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Blogged Out: Telling Stories, Game Endings, Bad/Good

Welcome to ‘Blogged Out’, the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at ...
Welcome to ‘Blogged Out’, the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at increasingly complex approaches to story telling in games, the worst endings of gaming history, the death of the industry and that sex thing. You know the one... - Adam Russell from Game-AI continues his discussion of narrative in games with a mention of John Sutherland’s story-telling feature here on Gamasutra. What Russell is most concerned with is how to characterize the conflict between the new kinds of story telling cited by Sutherland, and classical models of story telling spouted by film and literature consultants. Russell links to Henry Jenkins' perceptive discussion of the issue, suggesting that the answers might lie in Jenkins' conclusion that game designers who successfully incorporate stories into games do so from a point of view of designing a system and process, and as such, shouldn’t be thought of as story-tellers at all… - In lighter musings, the ever thoughtful Damion Schubert of Wolfpack Studios has been asking readers to post their nominations for best and worst game endings on his Zen of Design blog. The grumbling is, as ever, more entertaining that the positive spin. There are some classic bad endings listed already, including Half-Life’s Zen, the end of Vampire - The Masquerade: Bloodlines, and the recent alleged bungling of the closing stages of God of War. Other nominations though seem pretty much based on the shortcomings of the players. Surely there must be more awful endings out there? Far Cry, perhaps? Or what about that zeitgeist of awfulness, the end of Syndicate Wars? (Hell, the original Syndicate didn’t even have an ending!) Anyway, stark mad endgame design decisions are all too common, even in great games, so head over and tell Mr Schubert what he missed out. - Another playful but serious message arrives in the form of Greg Costikyan’s speech from the Free Play Independent Game Developers conference which was held in Melbourne, Australia last week. Familiar themes for Costikyan, but it makes compulsive reading for anyone in the industry concerned about the lack of risk taking. - Finally, the story that just won’t die continues with lots of games industry bloggers linking to and discussing what reads like the final word on the issue, from Everything Bad Is Good For You author Steven Johnson. In his open letter to Hilary Clinton, Johnson points out the absurdity of the anti-games rhetoric and manages to stump up some trademark factoids as he points out just how good games could be for kids: “The great secret of today's video games that has been lost in the moral panic over "Grand Theft Auto" is how difficult the games have become,” says Johnson. “That difficulty is not merely a question of hand-eye coordination; most of today's games force kids to learn complex rule systems, master challenging new interfaces, follow dozens of shifting variables in real time and prioritize between multiple objectives. In short, precisely the sorts of skills that they're going to need in the digital workplace of tomorrow.” He’s right, you know. But don’t let the kids read his work, or parents will never again be able to detach them from Xbox Live ever again. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his progressive games journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times, to name but a few.]

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