Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: August 2005 (page 1 of 3)

Musings on New Orleans

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. I’d blame the heavy workload I’m experiencing right now but, truth be told, the events on the Gulf Coasts seem to make any musing I could possibly put forth about game design to seem small and trite. I’ve recieved letters from people in the past thanking me for games that have resulted in meeting their soulmates and from cancer patients who have thanked me for allowing them to feel like fully functional human beings inside of a virtual space. But in the wake of the courage shown by the emergency personnel fighting this disaster, I feel like the maker of insignificant baubles and trinkets. I’ve given money to the Red Cross, and I’d urge anyone else so inclined to give what they can. Continue reading

In Which I Rant About Politics and Creationism

I haven’t posted about politics in a while. I realized that everything I was saying was being said better and more thoroughly researched somewhere else. I also realized that half my game design audience may disagree with me. So I made a call after the elections – if it’s not about games, zip it.

The recent orgasm of Creationism-related news has forced me to pull my soapbox out from under the bed and tap on the microphone. Creationism is a topic that never fails to get under my skin. It is, ultimately, a plea to ignore science and logic, and an argument for us to move our children to the back of the science and tech bus. Continue reading

Isn’t She Pretty in Pink?

All right, ladies! Line up, and no shoving, to pick up your brand-new pink rhinestone-encrusted DS from the Nintendo Store. Price tag: $599.

Me, I like the pawprint on top. Clearly, they need to ship an ‘annoying yipping lapdog’ version of Nintendogs to sate the Paris Hilton market. (Source: Kotaku)

Finally, Rest For The Wicked

The other half of online gaming oversight from the Chinese government came today. Soon, leading games in China (including WoW) will institute measures designed to dissuade players from playing constant hours, in order to combat “sloth, truancy and even murder”. The exact measures are, at this point, a tad hazy, as each source I’ve found on the topic gives a slightly different account of what’s going on. One description is as follows.

The anti-addiction system cuts in-game benefits to players after three hours. For most games this will mean awarding fewer “experience points” to fantasy characters and reducing the value of virtual goods such as magic weapons that they acquire.

After five hours online, players will be subjected every 15 minutes to the warning: “You have entered unhealthy game time, please go offline immediately to rest. If you do not your health will be damaged and the benefits you can win will be cut to zero.“

Continue reading

Super Happy Fun Player Kill

Yet another hint that gaming is entering the mainstream – worldwide. My fiancee fell in love with Shanghai on her business trip out there, and watches a couple of blogs from the area. That’s where she saw this interesting tidbit.

Chao Ji Nu Sheng (”Super Voice Girls”) is the Chinese version of American Idol. Certainly nothing wrong with that, other than the blight which is Reality TV now having invaded all cultures except perhaps the African Bushman. And you have to give the Chinese credit for getting rid of the annoying guys and just putting cute Asian women on stage – it would be interesting to compare their demographics to ours, where AI is, at least anecdotally, a show that appeals to women and teen girls. But this is the part that caught the eye of my fiancee: Continue reading

Youth Gone Mild

Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good For you: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, is the subject of this article on canada.com regarding violence in video games. In the midst of it, he links to the Child Well-Being Index at Duke University.

The latest index, released last March, shows that violent crime among teens and adolescents in the United States has plunged by almost two-thirds since 1975, to less than 10 juveniles per 1,000 people.

Continue reading

NFL Players Have Opinions on Their Madden Stats

Another sign that video games have entered the mainstream: people in Pittsburgh are upset that Madden ‘06 gives Ben Roethlisburger mediocre stats – and this made the news.

Incidentally, Roethlisburger has his own critique of the game, which isn’t related at all to his stats.

“I think a lot of guys don’t like it as much because [the new vision cone system] makes it much harder. I know they’re trying to make it more realistic and stuff, but it makes it harder, and I don’t know if it’s as fun,” he said.

Yo, back off, dude. You don’t see me out there trying to do YOUR job.


Parents Let Their Kids Play M-Rated Games

In the other thread, Josh asks a study explaining why parents do the stupid things they do. Ask and you shall recieve. From an article not quite a month old…

A study commissioned by the UK games industry found that parents let children play games for adults, even though they knew they were 18-rated.

“Parents perceive age ratings as a guide but not as a definite prohibition,” said Jurgen Freund, Modulum chief executive. “Some may have not liked the content but they did not prohibit the game.”

The research showed that parents were more concerned about children spending too many hours playing games, rather than about what type of title they were playing.

Long story short: if parents are aware of the rating system and what ‘M’ means but still buys the game, at what point can all of the blame cease to be placed at the industry’s footsteps?


The original comments thread is here.

More on Game Violence Studies

On re-reading my comments from last Friday about the AC2 study, I realize that my poor, unfocused diatribe levelled pointed fingers in a direction I was completely not intending to. I blame the fact that my brain was in ‘Late Friday Mode’.

The study actually accomplished what it was trying to do, judging from the title of the study (“Internet Fantasy Violence: A Test of Aggression in an Online Game.”) To some degree, it clears my chosen genre of work (MMOs) from the charges levelled at the GTA’s of the industry. As an aside, it also is useful in that it successfully points out that simply having blinking images of very mild violence on a computer screen isn’t going to turn your kids into zombies. While obvious to some, this is still a useful data point to have, and highlights the importance of content, interactivity, and tone to the debate. Continue reading

That Stupid AC2 Study

Okay, I’m a first amendment absolutist. I’m quick to jump on data that defends my art and our industry from those who don’t understand it. All the same, I’m sick of reading about this study about Asheron’s Call 2. Continue reading

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