Why do so few video games have truly great stories? We have some suggestions for developers and share some of our favorites. Plus: Roger Ebert breaks our hearts, and Chi and Tim finally have a reason to talk about Wing Commander. Brad is thrilled! Featuring Chi Kong Lui, Brad "Likely Going To Hell" Gallaway, Richard Naik, and Tim Spaeth.

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Tim Spaeth

Tim Spaeth

Cleveland native Tim Spaeth grew up in a happy household – a household with a father whose major client happened to be an Atari games distributor. This led directly to Tim's first nickname: "The kid who got Atari games before anyone else." Indeed, he knew Pac-Man and E.T. were colossal bombs weeks before the rest of the world, and the resulting celebrity brought him great pleasure.

Through the years every aspect of Tim's life has been touched by gaming. He mastered typing thanks to Space Quest, honed his poker skills on The Sierra Network, and learned to hate after a particularly traumatic game of Tecmo Super Bowl.

Today, Tim lives in Chicago with his three kids and strives to find that perfect balance between family, career, and Warcraft. He enjoys broadcasting, martial arts, rock and roll, growing and shaving his beard, singing show tunes to the homeless, and losing at Mario Kart to his lovely, talented, and amazing girlfriend.

In late 2008, Tim became the producer and host of the GameCritics.com Podcast, and he's thrilled to be bringing GameCritics' unique editorial voice to a brand new medium.
Tim Spaeth

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22 Comments on "GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 33: Roger Ebert Again and Games with Great Storytelling"

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Odofakyodo
Guest
I would say newpapers are art. They are deliberate arranging of elements in order to convey information. Nowadays newspapers are pretty advanced in their layouts and use techniques to provide the reader with information in an efficient and user-friendly way. I would also say that advertisements and branding are art. Andy Warhol comes to mind. Graphic/web designers use many “traditional” visual principles (color theory, etc.) – I would definitely say they are creating art. So I agree with KC and Chi here in that art is (or should be) a pretty well-defined concept, and it is broad. What is “good”… Read more »
KCalder
Guest
I may have come off a _little_ strong on the issue of people that hate gamers and gaming, heh. I don’t think it’s on anywhere near the same scale or seriousness as major prejudices out there. The most you’re likely to get from anyone is polite disdain, as with Ebert. Even so, some people do hate video gaming, the same way some hate gambling, or subversive music, or drugs – they do perceive them as harmful or wasteful, and they do have a much narrower, more stereotypical view of what a videogame is than you do. I mostly wanted to… Read more »
Li-Ion
Guest
[quote=Chi Kong Lui]I think one could make a strong case that atheletes are incredibly expressive with their bodies and often a beautiful sight to behold. That’s why stylized punching and kicking is called martial arts.[/quote] That’s actually an interesting one. I don’t know the exact terminology in English, but in German we differentiate martial arts and combat sports in that way, that combat sports are competitive and have a strict rule system, to determine the winner of a contest of martial proficiency. Martial arts on the other hand have an important philosophical component. It is more than two dudes dishing… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
Guest
[quote=Li-Ion][quote=KCalder]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art “A vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas.”[/quote] Thus newspapers are art? Sorry, but I don’t agree with the wikipedia article. The definition of art can be watered down to a degree, where my breakfast can be considered art, since it invokes an emotional response in me.[/quote] To a degree, yes or at least that’s what conceptual artists like Marcel Duchamp made a case for. What differentiates “good” and “bad” art is artist intent and how much thought is put into the expression. [quote=Li-Ion][quote]Games can do it. Ebert is incorrect in his opinion that they can’t.… Read more »
Li-Ion
Guest
[quote=KCalder]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art “A vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas.”[/quote] Thus newspapers are art? Sorry, but I don’t agree with the wikipedia article. The definition of art can be watered down to a degree, where my breakfast can be considered art, since it invokes an emotional response in me. [quote]Games can do it. Ebert is incorrect in his opinion that they can’t. Yes, it should matter to gamers that a pillar of popular culture denigrates their community.[/quote] Does it denigrate football or ice hockey if I write an open letter, claiming football and ice hockey are no art?… Read more »
game lit != film
Guest
first time listener, long time reader. loved the podcast. felt like i was sitting around listening to friends talk. liked the caj. re: storytelling. hey, what about Beyond Good and Evil? Ace characters, rich and human, and the political story rolls out delightfully through NPC interactions. or Summoner? the midgame loss of vendors and townsfolk made me feel the destructive power of war better than any documentary or any goya. “but, but, my upgrades…” someone mentioned games based on novels as a winning formula. made me think of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. SoC. despite its many flaws, i really enjoyed it because of… Read more »
crackajack
Guest
[quote=KCalder]Many of them do think video gaming is nothing but a mindless, embarrassing waste of time that they would happily eliminate if they could. Crazy Australian and German anti-gaming legislation did not come from nowhere. This opinion has a large community if you check around – and that community hates you. [/quote] Can only partly agree with that. Many non-gamers think it’s a waste of time, but they don’t hate you for that hobby and they don’t want to eliminate it. That’s just some populist politicians, the Bild-“newspaper” and some conservative people who believe that propaganda and want some scapegoats… Read more »
KCalder
Guest
Can’t agree with Yahtzee and anyone else who waffles on the definition of art with statements like ‘oh it varies completely from person to person,’ ‘art can be in nature,’ ‘the artist doesn’t matter to the viewer’ etc. Art is a very specific concept. People may have trouble describing it, but they don’t have trouble recognizing it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art “A vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas.” Games can do it. Ebert is incorrect in his opinion that they can’t. Yes, it should matter to gamers that a pillar of popular culture denigrates their community. Talk to some… Read more »
crackajack
Guest

[quote=Ben]…comments on how old people just need to die when the man himself has been, and most likely still is, close to death?…[/quote]
That was definitely not aimed at him in personal. It’s just a fact that old, conservative viewpoints die with old generations that pass away.
They also said they will maybe become that old generation.

Ben
Guest
First time listening to this podcast and while it was great to hear interesting subject matter discussed, I was a bit disappointed in the crass handling of the first segment on Ebert. I mean, jokes about his inability to speak and comments on how old people just need to die when the man himself has been, and most likely still is, close to death? This is just inappropriate no matter how much you disagree with a person. Even so, I am surprised no one touched on his quite, in my view, antiquated definition of what a game is. He, most… Read more »
Li-Ion
Guest
Hello Chi! [quote=Chi Kong Lui]If people are standing up for something they believe is right, does that make them insecure? The problem here is that Ebert is not some evangelical nut job that can be ignored. Ebert is an internationally known and well-respected mainstream film critic and his comments were way out of character and potentially damaging to those who care about games as art.[/quote] Yes, but making a lame joke about his ability to speak on the podcast doesn’t prove your point, nor does it invalidate his. I don’t know what is more damaging: that Ebert said what he… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
Guest
[quote=Li-Ion]I almost stopped listening the podcast after 10 minutes this time. Yeah, Ebert is a grumpy old man and all, but is it _really_ necessary to bash him for a good 15 minutes?[/quote] Hey Li-ion, looking back at the segment, which believe it or not, we tried to keep it short compared to the length of our regular discussions, I personally thought we expressed more shock and dismay due to our respect/admiration for Ebert as a film critic. I’m not sure what we said would qualify as “bashing,” but I think we all were trying to make sense of the… Read more »
Li-Ion
Guest
I almost stopped listening the podcast after 10 minutes this time. Yeah, Ebert is a grumpy old man and all, but is it _really_ necessary to bash him for a good 15 minutes? I noticed bad cases of Pavlov’s reflexes in plenty of gamer blogs and websites. But I really hoped your response would be more calm and considerate. Even Yahtzee found a rather modest response and wrote some interesting things, like: “It speaks more to your own insecurity than their obvious ignorance. It puts me in mind of evangelism. A religious person will (generally) never, ever convince an atheist… Read more »
Zolos
Guest
I listened to the podcast a while ago but i did not want to post a comment until after i had read Ebert’s article/post. To be honest before i read it i thought the guy had used some very insulting comments. After reading it though it seems that the backlash and most counter articles are the ones that have taken to insults. I agree that for someone to be able to judge whether a form of medium is art or not he/she at least needs to experience it. That’s where i think Ebert’s biggest weakness lies. Not that i think… Read more »
Brad Gallaway
Guest

Coyls> You know, I actually had a comment about FFX, specifically Wakka, but the convo moved on and i forgot about it. There’s always a dozen things you ‘D’oh!’ over after the recording stops…

Tim Spaeth
Guest

There are a lot of things I regret about this episode, but the lack of recognition for Tim Schafer, Ron Gilbert, Roberta Williams, Jane Jensen, Al Lowe, and the other legendary adventure game creators of yore is, no question, an egregious and embarrassing omission. We’ve thrown much love to The Longest Journey but considering how much time I spent with its spiritual predecessors, I’m frankly stunned at myself for not mentioning them. Bad host. Bad!

Brand
Guest
You guys picked some good choices for stories, but there was one name I was surprised to see left off the list. Tim Schafer. I only mention him because, as a game developer, I always looked up to him. He was my favorite of the game gods. Everything he does is steeped in character, decent plots, and great emotion. If the question of “games as art” is in play, this is a huge name to drop. Think about Manny from Grim Fandango. He was an incredibly simple polygonal character, but still displayed a huge range of emotion. Consider also Full… Read more »
coyls3
Guest

I was kind of disappointed that Brad didn’t come to the defense of FFX when Chi and Tim were bashing Final Fantasy.

Gamevet
Guest

I’m not surprised by Ebert’s stance on the subject; He always was an ass to the opinions of Siskel, even if they were valid. I’ve viewed Ebert’s opinions as being very self-centered, no matter how solid the counter-points were. I was rather shocked when he had an approving view of The Phantom Menace, even though its substance didn’t fit into his normal critique of films.

Chi Kong Lui
Guest

[quote=coyls3]why did y’all remove the sound player? Don’t really want to download it. sigh![/quote] It looks like Google’s audio player is down. I’ll look for an alternative.

coyls3
Guest

why did y’all remove the sound player? Don’t really want to download it. sigh!

Greg
Guest
Another game worth mentioning guys, is Silent Hill 2. Some iffy dialogue and voice acting hasn’t diminished its strengths over the years and I believe it deserves a place along side (perhaps in between) Bioshock and Ico. It also brings to mind the use of sound to support a story without overwhelming it. Not without its flaws, but I wanted to toss it into the mix despite them. Silent Hill 1 and Shattered Memories make for an interesting case as well. I agree with you guys in regards to Roger Ebert, BTW. The burbling was insensitive however. I wonder what… Read more »
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