Thursday, May 21, 2009

Well Played 1.0: Video Games, Value and Meaning

I had the great pleasure and fortune to participate in a collection of essays organized by Drew Davidson titled Well Played. It's hopefully the beginning of a long series of collected essays on games with a more refined sensibility and I'm delighted to take part in it. I skimmed a few of the other essays (I'm going to read it once I have it in print) and was happy with what Davidson accomplished: a diverse collection of writing styles on gaming. You can find designers dealing with mechanics, story tellers working with advanced methods for generating meaning, and other styles of criticism for popular games. The list of writers includes:

Kirk Battle (L.B. Jeffries), Mia Consalvo, Greg Costikyan, Patrick Curry, Drew Davidson, Corvus Elrod, Noah Falstein, Clara Fernandez-Vara, Mary Flanagan, Nick Fortugno, James Paul Gee, Charles Herold, Clint Hocking, Katherine Isbister, Nick Montfort, Doris Rusch, Jesse Schell, Brett Shelton, Mark Sivak, Seth Sivak, Kurt Squire, Jason Vandenberghe

You can download the book for free here or order a print copy here.

For my part, I wrote about Rockstar's Bully. It's a game that was important to me both because of what an intense subject it engages with (being a highschool student) and the fact that all of it takes place at a boarding school. As a kid I was shipped off to a co-ed boarding school and was impressed with how much they nailed the experience. The essay mixes my personal impressions of what boarding school was like and how the game generates those emotions through the design. Having tried most of Rockstar's other sandbox games, I don't think any of them even come close to the ambition, clever writing, or audacity that this game reaches for and succeeds at.

The essay was written a long time ago and was one of my first experiments with writing game criticism. I had the insight to revise it back in February before Davidson published the book, so I'm pleased with most of it, but I've come a long way in terms of technique and understanding.

Also, yes, that's my real name. I opted for using a pseudonym 3 years ago when I stopped running a private website because I didn't want my writing or opinions to be constrained by worrying about real life repercussions.

Considering that I can be a real asshole sometimes, this seemed like a good career move.


Simon said...

It might be old and rough, but at least you weren't the guy who wrote a 40-page plot synopsis of one of the most well-covered games of all time.

Simon said...

Maybe I need a pseudonym.

L.B. Jeffries said...

I highly recommend them to people so long as they plan to use it for pushing the envelope in a positive manner. The Penny Arcade douchebag theory is very true and mostly a question of when, not if.

But I don't think I would've had the guts to post a lot of this stuff I have over the years if it weren't for Jimmy Stewart's namesake. Being uninhibited means just that, the good and the bad comes out.