Friday, January 20, 2006

Everybody's Favourite Show: POP QUIZ....

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to a round of.........POP QUIZ.... today we have THE GREAT JER himself here with us today to answer two perplexing questions...


Question 1: "What is a Game?"

According to trusty old "Oxford", a game is.... "a form of play or sport with rules." Yep, that's all folks, that all it says... damn linguists.. so typical of them to simplify. And take it from a seasoned gamer likes yours truly, a game to me is so much, SSSOOOO MUCH more than that, after all, it is my number one passion in life, videogames specifically (with the Game of Love coming in a not-so-close second), games have to be more than a ""form of play or sport with rules" to hook yours truly, and many other people in the way that they [games] do.

Firstly, I agree with the rules part, all games must have rules, they have to be boxed by some form of constraints and limits, to be called a game. I mean, imagine, someone telling you, "Let's play a game, and the game is you can do anything you want." Who would wanna play such a dumb game? I think they have a word for this, its called Life. I mean all games, from sports, to videogames have rules, be they not using your hands to move a ball around (soccer), or you must not get hit by one of those damn goomba (super mario), every game in the world has a rules.

Another element that a game must have is an objective, a goal, a state to acheive, something like that. A goal to seperate a win from a loss, some sort of incentive to play, if you might. As my pastor always says, imagine a game of soccer if there was no goal, and we just had 22 players dribbling a ball around the field aimlessly, do you think it would ever be the same? This rule runs through all games, from rescuing the princess, to beating the high score, to knocking your opponent out, they are all objectives in one form or another.

Finally, the last essential element of a game is interaction. In this sense, in a game, the player can only be called a player if he/she actually interacts with something, or someone. Be it from interacting with a ball in a soccer/basketball/volleyball game, to interacting with a dice in a game of snakes and ladders, or interacting with a virtual character on screen through a joypad, a game most of the time has someone doing something, to affect something, to bring the person one step closer or further from winning. Sometimes, this interaction is on a multi-level basis, but i will save the elaboration of that part for later.

Even though a game is made up of these three elements, quoting from the principles of Gestalt psychology, "The whole is more than the sum of its parts", just like a game is more than just these three elements alone, these 3 elements combine together to form a cohesive EXPERIENCE, and essentially, that is what a game is. It is something that we, as people choose to indulge in for that brief moment of time, to detract our minds from reality for a moment, to follow the rules set to acheive a given goal state. Maybe games are essential for our frail human minds to unwind from the tasks at hand and detract us from reality and at the same time, relaxes us and keeps us sane, but that is just some food for thought and i digress.

So, in summary, to THE GREAT ONE, i would say that a game is 'an interactive activity bounded by a set of rules that a person/people participate in, to attempt to acheive a set goal state, creating an experience.' Hah.. take that old "Oxford."

Thank you for the lengthy answer THE GREAT JER. We will now go for a well deserved commercial break and come back with round two of........POP QUIZ........stay tuned...


Question 2: "What makes a game a "Good" game?"

As many would claim to be true-blooded gamers, many would pale in comparsion to THE GREAT JER's gaming resume, with 18 years of gaming goodness under his belt, THE GREAT ONE could go on and on and on and on and on about what makes a game "good", or the creme de la creme (damn, don't know how to use the damn French symbols here, oh well...).

Essentially, the spine of "good" games at its core is..... GAMEPLAY. But of cos, that is one hard word to define and pinpoint, even i have trouble with trying to define that, like when people say, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a great game despite the fugly graphics, cos of the superb gameplay, what does it mean? Honestly, I have no idea how to define it, but i just know that that game IMO is THAT DAMN GOOD, but i digress...

I would think that the closest way to define it is the experience that you obtain from playing the game. If after playing a game, the experience of playing the game still lingers in your head, i would guess that game has been successful in being a "good" game. However, to define "good"in itself a pain in the ass, cos its meaning can vary from different points of view.

For example, slots might be a "good" game in the eyes of the business types as it is readily accessible to anyone since it is so damn mindless and can attract a large audience of suckers, but IMO, i think that it is boring as hell. But then again, that's just me, I'm sorry Grandmas. So, in this sense, I will try to define a "good" game by my rules, and based on my hardcore-gamer's-ass opinion.

From the top ladies and gentlemen, a "good" game to me is one that has rules, but do not completely restrict. The rules cannot be placed in such a way that there is only one track to victory. Instead, a set of rules must be envisioned as a box, boundaries to create a space in which to play. And in this space, there must be allowance for creativity to acheive the goal. Many people, including myself would prefer games with open ended gameplay, which puts you in control, to allow your creative mind to expand and find your own way to reach the goal state.

That is one of the reasons why Grand Theft Auto is so acclaimed, because of the sheer scope of allowing the player to do anything to acheive the given goal (should I park a fire engine to block the way or should I just gun the damn guy down?). Of course, more conventionally, for the lay people, there is soccer, which allows 101 ways to get the dumb ball from one end of the field to the other, a much simpler analogy of the above thought.

In terms of goals, for a game to be "good", the goal has to be achievable and yet challenging enough to be satisfying when actually achieved. In this aspect, it is harder to make a game that is universally good, since the aptitude of different players vary from player to player. Take Ninja Gaiden for example, wusses weep at the difficulty of the ass-kicking they take from the computer A.I., whereas hardcore gamers were escalated at the masochisitc difficulty. I guess for a game to be "good," you have to consider the market that it is designed for.

In terms of interaction, a "good" game is probably considered such if it provides multiple levels of interaction, but yet accessible enough to be understood. For example in an MMORPG like 'Phantasy Star Online' or 'Final Fantasy XI', you are not only interacting with your virtual character alone, but also with the rest of the players as a team to take down that one tough SOB. Or even in pop culture phenomenon Street Fighter II, where the interaction is multi-level but competitive instead of the previous cooperative examples, players interact with the on-screen fighters through the joystick to pit their skills against one another.

Finally, there is the experience, a "good" game is one that immerses the player in an experience, and it is not just a game and nothing more. It is one that invokes some sort of thought or emotion from a person playing the game, be it the experience of adreneline in a soccer or basketball game, the engaging narrative of the latest Final Fantasy (FFX being my all-time fav FF) accompanied by the stunning visuals and superb soundtrack, the test of your cerebral abilities in a sprawling Zelda dungeon, or the competitive edge in a Halo 2 deathmatch, all these are not just interactions, they are full-fledged experiences they hook players in, and keeps players coming back for more and more.


Thank you THE GREAT JER. That was the longest episode of Pop Quiz ever thanks to your rambling. That's all we have for you tonite ladies and gents.. Till next time... BYE BYE


Blogger Brian said...

Calvinball, from the comic strip of Calvin and Hobbes is a game where there are rules, but if you read it, you essentially make up the rules as you go along.

Calvin's babysitter used the rules to her advantage once.

4:31 AM  
Blogger THE GREAT JER said...

what an interesting book.. quite intrigued by the whole make up your own rules thingy...let me go take a look.. thanx for the feedback..

4:40 AM  
Blogger alex said...

I like the fact that you keep coming back to the idea of experience... this is definitely an integral part of games and gameplay. I wonder what the experience of playing Calvinball is like? Particularly for people other than Calvin... :)

1:20 PM  

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