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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Column: The Magic Resolution

Column: 'The Magic Resolution': Don't Be So Difficult

September 29, 2009 12:00 PM |

ceville1.jpg['The Magic Resolution' is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch column by UK-based writer Lewis Denby, examining all facets of the experience of playing video games. This time, Lewis is angry. He's rubbish at video games, but he still wants to enjoy them...]

So you're pointing and clicking your way through a hot new adventure game, if such a thing still exists. You're stuck at a point where a mighty evildoer has rigged the entrance to the next area with all manner of preposterous boobie traps. What do you do?

Do you go to the local arms dealer and trade him some items so he'll explain how to disarm the explosives? Do you search around for a secret door that'll allow you to bypass the traps all together? Of course not. That'd be too easy. Too sensible.

No, what you have to do is take a rubber chicken to the local grave-robber, who'll give you a skeleton in exchange. Then you'll have to break off Mr. Boney's arms and legs, grind them down into a powder to give to a voodoo sorceress, who'll make you a potion as long as you bring her three sprigs of thyme in exchange. After that, you can feed the potion to a cat, who'll immediately vomit up a map of the island on which you reside, marked with an X.

Go to the X and dig - with a magical trowel, naturally, not the ordinary one you've had in your inventory for ages - to uncover a piece of paper with detailed instruction in how to sneak by the traps undetected. Oh - as long as you dress up as a woman.

Of course.

Column: 'The Magic Resolution': The State of Play

August 20, 2009 8:00 AM |

gamediversity.jpg['The Magic Resolution' is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch column by UK-based writer Lewis Denby, examining all facets of the experience of playing video games. This week, Lewis examines the diverse nature of video games, and discusses why the medium is more mature and significant than ever before.]

With the Wii's family-oriented social multiplayer, the 360's core range of hardened action and the versatility of its indie service, along with the general diversity of the PS3, the variety of gaming experiences currently available is wider than ever.

That's without even considering the PC's ability to deliver in-depth strategy and simulation, or its friendliness towards small-time developers with an artistic message to communicate; or the DS' ability to train and educate, the iPhone's selection of games made for being on the move; or any of the numerous other methods of playing video games, and the individual styles they contribute to the medium.

It's been suggested by a number of commentators that games will be a mature form when asking the question "do you play games?" seems as unusual as asking whether someone watches movies. But that doesn't seem to stick. Not everyone is interested in the high arts, yet they've been considered a mature and significant form of entertainment and expression for as long as history has recorded.

Mass appeal does not appear to be a reasonable test for maturity or significance, and there's no reason why gaming's nature as a marginal hobby has to stand in the way of its status.

Column: 'The Magic Resolution': A World Apart

August 8, 2009 12:00 PM |

gswinvisiblewar.jpg['The Magic Resolution' is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch column by UK-based writer Lewis Denby, examining all facets of the experience of playing video games. This week, Lewis has been playing Deus Ex: Invisible War, and pondering the reasons why something isn't quite right.]

I'm playing through Deus Ex: Invisible War again. It's been far too long since anything of its kind emerged into this crazy electronic world -- the last was probably Bloodlines, way back in 2004 -- but with Deus Ex 3 peeking encouragingly over the distant horizon, now seemed like a good time to return. It's been too long. There are too many memories. I needed something concrete.

See, I remember adoring Invisible War. There were -- and still are -- plenty of dissenters, plenty of people who felt let down by the simplified mechanics and streamlined experience of the highly anticipated sequel. It's understandable. Invisible War selected a core few aspects of the Deus Ex principle to work with, and eviscerated the rest. It was a smaller, tighter game than its predecessor. It was, in Ion Storm's eyes, more refined. A lot of fans didn't want that.

I always felt I understood the logic behind the alterations. The lack of skills, the single ammo pool and the abundance of air vents were all there for a reason. Invisible War was a game in which you could play as any character type at any point in the game, restricted only by your creativity, not by the decisions you'd made up until that given point. Almost every mission began with multiple routes immediately obvious.

Do you crawl through that vent there, or do you blast in through the main door? Do you hack that security terminal in the room on the right, or send your Spy Drone in to distract all the mechanical beasts lurking within? Do you pick up that rocket launcher, or the silenced pistol? Nothing's restricted, and nothing's overly punishing. It's just about your choices. It's about doing what you feel like.

Column: 'The Magic Resolution': How Do You Start The Revolution?

July 22, 2009 8:00 AM |

developgsw.jpg['The Magic Resolution' is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch column by UK-based writer Lewis Denby, examining all facets of the experience of playing video games. This time: the UK's Develop Conference provides a backdrop to consider what's really important about video games.]

Like many game developers, design students and press-folk, I spent a sizable portion of last week being forcibly thrust into Brighton's Metropole Hotel by what I'm sure were some of the most powerful seafront winds known to mankind. It's probably a good job, though, since I had a ticket to the Develop Conference, and that's where it was taking place.

On the first night, at the Icebreaker Drinks that break approximately no ice, I'm approached by a developer. He's spotted my press badge, and asks me what my angle is. I'm stumped. This is a reasonably new gig for me, and I'm probably still wide-eyed enough to think I don't need an angle.

I find myself regurgitating something I've used for a while: I look at the experiential side of playing video games. The things development isn't really concerned with. The stuff beyond the game. Understandably, the conversation moves swiftly on to drinking and beach parties.

The first day of the conference proper. Jammed into the most unreasonably small press office in existence, I type from the floor about thatgamecompany's Jenova Chen's eye-opening presentation of Flower's development. A glance at my Twitter feed shows an obscene amount of people doing the same thing. The headlines of each story are markedly different. They all have an angle. What's mine?

Column: 'The Magic Resolution': The Magic Show

July 8, 2009 4:00 PM |

gswmagicresolution3.jpg['The Magic Resolution' is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch column by UK-based writer Lewis Denby, examining all facets of the experience of playing video games. This time: Art galleries, history, and the diversity of people interested in gaming.]

I've mentioned Videogame Nation already, but only in passing. Launched in May, it's a summer-long exhibit at Manchester's Urbis Centre, showcasing the history of video games and the big issues surrounding them.

A few weeks since my visit, during which I had the pleasure of dining with Introversion, the significance of the event is starting to hit home.

Actually, that's a lie. It started to hit home before I'd even arrived. On the journey, I found myself pondering Videogame Nation, and wondering why it felt quite so significant for our little hobby. Then, with the proverbial light bulb flashing on above my head, it clicked.

Because, well, what is the Urbis Centre?

It's an art gallery.

Column: 'The Magic Resolution': Tricks of the Trade

June 18, 2009 4:00 PM |

magicresolution2.jpg['The Magic Resolution' is a new, bi-weekly GameSetWatch column by UK-based writer Lewis Denby, examining all facets of the experience of playing videogames. For this edition, Lewis went for lunch with Introversion.]

"How much am I allowed to swear?" asks Mark Morris. Introversion's MD has just been asked about the differences between retail and digital distribution from the perspective of an independent development company. He's silent for a few seconds, before leaning into the mic and explaining what he calls "the motherfucker scale."

"Digital distributors are lower down," he says, "but retail stores are very much at the top."

We're at Videogame Nation, a summer-long celebration of the video game industry, set among the reams of more established art forms at Manchester's Urbis gallery. Mark, along with Creative Director Chris Delay, is fielding questions from a room full of press, aspiring developers and curious members of the public. Far from the marketing-infested buzz that Leigh recently condemned, these two are brutally honest, and not afraid to discuss their industry experiences in great depth. Though I audibly squirm at a comment about the laziness of the press, it's thoroughly refreshing stuff.

Still, it's not the press they're really resentful of. "One of the services that publishers traditionally claim to offer developers is press relations," Mark tells me over paninis in a hidiously overpriced cafe later. "But if you've ever heard a publisher's PR team speaking, they would always say 'the best person to talk about your game is you.' My question is always, 'so why are we paying you?'

"Developers are completely missing a trick if they're not going directly to the press, engaging and talking and getting rid of the middlemen. My view has always been that, in business, it's best to get on the right side of people, try and be honest, and try to tell them what's going on. Have a few beers, you know? Not to sound too cynical - not just to get the contract - but because you actually get on with these people."

Column: 'The Magic Resolution': Magic Moments

June 8, 2009 8:00 AM |

gta4column.jpg['The Magic Resolution' is a new, bi-weekly GameSetWatch column by UK-based writer Lewis Denby, examining all facets of the experience of playing videogames. In his first outing, Lewis looks at the little stories that are unique to our own subjective experiences of the same title.]

I picked up my girlfriend around five, maybe five-thirty. It had been a stunning summer's day, the sort where everyone seems thrilled just to be there, just to exist. We drove through rush hour traffic towards the bowling alley. "Just like our first date," she remarked.

I smiled. I'd forgotten, for a minute. I mean, it's not like I don't remember every second I've spent with her, but still. Caught in the moment, you know?

We arrived, booked in, and played two games. We were only going to stay for one, but 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins came on the playlist as the first game ended, so we didn't want to leave. It's "our" song. It might have been playing the night we met, actually. Shortly afterwards, at least.

When we finished up, dusk was on its way. I drove her home, warm, as the sun wavered above the horizon before succumbing to sleep, rendering the sky a haunting terracotta.

And in the game...

No, seriously.

Stunningly constructed as Grand Theft Auto IV was, it's not the reason I love it. I've heralded it, and continue to herald it, as one of gaming's great modern achievements, but not for the surprisingly mature story or the vastness of its freedom. To me, GTA IV is beautiful in its microcosmic capturing of life's idiosyncratic moments, and its understanding that the experience of a game is often defined just as much by the player as by the creator.