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Archive for August, 2010

Blog: Red Dead Intention

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Recently I’ve been convinced of a conspiracy. You know the one. I think we’ve all been sure of a similar swindle every once in a while. You just want to do this one thing, and the universe colludes against you to make sure you cannot achieve it. It’s the Truman Show all up in this bitch. It’s the most simple of tasks, yet it seems utterly unreachable. I got Red Dead Redemption on release months ago and excitedly popped it in my PS3 to have a bash. I played a small amount of single player, and a small amount of multiplayer, enough to know I loved the horse physics and the mind-breakingly beautiful surroundings. Just a taste was all I needed to know I would love this game if I played it more. This game is my freaking kryptonite. EVERY time I sit down to play it, something happens that distracts me or stops me playing it. It’s a super power that rivals my actual super power.

It may come as a shock to you, but Mum’s are busy people. Even the dull ones that don’t play with their kids are busy. Even the great ones. Even the mean ones. Just stopping kids from killing themselves is hard enough let alone helping craft and shape them into good, intelligent, caring people. I’m not complaining, hell I signed up for this in a big way, but it’s one of those things you don’t really understand until you get first hand experience with it. Much like making sausages, I’d imagine. I have a policy (to avoid turning into a completely lousy parent) that I don’t play games when my son is awake. Limiting my daily game time immediately by quite a lot. This is to ensure I don’t sit there gaming while my son is wanting my attention. If he’s happy playing with whatever he’s playing with and doesn’t require my attention I might fire up a game on my iPhone but I tend to avoid anything more ‘intense’ than that, and certainly wouldn’t play anything I wouldn’t be happy with him witnessing. In short, my game time is at the mercy of a small blonde-haired ghetto pimp that digs tomato sauce and tries to reach in and grab things that are on TV.

The day arrived where I said to myself “I AM going to play RDR today, and I’m going to play LOTS of it”. I woke up knowing it was going to be an RDR kind of day. I even swaggered down the hall that morning in the most cowboy-like plod I could muster. I tipped my invisible hat to the dog. I mumbled something about varmints and practiced my draw. As I put TheBoy™ to sleep for his nap at 12:30 I was fairly confident I would get at least an hour of free time, maybe two if I was lucky. I took it as a personal challenge to try and get as many missions done in that hour as possible. I was in the zone. Bean bag parked in front of the tele, phone next to me incase someone calls, water, some kind of delicious snack. I was John Marsten… Until the dog barked that aggressive hair-raising bark that meant someone was approaching, and a delivery man pressed the door bell – it was all over. The monster was roused and not happy about it. The next half hour was spent putting a very tired and very cranky devil-spawn back to bed. I snuck in a whopping 18 mins of RDR before he was up again, even more pissed off than before due to his pathetic rest. That night after putting him to bed early, I was distracted again. This time by the taller version of that handsome little man.

Every time I have sat down to attempt to play this game, I have been interrupted. Years ago this kind of thing would have sent me into a furious rage. I’ve been trying to wrangle some horses and hogtie some wenches for months now, all the while being interrupted by barking dogs, waking children, housework, friends, the need for sustenance, and that hot dude that lives with me. The worst part? I don’t mind one bit. After really looking at my love for games and realising it’s actually a love for play, I feel so much less pressure to channel that leisure time into one specific activity. My need for play is a need for play, whether it’s with my family or with a video game. My need to relax is placated by more than just games, and more than just the latest ones. Yeah it’s frustrating that I can’t seem to get really get stuck into this game like I want to, in the past I would have devoured this game, but when I look at my distractions I’m perfectly OK with it. I have every intention to get to Red Dead Redemption, and when I do it will be amazing fun, but I no longer have a fire lit underneath me to get onto it, it’s no longer a looming task on my to do list. Perspective is a wonderful thing. Now if you don’t mind I’m going to sit down, relax, and try and skin some critters. Or not. Whatever. ;)

Life After Freeplay

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

The delicate bouquet of Eau-de-Nerd still lingers in the air of the State Library of Victoria as the custodial staff quietly sweep away the scattered remains of litter, lanyards, and feedback forms. Paul Callaghan and Eve Penford-Dennis fall into a heap for a well-earned rest, as game designers walk away with a motivating force to get their idea out of their heads and into the ether. For this was the weekend that was. This weekend saw this year’s installment of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Over 60 speakers from far and wide came to discuss every element to games making, from programming and art to design and gaming culture, under the theme “Play Is Everywhere”. A conscious effort was often made to avoid the discussions (outside the workshops) getting too technical or centered on just video games but to try and focus on the broader notion of “Play”. By understanding our fundamental need for play and where that comes from we can get a better appreciation of what it is about games that strikes a chord. Knowing precisely where your “fun button” is (you disgust me) means you can hit it more frequently and with greater ease, leading to more a more fulfilled, happy life.

During the sessions I attended I had a few “Neo moments” that took me by surprise. I went along thinking I was there to learn more about video game development (specifically writing). How someone takes an idea and sculpts it into something living and interactive. It fast became evident that the focus was on the user, the experience presented to the person playing – and how ‘play’ is such a fundamental part of existence. Adam Saltsman explored the notion of play as being completely independent of species, something not exclusive to humanity. Puppies play tug-of-war and wrestle with an inherent set of rules by which to abide. Cats jump into boxes, and hide around corners to give their siblings a fright. This innate desire to play and learn through play is found everywhere. Javier Candeira was fascinating with his contention that play is more than just a leisure activity, play can be even used to dictate societal behaviour. Whoa. Play as crime prevention? Whaaaat?! Play as a way to nudge citizens to do the right thing? Mind… blown… He cited a sequence of speed bumps in Japan that when travelled over at the right speed resonate a certain melody, where play is used to make people obey the speed limit by means more interesting and engaging than being lectured at. Looking at our water use targets and aiming for a “score” turns water saving into a game, spurring our competitive urges. Play can make the world a better place. I couldn’t get enough.

‘Neoteny’ is the retention of juvenile characteristics in the adult, most of the time looked down upon as unrefined or immature. Adult gamers are frequently branded as stunted or immature for this reason, because our need to play (something normally associated with children) is still intact. Being in a concentration of other people that find themselves fueled by the demand to play and seeing the fruits of their labour first hand was inspiring, invigorating, and left me with a sense of family and belonging. Hell, I’m not even a game developer and I left inspired to make something out of nothing! I felt like this theme was saying “Embrace your lust for play, and do something with it”. I always say that games are a massive part of my life, but really I should be saying that play is a massive part of my life. Whatever form it takes, I crave play. Whether it’s through a structured medium such as a video or board game, or making sure I don’t step on the cracks on the pavement. I frolic through the world looking for ways to be playful, and I hope I never ever grow out of it. I went in trying to learn about the making of games and found myself unexpectedly thrust into a zen state pondering the bigger picture. Thank you Freeplay for further exploring the notion of play, your uplifting and electrifying speakers, and for underscoring the heart-warming sense of community and common ground we all have under the umbrella of “Play-er”. I look forward to next year and hope the theme is equally satisfying brain food.

Preview: Monster Dash

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Ten days from now on August 19th, we’ll see the latest iPhone game from Australian iPhone development staples, Halfbrick. The wonderful folk who delivered Fruit Ninja are taking us on a new exciting journey where protagonist Barry Steakfries clashes with mummies, vampires and demons through many exotic worlds that you travel to via awesome-sounding portals.

With a name like Barry Steakfries and using weapons such as a Machine-Gun Jetpack (I KNOW RIGHT!), a ‘pacifier’ and something called ‘Mr. Zappy’, you know he’s going to bring the pain in epic proportions. You use two buttons to control Bazza, shoot and jump. By using these actions and running through the worlds making a mess of a multitude of monsters, you amass awards and gain high scores you can share on the popular OpenFeint leaderboard service.

If the popularity of Fruit Ninja is an indication of the kind of quality we should expect from Monster Dash (cue Monster Mash reference), this could be a very very cool game. Trailer can be found here. I look forward to giving it a shot!

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