Ryan Rigney

Writer, Game Designer

Brendan Keogh Wants A New Games Criticism, But Doesn’t Demand Enough

Brendan Keogh’s longform criticism of Spec Ops: The Line was groundbreaking — a brave step forward for the form.
Now Keogh is advocating for a wider adoption of the methods he has employed. I have some thoughts to share.

Earlier this week the talented and increasingly prolific games critic Brendan Keogh wrote a piece for the first ever issue of The Journal of Games Criticism. The essay identifies issues with academic games criticism, but since Keogh counts “a nascent scene of online critics and bloggers” as valid participants in the field of games criticism, I (a happily non-academic writer) feel comfortable commenting on what I see as serious issues with Keogh’s perspective.

Author’s Note: In looking at Keogh’s work I’m going to make some of my own potentially controversial arguments about what games criticism should and shouldn’t be. I will unwisely refer to work by feminist game reviewers to illustrate serious issues with the current system. I’ll take a dump on some popular websites and then quote Alan Moore to justify my dismissive attitude towards comic book nerds and self-described “gamers.” Many people will be offended, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to share some honest thoughts about games and games criticism.

Keogh’s main point in his new piece, titled “Across Worlds and Bodies: Criticism in the Age of Video Games,” is that critics often fail to examine and comment upon the full content of an interactive work. Keogh says that we should look at not only the ways that individual elements of games interact with each other, but also at how all the pieces of the game connect to the player. He laments that critics often focus on gameplay elements “while ‘non-play’ elements such as cut scenes, menus, and loadings screens remain conspicuously ignored.”

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A Long-Lost Blues Album is Reborn on Vinyl

The Vinyl edition of The Gospel According to Sam, published by Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum Records Photo credit: Ryan Rigney

The Vinyl edition of The Gospel According to Sam, published by Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum Records

Note: I originally wrote this story for a class taught by Alysia Burton Steele. I tried to sell it, but nobody was interested in paying for a story about a dusty old record. Steele liked it, so maybe you will too. Everything, including the embedded video, was created by me.

New from Fat Possum records and available on iTunes or at a vinyl record store near you is “The Gospel According to Sam,” a classic blues and gospel album filled with covers of songs like “Keep Your Hands on the Plow” and “The Saints Go Marching In.”

The album is new, but the recording is not. It was made in a house in Oxford, Mississippi almost exactly 50 years ago. The artist, Sam Langhorn, has been dead since 2007, and “The Gospel According to Sam” is the only known album he ever recorded. For half a century it went unheard by more than a few people.

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The 10 Best Books I Read in 2013

So many trees died to make these. It'd be rude to let their sacrifice go to waste.

I’m not going to lie to you: I haven’t even attempted to crack open that Pynchon novel.

2013 was the year I re-discovered my love of books.

After high school I drifted away from the voracious book-reading habits I’d cultivated as a child. In 2011, the year Buttonless was published, I don’t think I read a single one. I’m ashamed to admit this; for a writer to not read books isn’t just hypocritical—it’s self-defeating. Ignorant.

“I don’t have enough time,” I would say, making excuses for my laziness. Even I knew I was fooling myself.

This past February I walked into a tiny bookshop in an Irish village and spotted A Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I bought it on a whim, cracked it open on the bus, and fell unresisting into the world George R.R. Martin’s incredible mind has wrought. My love for spending time in Westeros turned into a bottomless appetite for printed words of any sort, fiction or non-fiction.

Now, at the end of the year, I’ve read just over 40 books. It turns out I did have enough time!

In the list below I’ve shared some thoughts on the 10 best books—or book series—I read this year (only one was actually published in 2013). All of them made me a better person in some way, whether by extending my grasp of valuable concepts, teaching me how to better understand others, or instilling in me an appreciation for something new.

Each of these is well worth your time. I promise you have enough to spare.

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Doing Creative Work As A Young Person – Lessons Learned From My First Game (Part 4/4)

Malcolm Gladwell is passionate about many things unrelated to proper hair care.

Malcolm Gladwell is passionate about many things unrelated to proper hair care.

Note: This is the final entry in a four-part series of blog posts discussing the lessons we learned while making our first game, FAST FAST LASER LASER. It’s intended to be useful for other game developers or for people merely interested in the perspective of a game designer. It was originally posted on the Utah Raptor Games blog.

It may come as a surprise to some of my previous employers that I am (still) a college student. I recently turned 21, yet have been writing about video games for magazines and prominent websites for something like five years. I got started early, I guess.

Many college-age kids are also getting started early in game development, these days. The Independent Games Festival (IGF) has a category specifically for student developers, which Utah Raptor Games has entered. FAST FAST LASER LASER is competing against a whopping 302 other games developed by student teams in this year’s competition—a record for the IGF. I’m certain that many of those teams have learned some of the hard lessons we’ve learned in the development of our first game. Next year a whole new batch of students will show up, and they’ll learn those same lessons themselves.

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Your Video Game Hates You – Lessons Learned From My First Game (Part 3/4)

Everything Ira Glass does tries to be crap, but he just won't let it.

Everything Ira Glass does tries to be crap, but he just won’t let it.

Note: This is the third entry in a four-part series of blog posts discussing the lessons we learned while making our first game, FAST FAST LASER LASER. It’s intended to be useful for other game developers or for people merely interested in the perspective of a game designer. It was originally posted on the Utah Raptor Games blog.

We’d just installed code for artificially intelligent computer opponents (bots) in FAST FAST LASER LASER, and I was having great fun parrying attacks and dodging lasers from the AI players. Finally, after months of one-on-one matches against the game’s lead programmer, FFLL was being played the way it was always mean to: with four players dashing around the screen, filling the arena with multi-colored lasers.

Suddenly, the green guy stopped in his tracks. He stood still for a moment, and then turned to face a wall near the edge of the arena. Ignoring other dangers around him, he began firing rapidly at the wall, where his laser blasts immediately dissipated. After 10 or so shots, he holstered his blaster and ran at the wall–and passed right through it.

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Steal From Other Game Designers – Lessons Learned From My First Game (Part 2/4)

steve

“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” – Steve Jobs
Full quote here

Note: This is the second entry in a four-part series of blog posts discussing the lessons we learned while making our first game, FAST FAST LASER LASER. It’s intended to be useful for other game developers or for people merely interested in the perspective of a game designer. It was originally posted on the Utah Raptor Games blog.

There is no secret formula for coming up with great game ideas. If there was, there would be at least one game designer in the world who has never had trouble coming up with great games, and to my knowledge there is no such person in existence. The fact that Peter Molyneaux just put out a glorified, collaborative version of Cow Clicker is evidence enough of that.

However, with FAST FAST LASER LASER, we came up with a very specific creative process that guided us in designing its various mechanics–stealing from other game designers. I like to call it “creative stealing.”

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The Importance Of Not Doing It All Yourself – Lessons Learned From My First Game (Part 1/4)

indiegamethemovie

You don’t have to be lonely like this guy to be a game designer. The fancy facial hair is also pretty unnecessary.

Note: This is the first entry in a four-part series of blog posts discussing the lessons we learned while making our first game, FAST FAST LASER LASER. It’s intended to be useful for other game developers or for people merely interested in the perspective of a game designer. It was originally posted on the Utah Raptor Games blog.

“Hey guys, wanna make a video game?”

Lee Dubose and Jonathan Broom were sitting on a couch, watching bad daytime television. Jonathan (we call him JB) was sprawled out with his tiny Acer laptop sitting on his chest, his face only inches from the screen. Neither of my two friends bothered to look up to respond to my question.

“Alright,” JB said. Lee grunted something that sounded remotely like approval.

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