Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 17:34 on 05-04-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
The whole idea of genre used in a way to excuse bad literature is kind of self defeating. What is genre, after all, than a very superficial label that tells a person in a very generic way something about its subject matter. At times it is only a marketing category. So how come some stupid tropes or even bad literature shouldn't be criticized? It somehow presupposes a strict existence of a genre that has always been and is not something that is actually a quite recent development and changes constantly.

Of course it is clear that criticizing a book about dragons for having fantastic beasts is idiotic, but a book about dragons can still have literary merits and there is nothing wrong with having high standards, whether the book tells about disgust with a modern consumerist culture through amoralistic teenagers or teenager werewolves who ride dragons(and are amoralistic).
at 17:27 on 05-04-2012, James D
The thing is, even if the reviewer isn't that into the genre, that's still a reasonable opinion. People who are very much into a genre often seem to miss glaring faults in basic writing because they've been conditioned by shlock to accept it all in service of their Favorite Thing. That might be testosterone-fueled swordplay, romantic entanglements with vampires, or worldbuilding fetishism, but I think sometimes it's healthy to have a reviewer without the entire LOTR apocrypha on their shelf rain on our parade once in a while (assuming they can do so without coming across like a total condescending pissflap).
at 17:16 on 05-04-2012, valse de la lune
I especially like the idea that if genre tropes suck you're bad for saying they suck, and should be looking into another genre. I don't think some of them can wrap their minds around the idea that sometimes reviews will be negative because the book sucks, not because the reviewer is just not into that genre.
at 11:30 on 05-04-2012, Arthur B
Photoshop Troll might be the funniest troll ever.
at 11:24 on 05-04-2012, Arthur B
Yeah, most of what's down there seems fine, but some of it reads like my April Fool's article come to life (particularly the "Why would you ever betray the Literature of Ideas by writing bad reviews of things? That's mean!" stuff).
at 00:49 on 05-04-2012, Wardog
To be fair to the article, I think some of the stuff is moderately sensible - I like the idea that reviews should be on their own terms entertaining and individualistic as long as that doesn't involve reviewer grandstanding or interfere with the central purpose of a review which is to discuss the text. I know I tend to shade towards criticism (err in the analytical sense of the word) but, hey, this voluntary, I can write what I like :)

Pamela Sargent, however, is egregiously stupid...
at 00:42 on 05-04-2012, Wardog
The thing I find most disconcerting about the Mind Meld article is the fact most of the commentary comes from writers (or aspiring writers, lol). I mean obviously you can't put an electric fence between writers and reviewers but, err, reviews are for readers, not writers, right? Obviously I don't think writers should be banned from reading reviews, and I'm not saying there's nothing "for" them in reviews, but surely one has to recognise that writers are *not* the primary focus/audience. Also another aspect that generally troubles me is the false-hierarchy of readers/reviewers and writers. These are *separate spheres.* I'm both a writer *and* a reader, and I don't consider reading/reviewing to be an unfortunate preamble to writing, nor is writing what I "really" want to be doing. I like being a consumer of texts, and I think being an enlightened consumer is a valuable role.

And, yes, as Ibmiller says I think this is even more pronounced in videogames, since that whole industry is based around the unquestioned assumption that designing games is the holy grail.
at 22:42 on 04-04-2012, Wardog
Ferretbrain is entirely amateur, there is no monies involved at all, ever :)

(although I am totally up for bribery and corruption if anybody fancies bribing and corrupting me...)
at 22:31 on 04-04-2012, Arthur B
Pamela Sargent's argument as to why writers can never get any value whatsoever out of reviews and how bad reviews are nightmarish and traumatic experiences... makes me want to review her stuff.
at 21:50 on 04-04-2012, Ibmiller
Video game reviewers - definitely supposed to be unpaid marketers.

Book reviewers - well, I would think that since books and their reviews have been out for a bit longer than video games, there's a bit more. Hopefully there's also a bit less poisonous model of production and reviewing than for games, as well. (

However, since I generally only read unpaid reviews (like, er, here :-) (unless they're paid and I didn't know it, which, if so, my apologies for the assumption), I don't quite know what they're talking about.

I do like the perspective of a few reviewers I like - at a certain point in a reviewing career, you start trying to use your position to push things you think are underrepresented but worthy. The things that succeed will succeed regardless of reviews (see also, Transformers), but sometimes, you can help smaller things do better.

At this point, I am rambling - apologies again.
at 21:04 on 04-04-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
I didn't realize reviewers were supposed to be unpaid marketers.

Isn't that how the video game industry works?
at 20:55 on 04-04-2012, valse de la lune
What does everyone think of this SFsignal piece?

I didn't realize reviewers were supposed to be unpaid marketers.
at 20:36 on 04-04-2012, James D
The SNES action RPG version was pretty cool, though, at least when I was a teenager. Of course, at the time, I didn't know what cyberpunk really was and had never heard of cultural appropriation. If you're interested in the setting you could emulate it easily.
at 17:56 on 04-04-2012, Arthur B
The Kickstarter du jour is for a proper Shadowrun CRPG (as opposed to the hilariously botched FPS that Microsoft put out.

I'm ambivalent about it. I always thought that Shadowrun's mashup of fantasy and cyberpunk ended up missing the point of both genres (cyberpunk particularly), and I thought the World of Darkness, despite not being very good at horror, did a better job at scratching the "criminal hijinks in an urban environment which happens to include magic and monsters" itch. Plus some of the cultural appropriation in there was just painful.

On the other hand if the Kickstarter gets past the finish line comfortably then I might kick in just to get the game cheap when it comes out.
at 09:45 on 03-04-2012, Shim

Okay, if anyone else is going to click the Molyjam link, make sure to disable your script-blockers beforehand, so the website is only painful instead of agonisingly nauseating...
at 00:42 on 03-04-2012, Dan H
On the subject of really terrible game ideas, have people checked out Molyjam.

It is probably indicative of something, I think, that some of the most innovative game design ideas I've seen in a while have come out of a game jam inspired by tweets from a parody twitter account.

I've so far played The Spandex Parable and The Shadowlands Prophesy.
at 23:27 on 02-04-2012, Arthur B
A problem with the Kickstarter funding model: there's no way to pay money to ensure that a particularly awful idea doesn't happen.
at 04:20 on 02-04-2012, Wardog
Awww, The Hunger Games with beaniebabies... Kind of perfect, actually.
at 15:51 on 01-04-2012, Wardog
Tell me about it. I'd probably pay about that much to avoid having to go to a party with a bunch of game developers...
at 16:24 on 31-03-2012, valse de la lune
From the Wasteland 2 KS page:

11 BACKERS • Limited Reward (5 of 16 remaining)

8 BACKERS • Limited Reward (7 of 15 remaining)

And I thought the 100 people who pledged $1000 or more were, uhm, generous.
at 20:58 on 30-03-2012, Dan H
Oh dear. I just watched the Being Human season finale, and it was one of the worst offenders on the use of prophecy in a fantasy/sci-fi story I have ever seen.

We vaguely lost track of Being Human midway through season two but that does sound particularly stupid. The only thing worse than rigid adherence to stupid genre tropes is rigid adherence to stupid genre tropes that *thinks* it's deconstructing the tropes to which it is in fact rigidly adhering.
at 19:32 on 30-03-2012, Arthur B
For those who've been following the Wasteland 2 kickstarter, a new goal has been set: if the kickstarter hits $2.1 million, Obsidian Entertainment will come in to help make the game, effectively putting the Black Isle band back together.
at 17:57 on 30-03-2012, Andy G
Oh dear. I just watched the Being Human season finale, and it was one of the worst offenders on the use of prophecy in a fantasy/sci-fi story I have ever seen.
Basically, there is a prophecy that the newborn child that the heroes are looking after is the saviour for humanity who they have to protect from the vampires. But it turns out that the complete prophecy actually says that the child has to die for humanity to survive, otherwise humanity will be complacent waiting for their saviour and the vampires will win. The main character agonises about killing the baby, but then heroically decides to blow up herself, the baby and the villains so that humanity can survive. Because, you know, prophecy.
at 12:36 on 30-03-2012, Ibmiller
To be upfront, I really don't enjoy the Hunger Games series or concept that much - they're readable, but not terribly engaging to me. So I actually enjoyed the film more than the book, primarily because they moved away from the not-terribly-believable first-person-present-tense narrative. I think the weaknesses of the ending are simply things they didn't mess with from the book (especially in this post-Potter age of slavish fidelity - and oh, how it hurts me to say that, since I adore fidelity).

I do agree that the Hunger aspect of the books is rather absent (particularly in the nicely well-fed look of all the leads - the director seems to think that making everything desaturated and gray makes it sufficiently grim) - but to me, the worldbuilding aspect is one of the least satisfying elements of the series, so I wasn't too bothered.

Somewhat irrelevant, but I was quite pleased with the music - especially after the last two scores I've heard from James Newton Howard (Green Lantern and Green Hornet), which were both on the awful side of mediocre.