It’s been far too long, and finally, we’re happy to say, the videos from VideoBrains September and October are out! Without any more of a wait, let’s get right down to it.
VideoBrains September: Spy Party
September was a special month for VideoBrains, it marked the event’s first birthday! A year later, and 15 VideoBrains (VideoBrainses? Jake doesn’t really know himself) on, the event is very much alive and kicking, with a full house too! To celebrate, the kind people at Rocket Jump Events sponsored the bar, even. They’ll be doing more in 2016, so keep an eye out if you’re looking for more games industry-focused events.
There was even a cake for Jake (and the event), too!
— Mike '👻' Cook (@mtrc) September 28, 2015
This month had the theme of Spy Party, all about murder, stealth, betrayals, and questionable morality. All those things that make up a good Bond movie. Or a bad one. Maybe we should have had a murder mystery going on…
Tom Hatfield started us off, with his talk ‘Deception, Betrayal and Horror in Co-op’, a look at how horror doesn’t have to be about loneliness within darkness. Making example of his time in the mostly unknown System Shock 2 multiplayer as well as in the co-op of Dead Space 3. Despite how you can joke around with friends and feel safe, a few touches can make group horror really work.
Resident speaker Hannah Nicklin took to the stage following Tom, in her fourth talk on the psychogeography of games. This month, she spoke about her time walking across a very wet London with George Buckenham, talking about everything from Brutalism in London housing to the optimal way to get over a very large puddle without getting wet. Set to a background of rain, thunder, and music made by Hannah in Panoramical, which George had a part in making, the talk combined thoughts on process and ideas on community and solidarity. As always, you can read an adapted form of her talk over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. If you’d like to take a look at what George has made, you can take a look over on his site!
Did you know there was a Thief 4 in the works? Not the 2014 game, either, Joe Martin doesn’t like to talk about that one very much. He’s been digging deep into archives for his talk ‘They Stole Thief 4 From Me’, and doing some detective work in search of elusive information on a fourth Thief game, titled Thief 4 – Dagger of Ways. Moving into a modern world, and to be developed the same team as the predecessors, Ion Storm, he eventually managed to get ahold of a design document, detailing what the team aimed to do. As history will tell you, the game never got made, and if Joe hadn’t managed to find this document, it could have been lost to the ages. If this is what Joe found, what other unknown concepts have been lost in locked or hidden annals of history?
Joe has kindly offered to send anyone interested a copy of the design document, so if you’d like to go through it yourself, send him a tweet at @JoeThreepwood!
Morality in games is a tricky issue, and presents some interesting dilemmas for the player. It becomes even more complex, when you get something really awesome for being a rude person. By rude, I mean murdering characters in your game. Helen Gould, with ‘Hands to yourself, sneak thief: bad morality in RPGs’, discussed her time in Skyrim, facing the challenging questions of “Is this armour worth murdering a lot of people?” and “Oh gosh, I murdered people for a mace with a skull that stares into my soul, why did I do this?” in the world of Tamriel. Also, there was a bit of a debate on the pronunciation of scone, in person and on Twitter.
It's "s-gone", because if you say "sc-own" then you're posh #videobrains
— Mike Jennings (@mikejjennings) September 28, 2015
To finish the evening along the theme of Spy Party, Edward Burton took on a personal gripe with stealth games: the implementation of a score. In games like Mark of the Ninja and Hitman: Absolution, a score can be detrimental to the core ideas of many stealth games. Being able to make your own plans and go through each mission your way is key, and having one set path that will give the most points can be detract from this.
VideoBrains October: Dungeon Keeper
Boss battles can be fantastic climaxes, or dreadfully tedious affairs that sour your experience of a game. Zoë Williamson looked at some of the best and worst, for a multitude of reasons, as well as gave some explanations for why certain boss battles just suck.
The fear of the unknown, of the vast expansive void our world fills, and of the possibily of greater beings than ourselves are what underline much of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror, and lots of games get that wrong. Tom Battey took at look at how Hidetaka Miyazaki – famous for being the director on Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne – does get it right.
It’s sometimes fun to play the villain, to get a bit evil, to cause a bit of chaos, and, as the recent popularity of Deadpool has shown, antiheroes are pretty cool too. But Sean Cleaver took a look at antiheroes, and perhaps they’re not all we think they are in definition.
In her fifth talk on the Psychogeography of Games, Hannah Nicklin spoke of her time with Ed Key (the one-man-band of Twisted Tree Games) in Cumbria, and how it has influenced how he works as a developer. If you want to read up on Ed Key’s work, you can do so on the Twisted Tree Games website. For the text version of this talk, click here for it over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
With a bit of classical literature , Daniel Nye Griffiths took a look at how games represent death. Or rather, how they take some very different perspectives on death – such as the eponymous ‘protagonist’ from Dante’s Inferno just killing everyone.
Rounding out VideoBrains October was Alice Bell, on why she just hates children in games. To her, there’s a negative correlation between how good a game is and how many children there are. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, they’ll just drag you down.
Phew! We’re really happy to get these talks out to you, and hopefully you’ve enjoyed them all! Our next event is in just 1 week, and tickets are running out, so get yours before it’s too late! VideoBrains February: Mount Your Friends features Cara Ellison, Ashley Brown, Alice Bell, James Wallis, Benjamin Maltz-Jones and Rob Morgan, so come on down for talks like “Sex in Games is Fucked” and “Sex in a Box”! What could be better?
If you want to support us even more and just make us love you, you can you support us through our Patreon page too!