June 2008

History: Rated M (Politically Incorrect, Massive Violence, Strong Sexual Content, Smoking)

For you readers who get your gaming news from Variety:


For those of us who speak English: Variety’s Ben Fritz posted a web article mouth agog that Firaxis is actually making a game called Colonization. Who would ever make such a game? The chutzpah! Such vile calumny has never been seen before!

A game about colonization that’s entirely about controlling the settlers can either force the player to do horrific things or let him avoid doing it and whitewash some of the worst events of human history. Either option is offensive.

So, my first thought: funny, the author doesn’t look Native American. Maybe he thinks that his ancestors arrived via Transwarp drive. Then again, judging from the background, he lives in Los Angeles, which has no history of imperialist aggression whatsoever. So it’s an easy mistake to make, assuming that your entire way of life isn’t predicated on “some of the worst events of human history” — clearly, slavery and the Holocaust being mere warmups to the exploitation of millions of helpless, peaceful native peoples whose only crime was to never research the Bronze Working and Ceremonial Burial technologies.


However, my feeble historically based snarkiness is nothing to the all-consuming fiery NERD RAGE that is the Internet gaming culture insulted.

From the bemused

How can you possibly be the designated computer game blogger for a major media outlet like Variety and not have even heard about the original Colonization until a couple of months ago? That’s like getting hired by the New York Times Review of Books blog and making your first entry “I have just heard about a very shocking book celebrating pedophilia. Apparently it’s called ‘Lola’ or something.”

…to the analytical

The original Colonization had a brilliant historical narrative regarding native/European relations. The way the mechanics worked, immediate hostility on the part of the player would be met with quick defeat. You need the natives to survive the early game because they outnumber you, they can train your colonists and they will help you. But as you grow, you will inevitably encroach on their lands and relations will deteriorate. You can win without destroying the natives, but you are forced to make tough choices along the way. I am in no way implying that the genocide of the native peoples was the inevitable result of historical imperatives. But if any game has captured the dynamic between European colonists and the native population, Colonization was that game.

..to the somewhat angry

Just like FPS games aren’t murder simulators, this isn’t a genocide simulator. If you really can’t see that, the least you can do is stop posting your trollish type posts on the internet where I’m subjected to reading them.

Given Mr. Fritz’s righteous fury over Firaxis’ daring to model the founding of every single nation in North, South, and Central America, one can only think that his wrath over Niko Bellic’s journey of assassination, prostitution, and Irish family drama would be terrible and wondrous to behold.


Oh, wait.

“Grand Theft Auto IV” marks a huge leap forward for videogames as an immersive experience while making little more than a few tweaks to the ultra-successful franchise’s formula. The technological prowess and artistic detail are so phenomenal and the sheer amount of content is so staggeringly deep that players will find themselves drawn into Liberty City like no other fictional place. Such deep immersion sometimes highlights the flaws in “Grand Theft Auto’s” well-worn formula, but that will be little more than an asterisk for the millions of gamers sure to be carjacking their way through “GTA IV” for a long, long time to come.

Well, come to think of it, I don’t think Niko actually colonized anything. Well, you could colonize Playboy X’s Manhattan loft. That kind of counts, since you have to kill a member of a minority group to take their land. I think this calls for a re-review.


But then again, maybe it’s just a struggling blogger trying to get hits and public notice through judicious applicaion of NERD RAGE. Silly writer, that never works.

Gaming Journalism Is An Oxymoron: The Endless Series

Monday: “Age of Conan sucks! And they have no subscribers! Look, we EVEN HAVE A CHART!”

Look! It\'s a chart! This makes us, like, analysts.

Wednesday: “CORRECTION! Age of Conan ROCKS! I’m buying a copy RIGHT NOW!”

When questioned about the seeming slight discrepancy in opinion, facts, and charts, the author had this to say:

I realized after looking up more information that my original conclusions were unfounded.  After all, I have not actually played the game myself.

Well, OK, then.

Cleanse. Vote. KILL!

This is quite possibly the finest political post ever made on any blog.

Various Chaos Gods hate each other. Khorne, the Lord of Skulls doesn’t get along with Slaanesh, the androgynous Prince of Excess, for pretty obvious reasons. Khorne hates Slaanesh’s decadence, while Slaanesh doesn’t like Khorne for being the living embodiment of all the hate, rage, war, violence, and killing in the known universe. Nurgle won’t support anyone who is deemed to be “weak” on illegal immigration, while Tzeentch pretty much hates everyone who doesn’t completely oppose abortion.

Don’t forget part 2, which explains in one simple punch list exactly what happened in the Republican nominating process:

  • One player had the strongest econ. But everyone ganged up on him and he was obviously incompetent in nearly every other aspect of the game.
  • One player turtled up big time in one large area in the Southeast corner of the map, hoping that a major victory there would propel him to a win. He got steamrolled.

Richard Bartle Is A Hardcore Killer

From an interview on Massively, the interviewer asked Bartle about his thoughts on Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, leading into a short blast…

I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft.

…which immediately segued into a somewhat more nuclear explosion:

Age of Conan – that’s PVP. Wow, gosh, PVP – it’s pretty hardcore, PVP, isn’t it? No. When you played [older MUDs] you got killed after three months of playing, your character was gone. Yeah, hardcore PVP – yeah, we’re hard, aren’t we? We’re evil. No. You don’t know anything.

But of course, if you fixate on the explosions, you miss the interesting bits.

I might have a look at it from a point of view of seeing what things – the class balances are like, seeing how they’ve implemented the – I really ought to write up a book on how to read a virtual world so that I have a vocabulary in order to explain it to people. But there are a number of things you can do with player versus player, and I want to see the way they’ve done it not because whether it’s cool or not but because of you chose that way. Now, why did you choose that way?

You chose that way because you’ve got a particular vision for your virtual world. Your particular vision for your virtual world is saying something. You made this the center of your virtual world. That tells me something already in advance. What it tells me is you want to compete with the games that don’t have it so that you’re carving your niche. But why did you choose that niche? You chose that niche or a particular reason. How did you implement it? You’re trying to rip off Dark Age of Camelot?

Well, that probably was a motivation, but there were a number of things you could have done. EVE Online, for example, was player versus player, and it’s got player created units or guilds. You’re doing it that way, and now you’re saying things that way. But when you create it, you’re actually saying something through the design. What is it you’re trying to say? Why are you trying to say it? How are you trying to articulate something? This is from the designer’s point of view what I really want to know. What are they trying to say? Why have they done it this way? Did they know about the other ways?

They’re designers. They’ve got millions. They must have known about the other ways, but they didn’t do it the other way. They did it this way. Why did they do it that way?

My immediate snarky response, from working on several MMO teams now, is that assuming that designers have any knowledge of games that came before their current favorite is not a safe assumption, and that what the designer may be saying is simply “I really liked Everquest” or “City of Heroes seemed fun, let’s nick those bits”, or more regrettably, “Yeah, World of Warcraft, make it more like that, because we like money hats.”

But of course, Bartle has a response to that too:

Did you know one in 100,000 people are psychopaths? Well, you do now. So figure out how many psychopaths there are in World of Warcraft. I don’t want any of them actually coming around to me in the belief that I am saying dreadful things about World of Warcraft.

Methinks someone received some blistering email…