In Alexander Galloway’s article “Gamic Action, Four Moments,” he describes the types of actions that take place in a game. He starts by explaining that video games are actions, just as photos are images and film is moving images. He also notes that there is the action of the player, like finding a special power up, and the action of the machine, when the power up actually works to boost the characters abilities. He describes two terms diegetic and nondiegetic: diegetic deals with the game’s totally world of the narrative story and nondiegetic elements are the ones that are still important to the narrative but are completely outside the narrative world. He explains these make up two perpendicular axes between the machine and operator, diegetic and nondiegetic, and that this diagram is the basis for the four moments of gamic action. Some of the pages in the article are cut after that, so I cannot tell what all four are. While reading this article, I could not help but think at some points, well duh. Everything that he is describes seems incredibly obvious. I am not sure what the point of the excerpt that we read is, but it seems like he is just trying to figure out some way to sort and categorize the way video games work. While this is admirable, I guess I did not know we were at the point of dissecting video games the way we do other mediums. When there is a new revelation to be found about the narrative, I really enjoy analyzing texts, but most of the time we seem to be analyzing for the sake of analyzing. It usually seems redundant and excessive. I am betting he ties all of these obvious points together in not-so-obvious points later in the article, but since it skips ahead I am not quite sure what to think as far as that I agree with him so far. Because video games are machines that require buttons to be pushed or commands to be given at all times, they are definitely interactive, or as Galloway puts it, they are an action-based medium. This is a bit confusing however when he likens it to photographs, because for the photograph to even exist, someone had to press the button telling the camera what to do. This article is a good example of a reading that needs a bit more direction before reading it. I think it would be more effective if we were looking for something or knew the point he was trying to make so we could identify how he supports it.
To be graded easy:
The game demo presentation that I really enjoyed and was interested in was the Sword and Sworcery game. Because music is such a big part of my life, I love anything that would even attempt to incorporate meaningful music into it. From what she showed us in the presentation, it looked like the game was in time with the music during the whole gameplay, which I think is pretty neat considering the amount of effort it probably took. Listening to the soundtrack, I can imagine playing a game to that kind of music, and it seems to fit it perfectly. It’s very ethereal sounding and has a sense of epic-ness to it. It also correlates with the games graphics that are a little bit old school. Some of the songs have more vintage instruments like organs in them and other sounds that seem to come from an old video game. However, these sounds are integrated with modern, almost sci-fi sounds that make it incredibly intriguing and make me really want to play the game. I think music plays a big part in video games, because it can be the deciding factor of whether or not people really get into the narrative of the game. If you are playing a game with fairies and unicorns and bands like My Children My Bride or The Devil Wears Prada play the soundtrack, you’re going to be thrown off and probably a little freaked out. Same goes in the opposite direction, I don’t want to listen to what sounds like the theme song for the Shire scene in Lord of the Rings when I’m fighting evil dragons, because it would separate me almost completely from the game. Sword and Sworcery does a good job of linking the feeling of the music to the feeling of the gameplay.
As for the actual game narrative, it either seemed too confusing or I was over thinking it and it’s actually really simple. However, reading some in depth game reviews, some were conflicted about the narrative. There were certain aspects of the story they really liked, but that the gameplay interfered with, like that the bosses could kill you with one hit. It sounded like it turned into a game of experimentation instead of skill, which I know I might get frustrated with, because I see LIMBO as working the same way. While it is rewarding when you finally figure out what works, it can get boring when you are on the same level over and over again and it seems to take forever to get past it. In many cases, this is the point that you lose gamers, especially casual gamers that don’t play a lot. I would definitely give this game a try, but I’m also a college student so I probably wouldn’t end up buying it. I’m also one of these casual gamers, so if I spend time playing a game, I want to know that it has five out of five stars in every aspect.
To be graded medium: (if I have any medium gradings left! if not, hard)
Although this game frustrated me to no end, I will start off with what I loved about it. My favorite part about the game was the art and visual design that was incorporated into the game. The dark screen and eerie noises made me jump more than once, yet they are so simply and clean. At some points while the character travels from one challenge to the next, the screen gets darker and his eyes light brightly so you can still see him. The traps are sometimes barely visible, so I was thankful that you are granted infinite amounts of lives during the game. I also enjoyed the hints at spurting blood and the ragdoll effect when your character is stabbed by a spider, crushed by a bear-trap, or sliced by a giant razor. It gave a morbid feel to the game, but at the same time stuck to simplicity rather than trying to make everything seem realistic. The intermittent hanging characters also contributed to this morbid feel. I like that the game took the horizontal/linear action idea and made it into one meant for more adult audiences.
Now on to the many cons of Limbo. My first complaint is, of course, the lack of directions. I played video games growing up (although never on a touch screen) so thankfully I was able to figure out the basics—how to run, jump, etc. However, for the life of me I could not figure out how to voluntarily pull objects and if it had not been for the class (and the fact that I paid $5 for it…) I would have put the game down for a week or two and maybe would have tried again later. Some may argue that this contributes to the theme of the game, and that it is called Limbo for a reason, but I would counter that you need people to understand the basics of a game in order to understand narrative and have the desire to keep playing. This brings me to the storyline, or lack thereof. Because the game is challenging and I got so frustrated, I have not finished it yet, and therefore do not know if there actually is a storyline. From my experience, the character is trying to get through a maze of dangerous puzzles, escape from huge spiders, and maybe chase some native people who are still into hangings. That is all the plot I’ve experienced and it’s not much—I would love to know what he’s trying to accomplish or where he came from. I do enjoy getting to make up my own narrative for the character, but the game is so difficult that a good narrative would probably keep me coming back and trying again, regardless of how many times I drown myself at the hands of a brain slug. I am aware that brain slugs do not have hands, but you know what I mean.
Would I recommend this game to a friend? Probably not for the iPhone. Would I show it to them and let them play on my phone? Yes, but only for the artistic images.
What games we play…. For the Lydians, they originally played games for the right reasons – positive emotions, social interactions, and to lessen the difficulties of food scarcity. And that is great. However, when that did not solve their problem they played one last game to determine who would leave Lydia in search for somewhere else to live. They were in an unfortunate situation, but even back then they knew the answer was reducing the number of people living in one area. They split their population in half; half could stay and gave the other half’s real-life fate to a game. Now, it is pretty well proven that the Lydians, post-18 yr. game play, left with no destination but did survive. In fact, they most likely had a heavy influence on the Etruscans, Roman Empire and civilizations as we know them today. But, is that good? They brought the GAME MENTALITY – game invoked values – into reality. But they weren’t playing for a life and death scenario. It wasn’t about surviving anymore and it wasn’t about the community; they had found new land, new resources and new happiness. And they could cooperate, organize, plan, and optimistically set goals. But, this historic example and the origins of the word **compete, given early on in the book, has made me turn completely away from how I felt at first. “Games are a sustainable way of life,” WHEN PLAYED FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. (p. 350). But, when Ashley Bell and I were talking, she said “it’s funny how a lot of people who work for big corporations say they feel like their job is a game.” And those office jobs for large companies are the result – hundreds of years later – of increased collaboration abilities. We have brought games so far into our lives – the first thing we teach our children or entertain them with is games. But the word compete – came from a Latin word which meant to come together or strive. It can sound great when you hear the “come together/strive” but also remember competition isn’t always a great thing. That was one of the main things we listed as a negative aspect of reality. Competition puts a lot of people under pressure or brings out bad qualities. So which way is it? Do we come together and strive because competition causes us to keep trying harder? Or does competition come from large amounts of collaboration? This book really blew my mind. I wanted to believe and read a book supporting that games are AWESOME AND SUPER POSITIVE for everyone’s lives… but somehow I have read the book to understand that this game-like operative tendency in humans might not be so great. How much more do we want our lives to be like a game before we realize that we have the food, water, air and sunlight that we need surrounding us to survive? Oh, because we need a game to decide who gets what.. Whoa.