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how to do things with videogames

Catchiness and Boring Guns

After reading Bogost’s “How to do Things with Video Games” I felt that each chapter was a portion f the whole but I found myself liking some of the chapters while being uninterested in others.  He has definitely researched the full gamut of video games from the classics to modern hits such as Resistance and World of Warcraft giving the reader a certain feeling of his passion and depth of knowledge for this media form.  He even goes into depth many times about classic board games such as monopoly as well stating the influence or the perception within the two different types of games.  I thought that McGonical’s book had more interesting details with each of he comparisons but I felt that the approach of Bogost was on a more empirical scale with less opinion.

Some of the final chapters were really interesting to me especially the habituation and disinterest chapters.  He stated that Bushnell’s or Nolan’s Law was that games should be easy to play but difficult to master which seems like a winning formula in my book.  But as i look into some of my favorite games over the last couple of years i notice that most of the games I currently play are very difficult to start playing to a degree.  For an avid gamer the controls necessary to play games like Assassins Creed or Call of Duty are relatively easy to get a hang of but like Bogost pointed out the idea of easy to pick up would mean that anyone even without prior knowledge of gaming would be able to pick it up and be able to get started.  My girlfriend would disagree greatly with this idea considering she spends most of her time walking around staring at the ground or the sky but as a big fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise she is not new to the gaming community.  She has stuck to the classics and has not kept up with the new controls that are standard with every new system with dual sticks and a multitude of action buttons.  This goes to show that what most consider to be an easy and “addicting game” to one might only provide stress and problem acclimating showing a possible reference aspect to Bushnell’s law. 

Another example is the hit Guitar Hero series where there seemed to be a steep learning curve for all of those except for the most dexterous.  With the easy setting and color coding beginners would plug along making it quick to be able to pick up.  But as anyone will tell you mastering “Through the Fire and Flames” was all but impossible further proving the fun of losing as well as providing that sort of longevity that gaming companies look to create. 

When Bogost started talking about disinterest I was wondering where this chapter would go but to think that there is more to the equation of fun than the shooting of a gun semed like an interesting point.  FPS are huge right now and are very engaging with the simple mission achieved with a little bravery and steady aim the user can be granted many accolades and bonuses.  For any game designer thinking that it was the act of shooting a virtual gun as opposed to playing super soldier that makes these types of games fun they were not paying attention to the games their children were playing.  It is immersing yourself in a universe where you can now run faster, jump higher and save the world that keeps gamers buying these games not the act of shooting.  I can say from my personal experience that Gran Tourismo was a rare game where it provided a more accurate atmosphere for driving and vehicle dynamics than the Need for Speed title of the time which ended up being one of my favorite games.  It was the graphical and mechanical accuracy and the ability to play real world courses that brought the fun for me as well as the tuning of the car to make them customized to my liking.

The concept of Bushnells law might be why games for the iPad and tablets may be becoming so popular in today’s game market.  With the idea of touch and swipe what you want on the screen even makes some of the more complex games easy enough for my parents to pick up and enjoy.  Look at the sister title of Injustice gods among us that was released for iPad after downloading the game my whole family was able to participate in the game taking turns beating each level using the simple touch controls to beat the opponent where if given the similar console title would not have had the same success.

Are controllers being phased out?  We have seen it with Kinect and Wii are games all going to change to more intuitive touch and movement controls or will there always be a place for a standard mechanical control?

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