An exceptional bit of games writing

I picked this up through Slashdot’s games site, which refers to this:

which in turn refers to this:

It’s this last one that really caught my attention.


Oh yes, that’s probably gotten the most attention of anything written over at State. I think it was published in the UK PC Gamer as well. The forums at State are where you’ll find me when I’m not over here.

Don’t ask why the website is called State when the url is I never understood it myself. It’s apparently the best compromise with most reasonable variations of “State” taken already as addresses.

That last one was really well-written. This place may be worth bookmarking.

Good stuff.

Wow…just…wow…that was an amazing story. I’m definitely bookmarking to that one and sending it to friends. Thanks!

If you’re bored, find the old issues of “smag”, state’s email magazine they started out with. I think they’re up on the website somewhere. I can’t remember which ones had what good articles, but they were good stuff. And some silly pretentious stuff. But mostly good stuff.

Actually, looking quickly now I don’t see the old smags anywhere linked from the main site. I’ll see if I can find out where they went.

Is it better than that column someone wrote after 9/11 about how he just couldn’t continue being a game journo/reviewer?
Because nothing beats that!

Seriously, interesting site, thanks.

Hmm, that sort of reminds me of the Muad’dib/Feyd-Rautha duel.

Ooh, Kieron Gillen. The only real reason to get UK PC Gamer for some years now, IMO. Too bad he left; he’s just freelancing for them now.

That was interesting but way too long.

If you can find a way to write about the people playing the games, you can do some interersting stuff. If you focus on just the game itself, it’s hard to do anything more than traditional critiques.


Funny, that was me. You may be the only one here who liked it. :)


Gee, Mark, I thought it read in a flash. Or did you mean the first link?


Isn’t it odd that the writer wins his epic duel against the evil anti-social racist? He is in the right, and hey, he just happens to have better hand/eye, mouse skill or what have you.

My problem with this sort of approach to gaming is: the ability to win the game has very very very very little to do with your quality as a person, your intellect, your morality, your virtue, or whatever. The predominant factor is going to be hours invested in the game, followed by innate hand/eye skill, followed by connection speed. Maybe, in some games, choice of tactics and strategy will matter, but usually not in a decisive way in a 1v1 game. (Team games are a different story: teamwork is relatively more important than twitch skill in a lot of team games.)

Maybe his story is true, but theres a 50% chance that its not.

That’s why I never agree with the PvP enthusiasts who talk about killing the anti-social, “player justice” and the like. Its a game. Based on game skills. It has no relation to your quality as a person or citizenship.

On the other hand I’ve been playing a ton of planetside and I really do enjoy the PvP there, both in a strategic conquest mode, and also in the me vs him mode. I’ve had my own share of “epic” duels thus far, but I don’t equate any moral superiority with that. Its just gaming. I do enjoy a great battle, or campaign and I have a bunch of PS warstories already. But its just gaming.

B/c if you really were administering justice to racists or other anti-social types based on who wins the game, .the “bad guys” would win about 50%of the time. And that whole column would be a lot less fun if the bad guy won. Because losing a game can be fun if the victor is a good sport and you felt you had a good fight. But who wants to lose to an annoying racist?

Eh, I don’t hate the column, I just think the outcome is mighty convenient, and way overblown.


I’m on the other end: the veracity of that story couldn’t be more irrelevant. It’s plausible, that’s all that matters. I also got the impression that Games Earl Ray did more to beat himself than did the writer actually “own” him.

The story is like something out of Reader’s Digest (minus the diligent spelling out of that naughty word, which seemed silly), and that’s fine.


So you’re objecting to it because it’s a good tale?

Writers don’t focus on all the mundane things that happen to them in games–“Here I am again, sorting my inventory.” They pick and chose among many experiences (clearly, this was a veteran duelist), mostly ordinary, and write about the ones that make an impression. What you find convenient strikes me as more of a reason for writing this piece in the first place.

Personally, I think the story would be at least as affecting if he’d lost.


The story wasn’t affecting at all. It was silly. Sharpe summed things up well. Those battles are matches of skill, not ethics. We might as well hear about a Diablo 2 battle between the Evil Boss and the little player that could.

It wasn’t even dramatic. It was told matter-of-factly, it wasn’t built up into super-tension and drama, which can be the only point of such a story.

Game writing doesn’t exactly have a Shakespearean history, but this is mediocre, at best decent, rather than exceptional.

Just to offer what I consider to be an exceptional piece of game writing, the old story of the banning of a player in a MOO for rape (if I remember right). That was a riveting tale, very well told, true, historically fascinating, epic. It was written by Julian something I think, an early writer who I wish was still writing. Here it is.

That’ll teach you for calling somebody’s writing good!

But the author’s point in the article was that many players don’t treat it as just a “game”. They take if far more seriously. That is how I read it.

I thought it was a good article.

Brian, you’re just jealous because that guy can actually make a meaningful, charismatic point without sounding like he swallowed a thesaurus and copy of Faust and nobody cares if the cum from your pseudointellectual masturbation can hit the ceiling and stick.

I think the author showed more than enough perspective to show that he didn’t REALLY think of his encounter in terms of good vs. evil and a show of honorable skill, but that the emergent gameplay in his multiplayer experience shows how games have evolved to allow us to imprint those types of things onto it. Like Jobe says, its almost immaterial if he wins or not. In a way, the sweat was the key element. He’s saying there wasn’t much of a human connection before, but that kind of open-ended challenge and society that the game created, no matter how trivial or unreal, produced one.

Certainly, I’ve had similar experiences, of running up to people in arcades who ignore propriety and good sense of honor, and boast and the small joy of teaching them a lesson by winning legitimately. Games are games. Just because they aren’t really real doesn’t mean that you can’t feel a small amount of pride for your accomplishments within them, even though its not “real.” Fighting games are especially fun to do this with, as it takes a lot of skill and practice to become really good at the best ones so you’d be ready for an encounter like that and at the same time, there’s still always the chance that you’ll lose. In that one way, games kind of mimic life, and getting much more sophisticated: skill and smarts don’t determine everything in real life either and the chaos and unpredictability of the outcome, even though they have a great deal of influence over it, is always there. Its no small secret, that a many developers have been trying to tame that chaos too, and its one reason why I’m not always supportive of the idea that a multiplayer game must strive towards balance all the time.

I think that’s why you have the hot debate about whether games are art or not, right? They have or are beginning, depending on your point of view, to mime models and qualities that we tend to analyze in the real world. Whether you want to take it on that level is another story, but that some can is intriguing. Certainly, that’s a part of what makes the article an interesting read, and well-written, because the writer obviously does not lose the perspective of it being, well an online Star Wars game.

I never knew very much about the newest games descended from Jedi Knight, but that article sheds a lot of light on some of the issues of the game, and is very informative as well to someone who hasn’t ever played it. In that way, its also well-written.

While I don’t think there’s much of a reason to say that winning some match or something or perfecting something in a game is something to be truly triumphant over, I don’t see any reason why it can’t be like learning to paint or learning a martial art. Sure, sure, society says its a waste of time, but its really what you do and take away from it, huh? I know somebody who uses gaming as a way to keep themselves steady, they aren’t interested in other hobbies, but certain games inspire them to master every aspect of them and to become to truly good, to the point where it isn’t just for fun anymore and this person has said that it helps them focus and be disciplined for the important things in real life. They could use anything for that, games aren’t unique, but I don’t think they need to be either. Its rather more eccentric and perhaps not pragmatic, say, as in reading all of a certain kind of books and becoming an encyclopedia of information about them.

I know that I’ve been studying swords and swordplay and sword arts for a long, long time and the amount of real world applicability being good with a sword has gets smaller every day, but I have an inumerable amount of other things I’ve taken away from it. Since I’m that kind of Buddhist, that’s not much of a revelation, since I’m going to be convinced of the reality of anything, but there it is. :wink: Maybe I could have learned the same thing through going through military training and learning how to wield modern weapons and it would have been more useful, but I somehow doubt that. (Not that you can’t learn anything beyond the obvious that way either, or indeed the same things.)

I’ve always been quite impressed for instance on the genius of the idea of requiring a series of button presses to pull off special moves in fighters. If you’ve ever played a Capcom fighter and remember how hard and long it took you to practice so that you could ALWAYS pull off the move you wanted when you wanted, you can probably track the many different stages it takes to get that point. Its just a controller and not nearly as complex, but its a lovely metaphor for a human body. I can hardly remember what it was like before I learned how to do, for instance, down, down/right, right, punch in bodily terms naturally and without being influenced or flurried by outside events, but I can remember the stages. I’m not saying learning how to fight in a fighting game is a substitution for martial or weapon arts, just that there’s some virtue to the way the canon has been designed in mimicking the real thing, even though its often nothing like the same. I could of course, perhaps beat certain things up real good in real life, if I’m close enough to them, whereas the game is just the game, but its striking how a perceptive player can come to some of the same realizations. In some ways, practicing how to do a dragon punch with Sakura in the practice mode of SFA3 isn’t much different than keeping at it in a dojo, until you can finally and reliably move your body in the way you want when you want to, and the difference between knowing when, the exact timing and such may be a lot harder in real life, but the mechanics are so fascinatingly similar. You can swirl your thumb and push the button, but it until you get that Capcom sense of control and understand just how to do it, you don’t “get” it at all. Repetition, sure. Someone who’s played it more. Certainly. Going to happen as a matter of course? In the same way, that some people just AREN’T going to ever figure out how to make their leg pracitcally perpendicular to their face no matter how much they try to bend, nope.

In any case, I think the whole thing is that a certain kind of game experience, you don’t just have a matter of skill, or strategy, or fun, or whatever, but like a sword, the game itself becomes a vehicle for something else, whether its intended for that or not. I’m glad he won though, for the point, it wouldn’t have mattered, but its cool that he did and that games are at this stage, where such a story and a resonance of that kind of meaning is possible and it gives the tale a lovely bit of irony.


Whoa, Koontz has been powned!