Device6 and The Stanley Parable Analysis

Device6 is an interactive novel on iOS devices. It won Excellence in Audio, and was a finalist for Excellence in Narrative, Excellence in Visual Arts, and Seumas McNally Grand Prize. It was also an honourable mention for the Excellence in Design and Nuovo Award. The player plays as Anne who is suffering from amnesia. Anne wakes up on an island brimming with 60s aesthetics accompanied by an atmospheric jazz score. The player has to find out the truth behind Anne’s amnesia, the island and the reason for everything through and thrilling and interesting narrative.

The Stanley Parable is a first person exploration, PC game. It was originally a Half-Life 2 Mod, that became widely successful which allowed the developers to release a paid remake of it. The Stanley Parable won the Audience Award in the Independent Games Festival. It was a finalist in Excellence in Audio, Excellence in Narrative and Seumas McNally Grand Prize. The game has a limited amount of interaction where the player can perform actions in certain parts of the environment such as pressing buttons or opening doors. The narrative of the game is presented to the player via the voice of the Narrator. He explains that the protagonist Stanley who the player is controlling, works in an office building whose job is push buttons when prompted on a screen without question. One day no prompts come and Stanley not sure what’s going on or what to do starts to explore the building and finds that everybody is missing. It is then that the player is presented with the first choice which spirals rapidly into an exploration of the illusion of choice and unquestioning nature of players in video games.

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The Dilemma

“Oh no! Hunter on me!” he yelled, as he is shoved to the ground, claws of the creature tearing into him.

“I’ve been smokered!” she cried out, hanging from the side of the building, as the common infected beat into her helpless body.

Another is lying motionless on the ground.

“Help us! Come out and help!” I hear my team members scream, as they are incapacitated a distance away from the safe room. One is already dead, another is being ravaged by a hunter while the other is strung up by a smoker. Leaving the safe room now would mean game over. I would be taken out by a stray special infected, and with nobody to help me up we would all die. What do I do? Do I go out and help them? The moral dilemma was that I wanted to leave the safe room to save them, but I didn’t want to start over again.

Left 4 Dead 2 is a game designed around the idea of cooperation between the survivors. The game is survivors versus the zombies. But with it being a zombie game, the zombies still aren’t the only enemy. It’s not uncommon for other players to kill or leave other players behind to die.

It could be reasoned as Brian Sutton Smith wrote in ‘The ambiguity of play’, that these are the kind of players that “[enjoy] the power of being a cause”, or don’t “have power and in play [are] seeking empowerment as a kind of compensation or wish fulfilment”. That basically these players are selfishly finding satisfaction in leaving the other players to die to make themselves feel good. I don’t believe this to be the case in all situations, I believe it more it’s more than likely to be a case of Cognitive Friction.

Miguel Sicart explains in ‘The Design of Ethical Gameplay’ that Cognitive Friction is ‘the resistance encountered by a human intellect when it engages with a complex system of rules that change as the problem changes’. The phrase first coined by Alan Cooper in his book ‘The inmates are running the prison.’ The problem is, the player leaving the other players for dead, believe that they are doing the right thing by getting to the end of the level, thus progressing the team. The dying players, think the player who left is a deserter, and they should have stayed and helped.

This is evidenced by teams putting down the weakest team member to progress through the game. The players could be seen as seeking empowerment over that player, but in their minds they are making the terrible choice of saving health packs, stopping the potential of friendly fire, and slowed team movement. This is considered for the good of the team. But for that one player, it’s the worst experience. They feel useless, unwanted and betrayed by their team. I’ve been there before, I never thought that I would be in my betrayers shoes.

I was in a situation which was a lose-lose scenario. If I stayed in the safe room I was “the deserter”, my teammates would be upset at being left to die, while I stayed safe, making sure that we progressed to the next level. If I left the safe room to save them, and failed, my teammates would have felt even more betrayed, because not only would I have let them down, it would be my fault that we had to start over.

I stayed, they died. We progressed to the next level.

 

Postmortem – BlockUP

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BlockUp is a cooperative 2-player building block game where players are working together to get as high as possible before the rising lava catches them. It was developed by our five person team during one semester. 

The game started off originally as “The World We Make” an experimental exploration of goalless cooperative multiplayer over a local network. We wanted players to work together, make their own goals and most importantly, have fun. The only mechanic in the game was that they players had toy blocks that they could build with.

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What is Procedural Rhetoric and are the criticisms made against it by Miguel Sicart valid?

According to Sicart, as written in his piece “Against Procedurality”:

Proceduralism often disregards the importance of play and players as activities that have creative, performative properties. In this sense, the meaning of a game, of any game, lies in its rules…In the proceduralist tradition, play is not central to understanding the meanings created by (playing) games, since it is the rules that create those meanings. (Against Procedurality, 2011, para. 23)

and that:

In essence, procedural rhetoric argues that it is in the formal properties of the rules where the meaning of a game can be found. And what players do is actively complete the meaning suggested and guided by the rules. For proceduralists, which are after all a class of formalists, the game is the rules, both in terms of its ontological definition (the what in what is a game), and in its function as an object that creates meaning in the contexts in which specific users use it. (Against Procedurality, 2011, para. 22)

This essay will first properly define Procedural Rhetoric and how it is related to Proceduralism in order to bring a groundwork understanding to what it is the Sicart is criticising. Sicart’s views will be laid out in a manner in which they will be taken apart, looked at and considered on whether these criticisms are actually valid complaints. First will be Sicart’s interpretation of procedural rhetoric and whether his criticism against his interpretation is valid to apply to what Bogost really meant. Sicart claims that procedural rhetoric ignores the player yet Bogost outlines a concept called procedural enthymeme which acknowledges the relationship between player and procedure. Sicart claims that Bogost focuses too much on the formal characteristics of the game, and not enough on other other important components such as aesthetics, narrative, and so on. Sicart’s interpretation of procedural rhetoric against his own idea of abusive game design which when looked into are pretty much the same thing and how Sicart believes that procedurality leads to the embedding of agendas and views into the games which are then forced onto the unsuspecting players.

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Wide Asleep – Research Essay

So this is a research essay for a game-for-change game, I had to design during my Game Design Course. I decided upon a sleeping app that added gamelike elements to promote better sleeping habits and alert users of potential health risks associated with poor sleep. This was done with a good friend who designed all the images. I don’t know if I still have all the files but it looked really good in my opinion.

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Formal Properties of a Video Game – Silent Hill 2

One of the first essays I had to do for my Game Design course. I think I got a fairly good mark with decent comments. I’m pretty sure one of the criticisms for this was that it read more like a review at the beginning rather than an exploration of the game’s mechanics. Anyways enjoy 🙂

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Wow. Where to begin with my group game. The group fell to pieces, well. One person did. They ended up doing barely any work for the 12 weeks we had to work on the game. Most of their work I had to do and I wasn’t even meant to be designing shit.

I found it super stressful and I just had no time to even think about writing updates.  But looking on the bright side we got in a mostly finished game. It still had some bugs and needed a fair bit of fine tuning but considering how much fucking around there was where nobody knew what was going on, I’m pretty proud of what we accomplished. Plus I don’t ever have to work with them again.

This is going to be a long post so…
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