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The Old Man and the Game

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The Language of Video Games

I was watching my friend play Super Paper Mario today and while he was playing I immediately caught sight of some clues to a future puzzle. My friend misinterpreted these as something else and moved on without hesitation. I didn't say anything though of course because I didn't want to ruin his challenge. Sure enough though, he got stuck and could not figure out how to move on. The puzzle in question is a simple one and we all, for the most part, have probably experienced this same set up before. In the room before there were five torches and only three of them were lit. In the next room were five unlit torches and it should be obvious by now what kind of puzzle this is. The most basic logic behind this game design is, "The question is in this room, but the answer is not."

In all my years of gaming I have to come to realize that games are finally reaching the status and history needed to be considered a form of art. What I am referring to exactly is as the title of this entry states. The language of video games. If you watch an experienced gamer playing a level side by side with someone who has hardly touched a game you will notice a distinct difference on their screens. It isn't that the experienced gamer is probably further and it is not about hand-eye coordination. It is how he or she is interpreting what's on the screen. Visually cracked wall? Try busting it down. Hitting it makes a different sound? Try busting it down. Maybe there's a hidden area here, I'll try sliding down the wall to see if the camera follows... So on and so forth. If you think about the things we do in a game you'll realize we've all been trained to do certain nuances. Anyone that's played a FPS will instinctively know to always aim for the head. We do these things when playing games because it is the very same games that have groomed us as competent readers of this brave new language.

If you read enough books you'll begin to notice certain plot devices or techniques the author uses to create a desired effect upon you the reader. This is what I've begun to notice in video games. Once you make this distinction, it becomes blatantly obvious. Collecting quests, man the turret while we throw floods of crap at you to shoot, there's a bright light on that door i think we should go to it, oh no the door closed and it's an ambush! I mean if you think about it, even an original game like Katamari is pretty much a blown out of proportion yet quirky collecting quest. That's the entire game, a collecting quest. I'm not trying to deface the game, I rather enjoy it immensely. My point is that when you break any game down to its roots it becomes undeniably familiar. Certain roots are needed for a game to be a game and it's these roots I want you to notice. Next time you play a game, really think about what you're doing. Ask yourself, "Have I done this before?" or "Why is this familiar?" Games are complex things and yes, they are also fun, but let's show the world that we're not just wasting time, we're educating ourselves in a language that is both new and exciting.
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About simjaehyunone of us since 1:14 AM on 11.20.2007

My name is Jon and I am a college student studying Creative Writing. The purpose of this blog will be to challenge established conventions and hopefully elevate the budding academics of video games. I want to remind everyone that opinions are merely just that, you don't have to agree with what I have to say. I'd be more than happy to enter a civil discourse with any of you, but I will not tolerate ignorance and illogical arguments. Failure to comply with common sense results in a loss of the game.

3/6/08 - I plan to post more often, but don't expect me to soon since finals are coming up. I'm also contemplating on whether or not I should start reviewing games. Go play No More Heroes if you haven't already. It's an incredibly original experience and one of the funniest games I've ever played.

Currently playing:
Super Smash Brothers Brawl
No More Heroes
Team Fortress 2
Halo 3

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