Knytt, Gravitation, Braid, Everyday Shooter and Zeno Clash. Five independent games. Five times the same experience for me. I launch the game, get to grips with the controls and start playing. Then suddenly, the game stops me. In some cases it makes my avatar die. In all cases, the only thing to do is to retry. And fail again. And retry. And fail again. In some cases I do this two or three times before I close the application (sometimes I uninstall it on the spot). In other cases perhaps 4 or 5 times. But I never made it beyond the first challenge in any of them.
So I ask myself if these games were perhaps badly designed. Some videogames allow you to enter them smoothly and easily. It often takes hours for me to reach the point where the game blocks itself off, closes up like an oyster refusing to give up its pearl. But at least I got a few good hours out of it. Portal was like that for me. So was that remake of Tomb Raider 1. Hm. Does it take money to design a game well?
When I related my confusion to Auriea, she said “You just don’t like games.” That was enlightening! For a moment. I don’t particularly like games. That’s true. I won’t go out of my way to play a game of chess or hide and seek. And I’m not exactly thrilled when my daughter wants me to join her game of Legos or Playmobil.
Those games never end in such a cruel way. When I play chess, I often lose. I’m not very good at it. But I still like playing. When I lose in chess, my opponent wins. And that’s kind of nice. It’s nice to see how my opponent is happy with the victory. And I’m happy for them. But with videogames, when you lose, nobody really wins. And it feels more like the game is designed to make you lose. As if you deserve to be punished for something. When all you did was try to play a game.
If you can call it that!
Outside of the electronic realm, the majority of games require multiple players. As a result, no matter who loses, a human always wins. Electronic games are mostly single player games (even many so-called multiplayer games are expansions on a single player idea). Maybe games weren’t meant to be single player? When I play a non-computer game by myself, the rules are always loose. And when I stop playing, it feels more like the game has lost me than I it.
Computer-based games are like tests. They ask you questions and require the right answer. They make it hard for you, on purpose. They’re not meant to be easy. It’s a format that lends itself to quizzes as well as school exams. Only one of which is a game. Though formally they are the same. What makes a quiz a game and an exam not a game? Purpose! Not its rules, goals or challenges. But its purpose! A quiz is a game (and not an exam) because it is done for fun, because it is not serious (like an exam).
Or is a quiz an exam simulator and considered a game because it’s a simulation, because it’s not real?
The fact that Braid isn’t fun for me does not disqualify it from being a game. It’s perfectly valid to say “This is not a fun game.” What makes Braid a game? Its rules, goals and challenges? No. Because the same format can apply to something that is not a game (an exam, e.g.). On some level, Braid is serious. Like an exam. Does that disqualify it from being a game? Or is the level on which Braid is serious not part of the game? Is Braid an “augmented game”? But what if the level on which Braid is a game is not fun for me? Does it then stop being a game for me?? That’s ridiculous. The nature of something should not change just because of my feelings about it.
Maybe it is sufficient for a game to be fun for someone. Then you can call it a game. Maybe for some people taking an exam is fun. Maybe they would consider it a game too. Maybe it is indeed enough to simply consider something a game. Maybe everything can be a game! You could turn riding on the highway into a game by pretending it’s a race! You could sit in the park and look at the ducks and count their quacks and see if the black ducks win or the white ones. Sounds like a game to me.
So maybe Braid can be a game too?…