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just_nonplussed Blog

auctioning off a treasure

this is odd... i was rather enjoying my little break from forum posting and general video game banter.

but i just had to write this particular blog to say that i am selling a little treasure that has been stuffed on my game shelf for 9 years. my signed copy of the legend of zelda: ocarina of time. ;_;

i thought i'd never sell such a priceless item, but today i've put a price on it. some tough circumstances have forced me to act, and so i must do this for my survival. :-)

it would be wonderful if you guys could help me out a little by mentioning this item on some website forums. just as if you happend to see it (it's difficult to directly self-promote anything on a forum). you don't have to by any means - it would just help me out a lot!

x

100 game icons

i just did some new game icons today. you can check them out here. feel free to use any of them or download/modify them.

i did them to remind me of memories in games and to preserve those moments as avatar icons that can be distributed or viewed like a kind of mini online gallery.

older icons here.

~

also, i won't be very active on this site for a while. i feel like lately i have been collecting my thoughts on what computer games have meant to me over the years. i feel that i have a good picture now, of what 'gaming' is. i hope i've contributed enough to player consciousness through this blog. :-)

the reason i won't be very active for a while is that i feel sometimes that games space invade my life. no matter how much i rationalize and attempt to weave the damn things naturally into everything else, i end up sort of being consumed.

there is this little game called life that i haven't spent as much time playing...

i'm not leaving forever or anything, but for now i need some perspective.

x

perspectives

after playing some games i realized some more things about how we engage with them.

in 3D (or 2D) games that are top-down or have rotatable cameras (usually rotating around the player-character), the experience is a more objective one; you generally have more space to move about and think, and the gameplay experience is usually based upon objects. for example, in zelda, your game experience is often dependent on objects and how they interact in the space. objects extend to people as well, as you often walk around and talk to NPCs. your mind has more space to breathe. space is 'extended' (or created) beyond where you're sitting.

in traditional 2D games, sidescrollers for example, the picture is flat which tends to have the effect of absorbing your mind more completely, essentially flattening it into a linear projection. when we come away from the screen, it can take a while to adjust back to a 3D world!

in first-person games, you're immediately absorbed into the world in a similar way to sidescrollers (such as metroid) or single-screen games (such as breakout). with photo-realism, the first-person perspective is perhaps themost simple way to 'put a player into a world'. although keeping them there is another matter entirely!

after the perspective, it's down to the rules of each individual game design. the game i was playing in my last blog, pyoro, not only flattened my mind into linear space, but it left me with no choices or free will; i was merely reacting. in addition my mind was focused only on a singular goal, linear progress. while a game like metroid or sonic flips between forward momentum and exploratory sections.

while i was playing zelda i felt a little more free to think and solve the puzzles as they relied more on logic instead of pure instinct and action.

i guess it's interesting to consider the nature of perspective and how it shapes our experiences in games, but also in life. spaces are created for a reason, and as such have an effect on our behaviour and how we think. we're also generally incredibly limited as we tend only to view life from the reference point of our body in time and space.

pyoro and the magic circle

i've just been playing pyoro, a bonus mini-game on the GBA version of wario ware (available on DSiware as 'birds & beans', and it appears there are knock-off flash versions on the internet too).

aside from being very addictive and a supremely well-balanced game, it made me realize some things.

i've been trying to play games without being immersed in them; without losing touch with what we call 'reality'. so i thought that this requires attention on the game system as an object and as an interaction within reality (for want of a better term) as opposed to the game content as reality of the moment. i want to play sometimes, just to pass the time.

but when i came out of the game i couldn't focus on where i was. i just wanted to play the game. i realized then that the game is a seperate reality; it's definately its own reality and is secluded. in game theory they call this the 'magic circle'. you may be reading this and thinking, "well, duh", but how many of us consciously think about this? how many of us just play games and not think about what they're interacting with, or how they're interacting?

what is significant about saying that a game is its own seperate reality? i think it's significant to know that a game controls our consciousness by controlling 3 of our most prominant senses. pyoro is a great example of total domination. like tetris, or kaboom, or any traditional arcade game, it puts the player at a constant disadvantage and never allows an 'ultimate win' or the ability to truly overcome the imposed limitations. although not as extreme as something like kaboom, pyoro creates a perfect balance between 'success' and 'loss'. it's hard to describe, but you're constantly trying to build as the system is constantly trying to break down. it's like if you were trying to build a sand castle and the tide is trying to erode it and you always have this limited time gap in which to maintain. you simply maintain, and stall your inevitable doom. the best you can hope for is a perfect run and a high score. this is kind of the grand narrative of arcade games; survival beyond the odds.

pyoro is secluded and seperate because, for the moment, it erases all other rules. it replaces them with a simple goal, a clear route for progression, and simple mechanics (alongside some pleasing audio-visual). the simplicity of the mechanics is key as they guide the player into progressively more complex rhythms. because the player understands the simple mechanics, they push forward and can get used to a scaling difficulty where it gets harder bit by bit. the visual feedback the player gets is also a key element, and the scope for a slightly higher score creates more urgency and more devotion.

in our more permanant reality, things aren't as simple or as straightforward. so there is a disconnect between realities. this is probably where game addiction comes in.

at a time when i'm trying to develop mindfullness (a singularly-focused mind), this game is interesting to me. i can stay in the moment using a game, but if i'm so addicted i have trouble when i move away from the game because my consciousness is really still in the reality of the more simplified system of the game world. i'm still playing the game in my head!

which leads me to... arcade games are evil! the game isn't the game itself. it's how the designer is playing with you. it's really got nothing to do with fun, and more to do with control. your time is controlled, your mind is focused. there's no waiting around or dithering - just infinite process and progress.

i think pyoro is a good game... but i think that it can be ultimately destructive in that it simply serves its own purpose in its own reality, regardless of you (kind of like if someone is just continually talking AT you and you're never engaged in an actual conversation). it's just a machine that keeps going and going. you participate or you don't. if you enter the magic circle you become dominated. this blurs the line between the game and life. those old arcade games are similar, but more skillfull at least, to MMO RPGs that are often thinly-veiled attempts to keep players glued to the screen no matter what, at all costs. in these cases what results can often just be the aspect of control, and domination...rather than anything that the player can take away and feel improved by. in addition, the team-based online multiplayer aspect of popular FPSs are like seperate sub-realities and social structures.

so the result of the consciousness is a sort of...a subservient one, a dependent one. a mind simply interested and focused on progression - at all costs. this is carried through to life, post-game.

the poetic games

i just thought i'd express my thoughts on some so-called 'art games'. i don't really like that term, but i understand it to refer to the traditional language of 'gameplay' (controlling an image in a space, and performing actions) that is used in an unconventional manner; often poetic, personally expressive, or 'humanist'.

(from the top) 'moon stories, flower, the path, passage, you found the hookshot'

i've played all of these games, and aside from messhoff's stuff (you found the hookshot), they all seem to be trying to be achingly poetic or emotional. it's something that gamers are always thinking about, or at least an issue that is on the tip of their collective tongues or in the back of their mind somewhere.

flower is most notable for trying to really push the 'art game' angle. of course, i didn't think much of flower myself. i don't mind if you love it. i don't think it's a bad game (but it does bore me), and it flys in the face of what is popular and big and tried something mechanically novel (the wind element). what i dislike about flower is that the developers were so desperate to call it a poem and harp on about games as art. games are already art, and always have been. but i guess.. it doesn't hurt to make a game about a flower in order to create more consciousness in the game world that.. "hey these things are culturally important". so i don't hate it, but it's boring to me as art and boring to me as a game. i think the developers need to get over themselves. flower is a valid contribution in creating awareness of diversity and free expression in the digital interactive format, BUT games have been doing this for years! the atari 2600 has some amazing art and weird interactive stories. it's nothing new. i see flower as sort of a culmination in collective gamer consciousness... "games ARE art! so there!". it just bubbled up to the surface after laying dormant for some years (probably sparked off by ICO and Rez).

moon stories is little flash game i played. there's a pixel animation of a girl and a guy, and a serene lake. you control a camera and can re-organize the scene to change the outcome of the story. i like the minimalist approach to interaction. it's refreshing and has impact in its simplicity. i also enjoy the pixel art, blown up like 2600 graphics but more detailed. it's a well-thought out and good way to tell a story in interactive form. i just don't like the stories. i think they're kind of boring. it's a couple sitting in a boat looking sorry for themselves... is that supposed to be artistic? it's alright, but has very little impact on me personally. it is novel for a computer game though. actually... i do not think moon stories is a computer game. it actually is a piece of art, in that there's essentially nothing game-like in it. while flower is a game, and a pretty boring one that tries to transcend itself.

the path i played quite a bit. you can walk around a forest as a little girl. it's supposed to be a dark re-telling of red riding hood. i like the path because i see it as a virtual installation. so i see it as art, but it's an 'art game' because it still relies on some conventions like item collecting. i'm interested in the concept of a virtual art installation, because to me it felt like that rather than a virtual environment. however, like flower and moon stories i just do not enjoy the 'trying too hard to be poetic' thing. maybe some people like that, and that's fine. i just think that some of these developers are just trying too hard. 'emotion in games' - i don't see the big deal; there's always been emotional reaction to games. why do you want to try so hard to make people cry over a video game? if i met you on the street would you try to make me cry..? why?

if you want to express your emotions using the game medium, that's fine by me. but personally i dislike the desperation surrounding some developers (david cage etc.), and gamers when they really want to manipulate you just in order to get those tears flowing. i don't really like it in books or movies either. maybe it's just me.

passage is interactive art, similar to moon stories. it references video games and uses some of its language. i like the brevity of it, and the minimal design. and it's pretty clever how the pixels morph as you move. i should explain the story: you're a guy who moves from left to right. as you progress, you become older, meet a woman, and eventually grow old together and die. lovely. i really didn't like this. i find it so cliche. and that's not me trying to be better than the game - i just personally have no reaction to it whatsoever. it doesn't make me sad. it's just 10mins that i could have had doing something enjoyable.

i liked you found the hookshot. what i like about messhoff's games is that they're bite-sized chunks of 'gamey' gameplay that are focused and polished. i find them elegant in design and quite playful. they evoke nostalgia, but do so while providing something fresh and new. these are like... memories of video games past.

summing up, i think all of these games are interesting and valuable experiments. however, they don't interest me that much and i think that they tend to distract or take away from the fact that games have always been an art form and continue to be. i really do feel there's more interesting stuff in the mainstream right now..

however, i am all for self-expression on the part of the designer of a game or otherwise, so in that regard i'm not judging these as games. they simply might be how these people feel.

so let's all sit in a boat and weep. aww, there there.. feel better now? want to go for ice cream later? ;-p

what we are

in a video game we are a sort of transient spirit. we are formless memory, and we transport that consciousness into robots - the little vehicles inside virtual worlds where we live vicariously as a towering soldier, a wise wizard, an elegant acrobat - you name it. we are vagrants from the void, appearing and reappearing in various forms. what are we here for..? to claim victory!

we never forgot the memory of each video game life... it is stored in our little computer brains. when we begin new adventures in unknown terrain, we recall our past consciousness and we use that knowledge to make sense of our present. just by travelling all these different virtual worlds, we're weaving a crazy and magical quilt of experiences.

this is a player.

:-)

DS getting some love

i have been playing on the DS lately. i have largely ignored it for most of its entire lifespan. i remember getting one at launch... and then being dissapointed. and then, somehow i bought a DSlite at launch too! with doctor kawashima's brain training! weird.

anyway, by that time the DS had risen in popularity. i recall there being plenty of games but not being interested in much of them, or being too poor to buy many of them. at some point i just decided it wasn't the platform for me and i was puzzled by its popularity. i turned back, to the GBA, and discovered its mini catalogue of gems.

lately i have been digging around, and i have found some DS gems that appeal to me. ghost trick is very fun! i guess people might call it a point and click adventure game, but i never thought of it like that. it's just really cool and original. i love the idea of being a ghost and posessing inanimate objects. but i also really like how it feels very at home on DS. the whole compact mystery adventure, and simple interface...it feels great.

i also got a kirby game. it's called canvas curse in the US, and power paintbrush in europe. power paintbrush sounds so much better!

i love kirby games. they're so cheerful and nonchalant. they remind me of summer holidays and little toys, and sweets. at first i found PP to be a bit bland... and i thought it would just be like a spruced-up version of line rider. but as you get further into the game the level design becomes quite inventive and chaotic. it's not challenging or anything.. it's just fun. but like ghost trick it plays to the strengths of the DS and you don't use buttons at all, instead drawing lines with the stylus to guide a kirby ball through the air. kirby is mediocre as a platform game, but excellent at displaying the strengths of a gaming platform. just look at epic yarn and tilt n' tumble.

it's interesting that both of these games stand out to me, not just because they're interesting and fun, but because of their interface. it finally allows me to feel the DS as something other than simply a funny little novelty thing.

torchlight

ever wonder why quite a few of samus's poses are front-facing shots of the character? i just noticed that it's a pose to denote, or imply, samus as a detective*. this fits, seeing as the metroid series is focused on exploration above simply shooting.

i also see these poses as kind of subversive. the gun and the gun shot is often represented as a line, or linear. many guns in games play up the 'girth' or the 'length', but here we see a circle that appears to absorb, into a vaccum of plasma.

you'll also notice samus shoots the screen at the end of super metroid (and possibly some of the other ones). skip to 3:10 to see it.

it's a curious moment.

*the clip is from 'deep red' by dario argento. series director, yoshio sakamoto said this thriller inspired him a lot when making the metroid games.

animal crossing

so i've been playing some animal crossing, on the wii.

i can't decide whether this game is really good, or really boring. there are some things that i really love about it, mostly the way that you can decorate your house and the fact that there are so many objects and different things to populate your place with.

however, i tend to get frustrated with the rest of the game. it's very limited. there's really not that much to do. what it comes down to is selling fruit and shells in order to pay your mortgage. is this all there is to life??? however, there's something about the chance element to gameplay that i do enjoy. i enjoy logging into a virtual world where it might be raining, foggy, or sunny. i enjoy the chance element of items appearing in the shop. but i think it could be a much better game if you had more choices; if you didn't have to mechanically harvest the same piece of fruit (thankfully you can sell fossils too), over and over again...to which the shop keeper is oblivious (tom nook never sells any oranges in his store!).

nintendo have created a minature world of charm with some opportunity to explore your own consciousness...however, they've strangled that by being very conservative with the design. i also find the interface to be clunky at best (in 2011, why can't i stack similar items in one inventory slot?).

i know AC is coming on the 3DS, and if it isn't a significant overhaul nintendo are just being plain lazy with such a potentially rich series.

reflections

video games seem mostly to me to be about the male experience. semen-shooting, and 'infiltration'. gun-shooting and sword-stabbing is all there really is out there today. you could argue that, "well no, there's also life sims and games based on construction and customization". but the sims and LBP aside, it is a constant barrage of aggressive hotness. i almost laughed out loud when i saw 'world of tanks' advertised on a gaming site. i think that was what it was called...

take the symbols away and you're left with a sort of orgasmic stimulation, or maybe.. a sugary sweetness. what gamers broadly describe as 'fun'. but without language, it is merely a kind of warm stimulation or vibration.

i'm afraid, with a few exceptions, that i do not identify with the majority of games anymore. it's more that i cannot... on a conscious level, because i know it constructs identity. and my identity has evolved beyond what games can generally offer me. it's not the medium itself, it's how developers are using it. there's not enough diversity. too much money tied up in simulators where you play as angry bald men on rail guns, penetrating aliens.. who also seem equally aggressive. aren't you bored of this already..? why bother anymore..?

this stagnation of the industry will continue to damage and cripple the long-term opportunities available. it remains to be seen whether the industry even cares or not. and i wouldn't look to platformers or sidescrollers as a way out, because they're just as rotting as FPSs.

personally, i wanted to make a game where you can build sand castles or something. you play as a body of water (and maybe a hose), seeping into sand. and then you can sculpt sand castles. it would be procedural and very intuitive and hands-on. it would be cool if this was on kinect or something.