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Good Game episode 1

This is what I've been working on for the past 2 weeks. After creating a survey for the smash community to address the Brawl vs. Melee issue, I started this video series to present the results. 


I'm planning on releasing an episode or two every week. If you wan to contribute in any way and you don't know enough about smash, I plan on covering other topics in the near future. Just hang tight. 


Here's the script. 


Good Game ep.1: Video games Are Complicated

Video games are complicated. *Insert table visual of pong* And the further away we evolve from PONG the more complicated things get. Nowadays there are so many interesting and complex controllers, mechanics, dynamics, level elements, enemies, and bosses that I could spend hours talking about each group let alone the emergent combinations of these elements. But perhaps that’s another show. Today, I’m here to get to the bottom of another issue that I’ve had for some time. The one thing harder than playing video games is talking about them.

*camera change*

I’ve been listening to the discourse on video games since the days of SNES and Nintendo Power. *Show an issue of Nintendo power from way back when* I remember talking about upcoming games like Donkey Kong Country or Smash 64 with the neighborhood kids at the bus stop. Since then and the rise of the internet, the overall quality of our gaming conversations hasn’t improved enough. In my experience reading the Neo Gaf forums *use DSi screen*, 1up boards, conversations with friends/indie developers/and game testers, and listening to gaming podcasts, G4, and big time game developers *use laptop screen for*, we could really use a common vocabulary to discuss gaming.  Old blue here *hold up old blue dictionary* simply won’t do.

*transition scene to the white board*

Coherent communication is the goal. Our gaming language is the problem. Now, this is not to say that everyone who talks about video games is a bumbling, nonsensical, communicator. *draw a FUUU guy on thew white board*  I’m quite convinced that there are a lot of us that really know what we’re talking about. Jesper Juul and David Sirlin *hold up playing to win book* are two well known game writers that gave me a kick start to launch my own blog. By the way, you can find all the links to everything discussed in the show on the youtube page. So because this dictionary *use blue dictionary* wasn’t good enough, I’ve pull together a gaming glossary with over 285 terms.

Yes, Video games are complicated. Yet I’ve always wanted to be able to explain just how complicated they are in great detail. How else am I supposed to compare one complicated game to another? So I spent 2 1/2 years writing for my blog breaking down every gaming concept I could think of *use I MOVIE CREDITS card to list of gaming topics covered on critical-gaming* developing a clear language as I went along. Why do we need a clear language? Well, for one thing language gives us the power to name, distinguish, and understand the world around us. And for 2... well.. check this out *pull out the rubix cube* Having the language lets us look at things from more angles. So instead of saying this cube here is completely solved, we can explain that it only appears to be so from one perspective and that when you take other sides into account the truth is revealed.

*change the camera angle*

Good Game is a webseries that is in part a video presentation of my blog. Paying homage to two great television shows Good Eats *show the book* and Myth Busters *show them on the laptop*, the idea is to educate and entertain as efficiently as possible.

For the first set of webisodes, I want to look at the language we already use to talk about games. So I decided to start at home by looking into the Super Smash Brothers community. One of my basic beliefs going into this investigation is that gamers tend to have really good instincts even if they can’t explain or express their ideas well. My reasoning? Because video games are so complicated, the amount of time gamers put into the games they love develops a strong intuitive understanding of the game. Hopefully, just by introducing the right terms and ideas, we can all get “on the same page” quickly and painlessly. Ie. without sustaining the 2nd degree burns of a flame war.

*scene freeze and text*
  • Brawl vs. Melee will probably always exist, and I find there's no real point to the debate and I normally stay far away from threads like it. C-
  • I hope you don't start too many flame wars in your quest for understanding. P-

Speaking of flame war, my investigation stirred up one of the most debated and heated topics in the Smash community. Super Smash Brothers Brawl versus Super Smash Brothers Melee or if you prefer Melee vs Brawl. *hold up both combinations of game cases* But rather than start up a thread on the  forums and watch the conflagration erupt, I redirected volunteers to this survey.  *Show laptop* This survey is where all the Smash related quotes come from. I’m keeping the identities of the submitters anonymous.
  • Brawl game play is just boring. Hard for me to say exactly why. F
  •  For some reason I just find Brawl more fun. P

*move the scene with the TV and Brawl rolling*

Even if you don’t play smash, Good Game will give you new ways to think and new terms to use when talking about any fighting game. And if you aren’t a fan of fighting games, this series will also be good for understanding concepts like balance, skill, and variation more thoroughly. In other words, there’s a lot to learn for everyone.

To start things off easy I’ll cover the following three myths that I extrapolated from the survey results.

*use the white board*

  • Brawl: Party Game . Melee: Competitive Game G-

*Use the white board*

MYTH 1.1 Brawl is not a fighting game but a party game. The thing is, genre classification is a very loose and unofficial thing. In some ways, we’re all free to make a game and new genre to put it in. Furthermore, genres aren’t always given based on a game’s gameplay. If you play a shooter, you expect some kind of shooting action to be the core of the experience. If you play an “adventure” game you can get anything from Monkey Island to Zelda. Adventuring is more of an experience/feeling than it is an action. So even if Brawl is great at parties, it’s best classified as a fighting game just like Guitar Hero or Rock Band is best classified as a music rhythm game. And considering that Brawl and Melee share about 80% of their design, it doesn’t make sense for a Melee player to call Brawl a party game and not call Melee one as well.

This myth is busted.

*Use the white board*
  • if someone wants to play Brawl just for leisure's sake, that's fine. To each his own, I say. But don't try to compare Brawl to Melee on a competitive level. That's a joke. I've already stated my opinion that Brawl is noncompetitive by design, and so far, I see no evidence to contradict this fact. J

MYTH 1.2 Brawl is an uncompetitive game. Brawl uncompetitive? At the risk of sounding too straightforward, Brawl is a video game. The players are what bring the competitive spirit to a game. Any game from Pog, to marbles, to Rock Paper Scissors can be taken competitively *play a match of RPS with a hand on screen* . So there’s no point in trying to deny the thousands of Brawl players that compete at tournaments around the world. Furthermore 2010 MLG has Brawl as a major event. *show MLG website on laptop*

This myth is busted.

  • If I had to say which game is actually better, it would be Melee. Melee is one of the best games of all time. It was a perfect accident. A
  • I'm aware that both Melee and Brawl were not designed for competitive play. Melee being the way it is was a fluke.  B

*Use the white board*
MYTH 1.3, Brawl was intentionally designed not to be competitive. Melee is a perfect accident.  or intentionally designed to remove what made Melee such a great tournament level fighting game while giving less practiced players more of a fighting chance.  

This myth is loaded.

First, I’ll say that authorial intent doesn’t really matter to us. Even if Masahiro Sakurai *use DSi for image of Sakurai* specially said that he hated touranment level Melee players and was going to do everything he could to make us hate his next game (which I have found no statement that even comes close to this), his words would mean nothing. At the end of the day, the game is the game. Brawl is Brawl. And everything we need to determine what kind of game Brawl is, is contained in the game. What a game is, how it works, and how that affects gamers is what counts.

Furthermore, Melee isn’t an accident or a fluke. Games aren’t created by accident. Sure, there are bugs and other unintentional vestiges from the creation process left over in many games. But most of the beloved advanced techniques and other features of Melee’s fighting engine are very intentional. Though I doubt anyone could have anticipated exactly how far the community would push the game, I’m confident the developers knew about the potential. Take it from someone who has been a part of playtesting Nintendo games. They are very strict and meticulous about the whole “debugging” process.

We can actually test and measure Brawl and Melee to see if Brawl is actually “dumbed down” and if so by how much. Getting to the bottom of it all will require looking at both games with the following topics in mind. Skill, Depth vs. Complexity, and Balance. And that sounds like the next 3 webisodes  to me. Don’t forget to subscribe and “like” the video. More importantly, share it with any and everyone you have video game conversations with. From here, we’re going real in depth. By the end of it all, you’ll have new tools to bat back the flames, end wars, and reach conclusions that’s worthy of a GG.
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Reader Comments (5)

Good work. Looking forward to more.

July 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan Rosander

@ Bryan

Thanks. I'll do my best to have the next episode out on Tuesday.

This is rather interesting

Actually looking into the dreaded Melee vs Brawl arguments

I'll be sure to keep watching this

July 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTsukune

One thing to note is that many Brawl players will insult Melee without ever giving it a chance, and that many Melee players will do the same to Brawl. Melee players will talk crap about the Brawl metagame for days without ever really understanding it. I'm guilty of this too. But what it comes down to is, like you said, gamers have good instincts but are bad with language. People don't hate Brawl because it is more or less competitive than Melee, they hate Brawl because it's slow and feels clunky and limited when compared to Melee. It's simply not fun to go from the freedom of movement and vast number of options that someone who plays Melee at an average level has to what Brawl gives you. This goes beyond wavedashing, and goes down to the core of floaty movement, slow jumps, terrible dashes/no dash dancing (and tripping to an extent), and much more powerful shielding and defensive options. It may be just as hard to get good at Brawl, I wouldn't know, I haven't tried, but the simple fact is that it feels limited to Melee players, at least myself and everyone I play with. And being limited isn't fun.

August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCABC


That is a very well articulated response. I'm glad you shared it.

It's impossible to please everyone. Some Smash64 fans disliked the changes to Melee. Many many fans dislike the changes to Brawl. And very few fans are just happy with everything.

For all the reasons you explained, I completely understand why game series tend to be very similar and stick with what works. People love the idea of change, sometimes, but they also want things to be mostly familiar. What a difficult line to walk for a developer.

For me personally, I love the new floaty fall speed, slower jumps, and more limited dash. I know I like a different balance of freedom-limitations than some.

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