Weekend Reading…and Playing

Ten stories for the weekend, including some games you might enjoy…

1) Where in the World?

You’re nowhere near as good as you think you are at picking out a country or the location of a city on a blank map of the world. Oh sure, you can place London, maybe Tokyo and probably Sydney. But do you really now where Hanoi is? Or Moscow? Or Benin? This free game tests your knowledge and it’s jolly good fun. My attempt to place Luxembourg was just plain embarrassing. And try not to get confused about Mauritania and Mauritius. Thanks to freegamesnews.

2) The True Meaning of Gameplay

Here’s Brandon Erickson at GameCritics grappling manfully with the problem of defining gameplay. He tries to separate the term from a game’s cosmetics, such as look and sound, by looking at Mirror’s Edge as an example.  As he points out, most people use the term loosely as shorthand for ‘how much fun is this game?’. But I suspect that any attempt to entirely separate pure gameplay from cosmetics is going to come to grief. Eventually, you are reduced to talking about the pleasure derived from moving a controller around according to visual cues.

Quote: "If we can’t really articulate what it is about a game that affects us, positively or negatively, then it makes meaningful critique and progress that much more difficult."

3) It’s All About Flower

If you want to cut it at the water-cooler, the game you need to be familiar with, right now, is Flower. Here’s the GamesRadar review.

Quote: "Despite the deceptively bright and sunny opening stage, the tone soon shifts, and you find yourself in some contrasting, moody and oppressive environments. The dark, lonely atmosphere recalls Shadow of the Colossus – as does the mournful orchestral soundtrack. It’s almost a shame that your job is to heal this blighted world, because the stormy, rain-soaked environments are so evocative."

4) Twitter Must Make People Stupid or Something

Dumbest dumb-ass of the day. Howard Lindzon, a winner of a recent Twitter award. "If you can’t say it in 140 characters, you probably don’t have much to say."  More on Twitter magic from Wired.

5) What I’m Doing This Weekend

I just want to take a moment to really commend Sports Interactive for its MMO Football Manager Live. it’s not just the ferocious competence that underpins this game; not just the specialization that has created something so right for its audience, it’s the love that’s behind every one of the millions of stats that drive this simulation. I’ve only been playing for a few days, but this is one of the best communities I’ve ever experienced – immense politeness,mutual respect and a willingness to help. Just a great experience. Download it here.

6) PSXtreme are Still Hopping Mad

Here’s an editorial over at PSXtreme defending the previous editorial from that same publication, that didn’t like our review of Killzone 2.

7) iPhone Game Worth Playing

Zach Hiwiller turned me onto the iPhone port of Tetris-killer Chain Factor. It’s called Drop 7 and is platform-perfect, especially if you’ve finally had enough of rolling things around.

8) When Blogs Go to War

Broken Toys have been talking in fairly enlightened fashion, about the responsibility employers ought to have to their staff, in these times of mass-redundancies and red-tooth capitalism. Another blog, Greedy Goblin, has responded along the lines of market-freedom doctrine. And so begins a war of words that cuts right to the problem managers of creative companies have right now; please their shareholders by sloughing of some ‘costs’ or build for the future by retaining key assets through tough times. You can probably guess where I’m at on this. Cutting good people loose should be a last resort; not a first reaction. Unfortunately, too many managers believe that Excel is reality, rather than an imperfect measure of the world.

9) Some Really Bad Game Names

Sticky Balls (Gizmondo, 2005); Irritating Stick (PlayStation 1999) and Touch Dic (Nintendo DS, 2005). More here.

10) Favorite Quote of the Day

"Without [Darwin's] revolutionary thinking, Spore, a game that lets players create and evolve life, would have never been created." Thanks for that, GameDaily.