Friday, April 1, 2011

Goodplays? Goodgames? GoodTimeSink?

I'm nearing the "end" of the videogame Resonance of Fate (quotation marks in place to note that between Achievements, New Game +, downloadable content and bonus dungeons, the "end" of a videogame has become a more tenuous concept in modern time). Since I have always been one to not just count my chickens before they hatch but also buy my BBQ sauce for chicken wings before I bother to buy my eggs (Yes, I'm a vegetarian. It's a metaphor. A bad metaphor.), I've already started mentally composing my retrospective.

One of the game's detracting points is that it lacks a gripping story, which is usually one of the attractions of its subgenre, the distinctly Japanese roleplaying game (JRPG). Musing on that line of thought brought me to think about JRPGs that DID have good stories. And as I tried to dig through the ethers of gaming's yesteryear, I came to a surprising realization (and the actual main point of today's post):

There's no videogame equivalent of Goodreads.

Goodreads, for those uninitiated, is one of many such internet services dedicated towards archiving book lists. You enter the the name of the book, give it a rating and optional review, and add it to "your ever expanding list." You can browse the reviews of others, compare books with your friends, and keep track of your own literary endeavors. Considering I'm a person who kept a database of the books he read long before he even had internet access, I have found the feature extremely useful for cataloguing, preserving, and generating general bragging rights.

(Incidentally, in case this application sounds useful to anyone, send me a message and I'll hook you up. While I have a built-in disdain for Facebook's "pleeeeease add me" mentality, I'm way too much of a book geek to allow that to get in the way of a good ol' book list sharing.)

Now, what I would like to see (and I'm a little surprised that preliminary Google searches didn't turn up anything) is the exact same thing, but for videogames. Make it happen, somebody.

To tie this to a more scholarly discussion, in Lev Manovich's The Language of New Media, (one of the seminal works in the discipline) he makes a lot out of his binary opposition of narrative and database. Essentially, he says, we're shifting from a narrative-focus to a database-focus, and our use of new media reflects this shift. Goodreads makes an interesting case, as a site devoted to creating archival lists out of narratives. But in general, I have to disagree. The main difference between a database and a narrative, in my mind, is that the latter has a subjective scope. But any access of a database, and any creation of an database, is ultimately a selection, and any time a person makes a selection, any time they choose something and disregard something else, some sort of narrative activity has taken place.

I've got more thoughts on this subject, but I think that's enough for now. Again: Goodreads for videogames. Make it so.

Later Days.

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