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GDC: Industry Vets Never Metagame They Didn’t Like

At 'The Metagame: A Battle of Videogame Smarts,' industry and academic vets like Eric Zimmerman, Warren Spector, Mark Leblanc, Jesper Juul, and Jonathan Blow played a board game that asked such questions as "Does Civilization III have better charac
9:00 in the morning is no time for serious discussion about anything, much less a subject as daft as videogames. Taking the hour in spirit after a week of deadlines and appointments, Frank Lantz of area/code threw together a board game he designed and a board of game designers to explore the issue – however lightly – of thematic cross-comparison. The game board consisted of fifty spaces arranged in a hexagonal pattern, each representing a significant game: Lemmings sat next to Parappa the Rapper, Doom, and Nethack. Two teams, split up amongst Eric Zimmerman of Gamelab, Warren Spector, Mark Leblanc of Mind Control, video game theorist Jesper Juul, Ubisoft’s Clint Hocking, Jonathan Blow, and USC Professor Tracey Fullerton, moved their virtual quarters around the board to make thematic comparisons between often highly-contrasting games. Has World of Warcraft created a more intense subculture than Asteroids? Is Guitar Hero more culturally sophisticated than Parappa the Rapper? Is Wipeout more realistic than Nethack? Is Oregon Trail more emotionally rich than Virtua Fighter? (See below for answers.) The team in control would move its quarter to make such declarations. If the opposing team chose to challenge the assertion, each side would make its argument then the audience would decide by hoots and applause. After a successful move, the controlling team would be allowed to change its assertion in the “Opinionator”. Does Civilization III have better characters than Parappa the Rapper? If none of the three available assertions worked, the team was allowed to “flip” its quarter, thereby reversing the statement: “Parappa the Rapper has better characters than Civilization III.” Doing this, however, would end the team’s turn. Losing an assertion, or making a sufficiently ambiguous statement would both cause the team to lose points and the opposing team to gain the difference. Between this shift of fortune and the “bonus stars” randomly scattered around the playfield to increase the value of a given space, the tides could quickly turn. The tone was bright, fuzzy, and faux antagonistic. Although nobody learned anything really important, the panel was a decent way to get the brain chugging for everyone who skipped breakfast to get to the show on time. SOLUTIONS: Yes, Maybe (thus, no), No, Yes.

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