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Michael Abbott
Indiana, USA
I write and host the Brainy Gamer blog and podcast.
Recent Activity
Hi Paul. I think we'll have to disagree about the merits of the LBP games. I see them as far more interesting than prototypes, if only because of the creative culture they embrace, not only as user-created content, but as an ethos for game design broadly. I realize the Media Molecule folks aren't everyone's cup of tea, but the LBP games and Tearaway suggest to me a team of designers trying hard to offer games that communicate a very different set of values from most other studios. How effectively have they delivered on that? Maybe that's another point we could discuss. I may not be able to persuade you, but I'd encourage you to take a look at a series of posts I wrote about LBP a couple of years ago: http://www.brainygamer.com/the_brainy_gamer/2011/03/littlebig-literacy.html http://www.brainygamer.com/the_brainy_gamer/2011/03/lbp-classroom.html http://www.brainygamer.com/the_brainy_gamer/2011/03/littlebig-artists.html
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2014 on Please stop listening at Brainy Gamer
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Thanks very much for sticking around, Plethora. You go way back around here, and I'm grateful you're still interested in my work. My real beef with the continuing avalanche of shooters has mostly to do with the imitative aspect of their designs and the formulaic nature of the experiences they offer. I don't want to say if you've played one, you've played them all...but I play LOTS of games, including shooters, and it sure does seem like that sometimes. Sometimes a game holds my interest less because of its novelty than its craftsmanship and little bits of clever thinking, sharp design, meaningful nostalgia, etc. The new Wolfenstein stands out for me because it feels so solid, carefully crafted, with a story that holds my interest unflaggingly, a protagonist I don't feel I'm arguing with as I play, and yeah you're right, really good shooting and combat set-pieces that feel good to play, in my hands and in my head, if that makes sense. I guess my argument could be restated to say 'stop with the shooters...unless they're really good ones' heh heh, but I hope I'm saying a little more than that about the culture of gamers AAA games have created and the need for us to assess the viability of that culture longterm, as well as the inclusivity and diversity issues lots of critics have addressed in recent years.
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2014 on Please stop listening at Brainy Gamer
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Working on next installment of the podcast. Look for it the second week in July. :-)
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2014 on Please stop listening at Brainy Gamer
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Hmm, Bill Nighy is it? If so, apologies for my mistake. I'll do more digging and correct my post if you're right. I appreciate the heads-up, Jason. Update: Yep, Jason, looks like you're right. I made the correction. THANKS!
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2014 on Please stop listening at Brainy Gamer
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Hey Nick, always grateful when you stop by and comment! I think we may be able to leave aesthetics, ethics, messaging, etc. out of the equation and simply focus on the business side for a convincing argument against continuing down the road we saw Microsoft travel in their event. The numbers suggest the "hardcore" crowd which the Xbox seems primarily aimed at is static at best in terms of growth, and the consumer trajectory over the next decade will only make that segment smaller. I've seen Sony at IndieCade and other similar events actively recruiting devs, talking to players, and developing a strategy for supporting a broader portfolio. Microsoft is trying to compete in this space too and make it easier for devs to get their games on the Xbox One, but they're up against cultural connotations and consumer expectations they themselves built over years with the Xbox and 360. I hoped they would make a bigger effort to send a different message in their 90 mins - "we still make kick-ass shooters...and other really cool interesting stuff too" - but they didn't. Even the indie games they featured in their briefing were mostly shooter-type games, just more abstract or "artsy." Your last paragraph gives me pause. Is the critical community perpetuating problems with games like "Bioshock Infinite" when we address the issues with those games, or are we usefully pointing at roadblocks designers face embedding narrative experiences inside genres that defy their ambitions? Maybe we're doing both. I'm not sure what other options are available to us as critics. We see a thing that provokes us to consider it carefully, then we address it as thoughtfully as we can, hoping to commune with its creators as constructively as possible.
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2014 on Please stop listening at Brainy Gamer
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My post may suggest that since the Xbox briefing contained more violent imagery as a percentage of its total event, Microsoft presented more violent imagery than Sony. That's probably not true (I should analyze it to see for sure), but I think it's undeniable that Sony's event leaned on killing and shooter-type games far less than Microsoft's to convey its message and sell its products - a far wider range of products than Microsoft featured in its briefing. Microsoft said it would be all about the games, and they delivered on that...I only wish those games delivered more diversity (broadly defined) than what we saw in those 90 minutes.
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2014 on Please stop listening at Brainy Gamer
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Thanks, Rhino. It's great to be back!
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2014 on Please stop listening at Brainy Gamer
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"You are shaping the future of Xbox, and we are better for it." --Phil Spencer, Head of Microsoft's Xbox Division One way to understand E3 is as a series of carefully timed PR blasts detonated in the epicenter of America's entertainment industry. No wonder game journalists and pundits talk in terms of "bombshells," "megatons" and which console maker "won" or blew away the competition.. E3 is an awkward mix of artistry, cutting-edge tech and old-fashioned hullabaloo, filled of grandiose proclamations delivered by hucksters with $200 haircuts. It's a thing to see. A more useful way to understand E3 is as... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2014 at Brainy Gamer
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Thanks for the kind words, Korbin. Why am I not surprised you managed to squeeze in a MM shoutout? :-)
Toggle Commented Sep 4, 2013 on Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 42 at Brainy Gamer
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I'd say your best bet is to hold off listening until you've finished the game. We steer clear of spoilers for the first part of the conversation, but from there you'll probably find the remainder of the show most interesting if you've already played the whole game. Hope that's helpful. Thanks for listening.
Toggle Commented Sep 4, 2013 on Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 42 at Brainy Gamer
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Well, if you listen past that point in the show, you'll discover I wasn't being exactly serious about that secret panel. :-)
Toggle Commented Sep 4, 2013 on Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 42 at Brainy Gamer
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In this episode I make my guest Steve Gaynor squirm uncomfortably in his seat. Of course, we also discuss his new game Gone Home, creating authentic characters, an important lesson from Ken Levine, and a secret room no reviewer has yet discovered. Plus other things. I hope you enjoy. Listen to any episode of the podcast directly from this page by clicking the yellow "Listen Now" button on the right. Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes here. Subscribe to the podcast RSS feed here. Download the podcast directly here. Show Links: Press Select The Fullbright Company Cameron Kunzelman's This Cage... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2013 at Brainy Gamer
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Hi Kyle! Long time no see, eh? Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to say hi. I hope all is well with you.
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2013 on The games we deserve at Brainy Gamer
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Everyone is some kind of ignorant. Even you. Even me. None of us are the same age. There are various types of maturity and varying levels of each one. There are a lot of things to learn, and varying levels of knowledge in each of those things. Thank you for this, Matthew. As we forcefully demand rights for those unfairly denied them, we must acknowledge our own limits and blind spots. A little humility goes a long way. As always, I greatly appreciate you sharing your thoughts here.
Toggle Commented Jun 27, 2013 on The games we deserve at Brainy Gamer
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Hi Marijn. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that outrage and heated dialogue are sometimes effective and can produce positive results. I don't see anger as necessarily destructive, and I hope my post doesn't imply we all must sit on our hands when we feel provoked to act for change. As you suggest, change often requires strong provocative action. Harvey Milk knew that Gandhi's strategy for achieving social justice wouldn't work in San Francisco. And he was right. I think I'm talking about something different. What I see online and offline is a notable uptick in hostility and intolerance that reflects a widespread social trend toward confrontation over negotiation and a willingness (even eagerness) to burn down the whole house, rather give an inch or, shudder the thought, work for compromise or consensus. I see it in Congress; I hear it on the radio; I see it on bumper stickers and t-shirts. Everyone, it sometimes seems, is itching for a fight. I'm glad Gabe at Penny Arcade apologized, and I won't impugn his motives. But for every such capitulation, I see a dozen instances of discourse that descends to ugliness in the wink of an eye. It's become such a familiar trajectory that I think many see it as a kind of default mode of communication. My students, for example, are more geared (and oddly better prepared) for confrontation than collaboration, at least when conflicts arise. I may be wrong or too pessimistic - not my nature, by the way, I'm a pretty sunny guy. Maybe things are improving, and I'm simply not seeing it clearly. I hope so. Others are likely to have a better read of the zeitgeist than me. The real reason I wrote the post was to address what I see as a general lack in our community of simple skills that can turn conflict into something positive and productive. I see a "teaching moment," I guess you could say, and I'm hard-wired to seize it. I honestly don't know if what I'm offering is the right medicine or pedagogy or whatever. It's what I have to offer, and if it helps even a little, I'll be happy.
Toggle Commented Jun 23, 2013 on The games we deserve at Brainy Gamer
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What is a good man but a bad man's teacher? What is a bad man but a good man's job? If you don't understand this, you will get lost, however intelligent you are. --Tao Te Ching, ch. 27 We hear it said that games need to grow up, but when I look at the fractious, often hateful community surrounding them, I wonder if that's likely. I've written about this before, dating back to '08, and have always seen reasons for hope. Now I'm not so sure. I think we're getting worse, not better. When we pillory critics for saying hard... Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2013 at Brainy Gamer
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Hi Matthew! Thanks, man. We're doing great. I hope all is well with you. Ping me (or I will you), and let's catch up, ok?
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2013 on A humongous adventure at Brainy Gamer
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Thanks, Plethora. You've been a regular reader for so long. I appreciate it very much. Yeah, there's something about this game that's worth analyzing in terms of gameplay, connectivity, and social (immediate and distant) interaction. It seems to me it's a case of getting a hundred little things exactly right, rather than leaning on a handful of "core mechanics." I need to think about it some more, which will require more play time. Oh, darn. :-D
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2013 on A humongous adventure at Brainy Gamer
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Thank you, Rahul. I'll have that post up in a day or two. I'm enjoying writing it. Love this game so much.
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2013 on A humongous adventure at Brainy Gamer
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I initially didn't want to think about it too much, but with time passing, I've come to appreciate how fortunate we were. Zoe doesn't know much about the anhydrous ammonia tank, and we're going to leave it at that for now. Thanks for the kind words.
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2013 on A humongous adventure at Brainy Gamer
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Thank you. Me too! :-)
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2013 on A humongous adventure at Brainy Gamer
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This is about a train, a game, and a girl. A few days ago I took my daughter Zoe on her first train trip. We boarded Amtrak's Hoosier State bound for Chicago at 6:58 AM. Zoe was exuberant, equipped with all the necessities for a 4-hour excursion: a stack of her favorite books, a bag of snacks, and her 3DS loaded with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Zoe was eager to ride on a real train because lately she's a frequent traveler on the virtual train connecting her town to mine in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. We're both enchanted by the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2013 at Brainy Gamer
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The term 'genre' eventually becomes pejorative because you're referring to something that's so codified and ritualized it ceases to have the power and meaning it had when it first started. --Christopher Nolan Here's what we think we know about genre: it limits creativity. It binds artists to tried-and-true formulas and encourages derivative work. A creator must be free to follow her muse, unhindered by prescriptive rules. An artist working on a genre-bound project is like a caged bird. She can sing pretty songs, but don't expect her to go anywhere interesting. Genres are agents of ideological closure; they limit the... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2013 at Brainy Gamer
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Elizabeth: I can't believe you did that. They're all dead. You killed those people. Booker: Elizabeth, I... Elizabeth: You're a monster! Booker: What did you think was going to happen? --Bioshock Infinite Bioshock Infinite is a shooter with a problem, but the problem isn't the shooting. The problem is that Bioshock Infinite has nothing to say about the shooting. A game that earnestly tries to explore morality and personal responsibility ducks those questions by placing the player on a conveyor belt of hyper-violent sequences, shuttling the player from one narrative set-piece to the next. The shooting is what you do.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2013 at Brainy Gamer
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This is the final episode in my series of conversations about the State of Games. I encourage you to listen to the first three shows featuring a variety of smart and thoughtful guests. In this edition I talk with Kirk Hamilton, features editor at Kotaku, and Brett Douville, Lead Programmer at Bethesda Game Studios.We discuss the impact of indie games on AAA developers, "Anita and the cesspool," and why now is the best of all possible times to be a gamer...among many other topics. I hope you enjoy. Listen to any episode of the podcast directly from this page by... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2013 at Brainy Gamer