Blog Archives

8 Through the Looking Glass

September ’09

Isn’t That Spatial? Every video game has certain benefits and constraints in the way it represents space. Interaction fiction, arcade titles, 2D side-scrollers, isometric RPGs, and first person shooters all have advantages and disadvantages to how they deal with space–some technical in nature, some design-based. This month’s topic invites you to explore the ways games have represented the spatial nature of their storyworlds and what this does for the audience experience. Is it possible to ignore the constancy of spatial relationships in a graphical game? What would such a game look like? Are there ways of representing spatial relationships that we haven’t explored? Do you have ideas for games that could intentionally twist the player’s perception of space, or do you want to write about a game that already has?

I had a good intro lined up but Lose/Lose ate it. In lieu of that, I’ll just say that my plan is to follow up on Corvus’ topic for this month’s Blogs of the Round Table and discuss how the choice of perspective has helped certain games’ themes or genres by framing, limiting or exploring spatial awareness and their relationships with players in several ways.

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3 Retrospective – Time Gal

The above is a YouTube video showing all the ways in which Reika Kirishima, the lead character of Time Gal, can die during her adventure. This set of sequences came from the Sega CD version, although Taito‘s quirky 1985 title started out as an arcade game and went on to be converted to several platforms over the years.

Considered as a gimmick, on account of the Full Motion Video (FMVs) craze that invaded the adventure genre during the late ’80′s and throughout a good portion of the ’90′s, Time Gal was an heir to Dragon’s Lair. Its initial appeal was clearly the FMV quality – just like today, you didn’t need to develop a particularly good game, just something your audience had not yet seen and they were definitely in that camp – since the “game” element was nothing more than a long trial and error process with little input on behalf of the player. Yet, while I was never a fan of this subgenre – for all the mad pixel-hunting skillz you needed for point’n'click adventures, they always felt more substantial in their storytelling and play mechanics – I’ve come to look at it fondly over the years. Here’s why.

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Comments Off Reverse Psychology

This month’s Round Table challenges you to design a game that deals with a social issue that personally troubles you. The recent months have seen controversy sweep through the video game industry. Whether people are objecting to the use of imagery widely considered to evoke racial stereotypes, or to the gameplay based on violent sexual crimes, or to the fact that anyone would complain about either topic–the discussion has been fierce. This month, contributors to the Round Table are invited to design a game that focuses on racism, rape, domestic violence, cruelty to animals, genocide, or any other serious, and potentially hot-button, topic.

In some ways, videogames are unlike any other medium. My favorite aspect, among others, is the way in which they can create an experimental landscape for our fantasies. The result can be seen in most games, from the extensive worlds of Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls series which appeal to the explorer in us, to the power fantasies of most titles in the role-playing genre. I find this comes with both a blessing and a curse. As much as there are positive examples of the medium’s potential – in the form of collaborative story-telling, for example, and how one can play the roles of characters that were once exclusive to the domains of tabletop RPGs; or to develop friendship networks across social games – there are also games in which the goal, theme or mechanics are conducive to a certain kind of exploratory playground that I find, at best, questionable.

The violence depicted in games like Grand Theft Auto is mostly misinterpreted by the media and non-gamers; to be sure, there is blood and depictions of violence but these are, for the most part, caricatures of a culture of violence that seems ironically pervasive as it seems unnoticed by fervent politicians and concerned parents. How to turn that into a lesson?

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