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Letters To The Editor: 'Industry And Academy, Size Matters, And Peach'

Gamasutra has recently had further interesting feedback to some of our notable features and opinion pieces, as collected through our
December 08, 2006
Gamasutra has recently had further interesting feedback to some of our notable features and opinion pieces, as collected through our Letters to the Editor, so here's the newest weekly roundup, with some of the reactions you might have missed. Click through on each link (free reg. req.) for the full Letter. Our first set of letters come as a response to an earlier letter from Nathan Piazza concerning Gamasutra's Open Letter To Game Researchers feature. David Kimball writes in to say: "..there is one misconception Piazza encourages that needs to be pointed out. It is true that "in the academy only modernist [sic] dinosaurs care about what's 'art' and what isn't anymore," but because this is the case in the academy doesn't mean it is the universal case. In the broader culture, people still appreciate the difference between _Don Giovanni_ and _Sex and the City_, and video games almost always fall on the losing side of that division -- a consequence, I think, of the field's characteristic lack of broad knowledge and literary background, a problem in which the academy of the present, with its insistence that no meaningful difference exists between the Venus of Milo and a Barbie doll, is hardly about to help." And Ernest Adams, labeling himself proudly precisely one of those modernist dinosaurs, adds: "My sympathies are firmly with the modernist dinosaurs who see art as something special that, when it does its job well, touches us and moves us. I'm pretty far from being a populist -- witness my recent call for the development of more highbrow games -- but in this case I believe the majority of the general public are of the same opinion, and they're right. THAT is why it's so important to gain the legitimacy that the status of art will give us. When people see our works as art, they won't vote for politicians who consider it safe to attack our works because they're trivial and irrelevant. (And if you really don't know what "legitimacy" means, there's a definition for you: you're culturally legitimate when you're no longer an easy target for a politician seeking the votes of the ignorant.) This issue isn't about some kind of egotistical search for recognition. It's about survival. Put simply, I don't want to see what happened to comic books happen to us. And if the academy is too wrapped up in its own self-defeating perspective to help us, I guess us dinosaurs will have to keep roaring out the message on our own." Some readers also wrote in to respond to the recent Question of the Week feature we ran on game length, Does Size Matter?. Steve Ehrensperger, for example, added other cultural examples and proposed a solution of his own: "Looking over the responses to the question, a (unwanted) solution occurred to me: Estimated Playtime listed on the box, with break outs for mode-types. Unfortunately “Estimated Playtime” is heinously subjective. When I purchase a book I can see how many pages it has approximately by looking at it, and exactly in the online description. Every movie I buy has its length listed on the product. That can of coffee may be half empty (as was pointed out), but I can still estimate the volume of the can. Determining what is “fair” in the cost vs. time arena will ultimately have to be a consumers’ choice. Making it an informed choice is the only way I can think of to make it more “fair”." And amongst a plethora of other responses, Adam Martin wrote in to say what struck him the most about the feature: "...the thing that struck me most on reading the eight pages of letters was that they underline the extent to which game developers as a whole are not the market that purchases computer games. From reading them it would seem that there's almost no-one who has the time or the inclination to spend more than a dozen hours on any one game, and that if you don't complete a game then it wasn't fun. Sales figures seem to tell a very different story. Given that I'm one of the consumers who doesn't even *expect* to complete a game, let alone demand that as a precondition to enjoying it and in fact actively prefers not to complete it for at least a few years, I'm glad that games continue to be made for the markets and not just for developers. I also have a suspicion that many people in the industry who complain about games being too long are strongly influenced by their own professionalism, that demands they keep abreast of the advances in their industry. This means they feel they have to play all the important games (or as many as they can manage) and hence "too long" is a serious issue. A lot of my friends who are hardcore gamers never use the terms "need" or "have to" or "I have a list" when talking about the games they're playing or going to play in the future. There's nothing wrong with not completing a game, and many many people feel no sense of loss at having not done so. Not completing a game means there's always something to go back to, and that's definitely an added value in itself." And finally, Gamasutra was sent a response to a feature that ran on its sister site Serious Games Source, Gonzalo Frasca's Trouble In Super Macho World, exploring the perceived sexism behind Nintendo's Super Princess Peach for the Nintendo DS. Brandon Newton took issue with the article, saying: "I am tired of the idea that for a female character to be a strong woman, or a positive female role model, she must eschew as much femininity as she can without removing body parts, be overbearing, and usually violent. The main argument presented is that Peach's power ups during the game come from her emotions. Why is this such a horrid point of contention? Anger made members of the Dark Side in Star Wars very powerful, sadness, fear, and anger are the source of true power for many a character in Dragon Ball Z. Love, rage, and sorrow are the motivating factors behind Kratos' journey in God of War, but put emotions center stage with a female protagonist and suddenly it's sexist. [...] Taking a character this out of context is dangerous literary ground, and also plainly absurd. Peach is a Princess, pampered royalty, one who is usually in some state of danger at that. She is not an every-woman. She has not truly been an action heroine, however she has been given the chance to at least try her hand at direct adventure in this game. The idea of a woman having emotions, and controlling or using them to move successfully through her life is an empowering idea, rather than a sexist plot to paint women as emotionally unstable." For more reactions to be read and responded to, visit our letters page.

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