I do realize that it is slightly disingenuous to be doing this blogging threefer when:
a) I’m not done with all of my other posts.
b) Most of my posts have been made within the past three hours.
But an opportunity is an opportunity, and I do feel that I can reflect on what I’ve written so far on this game journal.
First off, I’ve noticed that most, if not all, of my posts’ analyses make reference to other games. Personally, I find that this helps me greatly when I’m trying to explain where a particular opinion comes from, or when I’m trying to justify an argument. I’ve been a gamer for over three-quarters of my life, so this comes naturally. I do realize, though, that this may not be the best approach, especially with the number of people here who aren’t as–let’s go with “fanatical” about gaming as I am. So I’m really not sure how many people actually got the references I’ve been making, or how much of it just went over everyone’s heads. But I’m not especially worried about that, because there’s always Wikipedia (which has amazingly accurate game information, which I guess is unsurprising, since it is the Internets).
I think the idea that I’ve been trying my hardest to espouse is that video games are a powerful art form. A certain amount of this is merely fanboyish sticking up for my hobby, but truly, I believe that video games are a medium that can accomplish what no other can. The interactivity brings a sense of immersion that no other art form can. It also acts as sort of a democratization of art, allowing anybody to, in a manner of speaking, become the author or director. And ideally, games are an incredible confluence of the visual, the aural, the literary, and the cerebral–the product of painters, musicians, poets, and mathemeticians. It’s difficult for me to convey exactly how exciting that is.
So I have a tendency to get pretty enthusiastic and passionate in my responses to discussions within these journals. Since I have such deep respect for gaming as an art form, I really want to push people to go deep into their criticism, and really explore the heart and soul of gaming. Oftentimes, I do end up disagreeing with people’s statements–I think my defense of morality within Doom was probably the most extreme in that regard. But really, I just want everbody to approach games as a literature or film critic would approach their respective art forms. I think my favorite example of that sort of thinking would be my entry about The Baron.
And I think that, judging by the deep intellectual discourse taking place within the journals, people truly are taking games seriously as an art form. I couldn’t be happier about this. I think–well, hope, I guess–that if a larger audience had the same kind of opportunity to examine games as closely as we have in this class, there wouldn’t even be a question as to whether or not games are art; to suggest that they aren’t would be as daft as trashing The Great Gatsby, or Casablanca.
May 1st, 2008
I’ve played my fair share of text-based adventures, so navigating “The Baron” was no problem for me. I was actually a little surprised at how powerful the interface was with regards to interacting with the world, particularly in terms of complex commands (eg: READ THE DAMP PAGE). Everything has a purpose, and the author definitely put some serious thought into the planning and execution of the story.
The story itself is well-constructed. It didn’t take me an especially long time to figure out the “dark secret”–that the player character was abusing his daughter and “the Baron” was merely a delusional projection of his lust–but the plot unfolds at a very compelling pace. There’s enough opportunities for exploration to keep curious players entertained, and there aren’t any tedious requirements to hinder speed runs. The open-endedness of “The Baron,” with a structure that makes it impossible to “lose” is certainly a refreshing change from puzzle-heavy, trap-ridden text adventures.
I especially liked the parable of the Gargoyle and the metaphor of the dungeon/torture chamber. Both were especially powefrul devices for illustrating the incredibly disturbed nature of the player character. The castle–a twisted mirror image of the player’s house–was also well-executed.
What I didn’t like, though, was the amount of fatalism within the game, along with the inevitable dark conclusion. There’s not a whole lot of variety to the theme in the endings: either you kill yourself and feel bad about it; kill yourself and feel relieved that you ended the cycle of abuse; kill your daughter; or continue abusing your daughter, just to name a few. Even the “happiest” ending–resisting your horrible urges and walking away from your daughter’s bedroom–is still depressing, because you have the knowledge that abuse already took place. I’m aware of what the author was trying to accomplish with the macabre themes and unavoidable conclusion, but I think the game would have benefited from some sort of alternative. Beyond letting the wolf eat you, then becoming the wolf. That was just weird.
“The Baron” is definitely powerful, and its distrubing imagery will not soon leave my mind. In many ways, while not conceptually challenging in terms of gameplay, it is one of the hardest games I’ve ever played, because not matter what action you take, you’re still playing as a horribly abusive, perverted character.
March 6th, 2008
Mapping out Metroid is essentially akin to mapping out two games.
On the one hand, you can approach it from the intended gameplay path. When following this line of thinking, the map can be conceived of as a series of concentric circles. At the center, you have the player character, Samus Aran. The circles represent the amount of the world you can explore at any time given your abilities. Initially, you can only access a small portion of the game world, but once you acquire upgrades, such as the morph ball and high jump, new areas open up–a new circle is added to the map. As more upgrades are discovered in the new areas, new circles are added to the map, until the player is sufficiently upgraded to fight Mother Brain in the final area. When viewed in these terms, Metroid is fairly linear.
But players have the option of <i>not</i> following the “intended” game path. Through the use of glitches, exploits, and “sequence breaking,” players can access areas which are either not supposed to be accessible in their current state, or are accessible but incredibly difficult. This makes for a far more complicated mapping situation, as the concentric circles no longer are an adequate mapping device. Since this method of progression requires a deep understanding of the game, along with several overlapping factors such as number of upgrades and individual player skill, the map begins to resemble something of a Venn diagram. In fact, the number of possibilities for mapping a “sequence breaking” game is positively staggering. For this reason, I will be focusing primarily on the “intended” path in my analysis of Metroid.
February 26th, 2008