Portal: the movie?

(via Reddit) According to Polygon.com, J.J. Abrams is in talks with Gabe Newell about making movies about Portal and/or Half Life.  This conversation took place during a Keynote talk about storytelling across platforms at the 2013 DICE summit, which before today is a thing I didn't know existed.  That talk took place today, and isn't up online yet.  I'm looking forward to seeing it.

My first thought when I read that Portal might be a movie was "No way."  I'm a little embarrassed that I had that reactionary response, because it's not fair -- the response under it, the thing that makes sense to me, is "How the hell would you make a movie out of Portal?  It's such a game."  The medium of the game, specifically the game, Portal, not just the medium of 'games,' tells the story of Portal better than any other way I can imagine, because the story was written specifically to fit the game, not the other way around.

Obviously, there's a huge difference between "I don't know how this could be done" and "This shouldn't be done."  I think it definitely should, if J.J. Abrams is on board and Valve is fully involved.  These are people with a real interest, investment and history in demanding more of their chosen media, and a Portal movie might be an avenue into new revelations for both games and film.

Or, I mean, they could make the Half Life movie instead.

Arcades are coming back, with a new target audience

(via Wil Wheaton on Tumblr) ArsTechnica has a new article on arcades, The surprising, stealth rebirth of the American Arcade.  The nostalgia factor is helping, but it's coming back on a lot more than just the memories of Baby Boomers -- there's a real appeal that the arcade has found a niche in, that home consoles apparently just can't satisfy, no matter how shiny the controllers are.

After a while they've played all the games... but if it's a place they know they can get as good a beer as any place in the city and [also] play games, then that's what makes it stand out."

That doesn't mean Emporium's customers treat the games as an afterthought to the alcohol, though. "We could be completely full to capacity and all of our tables will be open—no one is at the tables because everyone is out playing games," Marks said. "Any other bar I've ever been to in my life, the tables are the prime real estate, not the games.

But it;s not all bars -- ZAP Arcade in Jordan, Minnesota was opened for kids, not adults.

"There's really nothing for youth there. There's a water tower, a lake, a creek... it's small. That was really our intention when we opened, to be a safe resource for kids, to offer something in the community that was just sort of cheap fun."

The article makes a solid case for the business model of arcades, which seem to have a solid consumer base, even with the high-graphics, super-complicated games you can have in your home. Classic arcade games are simpler, have more replay value, are often more challenging, and the arcade environment makes for a better social play experience.

"The last time I played Modern Warfare on Xbox Live, I stopped playing because I was tired of hearing these immature rants," he said. "We have people playing each other face to face in our bar, they're high fiving, they're congratulatory, they're respectful, they're having a good time. When you play online, you just want to scream sometimes. [The arcade] is just a better experience."


Jane McGonigal: Life-giving games



Now that I've got that out of my system.

I remember, when I was reading "Reality Is Broken," the chapter when Jane McGonigal discusses "Super Better," the game she invented to help her through the depression and recovery after a serious injury.  I don't remember, at the time, making the connection between my own depression and the variety of illnesses that other people are using Super Better to get through.

I don't know.  Maybe I did think of it.  There was a lot in that book that made me think, "There it is!  The solution to everything!"

In McGonigal's new TED talk, she points out, much more straightforwardly, that the tools she developed are a framework for improving one's life, in exactly the sort of way that everyone, not just people suffering from serious illness, can benefit from.

It's a little embarrassing, actually, to realize that I didn't make this connection in the first place.  The central theme of "Reality Is Broken" is positive psychology -- using science, psychology, analysis, and especially gamification, to move upwards from a neutral point and make life better, rather than just focusing on alleviating suffering and reducing exposure to unpleasant experiences.

The talk is great.  You should watch it.  You should also watch her other TED talk, which is more broadly about how gaming can make the world a better place, and read her book, Reality Is Broken, which is about using game style mechanisms to make everything better.