Posts Tagged ‘Games’
Trilby: Art of Theft and Knytt Stories are two games I’ve been playing extensively lately. Both share an exceptional game experience. Trilby: Art of Theft reminds the player of those good old games from the 90’s – addictive and challenging. Knytt Stories takes the player to a dreamworld that reminded me of listening to Death Cab for Cutie, but then in a gaming package.
What makes Trilby such a great game to play then? It aren’t really Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s graphics that blow you away, they’re straight from the 90’s. But the game’s architecture is very well done, everything seems logical and flows over into the next. The purchasing of abilities to make you a better crook (better safecracker, lockpicker) or new moves (roll, hide in shadows) all seem very intiutive and more importantly: I haven’t seen this kind of gameplay in any game, ever. Not convinced? Check out the Trilby: Art of Theft Walkthrough / Rankthrough, which includes video to check out the gameplay, here.
Yes, finally the message has been returned to the medium after the tsunami of bad first person shooters and 3D action adventures in the last years. Repetition of a genre, however, is not something that is “evil” per se. Exceptional narrative in gaming has developed over the past years, with some of my top games being Max Payne, Deus EX and recently Assasins’ Creed. However these games do not, in my opinion, excell in an exceptional game experience. Much like Hollywood productions they share a good story, but are essentially the same format.
Knytt Stories is something totally different. French arthouse movie Amelie is to Hollywood productions as is Knytt Stories to big budget gaming. Under the influence of mood strengthening music, this game has you travelling the beautiful lands of protagonist Knytt, a “small guy with long hair”, and providing you with an experience that is different from so many similar experiences. And yes, it is free! And yes! You can create your own levels! After playing Knytt on my laptop in the train, I found myself thinking about what level I would create with Knytt Stories. It feeds personal creative process outside of virtual space. But even without this, the works of Knytt creator Nifflas are so original and really fuel the imagination, and not just in the sense of narrative… Check out the gameplay in this Knytt Stories Walkthrough of the The Machine level at YouTube.
As I was playing Zelda: A Link to the Past today on my SNES emulator, something struck me: I had an in-game deja-vu. A feeling as if I had been there before. My mind quickly tried to scan all the options and I found out that I have really vivid memories of various computer games. These experiences are basically stories I could tell to my friends and family at a party. As cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner mentioned in his interesting essay Life as Narrative: all our experiences are in some way structured as narratives, and we remember and learn from these narratives in the future.
What would be an interesting idea is to gather stories from people who have been playing games. How do people tell about games? Often when we hear stories -or when I hear myself talking to others about in game events- I almost feel alienated from the world around me. The surreal words echoing in my head and making me realize the sometimes bizarre situations as I’m telling the story. Let me give it a try here about an experience I had in playing Zelda. This is not a walkthrough or anything like that. It’s just what I’ve been doing this morning from the top of my head.
‘Some old guy I finally found told me to get a pendant in a region east from the big lake. I came across many green and blue soldiers, especially the guys with the arrows were pretty difficult to defeat. I had a lot of trouble finding the entrance, but after roaming around Kakariko village and the mountains in the south, I found out by accident that I had to go through a very narrow, almost hidden, path. Then I came to a desert with some creepy crawlers, appearing and disappearing. I almost died there, but luckily I found a fairy that healed my just in time. After that I went to the desert castle to find the first of the three amulets.’
Etcetera. I could probably go on for hours and the memories are quite clear and vivid. I clearly remember some gameworlds like my own neighbourhood: Gothic I & II, Zelda, Splinter Cell, Chrono Trigger, Diablo, Baldur’s Gate and of course Morrowind. Because what got my thoughts started on this topic is a forum thread on stories from Morrowind. Although I don’t know any of these people, I know what experiences they are talking about. Their goals were the same but their memories are so different. What would a psychogeographic approach to computergames look like? Just pointlessly wandering around in Morrowind, not to reach any goals but to create stories of wandering around.
I know there are already quite some theories on game experiences, but what really caught my attention and interest were the stories told about games as if they are a part of the gamers’ daily life. So, what did you do today in the virtual?
For the Masters of Media blog at the University of Amsterdam fellow student Roman did a Podcast on Henry Jenkins‘ new book Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture and he called me up to talk about it. Got to love those vintage phonelines and the aesthetics of Podcasts!
You can check it out in this blogpost, or you can download the ‘Discussing Jenkins’ Podcast directly from here. And since we’re talking about bloggers here, check out what other blogs say about it here, here and here. The first link includes an interesting interview with Jenkins.