INSIDE: THE GAMER, ALONE WITH THE WORLD

The myriad mounds of pig carcasses–a leitmotif of death–can be seen on the left of the picture. Furthermore, the picture captures the color palette well; it’s not vibrant, obviously.

Inside begins in medias res: all the player knows is that he/she controls a boy in a red shirt who must flee from masked men with guns. From its limited color palette (almost completely and deliberately, monochromatic) to its absence of a narrator and dialogue, the game looks and feels sparse. Nothing extra-diegetic invades or frames the world of Inside; the player, dropped into the world sans instructions or an explicitly established objective, simply plays and experiences the game, slowly immersing him/herself in Inside’s rawness. When I characterize the game as raw, I intend to convey how strikingly the developers have depicted the preponderance and iniquity of death as juxtaposed to the sanctity of life. Chilling and unnerving, gray, dull pig carcasses stacked in heaps serve as a leitmotif, a recurring image of death that populates the already desolate and dark landscapes. But in opposition to the image of death, little bright yellow chicks come and go, following the protagonist around, chirping away. In a world washed in black and gray, the golden animals counteract the great many images of memento mori.

A striking moment where light illumines the otherwise bleak world. Of course, the flock of chicks are following the leader/protagonist.

 

As the chicks must be utilized so as to solve puzzles, they function as a way to keep the protagonist alive; they are life-giving and precious–necessary even, to the completion of the game. This notion of the preciousness of life pervades the protagonist’s every action, from his sonorous steps to his fearful breathing. As the player, the individual who controls and dictates the protagonist’s life, you feel responsible for this apocryphal boy. There is no music to distance the player from the character: you are with him, hearing only what he can hear. This proximity or intimacy makes failure even more significant. The responsive controls cease to function when a bullet pierces the boy’s chest. The child’s death can be felt at the player’s fingertips. And he/she–the player– is the one at fault, the one who has caused the demise of life in a world so bereft of hope as it is.

The colossal weeds dwarf the boy protagonist. How vulnerable and small he must feel in this world.

 

Source: INSIDE: THE GAMER, ALONE WITH THE WORLD

Convolution and Death: The End and Beginning of Eras in Dark Souls III

As the video game industry continues to evolve, very few games have earned so infamous a reputation as the original Dark Souls game which was released in 2011. What it was infamous for was the intense difficulty through its punishing difficulty,  and convoluted world/plot line. As someone who has invested far too many hours into Dark Souls III on Steam, I can attest to either point. However, it’s easy enough to say how many times I have died or which is the enemy I have died the most to among the many other elements of difficulty that make Dark Souls the cult “hardcore gamer” game. In retrospect, I think the most interesting thing about my first play through of Dark Souls III, I didn’t really care about the plot. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration either to say that I didn’t really know it existed then either. The convolution of the world isn’t mostly shown by the developers in the level design, color palette, or even boss/enemy design; most of the convolution in the Dark Souls series can be derived from both the story and the plot line.

Let me explain exactly what I mean by both story and plot line, an essential theme in all of the Souls games is that the world you live in, or the ideological paradigm headed by the Gods of the world, is dying. You, born of the dark, are to rise above your human caste and choose either to continue the God’s paradigm or start a new one, that of the humans. From that incredibly brief, overly simplified description of the plot, it would be easy to think this some incredibly basic archetype filled plot where choices and outcomes are clear. Hardly so, even though these are the few endings that can be arrived at by the player, the choices that lead them there are not so clear. This is where the story comes in, unfortunately for the player the story behind each NPC which invariably would lead to a different approach by the player is only made clear after the fact. Perhaps now it is a good time to repurpose our definition of convoluted, while in its essence it means a complicated story in this case it is not too hard to think of it meaning something twisted and folded. Both the story and plot overlap and twist into each other over and over again, until ultimately you the player start the games thematic cycle again in bringing your character into the next iteration of the same world.

Source: Convolution and Death: The End and Beginning of Eras in Dark Souls III

On the Brink of Reality

When you hear “FIFA,” your mind could go to one of two places: the recently exposed international soccer governing body, or the video game franchise, developed by Electronic Arts (EA). My first game log is an in depth look at FIFA 18’s gameplay, specifically its “realness.”

In Robert Caillios’s 1958 article Man, Play, and Games, he specifies six criterion for “play”: it must be free, separate, uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, and make-believe. It is necessary to use Caillios’s definition when discussing FIFA because so often I hear, “Do you want to play FIFA?” or “Let’s play FIFA.” Play is always in the conversation with FIFA.

But how much do FIFA’s creators, EA Sports, want this play to be “separate,” and how “make-believe” do they want the game to be?

In my game lab, I played Manager Mode, a feature of the game where you can act as a manager of any team. I chose Watford FC, a mid-table team in the English Premier League. The game asks you to design your manager by choosing a face and an outfit, and allows you to name your manager (I named mine Mattinho Reinikkinhos, my Brazilian alter-ego.)

As a manager, other clubs wanting to buy your players often approach you. On my second day as manager of Watford, Everton FC, another English club, approached me to buy my starting goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes. When I elected to negotiate with Everton, it sent me to a meeting room, which you can see in the video below.

Instead of simulating the sale of Gomes, EA designed Manager Mode to be as realistic as possible. It sends you to the boardroom to discuss the transfer, and gives you, the manager, complete control of the transfer. In my case, I proposed too high of a transfer fee for Everton’s liking, causing them to back out of the deal.

The other noticeable decision that EA made with FIFA 18 was to make each individual game as close to a real broadcast as possible. In the video below, you can see the introduction to my first game as Watford manager against Liverpool FC. The game goes through showing players in the warm-up, the walkout, the starting lineup, and many other features you would see on an actual Premier League broadcast on NBC.

Screenshot from NBC Sports broadcast of the English Premier League.
Screenshot of FIFA 18 gameplay.

In the FIFA 18 actual gameplay, EA emulates the exact same noise that can be heard on an NBC broadcast. The crowd noise, the commentators (Martin Tyler and Alan Smith), the sound of the ball being kicked—it is exactly the sounds you would hear on a Saturday morning watching a real Premier League game. Additionally, the design of the scoreboard in the upper left-hand corner is identical to NBC’s.

Why did EA decide to make FIFA 18 more “real” than any previous FIFA? Their decisions stand as a direct challenge to two of Caillios’s tenets—that play must be separate and make-believe. Though FIFA 18 is not real soccer, it is the closest “soccer” watching experience to an actual NBC Premier League broadcast. With increasing demands for higher quality graphics and more realistic gameplay in the video game world, EA pushes the envelope of reality with FIFA 18.

Works Cited

Caillois, Roger, et al. Man, Play, and Games in The Game Design Reader. MIT Press, 2006.

Source: On the Brink of Reality

FREE GAME!!!

League of Legends, produced by RIOT games, is one of the most popular online computer games in the world. It has the most live streams from twitch (a video game streaming site) and has a total of 27 million users, PER DAY. This game is a revamp of an older games, those include World of Warcraft Frozen Throne and StarCraft. These games were popular games in the gaming community, however, didn’t come anywhere close to the popularity of League of Legends. But how did LOL get so big?

First, let me explain the goal of the game. The objective of this game is to destroy the enemy base. You choose a champion based off a list of 134 (not all of which you have access to immediately), all with different skills and abilities, and fight an opponent or multiple opponent. Within this game there are different ways of playing, for example there are 5v5 games, 3v3 or ARAM. All of which are played against real people from all over your region. This type of social feature increased league popularity but wasn’t the big turning point.

However, the big catch to League of Legends, and the reason Riot games became one of the leading game manufacturers, is simply due to the cost and accessibility of League. Most other games before it like StarCraft or Frozen Throne you had to go to a story to buy, it cost around 60$ to buy, and both games were rated M. However, League of Legends , you are able to download from your home, it is rated pg-13, and (drum roll please) it was also FREE. It cost nothing to download and start playing the game. This takes the Razorblade example in class to a whole other level. Riot makes no money when people download the game, however, once people are in the game, the have the option to buy things, and of course people do!

Riot’s sheer popularity by allowing the game to be free, ends up generates much more money. This strategy and tactic by RIOT games truly took the video game world by storm and transformed the way companies are marketing their products.

 

Work Cited:

Most Watched Games on Twitch | Esports Content and Totalhttps://newzoo.com/insights/rankings/top-games-twitch/. Accessed 2 Feb. 2018.

How Riot Games Created the Most Popular Game in the World | Fortunehttp://fortune.com/2013/07/10/how-riot-games-created-the-most-popular-game-in-the-world/. Accessed 2 Feb. 2018.

 

Source: FREE GAME!!!

Replayable Mechanics in a World of Chaos

Just Cause 3 is at first just another ridiculous-action, shoot-the-bad-guys game.  The game’s story is shallow, yet enjoyable, but its mechanics are the reason I keep coming back to play this game over and over again.  Instead of running everywhere, players are encouraged to use their wrist-mounted grappling hooks to reel themselves across the world at high speed.  Moving quickly through the air?  Open your parachute at any time and stay up even longer.  Use your grappling hook while parachuting and reel in to achieve limitless airtime.  Crave flight but parachuting is too slow for you?  Use your wingsuit instead, but be careful of trees and the ground, as they’ll knock you out of the sky if you get too close.  These are some of the most unique movement mechanics I have ever used in a game, and they make the experience a blast every time.  Although JC3 allows the player to summon a large variety of vehicles at any time, I most often find myself wingsuiting through the cities, islands and mountains of the game world.  Although some challenges spread throughout the game world will reset your progress if you slip up, on the whole the game is not very punishing: there is a limited health pool for your character, but it is not quantified in a health bar, nor does it stay low.  Instead, your health recharges when you are not taking damage, with damage represented by an increasingly red tinge to the edges of the screen.  This keeps the player from worrying too much about health and instead provides encouragement to use the character’s tremendous arsenal of weapons and skills to defeat your enemies.  This encouragement and opportunity for experimentation is what makes JC3 so replayable for me.  I’ve attached a video of someone playing around with the wingsuit mechanic in the game for demonstration.

Source: Replayable Mechanics in a World of Chaos

A True Inclusive Game

          Fortnite is my console game of choice for two reasons: the objective of the game and the inclusivity of the game characters.  The objective of the game is to be the last man, duo, or squad standing, depending on the game mode you choose to play.  Fortnite is revitalizing the late night gaming culture that was prominent when Call of Duty was first released.  Groups of friends may stay up until the early morning hours simply entranced with this game, a tradition that has seemed to die in recent years.  A big contributor to this revamp is the idea of the world versus you- or the world versus you and your crew- much like Call of Duty.  Along with the objective of last man standing, a key contributor toward achieving this is through building forts to gain both a protective advantage as well as a visual advantage over your opponent.  You gain the resources, as well as the weapons, by exploring different locations and discovering items that are laying around.  This game, thanks to its overall objective, plays into the four types of gamers that we discussed as a class the first day of school.  The “spades” have the ability to player kill, the “clubs” have the fort building/exploration aspect, the “hearts” have to communicative component to the game, and the “diamond” players have the overall objective of being the last person standing.

The other reason why I chose Fortnite is because of the inclusivity of the in-game characters.  For the game, your character is randomly chosen for you and the characters include a variety of races as well as both female and male options.  With how inclusive society has become, this game perfectly accommodates a highly demanded societal request.  This inclusivity also, in my opinion, creates a wider range of fans of the game itself.

(This is the cover photo for Fortnite.  Notice the characters that featured.)

(This is an in-game picture of building forts.)

Source: A True Inclusive Game