Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Look Over There

Costik made it perfectly clear that discussing the Rockstar v. LA case would be irritating. So I was forced to jettison several hundred words that, honestly, were irritating.

It would really help
if I had an actual topic list for this blog. Maybe I'll get around to that. Sometime when I'm not being worked to death in a QA department. Every day we take the canary into the playtesting mines and sew hundreds of soccerball bugs, harvesting glitches like plucking saffron. Or something. Most likely when the next Round Table kicks off.

You really should go over and check out some abandonware sites. I suggest a point-and-click adventure chockful of juvenile sexual innuendo. Those games really come into their own with age. Open one up, but let it breathe a bit.

There really are some gems there, not just abandonware, but freeware. If I were the type to scoff at Electronic Arts (and sometimes I am) and grow a mohawk (which I can't physically do) and create a counterculture movement dedicated to punk gaming (paming? gunk?), then I'd turn up my nose and say, "See this shit here? This is the real indie shit, the greasy underbelly of gaming, one person or a few people cobbling stuff together in their basement from blood and sourceforge. These people think games are more fun on vinyl. Because they are."

Looking back over the forgotten games of yesteryear . . . I'm struck with the same kind of overwhelming something-ness I get when I root through a used bookstore and stare in wonder at the massive detritus littering the science-fiction section. Lots of passable stuff that because of the fickleness of the market or lack of budget or delay just never took off. Maybe a few really great games that were overlooked due to the vagaries of fate. A whole plethora of garbage, though, that's for sure.

So it goes.

If you look long upon the vast sea of forgotten/never-known games, you might perchance wonder at who will attempt to preserve this legacy for the future?

Libraries have begun to take an interest in games (beyond the usual dingy rack filled with falcon 2.0 and Jazz Jackrabbit) to reasonable success, even though they focus on modern fare. Support from them is unsurprising, really -- when I worked for the UGA Library system I saw nothing but respect for the preservation of information, no matter what the form or content. An admirable trait that I feel has not always been transmitted well through greater culture. I'm certain their inability to keep large video game collections is a result of their meager budgets (the reason for keeping funding low is, I suppose, that there is no money in them).

They also face the problem that they simply can't stock the hardware necessary to run a large back catalog of software. This seems an even trickier prospect than converting wax cylinder music into a digital format.

There also exist vast private collections, some enshrined, others well-played. But those materials are rarely available for public use. Sometimes not for any use at all, so as not to affect the resale value. A practice which has always been both understandable and insane -- like buying an authentic Hendrix ax without ever playing it. Why would you? Why wouldn't you?

Perhaps someday soon a posterity-minded game geek will donate an extensive collection to the Smithsonian Institution.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Mod Squad

My guestbloggers
exceeded my expectations.

Frankly, there's very little left for me to talk about.

The first full-fledged mod I played was the Aliens: Total Conversion for Doom. Every level, texture and model was crafted so finely that I felt the new age of videogames dawning. I searched the web for the myriad mods I was sure were just begging to be downloaded. I found then the same thing I find now: thousands of unfulfilled announcements, one or two novel gametypes and a whole heap of "realism" mods (isn't this one-trick pony beaten well past liquefaction?).

I have considered the effects of success on the mod community -- a strange kind of quickening, bigger teams, actual budgets, greater assets. This seems to mirror the escalation of the commercial gaming industry. They grow in tandem.

Mods are often made ever more precarious by two factors: distance separating team members and lack of money. That's right, I'm blaming lack of money for the downfall of indie projects.

There is definitely an incentive to cut one's teeth on modding in order to boost a portfolio or touch a sliver of fame, but it's very easy to blow off a project when there's no money involved -- especially if you're, like most people, overworked anyway. And when the team members may be separated by thousands of miles, it can't be too hard to drop them like hot potatoes.

Mods also suffer from a delusion common in the game industry -- the notion that they can just make a game. As if all the boring details of process and management will just slot into place. You can see this all over the gaming boards, people begging for level designers, coders, modelers, gratefully unaware of the rigors and discipline required (and, often, english syntax).

And even if a team and plan are assembled, people may quickly become disillusioned by the notion that working on creating something fun isn't always a fun process.

I've talked on this site about the need for robust, interconnected game-authoring tools. Developers seem to be realizing this more and more, but they still allow certain gaps to exist in order to fit a stereotypical asset-management pipeline.

I found the Hammer editor fairly easy to use -- for 3d level authoring and physics tinkering.

But for everything else it's surprisingly obtuse. Setting up a mod requires fiddling with multiple folders. Making textures requires editing specialized text files. Screen overlays require coding. Scripting an RPG-style interface would demand kung-fu much greater than my own. They threw modders a bone with their special version of XSI, but it would have been great to make a special add-on for an open-source product like Blender. The whole process is just far too fractured.

To really check out a mod that has blown away anything I've seen in the past, check out Garry's Mod.

Modding is seen, and will continue to be seen, as a way for small budget teams to break into the industry, in the same way that indie films are seen as a springboard to Hollywood. I can also see big-budget studios getting into the mod business as a way to supplement their income in off-years by having small teams put out new content rapidly and at more favorable prices for consumers, just like Hollywood studios often run independent film companies.

Budgets will keep increasing at all levels. I'd like to think that large gaming studios will look at the sloppily-run Hollywood model and try to inject some sense into their operation.

But I highly doubt that will happen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Nasty Business

Have been gnawing
on several sociopolitical topics lately. Mostly because I've had no time to actually play games for fun. Or really do anything but work, commute and sleep fitfully.

One topic of contemplation: unions. Does the industry need a general union? Or perhaps several unions split by job type? There's the Communication Workers of America (hat tip to my father).

Not sure whether the game industry needs it -- though I will say that the business model needs overhauling and a strong eye toward its employees.

I really don't know anything about the actual process of unionization, nor the way they do day-to-day business. I'm working on ridding myself of ignorance in that case, but it will take some time.

The second thought is somewhat related, but on a larger scale. Where are the videogame advocacy groups? Where are the nonprofits that send their skilled and game-experienced lawyers into the fray every time Jack Thompson craps a big, dumb lawsuit out of his mouth?

This article over on Gamasutra really set me off on this train of thought. Required reading.

It would be nice to see gamers (of all stripe, video, larper, pnp rpg, board, etc.) recognized by politicians as something other than fodder for overhyped fearmongering leading to unconstitutional legislation.

Again, I don't have the political kung-fu to lay out some kind of warped and twisted gamer's K Street Project and, truth be told, I'd hate to contribute to something that would grow so corrupt and ugly; So that's right out. But there's nothing preventing gamers from being recognized as a politically-influential demographic.

Mastication will continue.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Blowing Off Some Steam - Guestbloggers

A couple of my favorite game blogs
touched on Valve and its distribution software Steam recently. So, in the interest of padding out my posts, I asked for assessments and analyses.

Corvus from Man Bytes Blog:

Steamed About the Growing Pains

There's a lot of hate for Valve and their electronic game portal, Steam. Complaints that you have to be online in order to play, as Steam phones home to Valve and confirms that you're the legitimate owner of the game you're about to play. Many felt they were paying the price for piracy, when it ought to be a Valve issue. No small part of the issue centered around the flakiness of the original Steam service. Even when a user was broadband enabled, the servers responsible for authentication often were too overloaded to give the client software the thumbs up and a user, eager to jump on and connect to another user's machine to play a little Counter Strike, found themselves having to wait... and wait... and wait.

If I recall correctly, the Steam client software itself has also gone through some growing pains. I seem to remember reports that it didn't play so nicely with the rest of the software on the user's computer, resulting in crashes and such.

As far as I'm concerned, none of those concerns are terribly valid. If we want to see developers succeed and bypass the need for Draconian deals with the "evil" publishers, then we have to expect them to take steps to protect their product. With broadband ever more prevalent (the US is now up to 49.7% broadband penetration, according to reports), and the Valve servers sufficiently robust, needing to be online in order to authenticate your right to play, doesn't seem like such a big deal.

As for the Steam client, I've run it under Windows XP Pro and Cegeda under Linux and I've not had any issues with it. My only real complaint (based on my casual use of it thus far) is that neither Steam, nor any of the Half Life games run natively under Linux... but I recognize that as my own issue. Linux support is not, at this time, financially feasible for most developers.

My summation of these issues? Transition is hard and growing pains suck. I'm personally glad that Valve had the resource to forge that ground for us. A smaller, or less known, developer might not have stayed afloat under the pressure of community disapproval that Valve has faced.

Even better, they didn't just forge this new ground for themselves, but they've opened the platform to independent designers. I can imagine that Darwinia developers, Introversion, were thrilled with the exposure and Mark Healy must be thrilled to have Rag Doll Kung Fu in front of so many consumer eyeballs. True, Introversion had to put a hold on selling Darwinia when it had its debut on Steam. But as you can once again buy it off their site, I think we can forgive Valve for trying to make some money for offering the game across their service.

I'm pleased that Valve was as upset about the in-game advertising that appeared on counter Strike servers. I hope it isn't because they plan on finding a way to do it themselves. If they do start streaming ads to third party Counter Strike servers, you can reverse all the generous statements I've made thus far.

Josh, at Cathode Tan, has raised another concern about Valve and their support of mods. He seems to say that Valve's absolute support of the mod community has raised the mod bar and made it all but impossible for the lone modder to create a mod and get it noticed. Given that Valve's real money maker, Counter Strike, was originally a fan mod that Valve bought pretty early one, is indicative of the sort of behavior Josh refers to.

I'm a little torn about this. Quality mods keep Half Life alive and, presumably, will perform the same function for Half Life 2 and the Source engine. Crappy mods, as far as I'm concerned, are noise in the channel. When I go to log onto a server, the last things I want is to find dozens, or even hundreds, of custom mods, hacks, and maps, I need to download before I can find a server with decent ping to play on.

Is it tough to get noticed when you're a dwarf among giants? Sure it is. Is it fair? No. It does mean, however, you have to think faster, worker harder, shout louder, jump higher, and self promote your accomplishments like a carnie barker on meth (potentially redundant, I know). But here's a shocking opinion: there's not anything wrong with that situation. Not one damn thing.

You want to shine? Shine. It doesn't matter what the people around you are doing. If you're any good, someone will notice. For years, modders have asked for better tools, easier tools, more power, more access to the guts of the game. By all accounts, Hammer does just that. Puts the power of the Source engine, physics code and all, right into the modders hands. Of course it takes dedicated, hard working teams, to produce a mod worth mentioning. But you know what? It always did.

Josh from Cathode Tan:

Actually, it seems to me that mods have changed drastically since when I downloaded a mod just to destroy Barney with a BFG. Back then, virtually any little experiment was a novelty and could be guaranteed some air time just for tinkering around with the code. People would start up servers of completely unfinished projects just to playtest new tweaks to gameplay or the occasional weapon mod.

And teams flourished largely because of their creativity. Mods like Action Quake gained noteriety by how much they had altered the gameplay far more than how attractive their models were or the complexity of their maps.

Valve changed all that with Counter-Strike. By essentially purchasing and selling CS, Valve shifted the landscape of modding from purely hobbyist to fairly commercial. And by relying on mod content for many years after that, Valve made it clear that mod work was on the selling block. Mods like Day of Defeat and Natural Selection kept Valve's software as much, if not more, than their original Half-Life. Their close association with the mod teams changed the playing field. Ask anyone who wasn't in Valve's good graces about the code changes they would make just to fix bugs in Counter-Strike...

After that, two things changed. One, people expected mods to be more like commercial products .... because now mods were commercial products. It quickly became necessary for mods to have near pro quality assets. Two, mod teams became far more likely to try and appease market demands. Now instead of doing strange and innovative work, most mod teams were trying to find a "popular" genre to work with.

So in short, when mods were first around ... you got things like Capture The Flag. Now you have a hundred realism clones.

And it's only getting worse. Companies are way more interested in using mod teams to find new talent than gameplay ideas, although they occasionally still steal the latter. Mod teams have exploded in size to keep up with production demands, which adds to the normal industry complications on their projects.

There is still a spectrum. Id hasn't so much abandoned the mod scene as have always maintained a strict distance. They still make fairly robust tools for mod making and release a decent, although somewhat lacking, set of docs and help. What they don't do is endorse projects. Epic has endorsement in the form of things like the Make Something Unreal Contest and an extremely robust toolset. Valve is openly in the market of selling mods. Epic isn't quite there yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if they adopt it more in the future.

And you see more gameplay style mods with Id's and more "commercial game" style mods with Valve.

Of course, there is pro and con here. I've worked with a lot of very young, very talented people and some of them probably wouldn't have jobs in the industry were it not for the kinds of mods people do these days. Course, the big problem is that I haven't seen anything like the Action series or CTF, which fundamentally evolved how shooters play, in many years.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Industry's Jaws Are Crushing Me

Time these days
gushes forth like blood from an arterial wound.

Play the Star Wars: Empire at War demo -- right now. It's fantastic.

The controls weren't as complex as I'd feared. Everything functions smoothly, and there are several refinements that will probably feel necessary in all RTSes to follow. Best thing is the "far-zoom," where pulling out with the mousewheel all the way displays the map completely top-down and gets rid of the interface. Also, the game is pausable, and actual tactical thought becomes necessary, as several squads of squished Rebels would attest to, were they alive to speak (those AT-STs are brutal).

Plus, small bits of base management and a grand strategic map with planets conferring special abilities.

Gamespot sent me an offer to download Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones for 49.99. Sorry, the convenience can be good, but companies are going to have to offer something other than typical prices and no actual property if they expect to shift to the downloadable market.


This is just awesome.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Will The Round Table Be Unbroken

Another mandate
from Corvus "what kind of name is that anyway?" Elrod, in the service of that videogame-related echo chamber known as The Blogs of Ye Olde Rounde Table.

"Barring any hopes and dreams for your own involvement (i.e. No, "I want to publish," or, "Just let me get a job," posts), what would you like to see happen in games, gaming, or the industry this year and what would be the benefits/consequences of it happening?"

My gaming wishes
(not predictions) for 2006:

--Duke Nukem Forever will finally be taken out behind the woodshed and given two shots to the dome, execution-style. The simps waiting in mind-boggling expectation for this treacle will suddenly find themselves whisked from their arrested-adolescence reverie. They will immediately buy Colecovisions in an attempt to rehabilitate their videogame-appreciation muscles.

All but one will fail. That one will hold out for a Daikatana sequel.

--PC Gamer magazine won't repeat the phrase "the graphics look a little dated" approximately 11,000 total times in game reviews throughout the year. Even, inexplicably, when reviewing re-releases of games over 20 years old.

--Nobody will write an article crowing about either (a) the death of Adventure games or (b) the rebirth of Adventure games. I almost wrote a post on (a) at one point. This brings shame upon my family.

--Sony will stop completely fucking up. They'll drop the stupid copy protection horseshit, start looking at alternative revenue streams for their music artists, get a half-decent PS3 dev kit out the door and start showing a few clear ways in which their vaunted Cell processor can improve the experience of gaming instead of blowing more smoke up our collective asses with Killzone fakeouts.

And they'll make a compelling argument for Blu-Ray over DVD-HD to compensate for the higher price point. Or else they're worthless.

--Nintendo will latch onto some great 3rd-party developers instead of tarting up Mario once again and throwing him into a sports game, even though we can be reasonably assured that they will, in fact, tart up Mario and throw him into a sports game; If that's the case, I'd like to see a Super Dodge Ball remake.

We'll see a lot more on how they plan to bring their classic gaming library to the Revolution.

Also, a sequel to Eternal Darkness would be fucking spectacular, and long overdue.

--Gaming magazines will largely ignore the unique advances being made on the outskirts of the industry -- those chaps exploring myriad forms over at Grand Text Auto, for example, or that entrepreneurial git over at Games*Design*Art*Culture or Chris Bateman's demographic game design research -- focusing instead on circle-jerking around Halo 3 screenshots.

Shit, that's not a wish.

Ok, how about this? Gaming magazines will do cover stories on all the aforementioned folks, as well as countless articles on gender issues in gaming, critical theory and game analysis. They'll scour the internet for interesting tidbits and put a much-needed focus away from business-as-usual.

--Guitar Hero will release an Ultimate Collector's Edition, which contains a full-sized touring bus, three skanky groupies (feathered hair and torn jeans!) and twenty ounces of heroin. Also a coupon for five free voice lessons from Axl Rose (don't worry, he's got the time).

--The videogame industry will expand its demographics to better reflect its players. Game diversity will follow suit.

--Spore will demonstrate key elements of procedural asset generation. The techniques will inarguably be useful to other developers, but the game will also have to prove that procedural art on such a large scale can work in a gaming context (and allow players to generate uniquely identifiable creations with which they can connect).

--Someone, somewhere, will realize that there are other, just as interesting, verbs as shoot, reload and kill.

This will result in at least one more game on the level of Shadow of the Colossus.

--SiN will stand up as a decent model for episodic content as well as show off the flexibility of the Half-Life 2 engine. Ritual could set up up a reliable, quick channel for making short games - and could market such a thing to smaller design/dev teams.

And in that vein, Steam will prove the viability of dedicated content-distribution channels. They'll attract more and more independent publishers and continue to improve their initially-broken-but-now-stable launcher.

--G4TechTV will halt their metamorphosis into Spike TV. They'll stop canceling their videogame-related shows willy-nilly and take off those insipid Man Show reruns. But they'll keep Star Trek: The Next Generation.

--Games will come out based on the following wars: The Korean War, World War I, the Banana Wars, the Russian Revolution and the Mongol Conquests. This will make the industry collectively say, "What, there were wars other than World War II?"

--More videogame censorship laws will get passed and almost immediately struck down as unconstitutional. This will cause enough discontent from the wastefulness of creating, then dismantling, such legislation that future attempts will fail right out of the gate.

Jack Thompson will get back to his roots by outing the witches and communists in his midst. He will also point at people while making that noise from the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie.

--SOE will realize how badly they fucked the dog on SW: Galaxies, and they will give the damn thing back to Lucasarts, already. And, if they knew what was good for their image, they'd release the pre-overhaul code and allow free shards to spring up like daisies.

--Uwe Boll will make a movie based on Q-Bert, starring Liam Neeson as Q-Bert , Kylie Minogue as Wrong-Way and Rudy Ray Moore as Coily.

Then Mr. Boll will be eaten by hyenas while waterskiing.


Smash The Whisky Merchants

Billy Sunday

"The saloon is the sum of all villainies. It is worse than war or pestilence. It is the crime of crimes. It is parent of crimes and the mother of sins. It is the appalling source of misery and crime in the land and the principal cause of crime. It is the source of three-fourths of the taxes to support that crime. And to license such an incarnate fiend of hell is the dirtiest, low-down, damnable business on top of this old earth. There is nothing to be compared to it."
-Billy Sunday

"Yes, it is the last cycle. These are murder simulators. Manhunt has been called the video game equivalent of a snuff film. I am working with an Oakland, CA prosecutor in a murder trial in which the older gang members used GTA 3 to train teens to do carjackings and murders. The Army uses these games to break down the inhibition to kill of new recruits.

Look at the Institute for Creative Technologies created by DOD to create these killing games. Tax dollars paid to the industry to create the games to suppress the inhibition to kill, and then the industry turns around and sells these games to kids. One instance is Pandemic Studio's Full Spectrum Warrior. If it works for soldiers, of course it works for teens. The video game industry has absolutely no rebuttal to that argument. NONE."

-Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson wins the 1st Annual Billy Sunday Award for Teetotalling Excellence.

Mr. Thompson's specialty isn't the devil's drink, however, but digital videogames. His intemperance has gotten so severe (we suspect a sublimation of his own unhealthy button-pressing addiction) that he now advocates the ol' Carry Nation treatment for game sellers.

Mr. Thompson's soul-stirring censorial aspirations:

"Additionally, please know that California Civil Code Section 3495 enables and authorizes each and every law enforcement officer to walk into any video game store, without a court order, to seize and destroy each and every copy of 25 to Life. California law treats this as acceptable 'abatement' of a public nuisance by parties particularly endangered by such a nuisance... In the next six days I intend to take to the public airwaves in California, and to use other means, to encourage all law enforcement officers in California to in fact go into video game stores and seize all copies of 25 to Life."

The honorable Mr. Carl Sandburg has a measured response:

"Go ahead and bust all the chairs you want to.
Smash a whole wagon load of furniture at every
performance. Turn sixty somersaults and stand
on your nutty head. If it wasn't for the way
you scare women and kids, I'd feel sorry for
you and pass the hat.

"I like to wash a good four-flusher work but not
when he starts people to puking and calling for
the doctors.

"I like a man that's got guts and can pull off a great
original performance, but you -- hell, you're only
a bughouse peddler of second-hand gospel --
you're only shoving out a phony imitation of
the goods this Jesus guy told us ought to be free
as air and sunlight.

"Sometimes I wonder what sort of pups born from
mongrel bitches there are in the world less
heroic than you."

Thompson's latest ravings courtesy of Joystiq via Cathode Tan.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I Threw Up On the Tilt-a-Whirl

I nearly forgot
to pimp the Carnival of Gamers #10.

I selected my entry so as to be uninteresting and inoffensive, but I'm hoping people might come here, stumble around a bit and bite off a few swallows of something hearty.

The hit numbers certainly speak to the effectiveness of carnivals. The switchboard's lighting up! Two calls!

I noticed that my posting steadily declined as last year wound down. More than the holidays -- that was the effect of the Crunch Time Leviathan.

Thankfully the Leviathan has been banished . . . for now.

No word yet on whether that means I'll post more.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lizard Brain


My previous post concerning the play-habits of our cold-blooded carbon-based brethren received the Chris Bateman treatment over at Only a Game.

I wonder if perhaps I could simply throw out questions and have him write proper posts for this blog.

But I suppose I will try and hold up my end of the conversation.

Also, why would social structures and nurture behaviour be prerequisites for play? Whilst many theories of play provide social benefits to play, there are plenty (including play as learning) which do not.

I'm not sure social structures and nurturing would be mandatory for play, only that play seems much more recognizable and common in those situations.

And social animals seem more inclined to play/learn -- even across species. Which calls to mind certain experiments which squirrels perform upon humans.

Which makes me curious -- what if a dog with a litter of puppies were familiarized with a young iguana? Would the iguana take on behavioral characteristics of the dogs? Would they take on characteristics of the iguana?


Following a tangent, I'm inclined to agree with Chris' assertion "I'm not greatly convinced that the human brain is a step up at all."

It has been asserted that the human brain is more complex than other brains, misrepresenting, in my opinion, the notion of complexity.

Dolphin brains, for example, have large portions dedicated to 3-d imaging, for very solid reasons -- echolocation provides them with a virtual map of their environs (and possibly, according to Dr. Lilly, resulting in communication that more resembles a vivid hallucination than what we know as speech).

It seems more clear to compare brains in terms of structure -- density, cell type, possible function, chemical interaction, etc. -- rather than a bizarre valuation of one being a step up (though perhaps if there is supporting evidence in the evolutionary record one could use the term "a step forward").


I'm going to delve into this a little more when I get the time.

Which will probably be close to never. But maybe sooner.

I'm finishing up with a somewhat related excerpt from a post I almost wrote. Yes, it has come to the point where I quote from unfinished drafts only marginally relevant to the topic at hand.



Albert Einstein said, "All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree."

Many studies exist which show that animals engage in behaviors that people might call play. Some of these behaviors definitely fit certain patterns to the extent that we could even call them games; There are loose and shifting rules, discernible goals and boundaries for social interaction.

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, for example, contains numerous descriptions of these complex behaviors.

These games may seem like the way to pass idle time (and how many times have I heard that videogames are a 'waste of time'?), but they teach useful skills and, almost as importantly, develop the ability to deal with spontaneous experiences.

This, in fact, appears as a side-effect that seems most-often overlooked when discussing games of any type -- Behaviors learned are not simply direct translations of the metaphors, but tangential, perpendicular or even unconnected skills.

Playing Monopoly won't necessarily help you become an adept businessperson; But you may learn how to develop long-term strategies while in competition with multiple opponents, how to juggle a budget or, in the metagame, how to gain trust to broker a greater position.

The production of art also requires "idle" time. For that matter, invention does, too. Game-like behaviors can encourage spontaneity, which can lead to behaviors that don't exactly look like games to us (not anymore at least), but still incorporate many of the same key behaviors.

When elephants paint, is it art?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Before I forget

I was in bed, nearly-asleep, in that bare sliver of consciousness before sleep that is little more than a hallucinatory theatre, when a strange idea flung itself on stage.

I've been thinking about animal behaviors, especially as it relates to play. I've read a few books on this, and was working on a smashing post which I will never, ever finish on the very subject.

I was thinking about a turtle I once had. I don't recall ever seeing it engage in play-behavior.

None of my experiences with reptiles/amphibians ever yielded any strong impression of behavior that even appeared to be play.

Some very quick and cursory Googling showed that the topic has been bandied about.

Perhaps some human apprehension toward reptiles/amphibians stems from lack of recognizable patterns.

Maybe they do play, but the behaviors are so distant from our own experience that we don't recognize them.

Riffing on this topic, I made a few very rough explanations:

1. Cold-blooded animals must conserve energy more than mammals/birds. They cannot afford to engage in seemingly-superfluous behaviors.

2. Reptiles/Amphibians do not commonly form social structures or engage in nurture behavior. The ones that do (alligators, I believe, may spend time with their young) often nest in isolated areas only now being monitored by researchers.

3. Brain structure? Not geared toward pattern-recognition or memory.

4. Aforementioned unrecognizable play structures.

Anybody have any knowledge on this topic?