Notes from my GameLoop talk, and links to other stuff I mentioned

I was pleased to attend the second Boston GameLoop, and extend thanks and congratulations to Darius Kazemi and Scott MacMillan for organzing another fantastic event. Also thanks to Microsoft for the use of their lovely new NERD center (yes, that is what it's called) in Cambridge. The conference was doubly well attended over last year's, and I look forward to seeing how it continues to grow in future iterations.

This was the third self-organizing "unconference" I've attended, and the first one at which I got bold enough to host a talk. My topic was "Improving Game Journalism and Critique", and my starting point was this essay about game criticism from Greg Costikyan, from which I read some excerpts to get things rolling.

Among the dozen or so who showed up for the talk, a particularly challenging attendee was a hardened freelance journalist who hoped we'd talk about "outside-in" reporting about games for mainstream news consumers. He was very open with his skepticism about the value of the critique I described. While initially his boisterous disagreement resulted in a couple of walk-outs, those who remained helped pare it down to a valuable core question: Who is the real audience for critique?

Attempting to answer this led further into discussion about the transformative effect that more and better game criticism should have on the field of game-centric journalism: taking some space back from the fanboyish, review-and-anticipation-based press that is so prevalent now, and giving more voice to articles examining games the context of artistic work. This would let a game be held up for comparison with of other games, all that has come before - and, if examining a work from the past, all that came after. Fill the space of media-about-games more with material like this, counterweighting all the next-six-months-focused game reviews (a necessary but very well covered thank you genre), then the game-making community's perception of itself should further broaden and mature. Which would be a Good Thing.

The group also ended up talking about professional video-gaming-as-a-sport and its media coverage, both within and without the current game-enthusiast press. This was a subject I knew very little about, so I didn't discourage it, and we ended up being able to tie it back into the title topic by the time our 45 minutes were up.

I made a newbie mistake in not noting my contact information before the talk, so that people follow up electronically afterwards if they wished. I had some nice face-to-face conversations immediately after the talk, and I see that a few people have started following me on Twitter despite my unintentional stealth. If you've managed to find this post after attending my talk, welcome! Feel free to use the comments for followup discussion, if you wish.

Three more links I'd like to throw down here, because they're things I mentioned during other peoples' talks:
  • Chess for Girls, a blistering SNL parody of how games (or anything else) is typically marketed at girls
  • Mo's Movie Measure (aka The Bechdel Test), an acid test to determine whether a given movie manages to overcome a base level of sexism. (Most movies, even good ones, fail it miserably.)

    Thinking about MMM in context of games is an interesting exercise!

  • Intelligent Mistakes, a brilliant essay from the game designer Mick West on programming computerized opponents so that they purposefully but subtly screw up, so that fun for the human player is maximized.
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3 Responses to Notes from my GameLoop talk, and links to other stuff I mentioned

  1. ruthling says:

    I find that even good books I like don't pass MMM. It's frustrating.

  2. Andrew Plotkin says:

    I was going to note that "Bechdel Test" is the preferred name, but the page you linked to actually covers that. :)

    I maintain that Zero Punctuation (which I'm months behind on, grr) is criticism in the pure sense. It is *entirely* an effort to examine games in the context of other games, recent and classic. The butt jokes are extra.

  3. I stuck with "Mo's Movie Measure" as the primary appellation because how I learned it, and it was good enough for grandpa, etc. But if Zarf says it, then it's so.

    Zero Punctuation actually did come up on Saturday, though I can't remember whether it was during the talk or as part of a related side-conversation. Anyway, when pressed, I took the same tack as you. Far be it for me to say that criticism means Serious Business; The Gameshelf (the show) is another attempt to put real criticism in an entertaining package.

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