Today marks the final of four articles expanding upon my “Interactivity by Proxy” paper delivered in early April at Rutgers’s Game Behind the Video Game conference. Previously, this series looked at vectors for audience engagement and three of the four major taxonomic categories of Let’s Play walkthroughs, the Expert and the Chronicler and the Comedian. We wrap up today with discussion of the last major LP type and arguably the most contentious from a social sciences perspective, the Counter-Historiographer.
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I was reminiscing the other day about my intense love for Conker’s Bad Fur Day when a peculiar thought struck me: namely, that when you get down to it the end of the game is a real bummer. Sure, Conker saves the day, discovers a glitch in the game, and gets the programmers to solve his problems, rewriting the world in which he lives, but he completely forgets to bring back his girlfriend while he’s at it. So despite the best efforts of the player, the main goal of the game (win back Conker’s girlfriend) goes unfulfilled. Conker fails and sinks back into a deep depression. The game ends as it began, a drunken squirrel stumbling off into the night. No happy ending, just a failed attempt to get back home.
Watching the end of the game, I remember being surprised at its downright depressing conclusion—a group of my friends and I were playing at the time, and none of us realized what a vicious kick in the pants the ending of the game had in store for us. We sat through the credits in shock, quietly hoping that there would be something afterwards, such as a last sting where the game told us ‘just kidding, she’s actually okay, he’s actually okay, happy endings all around,’ but it never came. Conker had gotten distracted from his main quest (get home to Berri) and when the game had given him the chance to make everything right he’d forgotten to actually fix anything beyond the immediate problem of the xenomorph in front of him. It was one of those moments where a game actually felt mature, and not just because the characters swore and there were a bunch of jokes about tits (the measure of what was ‘mature’ and not to a teenager). Hiding behind the singing pile of feces was a black comedic sensibility, and while we all were more concerned with the tit jokes as kids, a second look at the game reveals a far more sophisticated plot than we’d given it credit for having.
Given how much Dragon Age II occupied our thoughts on so many of our blogs in March, it seems inevitable that the Moving Pixels podcast crew would gather to discuss our varying takes on the game.
Despite its more limited geographical scope, Kirkwall is a game world well suited to an expanded discusssion. Bioware’s ambitious efforts to tweak combat, experiment with narrative, and present one of the most inclusive casts in gaming are just a number of topics worth returning to in our expansive chat about the game.
Goldeneye 007 is a great game. It’s everything a remake should be. The levels evoke the right amount of nostalgia while still looking distinctly different than their Nintendo 64 counterparts. The story is updated for modern times and adds new twists to the plot, so the game is never predictable (or least it’s as unpredictable as a Bond game can be). Updating Bond himself so that you now play as Daniel Craig fits well with the gritty gunplay. But Goldeneye 007 is a Wii game, which means it has motion controls, and while the motion controls aren’t bad, they also aren’t designed for a standard Wii controller. Goldeneye 007 would probably be better if played with a dual analog controller, and it’s all because of the prevalence of iron sights.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Portal 2 and its accompanying comic Lab Rat. I encourage you to read the comic, which you can find here before you continue reading.
Last week saw the release of Valve’s much anticipated Portal 2. Already, the game has earned a great deal of well deserved praise. (For an excellent assessment of the game, check out G. Christopher Williams’s review of the game.). Put simply, the game is a joyful masterpiece, an absolute delight to play. Without veering far from the original game’s themes and system, Portal 2 adds several wonderfully implemented new puzzle elements, including laser beams, laser bridges, and a bunch of cool goop. Newcomer Stephen Merchent also voices a hilarious addition to the series in the form of Wheatley. While I adore the robotic British eyeball, I am also drawn to an even more tangential character, someone hidden away in the game itself behind wall panels and in secret rooms. Featured in the comic accompanying the game, and narratively playing a large role in the Portal canon, the Rat Man’s story and presence in Portal 2 enriches Chell and the play experience.
// Notes from the Road
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