Death, Sharks, Localization

Cleaning up the town of Sharks involves a various step measure. First the streets and then the arcade. Real consequences presented themselves during the fight with Frank. Frank had two knives and then killed Ness! “Ness decided to return after summoning all the courage and energy he had.” I do not know how mustering up […]

Cleaning up the town of Sharks involves a various step measure. First the streets and then the arcade. Real consequences presented themselves during the fight with Frank. Frank had two knives and then killed Ness! “Ness decided to return after summoning all the courage and energy he had.” I do not know how mustering up courage is enough to return from a knife attack.

After various multiple attempts Ness finally defeated Frank. However, a second battle takes place with Frankystein Mark II. That also took several attempts.

Frankystein Mark II

Frankystein Mark II

There were various important things to do that were overlooked over the course of the three gameplays. I had access to an ATM and I was carrying a debit card that my in game dad had loaned me. It contained about $210 but it felt as if though the amount would fluctuate. This was important as I was able to upgrade to stronger weapons with the new found allowance. The town of Onett has so much to offer yet I still felt completely lost.

When attempting to make sense of Ness’ adventure thus far, the comparison I can make is to the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Remove the bloody death scenes, stealing cars, sex and add a meteor and psychic abilities and you get Earthbound. You get the violence early on by “taming” wild animals and eventually the “Sharks.” But as an adult playing through it, I definitely know Ness was not a match for a gang leader with two pocket knifes and the alluded to gun earlier in the arcade.

The game does not take itself too serious which really makes Eagleland worth discovering. Sadly, the Earthbound series was a victim of translation problems, specifically lack of translation and localization of the final game in the series, Mother 3: “Nintendo’s American branch decided that translating the game would be too much work, and too expensive a project, given the limited audience they expected the game to have.” [1] The reason why this is a dilemma is because Earthbound has a great following as well as its potent ability to send the video game community into chaos at moments notice. [2] Maybe if Nintendo has any faith left, they might decide to translate after summoning all the courage and energy they have of attaining success with the localization.

In all its un-localized glory

In all its un-localized glory

1. Anna Anthropy, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012), 80.
2. Jason Schreier, “The Mother 3 Rumors Are Getting Intense,” Kotaku, February 4, 2016, http://kotaku.com/the-mother-3-rumors-are-getting-intense-1757072418.

Who are you talking to?

Entering the neighbor’s home with both of the children with me. They get punished by their Dad and then the Dad starts to complain about loans that he lent Ness’ father. Apparently, they live in poverty, but the two-story house says otherwise. A small correction, the boys were not punished physically, they are simply not […]

Entering the neighbor’s home with both of the children with me. They get punished by their Dad and then the Dad starts to complain about loans that he lent Ness’ father. Apparently, they live in poverty, but the two-story house says otherwise. A small correction, the boys were not punished physically, they are simply not allowed to eat desserts for a week.

Ness has a treasure hunter friend named Lier X. Agerate, who built tunnels underneath his own home. His discovery thus far is “The Golden Statue.” Taming wild animals with a baseball bat is a great way to acquire goods and gain experience points to level up. NPCs really need to take better care of their dogs because there are definitely way too many wild dogs running around: “Is the mayor going to let them just run around…I’m here to protest!” The town of Onett is currently under attack from sharks.

Onett

Onett

When exploring the world of Eagleland questions regarding realism and realisticness in Earthbound arise. In Gaming by Alexander R. Galloway the amount of representation present within a game divides both social realism and realisticness: “Realisticness is important, to be sure, but the more realisticness takes hold in gaming, the more removed from gaming it actually becomes, relegated instead to simulation or modeling” [1] There are various moments where Earthbound could have been a real world simulator of suburban life with a touch of sci-fi action. So far, in the gameplay that is not the case. Interacting with the citizens of Onett is definitely what really pushes this role-playing game (RPG) further away from realisticness and into social realism. In Eagleland, realism’s “phenomenological qualities,” the “desires…details…defeats,” are present through Ness’ trials of tribulations that came with title of hero. [2]   

There is much to learn about Ness and his neighborhood. Two gameplays have yielded minimal understanding of this environment, but it is definitely not a simulator of the player’s world. Eagleland has buildings and humans that look similar but this world is definitely hiding so much more.  

1. Alexander R. Galloway, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 73.

2. Ibid., 74.

Keep it down outside!

Earthbound (SNES) starts of with very loud unrecognizable noises. These abstract noises drown the gameplay. There is chaos outside due to a meteor. Yes, mother, Ness is going to go investigate the noise outside. Similar to my first experience with another role-playing game, Pokemon, I spent quite some talking to every NPC as well as […]

Earthbound (SNES) starts of with very loud unrecognizable noises. These abstract noises drown the gameplay. There is chaos outside due to a meteor. Yes, mother, Ness is going to go investigate the noise outside. Similar to my first experience with another role-playing game, Pokemon, I spent quite some talking to every NPC as well as running around in circles due to spamming the “A” button and skipping important dialogue.

Pokey is a nuisance! He lost his brother Picky and blames it on the cops. He now needs the help of Ness to locate his brother. At least we get a bat and dog to take on the journey. The most valuable characters in all this mess are Ness’ parents and sister who make sure he is prepared to go out and become a hero. On our way to locate Picky, we are constantly attacked by crows, snakes and dogs.

The attack sequence is confusing. The animals do not have a health meter and they outclass Ness. There are various stats to keep track of: offense, defense, hit points, psychic points, speed, guts, and luck. Sadly, Ness’ dog is leaves as it wants no part in the investigation of the meteor. We found Picky! A bee from the future comes out of the meteor and begins to share a prophecy and something about Giygas?  Up to this point, nothing really makes sense in Earthbound. “Pokey apologized profusely!” Did I mention how unreliable Pokey is? Instead of attacking he apologizes to the enemy.

The strange world that is Eagleland leaves many unanswered questions. Its sci-fi world building is heavily reliant upon the conventional future beings returning to the past, but the interaction between characters returns the player to the real world feeling of “Would I investigate if a meteor landed outside our home?” I really enjoy feeling lost in this game as the game’s music makes it feel like the right state to be in.

The meteor was bound for Earth

The meteor was bound for Earth

 

Bioshock Infinite (Chain of Causation)

Although it’s not entirely new, Bioshock’s presentation of players with moral decisions that they don’t immediately see the consequences of is a very important and interesting inclusion in the game, especially the way it was done at the time the game was made. An article by Ryan Lizardi in Game Studies discusses the nature of… Continue reading Bioshock Infinite (Chain of Causation)

Although it’s not entirely new, Bioshock’s presentation of players with moral decisions that they don’t immediately see the consequences of is a very important and interesting inclusion in the game, especially the way it was done at the time the game was made. An article by Ryan Lizardi in Game Studies discusses the nature of the decision to either harvest or save the Little Sisters and how the player is not immediately notified about the correctness of their decision. Lizardi explains how the sort of historical time capsule created by Rapture allows this decision making mechanic to make statements about the way that the progression of history is influenced by the morality of one’s decisions and the understanding of the “infinite chain of causation”. Games since Bioshock have done this effectively (having played Undertale recently it comes to mind as an example) but to my knowledge it was one of the only games with such a clever morality-based decision-making mechanic at the time of its release. The ability for players to go back and “redo” or “correct” their actions by replaying the game differently and making morally correct decisions allows players to understand the ways that their actions had consequences on both sides of the spectrum (if they chose “wrong” vs if they chose “right”), something you are never able to do in real life which can provide a valuable understanding of this “infinite chain of causation” and bring players closer to understanding the distant consequences that their immediate actions may have. The way that games like Bioshock allow players to revisit morally complex situations and see how their actions create consequences that may not be immediately visible to them is very powerful and could be used very interestingly in the future. I could see decision-making based children’s games being created along these lines to teach children moral lessons and help them understand the infinite chain of causation discussed by Lizardi.
http://gamestudies.org/1401/articles/lizardi


Narrative Architecture in Bioshock

One aspect of Bioshock that I feel the developers excelled at is environmental storytelling, as discussed by Henry Jenkins in his “Game Design As Narrative Architecture”. Although Bioshock certainly contains strong narrative elements present in the dialogue and progression of gameplay/gamic goals, there is very little initial information that the player has about what is… Continue reading Narrative Architecture in Bioshock

One aspect of Bioshock that I feel the developers excelled at is environmental storytelling, as discussed by Henry Jenkins in his “Game Design As Narrative Architecture”. Although Bioshock certainly contains strong narrative elements present in the dialogue and progression of gameplay/gamic goals, there is very little initial information that the player has about what is going on in Rapture beyond the clues they have in the virtual environment. Despite this, the player is able to use the clues around them to infer what kind of situation they are in and the progression of the game creates a smooth narrative flow with the nature of Rapture and the player’s surroundings becoming uncovered as they move through the game. The ways in which water and destroyed environments are used is very effective at this, with the sense that nature is taking its course and reclaiming Rapture from humans. There is also a sense throughout the game that Rapture was a project that never should have been conducted, that it goes against nature and is fundamentally wrong. The environment is dark and overrun with criminals, science experiments gone wrong, and insane people. There are lots of instances of broken furniture and machinery littered around the environment, creating a strong sense that the player is traversing through some sort of haunted house 1950s-inspired version of Atlantis. Through the initial elevator sequence alone, the player is able to get a fairly good grasp of the nature of Rapture and what kind of environment the game will be set in. The music and sound design strongly add to this environment, with shrieks and odd scraping sounds permeating the environment from unknown but seemingly nearby locations. The water covering almost everything in Rapture adds a unique element to the lighting, with reflections being cast from small pools of water or shine added to objects from their wetness. This creates even more dramatic lighting than the broken and patchy initial lighting causes, and when supplemented with the gaudy neon signs in some of the levels the lighting becomes a very strong element of the game environment.


Blast From the Past

Having played and loved Bioshock Infinite already but not either of the first two games in the Bioshock series, I was very excited to play the first game in the series. I love the narrative and character building present in Infinite, and the overall experience of playing the game was one of my favorite experiences… Continue reading Blast From the Past

Having played and loved Bioshock Infinite already but not either of the first two games in the Bioshock series, I was very excited to play the first game in the series. I love the narrative and character building present in Infinite, and the overall experience of playing the game was one of my favorite experiences with digital art that I’ve ever had. I’ve heard and seen so much about the original Bioshock game that I knew it would be good. Given this and my experience with Infinite I was pretty excited to play Bioshock. My excitement proved valid, with the engaging narrative, smooth gameplay and great graphics all creating a very enjoyable gameplay experience. I find it very interesting that Bioshock doesn’t really masquerade itself as some “art game” and is definitely geared toward a variety of audiences, especially some more hardcore gamers. I find that a lot of games now seem to try to achieve an artistic feel by including some sort of meaningful narrative and de-emphasizing every other aspect of the gameplay or at least making it feel more casual. Bioshock doesn’t really seem to do this, with the enjoyable gameplay style complementing the worldbuilding and narrative nicely. I find the graphic and setting contrast with Infinite very interesting, with very dark and dirty surroundings and characters fighting each other in the darkly colored abandoned underwater city of Rapture compared to the almost angelic coloring and character design present in much of Infinite. The religious references in Infinite contrast heavily and poignantly with the frequent drug references in the narrative and gameplay mechanics of Bioshock, bringing up some very interesting thematic concepts. I really like how creepy the first Bioshock feels, with the sound design and soundtrack creating an amazing sense of space and the sense that there’s always something out to get you just around the corner.


Final Post: Borrowing From Others and Looking Back 

I visited Violet’s site and read all three of her posts on Kim Kardashian Hollywood to see what observations she made that I might’ve missed and are applicable to my exploration of American Dream. To be expected, I found a lot of relevant and interesting stuff.  In her first post I found the note of…

I visited Violet’s site and read all three of her posts on Kim Kardashian Hollywood to see what observations she made that I might’ve missed and are applicable to my exploration of American Dream. To be expected, I found a lot of relevant and interesting stuff.

 In her first post I found the note of the positive feed back like fame look that KKH  operates on very applicable to American Dream. Its such an integral part of the game that I didn’t even notice or question it. Getting gigs and shmoozing with the rich and famous gives you more K Stars or B Gems (Glu Mobile really has this down to a science) to use later to charm those too famous to normally talk to you, thereby building a network and increasing your fame. 

Violet’s second post on social media made me think of an aspect of American Dream that I didn’t mention in any of my posts. Spears’ game integrates Twitter (called Tweeter in the game) into gameplay by sending updates to the player in the form of tweets/tweeters. It also called for players to share progress on their own social media (which I discussed in my first post.) However, where KKH lacks an in game social network or communication system, America Dream brings in its own strange version. Players can send text blasts out into an open chat log that’s viewable by all players. I fail to really see the purpose of this feature, as most of the text blasts consist of expletives, silly shout outs, and a lot of posts in foreign languages. I’d be interested to know if any of the other Glu celebrity games have a similar feature. I wonder what Violet would think about this feature, as she said in game chat ” adds to the gaming experience and connects players in-game.”

Violets third post mentions the “radical transparency” of the Kim K brand and how this translates into her video game. This was one of the things I really liked about the mechanics of KKH. As someone who watches her reality tv show, seeing real aspects of Kim’s life in her game was exciting. I saw it less of being a pseudo Kim and more like engaging in the fantasy world that is her life, though that point totally makes sense to me. Anyways, I think this was really missing for me from Britney’s game. Though I am not particularly a Britney fan, so maybe I just didn’t know where to look or draw real world connections. 

I also found Desmond’s post really interesting because he examines a casual game that’s worlds different from American Dream. While the mechanics of Spears’ game deliberately inhibit immersion and time investment, The Room II sounds like it does the opposite. I wonder what the target audiences for these different style casual games are. Is the less immersive for non gamers and the more immersive for seasoned gamers? Or is it not so simple as that? 

As I briefly examined gender in GTA, I enjoyed Chris’ post on gender in Skyrim, particularly his quote “While women are not directly in danger to be saved in most cases, they are given no agency in the game. The women in Skyrim do not play roles that contradict the traditional trope that women lack power and a vital role in the story.” I think this is a really important thing that most video game designers and developers do not consider. Just because female characters in a game don’t fall into a harmful stereotype (like damsel in distress) doesn’t give it the OK on female representations. This is not productive enough to feminism in our society. Games need to be made that depict female characters in ways that challenge pre existing notions and stereotypes. 


I really enjoyed blogging about video games. I’m especially thankful this exercise brought me to the game Gone Home (thanks Dr Sample for passing along the link and sale info for that game.) I look forward to broadening my experiences with video games. Thanks everyone for a great semester. 

The more you know, the more you don’t know

Even though we were free to write about any theme about any videogame, I found 5 themes that submerge that interested me the most. Representation of Gender and Identity Returning to the blog posts about Portal,  I was surprised that not more classmates wrote about Chell as a woman and how that influenced game play. During […]

Even though we were free to write about any theme about any videogame, I found 5 themes that submerge that interested me the most.


Representation of Gender and Identity

Returning to the blog posts about Portal,  I was surprised that not more classmates wrote about Chell as a woman and how that influenced game play. During one of the game labs, Jasmine and I both expressed our satisfaction and increased motivation for playing Portal upon discovering Chell’s gender. Emi wrote about how the FPS prevented Chell from being viewed as a sexual object. After having a conversation in-class with another classmate who is male, he expressed how it didn’t matter to him that Chell was female; it didn’t change his game play. I think that feminist arguments have to solid and not victimizing, especially when it relates to gender respresentation in videogames.

Matt didn’t focus on the visual representation of gender, but instead talks about how “the design of GLaDOS’s voice allows her to emulate a human expressing emotion, and works to convince the player that non-biotic beings have feelings and should be regarded as humans.” It’s possible that the game communicates that a woman’s voice is better at expressing emotions than a male voice. 

Narrative Linearity

In FMS321, we discussed the relationship between story, narrative, and architecture in videogames. In my blog post about Final Fantasy X, I discussed my frustration with the linearity of the game plot, and the desire for more game mechanics and use of the controller. Miso proposed an interesting way to analyze the role of Chell’s portal gun, pointing out that it’s linear fashion is dictated not only by GLaDOS, but by the game designers. When skimming over the blog posts over the past semester, there was no doubt that the narrative of video games resurfaced as a popular theme. Some ludologists wouldn’t be so happy with our online class discussions.

Video games and the Cinema

There’s no doubt that Alexander Galloway considers cinema the birthing grounds for video games. That tension still exists today. In my second blog post about Final Fantasy X, I discussed the difference between “playing” and “watching” the game. Most of my game play comprised of embedded videos to advance the storyline. During these videos, there was no way to skip them nor control the character. The passitivity of these videos made me feel like I was watching the “game” but not playing it. On the other hand, I found Desmond’s experience in The Last of Us not much different, but he considered not clicking buttons during shots still a part of playing the game because the player gains information about the characters.

I think the difference lies in what a game is: a set of rules. To play the game, one must understand the rules. Understanding the story, in most cases, is not necessary. I didn’t need to learn about my character’s story  in FFX to play. I’m sure that although the information that Desmond got from the shots was important, it wasn’t necessary to continue playing The Last of Us. The video game as a medium, although mature, still needs a clearer definition. I’m not sure what it will take for this medium to be truly divorced from cinema (if that’s even the goal). Maybe it will never fully mature, in the same way that art has an ever-changing meaning.

The relationship between Hardware and Software

Many people noted the difference between playing Portal on a laptop versus the console game. Each medium has its own set of affordances  that affect game play. I was interested at comparing Aaron’s and Alec’s interpretation of video games on different hardwares because Aaron mentioned the role of pricing of games and consoles, while Alec focused more on digital authorship and the threat it had on identifying the “original” Portal. 

I was a bit surprised to not see more people talk about other games and their relationship with the medium. The only person I saw talking about the medium explicitly was Patrick, who argued against the misconception that all mobile games are casual. “Mobile” refers specifically to the medium a game is being played on, while “casual” is the genre.

Our relationship as players with game designers

The title of this blog post was inspired by seeing how each person wrote blog posts about a variety of topics. Although we still face a a lack of knowledge about many games’ algorithmic allegory, there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with writing these blog posts. I not only felt like I better understood the game, but felt like I was uncovering an aspect of the videogame that I hoped the game designers hadn’t thought of before.

It’d be naive to continue thinking that way. After reading other classmates’ blog posts and designing a quick video game for the final project, I firmly believe that there’s no way that videogame designers haven’t thought about what we’re writing about before. Videogames are one of the purest forms of procedural rhetoric, meaning that they have thought about almost everything. The game has been coded for everything, from the way a light reflects upon a character’s face to the way the virtual environment responds to the ‘x’ button being pushed.

That’s what makes “pranks” so satisfying: it’s a moment in which the game designer feels a bit more human to the player. In his blog post, Alec shared his reaction to an intentional glitch in Dragon Quest V:

…while I couldn’t spin around to find the game’s developers giggling at my struggle (or just grinning vindictively, more likely), I’d like to imagine they had a similar, preemptive satisfaction when they added the glitch to the game’s code.”

This class was a great way to study video games using a variety of labs, readings, and class discussion. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone of us was able to write a post that could make its designer say “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of my game that way before.”

How a video game designer might sum up our semester

 

What does agar.io do?

Very reminiscent of Pac Man, it occurs to me that agar.io might be the closest thing to a modern multiplayer Pac Man. Whereas Pac Man has a specific level design and series of obstacles the player is required to tackle in order to progress through the game, agar.io has far less structure and goal in… Continue reading What does agar.io do?

Very reminiscent of Pac Man, it occurs to me that agar.io might be the closest thing to a modern multiplayer Pac Man. Whereas Pac Man has a specific level design and series of obstacles the player is required to tackle in order to progress through the game, agar.io has far less structure and goal in mind, with no landmark achievements the player is working toward (like beating the level in pac-man) and an infinitely long possible gameplay time, with the player staying safe in gameplay as long as they remain the largest player and manage to eat all smaller players. Despite the competitive and sometimes intense or fast-paced multiplayer gameplay, players have the option of simply grazing on the numerous dots spawning around the gameplay grid and minding their own business (as long as a larger player doesn’t decide to make them a snack). The more open-world nature of agar.io in comparison to Pac Man seems reflective to me of a more general trend in the way games have changed since the rise of arcade games. I see games becoming more and more open-world, with the rules defining the world of a game becoming less and less rigid. Even though the mechanics of agar.io are very simple (beyond the multiplayer online aspect), the game is not one I could easily have seen being made during pac-man’s time (or at least an 8-bit version). To me, this change represents a shift to a more Ian Bogost-like “do things with video games” attitude, with the things agar.io “does” being creating an informal online community as well as simulating a sort of hypothetical biological cannibalistic relationship wiith a completely darwinistic attitude. The other players almost feel like some kind of bacteria floating in a graph-based fluid, the stronger ones preying on the weaker. The shift to more free-form open-world games allows games to make much more interesting commentary than they previously could.


An Analysis of Immersion in Games

In a class where the assignment is to play video games, I was very interested to see what my classmates chose to play. And after reading through many of their blogs, a common theme among a lot of games, specifically action games, is that of immersion. And while I have played many games that would … Continue reading “An Analysis of Immersion in Games”

In a class where the assignment is to play video games, I was very interested to see what my classmates chose to play. And after reading through many of their blogs, a common theme among a lot of games, specifically action games, is that of immersion. And while I have played many games that would be considered immersive, I had never thought about why they were considered as such.  Miso talks about immersion in his blog post about Thief and how one of the most important attributes of an immersive game is to make sure the game remain in the world of realism, as games played outside of this world tend to break the immersive experience (he uses a magical fireball not melting ice as a great example). Following up on this, Chris references to how some people prefer a first person perspective in Skyrim as it increase immersion. And while Skyrim does not thrive in terms of immersion due to its mythical setting and use of magic, the use of first person still allows for an immersive experience.

Going further, Jean Paul brings up Jamie Madigan and the “completeness of sensory information” and “cognitively demanding environments” act as a measure for immersion games. This thought really resonates with me, as while I play a game, part of the immersion comes from the details found within a game. The completeness of information hits home, as this is the feeling of being in the game world, seeing the game world and processing it as you would real life. Aaron also talks about Fallout 4’s immersive quality, and how the addition of real world connections, such as having a pet dog that you have to take care of, makes the game realistic. He also references Madigan, and her concept of the spatial presence of being inside a game create this immersive experience.

And lastly, as a counter to immersion, Samantha talks about how Britney Spears American Dream the company uses this idea of immersion as a way to promote its casualness. Instead of developing a world that promotes realism, it breaks the fourth wall often, calling upon jokes and ideas in the real world in an effort to keep it casual.

After reading all these posts and playing some of the games, I definitely feel the my understanding of the use of immersion in games is much more complete. Also, I found it especially interesting in reading about how games that aren’t exactly realistic attempt to model immersion. Games such as Skyrim are not realistic; however, they use concepts of immersion to create a better game play experience.