“We Just Want to Make Good Games.”

I’ve been writing a lot for I Search for Traps lately, but through my discussions of table-top RPGs I’ve come across an old question that I’ve encountered when I was studying the world of video games: What is a good game?

On the surface, it’s a simple question, but if you dig a bit deeper, you realize that it isn’t one with a simple answer.

When talking to game developers, “making a good game” is a goal that I often heard. However, difficulties appear when comes time to define, exactly, what a good game is. Part of the answers that I’ve gotten over the years involve terms like “fun,” “innovative,” “unique,” “trend-setting,” etc, which leads me to wonder what is the relationship between a “good game” and innovation.

Part of the problem in answering this simple question is that answers will be intensely personalized. One person’s criteria can be diametrically opposed to another’s, which makes any kind of metric difficult to pin down. If that’s the case, however, why do we keep talking about making or wanting good games, and using that concept as a classificatory category?

To be honest, I’m not really interested in defining a good game. Rather, I’m much more interested in why the discourse of “good games” keeps popping up over and over again in the strangest of places, each time with fairly similar characteristics, which indicates to me that the discourse of good games isn’t really about games at all. Rather, talking about good games appears to be a discussion of boundaries.

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Navy Field 2 and Heroes & Generals: Challenging the Sacred in Table-Top RPGs

I Search for Traps

I’ve been playing a lot of Navy Field 2 lately, and it got me thinking. It’s a fun, light naval simulation game that focuses on short battles. The game itself pits two teams one against the other, and the goal is to sink all the enemy ships. The controls are easy to learn and very arcade-style, meaning that faithful recreation is trumped by speed and ease of play.

Playing the game means controlling a single ship during a battle. You begin play with a small destroyer, but as you progress, you can unlock other ships, such as cruisers, battleships, aircraft carriers and submarines. So far, I’ve been mostly concentrating on destroyers, and I’ve been having quite a bit of success. Once you figure out how to play a particular ship, it can stand up against just about any other. In fact, many a powerful dreadnought has met its end thanks…

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Why We Need More Subjective Games Criticism


I recently saw a comment about an article on academic games criticism. The comment was an approving one: the commenter believed that the article was a fine example of an approach to games criticism that was not “weakened” by a method that focused on the player as a site of meaning-making.

I was furious. What made me so livid about the comment wasn’t that it was some lone graduate student tossing out an opinion that I happened to find objectionable. Quite the contrary: it was that this opinion is a widespread, domineering one. At its base is a fiercely-defended value: objectivity. According to this assumption, methods of criticism that focus on players and their subjective experiences are weak. That, in turn, must mean that strong methods locate meaning elsewhere—somewhere outside the dark subjective cave of player experience and in the bright objective world of game forms.

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A Part of Your World: World Building in Video Games and Table-Top RPGs

I Search for Traps

No, this post isn’t about The Little Mermaid. Rather, I’ve been thinking about how I, as a DM, can make players feel as if their characters are part of a bigger, wider world. Oftentimes, the story’s focus on the party makes it appear that they’re the center of the universe as opposed to one small (albeit extremely important) part of it.

I remember the first time that I felt that my character was part of something bigger. It was during the first campaign I ever played, and the party was infiltrating a keep while some Lord’s army was assaulting the fortress’ outer walls. We’d chosen to teleport on its roof and work our way down. The plan worked reasonably well, but what I remember most is Gaines’ character climbing a rampart and using a makeshift flag to signal the assaulting army that we’d taken the keep and that they could…

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I Search for Traps

I’ve been contributing to this blog for over a year now. I intend to continue contributing, but I’ve also been wanting to write about other things.

Despite the fact that I write about video games a lot, most of my gaming involves rolling dice around a table. I came late to table-top RPGs, and it wasn’t until after Gaines’ Star Wars campaign that I decided that I, too, could DM. I’ve been doing it ever since.

I’ve focused on video games here in order to preserve the blog’s theme, but I’ve decided to branch out and start actively writing about table-top RPGs. As such, I’ve started a new blog, I Search for Traps, where I’ll be writing about ongoing campaigns in which I’m currently involved, my experiences with various RPG systems, and just various RPG nonsense.

Take a look and stick around if you enjoy!

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What I’m Playing Now: Elite Dangerous

I’ve made no secret in the past that I love space sims and that I’m on the lookout for the next Starflight. I’ve tried many games, but none really filled in that particular gap in my heart. Until recently.

I’ve been playing a lot of Elite: Dangerous, which is the next iteration of the venerable Elite series of space sims/traders. Until now I’d more or less passed over it in favor of other series such as Wing Commander. However, in my wait for Star Citizen to be completed, I’ve come across Elite: Dangerous.

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Pokemon-Amie: Building Friendships and Guilt



pokemon amie

For a franchise with friendship as a central theme, Pokemon has been shockingly remiss in offering trainers ways to form bonds with their companions. Battling notwithstanding, opportunities to interact with one’s Pokemon have been virtually nonexistent across the series. The games’ plots dictate that the love and trust between player-protagonist and Pokemon are powerful. It is due to those strong bonds, the games emphasize, that the player-protagonist is so exceptional as to both become League Champion and take down the various crime syndicates threatening the world. But the growth of this love and trust between trainer and Pokemon is a gap that players must fill in on their own. It is not developed onscreen.

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