You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.
You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.
When the immersion happens that very old-fashioned way—you know, the way you used to dive into Moby Dick and get lost for hours on the ocean—but within a ruleset that bears more obvious resemblance to Mass Effect than it does to Foundation (or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) what does it tell us about immersion in games in general? If we’re right to be discussing immersion as an identification with a ruleset, what kind of people do we become when we’re reading our graphics and trying to find the correct way to phrase “slide kitchen card through slot” before we run out of time to feed ourselves on the alien world depicted in the marvelous Planetfall?
Moreover (and this is where things get really interesting for me), can we describe the learning that takes place differently from the way we describe the learning either from books or from games, whether tabletop or video?—assuming that we’re right about learning always being learning to play, and the way that connects back up on the other side with our understanding of immersion as identification. Or, to make that all much more succinct: What can we say about text adventures and interactive fiction that places them helpfully in the context of other ruleset-based art?
There’s an absolutely wonderful app for iOS chock-full of “Lost Treasures” of Infocom. Many other ways to play the games exist—especially Zork, with its roots in Adventure, and even Colossal Cave before it. It doesn’t take long to understand, if you’ve never played an Infocom game, the form’s charms, challenges, and limitations.
As befits this very special (what? form? genre? gestalt?) topic, we’ll meet at a special time, 8:30 Eastern/5:30 Pacific, with our chat on Skype as usual. Comment if you’d like to be included!
Minecraft this week! Usual server/time, 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT April 30th.
When King of Dragon Pass was originally released for the PC in 1999, its event-driven storytelling engine was accomplishing a goal that its players had not yet realized they wanted to achieve: a fluid, procedural narrative that emphasized the dynamics of tribal conflict in ways that had not yet been seen (or, arguably, been matched ever since).
A mobile re-release of King of Dragon Pass has helped to reintroduce it into the public consciousness and both Rock Paper Shotgun and Flash of Steel have offered interesting observations on the game’s slippery presentation of morality, but perhaps we can branch out from that and discuss any of the following:
- How do the re-enactments of myths in the heroquests influence the systemic message of this game? Does King of Dragon Pass have anything to say about tradition? (Or perhaps even the great chain of practomime?)
- Does the game’s spartan presentation enhance or detract from the story that it’s trying to present to the player?
- Do the strategic/managerial aspects of the game provide sufficient tension to a player’s progression through their generated storyline?
We’ll meet to discuss these questions and more on Thursday, April 2nd at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT; voice chat over Skype.
Minecraft this week: Thursday, March 26th at 9:30pm EDT / 6:30pm PDT. Usual server, voice chat over Skype.
This month, let’s take a different approach to talking about video games. Instead of what we see or feel, let’s take some time to discuss touching, tapping, swiping, pressing buttons, and moving toggles, and how our experiences with them shape our understanding of the games themselves. It’s time to talk about controllers and interfaces: do we control them or do they control us?
Based primarily around the ideas from distributed cognition and activity theory of how information is embedded within systems and not purely part of an individual, let’s discuss how controllers situate us, what they afford us and how they, in turn, constrain us in different ways.
Does holding a Wiimote affect how you think about a game? How about a plastic guitar like those found in connection to the Rock Band and Rocksmith games? What is the difference between a joystick and a keyboard? In what ways do we understand our context through controllers?
Join us, as always, via Skype starting at 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST to discuss these questions, ideas, and your own anecdotes around controllers influencing behavior in different ways.
Minecraft this week; the usual server, voice chat over Skype, 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST.
In this month’s Symposium, we’re going to discuss the iOS/Android game Hoplite. I’d like to link it to our prior discussion of FTL and our discussion last month of Mark of the Ninja: like the former, it’s a roguelike, but it allows for a relatively large control of your build, similar to the latter. And it brings other interesting things to the table: it has puzzle game aspects, and, judging from Frank Lantz, supports a decent amount of reading ahead in the later levels.
If you’re new to the game I highly recommend Darius Kazemi’s tips.
We’ll meet this Thursday at 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm PST, voice chat over Skype.