Maybe I have been playing videogames too long. I was just playing The Urbz on the DS. It's a strange game. My first look at it was like "this game is seriously flawed on its design". That was 4 days ago and I haven't been able to put the thing down. Anyway, the fact is that I was preparing a meal on the Sim-kitchen, when suddenly it caught fire. And I swear to God, at that same second, I smelled something getting burned! I am sure this must be a well documented thing in pyschology (update: yes, they call it being crazy) but it scared the shit out of me. At first, I thought something was burning for real and only a few seconds later I understood that maybe my senses/brain were playing a trick on my perception. Strangely, this is the first time this happens to me in 20 years of playing games. Anybody out there with a similar experience, or should I get an appointment to the shrink?
Greg Costikyan made a fantastic speech at GDC. You can read the transcript, but this quote should be enough to set the tone: rThen there was the Nintendo keynote. This was the company who established the business model that has crucified the industry today.. Iwata-san has the heart of a gamer, and my question is what poor bastard’s chest did he carve it from? rIt is tricky to talk about innovation, specially if you have no idea how the business behind games is like. But Greg does know what he is talking about and he makes a good point. Even though Nintendo deserves kudos for what they've done so far with the DS, it is true that they are over-protective and that is not a good thing for innovation. Certainly, there will always be room for another racing game but just imagine what would happen if every single film tried to be a Hollywood blockbuster. Well, Greg claims that such is the sad future of gamemaking and, gee, he may be right!
Today the Nintendo DS is launching in Europe and I didn't have time to preorder a copy of WarioWare Touched. I am on my way to the mall, ready to sell a kidney if necessary. Yeah, I heard the reviews weren't that fantastic, but it's WarioWare. I am getting ready to leave next Thursday to Australia. Even though I have not been travelling as much as I did, I found this post by Australian physicist Michael Nielsen, quite useful. It's full of tips for hardcore world viajeros (I contributed with a few of my own, as well as some pearls of wisdom by fellow globetrotter Justin Hall). Of course, what is not included on the post is "bring your Nintendo DS". But one of the comments points out to Sleeping in Airports, a hilarious site with info for, well, sleeping in airports. It's been a while since I last did that -oh, I am such a bourgeois now- but it certainly requires a few skills.
Certainly, games that try hard to mimic movies are doomed to fail from the beginning. The idea of creating an "invisible" interface is probably as old and senseless as "interactive narrative". Still, I find this passage from CNN's review of The Getaway: Black Monday, quite interesting:
r"What's more, the developers go to great lengths to make the game look like a movie -- there is no onscreen interface, for instance -- but the silly health system is back from the original game, which involves leaning against a wall to miraculously heal multiple gunshot wounds. The blood dries up, and you're ready for action again. This ruins whatever suspension of disbelief you had up until this point. Depending on the mission, you might need to ingest medicine from a couple of kits, which is more realistic."
rI don't know about you guys. I have never been shot by a bullet, but if this ever happens to me, I doubt a medkit will get me up and running. Certainly, medicine is a concept that we like to associate with feeling better (even though that is not usually the case). Still, using medkits to recover from bullet shots is as arbitrary as laying against a wall. Medkits are a social convention, but nothing more than that. Videogames, as any other cultural artifact, are not "realistic" and will never be. Sure, some conventions feel more realistic to us than others, but at the end of the day they are all thin air. I do have a problem with lack of consistency, but I do have a larger problem with both people believing that you could design an invisible interface and those thinking that you can suspend disbelief while playing a game.
No GDC for me this year, but going to Australia instead. I'll be in Melbourne in two weeks, kindly invited by the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI). I will be giving a conference at ACMI on March 23rd, as part of their new Games Lab Program. An exhibit called "State of Play: Games with an Agenda" will be running from March 22 to June 8. It includes many political and art games, including many of my team's. rBut if Australia was not enough (including a short stop over at Singapore to kill jetlag), I'll be a couple of days in Spain at the beginning of April. kindly invited by the European University of Madrid which is hosting an International Seminar on Videogames on April 1-2. rI have been trying to tell myself that I should cut down on travelling and I guess I did a bit. Still, it is hard to resist the tempation of seeing new places, meeting new faces and engaging in interesting discussions about videogames. It's not an easy task, specially this semester since I am teaching game design at ITU, but somehow I was able to manage all the schedules without overlapping with my course. That being said, it'll be great to meet some of you out there, f2f (and I need some advice on how to create an army of koala bears to take over the world. I know they run on eucalyptus, so that's been already taken care of).