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Jonathan Holmberg
Attends Colorado State University
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Jonathan Holmberg

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No mention of Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland, Colorado?  Various events include coffin racing, ice turkey bowling, a parade of hearses, and a frozen salmon toss.
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Jonathan Holmberg

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I think "indie game" is a useful distinction for determining where a game is available and what level of access you may have to the developer (how likely they are to respond to feedback directly and whatnot).  Are there exceptions to the rule?  Absolutely, but it's still a generally useful metric.

Distribution: I wouldn't classify Valve as "indie" any longer because they own the means of their distribution.  You'll never find Team Fortress 2 on Origin or GOG.  I'd give the same argument for thatgamecompany: at the time Journey was developed, thatgamecompany would not have qualified as an indie developer because they were tied to the money and platform Sony provided.  

The line is fuzzy, but indie games tend to be found in freer markets.  Steam's Greenlight program, Microsoft's "Indie" section, and if you don't like a given distribution method or platform, you're likely to find it elsewhere.  Thomas Was Alone is available on just about everything, and Mike Bithell has final say over where else it gets ported as the developer.  Don't want to buy it on Steam?  Get it from his site, from the Humble Bundle, from Desura.

Access: Indie developers tend to be much more available to the general public.  They'll have discussions with their fans, they'll incorporate feedback more readily, they'll get in Twitter arguments and join causes.  AAA developers tend to be more locked down, controlled by PR.  I had a podcast with 100 subscribers, but I could probably get Zoe Quinn on to talk about Depression Quest.  That's not going to happen with CliffyB.  

I think that may also be why indie games have a bad rap.  They're more likely to take on issues and challenge convention than a game with millions of dollars behind it.  Moreover, the developers are more likely to voice and stand behind their reasoning, rather than try to claim they're not making any "social commentary."  It gets them in trouble because the general public tends to dislike the status quo being challenged, no matter how much it needs to be.

Which, I think, is why looking at how a term is perceived is a bad idea.  Game/Show has done this twice now (that I've seen) with "gamer" and "indie games."  The argument seems to be that the public has a negative perception of the word, so abandon the word.  That's easy, but counterproductive.  The public had a negative perception of rap and metal music for a while, and rappers sometimes sing and metal bands sometimes have short hair, so let's just abandon the word and call it all "music."

It's not a perfect analogy, but the point is that you don't just abandon a useful phrase because it's poorly perceived.  If people are using the term "indie game" then it maintains some utility.  So, it falls to us to better define the phrase, and to remember that exceptions often help define the rule, rather than denying it.  

I think "indie game" falls on the class, or maybe even phylum, level of classification.  If so, the number of assumptions you can make about an indie game are going to be relatively few.  If we start using the phrase appropriately, perception will change, as it always does.
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Jonathan Holmberg

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Game reviews are already trending toward the personal experience, and I think it's only natural that they do so.  The number rankings and focus on technical elements (I cannot stand the 60FPS mantra lately) are holdovers from a time when games were much more limited, and huge leaps in art, sound, and design were extremely noticeable.  Now, the medium is much more fluid, so textures and frame rate don't matter in a game like Thomas Was Alone or FTL.

That's a big part of why we decided to make The Way of the Game's rating scale answer the question "Should you spend your money on this?"  We put it on a five-tier scale just in case we were ever big enough to warrant a Metacritic presence.  Our reviews, though, are very much about our personal experiences, and then, based on that and your knowledge of us as reviewers, you can judge if a game is worth your time.
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Jonathan Holmberg

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"Gamer" should absolutely not be reserved for some sort of elite status.  Come up with another word to match bibliophile or cinephile, but "gamer" should stay as ubiquitous as "reader" or "player" (as in sports, not wannabe Cassanovas).

"Gamer" is a term of self-identification, and it's ridiculous that anyone should try to take it away or use it to exclude others.  Someone who says they're a "reader" isn't mocked and shunned if they only read romance novels or they've never read Moby Dick.  They like books enough that they choose to self-identify as a reader, and no one can (or should) take that from them.

"Player" is an even more relevant self-identification.  People who play sports get to self-identify as players if they feel a significant chunk of their identity is built up by their participation in sports.  It doesn't matter if it's a soccer (football), football (handegg), or Ultimate (frisbee).  You're not going to take away the word "player" from anyone who doesn't play all sports.

And the only reason gamers shouldn't just be players is that there's a useful distinction between a player of sports and a player of games.  So let us be gamers, and let us stand up for everyone to have the right to wear that mantle.  Is what you play defined as a game by the person who made it (because you don't just stumble into releasing a game when you meant to make a movie)?  Then you get to call yourself a gamer.
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Jonathan Holmberg

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Is "procedurally generated" not already a major buzz word for indie games?  Minecraft, Terraria, Don't Starve, Frozen Synapse, Inside a Star-filled Sky, Sir You Are Being Hunted, Starbound....  It's a long list of great games already using procedural generation.  Granted, No Man's Sky looks awesome, but it's not putting those words on the map.

In terms of 2014: N++, Everyone's Gone to the Rapture, Dying Light, Last Guardian (I have to have hope!).
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Jonathan Holmberg hung out with 2 people.Alex Tsotsos and Sam Tlustos
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Jonathan Holmberg

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The FPS will never die, anymore than the platformer or the point-and-click adventure died.  Consumers go through genre phases.  Paranormal romance, legal thrillers, and military procedurals in books.  Comic book adaptations, westerns, and musicals in movies.  Sitcoms, family drama, and criminal procedurals on TV.  

People will get tired of the standard FPS formula, but the mechanic itself is too useful to discard entirely.  The FP is what's important, not the S.  Plus, I'm not sure what exists that can take it's place.  Platformers gave way to action-adventure.  Action-adventure to open-world.  Open-world to FPS.  I'm more curious to find out what will "replace" FPS as the new big genre.
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+Alex Tsotsos You're a journalist.  Why let obvious and uncontroversial truths stand in the way of fomenting controversy?
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Jonathan Holmberg

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Dead or Alive Paradise for PSP was even worse than DoA Beach Volleyball.  Why?  Jiggle physics were all the game had going for it, and they even messed those up.  The slightest character movement sent each breast flopping about wildly like balloons.  Beach Volleyball actually had an entertaining enough volleyball game.  Paradise was entirely useless.
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Jonathan Holmberg

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Environmental clues and diegetic storytelling aren't the only options for developers.  Bastion told a great story, and cleverly, too.  I'll never forget when I was destroying everything I could find in an early area, because that's what you do in an action-RPG of course, and Rucks broke out the "The Kid just raged for a while" line.  If your story is dynamic enough to react to and incorporate my actions, you're doing something right.

Bastion also succeeded in creating choices that actually felt like they mattered.  There are only two narrative decisions in the game, but they felt huge for the story, unlike many of the "choices" other games offer.
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Bastion doesn't have cutscenes, I think that is the most important thing to avoid.
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Jonathan Holmberg

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I think fandom has another negative aspect, as well.  It can very quickly morph from being inclusive ("We all like games!  Hooray!") to distressingly exclusive ("You don't like the right kind of games.  Go away!" or worse "You're from a group that didn't like games when I first started liking games, so you're not allowed to like games now.")  I appreciate that you went for inclusiveness by referring to fanboys and fangirls, too, but the "fake gamer girl" idiocy illustrates that fanboys are much worse.  It's a similar issue to fans who think they can control creators, it's just as damaging, and it needs to stop.

On "is versus ought," I don't think it's fair to outright deny criticism based on what you wanted a game to be or what you felt it could have been.  Tomb Raider (the reboot) is a highly cinematic, plot-driven, unnecessarily brutal action game with aspirations to a bit of stealth in places.  Some of the mechanics in the game--hunting and tomb raiding (which were weird divergences from a plot that tried to force urgency on you)--hinted at a game that could have been more freeform and focused on actual survival.  I mourn the Tomb Raider that could have been when compared to the Tomb Raider that is.

The key, I think, is that "ought" criticism should never be turned against the devs, like happened with Mass Effect.  In Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics made their decisions, which produced a game that was mostly fun, disjointed in places, and ultimately forgettable.  But my hope is that "ought" criticism can be used properly as incentive for new things to try on the next go round, either by the actual devs, or by someone looking to do better.  I can't create the next Tomb Raider, but maybe my ideas can intrigue someone who can.

And, I'm sorry this has turned into a long three-part response, but I wonder how the malleability of software affects and encourages the Mass Effect response.  There's a sense of permanence in literature, fine art, or film, and updating or modifying your creation is still unusual, despite George Lucas's best attempts.  In software, though, updates are built into the equation, version 1.x, and if you can fix a bug or exploit, why can't you fix a lousy ending?
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Jonathan Holmberg

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Remember when Roger Ebert was alive and made claims that video games don't qualify as art?  He was wrong.  I was happy to debate the issue when he broached the subject, but I never understood those people who would pick fights with him about it.  It was like they didn't trust their own position, and had to validate it by goading Ebert into a discussion he didn't really want to have.

I feel like this boycott on the Ender's Game movie is the same situation.  Unless there was some homophobic or racist incident in the production, distribution, or marketing of the movie, why was this fight necessary?  As Harrison Ford said, Orson Scott Card is wrong; he's lost.  What do you gain by picking a fight with him?

In fact, might this fight not actually be helping to bolster and support the opposition?  If an anti-gay organization had come out and claimed that Ender's Game promotes their agenda, we would have looked at them like they were idiots.  But now that some in the LGBT community have staked a claim here, the opposition have a battlefield on which to defend their views and garner support.  

It seems to me that progressive movements are at their most effective when they believe in the natural right of their view, and focus on defending against attacks from their opponents.  You don't need to go on the offense when your view is natural and right.  You don't need to take every opportunity to show the uppity bigots that they're wrong; it's simply assumed that they are.
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In his circles
65 people
Have him in circles
247 people
Samuel Rutter's profile photo
Josh T Jordan's profile photo
John Adams's profile photo
Michael Santomauro's profile photo
Leif Erik Furmyr's profile photo
Elite Gaming Computers's profile photo
David Brawley's profile photo
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StingRay
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  • Colorado State University
    English:Writing/Philosophy:Religion, 2008 - present
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