Braid, WHY YOU (sic) SO HARD!

I must admit, I don’t play online games very much. The last time I played a “legitimate downloadable game was when I was about 13- a game based on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Other than that, my extent on gaming are mostly non-fictitious gaming titles, such as the Madden NFL Series. However, I have delved into the world of Halo when I used to play Halo Wars quite often. This game seemed noticeably different right from the start. Fairly quickly, you can tell that there is going to be a puzzle/strategic objective to the game when you find that your main objective is to collect puzzle pieces. Furthermore, once noticed that it’s a puzzle of usual means (putting actual pieces together), you’ll also eventually notice that there are quips here and there that add to the complexity of the game. Being used to just pressing X, Y, A, or B- having to deal with rewinding the game in ORDER to successfully complete each task was certainly not an easy task. In fact, I found that to be one of the more challenging aspects of Braid.

In being such a difficult game, my mind wandered to an academic write-up by Jesper Juul on the topic of what indeed makes up a game. Specifically, I thought of  the part referring to this idea of pleasure versus challenge. What is an appropriate ratio of pleasure, or- in better terms, level of easiness, accessibility and challenge. I mean, I would want a game to be challenging so that there is some worthwhile experience while paying the game, but making one so hard that it, again- at least for me, seemed nearly impossible to complete? That just didn’t seem sensible. Juul wrote, “Playing a game is an activity of improving skills in order to overcome these challenges, and playing a game is therefore fundamentally a learning experience.” I don’t mean to barrage you with quotes are academic jargon, but Juul went on to say that gaming is also a progression. Essentially, a game is needs to be challenging, yes, but not so that there can be no progression, no learning.

I will say that even if you are not an experienced gamer like I am, you may be able to tell that the narrative seems a bit grey. I mean, it’s basically the premise of almost every fantastical game in the history of the world. That is, a man trying to save a princess. You’ll notice there’s more to that- but I won’t give anything away.

Overall, I’m glad this was one of the first games I’ve played, as I’ve appreciated the level of difficulty of how some games could be- something that I think Juuls would appreciate as well.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

I’ll Pay You For Your Screwed Up Game

By A. A. BENJAMIN

 

There is a potential Donkey Kong kill screen coming up if anyone’s interested.

 

DKKillScreen

 

This, to me, was the most powerful line in the entire King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters movie. For a couple of reasons.

First, I appreciated the dorky way Brian Kuh ran around announcing this all over the arcade as if he were passive-aggressively declaring war. XD

The movie documents underdog Steve Weibe’s attempt to beat Donkey Kong “heavy-weight champ” Billy Mitchell’s high score. Brian Kuh is Billy’s hype man. At this moment in the movie, Weibe has already near-shattered Kuh’s dream of being the first at the arcade to reach kill screen, which induces Kuh into manic slump-shouldered declarations intended to knock Wiebe off his game.

Powerful indeed.

No, the power behind this phrase comes from the sense of intensity and mystery it creates. It calls up the minute existence of video games however escapist and fantastical we like them to be. When I heard the phrase “kill screen,” my ears perked and my low-lidded skeptical eyes widened. What the frack is a kill screen?

pacmankillscreen

I remember seeing this image of Pac Man earlier in the movie and it made my heart race. Oh no, the game messed up! Progress lost! A glitch! No, Game Designer, we’re not supposed to see that! Make it stop!

Those were my original reactions, until I witnessed the scene in the arcade and saw how seamlessly the gamers had made the kill screen a part of their in-game reality. The kill screen became an active level of the game, part of the experience of playing Donkey Kong, and an indication of your general game-playing awesomeness. An unwritten rule of the game solidifies: if you’re that good, you get so far in the game that it can no longer function. You die because you’re just too awesome. Game designer and theorist Jesper Juul claims “video games are real in that they consist of real rules with which players actually interact.” How does something as mechanical and real as lack of memory space become part of the fictional experience of game achievement which in turn translates back into the reality of the competitive Donkey Kong world? Makes my head spin.

Is the glitch phenomenon something in gaming that we should aim to fix or eliminate, or does the rawness and somewhat intimacy of it add to the gamer experience?

Outside of arcade games, I’ve played many console games where I discovered glitches and turned them into a narrative of my own. For instance, when I was younger I played a video game in which I had discovered a hole in the rock walls. I would use the hole to evade attackers. The game designers never intended for that hole to be there. It was a glitch that I had adopted into my game play rather than getting upset or viewing the game designers any less credible (though, I was prone to compare graphic quality to other game systems). Similar things have occurred in other games, like discovering that turning your character a certain way reveals some laughable or hilariously distorted profile of the character.

As technology advances and graphic quality advances, and as storage space advances, will we see these endearing glitches disappear? The very glitches we made a part of our real world and fictional narratives? What will we do then?

LOTRO maestro and Vanderbilt University professor Jay Clayton asks, “What do you do then? The end game is the toughest part for game designers to wrestle with.” Exactly. This question has been relevant since Donkey Kong and way beyond. But I’d like to add, what will we do when we’re perfect? When all video game glitches are gone and storage strife is over, and video games have infinite quests and everyone becomes infinitely awesome at playing video games—

Wishful thinking. However, in that time of wishing we can reflect on what basic imperfections reveal about the human inclination to mold any and everything into a meaningful experience.

Face to Face

Matt Thumser

The difference is personal. Board games and console games are really not all that different, if you look at it. Sure, console games like Halo and Madden may be more immersive; but with a little imagination, board games like Risk and Monopoly can place us in their own world for hours on end. Both types of games follow Jesper Juul’s definition of a game. They both pit us against each other, making a winner and a loser. They both serve to entertain us.

I have no preference when it comes to playing each type of game. I’ve had great experiences with each type, and I’ve had really bad experiences with each type. Who hasn’t felt the adrenaline rush fueled by the cash you earn at the end of a grueling game of Life; and who hasn’t grown frustrated with the tediousness of a game of Monopoly that drags on for hours? It’s the same with console games; the joy of scoring a touchdown to win as time expires in Madden, and the anger of an unbeatable level of Super Mario Bros.

Indeed, console and board games are very similar. The difference between them, however, is personal. The interactions between players are vastly different in the two media of games. Board games are personal; you know all of the players in the game. This isn’t present in console games, where you can just shut off the console if losing. In most cases, your friends won’t let you do that in the middle of a board game.