Poor critique on objectivism

I must admit that I haven’t played all the way through Bioshock. But I have read all the way through Ayn Rands books about objectivism, a socioeconomic ideology that centers around the rights of the individual.

There has been a lot of talk on the net about the depth of the story in Bioshock and that it is so impressive that it offers critisism on something as complex as an ideology. But does it really?

This is the story of one man, a hard individual that is defining his right to live by shooting people that are trying to kill him. Now this story is set in a world that is supposed to show a ruined world created by the insane hunger for power and profit that is for some reason apparently absent when these same people work for a goverment.

But here comes the first catch, Bioshocks underwater world, rapture, is owned by one man. It is more or less a monopoly or dictatorship. Two states of affairs that Rand or objectivism has never defended or, according to some scholars, made possible.
The thorny rose of criticism is frail…

Here is the second catch, Bioshock does have a character that acts in almost every way like an objectivist. The main character.
The rose of criticism shrivels up and dies…

So not only does Bioshock actually not at all critisize objectivism, they only slapped on a similar art style and some 60’s socialist propagande, it also promotes the values of individuals very much like the objectivists do through the players own actions!

I don’t see a problem with this. I do however see a problem with the gaming press hailing Bioshock for delivering criticism – which it does not – against an ideology that apparently neither the developers nor the press actually read up on.
My problem with this is that these are the very faults that are keeping our industry continuously frowned upon by the rest of the media.

If FOX news had made this error a lot of books would be rating killed on amazon

The future of Co-op

Last week Tycho over at Penny Arcade had a write up about co-op and the amount of games out there that just have partially or completely broken co-op or none at all. Later Microsoft employee Ozymandias, working on foreseeing the future trends of gaming, responded to that with a Co-op Game Bill of Rights, the bill is now already in its second edition and features some core issues that games must implement to not appear broken or bad.
It also features a set of features that are harder to implement and less frequently used in current games but are highly requested by the community.

None of this strikes me as new ideas or even surprising. Let’s get a few things straight:

Games are supposed to be fun. Fun is a hard concept to achieve, Raph Kosters excellent book A Theory of Fun can teach you more about what fun is but basically it is about using analogue systems of rewards that are somewhat challenging and that you have not grokked (fully mastered) yet.
Achieving this kind of fun in not hard in itself, children do it spontaneously every day. But braking that fun is really easy, that’s why we need designers in the first place.
One of the simplest, if not the simplest, ways to increase fun without breaking gameplay is by making it social. Social games are games that encourages gamers to interact or at least communicate about the gameplay. Social grouping is a fundamentally fun feature in human evolution and a large reason to why we choose to group and evolve societies.


What Tycho and Ozymandias have stumbled upon is the lack of game design. This is what gameplay features used to look like in the 80’s and early 90’s. Yes it’s a good idea to spotlight co-op because it is the most popular form of play in gaming today and developers unaware should become aware of this. But when people from within the industry don’t realize they’re kicking the dead design horse it scares me.
Is even our own industry unaware of what thought through design actually means for a game? Are we slowly receding into the dark ages of gaming again?

I like to hope not. In the meantime, check out the Bill of Rights and support a valiant effort!

Capturing the Online Games Market

As I posted about earlier the web 2.0 applications are forerunners to a new type of game development market that is opening up online. Namely online games of which the flash games are currently most famous and seems to be the default platform in the foreseeable future.

Two large companies are apparently aware of this development as Ubisoft and Garage games have both already started delivering for the platform. While Garage games game platform is a closed network that relies on a plugin download they already have advanced 3D games up and running. Visit InstantAction and have a look.
Ubisofts upcoming Heroes of Might and Magic: Kingdoms might be delivered through flash, but it is to early to tell will HOMMK.

Time will tell but if I were a large publishing house today I’d try like hell to push Adobe to release open GL or direct X support with flash.

Read the previous post for more on the point.

Web 2.0 and twitter especially

If you’ve missed it by some chance web 2.0 applications are taking over the world. Not only are over a billion people online more or less constantly but more and more people are using web 2.0 apps to do work and day to day tasks.

This is a market that is a lot bigger then the games industry and since it is rapidly becoming the default state of entertainment (190 million users visit youtube each week) more game developers should be aware. Raph Koster is aware of this and is receiving flak and praise from around the internet, his latest discussion that we are loosing ground against flash games can be found here: Koster: “The web is kicking the console industry’s ass”

This might seem extreme to a lot of gamers and game developers but it is really where games were going all along. Games spearheaded the invasion of application for the PC back in the late 80ies early 90ies. Now the same people who saw the benefits of digital offices are moving these applications online. Why shouldn’t games be online as well?

And NO, a 6GB download for an MMO is NOT an online game.

Before flash releases support for 3D acceleration we’re stuck using plug-ins that most people wont download or 2D games that just aren’t as impressive today as in the golden age of NES.

But in the mean time, check out Twitter and Remember The Milk and maybe you’ll get a clue as to what the industry will be doing in 5 years.

I’ll post about games that are already taking the plunge later today.

Wii problem? meh…

A lot of reviewers and gamers are starting to complain about a problem that was obvous over a year ago. There are no games for the Wii.

I don’t understand this, I love my Wii. I love it as much as I love my Ipod. I look forward to turning it on, listening to the gloing-gloing theme, and messing around in the menu and settings. I use it for at least 5 minutes a month and it was totally worth the never, even once, cut price.

Well, I’ll be off now. I’m busy playing games and watching Blu-Ray movies on my PS3…