Today’s Response: Objectives and goals!

9 December, 2009

Most games require that a player follows a certain rule set while playing a game. Designers decide on goals and objectives that the player should complete to reach “the end”, which usually results in a reward. Most games are played out this way. For example, in Red Light Green Light kids line up in a row and can not advance to an end point until the “officer/traffic light” yells “GREEN LIGHT!!” When the “officer/traffic light” yells “RED LIGHT” everyone must stop. The objective is to gain as much ground as possible in between the green light and red light. The goal is to reach the end point before the other kids. These goals and objectives are set in stone, but how the kids accomplish reaching the end point is not set. Maybe there is a kid that can run faster than everyone else. A less able kid might hold this kid back sacrificing position for the greater good. There might be another kid that decides jumping is the best way. If you are in the air when “red light” is called you will obviously have some extra time before landing to travel further. All of these actions could be allowed, and all of them are unique to the kid’s preference. They are playing a game, and they will have fun their own way.

Enter video games. Video games are computer versions of childhood games. We play video games to have fun. I believe that people will perceive games differently based on their preferences.  Seraphina from Border House describes in “The dilemma of character versus game” how a player will sometimes chose a character based on looks and not how the character acts in the game. Near the end of the article Seraphina describes how a girl, “…found that Caprice didn’t really match her play style, but instead of looking to another character, she decided to call it quits right then and there.” I think that really describes how a majority of people feel about games. If the game doesn’t immediately fit their idea of fun they will not play, regardless if their version of fun develops later in the game, or in another character. Seraphina was spot on, and I don’t want to recap the whole article so just read it!

How does this all fit together? Like a jigsaw puzzle…because people will force their way of fun into a game, especially if it is a game they know well. Who hasn’t played a racing game and decided to race around a track backwards? I played Roller Coaster Tycoon a lot, and when I was bored I would make a theme park with no exit, just to see what people would do. In Super Smash Brothers Melee, Donkey Kong can wrap his arms around another player, so my cousin would grab other players and jump to the death. This didn’t exactly benefit him, but it was fun. There was the Corrupted Blood design that allowed for players in WoW to cause extreme chaos, and altered the roles that people played. There is the Red vs Blue series which made a multitude of videos following the lives of Halo characters. There are countless other videos that have been made with countless games. Fun isn’t some generic soup. People will always explore ways to have fun in games.

Then come the cheaters. Playerssometimes like to exploit games to have fun, sometimes at the cost of another player’s fun. This is a blurred line at best. A general rule is if it hurts someone don’t do it. Don’t break your friend’s arm when they are laying down some heat in Mortal Kombat. How can we measure hurt in games though? Especially in online games where a countless number of people interact with each other? Any action could steam up another player. A player might do the train a thousand times in WoW while following someone. A player might aggro a ton of enemies and run them back to a camp. A player might camp a spawn point in an FPS. These scenarios are possible, and they are within the limits of the game. They may be annoying, but if someone is reaching a new level of having fun, is it really an evil? There are the cases though where people alter the code of a game. I don’t really see anything wrong with this, as long as it is played locally. If all the players agree to playing the hacked game, then there is no problem. Each player has the same advantage and mechanics as the other players. If a player uses code alteration to gain an advantage over other players, then its an evil. Like I said, cheating is a blurred line, and there will always be discussions over what can be defined as cheating. I will leave that argument to others.

Creating your own brand of fun in a game is natural. In fact, I might just play Tetris upside-down to see how it works. Explore games on your own! When you think you have done everything possible, well, come up with your own game inside the game. Don’t be discouraged by people saying “You are playing that wrong”, or, “Isn’t that T.V. a little close to the bathtub?”. Old games can become new again! New games can become old, and then new again! Old bread can become stale, so throw that out…

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