Ico – speedrun – 1:45:25

by Kevin Juang (2006)
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generally speaking, i don’t like speedruns
because they skip the cut scenes
which are sometimes the best part of a game
the parts that give all the action meaning.

but in this case
its amusing to see such a mellow game
played in such a goal oriented
relentless way.

and its always nice
to watch someone play ICO.

5 thoughts on “Ico – speedrun – 1:45:25”

  1. We watched the first 20 minutes or so yesterday. Until Auriea said that this is no way to play Ico. :)

    Which reminded me of one of the very first play test sessions we had with 8. A couple came to test, a man and a woman. The man sort of ran through things and tried different interactions. The woman took her time and looked at the world and the characters patiently, calmly taking everything in. No need to say that her play-through was a lot more enjoyable to watch.

    Perhaps playing a game is a bit like performing a theater play. Some people are better at it than others. Speedrunners just quickly say the lines and get it over with. But good actors try to understand the meaning of the words they say and try to express them well. They probably get a lot more out of the experience too.

    In the end, a game experience is about the collaboration between designer and player. And perhaps when a game seems bad, it is not entirely the fault of the designer: perhaps you’re just not very good at it. This is obvious in the case of competitive games. But perhaps it applies to narrative games as well. Perhaps to enjoy them, you need to be good at making your avatar perform his role in the story well.

  2. I think the analogy of playing a game being similar to being an actor would be more accurate if games were designed with the intention of being performance art; that is, if the goal audience of games were not the player, but rather some third party who was watching the actions of the character on screen, then it would be easy to say that speed-running Ico is bad play. However, considering the essential form of the video game medium is one of freedom, all forms of interactivity allowed by the program should also be allowed as an aesthetic interpretation of the program on the part of the player.

    I think a more fitting analogy would be that playing a game is like reading the sentence “Does she really love me?” out of context. Depending on which word one chooses to accent in interpreting this relatively mundane question, the speaker can be seen as overjoyed, annoyed, surprised, or merely curious. I know when I read it, my default interpretation is to accent “really,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if I learned that–put this sentence in its proper context–that was the way it was intended to be read.

    As such, I think it is rather obvious that Ico is designed to foster a slower, more contemplative play that most games on the market, but it should be just as obvious that slow and sad is not the only way it can be played, and thus, is not the only way that can be considered “good” playing. The game has a goal–constant goals, in fact. A big goal, like escaping the castle, and small goals like beating ghost-monsters with a stick. To say that goal-oriented play in a game built around goals is “bad” play, is like saying that accenting “she” in the aformentioned sentence rather than “really” is bad reading. It just isn’t.

    And indeed, that was one big problem I had with Ico. For all the hooplah about it being such a quiet, haiku of a video game, it was remarkably traditional. And it was traditional in the sense that it fostered goal-oriented play so openly. And, it’s true, the goals made sense thematically, but for me, the fact that speed running Ico in some way ruins the experience is a testament to the fact that it provides very little essentially interactive greatness as a game. It is visually stunning, the ambient sounds are gorgeous, the narrative is remarkably compelling for one so simple…

    But, the interactivity essentially boils down to: move. And moving is very good, but if moving too fast ceases to be good, then the system that allowed it to happen does as well.

  3. How about considering the game itself as the audience to your performance as a player? Certain ways of playing will allow the game to respond in ways that might be more interesting than others.
    To different people, at different moments of course. A speedrun can reveal certain aspects of a game that a slow playthrough wouldn’t be able to.

    My point was that perhaps it is interesting to think about “being good at playing” not only in the sense of winning the competition but also in the sense of allowing the game to reveal other aspects of itself to you.

  4. Considering the game as audience of the player’s performance is a fascinating idea, and it brings up a few interesting points.

    Does the player, as performer, have any obligation to the game, as audience? In traditional theater, the actors would certainly feel an obligation to act in a way that satisfied the audience’s need for believable performances of the play at hand.

    If yes, what are those obligations? I would say the fact that the average game has in it an implicit linear structure suggests that the average game, and this includes Ico, gives the player something of an obligation to finish the game.

    If no, as seems to be the case, how can playing, in any sense, be judged as “good” or “bad”? Ico puts you in a situation that does have an end, and thus, it is very sensible to strive toward that. However, it also puts you in visually stunning environments unobstructed by the distraction of a HUD of any kind, and thus, it is also very sensible to just meander around the castle for hours with no direction. For that matter, when you hit the R1 button, you get a pleasant reaction from the game of hearing Ico say something that I can’t understand, and so, it is very sensible to press that button for as long as you want without ever even moving the analog stick, just for the pleasure that setting off audio stimuli with your very own finger gives you.

    I guess my point is, however a player wants to play a game is good. And yes, that includes striving for goals, and yes, that very much includes playing in other less traditional ways. I myself often find myself playing games in the latter style, even if only for the reason that games are just too hard sometimes.

    So I think I agree in a way: I agree that playing a game just by speed-running through it will result in the player not having certain powerful experiences that they would if they played otherwise.

    The main thing I object to is the idea that “Some people are better at [playing a game] than others.” Games give us freedom, and what we want to do with that freedom cannot be judged.

  5. But it is obvious that some people are better at some games than others, isn’t it? More frags, higher score, less time, etc, are all objective measures of how good somebody is at gaming. There’s even championships. It’s like a sport.

    My only point was that you can be good at games in other ways too. And not that a speedrun of Ico is bad.

    I don’t agree that any way the player wants to play is good. I know that I myself am sometimes better than at other times. Both in terms of the sports aspect as in terms of the role playing aspect. And I think a game is more fun when you’re good at it. That also applies to both sports and performance.

    In terms of audience and obligation, I think the most important audience is you yourself. In a third person game, this is quite obvious: you steer the character, perhaps more like a director than an actor would and you can judge the performance by the emotional effect that the scene has on you. Some things that you do will have more effect than others. Pulling Yorda up on a ledge can be a more touching moment than just calling for her and letting her climb up by herself.

    A game is not just a toy or a tool. It is also a narrative environment. If you try to match your avatar’s behaviour with something that fits the narrative, you’ll probably enjoy it more (or differently).

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