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(This was written in response to several articles on Rock, Paper, Shotgun that provided an analysis of Pathologic. Some issues were raised in the comments about whether games have to be fun to be good. I wrote this as a follow up. It originally featured on my blog.)

Do games have to be fun to be good? This is a question which following Quinns take on Pathologic over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun has been running around in my head like a hamster does on a wheel. Or is that a mouse…anyway one of the points that Quinns raised in his examination of Pathologic was that while it may not always be a fun game to play, it was a good game.

Of course this statement caused some debate among the RPS fanatics, another issue that was raised in response to this detailed examination of Pathologic was whether current reviewing methods are really all that good.

That issue was raised and was based on the fact that in the preamble to the first piece by Quinns, Mr Kieron Gillen actually came out and mentioned that fact that under current ‘traditional’ games reviewing processes he had to give the game at lowly 52% in PC Gamer and this ‘traditional’ way of reviews limited John Walker to giving the game a 6/10 on Eurogamer.

Of course this is a different issue entirely and is one that is probably best left to people like Kieron, John and the other two Rock, Paper, Shotgun fellas to discuss. After all, reviewing games is part of their job, for me it is just a hobby.

So, do games have to fun to be good? For me the answer is a simple one, and I could just put that one single word down and be done with this, however I feel a bit of waffling on is required. Well waffling on is a skill I have learnt well so far during my university course, and it is one I am going to have to make great use of in my dissertation.

Anyway, what is my take on the statement/topic/question or whatever you want to call it at hand?
Well I must say NO! I say this simply because fun is a perspective that varies wildly between different people. There are so many games out there and so many gamers out there that everyone is going to have different ideas on what makes a game fun.

Some may find Simulators fun, while others may find them boring and not much fun at all. The same can be said for First Person Shooters and Multiplayer Online Games. The whole notion of fun varies so wildly between people that the statement ‘games have to be fun to be good’ is utter bullcrap. I for one can have fun with many games, they do not all have to be good though. The same applies in reverse for me, I can find a game to not be much fun, but I recognise that just because it is not fun to me doesn’t make it a bad game.

Take for example the latest Sam and Max games. I had to review one of the Season 2 episodes and I didn’t really find it that fun. This may just have been down to my mind being a bit strange, but I could see that the game wasn’t bad. It may not have been brilliant but it wasn’t a bad game. Yet I didn’t find it that fun to play.

The same goes for Halo, while at times I had fun with it, for the most part I was pretty indifferent to it and just played on for the sake of it. Just because I didn’t find the entire game fun though doesn’t mean it was a bad game. On the most part it was pretty good.

So it is clear that a game doesn’t have to be fun to be good. It is purely our own persona and the way our minds work the defines whether a game is fun, and if we look at game from a critical perspective we can see that while we may not have had loads of fun with a game it was actually pretty good.

Time is dragging on and I have to be up for work in the morning, an example of something that is neither fun nor good there!

So to sum up my brief ramblings, a game does not have to be fun to be good. The idea of fun varies wildly from person to person. Whether a game is good or not can be seen by taking a critical look at it and by taking off those rose tinted specs.

After readings Quinns take on Pathologic I am fully prepared to start playing (when it arrives) a broken game that is not much fun, but that beneath those perceived flaws is actually quite good.

5:50 AM on 04.04.2008

I have just stumbled across 'The Glass Bead Network' following an email from the web hosts for my blog. They mentioned that one of their employees had been working on this, so I decided to check it out.

This really is an intriguing online gaming network with the games themselves based on 'beads'; things which represent many things all across the world. The goal in any game is to indentify the links between the different beads that are put into play, and by doing so remove all your beads from you panel.

It presents some interesting challenges when you are trying to find a link between two beads, in my first game I had to find a link between the bead acres and the Taj Mahal. A quick bit of Wiki hunting found me my prize. During construction of the Taj Mahal three acres of land were cleared.

In this way The Glass Bean Network provides an impressive educational aspect by making the players find links between different beads furthering their knowledge of many different things.

Depending on the size of the boar being played on, number of players and a variety of different settings games promise to take anything from ten minutes to longer sessions. This really is an intriguing, interesting and exciting concept and I really look forward to it taking off in a big way.

Find out more about The Glass Bead Network here.

This originally featured on my blog.

8:02 AM on 04.02.2008

Two leading newspapers in the UK have today published editorials that are damning to video games. The Times and The Telegraph have published editorials by Giles Whitell and Jenny McCartney respectively.

The Times article is entitled ‘Video games: I’ll never buy one’ and The Telegraph runs with the lead ‘ There is a majority against vile video games, and it is moral.’ Both of these article are signs of a growing trend in the British media to portray video games as bad, evil and sociopath creating tools.

I will not quote the two papers, that has been done by plenty of other sites already. Rather I just want to take a moment to wonder, wonder when and why these leading British paper became so conservative and so willing to jump on the bandwagon of anti-gaming writing.

First off, The Times. It should be no surprise to see The Times publishing such editorial comments and news articles as we have seen over the past few months for one simple reason. Rupert Murdoch. The Times is owned by Murdoch, and so is that pinpoint of journalistic integrity, Fox News. If Fox News is able to get away with pushing their sensationalist crap, then it really should be no surprise that The Times is also being used to push Murdoch’s message against video games.

Secondly we have The Telegraph, a paper in which, according to a MORI Poll 60% of its readers vote for the Conservative Party. Again we should not be surprised to see articles such as the one today appearing. This is the kind of article their conservative readers will love to read.

My conclusions? Well from the evidence that is readily available regarding these two papers it is clear they have an agenda to push forward, an agenda that is targeted predominantly towards the conservative middle class in the UK and an agenda sanctioned by Rupert Murdoch.

As such us gaming commentators should not be expressing such outrage and shock at reading such articles in these papers, instead we should start to treat these articles as we treat the Fox News features on video games. With contempt.

This originally featured on my blog.

3:44 PM on 03.30.2008

For some reason EA have taken a mad decision to help set up a new Red Alert 2 tournament!

Well all know that the Red Alert 3 beta is going to be coming out soon, so what better way for EA to get everyone excited that by getting everyone playing some classic Red Alert 2!

The tournament is going to be run by Strike-Team on the XWIS servers and starts at the beginning of April.

More information here and here.

4:43 PM on 03.28.2008

So I have just got an achievement in a game. I broke every bone in my body and my driver is now dead. And that got me an achievement. Wow! What game is this, well this is Red Lynx's Trials 2 Second Edition.

A little video interlude right now to show off what Trials 2 is all about.

More videos can be seen here.

Wearing helmets certainly seems advisable. In my short testings of the trial version of Trial 2 I think I killed my drive outright twice and knocked him unconscious at least twenty times. This is the most fun I have had with a demo for...well I think ever!

This really is great fun, just letting loose and getting from A to B, or A to wherever you crash first. Simple games, when done well like this, really are the best :D

Packed full of achievements, multiple courses, online high score tracking and loads more this is one action packed, physics fuelled game. For more information head over to Red Lynx.

I recently read an article on Eurogamer (link) which deals with piracy and how it should be tackled. It deals specifically in relation to the gaming industry, but it also talks about the music and film industries. The article prompted me to take some time to think about the issue of piracy as it is today, especially in response to recent comments by Gas Powered Games’ Chris Taylor (read them here) a recent article on Rock, Paper, Shotgun (here) where Kieron Gillen examines piracy figures for one day on a leading pirate torrent site.

As anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock since the mid-nineties should well know piracy is an issue which is effecting the three big entertainment industries; music, film and, most relevant of all to me, the games industry. Since Metallica took Napster to court in 2000 piracy has, for me become a bigger and bigger ever increasingly prevalent issue. You can’t watch a film or a DVD without being bombarded by five minutes worth of adverts and warnings about the dangers and evils of piracy. (I am not condoning piracy in any way here, just sharing how I feel the warnings present it.) In recent years we have seen Sony fall foul of excessive Digital Rights Management (DRM) when they installed a spyware rootkit on their music CDs. We also have an increasing number of PC games use ever more infuriating methods of anti-piracy methods.

If we look at the music industry though, it has now started to change its methods of dealing with piracy. Gone are the days of spyware being installed on your PC without your permission, and we are seeing more internet sites allowing the purchase of songs without any DRM. This is just an example of how the music industry is learning to move forward with the times and change its approach to piracy. Rather than restrict every single aspect possible the industry is now opening itself up. People who purchase music online can now easily copy it over to several different accessories without worrying about the songs being locked down.

This is something the games industry must take heed of and follow. Game developers should recognise that day-zero piracy is very difficult to prevent when the games are sold at retail. Even games like Bioshock which had convoluted extravagant anti-piracy measures was found on pirate sites within two weeks of release. It is obvious that many people would have pirated the game to get around the mess of anti-piracy measures 2K used on the game. On one forum I regularly visit I saw many people claim they were going to take back their copies of Bioshock purely based on the restrictive anti-piracy measures used.

Limiting gamers to a handful of game installs is not going to best please those who purchase a game, it is an overreaction to the threat of piracy, and it is something likely to force people to download a pirated copy so as to avoid the anti-piracy methods used by the developers.

Ubisoft have come under heavy fire in recent years for their anti-piracy methods, namely Starforce which garnered massive criticism for damaging and even stopping users disc drives from working. Other Ubisoft games, and games from other developers, have also refused to install on computers where disc burning software is detected.

These anti-piracy methods often have an adverse effect and will lead more people to pirating the game in their quest to be free from such restrictive and damaging methods of anti-piracy. Developers should come to accept that even if day-zero piracy can be avoided; as soon as a game hits the pirate sites they should release a patch taking away these anti-piracy measures.

What is interesting to note from the Rock, Paper, Shotgun article is that the games at number two in both the UK and US PC games charts do not appear in the top 20 list of pirated games. Football Manager 2008 and Sins of a Solar Empire are two games without copy-protection such as CD-keys, online verification, Starforce etc. For two of the biggest selling games in the UK and US not to appear in the top 20 list of pirated games is surely a testament that using minimal anti-piracy methods is the way forward.

In the Gamasutra article mentioned above, Chris Taylor of Gas Powered Games claims that secure gaming is the future for the PC. This is a clear sign that digital distribution platforms such as Steam are the way forward. However secure gaming can cover a wide range of issues. Purchasing and downloading a game from Steam has become an accepted practice for many, however many people still complain about purchasing The Orange Box or Half-Life 2 and having to unlock and register it online.

As such secure gaming can only be the way forward for games like World of Warcraft which require constant online connectivity and games purchased from digital distribution channels which allow you to download and install a game you have bought on as many PCs as you wish.

The other type of secure gaming that Taylor may be supporting is the purchase of a game at retail and then activating it online, or by requiring the person at hand to remain online whenever they wish to play the game. This would be a dangerous move and, like other methods of piracy prevention is more likely to push people to download a pirated copy which doesn’t require these restrictions.

This presents the gaming industry with two viable ways to go to combat piracy. The first is an ever increasing reliance on digital distribution which allows people to download a game they have bought on as many PCs as they desire. The other method is to remove all forms of anti-piracy controls and treat gamers like they should be treated, as non-pirates.

Piracy is never going to go away, especially not on the PC. But if developers stop treating everyone as a potential pirate and free up their games and remove the anti-piracy measures they may slowly reduce the numbers of sales lost through piracy.

This would be a brave new approach, but the music industry did something similar and it seems to be gaining some popular support. The gaming industry must follow, take a deep breath and scrap what it is drive people to pirate; the anti-piracy measures.

This article originally featured on my blog here.