Playpen

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 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...
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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.
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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...)
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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.
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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. (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points/9523-The-Story-Doesnt-Matter)

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.
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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?
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at 20:55 on 04-04-2012, valse de la lune
What does everyone think of this SFsignal piece? http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2012/04/mind-meld-a-look-at-genre-reviews

I didn't realize reviewers were supposed to be unpaid marketers.
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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.
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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.
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at 09:45 on 03-04-2012, Shim
AAAH, MY EYES!

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...
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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.
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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.
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at 04:20 on 02-04-2012, Wardog
Awww, The Hunger Games with beaniebabies... Kind of perfect, actually.
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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...
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at 16:24 on 31-03-2012, valse de la lune
From the Wasteland 2 KS page:

PLEDGE $10,000 OR MORE
11 BACKERS • Limited Reward (5 of 16 remaining)

PLEDGE $5,000 OR MORE
8 BACKERS • Limited Reward (7 of 15 remaining)


And I thought the 100 people who pledged $1000 or more were, uhm, generous.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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at 12:15 on 30-03-2012, Arthur B
@Shimmin: Much obliged, but the Genevieve Warhams stuff post-Drachenfels sapped me of my enthusiasm for the character. :)
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at 11:54 on 30-03-2012, Shim
@Arthur: if you're interested in a quick look, my copy's up for grabs.
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at 11:43 on 30-03-2012, Arthur B
One of my gripes with the book was that Newman had set up this “vampire taint” theme with the book, with vampirism bringing madness, animalistic traits and a strange disease; and then broke it completely with the bloodlines thing, which seems to exist only so that Genevieve can avoid having any of those unappealing disadvantages.

Which is particularly odd because in the Warhams stories about her she's regularly wrestling with primal urges.

Other thoughts:

- Newman also did the "Genevieve is tangentially involved in the hunt for a serial killer in a bustling metropolis" thing in Beasts In Velvet, one of the Warhams novels featuring her (see review here).

- Newman also attempted to shoehorn a quasi-tolerated vampire subculture into a society which it really, really didn't fit into in his Warhams books - I know Warhammer Fantasy canon has evolved since then but even back in the day the idea of there being a pub which is a hub for the undead community in Altdorf which the Altdorf authorities are vaguely aware of but do nothing about was absurd and didn't fit the premises of the setting at all. Genevieve as a vampire who is just about considered acceptable in polite society due to obvious heroism in the past was a stretch but just about worked, injecting an entire community of the undead into the Imperial capital who exist as an open secret is barmy on the level of having an Ork Embassy on Earth in the 40K universe.

Basically it seems Newman is very very interested in writing novels about a world where vampires are an accepted part of society but isn't interested in doing the worldbuilding required to have that be the case from time immemorial - which I think you need if you want the opposition to the vampires to be as feeble as it is in his lesser Warhams stories (that being everything which isn't Drachenfels, which is great) and as it sounds like it is in Anno Dracula.
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at 11:30 on 30-03-2012, Shim
@Alasdair: fair enough, I think it’s partly a matter of just completely different literary preferences. I haven’t actually read that much Warhams or Newman myself but I happen to have read about three of his Warhams books.

Genevieve actually originates in Newman’s Warhammer fiction, but he’s apparently started writing her into other series too. One of my gripes with the book was that Newman had set up this “vampire taint” theme with the book, with vampirism bringing madness, animalistic traits and a strange disease; and then broke it completely with the bloodlines thing, which seems to exist only so that Genevieve can avoid having any of those unappealing disadvantages. Dracula (and everyone else) has a nasty, corrupt Eastern European bloodline with all those problems, whereas Genevieve has a nice, clean bloodline from a French vampire that has no problems of any kind whatsoever, and indeed very few disadvantages. So she can be young, beautiful, strong, wise, clever, healthy and also immortal and powerful. I had no problem with Genevieve in the Warhams books, I just thought she was clumsily shoehorned in here.

Now to be fair I was expecting a somewhat tongue-in-cheek adventure story tied into vampire literature and with a Victorian novel feel. In my defence, that was based on the book’s premise and its blurb. As it turned out, it doesn’t really read much like a vampire novel to me, and the city didn’t feel much like Victorian London to me, even Dickensian dark gritty London; it just felt like a Warhammer city dressed up as London.

I have to say I found the portrayal of how vampirism was accepted deeply unconvincing, which was part of the problem. I really couldn’t see Victorian society, with all its firebrands and moralising, placidly accepting vampirism in such a short time and with so few problems. Newman explains it by having all the objectors killed or locked away, but that just moves the problem aside – why did they accept the sudden dictatorship and oppression by foreign soldiers? I don’t buy the upper classes accepting the vampires at all, let alone going for vampirism – they had their own ideological and religious views. And especially not if they’re going to make the place all squalid and disgusting. Similarly the sudden imposition of impaling as a punishment – no.

Jack Seward, as you say, was all right. The detective bloke was not especially interesting and I couldn’t see any reason why Gene would go for him (which seems to be a pattern in Gene stories).

Also for some reason it really cheesed me off that he mischaracterised Raffles :) No way would he join an evil cabal, let alone go vamp.
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at 04:58 on 30-03-2012, Melissa G.
I thought they rather missed some opportunities.


I very much agree with this. My roommate is still bemoaning the fact that they never pulled out to give us a full shot of Katniss' dress, and that is just a small example of how ball was dropped a bit on visual things.

I haven't yet read the books so I suspect a lot of my enjoyment came from the exposure to the story. I do think though that the movie being able to move away from a first person narrative was likely helpful.
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