Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 21
Fireworks and finger gymnastics

Portable gamer - Santa Fe

Note: We're vacationing in Santa Fe, New Mexico this week, and I'm spending part of my free time playing a slew of recent portable games on the iPhone, DS, and PSP. Please don't look for any hard analysis in these little missives. I'm doing them just for fun. :-)

I'll get to the games in a second, but first a few wise words from a local resident.

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time--like to have a friend takes time.

Nothing is less real than realism...Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.

I saw these phrases written on a museum wall today, and I couldn't help applying them to both my own work and my hopes for how we play and make video games. Georgia O'Keeffe defined her life and vision as an artist by relying on these two principles. They served her well.

I realized today that I've been unconsciously tracing the steps of Georgia O'Keeffe for most of my adult life. She was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, where I've spent part of every summer since 1998. In the '20s she and husband Alfred Stieglitz shared an apartment in Manhattan only a few blocks from where I lived in grad school. Her paintings, particularly those inspired by her deep love of the American West, figured prominently in my master's thesis research. Her Ram's Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills is burned into my memory like no other painting I've seen. And here I am writing these words a stone's throw away from the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in the city she loved and where she died at the age of 98.

Raymond Chandler would have described Santa Fe as lousy with artists. We met a man named Milton who makes some of the finest custom hats in the world. We met a sculptor named Heidi who specializes in smoke fired porcelain. She welcomed Zoe into her shop full of expensive, breakable works and gave her a small ball of clay to play with. Cormac McCarthy lives here; so did Douglas Adams before he died. Despite a population of less than 100,000, Santa Fe has nine museums, dozens of galleries, a renowned opera company, several dance companies, and a wide variety of ensembles.

The sky here is blue like no blue I've ever seen. The horizon stretches forever. We woke up this morning to a thin blanket of snow. By afternoon we were walking comfortably on the plaza without jackets. And then there's the food. Sachin Agarwal sent me a tweet about the "best green chile omelet on earth." Guess what? He was right.

What's all this blather about Santa Fe? Where's the game stuff? Oh. Right. Well, I played Rolando (iPhone) on the plane coming out here. It's cute and fun, but I still have doubts about using my finger as an input device for games that require precise movement and timing. Rolando is mostly about tilting the iPhone, which works well, but when I must touch the screen (thus also obscuring the screen), it feels awkward and unwieldy to me. The game shares some strong similarities with LocoRoco (PSP), but suffers in comparison, especially in terms of control. Nevertheless, I love Rolando's offbeat storybook art style, which looks terrific on the iPhone.

I've also been playing Crisis Core (PSP) and enjoying it far more than I expected to, but I'll hold off writing more about it until I get deeper into the game. A quick impression: this may be the first Final Fantasy game I'll play to the end without slogging. We'll see.

Sorry I didn't do so well with the games today. I'll do better tomorrow.