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A Short Hike is one part Animal Crossing and one part Breath of the Wild - The Verge
"It can be difficult to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play we suggest video games that can be started and finished in a weekend.

Claire is on a camping trip with her Aunt May, but she’s also waiting for an important call. Unfortunately, the only reception in the park is at the top of the island’s giant mountain. Claire’s trek up the mountain is the core of the game A Short Hike, and how you get her to the top is pretty open ended. You could go straight up the path to the top of the mountain — but then you’d be missing out on the point of the game.

A Short Hike feels like what you would get if you turned Animal Crossing into an adventure game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Yes, it’s an experience full of cute cartoon animal people, but more importantly A Short Hike has a similar sensibility to those two Nintendo games. Like both, the goal of the game is less important than how you spend your time getting to it. And so your trek up a mountain ends up full of much smaller tasks, which, like in Animal Crossing, are nice and relaxing.

You can spend time collecting seashells, searching for buried treasure, fishing, or helping other visitors to the park find lost items. However, while those serve as relaxing distractions, the rewards for doing them also help with your ascent up the mountain. At the start of her trek Claire is only able to jump, glide, and climb up walls or cliffs until she gets too tired and lets go. But by completing these side activities you’ll usually get some sort of tool that allows you to perform more actions, like being able to run by getting running shoes or dig by getting a shovel.

Mainly, though, you’ll be trying to collect golden feathers. These feathers act like Link’s stamina bar in Breath of the Wild: the more you have, the more you can climb before tiring out. Except, unlike Link’s stamina bar, each feather also provides you with an additional jump (which, because Claire is a bird, is more of a flap than a jump). Each flap consumes a chunk of your climbing stamina, while not providing as much height as you could have gotten just from climbing.

The climb up the mountain becomes about balancing. You have to determine how much you jump before you start climbing, in order to maximize what stamina you have. Although this is really only a concern if you try to get up the mountain as quickly as you can. If you spend your time exploring the park and taking part in all the different activities available, you’ll end up with more than enough golden fathers to make those later sections a good bit easier.

And you’ll want to spend time exploring, because the mountain is much bigger than you expect it to be. It’s a place full of interesting environments and ruins, as well as quirky and clever characters who you can’t help but want to hang around with or help out. In fact, the writing is maybe the best thing about the game. There is very little of it, but every character feels distinct from the next, and charming in their own way (even the kid that overcharges you for feathers). And when you do finally get to the top of the mountain it’s an emotional gut punch that both validates and recontextualizes whatever path you took to get there.

Luckily, getting to the top isn’t the end. Instead, it essentially frees you up to explore the park without any explicit goal. Maybe you want to catch all the different fish, win the foot race, or just stand near the beach and watch the waves. It’s a perfect structure, because even if the game had ended at the top of the mountain, I’d have found it pretty hard to not start a new game just to wander around the park some more."
games  gaming  videogames  toplay  srg  edg  animalcrossing  ashorthike  2019  adamrobinson-yu 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Why the return of Animal Crossing feels so good - Polygon
"THE POWER OF NICE

A seemingly-unrelated selection of shows and movies in the past few years have each gained their fair share of critical acclaim, popularity and financial success, all linked by one common trait: They’re unrelentingly nice.

The Paddington movies have both found massive critical and box office success, all while essentially being feature-length commercials about the virtues of being polite and kind. Paddington 2 is currently the highest-rated Rotten Tomatoes movie of all time, usurping Toy Story 2’s record of the most consecutive certified Fresh ratings from reviewers. The total number of tracked positive reviews for Paddington 2 is 205, compared to zero negative reviews, for those counting at home.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a heartfelt and straightforward documentary about the life and work of Mister Rogers, is now the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all time.

[embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhwktRDG_aQ ]

But this trend (can I call it “nicecore?”) isn’t just limited to theatres.

On the small screen, NBC’s Making It, which may be the first craft-based reality competition show I’ve ever seen, pulled in millions of viewers over its six-week summer run and was just greenlit for a second season. And on Netflix, there is the runaway success story of the Queer Eye reboot, which, on top of effortlessly conveying a message of positivity, kindness and betterment through self-care, also won three Emmys this year. It was nominated for four.

The trend of Nice Media seems to be the sun-filled, hopeful answer to the negativity and division offered nearly everywhere else. No single video game series encapsulates that sense of safe, intentional and welcoming niceness like Animal Crossing, and it has been doing it for almost 20 years.

BELLS AND WHISTLES

There is no game quite like Animal Crossing, which makes it hard to properly explain and even harder to recommend. Most people won’t share your enthusiasm when you sit them down and tell them that the minute-to-minute gameplay mostly involves harvesting fruit, paying off personal debt to an enterprising raccoon, and delaying your Saturday night plans to make sure you can watch a dog play guitar.

But at its core, Animal Crossing is about living in a small town composed entirely of anthropomorphic animals. Sometimes you’re a villager, and sometimes you’re the mayor. What you do from there is up to you.

It shares the general God’s-eye-view life simulator vibe of The Sims, but it’s way less interested in letting you micromanage a neighborhood of people. Instead, it gives you direct (but decidedly less omnipotent) control over a single villager’s life.

[embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ6eGtsgbfM ]

While it can be just as surprisingly addictive and compelling as farming games like Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons and Stardew Valley, the looming threat of bankruptcy is the driving force of those games, compelling every player in the same direction of a more profitable farm. Meanwhile, Animal Crossing is happy to let your debt remain unpaid forever, and your villager has no discernible job or occupation. At least until New Leaf shoved you into the world of municipal governance.

The only real goal in these games is to pass the time in the best way you see fit; the endgame is to be happy. Along the way, like most fans of the series, you’ll likely find yourself having your own moments of emotional connection with the game. Everyone ends up with their own personal Animal Crossing moments, and those personal stories are a huge reason why people love the games as much as they do.

Feel free to share your own stories in the comments. I’m going to start with some of my own.

SMALL TOWN STORIES

My time with Animal Crossing goes all the way back to the GameCube original, a game that announced its humble intention to take over my life right on the front cover. The game’s save files were so large that they required an entire 59-block memory card’s worth of space, so that initial release came bundled with its own memory card as a gesture of practical kindness.

That memory card would soon hold a world that I relied on in a very direct way.

I went through a months-long depressive episode near the tail end of my sophomore year of high school, thanks to a mixture of hormones and early-era cyberbullying. I did all my schoolwork remotely, and spent my days either visiting a child psychologist or playing the GameCube. I would send letters to my villagers (specifically Rasher, Pierce and Goldie) about how sad, lonely and suicidal I was feeling.

They would send me carpets and shirts in return; that’s just what Animal Crossing villagers do. And it helped, especially since they would remember if I didn’t visit them for a few days. The game would tell me, specifically, how many days it had been since I had last interacted with it. It kept me accountable, made me feel needed and got me through a difficult (but all-too-common) part of my teenage years.

While reminders to come back to games are now common in the age of mobile gaming, Animal Crossing never felt like a nag. It was a relationship that gave as much as it asked me to give, and it held me accountable when even playing a game felt like it would be too much.

This trend would continue throughout my life, with major emotional moments supported and enhanced by my time in a virtual village. Animal Crossing: Wild World was there when I was dealing with constant insomnia-inducing stress nightmares during my time in university, with soothing music and absolutely no judgment about my sleep patterns.

[embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ITM1vFiV6U ]

My New Leaf town was a monument to the people I loved at the time: fruit trees from a visiting friend, rare Nintendo-specific items from my brother, and clothing and letters from my partner at the time. The town was also essentially abandoned during our breakup, left for Isabelle (the player’s Deputy Mayor and the newest addition to the Smash Bros. Ultimate roster) to run during my years-long absence.

I logged back in when the game updated two years ago. And although Isabelle remembered the exact number of days I had been gone, the damage wasn’t beyond repair. My house was filled with roaches, but they could be cleared out within a few minutes. The once-pristine fields of Fürville had become overgrown with weeds, but a helpful sloth would cheer you on as you removed them or, for a small fee, get rid of them all for you overnight. Friends would move away, but they’d always send a goodbye letter, and new villagers would be eager to greet you and start virtual relationships.

There is no way to win in Animal Crossing, but that also means there’s no way to lose. Life in your village goes on without you, but it always welcomes you back.

A PLACE TO CALL YOUR OWN

The most valuable currency in Animal Crossing is time. An hour in the game is the same as an hour outside of it, so the game marches to the beat of your own life. At the same time, there is no real way to grind out progress in these titles, because they’re about patience; in fact, they seem to actively punish players who try to rush.

You cannot make a tree grow faster, but you’re liable to destroy your flower gardens or wear grass down into dirt paths by running through your town instead of walking.

You can have all the bells in the world, but you’re limited by the rotating daily stock at each of of the shops. You can catch bugs, go fishing and dig for fossils for hours each day, but you’ll still have to live through four real-world seasons to see them all. The game has its own pace, and you have to give into it if you want to get everything it has to offer. Few games are as capable of slowing us down, a trait that is sorely needed when everything else seems to be speeding up.

All of this — the emphasis on patience, the freeform approach to player agency, the overwhelming sense of forgiveness and kindness that stretches from the game’s systems to its text — combines to make a game that is, above all else, nice. And this commitment to niceness makes it an oasis of positivity in an increasingly reactionary and fragmented media landscape.

[embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEJXS0MiKOA ]

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? transports you to a reality of kind actions and good deeds — for 93 minutes. The entire run of Queer Eye currently consists of 16 episodes and one special; you could charitably watch the whole thing in a weekend (if not an afternoon). Making It is only six episodes long, and won’t return for another year. This gathering wave of nicecore media is truly a gift, but it’s finite and fleeting — a few welcome drops of clear, cool water in an overwhelmingly murky bucket.

But the most powerful thing Animal Crossing offers us is an experience that doesn’t end after an hour or a season, but stays with us for as long as we need it. Because what we remember about these games are how they made us feel, and the stories they left us with long after we left our villages behind. They made us part of a community, and that community felt welcoming and generous.

Most games are power fantasies, and the easiest kind of power to convey is violence. They’re all about enforcing your will on the world through straightforward, goal-oriented action. And that’s enjoyable, without a doubt. But Animal Crossing offers a different sort of power fantasy: a world where you have unlimited kindness to spare, and you’re never punished for it. That doesn’t happen in real life; even Mr. Rogers’ funeral was picketed.

If nicecore is the natural artistic reaction to the state of the world, then it’s all too fitting that Animal Crossing should return and claim its throne (or, more likely, its comfortably weathered armchair) as the nicest franchise in gaming history.

It has been sorely missed."
2018  animalcrossing  nintendo  games  gaming  videogames  nicecore  niceness  fredrogers  mrrogers  mikescholars  paddington  paddingtonbear  small  slow  time  care  caring  power  violence  patience  agency  kindness  forgiveness  pace  play  presence  friendship 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Max Kreminski 🌱 on Twitter: "calling it now: the next successful social media site will be a MUD with gardening instead of combat mechanics people want to be in a place that they personally (alongside their friends) can exert effort to make better, eve
"calling it now: the next successful social media site will be a MUD with gardening instead of combat mechanics

people want to be in a place that they personally (alongside their friends) can exert effort to make better, even if only in small ways

we’re all tired of living in the virtual equivalent of shopping malls – common spaces we’re not allowed to shape to our own needs

we need shared virtual spaces that we can take care of as a way of taking care of each other

don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, or why it’s suddenly so clear now. maybe my gardening games stuff was always headed in this direction from the very beginning, & I just hadn’t made all the connections yet

current social media platforms have the mechanics all wrong.

y’know how people are always posting hot takes on here? it’s bc we have a psychological need for *mutual presence* with other people & if you’re not posting stuff there’s no way for others to acknowledge your existence

so there’s a constant pressure to be *saying things* – ideally things that provoke some sort of reaction – just to be reassured (by likes, RTs, replies, etc) that yes, you still exist as a social entity, & yes, other people also still exist

MMOs “work” because shared activity directed toward a common goal creates a sense of mutual presence without you having to *say* stuff all the time.

gardening, decorating etc (when implemented correctly) are activities of this type at which you also can’t meaningfully fail

in conclusion, we need a social media platform that lets you sit next to someone on a bench in the park & feed some goddamn birds"

[via: https://are.na/block/2571964 ]
maxkreminski  2018  gardening  animalcrossing  socialmedia  small  participation  participatory  virtual  being  presence  mmo  work  sharing  gaming  games  videogames  community  ethics 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Old memories, accidentally trapped in amber by our digital devices
"Part of what humans use technology for is to better remember the past. We scroll back through photos on our phones and on Instagram & Flickr — “that was Fourth of July 5 years ago, so fun!” — and apps like Swarm, Timehop, and Facebook surface old locations, photos, and tweets for us on the regular. But sometimes, we run into the good old days in unexpected places on our digital devices.

Designer and typographer Marcin Wichary started a thread on Twitter yesterday about “UIs that accidentally amass memories” with the initial example of the “Preferred Networks” listing of all the wifi networks his computer had ever joined, “unexpected reminders of business trips, vacations, accidental detours, once frequented and now closed cafés”.

[image: screeshot of macOS wi-fi panel]

Several other people chimed in with their own examples…the Bluetooth pairings list, the Reminders app, the list of alarms, saved places in mapping apps, AIM/iChat status message log, chat apps not used for years, the Gmail drafts folder, etc.

John Bull noted that his list of former addresses on Amazon is “a massive walk down memory line of my old jobs and places of residence”. I just looked at mine and I’ve got addresses in there from almost 20 years ago.

Steven Richie suggested the Weather app on iOS:
I usually like to add the city I will be travelling to ahead of time to get a sense of what it will be like when we get there.

I do this too but am pretty good about culling my cities list. Still, there are a couple places I keep around even though I haven’t been to them in awhile…a self-nudge for future travel desires perhaps.

Kotori switched back to an old OS via a years-old backup and found “a post-breakup message that came on the day i switched phones”:
thought i moved on but so many whatifs flashed in my head when i read it. what if i never got a new phone. what if they messaged me a few minutes earlier. what if we used a chat that did backups differently

Similarly, Richard fired up Google Maps on an old phone and was briefly transported through time and space:
On a similar note to both of these, a while ago I switched back to my old Nokia N95 after my iPhone died. Fired up Google Maps, and for a brief moment, it marked my location as at a remote crossroads in NZ where I’d last had it open, lost on a road trip at least a decade before.

Matt Sephton runs into old friends when he plays Nintendo:
Every time my friends and I play Nintendo WiiU/Wii/3DS games we see a lot of our old Mii avatars. Some are 10 years old and of a time. Amongst them is a friend who passed away a few years back. It’s always so good to see him. It’s as if he’s still playing the games with us.

For better or worse, machines never forget those who aren’t with us anymore. Dan Noyes’ Gmail holds a reminder of his late wife:
Whenever I open Gmail I see the last message that my late wife sent me via Google chat in 2014. It’s her standard “pssst” greeting for me: “aye aye”. I leave it unread lest it disappears.

It’s a wonderful thread…read the whole thing. [https://twitter.com/mwichary/status/996056615928266752 ]

I encounter these nostalgia bombs every once in awhile too. I closed dozens of tabs the other day on Chrome for iOS; I don’t use it very often, so some of them dated back to more than a year ago. I have bookmarks on browsers I no longer use on my iMac that are more than 10 years old. A MacOS folder I dump temporary images & files into has stuff going back years. Everyone I know stopped using apps like Path and Peach, so when I open them, I see messages from years ago right at the top like they were just posted, trapped in amber.

My personal go-to cache of unexpected memories is Messages on iOS. Scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the list, I can find messages from numbers I haven’t communicated with since a month or two after I got my first iPhone in 2007.

[image: screenshot of Messages in iOS]

There and elsewhere in the listing are friends I’m no longer in touch with, business lunches that went nowhere, old flames, messages from people I don’t even remember, arriving Lyfts in unknown cities, old landlords, completely contextless messages from old numbers (“I am so drunk!!!!” from a friend’s wife I didn’t know that well?!), old babysitters, a bunch of messages from friends texting to be let into our building for a holiday party, playdate arrangements w/ the parents of my kids’ long-forgotten friends (which Ella was that?!), and old group texts with current friends left to languish for years. From one of these group texts, I was just reminded that my 3-year-old daughter liked to make cocktails:

[screenshot]

Just like Sally Draper! Speaking of Mad Men, Don’s correct: nostalgia is a potent thing, so I’ve got to stop poking around my phone and get back to work.

Update: I had forgotten this great example about a ghost driver in an old Xbox racing game.
Well, when i was 4, my dad bought a trusty XBox. you know, the first, ruggedy, blocky one from 2001. we had tons and tons and tons of fun playing all kinds of games together — until he died, when i was just 6.

i couldnt touch that console for 10 years.

but once i did, i noticed something.

we used to play a racing game, Rally Sports Challenge. actually pretty awesome for the time it came.

and once i started meddling around… i found a GHOST.

See also this story about Animal Crossing. (via @ironicsans/status/996445080943808512)"
digital  memory  memories  2018  jasonkottke  kottke  traces  animalcrossing  videogames  games  gaming  flickr  wifi  marcinwichary  death  relationships  obsolescence  gmail  googlhangouts  googlechat  iphone  ios  nostalgia  xbox  nintendo  messages  communication  googlemaps  place  time  chrome  mac  osx 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Ooblets
"A game about farming, creatures, and adventure"



"WHAT IS OOBLETS????? YOU MIGHT ASK

Ooblets is a currently-in-development creature collection and farming game. It’s sort of like Harvest Moon meets Pokémon meets Animal Crossing meets the weird awkward people we are.

More of your questions might be answered on the FAQ page.

EXPOSITION

As Essie, the noseless protagonist, you’re making a fresh start in a new town. You’ve bought a little plot of land with the hopes of cultivating a farm and becoming a town-renowned ooblet trainer. What else do you need?

MECHANICS? OKAY.

Plant, water, and harvest crops, manage and expand your farm, collect all sorts of junk, make friends, and also make littler friends (ooblets).

Use the crops you grow to befriend, upgrade, and heal ooblets. Buy a little shop and sell your excess crops and junk to the townspeople.

Explore regions like the Mamoonia desert, the spooky Nullwhere, bustling Hubton, and more! Discover loads of ooblets and battle other trainers all over the place.

SOME FEATURES:

• Live a simple life working the land (and battling magical creatures)
• You get a little house you can decorate and expand
• Play at your own pace. Leave the stresses of city living behind you
• Take part in a bustling little town full of characters
• Open world exploring
• Visit a variety of regions (one will be under water I think!)
• Automate production with things like sprinklers
• Run a shop!
• Upgrade your dudes because I guess they’re not good enough for you
• Maybe you will get to name your dudes too?
• Join a Ooblet club. Feel wanted and appreciated. Distrust other clubs’ members.
• Befriend rare creatures. Look, that one’s wearing a little hat! Catch it!"

[See also:
https://twitter.com/nonplayercat
https://twitter.com/Ooblets ]
games  gaming  videogames  rebeccacordingley  adventure  farming  animalcrossing  harvestmoon  pokemon  pokémon  agriculture 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Stardew Valley
"Stardew Valley is an open-ended country-life RPG, coming to PC on February 26th, 2016!

You’ve inherited your grandfather’s old farm plot in Stardew Valley. Armed with hand-me-down tools and a few coins, you set out to begin your new life. Can you learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home? It won’t be easy. Ever since Joja Corporation came to town, the old ways of life have all but disappeared. The community center, once the town’s most vibrant hub of activity, now lies in shambles. But the valley seems full of opportunity. With a little dedication, you might just be the one to restore Stardew Valley to greatness!

Features

• Turn your overgrown field into a lively farm! Raise animals, grow crops, start an orchard, craft useful machines, and more! You’ll have plenty of space to create the farm of your dreams.

• Improve your skills over time. As you make your way from a struggling greenhorn to a master farmer, you’ll level up in 5 different areas: farming, mining, combat, fishing, and foraging. As you progress, you’ll learn new cooking and crafting recipes, unlock new areas to explore, and customize your skills by choosing from a variety of professions.

• Become part of the local community. With over 30 unique characters living in Stardew Valley, you won’t have a problem finding new friends! Each person has their own daily schedule, birthday, unique mini-cutscenes, and new things to say throughout the week and year. As you make friends with them, they will open up to you, ask you for help with their personal troubles, or tell you their secrets! Take part in seasonal festivals such as the luau, haunted maze, and feast of the winter star.

• Explore a vast, mysterious cave. As you travel deeper underground, you’ll encounter new and dangerous monsters, powerful weapons, new environments, valuable gemstones, raw materials for crafting and upgrading tools, and mysteries to be uncovered.

• Breathe new life into the valley. Since JojaMart opened, the old way of life in Stardew Valley has changed. Much of the town’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair. Help restore Stardew Valley to it’s former glory by repairing the old community center, or take the alternate route and join forces with Joja Corporation.

• Court and marry a partner to share your life on the farm with. There are 10 available bachelors and bachelorettes to woo, each with unique character progression cutscenes. Once married, your partner will live on the farm with you. Who knows, maybe you’ll have kids and start a family?

• Spend a relaxing afternoon at one of the local fishing spots. The waters are teeming with seasonal varieties of delicious fish. Craft bait, bobbers, and crab pots to help you in your journey toward catching every fish and becoming a local legend!

• Donate artifacts and minerals to the local museum.

• Cook delicious meals and craft useful items to help you out. With over 100 cooking and crafting recipes, you’ll have a wide variety of items to create. Some dishes you cook will even give you temporary boosts to skills, running speed, or combat prowess. Craft useful objects like scarecrows, oil makers, furnaces, or even the rare and expensive crystalarium.

• Customize the appearance of your character and house. With hundreds of decorative items to choose from, you’ll have no trouble creating the home of your dreams!

• Over two hours of original music."
games  gaming  videogames  edg  srg  sailormoon  animalcrossing 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Intimacy and Digital Patina | Mattie Brice
"From embodiment and kink to luxury and tea, I see myself reaching for something solid to hold onto. I feel disconnected from digital art and environments, and resist how much conversation is centered around theorizing the digital. There’s more to play than video games, and a lot can be learned if we stretch beyond this genre and find more relationships in other places concerned with play. Admittedly, there is some distaste, bitterness, for the digital experience within me that I have to grapple with. I feel completely repelled, like a fugue lifted and I see a land of nightmares, and want nothing to do with it. But that would be unfair, and also throw away a lot of work that I’ve done with games. So I wanted to investigate what made me feel so distant from video games that attracted me to the looser, more intimate-feeling play currently grabbing my attention. I want to believe that there is more playfulness that video games has yet to focus on, something that can deepen our bonds to play and life. The tension then lies within the apparent immateriality of digital games, which are still subject to principles of object design yet rarely attain certain qualities of objecthood that we expect from physical experiences.

Video games feel distinctly like products, made for consumption but not necessarily use. It’s easy to enter a malaise of ennui, your Steam library having many games you’ll never touch and mobile games only one slight iteration away from the other. Digital game design is focused on an attention economy, how to grab you, keep you engrossed for as long as possible, and have you spend as much while they’ve got you. Because design is so focused on this kind of consumerism, video games enable cycles of disposability, where you buy something with the knowledge that you’re going to replace it with the next version soon after. This is ultimately unsustainable as we see with companies trying to shove life into harried sequels and remakes. You won’t get too attached because there will always be something similar fighting for your attention, and it is rare that something will be uniquely special to you. Typical game design acts as wedge between player and experience, trying to tap into your short-term worth at the expense of your long-term investment. Video games rarely make you care. You might get to know video games, but video games don’t really get to know you. They keep themselves on the screen and often don’t conjure intimacy with the physical interfaces between you and the experience. It knows you can just load up another game in the same manner that you accessed this one. Because what is being sold is some abstract immersion, a sort of mental drug trip, there is little legacy it can leave behind, having a profound effect through your use. Passing down games will soon go extinct between planned obsolescence and constant hype cycles for the new. Instead, we are left with empty, pandering nostalgia, sucking desperately at a straw and only getting the watered down remnants of a high long ago crashed.

This circles me back to the question of intimacy in games. There is an accepted fault of contemporary video games that intimacy, both in feeling and as a topic, are not its strengths. I doubt that it’s a weakness of the form, rather an outcome of canonized design practices. I have my own hunches for play in general, but digital games in particular prove tricky to find intimacy outside of a now quiet trend of autobiographical games. Is there a design concept out there that can reliably point someone towards crafting more intimate digital games?

My search lead me to digital patina, a technique in user interface design that builds on an apparently divisive skeuomorphic trend popularized by Apple. In short, digital patina creates artificial wear and tear to your digital products as you use them, particularly the ones that are already designed to resemble their physical analogues. So if your contacts app looked like an old-school address book, then there would be signs of usage around the tabs and pages you used the most. Despite handwringing over going into too deep of ideological territory, J. Houge notes “without patina, there is no history. Without history, there is very little attachment to the thing.” This evokes our typical relationship with objects, that it’s harder to part with an heirloom passed down in your family than with something you got at H&M. But this form of digital patina is still a couple steps away from design that helps solidify meaningful relationships, since this is purely about visuals. He cites something closer to what I’m thinking from Mark Boulton, who ties the analogy of digital patina to wok hey:

“In Chinese cooking, a wok is seasoned to make it non-stick. A well seasoned pan will go beyond simply making the pan non-stick. It will impart flavour to the food in what the Chinese call ‘wok hey’, or ‘breath of wok’. You see, to me, Patina is more than surface level sheen, or the aging of something. It’s the flavour. It’s an individual ‘taste’ that can only come from that thing. Not all woks are alike. This one is mine.”

For him, patina would be a practice in making a digital product uniquely the user’s, turning a mass-produced object into uniquely yours through personal use. Meaning, the experience that the product, or in our case, a game, can offer is changed by its unique circumstances. It imbues its idiosyncrasies in everything it touches that differs from person to person.

It’s tempting to assume that games with user-generated content or general sandbox types fulfill this idea. But that’s the topical application, the game itself is still the same and produces the same kind of experience. Though there is a strong player-evangelist edge in contemporary design philosophies, it stays within the digital ephemera, that a player will feel agency but not actually have agency. Agency isn’t really a good word for this, rather an effect, that a player can affect the actual design and use of a game as a part of the construction of the experience. The point isn’t to be able to do whatever you want in a game, rather that a game shapes itself around your natural motions and in turn reads as something idiosyncratic of you.

While it isn’t at the level that I’m thinking of, I see this happen with games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, particularly with the consequences of actions in one game transferring over to the next. The choices are still topical and don’t really change the game itself, but the way players often talk about the games taps into what I’m speaking to. Look through fan discussion of these games and you’ll see people say “my Shepherd,” indicating that the boilerplate main character has been ‘seasoned’ with their playthrough to amount to a unique character. Speaking from personal experience, there is an investment on having particular kinds of playthroughs, like your ‘fresh’ run that is a result of playing the game without knowledge of any of the choices, and a ‘true’ run that is a meticulously curated save file that has all the choices you feel represents the most interesting story and what you’ll use to base your headcanon. The save files become a part of a legacy that you want to carry with you and retain, and many people grow attached to these personalized kinds of games. I don’t think this exemplifies my argument, rather shows what we can start from in contemporary design to push beyond what we have now.

Games that evolve over time intrinsically have the potential to evoke their own wok hey, because the tiny choices build up over time that build up into unique structures that are hard to replicate. I think about games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing that focus on longer cycles of engagement, where you have different ways to save the farm and interact with the village, and while these things don’t quantitatively differentiate too much, the experience that we build up with it makes an emotional impression on, and of, us. In essence, this is trying to make digital games more life-like, things that grow with us than expecting to be cast aside, filling up the trash heaps of our lives. Maybe it’s just me, but I ache for these sorts of games to be iterated on again, to further entrench themselves in our lives. A lot of my fantasy video game projects are inspired by experiences like Harvest Moon and would turn out to be an imprint of your experience. Like playing through a game shows an aspect of yourself that isn’t easily visible without its particular focus.

What patina looks like in game design could still use some discussion. I do have some investment in it though, there’s something romantic about design made for you to personally express yourself through mundanity. The reason why contemporary games don’t really do this well is because all instances of change must be grand and explicitly telegraphed. Life isn’t like that though, we are slow buildups of tiny effects and motions, and it isn’t until we take time to reflect that we see we’re something different from the past. This would be a game trying to translate how you exist, how you affect the world by just being, what it is like for you to just touch something or think a thought. I think we crave those sorts of things, to see reflections of ourselves, to see that we do make a mark and matter. So far, video games mostly tap into sedative design, numbing us to the world so we can feel important or centered in some way. But instead, I think there’s design that can make us feel more alive through the mundane acts in our lives, to find how we move through the world its own kind of magic."

[See also: http://www.projectevolution.com/activity/challenge-digital-patina/
http://www.markboulton.co.uk/journal/digital-patina ]
mattiebrice  games  gaming  videogames  gamedesign  consumerism  capitalism  disposability  consumption  intimacy  jhouge  markboulton  patina  harvestmoon  animalcrossing  engagement  time  beausage  slow  digital  digitalpatina  degradation 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Animal Crossing Part #1 - WELCOME TO CAMP
"I've always heard a lot of good things about Animal Crossing, but I never owned a Gamecube. When it was released on the DS it received such positive reviews that I decided to give it a shot, despite the fact that it appears to have been created for small children suffering from down's syndrome and ADD.

I was not prepared for the shit that goes on in this children's game. The result is this.

I've documented the journey of Billy, a young, happy lad who believes he's going off to have fantastic adventures at summer camp. The following images have not been altered in any way (other than to rescale them or to identify which dialog option is being chosen).

This is a literal and practically contextual account of what happens to poor bastards sent to Animal Crossing.

This is the true story of Billy."
animalcrossing  via:timmaly  humor 
june 2013 by robertogreco
MoMA | Video Games: 14 in the Collection, for Starters
"We are very proud to announce that MoMA has acquired a selection of 14 video games, the seedbed for an initial wish list of about 40 to be acquired in the near future, as well as for a new category of artworks in MoMA’s collection that we hope will grow in the future. This initial group, which we will install for your delight in the Museum’s Philip Johnson Galleries in March 2013, features:

• Pac-Man (1980)
• Tetris (1984)
• Another World (1991)
• Myst (1993)
• SimCity 2000 (1994)
• vib-ribbon (1999)
• The Sims (2000)
• Katamari Damacy (2004)
• EVE Online (2003)
• Dwarf Fortress (2006)
• Portal (2007)
• flOw (2006)
• Passage (2008)
• Canabalt (2009)"
zelda  corewar  marblemadness  yars'revemge  supermario  supermario64  streetfighterii  nethack  donkeykong  spaceinvaders  tempest  zork  snake  pong  minecraft  chronotrigger  animalcrossing  grimfandango  jenovachen  pacman  tetris  anotherworld  myst  simcity2000  simcity  vib-ribbon  thesims  katamaridamacy  eveonline  dwarffortress  portal  flow  passage  canabalt  moma  design  videogames  art  gaming  games  paolaantonelli  2012 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Treehouses: Online community for internet // Speaker Deck
Notes here by litherland:

“The ephemerality of speech [sic] in these tools better affords intimacy.” Revisit. /

“That speech is temporal also means someone can be absent, which makes presence meaningful.” Makes a lot of assumptions; needs to rethink (or think harder about) what speech is. Or what he means by it. /

Concept of “intransient group memory.” /

Interesting thoughts about playgrounds. /

“Conversation is an iterated game, so your pseudo can be a strong identity even if it isn’t your *public commercial web face*.” [my emph] /

“Hosts use soft power to influence. The group still governs itself.” /

“Recording is corrosive to candid sharing, so a private internet space must be transient.” /
2012  markpaschal  dannyo'brien  via:litherland  heatherchamp  self-organization  openspace  hackerspaces  autonomy  richardbartle  johanhui  johanhuizinga  play  groupmemory  availabot  ephemerality  muds  space  place  alancooper  sovereignposture  secondlife  personalization  tomarmitage  animalcrossing  ambient  presence  minimumviabletreehouses  minecraft  gaming  games  clubhouses  socialmedia  darkmatter  privacy  sharing  conversation  groups  onlinetreehouses  treehouses  organizing  activism  community  ephemeral 
january 2012 by robertogreco
dConstruct2011 videos: The Transformers, Kars Alfrink
"In this talk, Kars Alfrink – founder and principal designer at applied pervasive games studio Hubbub – explores ways we might use games to alleviate some of the problems wilful social self-seperation can lead to. Kars looks at how people sometimes deliberately choose to live apart, even though they share the same living spaces. He discusses the ways new digital tools and the overlapping media landscape have made society more volatile. But rather than to call for a decrease in their use, Kars argues we need more, but different uses of these new tools. More playful uses."

[See also: http://2011.dconstruct.org/conference/kars-alfrink AND http://speakerdeck.com/u/dconstruct/p/the-transformers-by-kars-alfrink ]

"Kars looks at how game culture and play shape the urban fabric, how we might design systems that improve people’s capacity to do so, and how you yourself, through play, can transform the city you call home."
monocultures  rulespace  self-governance  gamification  filterbubble  scale  tinkering  urbanism  urban  simulationfever  animalcrossing  simulation  ludology  proceduralrhetoric  ianbogost  resilience  societalresilience  division  belonging  rioting  looting  socialconventions  situationist  playfulness  rules  civildisobedience  separation  socialseparation  nationality  fiction  dconstruct2011  dconstruct  identity  cities  chinamieville  design  space  place  play  gaming  games  volatility  hubbub  howbuildingslearn  adaptability  adaptivereuse  architecture  transformation  gentrification  society  2011  riots  janejacobs  karsalfrink  simulations 
december 2011 by robertogreco
When cute graphics mask evil games - Den of Geek
"Animal Crossing’s society of doe-eyed, sweet-talking creatures masks the game’s horrifying agenda. It’s actually a simulation of capitalist oppression, first saddling the player with a crippling mortgage that grows as fast as they can pay it off, before luring them into a materialistic treadmill of drudgery and spending.

Before you know it, you’re in thrall to Tom Nook, the apparently benign shop owner who rules the state of Animal Crossing with an iron fist. As the game goes on, Nook’s megalomania grows, his initially tiny shop gradually increasing in size until it’s become a sprawling department store. At the same time, your home gradually swells from a tiny hovel to a palace, allowing you to fill your life with an ever greater accumulation of furniture, trinkets and other pointless tat."

[Also takes on Viva Piñata, Pimkin, Pokémon, and others.]
videogames  gaming  kawai  play  capitalism  animalcrossing  vivapiñata  pokemon  pokémon 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Gamasutra - Features - The Era Of Behaving Playfully
"Playing is behaving. From childhood experimentation & role-play to the competitive simulations of adults, it's impossible to separate even the most abstract forms of play from human expression. Yet video game design is dominated by the perceived need for win conditions.

If an interaction can't be parsed into passing or failing it can't be counted as fun. Without the threat of failure there is no fun. Yet, it's not victory that drives the invented play of kids on a playground, nor friends laughing over an inside joke.

Video games built around behavior aren't often given the same attention more competitively oriented games are, but they're no less important a part of the industry.

Games like The Sims 3, Heavy Rain, Nintendogs, Façade, Animal Crossing, & Harvest Moon are all made for the pleasures of expression. These are games played for their creative experiences more than their victory conditions."

[See also the Comment from Bart Stewart.]
videogames  gaming  play  gamedesign  roleplaying  simulations  invention  inventiveplay  animalcrossing  thesims  harvestmoon  nintendogs  creativity  games 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Gamasutra - Features - Creating A Glitch In the Industry
"Q: This is like the unholy marriage of Animal Crossing & EVE Online.

SB: …That's actually a very good way [of describing it.] LittleBigPlanet is obviously an inspiration…in the aesthetics. I wish that we had a PS3 underneath this & that we're a lot better on 3D. But EVE, MOOs, & Animal Crossing have a cult following [here]

…I've never played EVE before…never got into it because it just seemed too hard to me. It's my favorite game to read about.

Q: Most games are boring to play & boring to read about. I'm not sure if EVE's boring to play; it's just an investment I don't want to make. But it's fascinating to read about.

SB: I've always imagined that while the fights can be exciting & it can be cool…to have victory in one of the fights, it's not really what it's about. I mean, people are playing the game to create the world. They're part of the corporations because they're buying into the agenda, even if it's roleplaying, against some other agenda. That's where the fun is."
stewartbutterfield  glitch  tinyspeck  games  eveonline  gaming  reading  cv  worldbuilding  2010  interviews  animalcrossing  littlebigplanet  gamedev  gamedesign  homoludens  play  facebookconnect  facebook  zynga  mmo  flickr  gne  wow  simcity  sims  everquest  muds  mushes  metaplace  secondlife  social  experience  thesims 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Boing Boing: Offworld - An Offworld Thanksgiving: L-tryptophan edition
"Though I've never heard any of its directors or designers explicitly state it, I've got a strong hunch one of Animal Crossing's guiding principles was that of the Slow Life movement that spread across Japan in the early 'oughts, seeking to "shift from a society of mass production and mass consumption, to a society that is not hectic and does cherish our possessions and things of the heart."
animalcrossing  wii  slow  slowlife  japan  games  gaming  videogames 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Animal Crossing story makes us sob like little babies [update 1] - DS Fanboy
"Then I came to my mailbox, it was full of letters with presents- all from my mom. Every letter was pretty much the same. "Thinking of you. Thought you'd like this present. Love, Mom" Even though I'd stopped playing, she continued to send me presents."

[Now at: http://www.joystiq.com/2007/11/19/animal-crossing-story-makes-us-sob-like-little-babies-update-1/ ]
animalcrossing  nintendo  nintendods  parenting  videogames  social  children  comics  glvo  death 
november 2007 by robertogreco
Pascal ends it all… on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
"Another fatality in my village. Bones and Dotty waited downstream to haul out the body. "
animalcrossing  nintendods  nintendo  ds  humor 
august 2007 by robertogreco
[daily dose of imagery] king's college circle
"here's a brief explanation on how to make your little planets using photographs"
panorama  photography  photoshop  planets  animalcrossing  tutorials  tips  diy  howto  images 
june 2007 by robertogreco
Ambition and Compulsory Design in Animal Crossing - GameCareerGuide.com
"Animal Crossing is the antithesis of modernistic, compulsory design - what some people may describe as “tight” or “clean” design, in that every element has a specific mechanical purpose. (If there’s a gun on the mantelpiece, it must be fired by
animalcrossing  videogames  video  games  play  nintendo  nintendods  ds 
may 2007 by robertogreco
UK:RESISTANCE: THERE IS ONLY ONE GAME OF 2006 (Animal Crossing Wild World)
"Animal Crossing isn't a game. It's a career. A vocation, a mini alternative life. You could educate a child with it and it would turn out OK. It teaches you everything you need to know about the real world. It teaches you the importance of money, shows y
ds  nintendo  videogames  nintendods  animalcrossing  reviews 
december 2006 by robertogreco
i am genmon (28 January 2006, Interconnected)
"Animal Crossing is not just (with its wireless play) a stunning technical achievement and mapping of metaphors; it's very close to the perfect combination of play, social education, interaction design, and subversion of Western individuality."
animalcrossing  games  videogames  nintendo  ds  interactive  play  nintendods  mattwebb  2006 
march 2006 by robertogreco
hello, nintendo: Penn & Teller's Magic Bus Veers Right
"spontaneity and variation like this are what's missing from most games today"
games  videogames  design  nintendo  play  ds  nintendods  animalcrossing 
march 2006 by robertogreco
NookBay
"Welcome to NookBay, a web site that lets you buy and sell Animal Crossing Wild World items in an auction format. Payment arrangements are made between buyer and seller, and the transaction is completed over Nintendo's Wi-Fi network."
nintendo  videogames  ds  internet  fun  games  animalcrossing  nintendods 
january 2006 by robertogreco
GameSpy: PlanetFargo: Crossing Animals at Any Cost
"And nearly every one of them had a Nintendo DS -- some visibly playing Animal Crossing. I had found the land of milk and honey, and it was guarded by children so small I could chuck them across the room."
games  nintendo  ds  humor  videogames  nintendods  animalcrossing 
january 2006 by robertogreco

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