Monday, October 24, 2011

On games and recreation

I read about new videogames as they come out.  It's not on purpose, it's just that in the places I read they tend to come up.  The games seem to all have one thing in common: battle. And I don't like it.
Don't get me wrong.  I like explosions.  I love shows of power.  There is nothing I love to watch in a movie more than a good sword fight. I go to museums to look at armor. Let's face it-- my job is designing war robots.
And it's not the gore, either.  Seeing a computer animation of someone's guts, or a rotting corpse, gives me about the same feeling as seeing gum stuck under a desk I am sitting at.  Mild disgust, I suppose. I don't like gore, but it's just because it's ugly. I can't think of computer enemies as real.
The problem is the enemies distract me from my main purpose in a game. The enemies are like mosquitos, who annoy you until you manage to swat them away. I don't mind conflict in a story, but I wish it were something deeper and richer than erasing the things that bother you.
I think about my favorite games as a child.  They fall into two categories: flying games and worlds to explore.
Dragonstrike and Wing Commander were very similar in every way except that one was fantasy and the other science fiction.  In both games, you flew a series of combat missions, accompanied by friends who might die along the way. I did care about the story. The most important point was the flying, having that freedom to move through the world. In both games, I developed a technique to get rid of enemies.  I would fly as fast as I could in one direction, so that they would follow directly behind me.  Then, knowing exactly where they were, I would flip around and tag them before they could change course. What I liked about it was that it always worked.
The exploration games were Ultima VI and VII, Indiana Jones and the Search for at Atlantis and the Last Crusade. These games had hand to hand combat, but only if you couldn't figure out another way.  My favorite strategy was to carry around barrels so that I could set up a barricade, and fire in range weapons. It was just a way of getting rid of the mosquitos. what I liked was how vast the world was.  If there had been nothing to defeat, just mysteries to solve, I think I would have been as happy.
Two fun games that I've found recently were Crayon Physics Deluxe and Scribblenauts. Both games give you almost complete freedom to explore.  In Crayon Physics, anything you draw takes on physical properties. In Scribblenauts, any word you type appears as an object in the game.
What I would like to see is this kind of freedom combined with a rich, beautiful world to explore.  It's cool that they can make realistic modern cities for games like Arkham City or Grand Theft Auto, but most real cities are kind of ugly. I want to go somewhere beautiful, and not have to fight anyone when I'm there.

4 comments:

Daniel and Jenny Thornton said...

"If there had been nothing to defeat, just mysteries to solve, I think I would have been as happy."

"I want to go somewhere beautiful, and not have to fight anyone when I'm there."

Have you tried the Myst series, or the spin-off, Uru?

D said...

Yes, and I loved the entire series. Most of the imitators have a much smaller budget, though, and there are big limitations on what you can do (for example, you couldn't pick anything up in Uru). Also, Uru came out almost a decade ago, so it isn't up to what modern game engines could do.

Lunkwill said...

Skyrim

Lunkwill said...

Skyrim