Robin Sloan drops some smart science:

Also: what’s a media inventor, anyway? Here’s my (totally made-up) definition: It’s somebody primarily interested in content who also experiments with new technology, new processes, and new formats. Allen Lane was a media inventor. Early bloggers were media inventors. Right now, the indie video game scene is full of media inventors.

Fundamentally, I think, a media inventor is someone who isn’t satisfied with the suite of formats that have been handed down to him by his culture (and economy). Novel, novella, short story; album, EP, single; RPG, RTS, FPS — a media inventor doesn’t like those choices. It turns out a media inventor feels compelled to make the content and the container.

I really like Carcassonne.

I like it because it’s as interesting with two players as with four – just a very different game in each case. I like it because of the various scoring methods it combines: simple play-piece/gain score for roads/abbeys/towns; longer-term risks with potentially higher rewards for farmers. I like that it forces you to juggle a limited number of scoring opportunities.

But I like it best because it’s about making pretty landscapes.


photograph: “Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals” by SimDawdler

When The Coding Monkeys (who, a good while ago, wrote the excellent SubEthaEdit), released their iPhone version of Carcassonne, I had to check it out. After all, if they can make a multiplayer text editor as good as SubEthaEdit, they might well be an ideal fit for an asynchronous, multiplayer boardgame.

Turned out I was right: they’ve really put some time and thought into their iP:hone version. The UI is lovely, as simple as possible, but rich where it needs to be: it’s very clear what’s going on and what the options available to you are. There’s also a nice focus on playing asynchronously – multiple games, taking turns as and when – which is only enhanced by the “next table” button that lets you ripple through open games without constantly returning to a menu.

But best of all is this screen:


The tile-layouts of each game are the thumbnail used to represent them.

As the games go on, this screen updates, their icons evolving from single green dots to sprawling landscapes. Of course the layout is the element of the game you place front and centre when it comes to navigation; it’s the most iconic part of any single game, and it works as a lovely aid to recognition.

Nicely done.

  • Went in sceptical, but this is a very good/solid presentation: the emphasis on going beyond chucking around the adjective "playful" and actually considering what makes (different kinds of) games work, and what they may/may not be applicable to, is spot-on. And a reminder that I'm behind on my reading, as usual.
  • "Hooray! Someone has put John Smith’s short film, The Girl Chewing Gum (1976), on YouTube… The film consists almost entirely of a single continuous shot of Stamford Road in Dalston Junction, a downbeat area of east London… The conceit of the film is that everything that moves or appears within shot – pedestrians, cars, pigeons, even clocks – is following the instructions of an omnipotent director who appears to be behind the camera: ‘Now I want the man with white hair and glasses to cross the road … come on, quickly, look this way … now walk off to the left.’ Pedestrians put cigarettes in their mouths, talk to each other, eat chips, take their glasses off, cast a glance behind them or look at the camera, all at the apparent behest of this offscreen director."
  • "I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people recently about how they bookmark stuff. It seems to be on a lot of peoples’ minds as more and more of our reading moves onto screens. So I thought I’d share a few things, and ask for some feedback." James on bookmarking and annotation – something I'm a big fan of.
  • "For the past 20 years I’ve had this urge to make a series of games that never were – mainly to suggest lost archives now discovered; to create an emotional resonance akin to that experienced by, say, new-found Beatles demo tapes – but also the idea of recreating contemporary games and themes in an old style to suggest an alternative past and present." Lovely writing, smart ideas, nice little game, but the clarity of thought is the real stand-out here. Another example of why I love Denki so much.
  • "…The teachers, by applying the rules and practices of arithmetic to play, prepare their pupils for the tasks of marshalling and leading armies and organizing military expeditions, managing a household too, and altogether form them into persons more useful to themselves and to others, and a great deal wider awake.” Well done, Plato.
  • "…now we know the [Nintendo 3DS'] 3D will have little to do with tracking technology, but Looksley's Line Up (as Attakoreda has now been released as in the U.S.) still might've made a nice showcase title for the new tech." Attakoreda – that funny 3D hidden word game of a few months back – is getting a western DSI release. Excellent.
  • "Red Dead Redemption is fully aware that our view of the Old West is more social construction than historical knowledge. I happen to think its main character is also intended to be a construct, a man who is a fiction in the world of the game. That is, the John Marston we play is the man as imagined by his son, Jack." That's an interesting take, although this article feels a little crit-heavy to me; I'm not convinced that the writing is as sophisticated as this criticism makes out.