Sunday, March 26, 2006

Lazy Blogging

I'm a lazy blogger. It's not that I don't love you, my adoring (if somewhat select) readers. Nor is it for lack of ideas. I think that I've got at least two or three major post ideas in the fire. That doesn't even count the little posts that I should be making on the related news and articles I'm reading. Believe me when I say that I've got opinions on everything, but few are well thought out and worthy of writing. Fewer of reading. So I've let my blog run dry in these days following the March round table. I apologize.

For your benefit, and mine, I'd like to outline the different posts that have been rattling around in my head. If I post about them, then I'll feel obligated (even if no one reads this) to write them. It's how I worked myself up to writing for my first posts. One of the first was for Covus' Blogs of the Round Table (February). I posted comments on his blog declaring that I was going to write something. And I did, albeit I managed to finish it with a small margin of time remaining. But declaring my intentions to others is a good motivator for me. The others are seeing interest and specific deadlines. I'm not going to attach deadlines to any of these ideas, but I would appreciate feedback from you. Let me know which ones you would be interested in. When I get closer, I'll try to post a due date. Or perhaps I'll just stop stalling and post the damn things.

So, without further digression, the ideas:

Interactivity and Jack

At the beginning of March I posted an emotional piece on interactivity. I did it in response to a webcomic that was using interactivity as a simple playground experiment. I feel that a lot of media, especially on the internet, tends to think that interactivity is neat. But it also feels that by adding interactive elements, it will become something new and better. I was called out on this entry by a very vocal, and anonymous, reader who feels as if I was attacking all non-interactive (and simply-interactive) media. That was not my intention. I think the confusion is due to incomplete ideas in the essay, rather than wrong-headed ones.

This piece would be a clarification, and expansion on those ideas. It actually might be two or three shorter works. In one of them, I would like to delve into The Jack Principles to help outline the difference between something that is interactive and something that is more. I think I'm still searching for a couple of terms that better encompass what I'll trying to express. “Agency” might be one of them.

An Indie Console

I'd like to do a heavy research essay. This one would dive into the world of hardware licences to look at how indies have been locked out of consoles for the past decade. I'd like this to explore newer options for the indie developer, and look at what is available. I think that the way that games designers look at the hardware can be significantly changed by allowing independents to play with things.

The Late Review

I just had this idea while sitting here, but I think it has merit. I've never really written a review. I've read a few, and some few of them might actually be useful. But I'd like to explore the process for myself. I think that the reviewer's toolbox is a good one to use, sometimes, to breakdown a game and assess the good and bad elements. They are certainly tools that I need to practice with. So the question: do I try and get a new game to review, or do I review something older?


  1. As someone who occasionally doesn't get taken seriously, I should warn you: if you talk about interactivity and then designing something which is "better than interactivity" you're going to get shut out by a lot of designers. Maybe I'm wrong, after all, I'm just saying this out of my own reaction to the phrase. So to expound:

    Interaction is a cylical process where two agents listen, think and speak. Crawford's definition implies a turn-based nature, others are more fluid, some are even more flexibled and include different types of interactivity, such as the process of interpreting a book. But the bottom line is that real human interactions (like sex and conversation) and games are the only truly interactive mediums, because they are the only mediums where two thinking agents are alternately communicating or reacting to each other.

    So, what you and Corvus are looking for when you talk about "participatory storytelling" is just one subset of "fun" that can be found in an interactive experience. Nicole Lazarro released, as the sum of user research, "four types of fun", which Chris Batemen then refined for his research and recent book, 21st Century Game Design. Staying close to the source, Lazarro's four types are: hard fun, easy fun, serious fun and people fun. You Don't Know Jack gets all four, but most strongly it gets serious fun and people fun, which is unusual. So if your game is focused mostly on people fun, or heavily utlizes it, giving the player a role or character which, through solid implementation, allows greater agency, then you're not talking about something thats "better than interactive", you're talking about interactivity of a specific type rarely utilized.

    Interactivity is the essence.

  2. Oh, and per your other ideas, I think your time would be better spent looking at the burgeoning modes of online distribution for indie titles, instead of looking at the potential for an open console, which due to the nature of the economics in producing and distributing physical electronics, simply won't ever happen short of molecular nanotech making every cost close to nil.

    You really ought to review games though, I try to review a good indie game every know and again. Plenty of people have dug into Psychonauts or SotC in the mainstream press, but you'd be doing the underground a service by reviewing really innovative indie games as the come out. Titles to keep an eye out for are Braid, Ocular Ink, Cloud and Mount and Blade.

  3. "if you talk about interactivity and then designing something which is "better than interactivity" you're going to get shut out by a lot of designers."

    I, for one, wasn't saying that I'm designing something "better than interactivity" but that "participatory" better described the sort of system I'm shooting for: Inclusive, social, cooperative. Of course each individual element will be designed for maximum interactivity, but the overall goal is best described otherwise.

    As far as getting shut out by designers, it's a good thing I'm designing the engine for the audience, eh? *kniw*

    "So, what you and Corvus are looking for when you talk about "participatory storytelling" is just one subset of "fun" that can be found in an interactive experience."

    No, no it isn't. It's a philosophical approach to design that is inclusive of "interactivity" and "fun".

    To follow up on your comment about what qualifies as truly interactive: sex is an interaction, but relationships require participation.