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Thoughts of a player

Game-play is actively about speaking with a language of contact and timing.


What if you look at games holistically, rather than separate experiences? If you look at them as one, they form another dimension; a simulated dimension or virtual world. Inside this virtual world, consider the game as a language system that functions to communicate with you, and vice versa, for you to communicate with the system (or two players communicating with each other through the system). With Pong maybe the player is simply saying Hello, each time their ball registers a connection with the players rectangle. So the conversation goesHello to you. Hello back. Hello to you. Hello back ad infinitum, like a microphone test for the real show. Or perhaps you could interpret it as two mouths spouting their particular point of view and not wanting to compromise; player 1 says this, but player 2 says that, and they never arrive at a compromise. The limitations of a given language system directly influence what a person is able to say. But like in face-to-face conversation, there is a moment where we slipand it opens up a hole in our defenses, allowing the enemy in, allowing them to create some kind of logic that we might think unfair, but neverthelessthey scored a goal; they get that point. Simply the act of moving in a game is to speak with the embedded language constructed for us that consists of the games rules. We speak with the objects in the system, and form greater relationships and rhythms within the parameters we find ourselves in. Like in our more permanent world, the earth, the act of walking around is the act of being in the world; our feet touch the ground, and we interact with the physical environment. We pilot an organic vessel allowing our soul to drive around and explore. When the games speak to me, they tell me that play is a language of contact and timing.

Pyoro

Its 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. 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). Its just a machine that keeps going and going. You participate or you don't. If you enter the magic circle you become dominated. 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 separate reality; it's definitely its own reality and is secluded. Sometimes though, the effects of game-play blur the lines between the reality of the game and the reality of life itself.

Animal crossing
I tend to get frustrated with the rest of the game. Its very limited. Theres 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 miniature 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.

Demons souls
At first I really loved the simplicity of the story and I was engaged by the small story details, but because I was so focused on surviving the game, somewhere along the line the story changed from something holy and grand, to the frustrations and failures of an anonymous soldier/thief/murderer. I don't know, something bugged me about the battle with demon maiden Astrea and the knight who protected her...it made me as a player feel single-minded and ruthless; like a treasure-gobbling, power-leveling machine. Its always the way with these kinds of games. DS does nearly everything right. The level design is tight (even sort of neat...) and fairly linear, but you have freedom to choose which areas to explore, and you're given lots of toys to play around with. Its joyful because it allows each area to be packed with rich visual detail and things to see, but at the same time you're slowly penetrating through, and testing out tactics and nuances of battle. i must have spent most of my time playing the game in this non-linear fashion instead of rushing to beat all the demon bosses. Speaking of which, the boss fights are like mini-games; they are in most video games (especially Japanese ones), but since demon's souls heightens your awareness to a tangible level, you feel it even more. The bosses are tests of patience and endurance (I played as a barbarian though, so I guess if you played as a mage you could potentially just ignore the patterns and spam spells). They remind me of old arcade games, where you have to perform perfectly by observing the rhythms. It was probably my favorite thing about DS. I was consumed by DS for most of the week. I learnt some of the finer points of sword play, like how to parry with a rapier in the left hand and stab with another in the right. Its cool; you can even parry arrows shot by archers. I got so into this, and eventually felt confident to take on the red-eyed demon in the initial area. Each area has a stronger version of the standard enemy found there. I realized at some point that I was basically a one-man army; a cold, hard assassin. I know most games have killing in, but some of them make it painfully clear of the destruction you're causing; it must be the yelps and cries of anguish from guards you pierce through the heart, or the cowardly back-stabs on the slimy, scaly (but ultimately innocent) mining ogres...the way they almost gurgle with pleasure as you pull the dagger out and their souls seep into you is rather unsettling.

Beating this kind of game makes you feel strong. But to me, it's not a fake kind of power. Yes there is a sense of fantasy and illusion, but you do need real qualities of perseverance, determination, awareness, dexterity, memorization, quick thinking, and courage. I can't say where it comes from in players when they decide they want to do it, but it is real. It made me think that maybe all these games are really in our head, and the computer systems simply facilitate and bend our will and desires...

Just cause 2
Regarding Just Cause 2, I sound a bit ungrateful because there are lots of crazy things you can do in the game, but something bothers me about how those crazy interactions were advertised. destroying stuff and causing 'chaos' (it's like a score meter in the game) is the main thing that has been worked on; even if you drift about not paying attention to stuff and doing your own thing, you will wrapped up somehow in the causing chaos and 'you vs. the world' narrative. personally I think that an open world is supposed to provide more than that; more than just different ways of destroying the same things (you can't for example, get some dynamite and detonate the side of a cliff and then watch it fall into the river making a dam that beavers then make their home later in the game).

Final Fantasy XII


Theres something about the game that feels inherently boring. I enjoyed those challenges, but I find a lot of things about that kind of RPG structure and those mechanics to feel inherently not fun. Walking from one place to another in a slow jog...pressing 'X' to pick up potions and Gil...pressing 'X' to talk to NPCs that are often uninteresting, unimportant to the story, and un-useful in a gameplay sense. It doesn't help that it still has a turn-based structure so often you're just watching your character fight and making decisions. Probably what I enjoyed the most was winning special weapons or prizes from beating monsters that haven't appeared in the shops yet. I tried to source weapons and equipment from the field as much as I could. A game like FF12 just gets too easy too quickly with all the stuff you get along the way, and then becomes totally irrelevant later on. It makes me think that sole driving force of the experience is in the next shiny weapon or new area the game can throw at you. You never feel satisfied or satiated. And then it's over. Do you feel satisfied? No! Its like an endless desire loop.

Sin & Punishment 2


Its a straight forward rail shooter, but the music and the visuals are key to the experience (after the controls). You fly through a semi-alien dystopian future blasting at everything, and it feels so... light. This is not heavy and brutal. From the feeling of freely being able to move your right and left hands to the laser guns that feel as if you're spraying light at the enemy, it's an uplifting feeling compared to the average FPS. Since it's on rails too the game looks great and dramatic camera angles are chosen for your flight through the cities and underwater tunnel networks (Im up to level 3). The experience confirmed my idea that shooting is just how you experience the world in these kinds of games - the gun feels more like you're reaching out and touching stuff. S&P2 feels like the guns aren't guns. Its more straightforward fun, and Im touching the world with light. Seeing it, experiencing it, killing it... a millions hands reaching out. Theres a strong emphasis on nature and animals.

Bayonetta
Its like Bayonetta herself makes a mockery of everything ancient, civilized or traditional. She breaks down the classic with a jazz funk dance; defining a modern sense of unashamed beauty (I think it's beautiful anyway). Even if it is anti-beauty, it's still beautiful. Indeed, it's what a player does. Wreak everything. But Bayonetta does it with heart, style and elegance only a professional pole-dancer knows.

Metroid Fusion
Every image in the game registers on a symbolic level rather than just 'being there'. Its amazing how much of a story is there if you're willing to see it. Each very-detailed image is like another piece of the puzzle. At first I was following the story in the dialogue and cut-scenes, but fusion, being the most modern Metroid in the timeline, is just too convoluted in a similar way that the later primes were. So I immediately forget whatever the game is trying to tell me, and instead look with my eyes and just feel what is there. There seems to be a big dialogue between the hazards but also the ideals of the combination of nature and technology. This theme has been true even since the first Metroid where you had to defeat the 'mechanical life-form known as mother brain'. Im currently stuck in some underwater zone. The game hand-holds you for a large % of the experience, and then at some point effectively locks you up and leaves you alone to figure stuff out. I really didn't see that coming. Ive now spent ages exploring a sort of artificial coral reef, just trying to find an exit... I know where I need to be, but I don't know how to get there. Even though it's hard, I like this type of gameplay. It requires you to investigate and deal with a restriction. it also gives you time to think. Samus's weapons are for exploring. Breaking it down on a symbolic level, the fact that she has guns and bombs is not important because they don't function like real weapons. Ive realized that Samus's arsenal is for seeing and feeling her world. The plasma beam for instance is like a 'physical sight', the fingers becoming ways for the player to see beyond the face-value appearances in the game. The plasma beam can detect passages in seemingly solid walls. Her weapons don't just collapse into a general 'fire power' category either, where each one does the same thing. Each has a different function. The power bomb actually allows for limited sight of the entire screen, with the bonus of clearing smaller enemies. The little bombs assist in jumping, especially in tight spaces, and those abilities assist the missiles' function to penetrate obstructions. Metroid and a lot of games of its kind have a direct connection to nature. It made me think how we use our own environment and space. The closest thing to Metroid in 'real life' may be something like parkour, where a very physical relationship with man-made constructions is turned into a kind of game. And yes, I have played mirror's edge and I think it's horribly executed, both on a design and technical levelBut great idea. But at the moment, the ice and snow gives me a direct and fun interaction with the environment. The snow changes how we look at the world because separate objects appear to meld into one another, creating a nice unity of form. Somewhere Id been for years (since 2003 actually) became new again and it was fun to explore.

Rez
Ive never played a game like it before, and Ive never felt so overwhelmed, physically and emotionally when playing a game. I know its clich, but Rez is not really a game, but an experience - in my eyes it does transcend the medium to become something else. Its so simple though! Its just a rail shooter! Yeah right. Mechanically, it might just appear to be a rail shooter, but it's more about the journey that structure is able to take you on that other games just don't provide. Rez is a constant attack on the senses. it amplifies feedback in every conceivable way. Your character throbs through neon retro landscapes to a pumping dance beat, as you shoot out bright orange tentacles that latch onto abstract machines and shapes that then twirl around creating more patterns out of your connection. When you let go and shoot them, they de-evolve and shatter into throbbing red wire frames, vibrating the controller while emitting bright ambient colors that fill up the screen in a warm afterglow. You feel the whole world and the world feels you back. Rez is like your head as one of those big glass balls with a purple energy core and tentacles reaching out, flitting and swirling around the inside of the glass barriers, glowing, connecting and being.

Metroid prime
-Walking through a geometrical glass tunnel in Magmoor caverns early in the game and noticing cracks, but not knowing how to get through. -Coming back later in the game and power bombing that tunnel up! -Walking through the denser parts of the Chozo ruins, when you thought you had seen everything. Its like discovering something about a person you never knew and they were hiding all along. The atmosphere is so ancient and murky, but feels so pleasant in an odd way. -Walking into the observatory in the space pirate base in Phendrana Drifts. Once the local pirates are quickly dispatched, you walk over the control panel and scan the computers; this brings to life a great diagram of the solar system, and all the planets in it. Its an exciting moment when you find planet Zebes and read its description as you recall fond memories of Super Metroid. but what really shocked me was the description of one of the other planets... you'll have to forgive me as I can't remember the complete description, but it described a gas-like, sentient planet home to something like the 'twin virus', and if you're affected by it, you begin seeing double of everything...after a few days, you go completely blind. That scared the hell out of me! -Discovering that you're the key...the key to how the world works and functions. -Noticing all the nooks and crannies in the initial area of the overworld and morphballing through a hidden door in a couple of tight passageways. When you open the door, some space pirates are meddling with a broken crate in the distance. They fly off when they see you, but you're left with a huge lake in front of you, and a massive crashed space ship that looks so...real. -Re-discovering the drenched, cold Tallon overworld when you get the ice beam and grapple hook. Some cool new music whistles a lonely electronic tune and using your new upgrades you get a visor that lets you perceive things that you normally can't see. Walls cease to be there, and thin air hides entire staircases... -Blowing the hell out of the omega pirate in three consecutive super missile blasts, and then seeing a cut-scene when the monster falls on top of Samus and melts. -Watching Samus get up and her suit transforming into jet black. It was a part in the game where I felt tainted...but so incredibly powerful.

Alien soldier

Its a 'run and gun' type game, where you speed along corridors, zapping aliens. Its not a terribly difficult concept to grasp, but of course, that's kind of irrelevant here. I love this game's crisp, meticulously detailed graphics, its sheer horizontal speed and kinetic hyper power. The controls are so good that you'd swear it was made by Nintendo. Its supposed to be one of the hardest games around, but Im finding it so compelling that Im having no trouble blasting through it. Alien Soldier is like the side-scrolling shooter equivalent to shadow of the colossus, minus the poetic, emotional tone. Its a game with just boss fights - one after the other, for 24 levels, with one life. There are continues, but they require a decent performance, and you never get many. So you also have to switch weapons on the fly. The game gives you 4 laser types to choose from at the beginning with varying degrees of strength and reach. Its up to you to continually adapt to your situation in real-time. If you can't perfect the controls, you're fucked. Its about learning to be quicker and more cunning than your enemies, until all that aggression and force melts into a clear, focused 'flow', a clarity of mind that takes over and almost slows down time so you can see the way through a situation. This game is about feeling relentlessly capable of whatever is thrown your way, and the difficulty honestly just melts away, as fear becomes love, and walls give way to entrances.

Ocarina of time
Phantom Gannondorf was such a brooding, hypnotic fight. When you went into the arena, it locked you into a tight area and presented you with a sort of hexagonal room with a landscape painting on each side. You see Gannondorf appear on a horse, wearing a strange mask, but then he disappears into one of the paintings. You don't know where he is, so you switch to first person bow mode, and you have to quickly scroll around to see which painting he's in. it's an illusion though, because Gannon comes out of several of the paintings, but only one is real. When you spot the right one, you have to shoot him with an arrow and you hear him groan, and his horse disappears. You then see him dangle in the air as if he were a floating puppet. he gets his sword out and produces an energy ball. You then play pong with Gannon, until the ball hits him in the face, and you go for the kill!

Shadow of the colossus


The last colossus is also the strangest most conflicting boss fight Ive had. When you begin, it feels almost impossible. Youre so far away from it. Its basically a living tower that fires meteors from its hands so fast that it can take off half your energy bar with one hit. The screen is so dark you can hardly see anything either. So you work your way around a sort of underground and over-ground obstacle course, until you arrive at the base of the tower, and it can't do anything. You start climbing until you get to the top. it has no way of harming you, and you go around and stab it in the back. it reaches around with its hand, and you pounce onto it. As it brings its hand around, you dangle helplessly. And it stares at you as if you're a pesky little bug. It almost just lets you climb onto its head. Its like its saying, "you're not worthy to kill me. Youre just a little parasite, and Im a grand, powerful being. So even if you kill me, I am still better than you".

Super Metroid
First she is impossible. you've come this far, defied gravity, smashed through walls, flew through the sky like superman, maxed out your health and missiles, acquired thick amour that allows you to swim in lava but it's not enough. You think you're powerful, but you're like an ant compared to mother brain. Youre nothing. Before almost destroying Samus, and old friend comes rushing to help you. The baby Metroid you saved on a previous mission launches herself onto mother brain's face, clamping her claws around her head and sucking the life out. This scene is prolonged and arduous, as Samus pants, almost deadMother Brain is then ready to land the finishing blow, until the baby Metroid sacrifices itself by forming a protective shield around its mother. The Metroid then slowly dies. Filled with grief and, defiance and anger, something strange begins to happen. The Metroid has seeped into Samus, giving her a special power. Time for revenge Mother Brain. You killed the last Metroid, and Im going to obliterate you. Firing those thick rainbow beams into the face of the monster as it screeches and screams is permanently etched into my mind...that sheer lust for payback.

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Noby Noby Boy


There is a strong sense of impotence in NNB...And a huge sense of 'lack'. Most games start you off as 'weak' and you progress to a 'strong' state over the course of the journey, but most games do that on more of a pragmatic level. NNB deals with ideas such as growth and consumption on a conceptual level as well. You do consume an elixir in FFXII, but the game is hardly based on consumption - what you're doing in FFXII is flicking the d-pad in the direction of an option, and pressing a button. In NNB, you're gorging on physical objects, in one visible arena. NNB is very fun and always ridiculous, but you get to know it on a deeper level by using this "gamers' ambition" to push it. You feel you need to be longer or bigger, and to an extent you do. Growth opens up more opportunities, but the game plays with you; undermines your progressive, ambitious streak. It's like the cops in GTA that come after you if you get too cocky. You'll have an idea and people will innocently just sort of jump on you, or unwittingly stall your progress by forming spectator groups or human barriers; it's almost an attack on the idea of linear progression, or of a world where everything can be logically and cleanly achieved, or won. Of courseThis is NNB; it's more of a playful disruption, than an attack. BOY is a symbol of love, a kind of 'glue' that connects disparate objects. I'm using the term 'love' as in harmony, or 'togetherness', not so much the sentimental meaning of the word. BOY just wants things inside him; he wants to eat, to feel connected to the world. The world is nihilistic though, and morally blank...It is totally up to interpretation. Love makes things mushyit congeals and brings together. NNB is about a playfully disruptive, creative love. I think it's pretty important that in an age of trophies and achievements, one game has the guts to actually be about playing, and not about collecting, or acquiring. NNB is nonsensical, but far from pointless. It is somewhat nihilistic, but doesn't completely abandon the players' desire to progress or succeed.

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Im pretty certain that the most powerful, intense and useful application of the video game (As it is today) is in destroying universal and consistent problems such as doubt, indecision, and any unconfident feelings or weaknesses. This is part of the aesthetic of the traditional video game. Play any hard game to try it yourself; any one that requires a large amount of effort and a goal that you've avoided because you didn't think you were up to it. Somehow the arcade video game expands the mind, trains it to be quicker, and makes connections with many parts of the brain. This feeling affects how you also perceive challenges in life. Because the game has helped break down any sense of insecurity and put you in the heat of the moment, you no longer feel as impeded by life. Little things that affected you shrink, and you begin to gain clarity of mind. More broadly though, game systems have a special power to transform the rules that consciousness operates in by creating a magic circle. There are no boundaries, as I see it, with what can be done with such a language.

L.V, 2011

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