Friday, April 5. 2013
Regarding the ethics of naming and shaming, Dr. Stemwedel wrote an interesting analysis over at Scientific American. My own personal take is this: naming and shaming is a tool mostly for seeking justice. It seems most widely used when other, better avenues, are not available. It can be used to help bring about equality by publicizing the misdeeds that otherwise wouldn't be judged fairly in courts, it can also be a tool to further oppress people rightfully protected by the courts.
When folks like myself who enjoy a lot of privilege in the industry and in society try to insist that naming and shaming should never happen, we are also insisting that people with relatively few recourses be kept that way. However, it's still just a tool. We can choose to help build a society and an industry where these are moot points. To borrow someone else's analogy, we need to get rid of the cat food factory awaiting minorities and women (among others) who try to join the supposed meritocracy of the tech industry. A lot of people think the game industry, as a mostly-microcosm of the tech industry, is full of weird people and total acceptance of 'different.' I'd say that's true as long as your basic similarities start off with being white and male.
Note: comments are still open, and still subject to post facto moderation, on this post as any other. If conversations around the 'Net are any indication, I'm going to have to be a bit more active in that regard on this post than usual. Don't try to spew filth and hatred on my site.
Friday, July 6. 2012
I'm not sure how much point there is, though. I finally got around to updating my bio here, to clarify that I'm not working on games; I walked away from KingsIsle and games in February of this year, and am much happier now.
Friday, July 8. 2011
Who is doing the hard work, and who is swooping in at the last minute to enjoy the ill-gotten fruit of another's labor? Here's a little snippet from University of Wales, Newport's description of the Computer Games Design - BA (Honors) degree:
When you graduate from the course you are fully prepared as a creative practitioner who can really make a difference. Roles range from the traditional art positions of character and environment design concept to model, rigging and animation to level design and project management for computer games design.
Frankly, that looks very much like the university is suggesting that students will come out of the program ready for a career; one where the student can make a difference, develop games independently, etc. Academia is trying to sell students on degrees for the marketable, useful skills imparted over the course of earning the degree, and then refusing to be accountable to either the industries targeted, or the graduated student who discovers too late that they are not actually prepared for a job.
The other funny thing about this rant is the disconnect between the criticisms he perceives as being leveled at games education ("By turns it’s either too many or too few games, not enough programming, etc") and his defense (arguing that academia is not about "fitting the loyalty chips in the necks of serfs bound for indentured servitude at the nearest Triple-A studio")1. Are the only people criticizing game development curricula at those AAA studios? Is that really their main interest in game development programs? Or is there actually a disconnect between the education offered in these programs, the promises they make, and the students coming out?
The group of people in this scenario that seem to have no accountability - that try to avoid taking responsibility for their actions - are the universities. The students certainly pay their way, the game developers are left still struggling to find, develop, or explain how someone embarks on this career path and develops along it... but the universities, well, they've got tuition and they've got another batch of students and if anyone says "you treated that last batch of students wrong" - the response is
We aren’t training sweatshops. We don’t teach skills, we teach people. Now bog off and let us do our job!
1. I'm being a bit loose with the quote; however, I think I'm accurately portraying his stance in the article, and it's really the best imagery in the article.
Saturday, February 12. 2011
Friday, December 31. 2010
Perhaps the thing he said that bothers me the most is that "we're still stuck with old DIKU gameplay." This hasn't been my experience at all, frankly. DIKU is still the thing that everyone thinks about when they're talking about big successful MMOs, but that doesn't mean they all are.
Dungeon Runners, for example, had combat elements completely distinct from the DIKU style (in particular, ranged attacks had actual paths they followed, and collision detection along that path; this meant 'twitch' gameplay had a real effect. It was a bit wonky since it was server-side, but I think it was a good step in the direction of "do something different." Was it earth-shattering innovation? Of course not, but it did impact the game, and I think it could have become a strong differentiator if other things, like the business model, hadn't let the game down. Similarly, the canceled project I still can't talk about was most definitely not a DikuMUD-style game, and my current project is somewhere off the beaten path too, with collectible card game mechanics in place of many DIKU tropes.
Only one of those three games without the same ol' DikuMUD gameplay is up (or will ever see the light of day), but Wizard101 is a pretty notable success, I think. This dovetails nicely with one of the points Brian made that I really do agree with - 2010 was a great year for free to play games. That's probably the biggest lesson I've learned so far - "free to play" may be a dirty word to some, but I think the period of time where every MMO had a mandatory subscription fee is over. Some will continue to go this route, but with the ever-crowded marketplace - particularly with competition (in terms of time spent) from Facebook-style games - games that require a financial commitment to even see have to overcome a lot more inertia, probably through significant marketing spends.
Beyond games I've personally worked on, Brian mentions RIFT quite a bit as a game that's disappointingly DIKUesque, but doesn't touch on the other game Trion Worlds is publishing - End of Nations, which is aiming for the MMORTS label - at all. There's also another studio in town working on a "massively multiplayer strategy game" that I don't know much about, but again: MMOG, not "graphical DikuMUD."
Which projects will pan out? I'm not sure, but I think I can definitely say there's ongoing innovation in online gameplay, and investment in new businesses. It's not the crazy days of yore when everyone was agog at the success of Ultima Online or EverQuest, or the moderately more mature period right after World of Warcraft launched... instead, people are paying attention to (and hoping to capitalize on) the success of Facebook and Zynga. It's a different market, but not a completely unrecognizable one. :-)
Happy 2011, everyone!