I’m leaving Prague right now and have spent ample time on the TV finding something to pass the time during the moments when your legs and feet hurt just a bit too much to keep the adventure going for the day. With a small selection of channels to keep my viewing attention, I was able to catch some Czech TV when the BBC Entertainment and news channels couldn’t hold my interest. This meant I happened across a few dubbed TV shows from the States and UK like Doctor Who, a minute of Big Bang Theory and some South Park among a few other shows and movies being rebroadcast over in the Czech Republic. If you were watching a documentary or a series of facts, the voice over seemed very normal. But because I was watching Dramas and Comedies, the movies were not-bearable.
I think it’s just a difference in who is attending, but there is a different energy around events like PAX compared to events like E3. PAX has a much larger gamer attendance than the heavy industry-centric E3 and with the lack of stability around the gaming industry lately, it has affected the mood of everyone going.
Everyone going still gets excited for the games that are announced and we are eagerly waiting to get our hands on the next potentially great game, but there used to be an extra energy from just being there. I’ve only been around PAX for a few hours already, but the difference in climate across attendees is much more noticeable than in years prior. Everyone isn’t just excited to playtest something that isn’t even out yet, or to just meet some of their favorite gaming personalities, but they are genuinely excited to be here in Seattle and attending PAX.
It occurred to me just before I sat down to write that people in my generation are the first to grow up not knowing what life was like before gaming (as we know it) was a thing. Being born between 1984 and 1990 when the NES reigned supreme over the gaming masses, those of us born in this era grew up with names like Mario, Link and Megaman as a constant throughout our lives. Just like us from the past, those born around the 2001 will never know of an age without the name Master Chief in their gaming vernacular. Or kids the were born in the mid-90s never knowing a time before the Internet in every household, or 2007-ish without a smartphone or tablet in your household.
What’s important to remember is that while many game designers were around and developing games while we were growing up, there is a fresh generation of minds that have been exposed to a rich history of game design, good and bad. This might be an incestuous relationship because our ideas tend to be anchored to past experiences so our inspirations are “borrowed” from ideas that we’ve played in the past instead of coming up with something completely original. Regardless, our game-design parents and mentors helped to foster our experiences, our morals, our social dilemmas, our peaks and pits through our gaming experiences. Our games were growing up while we were growing up.
The gap between gaming as a medium to be taken seriously and lightly has been narrowing in many storytelling genres. We can find well scripted humor in the midst in contextual-placement of the player in games like Portal or The Stanley Parable, drama in actions that we choose to do or are helpless in preventing in The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite, or walk through the blackness of our paranoia in Amnesia or Slender Man. What’s interesting though is that other mediums like movies had an extremely rough time getting the average story in a game to not feel forced or that the campiness from genre films hasn’t particularly translated well in gaming as of yet.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a difference between campiness and cliché, and it’s easy to spot one over the other. Cliché is taking what we’re used to and regurgitating it back to us in a form that we are already used to seeing. Campy is taking what we’re used to and being almost self-referential to it by exaggerating the parts that make it campy. I don’t mean self-referential like some side-character saying “Do you think this is a game?” or “What kind of game do you think this it?” because this is already a cliché and completely un-original. The idea of the campy-self-referential is that you make the cliché feel original. Being campy isn’t a bad thing either. Campiness worked in the reboot of 21/22 Jump Street, Hot Tub Time Machine and the more recent Guardians of the Galaxy.
In the amount of time it takes to write this sentence, how many people are gaming at this time?
(10 seconds. It took me awhile to think of phrasing…)
There are currently 5 million users logged into steam, 300 thousand of which are playing DOTA 2, 150 thousand of which playing Counter-Strike: GO and 56 thousand of which playing Team Fortress 2, and 16.6 thousand still playing Counter-Strike Source. Doing a bit of math, we roughly have 500k players across just 4 games and mainly in just DOTA 2 and CS:GO. So, 10% of the Steam-PC gaming population is playing DOTA 2 and CS:GO at this moment.
Steam thankfully gave us a nice graph of the daily log-ins so we can do a bit more fun math at the moment. With a peak of ~6.5 million and a valley of ~3.75 million, that leaves 2.75 million users in flux on Steam daily. That means that there’s always the population of Los Angeles (3.85 million) always logged into Steam, or that computer’s being left on throughout Los Angeles can be tracked through Steam. “Hi, Rolling-Blackouts! Nice to see you again, you forget something?”
Just how much of our life can fit on a hard drive? (2 TB)
If you’re a writer, then your hard drive will fail long before you ever fill it up. At 1000 words per hour, with each word being on average 6 letters, and chugging mouth loads of caffeine trying to write until your fingers whither and die, that means you’ll fill up a drive in roughly 3e8 hours or 38000 years. Considering the average lifespan of a hard drive is roughly 10 years, good luck writing. Thankfully, you don’t have to pass your Hard Drive off to the next 600 generations of offspring as their birthright to fill up the family hard drive with some sort of writing. Since they can’t actually go out and experience anything because of their need to type, it’s probably better off that they don’t write all day and night.
A funny thing happens when I walk by an arcade. My neck cranes, scanning the room and if I gaze on a series of the flashing arrows scrolling up a screen my eyes lock onto the machine and my body tries to move towards the machine on instinct. The feeling intensifies if the machine happens to be part of the few generations that had the best track list, but regardless of the version there is always an urge and a rush of the good brain chemicals that get me feeling excited and anxious to hop on the machine and give it another round for old times sake. The machine, if you hadn’t guessed was a DDR machine. If you talked to 13-year-old me and told him that I’d be working at a place where there were several DDR machines in the area with easy access to, he’d be ecstatic because what 13-year-old me thought was that I’d be a fan of the series for life. Maybe that was immature thinking, but the more places that I pass where there’s a DDR machine there or the disappointment that I find when there isn’t when I’d thought there would be, the more I believe I had it right back then, though my reasoning was wrong for it.
You can call it nostalgia or not being able to let go of past experiences, but there are many groups among the community that live with their game of choice and have become “Forever Fans” of their game.
The story thus far:
Verbosity in games, much like any medium, is hard to get right. The dynamics of a game and the habits of a gamer are those that contribute a response towards quick reward systems. Run right and jump = Progression. Turn on console -> Start Game -> Join Game -> Start Killing things, all in a matter of a minute or two. But becoming programmed to this sort of habit goes against what verbosity tries to deliver. We’ve talked about how being verbose can be used correctly before, about not letting the mechanism for delivering the dialogue interfere with the agency of the player as they go about through the game. The delivery should only interfere when absolutely necessary but not for too long otherwise it pulls the player out from the immediate sense gratification that a game presents, but it means that shortened dialogue delivery needs to be discussed.