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About the Archives

This page contains all entries posted to GAMBIT in May 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2012 is the previous archive.

June 2012 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Friday Games @ GAMBIT - Artemis

Artemis Captain's BadgeSet phasers for fun! This week at Friday Games we will be exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no GAMBITeer has gone before! In honor of the new milestone set in commercial space flight by the Dragon spacecraft this week, we will be having some space adventures of our own.

Join us at 4:30pm where we will be playing Artemis, the Spaceship Bridge Simulator. We are seeking able-bodied men, women, androids, and post-humans to help crew our ship!

Dark Dot at IndieCade showcase at E3

Dark Dot LogoWe got word that our game, Dark Dot, has been selected for the curated IndieCade showcase at this year's E3 at the Los Angeles Convention Center! Congratulations to the Dark Dot team at our Singapore-based lab!

Dark Dot is a shoot-em-up for the iPad where you draw shapes to move your shooters into formation. You can scale your formation on-the-fly to concentrate or spread your firing patterns, or rotate them to avoid enemies and obstacles. Or just draw a new shape to deal with new challenges! If you've got an iPad and haven't tried Dark Dot, it's free for download, so what are you waiting for?

Board Game Criticism Done Right

Anybody who has spent a reasonable amount of time in the video game world will likely, at some point, have realized our serious lack of thoughtful and intelligent video game criticism. Or if not that, then at least countless people pointing out that lack and arguing about it. Approximately a year ago designer Dan Cook created a bit of an Internet firestorm with his "A Blunt Critique of Game Criticism." I personally do not agree with everything Cook said (especially the need for criticism to be useful to designers), but I mention it to highlight the fact that this is a continual topic. This is not to say that nobody is trying, of course, and collections such as The Well Played journal have been wonderfully helpful in advancing the practice.

As much as the video gaming world lacks solid criticism, however, the board game world does doubly so. However, one of my favorite thinkers and writers on BoardGameGeek, who goes by "Nate Straight," has recently posted an article entitled "What is / are Roads & Boats?--An attempt at ludomorphology.".

This piece is a fascinating look at one of my all-time favorite board games, Roads & Boats, an enormous, impossible game of logistics, route building and resource management. I am amazed it exists at all, the high prices it fetches on the aftermarket are a testament to how small the market is for such a game (and hence how small the print runs have been).

But to return to Straight's piece, it has what I believe to be the three components essential to solid games criticism.

1. A thorough description of the game. Straight does not just describe how it works, but why it works, and the consequences thereof. This naturally leads to a discussion of strategy, which reveals a deep understanding of the game. I am quite familiar with Roads & Boats, but Straight's article lead me to rethink what I thought I understood about it.

2. Context. Straight also puts on his media archaeology hat and argues for a lineage from which R&B was derived. He smartly avoids the intentionalist fallacy by showing where the game fell historically, while implying inspiration by highlighting similar mechanics. As such the article traces a history of route building and resource management mechanics in modern European board games. This is a method I am quite fond of (links to a .pdf), and one that I feel game studies could benefit greatly from.

3. Outside knowledge and information. Straight's piece is not just an analysis based on a deep understanding of play, but by bringing topology into the discussion he helps the reader understand where he is coming from and how he understands the game, while also giving them a new tool for understanding other games.

My one critique stems from the glossing-over of the wall mechanic, which is the major way players can negatively affect each other. Straight does mention it, however this particular mechanic can create situations where the game spirals downward from planning and management to spitefulness and bickering. When this happens everybody's score suffers, but the potential for it to happen (and I have seen it happen) is a defining attribute of the game. In other words, players have the ability to affect a near-collapse of the system by making resources inaccessible and in doing so severely limiting their own progress. That the game enables this sort of petty, very human behavior, but does not at all require it, is in itself fascinating. Your civilization can collapse because of your own greed or spitefulness, and I find that very compelling.

However, overall I find Straight's article to be a deeply intelligent and well thought-out look at a landmark game, and a solid example of effective board game criticism. I do not doubt I will be showing it to my students in the coming years.

Friday GAMES at GAMBIT 5/18: The Diablo Franchise

Cow-level-portal.jpgThis week saw the release of the long-awaited Diablo III, the latest in the landmark action-RPG franchise. Join us on Friday afternoon at 4:30pm as we take a look at the series' 18 year history, including Torchlight.

We will also discuss and debate some of the interesting and controversial changes made from Diablo II to Diablo III, especially those relating to character development and customization. The discussion will be broadcast over our live stream.

Friday Games at GAMBIT 5/11: Step up to the Gayme Bar

Friday Games is going to get a little meta -- and a little fabulous -- this week as we prepare for Saturday's Gayme Jam. Normally, we talk about games, but this week, we're going to talk about people who talk about games. This totally recursive edition of Friday Games features two special guests: Jason Toups and Jeremiah Bratton, hosts of the wonderful podcast Gayme Bar, your "weekly dose of gay gaming geekiness." These two Southern belles grace the world every week with their insightful, snarky, and fabulously funny critiques of games, the game industry, and game culture (amongst many other things) and now they'll be here at GAMBIT to talk about their podcast, games, and anything else that comes to mind.

Drop by GAMBIT at 4pm this Friday to join in the fun, ask questions, and probably get made fun of (but in a loving way!)... and if you can't join us in person, you can always catch the festivities on our livestream!

Video: A GAMBIT Class: CMS.611 Creating Video Games: Featuring Alex Schwartz, Owlchemy Labs

On April 23rd, 2012 during CMS.611 Creating Video Games, Alex Schwartz, Chief Scientist with Owlchemy Labs lectured on: Things You Do That Aren't "Making Great Games" In Order To "Make Great Games". CMS.611 Creating Video Games introduces students to the complexities of working in small, multidisciplinary teams to develop video games. Covers creative design and production methods, stressing design iteration and regular testing across all aspects of game development (design, visual arts, music, fiction, and programming). Video produced by Generoso Fierro. Edited by James Barrile.

Friday Games at GAMBIT 5/4: Xenogears and Onward!

Xeno: Prefix from the ancient Greek "xenos" meaning "strange, alien, guest"

If you've ever played one of the games we'll be showing this Friday at GAMBIT's Friday Games -- Xenogears, Xenosaga, and Xenoblade Chronicles -- then you know that prefix is used particularly well in defining this series. Starting with the PlayStation RPG that started it all, we'll look through the various incarnations and additions to the Xeno- mythos. Since only 3 of the 5 games are literal sequels, what is the connection between a XenoGEAR, a XenoSAGA, and a XenoBLADE? Is there one at all? Are giant robots, Gnostic mysticism, and incomprehensible dialogue enough to bind a series together?

Drop by GAMBIT this Friday to see some of the most highly acclaimed -- and a little weird -- role-playing games to ever grace a console in action. As always, refreshments provided!

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