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Stephen Poole

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Poole is brilliant IMO. He hasn't sounded properly pretentious for a good while. When it comes to academic analysis of [lots of things but mainly] films and games, I rarely find writing that doesn't try and shoehorn an entirely conjecturial theory into something that is so open to interpretation as to render anything more than rudimentary analysis utterly pointless. The Head Over Heels quote is a very extreme example.

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Which is why they're ripe for ridicule then. Trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and all that.

but puhleese -

That IS choice.

Ok, a little ribbing is no bad thing.

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Miyamoto's saying (presumably in Japanese): "I enjoy making fun digital worlds for people to play in. Like all the best creators, I'm more interested in making my creation functional [in this case fun to play] than 'important'."

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Miyamoto's saying (presumably in Japanese): "I enjoy making fun digital worlds for people to play in. Like all the best creators, I'm more interested in making my creation functional [in this case fun to play] than 'important'."

o/\o

The way I see it is, is that there is only one game that is anywhere near 'art', and that (predictably) is Rez. Which is funny to note as how basic the game is/ how little interaction there is.

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Miyamoto's saying (presumably in Japanese): "I enjoy making fun digital worlds for people to play in. Like all the best creators, I'm more interested in making my creation functional [in this case fun to play] than 'important'."

So is making your game fun to play important or not?

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So is making your game fun to play important or not?

Of course it is, but important and "important" are very different beasts. Important is whether or not the game actually does what it sets out to achieve, in the case of mario 64, to make an entertaining 3D platforming world. "Important" is the pretentious measure of how much worth it has in the grand scheme of things, which again in Mario 64 would be something like "proving the viability of interactive immersion in a 3D world" or some other pish.

I'm quite sure that Miyamoto / Nintendo start out trying to achieve the former, whilst it's left to the pedants who inhabit web forums to indulge in hours of debate about the latter.

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Of course it is, but important and "important" are very different beasts. Important is whether or not the game actually does what it sets out to achieve, in the case of mario 64, to make an entertaining 3D platforming world. "Important" is the pretentious measure of how much worth it has in the grand scheme of things, which again in Mario 64 would be something like "proving the viability of interactive immersion in a 3D world" or some other pish.

I'm quite sure that Miyamoto / Nintendo start out trying to achieve the former, whilst it's left to the pedants who inhabit web forums to indulge in hours of debate about the latter.

Check out the game theorist! :D

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I wouldn't say that "important" means "does what it sets out to do". I'd say that's more like "successful". "Important"'s more like "make-or-break title for a platform" or "3D update of successful 2D franchise"- a significant event in gaming.

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"Important"'s more like "make-or-break title for a platform" or "3D update of successful 2D franchise"- a significant event in gaming.

i think he means important as in an arty/symbolic sense, for example indiana jones is fun and that is the intention of the film, important as in Citizen Kane, not important as in how many sales it makes.

A lot of game developers seem to tied up with pretensious ambitions, but great developers like miamoto /nintendo (sp) just try to create fun not emotional / important experiences and the results seem to speak for themselves.

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i think he means important as in an arty/symbolic sense, for example indiana jones is fun and that is the intention of the film, important as in Citizen Kane, not important as in how many sales it makes.

A lot of game developers seem to tied up with pretensious ambitions, but great developers like miamoto /nintendo (sp) just try to create fun not emotional / important experiences and the results seem to speak for themselves.

It's funny you should use those examples. In my mind both Citizen Kane and Super Mario 64 prompted a radical change in their respective mediums.

Wouldn't that be a measure of 'importance'?

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To be honest I think asking, "What was the game designer trying to say here?" is a bit pointless with most games as the narrative doesn't have an interesting deeper meaning to be analysed, but asking (e.g. for Mario 64) why have things been done the way they have, why is it such an engaging game, and why does the gameplay work in a way that so few 3d platformers fail to do, are questions well worth asking and writing about?

I know there are people (hi JP :unsure: ) who think the only way to make good games is to make games and learn from your mistakes, and as with writing this is true up to a point, but the skills of picking apart a work and analysing what works, what doesn't and why, and actually producing something new are in my experience quite distinct.

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It's funny you should use those examples. In my mind both Citizen Kane and Super Mario 64 prompted a radical change in their respective mediums.

Wouldn't that be a measure of 'importance'?

thats what i mean !

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It's a shame that we're stuck between choosing between ludologists and luddites in this particualrly gaming debate. Neither side really appeals.

Though, if it comes down to it, I'm always going to give more of a nod to an position that requires thinking over one that doesn't.

KG

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What cheers me up most is that this forum is full of people with interesting things to say about games, many of whom would choke at any suggestion that they were engaged in abstract theorisation like Poole or (god forbid) an academic. But they are...

Everyone who has ever tried to explain why the hell we invest so much in games is thinking and theorising about games. Long may it continue to be so.

Poole's column is well written, often astute, sometimes obscure. Perhaps that is why it is set as required reading on many games degrees. Obscurity is particularly popular in academia. And he does have things to say about why games are so important to us all that are worth listening to.

Can he go too far in pretentiousness? I suppose so. Can academics go much further? Oh, yes. The link to the gamestudies article has been posted before. And there is even worse stuff out there, if you look hard enough.

But academics are just trying to say interesting things about games, and KG is right that thinking should be preferred to the alternatives. Even if it is often done better by those who don't have to work within academic jargon and the expectations of established fields.

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I know there are people (hi JP :angry: ) who think the only way to make good games is to make games and learn from your mistakes, and as with writing this is true up to a point, but the skills of picking apart a work and analysing what works, what doesn't and why, and actually producing something new are in my experience quite distinct.

It's the confusion you're dealing in right there that I've attempted to pin down and separate before.

Academics in a new field always like to imagine that their work is going to feed back into the base creative process at some point. It's not enough for them that cultural analysis and critique may be pursuits in their own right: they won't be happy until their investment is recognised, utilised and acknowledged by the very people they write about.

And never clearer than with the current wave of designer manque ludologists, who seem to be under the misapprehension that they are building a new language of definitions that will revolutionise the way in which games are both made and understood.

History has news for them, but -- bless -- I can wait.

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the skills of picking apart a work and analysing what works, what doesn't and why, and actually producing something new are in my experience quite distinct.

I'm not so sure; the first is easy and without (demonstrable) merit in the absence of the second. So much hot air.

A good game designer\developer analyses what works and what doesn't every day - all day. But he\she also puts that into practice. For me it's one process not distinct at all.

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I should probably have made clearer in my last post that my experience of this is in writing rather than games and is in writers' workshops and suchlike rather than academia. I don't think picking apart a work and analysing it is nearly as easy you would like to make out, and although it may be of no real use without interacting with the creative side can still be pretty interesting.

I know that of the people I used to workshop stuff with there were some who could write extremely well, and there were those who you could take something you had written and tell you just why it was or wasn't working and make some good suggestions on how to fix it. These groups did overlap to some extent, but not nearly as much as you might expect, and neither was a subset of the other.

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I don't think picking apart a work and analysing it is nearly as easy you would like to make out,

What's hard about it? Just about every rllmuk poster (and game player in general) indulges in that activity. Just as we criticise films, TV shows, Football teams, whatever. We are all very good at talking like an expert.

How can it not be easy when there's no test? It's just opinion. Especially if you scorn the idea of putting any of that analysis into practice.

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It's always useful to be able to sit down and say "Why is this stuff I'm making so shit?" after all. Maybe not as useful to say "Why am I so damn good?".

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His column takes some reading - more so than the other three, because of it's dryer tone. But it's not hard to read per se, and when you do read it, it's an informative read. A dip into someone else's perspective.. which is exactly what a column should be.

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What's hard about it? Just about every rllmuk poster (and game player in general) indulges in that activity. Just as we criticise films, TV shows, Football teams, whatever. We are all very good at talking like an expert.

How can it not be easy when there's no test? It's just opinion. Especially if you scorn the idea of putting any of that analysis into practice.

That's a bit harsh. I see your point, but I'm just no artist or anywhere near good enough at maths to even think about coding. Thus I could never put my ideas into practice. This isn't me moaning, just stating a fact. I know my limitiations. Doesn't stop me saying that all Army Men games are shit, though, and being right about that, as well.

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That's a bit harsh. I see your point, but I'm just no artist or anywhere near good enough at maths to even think about coding. Thus I could never put my ideas into practice. This isn't me moaning, just stating a fact. I know my limitiations. Doesn't stop me saying that all Army Men games are shit, though, and being right about that, as well.

That's not what I'm on about really. There's nothing wrong with criticism in itself. I think what I object to is academics talking about games design and trying to redefine it with their own jargon whilst disdaining any actual involvement in development.

You (and every other gamer) have a perfect right to express your opinons on what you think works and doesn't work in a game. But you're not pretending that your opinions are in some way 'scientific' our authoritative.

I just don't believe game design can be usefully reduced to rules, formulas, theories etc. I think it's an interactive, iterative process which means getting involved, not writing documents.

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I think the people who really have something interesting to say about gaming are the people who have been there and done it for themselves. Stuff like Edge's 'Making of..', AV Out or some of the stuff on Gamasutra which is written by the developers themselves are a lot more interesting than dry analysis or trying to find tenuous parallels and similarities. The problem with much of the discourse is that it is generally done with a lexicon derived from a mish-mash of other diciplines (literature, film, computer science) and people with a strong affinity to them too.

I wouldn't knock the serious study of any art form/craft - it is important, but I think it needs to grow from within rather than be appropriated by academics who are too far removed from the process of game creation.

On that point, are there many developers out there who do write in an interesting and sophisticated way about games? Ultimately I would ask i) do people agree that this type of study is needed? and ii) If it's not going to come from the likes of Steven Poole (who imo has a lot more hits than misses when it comes to his analysis, although it's is far from definative) who/where will it come from?

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"I was sitting in the facet of recumbence, having my aerials of postulation forcibly disembarked from their esrtwhile placid plain of pink perspicacity, when i began to ruminate on the very being, nay essence that imbues the metanormity of the gaming ether. Most elements of compositional syntax do not depend strictly on the frame for their definition, if the image fades at the edges like a vignette ( note to self "no I love you more") such codes as intrinsic interest, proximity, depth perception and the omniscient-self all crumble, when faced with such erudite nuggets, excreted from the tumescent lips of knowled.........fuckit..........just skip the next few pages and read about EDGE feigning interest about some Star Wars game.....done by brits....with LEGO....pffft" :angry:

Well I think his work is very inspirational, especially in consideration of the fact that he singlehandedly instigated mainstreamist discussion on videogaming theory.

Toops

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Gaming academia is something of an odd pursuit.

Personally I think the rush toward the academic studies has come too soon, because game academia is currently the equivalent of applying intricate cinematic study techniques to the Tellytubbies.

Actually I bet someone has made their PHd doing exactly that :angry:

This is the kind of response I have come to expect from people who have no hope of understanding the need for some sort of explanatory power - the fact you point out the 'Tellytubbies' goes some way in reinforcing this.

A number of people, bereft of any knowledge about not only gaming but media in general, seem to run under the impression that media as an academic pursuit is a total waste of time and effort.

Will such academic endeavour affect gaming? No, though nor did Theodor Adorno's evaluation of popular music do likewise, but the point of the matter is in realising it actually exists at all and in identifying it...

Toops

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For the record I like the Trigger Happy column. However, if there was a book written called "Inside Nintendo: From NES to Revolution" which version would you rather read:

Miyamoto's version: an insider's story about what influenced game design and the various strategies which were undertaken to keep Nintendo's brands fresh and cutting edge from generation to generation.

or Poole's version: an outsider's opinion about Nintendo's place in the history of videogaming with various comparisons to avant garde figures in art, music and cinema. Also, comment on the formation of several Nintendo "rules of gaming" which have defined the process of creating interactive entertainment.

I know which one I'd want to read personally, though admittedly both do actually sound rather interesting now that I think about it.

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