Burning Man, from above

The technology of naps

A kinder, gentler kill: My Slate column on “stealth” games

Slate just published my latest gaming column, which is about the rise of “stealth” games. I ponder how the idea of sneaking around and avoiding conflict changes the gameplay, aesthetics, and implied morality of an otherwise violent game. At one point, I shove the needle on the Pseud-O-Meter into the red zone by namechecking some big thinkers:

Philosophers from Machiavelli to Hegel have pointed out that the weak must always pay nervous attention to the behavior of the powerful. That psychology is precisely what makes stealth gaming so gripping: You’re always fretfully observing your opponents. To get past a guard, you might spend five minutes just standing there, stock-still, spying on him to figure out his movements, the better to creep by. The upshot is that you feel like a minor character in a play, eavesdropping on conversations as you attempt to unravel Thief’s intrigues. (The enemy characters scheme and backbite with positively Elizabethan glee.) It’s like a video game designed by Carol Gilligan: You have pay attention to relationships and monitor everyone’s feelings.

You can read the entire thing on Slate for free, and, as always, if you have any comments to share, feel free to post ‘em Slate’s discussion area The Fray — where intelligent conversation is always appreciated!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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