiarity with; the rest of the games listed don’t actually deal with religion in a meaningful way. More likely, they appropriate religious terminology and present a shallow representation of religion, or enough flavor to populate a world. Xenosaga and Xenogears are the worst examples of this lot. Even Fallout and Oblivion which presents certain religion at the center of stories tend to use cultish aspects of religion rather than a more comprehensive based religion in the world. It’s taking all the bad parts of religious ideology and few of the good. Then again, a lot of designers, programmers and general athiests would argue that there is no good in religion.

I’m still wondering about how religion can be tackled in a game, particularly the concepts of faith and some of the more positive aspects of people’s belief system. I’m unconvinced that the absence of a central belief system is generally good for the progress of large communities. It may be all well and good for the individuals atheists who’s already enjoying the fruits of society, or at the very least, can survive the turmoil of modern living, but the lack of religion might not be beneficial on a larger scale with regards to the idea of a country, or a group of people moving forward with a goal in mind. Humanism, despite it’s claims to be progressive, hasn’t really taken off because there are far too many disparate arguments about which way forward is the best way forward. All this to say that religion is necessary as a belief system for people to gather in communities. Atheism is unorganized and anarchic and that doesn’t make for good governance.

Or maybe I should just play Mask of the Betrayer again and see how Kaelyn deals with the faithless.


DigiPen #2 – Arcade Observations

I guess this is where we post our essays online for everyone else to read. Mine’s a little long and forgive me if I don’t take time to add the pictures in as well. – Leonard

ARCADE OBSERVATIONS

Arcades were once the Mecca of bored teenagers. The bright lights, the promise of exciting action, the cacophony of bleeps, bloops and fanfares engendered a digital warzone that tickles the fancy of burgeoning machismo. It was a haven for game-play and it was where boys flocked to.

Now, apart from a few, they stand as desolate relics of videogame’s history; a mausoleum of machines that once stood proud and loud. It’s a victim of the rapid advancement of technology, of computers becoming smaller and more powerful. First came the LAN centres[1], then came the consoles and HDTVs; arcades were doomed to irrelevancy in the eyes of video gamers, unless they introduced something drastic.

Alright, that’s all a little bit dramatic, but there’s a certain truth that with the availability of awesome games across a wide variety of platforms, Arcades are essentially a niche form of video games, where once they were the promised land of milk and hadokens.

What changed was the advancement of video game technology. Arcades used to be places where players gets to show off their awesome skills, pwning n00bs who dare to saunter up and carelessly throwing their quarters[2] in the slot. Now with the advent of decent matchmaking systems on the Internet, who needs to venture forth from your den of iniquity to challenge unknown strangers?

Game play changed as well. Rail shooters, common in arcades, gave way to the frantic first person firefights you can have at home or at LAN shops. Games at home became more complex, more demanding of your attention and more of a value proposition for the time and money spent. “Seriously, 2 dollars for a game that I’ll lose in 10 minutes, and I have to pay more to play? I’ll just quick-load this bit again, thanks.”

So, like any beast in a desperate struggle for its own survival, it evolved. Where claw games were once relegated for girls and petty amusement between bouts of streetfightering, now they are the main draw. Arcades have adopted a sort of casino mentality, where the token doesn’t guarantee you a few minutes of video-gaming pleasure, it entices you to perhaps get more than what you pay for. These are the machines that see the most action, while the rows and rows of fighting game machines sit almost empty.

Arcades can provide games with unique interactions. It started with whack-a-mole, and all the other carnival variants that made its way into the arcade’s hall. These became driving games, rail shooters and fishing games and morphed into full motion simulations, starting with Ferrari’s racing car, to flight sims, and eventually a Gundam Pod. They were expensive, but they could be found in an arcade in all their ostentatious glory, standing front and centre to attract gamers. They were big and they were expensive; 2 dollars a games. Kids may not be wise with their spending habits, but they have limited resources.

So Arcade offered different games with different types of interactions. The appeal of sangokushi taisen 3 can almost be attributed to the way the player shuffles the cards around on the board, like a general commanding his army on a war table. Rhythm games were born in the arcade, starting with dance dance revolutions, though even these moved into the average home with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Similarly, once popular date fodder games like Bishi Bashi became Wario Party on a Wii.

Yet for all the unique interactions and game play an arcade can provide, it can’t pack the teenage crowd in like they use to. There are plenty of reasons not to go to an arcade today, “It’s expensive, I can play cooler games at home, it’s loud, dark and full of unsavoury characters, and I’m lazy.

Arcades can do two things much better than home consoles and personal computers. One, it provides a physical space where gamers can interact with one another, a common area where friends without rec rooms can gather, and two, it makes everything bigger.

The first was key in the arcade’s original popularity, but has since fallen out of favour. Social interaction now is through Web 2.0 and its ilk, gamers gather less physically than they do in online groups, forums and guilds. It’s all well and good, but often lacks the real human connection of physically communicating with another person.

For example, just the other day, I witnessed a dishevelled sack of a man take a bright eyed, eager foreigner under his wing in Sangokushi Taisen 3.[3]In an excitable smattering of dialect, mandarin and halting English, he tried to explain to the white guy about how to play the game. There was a translator of course, but it was still oddly strange to see these two specimens, in where they can perhaps find no other common ground, communicate with one another. If anything, it’s an indication that game play can transcend language and become a form of cross language communication. A physical space helps this. Imagine if the elder Chinese guy had to communicate to the white guy over the internet.

It’s a reminder that games can come with a strong social binding force, a concept that arcade games seem to lack. They should take a look at board games. A surge of board game cafes, and the continued popularity of board games in the west can indicate that people are more than willing to play games with one another, no matter the technology.

Take this fancy fishing game here for example. It’s essentially single player and takes its game design cues more from redemptiongames and gambling than actual player interaction. Yet it isn’t hard to imagine this guy of playing board, perhaps with touch screen, playing Settlers of Catan, or Zombies.[4] Or even a specifically arcade designed game, where players can drop in and out, play a few rounds and leave, interacting with strangers across the table and perhaps even chat with them after. All the interpersonal fun of board games combined with the computational power of video-games. Axis and Allies need not be tedious no longer.

And it can be big. Take a game, project into unto a huge screen, and let it be an audience event. Perhaps it won’t work for a more staid strategically brain teaser like Catan, but imagine if Sengokushi Taisen 3 was played like a board game, its battle rendered Dynasty Warrior style on a screen while players take turn shuffling cards around a digital board. Now, you’re in control of a Ridley Scott[5] battle scene, with all the drama, furore and fun that entails, and you can get an audience to cheer you on. It’s an experience that’s definitely unlikely to happen at home.

Computer games at home are likely to evolve further. Game design is fast becoming a discipline that encompasses all possibilities of players interacting with systems. See Kinect. While games on consoles and computers are growing deeper, more meaningful and easier to acquire, arcades games will be left in the dust if they offer little that the average gamer can’t get at home. And they offer it for a much higher long-term price system.[6] At that point, those cabinets become a coffin.

Stray Notes:

–          Of course, this entire observation is from a Singaporean perspective. I understand that in America, arcade games evolved from Carnival games and the video gaming part of them came later, with streetfighter and mortal Kombat essentially leading their revivals. My memory only stretches back to the late 80s and we never had carnivals in Singapore.
–          Conversely, we had a huge surge of LAN shops in the 90s that is pretty much dead around these parts but going on strong in Korea and China. It’s part of why how the arcade changed here, and the reason can be boiled down to 3 games: Counterstrike, Starcraft. And DOTA.
–          Sengokushi Taisen 3 really does seem like a complicated RTS made unique by its user-interaction and CCG elements. It’s a curious type of game-play innovation, I wonder if there’s a chance for a more computer / console type variant.
–          Man those rail shooters never evolved much did they? They just incorporate bigger and bigger guns and dumber and dumber set pieces.


[1] In Asia at least.
[2] We didn’t have quarters either. Games started at 20 cents, then became 50 cents a token.
[3] A game with its own strange inner circle cabalistic like society, almost mimicking initiation ceremonies with the way new players get viable decks to play the game with.
[4] Microsoft Surface is in development. The nuances of UI can be discussed in depth later, but the main idea is that Arcades can incorporate surface to be a hybrid of a Settler’s Café and Virtualand arcade zone.
[5] Or John Woo, if you are so inclined.
[6] Arcades: The original microtransactions system.