Monday, November 26, 2018

Notes on "Sparkling Dialogue", a great narrative design / game writing talk by Jon Ingold at AdventureX 2018

My colleague Clara Fernandez-Vara pointed me towards this great game writing talk by Jon Ingold this year at AdventureX, an excellent narrative design conference in London. Unfortunately the Twitch video of the talk is hard to follow and the YouTube version of this talk is still forthcoming, so I thought I'd summarize the talk here because I found it very useful. As of December 1st, the YouTube version is now online!

(NOTE: This post isn't a transcript of Ingold's talk. It's a summary with my interpretations, and I might be wrong or misunderstanding.)

Ingold begins with something that should be obvious and uncontroversial to everyone: generally, most video game dialogue is poorly written. This isn't to say video games are bad, or that they we shouldn't try to do any dialogue at all. There are also many reasons why game writers are forced to write poorly, whether it's because of lack of resources, or last minute changes in the design, or other production constraints, etc.

The point is not to blame writers. The point is to highlight a problem in the craft and to define a better ideal. So, how can we write more competent game dialogue that is slightly less embarrassing?

To demonstrate the problem of typical video game writing, Ingold shows us this conversation from the first hour of Assassins Creed Odyssey in the starting mission "So It Begins":

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rinse and Repeat HD remastered, and three years of reflections and thwarted plans

I've just uploaded an updated version of Rinse and Repeat: it is now known as Rinse and Repeat HD, which is basically the same version currently playable at the Victoria and Albert's Videogames exhibition.*

In addition to fancier graphics, I've also: added gamepad / rumble support, re-programmed the entire scheduling algorithm to be more stable, and tweaked much of the balance and feel.

If you're not familiar with the game, you should probably read my artist statement "Rinse and Repeat as cup runneth over" so that you know how the game works.

The rest of this post will assume you mostly know what it's about already!...

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The medium is not the magazine; the medium is not the criticism

This post is about how we talk about video games, but it takes me a little while to get there...

This year, I was interviewed for two artsy print magazines: PIN-UP is "the only biannual magazine for architectural entertainment", while Phile is an "international journal of desire and curiosity" with lots of fingers in the art world.

Both writers Drew Zeiba ("INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT YANG, DESIGNER OF 3D FANTASY SEX SPACES") and Zach Kotzer ("ON GAY SEX AND GAMING") did lovely jobs with presenting my work to a non-gamer audience. And both publications kindly mailed me a print copy, and as I flipped through their glossy layouts and playfully experimental type treatments, I was shocked by how I'm such a fucking nerd and how these people are so much cooler than me.

When I'm flipping through PIN-UP #24, I'm mentioned in the same pages as Amanda Levete or Frida Escobedo, real architects making real art with their real professions and real expertise. In fact just a few months ago I was visiting London for the V&A Videogames opening, and I walked through Levete's V&A addition as well as Escobedo's 2018 Serpentine Pavilion. As their art and stature literally enveloped me, I had to wonder, why did I deserve to be featured alongside these much more important people?

Or in Phile #3, directly after my interview, there's an interview with Peaches (Peaches!!!) and she is just so much more amazing and brilliant than me, and it's absurd that my segment is right before her segment, or that a reader might accidentally reflexively compare the two of us together while flipping the page. Not to mention all the other pages in this issue, detailing this whole complex community of writers and artists working with sexuality and eroticism, where I'm not just some sort of weird curiosity -- in fact I'm probably the most boring artist in the entire issue.

Anyway this isn't about me airing-out my impostor syndrome or whatever.

On the contrary, I definitely fit OK into these discourses. In PIN-UP #24, Arakawa and Gins talk about "eternal gradients" and constant reassembling, which makes me think of constantly remastering and re-releasing my own games. Or in Phile #3, I learned how my problems with Twitch's hypocritical morality policing mirror Peaches' problems with YouTube's morality police, and I also feel a lot of parallels between my treatment of tile in 3D showers and featured artist Prem Sahib's sculpture of gay bathhouses.

Instead, what I'm emphasizing here is how these critical publications readily dissolve the barriers between mediums while maintaining high production values and curating a unique identity. And then these non-game publications still end-up performing game criticism anyway!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The first person shooter is a dad in mid-life crisis

OK I know Heavy Rain isn't an FPS but I like this screenshot so I don't care
Every semester for our introductory Games 101 historical survey class, a different NYU Game Center faculty member presents a survey of a game genre. Matt Parker lectures on sports, Clara Fernandez-Vara talks about adventure games, Mitu Khandaker talks about simulations, and so on.

My personal lecture happens to be on the first person shooter (FPS) genre. In my lecture, I trace five main currents through the FPS genre: