My Friend Jory & Dreamfall Chapters

This Friday June 17th, the final episode of Dreamfall Chapters will close a story told over 17 years. Starting with The Longest Journey in 1999, the storyline has been with me for my post high school professional career.

This will be one of the last titles with the work of my friend, Jory Prum.

Jory, Max, and Sam
Jory, Max, and Sam

I first met Jory early on during my time at Telltale Games. The Nordic sound guy with his own studios, Jory was one of the most friendly people I have ever met in not only video games, but in all of the entertainment business. That’s the thing about talented sound engineers. They always take the time to listen.

The last time I saw him was January. I got him a bottle of Prager Port Wine as a small thank you gift and met for dinner with Scott Looney. The gift was for two reasons: Years ago, Jory hired my friend Amanda Rose Smith purely by my direct insistance. The other: Jory was one of the few people I worked with that reminded me of the work at Telltale was valued. During the darker periods after the layoff from Telltale, it was a beacon of light and hope. I was able to tell him why he was so importantly helpful to me. There’s a small comfort knowing he knew exactly how and why I valued him as a friend.

There’s a few times that video games deeply affected me emotionally. Even with the rise and fall of my career in video games, Ragnar Tørnquist‘s story remained to be the art I strove for. I’m even humbled that Dreamfall borrowed from my contributions to analytics in narrative based gameplay. It brought me further joy to see two of my friends working on game, Jory and Amanda Rose. I’m going to be in a very private space when I get to play the episode. There will be moments of sadness for all the endings it presents and joy that this work is celebrated.

As artists, the truest celebration of our lives is to experience the art we create. While we are deprived of what could have been, we have what is already out there. We are able to treasure every moment this beautiful person created.

Jory Prum
Jory Prum

In Defense of Subtitles

Bosco as a Frenchmen in Sam & Max with subtitles.

A few weeks ago Jonathan Blow talked about his incorporation of subtitles into his next title The Witness. He brought to light one of the fundamentals of gaming that is sometimes treated as foregone conclusions: Subtitles.

Originally I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to implement subtitles or not. It’s important to me that the game have an overall aesthetic that contains no visual language. I was worried that if we were to draw subtitles for people who don’t speak English, it might ruin this. But, a year ago, I was talking to a friend who has experience in film, and he convinced me that people just understand that subtitles are a different thing, that they are a layer on top of the game or movie or whatever.

I’m totally in agreement for steering away from becoming a novella. I grew up on point-n-clicks, but I also agree that subtitles with a voice recording becomes distracting to players at large. With a player capable of understanding the recorded audio, the text distracts from the environment the work is presenting. A fictitious construction placed upon a space that is (usually) meant to present a believable universe.

What concerns me is an implication that the hearing impaired aren’t considered a part of the equation. A comment from Jonathan Blow on the above linked blog post:

If such a player is perceptive he will figure it out. Consider it a bonus puzzle.

I can see his reasoning. The work Blow does is to create an environment that strips away the interface — the distractions — from the piece. He is also making a bet that the design and gameplay do not depend on the voice work in the piece. You experience the world as you experience the world. And maybe that’s a valid choice in some contexts and maybe that’s worth exploring.

Regardless of the ability to create a piece that doesn’t require voice work, I can not agree with this position. The tools and ways the hearing impaired navigate the real world aren’t afforded or available in the context of a screen and human interface devices (keyboard, mouse, gamepad). While I haven’t played The Witness, it’s clear that the audio diaries are key parts of the narrative world in the title. Maybe not key to solving puzzles, but are a part of the narrative environment. To exclude them from the work is to discriminate against physical limitations beyond a player’s control.

I live by the mantra: Accessibility is accessible to everyone. Elevator access in a building not only helps people with mobility concerns, but also when you need to move a heavy thing around a building. While there’s a balance to strike between resources and output, I feel that the availability of subtitles is one of the few core requirements in interactive media. It helps the hearing impaired, it helps non-native speakers, and perhaps more than can be predicted. I don’t feel subtitles need to be on by default, but subtitles should always be made available.

Antidote

I’ve released over 130 SKUs of video games to date.
These Mac & Windows SKUs are the most personal.

Play Antidote

Thank you to the many people who helped me Antidote! While I wish the project met the expectations I and others had, it still provided me and others the experience that helped all of us to become talented and successful practitioners of interactive media and beyond.

I would not be where I am today, making video games for a living, if it wasn’t for Antidote and all the people who helped to make this happen. For this I am forever grateful. Now, to formally announce the release in my traditional manor:

Please enjoy this game.
It was made for you, with love, in Kalamazoo, Northville, Ann Arbor, Boston and Berkeley.

History of Video Games Museum Exists

Someone kinda stole my idea! :/

National Center for the History of Electronic Games

In all seriousness, I am very glad that an effort is being made. I only have their website to go on, so I have to go on a bit of speculation from the presented materials. They’re also starting off small but hoping to expand their collection and open a full presentation and space in 2012.

There are a few things I will be watching for. I don’t want to give the impression that I am looking down on this effort from the start, but I have deep concerns which I hope are addressed. I hope this center can make the history of our art form accessible.

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The Corporation for Public Gaming

“Funds for this game were provided by The Corporation for Public Gaming.”

When television and radio started, different countries took different choices in how the airwaves would be regulated. In England, taxes are levied on all radios and television sets to fund programming. Some countries have all media run directly by the state. In the US, a free market economy was formulated to let market take charge of content generation; A commercial system. But with the commercial system, there was a call for providing content that wasn’t commercially sustainable but culturally important. Content of instructional, educational, and cultural significance that it’s commercially viable but very important. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 among others did this for television and radio in the United States. I want to have an additional organization for electronic entertainment media.

Continue reading The Corporation for Public Gaming