Over the course of the semester, I remember posting blogs/comments with specific ideas in mind about a certain subject. When I re-read all of these posts, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of my entries shared similar thoughts. I did not expect to see such a consistent thread of thinking! I mainly noticed that I talked a lot about how the structure and experience of gameplay relates to the communication of a distinct message. In my comment on the game Flow, I said that this game is a “media through which a significant message is given.” I think that statement can be applied to all videogames. Since we have basically established that videogames are cultural texts, it would be appropriate to assert that this type of media is rich with information about society and culture. Even if these messages are subtle, or unintentional, I think it is impossible for game creators to distance themselves from their natural environments and produce a game that does not reflect some aspect of human society. Videogames are more than just “fun,” they tell us something about who we are, and how we engage with the world. It is obvious through the examples of the many games that we played just how powerful this type of media can be. What other form of media can grab a player’s attention so deeply and attentively that he or she finds it nearly impossible to break away? And will play for hours and hours on end, without skipping a beat? With this in mind, I believe that the field of videogame studies is completely relevant to current society. I also think that it deserves much more credibility than it currently gets from some of the general public. Just because we are talking about “games” and “play” does not mean that we are incapable of learning from it, and illuminating new insights about who we really are, what we are all up to, or where our society may be going in the future.
After re-reading my posts, I realize that I have much more appreciation for videogame studies. My approach towards games has dramatically changed as well. Now I try to find the deeper meaning, or message, in all games that I engage with. I have noticed that games do not have to be complicated to have rich meaning. For example, The Crossing serves as an excellent example of very simple gameplay that packs a complex message about the environment or nature in general. From what I have observed, the simple games all seem to have deeper, more complex messages. This is because players have greater flexibility for interpretation. By not forcing a distinct ideological agenda on the player, he or she is able to take what the game already suggests, apply his or her own knowledge about the subject to the media, and formulate his or her own individual interpretation about the game’s meaning and/or significance. I think that this aspect of the entire videogame genre is not just the most interesting thing to me, but also the most relevant concept to understanding popular themes in current society.
P.S. Thank you Prof. Sample for this “three-in-one” option. Much appreciated!
April 29th, 2008
“The Baron” is an emotionally profound game that entices the player into making a variety of moral decisions that he or she would hopefully never encounter in the real world. Yes, the creator definitely does succeed in presenting disturbing themes in a fictional world. However, he does not just present them to you- he forces you to think about the issue by simulating your engagement with such things. My initial reaction?….I felt sick. The game started out pretty simple, with a fiery dragon and hero-like conquest, but then got all psychological when you’re suddenly this lumberjack guy who sneaks out of his bedroom at night to lurk outside of his daughter’s door and have these crazy wolf-killing, gargoyle-chatting dreams. I admit that I did like how the game started out, and linked back to this scene at the end of the game. However, I really did not enjoy how the player only could select from a few response options. When engaging in dialogue with other characters, the player did not have the ability to create his or her own unique answer. I recognize that in IF, it would be very difficult for the computer to be able to handle this. However, in this case, I felt very uncomfortable during gameplay when I could not select an option that I actually believed. I hated the fact that my player, the father, was abusing his own daughter, and I was inside his head. More so, I loathed some of the response choices given to him: “I’m not guilty…don’t you believe me?…please forgive me…I’m sick, I can’t help it”. This type of abuse is disgusting and inexcusable. I do not understand why the creator wanted to incorporate this theme into his IF, except that perhaps he wanted to make people think about or remember things they don’t want to dwell upon. In that case, he sure did a good job.
March 6th, 2008
For this assignment, I have selected to map the game “Battletoads”. Since this is the first time I have been asked to do such an abstract assignment, I find it to be a bit difficult to picture the sequence of events in “Battletoads” in such a conceptual manner. So far, I do not feel frustrated by this task, but rather challenged by how different the requirements for this are in comparison to the myriad of other assignments I tend to do for other classes.
After playing “Battletoads” and successfully completing the first few levels, I feel that this game is rather repetitive. Although each level gets progressively harder and the settings change, the objective and actions remain the same. Essentially, the battletoad must overcome his opponents and maintain enough lives for him to advance to the next level. In light of this, I plan on representing the gameplay by using a circular map. Each space in the game (each level), encompasses the same types of challenges, actions, and requirements of the player. I interpreted what I experienced in gameplay as being part of a cycle. Everything more or less repeats, while the only element that is linear is the objective (saving Pimple and the Princess from the evil dark Queen). For my map, one space or level or gameplay will be represented, where one cycle is completed. Since time is not displayed on screen, this circle diagram should be ideal. The time is more obviously counted by the number of lives your toad uses; when your last life is up, your gameplay time is also over.
February 26th, 2008
Although the gameplay of Frogger is very simple, the space in which the game is played is quite the opposite. As we discussed in class, Frogger has an incoherent screen space, and when compared to the real world, the events that occur during gameplay make no sense at all. Although the illogical nature of the gamescape can be explained by the fact that there were fewer processing resources available to the game designers of the Atari system, Frogger’s screen design is the main factor that influences the player’s experience during gameplay.
It is evident that Frogger has a low capacity for exploration. This feature, however, is not a bad thing. Frogger must move in a spatially designated path in order to accomplish the objective of the game. According to King and Krzywinska, “Limiting and directing the movement of the player-character is essential to the creation of pleasurable effects…or creating a linear narrative framework of some kind which gameplay activities are situated (79). By being confined to a single screen, the player must concentrate on his or her goal of safely reaching the other side if any progress, and thus satisfaction, is to be made. Since the player’s primary motivation is his only motivation, the physical movement of the frog determines the narrative presence within gameplay. The gamescape establishes the setting, while the player tells the story through the manipulation of the frog.
The entire gamespace of Frogger is set up to be a giant navigational device that points the player in the right direction. Specifically, the screen is broken down in a horizontal grid, where everything that impedes the frog’s progress moves left or right. Instantly, the player recognizes that he or she cannot move left or right (unless on a floating log that wraps around), and knows that up is the only option. The sidewalk in the middle of the screen encourages the progression, and aids in the successful execution of gameplay by providing a ’safe zone’ for the player to plan his or her next move. Essentially, the spatial constraint of Frogger functions to establish rules for gameplay, and direct the player/frog to victory. The overall design of the gamespace shapes the player’s experience and general enjoyment while playing Frogger.
February 20th, 2008