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Game Writers RANT! (flamers welcome)


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#1 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 03:58 PM

(Madkeith: This is very abrasive, but very relevant. Your call, man.) Current Game writing sucks. It sucks big *&%$. Here we are, birth of a new medium, a powerful new medium. Could blossom into something profoundly incredible for the human race, and we get lines like: "Evil Beware!" There are two problems with the writing in the current game industry. One for independant, smaller game developers, and one for the big names. We''ll start with the big names. It''s the same thing as Hollywood, only worse. A bunch of rich guys think they know what video games should be like, and so they have completely squelched out any progress. And what do they think video games should be like? Hollywood movies. Gore, breasts, and a dash of plot thrown in to tie it all together. In order of importance. The there''s the small fish. Little companies, only a few guys. The issue here is, either the coder or the artist thinks he can write because he ran a campagn of D&D for a year back in high school. Or, worse yet, they have a pretentious dweeb of a "designer" or "writer", some kid who thinks he can write. Truth is, this kid couldn''t write a good short story, much less a freaking video game (which is, despite common belief, way harder than writing anything else.) This kid throws together some cliches, and a plot about collecting four magic doo dads to save the world, and a cardboard cut out of a main character. Don''t think I''m not taliing about you. Don''t think I am not talking about myself. We need to wise up. I don''t know shit about writing. I''ve read a lot of books. I''ve read a lot of books on writing. But all of us are ignoring the real potential here, the birth of a new medium, the most powerful literary techniques known to man, here, as yet undiscovered, by us, because we don''t seem to care, we''d rather write something that played like freaking D&D! The best thing we can do, is start treating the game medium as an artistic medium. When we set out to write a game, we need to hold oursleves to the same standards as any other medium.Read that last sentence again. This does not mean making movie-like games or book-like games! It means making our games AS GOOD as the stuff the pros make in the other genres. That''s what pisses me off about all of the losers in this forum (finish the sentence before you assume that''s you) who criticize the thinking we do. y''know, the ones who think games are just fine as they are now? Those people might as well go back in time and destroy the first written words, as far as I''m concerned. They''re holding the rest of us back! Lowering our standards. They''re sayign "Diablo II is good enough... we don''t need to do better..." We need to do way better! Games are such a fledgling medium, we haven''t had a Citizen Kane, or a Godfather, or even a Star Wars! We just suck, we''re way behind, and we have nobody but ourselves and the industry we make up to blame! The people who maintain that the industry doesn''t need dedicated writers can rot in hell. There is nothing we need more. We sure as hell don''t need better faster graphics engines. I don''t care about graphics anymore, they''re gonna get better no matter what happens. but the writing sure isn''t. I hate selfish people. I hate hasbro. I hate microsoft. I hate people who think game writing is fine as it is, what the programmer writes in between code, to give the player some direction. It makes me want to punch my computer. I hate f*cking Geoff Howland, who when I (as a total newbie) inquired about a Writing Section, implied to me that there would be no purpose of such a thing. Who downplayed the role of a writer, because he, like myself, is a designer with a massive ego. The bastard saw it as a threat to his creative control over a story. Well wise us, Mr. George Lucas, when you write the story yourself, it SUCKS! Let the people who know what they''re doin have a shot! PART TWO. To the writers... I know where you are coming from. You see the problem, you think you can fix it. Or you just want to try your hand at writing for a game. PLEASE GOD, just go out, and become a good writer first. Lord knows we need some, in this freaking industry. It''ll be the hardest thing you''ll ever do. Normal writer''s will shun you for being a game wirter, because from atop their high horses they see games as a toy. The game industry will shun you because it feels it doesn''t need you. And just becoming a writer is hard enough! But please, know this. A good writer always thinks he can be better. Learn something about literary technique, about symbolism about why amnesiac main characters blow goats. Please accept that you CAN learn a lot from the other media, film, theatre, literature. Don''t be a prick like the rest of the industry... If anyone made it this far, feel free to flame away. I''m feeling confrontational today. ====== "The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates "Question everything. Especially Landfish." -Matt

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#2 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5058

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 04:48 PM

That''s an interesting perspective, Landfish. I myself have been kind of assuming that the people on the forum are in the moderately competent to good range, based on what I''ve seen in the "writing samples" thread and what I see on the "What''s your favorite book?" threads. Certainly we all have more to learn about writing, and probably will keep learning for the rest of our lives. The question as I see it is whether we want to use this forum as a place to actively teach each other about writing, and whether that will sustain itself for more than a few thread-lifetimes. I think it would be an interesting thing to try, and I''m willing to write some lecture-style articles/posts. So, what do you (or anyone else) think that game writers need to be learning? Do we want to go at this one area at a time, or do we want to formulate some kind of outline of writing knowledge and then try to fill it in?

(My credentials for volunteering, btw, are that I''m currently majoring in English, and as such kind of swimming in resources about writing and reasons to think and write about how writing works. I also want to practice helping writers improve, because my intended career is "editor of science fiction novels", and I could use the experience.)

#3 felonius   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 07:36 PM

Ok, I am a programmer. I love making engines, I love having fantasies about all the stories I could write, but to be frank my stories suck and I am not a good writer.

So what do I do?

I go by the old saying (I don''t know it in english) "only do what you good at. Let others do the rest." and don''t write the stories myself, I outsource it. There is so much creative potential out there that programmer''s are wasting their time even trying to compete. The hard part though is finding the good ones.

So no Landfish, I will not flame you. You are right.

Jacob Marner

#4 Paul Cunningham   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 08:15 PM

This has been chewing at you for eon''s, i can tell. It suprises me that Geoff Howland has writen so much stuff here in the Gamedev resourses section on game design but you never see him here making threads where his points of view can be argued. I''d like to see that. But on the other hand he is a contributer which i respect for what it''s worth. Maybe you should contribute something Landfish so people can flame your name as well when you''re not looking?

quote:

The best thing we can do, is start treating the game medium as an artistic medium. When we set out to write a game, we need to hold oursleves to the same standards as any other medium.


I think of it as a creative meduim. The problem at the moment is the amount of money that can be made in computer games is catching the eye of a lot a cold blooded business types who probably couldn''t give a sh*t about the industries creative potential only its cash value. Its just a pity more creative people don''t recognise the skills associated with running a business and making money becasue this is important.

quote:

But please, know this. A good writer always thinks he can be better. Learn something about literary technique, about symbolism about why amnesiac main characters blow goats. Please accept that you CAN learn a lot from the other media, film, theatre, literature. Don''t be a prick like the rest of the industry...


I just deleted about a 100 word paragraph because i think this is more appropriate:- What you''re saying is all and well but i think what you''re ranting on about here all comes down to respect. If you want respect you must prove your responsibility. Because repsonsiblity brings respect. Otherwise you''re just a grunt and will always be one.



I love Game Design and it loves me back.

Our Goal is "Fun"!

#5 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 08:29 PM

A-friggen-men.

Now that post illustrates that abrasive != offtopic.

Let me add a little more abrasion:
What about Warren Spector then uh. "I''m working with John Romero, I must be god reincarnate as a game designer annex writer."

What about myself? "Hey I''m doing a PhD in Comp. Science, I sure as heck should be a great game writer!"


Pfft, BUGGER IT ALL! The cameraman in a movie does not do the story.

Part 1 of what Goblin will be for.
Separate the story from the technicalities.

Part 2 of what Goblin will be for.
Separate the characters from the story.

Part 3 of what Goblin will be for.
Separate the coders from the writers..


Give me one more medicated peaceful moment.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~
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#6 Moth   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 08:44 PM

Just a random comment: Fiction writers are probably even worse about creative control than designers. The designers are at least used to seeing their designs mangled by the programmers, artists, whoever. Writers are used to being solitary gods of their little fictional universes, at least until the editor gets their hands on the manuscript.

I don''t know where I was going with this. In general I think it would be cool if games could be as well-written as (good) books, and if writing were considered to be a more important component of games. But I don''t know if games like that would sell... I hope so.

-Moth



#7 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 08:49 PM

Ehm, why wouldn''t games like good books sell? Good books sell, good games sell ( even if they are crap by book standards ), game with book standard will sell squared.
It will be a good game, with artistic acceptance.


Give me one more medicated peaceful moment.
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#8 Moth   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 09:12 PM

1) I''ve never seen anything I''d call a ''good book'' on the bestseller shelves. Non-best-selling writers often don''t make enough money to live on. Books don''t really sell that well, unfortunately. People would rather go see a movie.

2) Diablo II. The Sims. All those stupid hunting things... For many (most?) games, story is inconsequential, and therefore writing quality is trivial. It''s not so much that a game with good writing wouldn''t sell, it''s just that the sorts of games that sell the best, do not sell based on their writing...

I guess the point is to change that, somehow. Eh, just chalk my post up to lack of imagination and/or optimism, at 4:00 AM. I should just not post after midnight.

-Moth


#9 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 09:13 PM

Landfish, I agree wholeheartedly. I would like so badly to see/make a game that is so profound that it changes people''s view of life itself.

I watched a move this past weekend called Breakfast of Champions. It was very unconventional, and dealt with the most basic human question "Why are we here?". I would love to see a game do that. And not in some bullshit way where they just use it to have more meaningless plot and try to pretend there''s something profound there.

I think Hollywood is getting better slowly. The only special affects in American Beauty was probably a little blood, and it made a ton of money I''d bet. Maybe games just need time, but Landfish your rant was legit.





"NPC's are people too!" --dwarfsoft

"Nazrix is cool." --Nazrix first, then Darkmage

#10 Maitrek   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 10:28 PM

I'm going to go rebel here and disagree.

For starters, I'm whole-heartedly with you on dissociating the average idiot writer (designer) from the _script_ing process. The main problem is when some moron tries to write a _script_ and makes up a bad one, this results in the _story_ not being a feature, but more like a hazard and added frustration to a possible weak gaming experience.

Games have a major priority, and that priority is fun. Games are made to be just games, I don't like to say it much mroe than you do, but that's what makes games good. If I really wanted to try and do something artistic, I would direct a movie (actually this could be related to that whole interactive movie uproar from a few years ago and how just about every interactive movie game sold crap all).

The reason why books and movies are more story oriented is because there are real humans either totally within the imagination of the reader, or on the screen infront of oyu in the cinema. There is real believability there, there is very little believability in games, where people are made from flat sheets of tin pasted together and the whole world is pretty finite and limited.

I think that it takes not necessarily a "writer" to make a good story for a game, it takes imagination. Anyone can come up with that, the only use for a writer, is not to make the story good, but to tell the story well. Like what Shakespeare did, he took good stories, and enabled others to tell them well.

Games should be fun, first, then maybe story line.

(p.s. actually the next project after this one that I've signed myself up for takes a strong look at religion and what drives people to madness, and the current project I'm working on involved a person with partial amnesia discovering his reason for being where he is as well as making up some debt to someone that he owes at the same time -> done before, but I'm sure it only takes a good telling of the story to make it good)


Edited by - Maitrek on September 6, 2000 5:39:13 AM

#11 Maitrek   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 05 September 2000 - 10:41 PM

Actually - not all amnesiacal characters suck, *especially* in games, wherein this medium discovery and learning is one of the key aspects that can be used for fun, and a mirroring of this in the character can be an extremely good device when done properly.

#12 Ingenu   Members   -  Reputation: 930

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 01:36 AM

Well, I agree with landfish.

Everyone can do best but there's a frensh 'sentence' that tells :' le mieux est l'ennemi du bien', translated it's about : 'best is the ennemy of good'.

This is very true, don't try to do BEST try to do GOOD.

This is a little bit different.

I also agree with Maitrek, a story can de good or bad, it really depends upon the story teller...

Games are games... well and movies are just movies ?
I don't agree a Game can be much more than a time waster thingy, you can send a message through it and tell things to people who are playing your game.

I will not have started to write a book and to design a game if I have no message to tell...


-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

Edited by - Ingenu on September 6, 2000 8:39:47 AM

#13 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 263

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 03:18 AM

Mmmh, I dunno for sure if your post is good for the stake.
But I have some comments, and questions.

First of all, are you talking about the quality of writing as in "style", or about the quality of the plots as in "story". Because the difference is tremendous. The Lord of the Rings (to take an example), is not what I would call an exceptionnaly complicated plot. What makes it such a masterpiece is the quality of writing, the style, the lyrism, as well as the depth of the world the story evolves in.

OK, then about the Hollywood effect in the game industry. I read an interview of Chris Hecker the other day, and I thought he had some very good points. Basically one thing he said is, as long as the PC is the main used computer, we are gonna have all the big editors on our back, Hollywood style, tryign to manage the industry as a business, where the goal is to make moneeeeeeeeeey.
If the PC could go back to the amateur days, then maybe, we would have a bit more new ideas, risks taken, basically something more chaotic, and that would evolve, rather than a monolithic system where the evolutions are basically "do the same thing, only better".

I don''t think it has to do anything writers.

The lack of originality, the lack of depth, is really just a symptom of a much deeper decease. Doest it mean that we shouldn''t have better plots ? Of course not, but I don''t think you can change something that''s fundamentally broken by adding coats of shiny paint ... look at Windows ! I know you are not a programmer, but you must at least have some knowledge of DOS and Windows ?
DOS was a little Operating system developped by Microsoft. Then they realised that Apple was much much more user friendly, which meant more money, and so Windows was created. And it sucked *big time*. It was a layer of shiny polish on a piece of sh!t OS. It looked nice, it was much easier, but it made the situation worse. Then came all the versions of Windows... but never, ever, was the fundamental problem tackled, rather, everytime, Microsoft was trying to make something better, but compatible with the older sh!t they had done... thus slowing down their evolution, all this to keep their customers. Did they succeed ? Yes. Did they add something to the computing world... I honestly don''t think so. They jsut borrowed ideas here and there, and try to hammer those in their fuck3d up system...

What you are saying, getting better writers to improve the quality of games, is a noble effort indeed.
But we have an expression for this in France : you are trying to give jam to pigs. Oh yeah sure, there are people who are gonna appreciate the effort to its true value, but is it really gonna change something ? I don''t think so.
Now you are thinking, I am talking like a loser, well, probably. But what I am trying to say really, is that the problem is not to improve the quality of games.

The problem is to improve the audience.
The question I have is : why do we play games in the first place ? And then, how is this compatible with Art ?
It''s not a simple question, I have done enough Fine Arts study to realise that Art is not a funny thing, and I have played enough to realise that games are not artistic at all, even though they use sometimes some very artistic contents.

What we need before we improve games is to educate players !

I am sorry, but most graphics you see are not Artistic at all, in the sense that they don''t necessarily carry any intrinsic meaning, they are just a visual representation of something. It''s the same argument that all my art lecturers would give me when I showed them my painted miniatures, my drawings, etc. It was, as they call it :"illustration", not art, because it was a simple representation of something in my head, nothing more, no further meaning.
If you look at a Starcraft screenshoot, you don''t see the horror of war, you don''t see the meaninglessness of it, it doesn''t make you think "hey! couldn''t we find another way, couldn''t live in peace". Similarly, in an RPG, an evil character is plain evil, but meaningless. They don''t seem to have any *reasons* to be evil, they just are. They don''t make you wonder, you can''t identify yourself in them, which thus doesn''t teach you anything about good and bad, except that Good is good, and Bad is bad...

I said somewhere in those forums that it would be nice to make people ask themselves, make them *think*. Not about "how the heck do I get this key to open this door", or "how may more goblins do I need to kill if I want to get 30th level", but rather let them question their ethics, educate them...
As a scientific student (my cursus was mainly scientific), i was supposed to despise Philosophy. But quite surprisingly I found it very interesting, and an endless source of amusement when I would argue with my lecturer What Philosophy brought me, is the simple fact of questioning, arguing.
The only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain.

Now all this thinking bullsh!t is nice, you might say, but then this wouldn''t be games we would be talking about anymore, right ?
Well, precisely my point.
You are trying to mi two different things, and though I don''t say it''s undoable, I am saying that the difficulty are huge, and result most of the time in frustration. Because a game that tries to do philosophy will sound artsy fartsy to people who want fun, and will sound pseudo philosophic mumbo jumbo to people with a more cultural background.
It''s another problem of education, people don''t see what you did for them, they see what you didn''t ! The 12 years gamers won''t applause the fact that you added some clever content, rather they will despise you for the bad design, the playability hindered by too much dialogue, etc.
Of course, sometimes you will have this little jewel that will actually make it, somehow (I am thinking particularly at the Ultima series, especially the one where you discover that the Gargoyles are not evil at all).

Now, I have more to say, but I guess I lost most people already (me indcluded ), so maybe some comments ?
I realise I am playing the Devil''s advocate here, because I sound like "it will never work", but I am trying to be constructive, let me know what you think.

youpla :-P

ps : (I''ll comment on part II later)
pps : And yeah I know there are paradoxes and contradiction in my reasoning, but they say its because I am Scorpio, Taurus rising So I just don''t really care that much...

#14 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 07:15 AM

Wow. Okay then.

Sunandshadow, I actually do acknowledge the Writing Samples thread, though I can''t say I''ve read it all. I think that we need more stuff like that on this site, to address the very problems I was ranting about. Go to the Suggestions forum and post about the Writer''s forum. I''ve already placed my vote for you as a Mod.

Felonius, you are a king among men.

Paul, as far as I know, Geoff no longer contributes to GDNet because he is a phallus. In fact, he is apparantly causing problems for GDNet, so he can rot in hell. You''re right, it all comes down to respect. But try to remember the difference between being "good" and being a "professional".

Madkeith, Moth and all the rest...

The key here is not to be egotistical or selfish. Most of what I found wrong with Deus Ex was stuff that they had the budget and manpower to fix. Little things like direction and voice acting.

If you''re a shit hot programmer out to make a game, the best thing you can do is find a good designer to help hammer out a concept. The best thing you and that designer can do is find some good writers to make your game important. The best thing those writers can do is constantly check with the rest of the group to see that they''re making what everyone wants. That goes for everyone else too. And the best thing the whole lot of them can do is put someone pretty smart in charge of the whole thing to make sure it gets done!

This is a little like how good movies are made. Not formula Hollywood films, but the good stuff.

Matriek, buddy. The rebels are always the best. That philosophy could be applied to anything. But I have a question: Was Schindler''s List a good movie? Was it FUN?

ahw? Microsoft logicis not a good way to win an arguement with me! But really, you''re right. It''s not JUST the lack of competant writers, but that''s a big contributing factor.

#15 Nazrix   Members   -  Reputation: 307

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 07:16 AM

ahw,
Sure, 12-year-olds probably won''t appreciate artistic content, but those wouldn''t be the target audience. Wouldn''t it be great if some games were meant to be like opera or plays? It would be considered "cultured" and "intellictual" to play games with artistic content.

It''s not going to happen over night by any means. It may never happen at all. Maybe it doesn''t need to happen to that extreme either. It would be an interesting goal nonetheless.







"NPC's are people too!" --dwarfsoft

"Nazrix is cool." --Nazrix first, then Darkmage

#16 pacman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 08:52 AM

My opinion is this: video games are not books, and they are not movies. They should not be even compared, as the other two are passive entertainment, and games are interactive. Video games are not "behind", they are just new compared to books and movies. The first books were not imaginary stories, they were true stories (no creativity). The first movies were not even movies, they were moving pictures, and not even good ones at that. Video games need to be given time.

Also, I don''t think of games as art. Games are it''s own entity. Just because it conveys a message doesn''t make it art. Books stir emotions, but so does the guy who cuts you off in traffic. I view games as a creative field, but not as art, because you cannot directly involve yourself with art. In my ideal game, you impact the story, and make a difference in the imaginary lives of the "people" in the game. No other medium can even come close to that.

All that said, I do think that good writing can take games to another level. Done well, finishing a good game will feel even better than finishing a good book, because you made a difference. It not only gives the story and emotional satisfaction, but a feeling of accomplishment. Games should go beyond books and moves. Some day. All we can do now is make good games. Whatever _that_ takes.

afterthought: if none of this made any sense, then you are in the same boat as me .

-------------------------------------------
"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

#17 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:00 AM

If someone cut you off in traffic, with the specific intent of eliciting a certain emotion from you for your own benefit, that would be art.

Games are NOT and interactive medium. Try as you might, you still cannot add something to a game that is not there to begin with, no more than in a book or movie. Your experience, or potential experience, is still entirely determined by what you are given to work with.

Games are art. They say something. They say it to you, for the expressed purpose of making contact.

#18 pacman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:06 AM

I disagree. Maybe every game you ever played was like that, but I think games can be different depending on the player. I think that a game can be made, where the outcome is directly affected by the player. I know it is possible. You look at a piece of art, and no matter how many times you look at it, it will always mean the same thing to you. Games can send different messages, they have the capability. It just hasn''t been done yet.

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"What's the story with your face, son?!?"

#19 Landfish   Members   -  Reputation: 288

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:16 AM

Wrong. A piece of art changes as you collect more information in life. Radiohead''s okComputer means something TOTALLY DIFFERENT to me now then when I first got it.

And the sum of your experiences in a game is always something that was accounted for by the creator(s). Except the artistic interpretation that I described in the former paragraph, which just goes to support my opinion that GAMES ARE ART!

#20 pacman   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 06 September 2000 - 09:20 AM

The meaning of the art changes to you as your perspecitve changes, true. The art never changes. Games can change. I said that the meaning of the art doesn''t change with the assertion that it cannot change the way it impacts you until you change. Games can. Games are creative, as is art. However, games are not limited as art is.

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"What's the story with your face, son?!?"




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