Gabriel had Kara call me to say he wouldn’t be in the office to do the strip, a tactic that showed wisdom on his part, because if he’d talked to me himself I would have told him to put his big girl pants on. We’d written the strip already, so we were halfway there. It was far, far, far outside his comfort level, but I asked Kiko to execute the strip visually. He excelled - but, then again, he is Kiko.
We were surprised to learn that there are readers who enjoyed the annual We’re Right Awards. They were created to provide us with something akin to a vacation over the holidays, as they don’t require the kind of writing we normally do. They are essentially bulleted lists. And since we had created them as a kind of scam, eventually we began to feel guilty about doing them. But it’s back: a limited engagement, for one night only. Savor it (to the extent that any flavor remains in the concept).
It’s got to be disheartening to others doing work in the medium. It’s probably got to be disheartening to other people at Valve. We’re talking about a game that can be completed in only a couple hours, has no multiplayer, and no replayability for a person without OCD. I’d already played Half-Life 2 and Episode One, so they were just garnish - foliage designed to give the plate composition. Team Fortress 2 never stuck for me on the console. In Episode Two, all of the guns just shoot regular old bullets, which honestly I’m kind of over. That puts me at sixty dollars for Portal, which is a twenty dollar game. I will happily call the rest a tip.
Game length is always a contentious issue. I remember when Elite Force came out, and people determined that ten hours was too short. As the new round of consoles emerged, eight hours became the norm. For "next generation" titles, starting with Halo 3, we’re clocking around six hours for this level of fidelity. I have no beef with short games that are also good. Bad games which are also short lose points, insult in close proximity to injury, but in the case of Heavenly Sword its brevity is also a sweet mercy, like summer rain.
So, people like to talk about game length, but game length is no indicator of quality. Portal knows how long it is, and it doesn’t try to make itself some other game in order to succeed at retail. As we know well, not every game has six or eight hours of unique ideas - they must be worked over, extrapolated, drawn out to the length a game must be to slot itself into the retail continuum. They are like museum tyrannosaurs, where two or three bones represent prime T-Rex and the rest is wax and plaster of the appropriate shape. Somewhere between what we demand for our money and what they are willing to sell us, gamers, publishers, and retailers have struck some Faustian bargain to the detriment of the medium.
I just got the final amount for Child’s Play, which is… substantial: $1,135,000 in toys and cash. I said it was the final amount, but what we’ve seen in previous years is that this "final amount" climbs considerably after the event is finished. Money comes in from local events or community sites. For some people, the end of the event is an impetus to give. The lists typically stay up, as does the PayPal, and we see people choosing items in July. So as large as that sum is up there, it’s not complete. Recall that this million is heaped upon the other millions we have raised, year over year, creating from nothing an engine of perpetual comfort that has generated $3,324,000 to date. We make Santa Claus a real person with Child’s Play, that is our holy work, and each time we perform this charitable ritual he is real for a longer and longer duration. That is not an exaggeration. That is literally what we do.