This week in Video Game Criticism: From Battleship to the lowest difficulty setting
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including the algorithmically ideal game of Battleship, the lowest difficulty setting for life in the U.S., and more.
"As videogames have been added to the list of professional pastimes in the 21st century, we see the same essential values favored in them, with the added perversity of requiring their audience to spend money to buy into them. That the high cost of the disc and cartridge has been circumvented by the "free-to-play" model only amplifies the nature of videogames as non-productive labor."
On the other hand, several authors this week gave us a different take on the past. Charles Wheeler's "Rules on the Field" blog, which we made mention of last week, ventures into the analog world of Japanese obstacle course game shows and their "level" designs:
"One of the core fundamentals of any game design process is iteration. […] [T]hat's exactly what the history of the Sasuke obstacle courses gives us. We basically have a record of each of iteration that the course design in Sasuke went through. And, because each season was televised, we can also get a sense of why each change was made."
"Planescape: Torment points to why we subject ourselves to these strange disciplinary apparatuses, innumerable tiny calamities, odd temporal lariats and ergonomic heresies: to find ourselves at the end of play."
"Several groups were given the task of inventing and testing rulesets for a stand-off between two teams: one human, one Care Bear."So the Care Bears defeat the humans by hugging them," I mused. There were nods around the table; it made sense. "And…they can freeze the humans in a beam of peace and serenity." The nods were more uncertain this time. "And…the humans can break each other out of this, but only by shouting insults at each other." Looks were exchanged, but for some reason, that's what we tried."
"Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let's call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, "Straight White Male" is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it's easier to get."
It's recommended that you read the article in its entirety. And if you still feel compelled to go "Ah, but," don't worry: he's made a follow-up post to address that.
Had enough yet? Well? Have you? If you haven't, you'll just have to stop by next week for another round. Have a real knockout for us in the meantime? Be sure you tweet or email it over and really let us have it!