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.
Having never played a Fallout game before, I wasn’t sure what to expect before I started playing Fallout 4. I knew that I was in for an expansive RPG centered around surviving nuclear fallout, but that was about it. But one thing I didn’t expect was the cold-blooded murder of the character’s wife and the … Continue reading “Empathy Provoked in Fallout”
Having never played a Fallout game before, I wasn’t sure what to expect before I started playing Fallout 4. I knew that I was in for an expansive RPG centered around surviving nuclear fallout, but that was about it. But one thing I didn’t expect was the cold-blooded murder of the character’s wife and the theft of his child within ten minutes of the game starting. I was surprised, as to me it seems a dubious decision to start off a very anticipated game with such negativity and sadness. However, as I played on, I started feeling sorry for the guy and I realized that my character was no longer just any other videogame protagonist, there solely to shoot and kill and explore- he was a man on a mission to find his lost child.
The empathetic feelings provoked early on were then tapped into again shortly after escaping the Vault. The protagonist discovers a dog wandering about all alone in the nuclear wasteland, and takes him to be his companion. This taps into the societal norm of a dog being man’s best friend, and you begin to feel the same feelings as before, but in a different light. You begin to feel sorry for the dog that he’s in the situation, but also hopeful that he will help the survivor.
Ian Bogost has a chapter on empathy in his book “How to do Things With Videogames”, and in it he discusses a Zelda game where at the beginning, Link is far too weak to rescue his sister from the Forbidden Fortress, but later comes back much stronger to handily do the job (19). In a sense, Fallout 4 starts the same way. The protagonist’s child is taken from him very early on while he is unable to help, but presumably he will rescue the baby when he has become strong enough. While the games are drastically different in both narrative and mechanics, they both provoke an experience of weakness that fosters empathy, while leaving the door open to finding the necessary strength to succeed in the latter parts of the game.
Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2011. Print.
After playing Knights of Pen and Paper, I remembered the fun of playing tabletop games in real life. From my own experience, translating tabletop games to videogames is no easy feat. The issues people face in this conversion has nothing to do with creating the right environments for fantasy or sci-fi, but they lie in … Continue reading Is Knights of Pen and Paper a Metagame?→
After playing Knights of Pen and Paper, I remembered the fun of playing tabletop games in real life. From my own experience, translating tabletop games to videogames is no easy feat. The issues people face in this conversion has nothing to do with creating the right environments for fantasy or sci-fi, but they lie in the numerous actions people can make in tabletop games. In this log, I would like to discuss my thoughts on Knights of Pen and Paper and its relationship with tabletop games and videogames.
As I mentioned before, the translation of tabletop games to videogames is quite difficult. This leads to videogames based on Dungeons & Dragons, for example, to fall through in terms of popularity. People want to play table top games because they offer a sense of creative freedom. Videogames, however, face plenty of limitations. It is too difficult for game developers to make a game that allows the player total freedom to do whatever they want since there are only so many programs most computers or consoles can run until the game crashes, especially for role-playing games. And in most RPGs (role-playing games), a narrative must form with cued actions from non-player characters (NPCs) according to the actions of the player.
Then how does Knights of Pen and Paper blend these two elements? First, it pays respect to the gamer stereotype. The room you play in looks like a basement where most people imaging tabletop games to occur. Also, though the player cannot say what they want, the party is created by the different “players” you can choose to fill the available chairs. In a sense, you control the “player characters” while the Game Master controls the monsters… until the game goes rogue!
The plot thickens when the Game Master reveals that he is not controlling the actions of his NPCs which reminded me of our class discussion of the Magic Circle. Knights of Pen and Paper seems to act under the premise, “What if the Magic Circle was a Magic Circle?” The objective to defeat those responsible for breaking the circle that separates reality from imagination is then born for the game’s plot. Using this plot, the player can experience the history of tabletop games (namely Dungeons and Dragons) and the tropes associated with these games, making this mobile game a metagame.
In his essay on gamic action, Alexander Galloway notes that many turn-based role-playing games (RPGs) and strategy games are essentially games of menu navigation, wherein most or all gameplay takes place within menus (14). This is certainly the case for Square Enix’s 1992 RPG classic for the SNES, Dragon Quest V: The Hand of the … Continue reading War Stories→
In his essay on gamic action, Alexander Galloway notes that many turn-based role-playing games (RPGs) and strategy games are essentially games of menu navigation, wherein most or all gameplay takes place within menus (14). This is certainly the case for Square Enix’s 1992 RPG classic for the SNES, Dragon Quest V: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride (henceforth abbreviated to DQV). Much like early entries in its sister series Final Fantasy, players coordinate and complete battles in DQV by issuing commands to their party members. Players choose from “Fight”, “Tactics”, or “Flee” at the start of each turn; once the party’s actions are locked in, the protagonists and enemies trade blows until one side falls.
Interestingly, DQV (and most other games in the Dragon Quest series) renders battles from a first-person perspective. High-quality pixel portraits of demon foes confront the player, and enemy attack animations gradually grow in size to create an illusion of moving through the screen and toward the player. Similarly, the protagonists’ own attack animations emanate not from sprites of the heroes (which are never shown during battle) but from thin air, as if the player himself/herself is wielding the whip, staff, or axe. This setup stands in marked contrast to the battle scenes of early Final Fantasy games, which display both the player’s party and any enemies meeting on the battlefield.
I could certainly write an entire game log entry on the effects of having DQV’s enemies face and attack the player directly, and of the heightened identification this induces with the game’s protagonists. However, I’d actually like to zero in on a particular scene, where DQV exploits its first-person battle perspective to heighten the tragedy of an early plot twist.
DQV’s story spans the entire lifetime of the game’s silent Hero (capitalized here because the player does get to choose the protagonist’s first name), so at least a little exposition is necessary for me to explain the scene I have in mind. The game’s first few hours depict the Hero’s childhood as he embarks on incrementally more exciting adventures, from freeing a helpless villager trapped under a boulder, to saving a tortured wildcat kitten, to ridding a haunted castle of its ghosts.
This first act concludes with the biggest adventure yet: the Hero has traveled to the royal capital with his father, and within minutes are tasked with retrieving a kidnapped prince. The Hero and father track the kidnappers to their hideout, where the father rescues Harry and tasks his son with guiding the prince out of the cave and back to safety. They are inches away from freedom when a demon lord appears and swiftly defeats the Hero and prince.
The father arrives moments too late and engages in battle with the demon lord. At this point, the game transitions unexpectedly from exposition to gameplay, and the player is for the first time handed control of the Hero’s father. Battle proceeds as expected for a few turns, but is then interrupted by a sudden twist: the demon lord scoops up the unconscious Hero and holds a scythe to his neck, daring the father to continue attacking risk his son’s life.
Naturally, the selfless father refuses. The game transitions back into the battle screen, but now, the player is robbed of any autonomy. He/she must simply watch as the Hero’s father stands resolute and accepts the demon lord’s attacks. It takes over a minute for the father’s massive health bar to reach zero, at which point the battle concludes and the father dies (permanently and canonically, unlike typical in-battle deaths).
It would have been wounding enough to simply show the Hero’s father, up to this point invincible and infallible, suddenly slain in a cinematic interlude. But by transporting the tragic event into the battle screen, the player becomes acutely aware of a number of factors, all of which heighten the scene’s emotional resonance. First, we experience the true resolve of the father’s love for his son as he withstands a barrage of attacks from the villain. Second, our surprise at this narrative twist is compounded by a shift in gameplay, as the typically free battle menu is suddenly converted from a gameplay interface to a mere set piece. Finally, we are aligned with the father and placed in a scenario painfully similar to his own: desperate to act, but forced to endure.
Galloway, Alexander. “Gamic Action, Four Moments.” Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 2006.