So it occurred to me recently that one thing we could use is a "bug," a small image people whose games we feature can include on their site to proudly proclaim to the world that the, ahem, avant garde aesthetes at Play This Thing have awarded their game the, more ahem, humbling honor of being featured at their site. The real and cynical reason, of course, is to solicit links back to us from people we review, to get a bit more traffic.
Unfortunately, our header image does not scale down well, and equally unforunately, I suck at Illustrator (or, actually, GIMP, since I'm cheap). What's up top is what I came up with, but I'm not happy with it.
Anyone else want to take a stab at it? For nothing much more than our fervent thanks, I'm afraid.
Basic constraints: can't be larger than say 100x80 (and 80 wide might be better), and needs to be a fairly small file (when saved as a jpg or png), say less than 20k (and less than 10k is better). It has to include our name, obviously, but I'm not tied "a... selection". "Featured on", or a recursive "Play this thing said play this thing" or something more clever...
Sad news: Computer Gaming World, I mean, "Games for Windows Magazine" is no more. The original computer gaming magazine, founded at a time when that meant reviews of AppleDOS and CPM titles, has been shit-canned by its corporate masters, Ziff Davis (which is going through bankruptcy). I suspect the magazine was still profitable at a low level, though I don't know for sure, but had certainly been losing ad revenue and circulation for some time. Word is editorial staff goes to 1UP, and others look for new jobs.
Just a bit over a year ago, Computer Games magazine was also killed, by its corporate masters, leaving PC Gamer as the only game zine specifically devoted to computer games in the US.
The basic problem is that a) core gamers increasingly find news and reviews online, and b) revenue in PC games has shifted out of conventional-retail software and toward casual games on one side, and MMOs on the other. Soccer moms don't buy magazines with names like "Games for Windows Magazine" (or PC Gamer, either), and for a hard-core publication to try to appeal to casual gamers would basically piss off its existing audience. And MMO players might subscribe to "the Official World of Warcraft Magazine" (12 Hot Tips for Buffing Your Nightelf!), but largely don't want or need coverage of anything other than their current obsession.
Meanwhile, PC gaming through conventional channels is largely becoming an afterthought, the fourth and least viable platform after the three major consoles, and consists largely of ports of games that were already being developed for Xbox (which is basically a specialized PC with a console controller, anyway).
But there is some hope, I think, that we won't be left with games designed for controllers that don't work as well with mouse and keyboard, along with braindead pick-three casual game treyf that's utterly lacking in challenge -- I notice that #4 on the current NPD PC game bestseller's list is Ironclad Games's Sins of a Solar Empire, from Stardock. Which I, at least, would consider sufficiently "indie" -- from an independent developer, and published by a small, non-ESA member.
Still, a sad end for what was once a great magazine.
IndieCade today announced an open call for games submissions for its 2008 events. The IndieCade 2008 flagship festival will take place July 10-13 at the contemporary art gallery Open Satellite in Bellevue, located in Seattle’s technologically progressive Eastside. The opening festival launches a half-dozen global exhibitions and showcases that highlight the creativity, vision and work of leading independent game designers.
Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi-born American video artist, was invited by RPI to be an artist-in-residence, and to exhibit one of his works. The work he chose to present was "Virtual Jihadi." It was a hacked version of Al Qaeda's hacked version of Petrilla Entertainment's Quest for Saddam, a low-budget exploitative FPS in which you, you know try to get Saddam. The Al Qaeda version was called "The Night of Bush Capturing," which basically just replaced the Iraqi soldiers in the first game with American soldiers, and swapped Bush for Saddam.
"This artwork is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians, to the travesties of the current war, and to expose racist generalizations and profiling. Similar games such as "Quest for Saddam" or "America’s Army" promote stereotypical, singular perspectives. My artwork inverts these assumptions, and ultimately demonstrates the vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S. occupation of Iraq."
Local students and others in Troy, NY, where RPI is located, protested the exhibition, claiming that Bilal's game "promotes terrorism". Let's parse that: The original game was crude exploitation, the intermediate version a noxious but predictable response by the usual scumbags, and Bilal's version an attempt to open up questions about both the morality of terrorism as well as the morality of America's somewhat crude efforts to suppress it. (Caveat: I have not played Bilal's version, and it does not seem to be available online, and without doing so, I cannot reasonably make strong claims as to its reasonableness. I'd urge Bilal to make it available publicly. Indeed, I'll host it, if he permits.)
As a result of these protests, the school's administration shut down the exhibition, and it was moved to Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy. Shortly thereafter, the city of Troy shut down the Sanctuary, on the grounds of building code violations.
As a result, there have been fervent counter-demonstrations by RPI students both on campus as well as at the Troy city hall.
I don't think there's any question whatsoever that this is prima facie censorship of an artist's work and, of course, condemnable as such.
What's interesting to me, however, is the depth of emotion raised over the work in question. I mean, plenty of art causes a ruckus at times -- crosses in pots of piss and such -- but even though there's an uproar, it's extraordinarily rare for either university administrations or municipal governments to be complicit in censorship. Does the fact that Bilal's work is a game make it more offensive, somehow? Or does the fact that it's a game make it a legitimate target for censorship in a way that a painting, say, would not be?
I'll be at RPI later this month, incidentally, at the RPI Game Symposium, talking on an entirely unrelated matter.
Note: This video gives an excellent overview of the situation, including statements from the artist.
The idea apparently is to feature an image from an EGP game on each shirt--with a CD attached to the shirt, so you can play it when you get home.
If it were just off a website, it would be interesting, but -- in Target? Really? Now maybe there's a way to leverage the sort of indie cred accorded music and film for indie games, which so far don't get anything like the same respect. And what a cool concept.
So I took down the forums, since they weren't getting a lot of activity -- which is okay, the comments are pretty lively, and maybe that's a better way to get feedback for a site like this.
I've also added a Staff page (replacing also the Forum link on the menu above the logo). Basic rule at the moment is that anyone who's contributed three or more reviews gets listed as a "contributing editor" (unless they decline the honor). Probably we have to raise that bar later, but I thought you might like to know a bit more about the people behind the site.
Realizing I'm actually going to blog this, my immediate thought is: "I am such a geek."
I've recently been reading Harry Turtledove's Timeline 191 series -- a set of alternate history novels that posit that the Union did not capture a copy of Lee's "Special Order 191" in 1862, the Rebs invested Philadelphia, and the British and French offered "mediation," meaning they'd intervene unless the Union recognized the independence of the Slaveholders. (Yes, by my language, you can recognize my sympathies in that war. My daughter goes to school two blocks from Grand Army Plaza, by the way, which contains perhaps the most amazing triumphal arch in the US... "Grand Army of the Republic" is the source of the name, of course.)
The series goes up through the end of the second World War, in which the fascist Confederacy, along with its allies, perfidious Albion and the royalist French, are defeated by the "Central Powers" -- the USA and its German and Austro-Hungarian allies.
Turtledove makes all this plausible; the Confederacy, France, and Britain are traditional allies. The US, defeated in both the Civil and "Second Mexican" wars, surrounded and endangered by its enemies in the South and in Canada, finds an ally in Wilhemian Germany; the "Quadruple Alliance" bests the "Quadruple Entente" in the Great War; and so on. Fascism arises not in triumphant Germany, but in a Confederacy on which, at the conclusion of the Great War, the Union imposed crippling reparations.
It helps that these are big fat books, suitable for, say, killing 6 hours on a plane to California.
Meanwhile, I've been continuing to play Making History, which I reviewed here a few weeks ago.
Today, I read on the developer's forums, that a fellow is actively at work on a Timeline 191 mod for Making History.
Two geek passions in a single thing. Oh, yeah. I definitely want to play that thing.
Sadness is not often an emotion evoked by games, but Is It Time? succeeds in doing so. It's an attempt to move into Passage territory; you play an old woman, living alone, whose husband has recently died. Your world consists of two scenes; the interior of your house and "outside," which consists of the gravestone of your husband, a winter-bare tree, and a park bench.
Your character has three stats: fatigue, hunger, and boredom, which count down from 100 to 0. If fatigue or hunger reaches 100, you pass out; at 0 boredom, your depression makes your motion slow. You can move left and right, press the down key to weep, or press space bar to interact with objects; your main interactions involve preparing food and sitting on the park bench. The whole world is in a dreary palette, alleviated only by occasional visits from your children, or memories of your husband; they are in bright, vibrant colors. At the park bench, a friend, another old lady, often appears, sits with you, and talks.
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