I really don’t know if this will be a regular feature, but there’s been a lot of great stuff worth reading going around lately that I figured I had to make sure some of it made its way to you. I’m fairly sure I got most of these from Twitter where my timeline is a nigh endless, free-flowing fire hose of video game stuff. There’s also some stuff from people in web development and design, but I tend to gloss over those unless I see a bunch of people talking about it. You know, how people do Twitter and whatnot.
But enough about the inanity and fruitless pursuit of the finish line to social media and human interaction. Let’s read some god damn articles about video games.
The Psychology Behind Steam’s Summer Sale
This comes from Jamie Madigan, a writer who contributes to Psychology Today, Edge, and Gamasutra about the psychology of video games. In fact, his website is called The Psychology of Video Games, so that seems to be a dead giveaway about the scope of his oeuvre. If you ever kind of wondered what made Steam sales so effective, he breaks it down quite elegantly.
The most interesting thing about Steam is that all of its products are digital, so when you buy something, all of its costs recouped through the transaction are tied to operational overhead. Normally sales occur in physical retail spaces so as to clear out old or unwanted merchandise, but that doesn’t exist in a 100% digital shop. So Steam sales are purely experiments in consumer psychology, dipping into artificial scarcity, psychological reactance, and other mind games. Have Madigan guide you on the ways Valve is bending you to their will. And then go buy eight games for a nickel.
A Splinter Cell: Blacklist Fever Dream
Allow me to paint you a picture: a PCGamesN writer named Steve Hogarty goes to a Splinter Cell: Blacklist hands-on preview event in Farringdon, London. Things take an immediate turn for the worse as his stomach decides it doesn’t like what’s in it and suddenly things that were once contained by his body are now on the outside. However, being the consummate professional, he manages to somewhat hazily recall the things he played before going into an illness-ridden 16-hour slumber.
And oh my god it’s so good. Only accurate in the way that saying not breathing is the leading killer of people ages one to 100 in America, but it’s so good.
Tom Bissell Dissection
Don’t get me wrong; I love Tom Bissell. I think he is one of the best writers out there and possesses one of those deeply analytical minds that sometimes crafts editorials and reviews in ways I can only imagine were cut from a block of gold the same way cheese is sliced from the wheel. His insight and his words work in such delicious harmony that to read him exclusively would sour you from the other 98% of games writing (another 1% is reserved for Simon Parkin).
This fellow named L. Rhodes, though, found some problems with Bissell’s review of The Last of Us. Bissell says that The Last of Us is significant for its subtleties while Rhodes says that the “gameisms” that Bissell lays out are hurting our (read: writers) general case for video game acceptance in mainstream culture. Ignoring problems with things like gameisms only hinders our growth because it is based on a certain level of willful ignorance born from a presupposed acceptance, and that’s not good.
Seeking an Ebert
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the [Thing] of Video Games. For the longest time, it’s been the Citizen Kane of Video Games, a notion that cropped up once again with the release of recent big name, psychologically and emotionally impactful games like BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us (and the novella DLC release of The Walking Dead with 400 Days). Nathan Grayson over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun has an excellent write-up on why looking for the industry’s Citizen Kane is a bad and harmful idea.
The bigger drama of late involves searching for the Roger Ebert of Video Games. It all grew from an editorial written by legendary game designer Warren Spector (of Deus Ex and System Shock 2 fame) for GameIndustry International. In it, he says that the industry is missing its Roger Ebert, or its regular and powerful voice of criticism. Mainstream media needs a video game critic on par with Ebert, but, as Spector says, we don’t have one and we aren’t likely to get one.
And that’s a good thing. Or at least that’s the way John Teti of Gameological puts it, and I’m inclined to agree. Teti argues that Spector’s views are out of touch, that striving for traditional acceptance in an “aging establishment” is folly. The old ways are not the best ways. We need a diversity of voices, not a collection of writers striving to be one man, insightful as he was. And Teti is one of those amazing writers in that wide spread of voices and minds. His Rogue Legacy review is proof enough of that, let alone his amazing articles on the Sony and Microsoft press conferences this year.
30 Years of the NES
Yesterday was the 30th birthday of the Nintendo Family Computer, or Famicom as it came to be known. The North American version, however, became the version as the Nintendo Entertainment System became the icon of a generation. And now Andrew Cunningham over at Ars Technica has written up quite the piece on the history and technical background of the landmark console. Did you ever wonder about the origins of the Nintendo Seal of Quality? What about why Dodgeball sometimes flickered? A lot of this may be old news for some of you, but it never hurts to read three pages about the NES, you know?
Five Dos and Don’ts of Indie PR
These two articles are perhaps a bit inside baseball for most people, but I really appreciated Leigh Alexander and Rami Ismail‘s lists of what indie game studios should and shouldn’t do when doing PR. Alexander for Gamasutra wrote up a list of five exceptionally salient points that indies should keep in mind when contacting the press and media. To wit, know who to pitch and how to pitch. It’s a great list and given how many emails I try so hard not to ignore or fall asleep while reading during the day, I would say I have to agree.
And then Ismail of Ridiculous Fishing developer Vlambeer wrote up a thing about five things to avoid doing as an indie when attempting PR. This is just as—if not more—important as Alexander’s list. Marketing is important. Trying to control messaging once it’s out there is suicide. Perhaps most importantly, be accessible! Granted, these two articles won’t be worth much to you if you aren’t press and you aren’t a developer, but learning more about how the industry works is always a good thing.
I guess. Maybe. How is that sausage made?