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.
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.
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.
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.
Having played agar.io several times a couple years ago, I was very surprised to see its popularity has been maintained (if not grown) since the last time I played. When I last played there was no revenue-generating system of payment or advertisement present in the game from what I remember. Now when I open the… Continue reading Changes in agar.io
Having played agar.io several times a couple years ago, I was very surprised to see its popularity has been maintained (if not grown) since the last time I played. When I last played there was no revenue-generating system of payment or advertisement present in the game from what I remember. Now when I open the website in my browser, I am first faced with an image informing me that I am using an adblocker (true) and asking me to disable it, followed by a number of panels advertising new apps and games that the developer has released as well as social media widgets for sharing the game and your score. Additionally, another ad appears superimposed over everything and you must close it before reaching the widgets to log in and play. Players may now customize more elements of their “character” like the skin and name displayed on your circle as you glide around the grid-based map eating smaller dots and players. I’m interested in both the fact that so many people still play this game despite how old it is (at least to me) and also the ways in which the game has been able to create apparent revenue streams and update content in a way that maintains the engagement of players while still creating an economic profit for the developer. Despite these superficial changes, there seem to be few (if any) changes to the actual mechanics of the game (unless there are some that I missed) and I found little difference in the actual gameplay experience from when I first started playing. I find the gameplay of agar.io to be part relaxing, part competitive. I would say the game is relaxing in that the movements of the player are smooth and very simple in mechanic nature, with the player simply guiding around their circle-shaped character with the mouse. It is also competitive, with the multi-player combat incentivising to absorb smaller players in order to increase their size.
As I mentioned in my last post, the music and sound design of Ocarina of Time has been an element of the game I have noticed and appreciated more and more the more I play through the game. One interesting phenomenon with the game that I have discovered, however, is that the current near-meme status… Continue reading External Context and Zelda’s Magic Circle
As I mentioned in my last post, the music and sound design of Ocarina of Time has been an element of the game I have noticed and appreciated more and more the more I play through the game. One interesting phenomenon with the game that I have discovered, however, is that the current near-meme status that some of the sound design elements have achieved in gamer and internet culture have altered the associations I make with the sound effects, which alters the feel of the gameplay itself. For instance, I have heard Link’s spin attack yell used as a sample in songs, and have done so myself when making music. The “secret discovery” sound effect is another that I have heard so often in other Zelda games and outside of the context of a video game that I am somewhat dissociated from the game world when I hear it. It makes me wonder if the magic circle created by the rules of the game can eventually be worn away as the game becomes more of a cultural artifact than an immersive gamic experience and the player becomes increasingly distracted from the gamic experience by the constant sonic reminder that they’re playing a Zelda game and not actually exploring the landscape of Hyrule and fighting monsters to rescue the kingdom. To extend this line of thought, I also wonder if this phenomenon may mean that it is impossible to create a convincing magic circle with the continuation of a successful series. As the series gains a following and its own place in gamer/internet/general culture, it becomes impossible to disassociate elements of the game from their appearance outside of the game. Nintendo, however, seems to have wholly embraced the relevance of their games outside the context of the digital video game world, with games like the Super Smash Bros. series creating a context-collapsing post-modern mashup of the most popular Nintendo characters.
The mechanic that I found the most interesting in Ocarina of Time while playing was the day/night cycle that triggers when the player enters certain non-narrative linked areas and the ways this was used to add and alter the content of the game in ways that add depth to the game in a remarkably impressive… Continue reading Messing With Time
The mechanic that I found the most interesting in Ocarina of Time while playing was the day/night cycle that triggers when the player enters certain non-narrative linked areas and the ways this was used to add and alter the content of the game in ways that add depth to the game in a remarkably impressive way for such an early implementation of the mechanic. Searching for some discussion on day/night mechanics in games I stumbled across this reddit thread in the large (700k+ subscriber) /r/gaming subreddit about day/night mechanics in games (https://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/24igkc/weekly_rgames_mechanic_discussion_daynight_cycle/). Nintendo games were some of the most frequently referenced in the thread, Zelda and Pokemon being the main two series. Because these were the earliest games referenced in the thread to my knowledge, I was interested in the history of day/night mechanics in games. This led me to this DigitalPress forum thread from 2006 on the subject (http://forum.digitpress.com/forum/showthread.php?89524-First-game-with-a-day-night-cycle). Despite some uncertainty, it seems that the game Red Alert from 1981 is the earliest game mentioned with a day/night mechanic and in-game clock that changes as the player progresses through the game (video of gameplay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iHMzi86KuE). Many games use the in-game clock or day/night mechanic to add difficulty during the night-time, with Minecraft being the most notable modern example of this that comes to my mind. In Minecraft the player must try to gather enough resources, weapons, and/or shelter in order to survive the flood of monsters that come when the sun sets. The nighttime and darkness in the game is something the player grows to fear almost as much as the sound of a Creeper about to explode. This seems to be a fairly common experience with day/night mechanics in video games as noted by many of the posters in both threads. Ocarina of Time eschews the notion that the night has to be a bad thing in the game, offering certain night-time-only opportunities to the player like the grave-digging minigame in Kakariko Village.
Having played a lot of Zelda on the Gameboy Advance as a kid (A Link To The Past, Oracle of Seasons/Ages) but very little on any major consoles (my parents never let me have a game console more than the gameboy my grandparents gave me when I was growing up) I was really interested to… Continue reading Zelda Nostalgia
Having played a lot of Zelda on the Gameboy Advance as a kid (A Link To The Past, Oracle of Seasons/Ages) but very little on any major consoles (my parents never let me have a game console more than the gameboy my grandparents gave me when I was growing up) I was really interested to play this game. The puzzle-based game mechanics that I loved in the previous Zelda games I had played were clearly present and apart from a few differing mechanics and graphic differences (the largest being the 3d/2d difference between GBA and Nintendo 64 games) I felt very much at home in the world of Ocarina of Time. I found the ambient nature of the graphics, especially in Kokiri Forest where the player starts, to be very relaxing and nostalgia-inducing at the same time. The music and sound design are the elements of the game that I have been most consistently impressed and awed by, with a music-based puzzle mechanic and music-based story elements fitting perfectly with the atmosphere of the game and story. I can recognize many of the sound effects from both my time playing other Zelda games but also from music and more general recent media, as the sounds in Zelda have become such recognizable cultural artifacts that they’re maybe even more commonly heard in digital media now than when the game was made. From a 2016 retrospective perspective, it’s very impressive to see how many of the Zelda games were constructed in a way that would let them age well. Despite improving graphics, physics engines, audio quality, and general game mechanic and technological improvement, I have found Ocarina of Time incredibly enjoyable to play and personally believe that it is still very much worth playing in 2016.
This is the excerpt for your very first post.
As I’ve played portal more and more, the level environment of the main facility in the game has begun to remind me more and more of a stylized futuristic insane asylum. The padding in the elevator walls and on some others in the facility, the flat lighting and Glados’ initially soothing voice being piped in from unseen speakers are all reminiscent of some sort of wild futuristic mental hospital complete with puzzles. The cameras placed around the facility to monitor Chell and the constant knowledge that Glados is watching you add to the sense that the player is trapped in an insane asylum. The back parts of the facility that Chell makes her way into later in the game are reminiscent of another different potential vision of a mental institution, with frantic-looking writing scrawled on the wall in various unknown substances. In fact, the entire facility that Portal is set in could be seen as a sort of asylum-gone-wrong scenario – but not for Chell, rather for Glados. By the end of the game it becomes fairly clear that Glados has gone crazy and had probably constructed many (if not all) of the levels as obstacles not to test the portal gun but as some sort of twisted test (or perhaps intended torture or killing) of Chell. Chell might not be crazy enough to be put in a mental institution but Glados is crazy enough to make an entire high-tech obstacle course just to mess with Chell for fun. It’s like a twisted version of the whole “mouse in a maze” experiment trope, with vats of acid and armed robots trying to stop Chell. In a sense, the entire facility is like a reverse madhouse, meant to protect the insane Glados from those who would try to reach the controller of the maze.
image source: https://brcondron.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/first-blog-post/