Achievements in Video Games

 

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An example of what an Xbox One achievement looks like when earned. Source

Achievements are a huge part of video game culture.  Almost everyone who owns a console or Steam has earned at least one, and many gamers stake their gaming reputation on how many achievements they’ve gotten or how hard the ones they’ve completed are to get.  There are multiple websites and videos designed to help gamers complete their achievement list for the games they’re trying to complete, and there’s even an entire YouTube channel called The Completionist geared around, among a few other things, collecting every achievement in whatever game they’re covering that week.  There’s no question that achievements help give gamers a goal to work forwards when playing games, especially for open-ended games or match-based games where there might not be that much drive to continue playing the game without them.  However, are achievements really helpful to gamers, or do they merely distract players from the important parts of gaming?

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Walking Simulators and the Importance of Narrative

In class on Thursday, one of the complaints that people had towards That Dragon, Cancer was that it wasn’t really a “game;” instead, it was more of an interactive narrative.  They went on to say that, since they were expecting a more gameplay-driven experience, the extreme focus on story and lack of choices that That Dragon, Cancer had left a disappointing taste in their mouths.  However, I would argue that lack of choice is incredibly important to the story.  Furthermore, I would argue that That Dragon, Cancer does count as a game, because the very act of playing serves a purpose and communicates core concepts to the player.

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A scene where gameplay matters.  Source

A major theme of That Dragon, Cancer is the sense of helplessness that Ryan and Amy feel.  At a certain point, they realize that there’s not really anything they can do to save Joel’s life.  While faith (specifically Christian faith) gave the pair a way to cope, by the end of the game they realize that there is nothing they can do.  While it is subtle, much of the gameplay in the game leads you to have the exact same feeling.  The scene shown in the screenshot above is a good example of this.  In it, you play as Joel and eventually a man who died of cancer in the family’s church.  While there is a lot going on in this scene, one thing in particular stands out.  If you are good at fighting the dragon, Cancer, (see what he did there), then you will realize something interesting; no matter how long or how well you play the game, you will eventually succumb to the dragon because the dragon will never die, but stay at 1/2 heart until you eventually die.  What is interesting is that the game is not exactly hard; if you’re good at retro video games (which I am not) and figure out the pattern(which I did not), you can theoretically stay alive and continue fighting indefinitely.  However, if you want to continue the game, you have to give up.

There are many other places where you have to give up in order to continue.  Specific scenes where this is a theme are the Temple of God scene where you have to stop moving to continue and the scene where you play as Ryan and the only way to continue forward is by swimming deeper into the ocean.  These scenes serve to make an important point-moreover, they make you, the player, feel the point in a way you would not from simply hearing the characters describe it.  This is why I consider it, and many other “Walking Simulators” like it, games: because games aren’t just narratives that you affect, they are narratives that affect you in ways that a novel or movie does not have the ability to. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you guys in the comments!

Augmented Reality: The Postmodern Literature?

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Photo from: Niantic.com

 

If you have found this blog, and you have no idea what this could be about, note that I’m in a course that discusses the ideas of the new media and its connection to literature. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be enrolled in the course to understand what I will be discussing. It seems that everywhere we “Go” (yes, that was a pun) there are new ways in which technology has submersed itself into our own lives. It allows us to be involved in both real-world and fictitious experiences. Essentially, it can be used for practical and recreational reasons. What I’m specifically referring to here, and you probably have caught on based on the title, is a relatively new technological innovation called augmented reality. If your not to familiar with what this is, Merriam Webster defines it as, “an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (as a smartphone camera); also :  the technology used to create augmented reality.”

Referring back to the pun earlier, the most common augmented reality around right now is this game called, Pokémon Go. Developed by Niantic. As the definition stated, it pretty much overlays cartoon characters (Pokémon) and one tries to catch the Pokémon with a ball hat the user throws onto the Pokémon. This would be an example of  AR-technology that would be used for recreational purposes.

So what does this say about the way we spend our time. More specifically, I’m discussing how what once was a big book reading world, we now have a very involved technological world. With this new AR invention, does his mean the end for formal literature as we know it. Let’s look at the comparisons. Most books have an exposition, plot and conclusion while video games do as well, including AR. Moreover, books have been a way for anyone to escape to a far away or fictitious land with sometimes  vivid characters. In Pokémon Go, there is the same thing, except a much diminished struggle for the use of imagination. There is still plot and what not, except that not only is it visual, you also have choices. As discussed in our class, this question was brought up: “What choices to we really have when reading a book?” I mean, we could read the book backwards, or read subsections or chapters out of order- but that is really it. This AR experience seems to take it one step further and gives the “reader” (really user) the ability to change the course of the plot by the decisions they make. A regular book does not do that.

It will be interesting to see what the next big interactive technology platform will be. Certainly, we can expect to be even more involved in the plot of whatever comes out next.

And then it shut down

“I was going to go to school, but then it shut down, but then it shut down. I was going to turn in my work, but then it shut down but then it shut down. I was going to work on a paper but then…” (to the tune of Because I Got High by Afroman). Technology is about as reliable an aid in the daily tasks of life as cannabis seems to be for Afroman in his quest for productivity. Computer’s are always catching bugs, programs are always malfunctioning, printers are always not printitng, and projectors are always overheating. Technology may at times be a lifesaver because of the conveniences it has provided but it’s reliability is a sorry excuse for convenience if you ask me.

In this day and age, modern technology(in the form of computers, cellhpones, etc.) has become an integral part of life, especially for those of us living in first world countries. It is essential for instant communication, information exchange, and overall heightened convenience. As a whole, modern tehcnology has had a positive impact on the quality of living. But it’s not all smiles when it comes to figuring out how work these new-fangled contraptions. The world is advancing at an incredible speed and it can be hard to keep up with the thousands of technological advances developed each year. This poses a problem for those attempting to live in the technological world. Every new program I learn is outdated within 2-3 years and I’m right back at square one. Every piece of technology has a specific method of operation that must be determined before using it. It takes so long to figure out how to change from the Macintosh operating system to Windows that I feel like I should just give up.This never-ending cycle of learning provides little reward to the victims (example:me) of this new age of accelerated development.

The only solution that I have found to make it through life without throwing my computer out a window (or taking my printer and going office-space on it) is to try to do things at my own pace. The world is creating, evolving, and generating at an alarming rate and if I can’t figure it out now, I can’t wait until ten years from now. Instead of trying to problem-shoot every new program that comes out, I wait, see how useful each program is, and once I have discerned it is worth the time, I sit myself down and slowly learn how to use it. To say that I will be able to simply not rely on technology is to live in the past. I would rather move forward at a cautious pace,keeping in mind that at least I’m putting forth effort and not out getting high.

Aneel Henry

A Board Game is Forever!

The Game of Life… the classic board game played from high school graduation to retirement. Throughout my youth, the game would sometimes give a sense of direction to where my real-life was heading. What usually brought me out of my fantasy world, was when I’d draw a card for my occupation and become a doctor, then I’d draw a card for my salary and its $20,000 a year. The idea of being able to play out my entire life in less then an hour was quite mindboggling for the average 9 year-old. There is absolutely no strategy or skills needed to play this game, except maybe knowing how to read and count. It’s pure luck based on the number you spin and even if you don’t retire first, there is always a chance you could still win if you ended up with more LIFE Tiles then everyone else.

LIFE brought out a new dimension of thinking for kids like me who grew up in the 90’s. With any board game I ever played, the real fun was being able to use my imagination as if I was on the board myself jumping from square to square. I imagined myself weaving through Candy Cane Forest in Candy Land, or getting thrown in Jail during Monopoly. I was fascinated by the idea of going to college, getting married, and having my first kid all in under 5 spins of the wheel. 

Now fast forward to the new millennium, technology is booming and kids like my younger brothers and sister could careless about using their imagination. Why would they want to when they have awesome graphics on their new console game that they play religiously every day after school? Their eyesight is becoming worse as they stare into the television set for hours; their thumbs are getting arthritis at a young age from using the controller for so long; their brains are being manipulated into thinking that violence, shooting, killing, and robbing people are all fun to play and watch.

I think it’s great that technology and multimedia have reached another level of success and improvements, but seeing a 7 year-old on her cell phone, and a 10 year-old with the lasted ipod touch, and a 13 year-old asking when he’s going to get his first car, only breaks my heart because children are no longer living like children in today’s society. Kids don’t enjoy playing board games anymore, rolling the dice, waiting their turn, reading the cards, moving from space to space all seems too time consuming. Their idea of a game is fast paced; each scene is pre-designed for them, and at the click of letter B on their controller, an entire village is destroyed–that is fun.

The Game of Life… the title alone brings out a whole new understanding of what life really is. The real life we live in is a game. There are rules, there are different paths you take, there are obstacles that might make you loose a turn, there are responsibilities like work, and family, and having a house. If kids like my younger brothers and sister understood that there is more too life than playing a console game through a first-person shooters perspective, they might see one day through their own eyes that life outside a game is just as fun. Technology is always on the rise and getting updated, every year or so you have to buy the new and latest equipment so that you can suitably function the new and latest console games. But the simplicity of a board game is forever, and once technology runs out of great ideas for you, creativity and imagination will always be there to keep you enjoying the real game of life.

~Adriana