What We Get From Games
Something that I champion here on Simplikation is the notion that we can examine games beyond the bare-basics of "oh, this is fun." That we can take a game and dissect it, deconstruct it, experience it in new and layered ways.
The best thing about this is that anybody can do it. All you have to do is take an interest beyond the blind consumption of artistic material. Once you start looking through systems, culture, history, and context, games open up like a flower, and even the most tonally deaf games can give us a sense of wonder and connection.
To that end, I put out a call to Twitter.
Share just one game and one reason why it speaks to you beyond raw animalistic lizard brain pleasure— Tegiminis (@tegiminis) March 25, 2015
The answers I got were all interesting, and show a lovely sense of diversity in how each person approaches games in varying ways.
As always, some games were looked at in terms of their systems rather than any sort of narrative. They are examined as interconnected machines working together to mystify and stall the player. Not every game has any interesting story, and mechanical skill and intelligence can be just as rewarding as a good plot.
@tegiminis Noctis, because I had to learn how to use a command prompt to pilot my ship.— Tanner Hendrickson (@tnnrdctyl) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Frogger 2: Swampy's Revenge because it was the first game I mastered on my own.— Goo Gal NikkiQ Belle (@mno00) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis The Disgaea series does it for me. I always have a goal when I play any of them and end up diving deep into it.— Digi (@DigitalBasic) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis 868-HACK is like, the ultimate embodiment of this concept, as far as I'm concerned.— Jake Eakle (@jseakle) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis how bout dota 2? i love it because it is stupid deep, 500 hours in I still learn new things every time I play— Andreas Jörgensen (@hideous_) March 25, 2015
A Complicated, Connected World
Of course, there's also the emotional and narrative complexities which allow certain games to resonate so deeply and so profoundly with their audiences. Characters and stories that keep you playing, keep you invested in the cast, just like the best novels.
@tegiminis The Cat Lady. A genre I hate, on a shoestring budget with lots of rough edges, still one of the most gutwrenching stories ever.— Sin Vega (@sinisteragent) March 25, 2015
.@tegiminis Final Fantasy II (US, SNES) showed me games could have characters I actually care about, revelatory for a middle schooler— dickpuncher by proxy (@valrus) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Don't tell anyone but I didn't play Immortal Defense for the tower defense action— Capntastic (@Capntastic) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Star Ocean; it was the first RPG i ever played, and opened my mind on what was possible with storytelling/characters in games— ★~(◡‿◡✿) (@NitroX72) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis half life 2 because of it's detailed and complex world around you— Garfield Vakarian (@QueenGarfield) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Uncharted 2 for inverted storytelling and unreliable narrators.— Palle Hoffstein (@Palle_Hoffstein) March 25, 2015
Narratives and Mechanics Intertwined
Stories and mechanics don't necessarily have to be separate. Mechanics can influence the narrative and vice versa, creating a game that pulls its audience into the world and blurs the line between game and player.
@tegiminis Far Cry 2, because it puts me in a world that doesn't care about me.— I _ This _ Every Day (@davidsgallant) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Phantasy Star II: it used mechanics to tell story and subverted tropes, even though it couldn't display 10-letter item names— Hangedman (@JonahD) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Dragon Age: Origins presented me w/ choices so difficult I put down the controller and stepped away breifly to comtemplate— Aesop Eustathios (@TheXenochrist) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Dark Souls. It told an interesting story without shoving it down your throat. The world was full of people but I felt alone.— Morty (@istedet) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Planescape: Torment. Simple, now, but it was my first experience with metaphors in games, gameplay made meanings more tangible.— An Imposter (@eidlonimp) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis I got into Star Control II / Ur-Quan Masters for the melee, stayed for the story, still haven't finished it proper— CrillFactor Zero Two (@CrillFactor) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Alpha Protocol. Once you realise that this story is happening around you and not because of you you want to play again.— fil5000 (@fil5000) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Oldie but a goodie: Loom. That game is a semi-religious experience for me. There's so much to it despite seeming simple at first.— Tiger Tiger (@kitkittybot) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis metroid prime. Beyond visual appeal and gameplay.it was very entertaining digging the story/biology out of every corner— Eyespots McGee (@DarkheartsClub) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Mass Effect 2 had me build personal relationships with my companions.— Alex Throndson (@AlexanderThrond) March 25, 2015
We often overlook visual style and sound design in our pursuit of complex narratives and complex systems. That doesn't mean they can't be just as important. Whether it's lulling you into a trance or introducing you to a new aesthetic, sometimes all a game needs to be interesting is a sense of style.
@tegiminis dyad because it's intrinsically musical but more as an experience for your body rather than a game of Simon says— i *AM* the D (@PDOGGYBALLS) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Jet Set Radio Future really shaped what became my "aesthetic" from the music to the vibrant colors of Tokyo-to— Dylan (@TheOldIronGiant) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Final Fantasy VI. The midi score had notes between the beeps that let me hear an orchestra through the emulation.— An Imposter (@eidlonimp) March 25, 2015
Culture, History, and Meaning
Some games we like for reasons outside of their quality as a game. Whether it forces us to think about the world around us, introduces us to a new group of people, or gives us a new perspective on games and their relationship with the player, is immaterial. Not all games have to be good to be important.
@tegiminis of all things, Digital Combat Simulator: A-10C Warthog got me to think a lot about the boundary between play and work— Bufﬁngton Inﬆitution (@vogon) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis persona 4 captures the true day to day charm of building relationships and made me better at time management/accepting myself— handsome & good joel (@JoelGNewman) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis bonus mention to DDR cause it was the game that actually made me friends, but maybe that's not the point you're trying to make :p— ★~(◡‿◡✿) (@NitroX72) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis earthbound is like a koan. first it's a game, then it's not a game, then it's a game again. you know? you can keep going deeper.— weltschmerz (@bleaky) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis gameboy camera showed me how silly & creative game devs could be, & inspired me a lot. i still get misty eyed hearing the ending— andrew , (@VOOOLN) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Final Fantasy 7, b/c it remains to be the most incisive and damning critique of capitalism I've experienced in a game— Aesop Eustathios (@TheXenochrist) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis C&C Red Alert for teaching me that communism is actually Cool As All Hell And Very Good— D___ N_____ (@Mornacale) March 25, 2015
Emotions, and where we are in our life, have an important effect on how we understand media. When you build a game that can tap into that sort of raw emotional connection to touch somebody else's life, you've made something truly special.
@tegiminis bio shock was really; iteresting in hwo it made me think about obama— Brian Lee-ECCC FF-01 (@LRcomic) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis SH2 because much of my life involved grief and anxiety and it was a nuanced parallel stabilizing force— Shannon (@plentyofalcoves) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Planescape Torment. "What can change the nature of a man" was a sort of revelation for teenage me.— Björn Loesing (@VexingVision) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis seconding Planescape, also a nod to KOTOR, it was the first video game i understood because i was familiar with d20 system— sigilgoat/doe (@sigilgoat) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis majora's mask. I just love the constant impending sense of doom, even when things are going well.— Joe (Chapman) (@themostcrub) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Shantae: Not meeting others expectations of you and learning that your lack of a property does not make you less of a person.— Mangoman (@_midiman) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Thomas Was Alone, for reasons I cannot necessarily describe, but the game made me cry. It captured how I felt.— Claire (@chapien) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Dark Souls, because Priscilla asked me to leave her alone.— Paul Brimmer (@paulbrimmer) March 25, 2015
@tegiminis Silent Hill 2 for creating a metaphor of guilt and loss through terror and transformation.— Ashley Lynch (@ashleylynch) March 25, 2015
The point is that you - and anybody - can contribute to this medium in real ways. There's no gate on the door to prevent you from being a good critic. Contribute your thoughts, explain what you got from the experience, and share it with others.
Games are so diverse, so meaningful, so important to people for all sorts of reasons. Let's celebrate the artistry put into every game, and respect them by thinking about what makes them great.
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