I decided to play a game, alone.
It has been a very long time. Steam informs me almost a year.
It’s weird to do something alone now.
I tried Costume Quest, and despite it having a funny little script, good humor, a Halloween theme, nostalgia of my upbringing in suburban America, and an all around great production, it’s still a genre game. Therefore it did not appeal to me. Furthermore it carries over the cons of JRPGs: chore quests like finding things, a JRPG battle system of which numbers do not matter and fighting requires no tactics or brainpower, ‘n some other junk. I stopped very early in.
Then I played Proteus. I walked from one side of the island to the other, at awe at the visual and audio, quickly concluding it was a simple audio-visual experience. It reminded me of a 3d version of Seasons [made during NY GGJ 2012]. Something fitting as an installation piece at a museum.
I nearly turned it off. I didn’t. Instead, I decided to circle the island, just to soak it in for a few more minutes.
That was a crucial decision point. The first 5 minutes of any media. And it was successful.
I played through the rest of the game. Exploring. Every sight picture worthy. Interacting with everything, wanting to hear what new sounds come, what new animation occurs. The little crabs and their tribal drum music, the bunny-like creatures, the amazing sounding owl, the elusive white bunny, dandelion seed heads floating about, stars, fireflies. And through all the seasons. A partly cloudy beautiful spring, an equally beautiful summer, looking into the sun causes vision to go white, autumn brings the leaves down and even more rain and clouds just below the mountain, and the climactic, dreamy winter. It was like traveling through a digital world, with all the interactions in tact. Traveling, while in reality it’s raining outside and I’m on my computer.
Perhaps it’s not much of a game, as there aren’t many rules. It takes a single element found in many great games, exploration, and singles it out, resulting in a minimalist experience. The slow-moving, cinematic, 3d exploration of Shadow of the Colossus or any Bethesda game. Then adding a little interaction. Perhaps it’s proof, proof that games can evoke feelings.
Nah, never mind that thought. There just isn’t enough game to prove that here. It’s an audio-visual experience with very little input. My proof of this statement via thought experiment: If I had watched the game instead of playing it, I think it would have offered the same experience.
Game or not, it’s a worthy experience, one I value more than most of the games available on Steam.
Something worth mentioning: Bad Trip by Alan Kwan has a similar exploratory feel with little interaction, with the addition of containing memories of its creator.
[might be funny to see a message I sent to a friend on Facebook about the game two years ago]
Written for NYU Game Design MFA application.
It seems that I chose this game because of my love for it rather than a game whose critical analysis could lead to a new direction for the future of games. Nostalgia and subjectivity exist. Also, this analysis only focuses on versus mode with tournament settings.
In my college there was a public room with three TVs, all of which solely had Super Smash Bros. Melee (SSBM). My friends and I used to watch videos of professionals play, be inspired, incorporate their skills into our tactics, then participate in regional tournaments, cheering local players. Clear now, but only in hindsight I realize it was a sport.
What makes this game stand above other fighting games of its time is its accessibility. That’s Nintendo’s strength. It had simple controls, no button combinations to memorize, a short learning curve, and an eccentric, lovable selection of characters. This attracted diverse players whom later formed a similarly eccentric, lovable community.
Despite its accessibility it has a complex, successful fighting system — the more skilled player always win. There are several mechanics (rules) to the game leading to an infinite amount of possibility and therefore knowledge. Players explore the possibilities because they are motivated to win, incorporating newly found knowledge into their tactics. It’s a creative process. After 12 years people are still finding new possibilities; It’s existence at EVO 2013 exemplifies is longevity.
However, complexity doesn’t necessarily prolong the life of the game, as proven by ancient games such as chess, but in this case it does help maintain excitement for a cartridge game, just as new content (maps) and core updates do for other competitive games. Perhaps there is even some satisfaction in learning a complex system. Many Asian gamers tend to play knowledge heavy, calculating games. It’s unnecessary, resulting in a higher competitive play learning curve, yet, requiring more skill.
Another pro, especially compared to sports, is that SSBM has nearly no down time. As long as the match is running, there is likely something to do to gain advantage.
A possible con of SSBM is that its complexity flows over to the input. Professional players need quick hands and great hand-eye coordination, practicing certain hand movements to execute advanced moves. I believe it’s sequel (SSBB) attempted to alleviate this by limiting the input, but it resulted in a less exciting game, especially to watch. Decisions need to be timed to generate excitement, but limiting input limits decisions, which limits possibilities.
In my life, no other game or sport has created more exciting moments than matches of SSBM. And, just as any other sport, it is repayable, timeless.
In 2011, indie game designers began creating accessible yet complex sports games. Will Hokra with its simplicity generate enough excitement to be taken seriously as ultimate flying disc did? Regardless of its outcome, I believe Super Smash Bros. Melee is a prominent precursor.
explaining Super Smash Bros. to a non-player:
SSBM is a strategy game with a physical requirement. That is, to get to a professional level of play, you do need to reach a certain physical requirement which requires practice. After that point it becomes strategy, and the smartest always win.
American sports are physical games, meaning a physical better player can beat a tactically smarter player. This is why soccer and hockey are regarded higher than American sports. In soccer or hockey, a physically normal person can have great achievements. Wayne Gretzky being the perfect example. He’s physically normal, but he know how to play the game, know when to play safe, know when to take opportunities, use knowledge to exploit the game.
Due to that physical requirement, SSBM is by no means a perfect tactical game such as chess, but it holds its own. I’d argue it is far more complex. In chess you are given strict rules of what you can/cannot do–a king can only move one space in all directions. Similarly in Smash, you have a character with a given move set. But Smash has a lot more other factors–stages, approximation of hitboxes, game anomalies, etc. I imagine if you and your opponent chose the same character, you would essentially be playing a pure tactical game, such as chess (assuming both players are nearly physically equal).
So, SSBM is more comparable to Starcraft and Street Fighter 3, which they too has a physical requirement of hand-eye coordination to reach a pro level but becomes tactical after that, many factors (maps, unit hatboxes, build order/resources). Both games are overly complex to the point that no human can play a perfect game. They are so complex that new exploits are being found 10 years after the game was made.
At the same time are the most entertaining, possibly because of how complex it is.
It’s possible that Super Street Fighter 4 (a little less so with SSBB) maybe a better competitive video game, as it has a low physical requirement, but still remains a strategic game, in which the smartest players still win.
Yet, these are not as entertaining. Hmm.
I guess any fighting game can be considered successful by my definition, as the smarter player will always win. Eh.
Hmm, I can’t verbalize what makes this previous games so entertaining above SSF4 or chess. Maybe I haven’t gotten into chess. But I think it has to do with playing tactically. No, creatively! YES. Creativity. In a strict ruleset such as SSF4, one might feel more restricted. I’m sure there are new tactics evolving in SSF4, but in the previous games, creativity is abundant, due to the large amount of factors/rules that make up the game.
This allows for more creativity, an ever-evolving game. Sure, more radical than the former games, but creativity is exciting! The game of chess is done: generations have played it, there are books that explain tactics–what to do to counter your opponent in a given situation, there maybe be an ounce of creativity that only a prodigy chess player could find, but for the most part, its over. Video games are new. There’s a new set of rules with many tactics waiting to be found out! This, I believe, is what creates so much excitement in those previous games.
Creativity. How fitting.
I think I Facebook messaged this huge thing to a friend. lol. The good old messaging days.