Long Read: The Rise and Fall of Milo and Kate

Milo and Kate

Remember Milo and Kate, the infamous tech demo from the original Kinect announcement? You can be sure that everyone who worked at Lionhead under Peter Molyneux does. Over at Polygon, Matt Leone has a fascinating in-depth article about the long development history and DNA of the project. It turns out that Milo has roots in a failed project called Dmitri that began all the way back in 2001. Milo is still a sore subject at Lionhead, so a lot of the quotes are off the record, but the article is definitely still worth a read if you’re interested in some of the behind-the-scenes goings on at a game developer.

Molyneux definitely has a long, strange history in game development; in the early years, before Lionhead and Microsoft, it seemed like he could do no wrong. I never played Black and White or any of his early games like Populous, but I remember people raving about them at the time. At Lionhead, Molyneux became known for games like Fable, which over-promised and under-delivered but still sold well enough to produce sequels. That tendency towards over-promising weird, ambitious gameplay mechanics eventually became the inspiration for parody. However, I do think there is something admirable in Molyneux’s desire to find new ways to approach games; I just get the impression that never meshed very well with the business concerns of a large corporation like Microsoft or with the realities of the modern-day console development cycle.

Have any of you ever played Molyneux’s early work? Are you looking forward to whatever crazy idea he comes up with next? Let us know in the comments!

Tomb Raider’s Rhianna Pratchett Interviewed at The PA Report

Tomb Raider

Today at Penny Arcade Report, Ben Kuchera interviews Rhianna Pratchett, writer of the Tomb Raider reboot (and daughter of British national treasure Terry Pratchett). In the first part of the interview, they discuss the controversy surrounding the game’s PR blunders as well as Pratchett’s personal history with the Tomb Raider franchise and her approach to rebooting the game.

I especially liked her response to a question about how the reveal that she was the head writer affected perception of the game’s content:

It’s not fine because I’m a woman. It’s fine because we approached it with the right creative sentiments. It was an honest scene for those characters and that moment. It wasn’t done for titillation. It wasn’t prolonged. It was uncomfortable because it should be uncomfortable.

I played through the first two hours of Tomb Raider last night, including the controversial moment that caused so much furor, and I can attest to the fact that in context the scene isn’t at all played for titillation. The game is definitely intense and occasionally brutal – the first time Lara died, I cringed – but it’s all done in service to some of the best game writing and pacing I’ve experienced in a very long time. My heart was pounding for most of those first two hours, and it wasn’t because I was trying to “protect a woman”.

How about you? Did anyone else pick up Tomb Raider? Have you played through the controversial part of the game?

Borderlands 2: A Tiny Bit Racist?

Tiny Tina

Over the weekend, an argument/discussion broke out on Twitter between Anthony Burch, lead writer for Borderlands 2, and Mike Sacco, a (now former) game designer at Cryptozoic, about Borderlands 2’s Tiny Tina, a character that Sacco felt was “problematic”. Kotaku has the run-down, but, as always, don’t read the comments section unless you feel like bleaching out your brain afterwards. Sacco wasn’t fired for starting the discussion, but when Cryptozoic asked him to disassociate himself from the company online and stop talking about Tiny Tina, he didn’t think the second requirement was appropriate, so he quit.

Sacco’s main concern was that Tiny Tina is white but uses what he considers “urban” slang. When I heard that, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it, especially because Sacco insists that the character is “actively racist” for using slang terms like “crunk” and “badonkadonk” that have been common in pop culture for decades. Now, it’s obviously true that there are slang terms that are off-limits to white people; for example, one of my favorite songs by A Tribe Called Quest has a chorus I can’t sing along with. However, while it’s completely understandable why a loaded slur would be off-limits, it’s think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that goofy slang terms without negative connotations should also be off-limits.

Continue reading Borderlands 2: A Tiny Bit Racist?

Polygon: “Video games don’t create violence in society, they reflect it”


Polygon is a fairly recent addition to the world of gaming journalism, but they’re already doing an excellent job of posting thoughtful, well-written reporting. Since it’s “Did You See This” Wednesday, I thought I’d point you towards one of Brian Crecente’s recent posts on the subject of video game violence where he argues that video games reflect the violence in society and not the other way around.

Whenever another mass shooting happens in America, one of the first subjects brought up in the media is whether or not the shooter liked playing violent video games. Of course, studies have shown that “there is no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth“. So why, then, do we continue returning to the subject of video game violence as an explanation for real-world violence?

Continue reading Polygon: “Video games don’t create violence in society, they reflect it”