Reflective Post

Both Gale and I found Gordon Calleja’s article, “Digital Games and Escapism” and explored the effectiveness of games to be forms of escapism. In her article “Animal Crossing and Mobile Gaming as Anti-Escapist“, Gale discusses how mobile gaming, particularly in the form of stamina based freemium games (Clash of Clans, Animal Crossing: Pocket CampSimpson’s Tapped Out, etc.), blurs the line between the real world and the virtual world. Gale brings up a good point in that mobile gaming is in a sort of grey area since you are not necessarily leaving the real world, you are “simply less invested in both [your] real and virtual surroundings”. It is true that mobile gaming allows players to neglect the real world without really ever leaving it. Because mobile gaming has you playing games on your phone, a device used to manage your real world obligations, you still have grounding in the real world. Gale’s second point is particularly interesting in that these freemium games keep the player coming back with their time based mission mechanics. Because you can only play these games for short intervals and then have to wait for stamina to fill back up or for missions to become available, there is constant transitioning from real to virtual worlds that ultimately creates a blurred experience for the player. These games become somewhat like real world chores that you have to continue to pay attention to, which hinders the positive escapism. I have two questions for Gale:

What do you think about mobile gaming that isn’t based around a time mechanic? My game, Pixel Dungeon, does not have a time mechanic and can be played whenever, no wifi connection needed.

What do you think of portable gaming such as the Nintendo 3DS or Playstation Vita? Could you find a way to argue against their forms of escapism?

I have discussed the extreme violence and mature content in Postal in my game logs. In my first log of the game, I argued that mature games should be allowed to be sold, but the sale of said games should be monitored to make sure they are not sold to at risk people. In Hunter’s log “Doubt the Obvious“, he discusses a proposed law that former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger issued (it was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court). My game’s sequel, Postal 2, was actually used as evidence in the trial in order to support California’s case. Even though these laws were deemed unconstitutional, I still hold my argument for the monitoring of violent video games. I agree that if these video games are played maturely, there is no harm in the sale of said games. After playing CoD: WW2, Hunter reached a similar conclusion:

“To examine an entire genre of video games and state that these games cause an increase in violent behavior is not only reaching, but fails to take into account other factors, like poverty, social status, and mental health.”

Both Hunter and I agree that violent video games must be handled maturely or else the gamer at hand may face negative consequences. In his article however, he explores another reason why violent video games should be allowed, and that is their relation to contemporary politics or social norms. Hunter explains that because we are far removed from the time of the Nazi rule in Germany, that it would be a stretch to say that Cod: WW2 would cause a gamer to commit violent acts against the Neo-Nazi groups in contemporary America. I do not necessarily agree with this claim however because it fails to reach the heart of the issue. Violence in any form and towards any person may influence an at risk gamer to commit a violent act. I would like to ask Hunter to take a look at Doom and its connection to the Columbine shootings. The game features no human antagonists, yet the Columbine attackers committed acts upon humans. I would like to see Hunter revisit his article and perhaps reposition this argument he has made.

In my Close Play project, I examined the moral questioning that occurs in Postal. In his article “Moral Sensitivity and The Witcher 3“, William discussed similar moral questioning in his playthrough of The Witcher 3. Both William and I reached the same conclusion that games will often test the gamer’s morals in virtual situations that have grounding in real world applications. In William’s case, The Witcher 3 tasks the player of reporting a crime of arson. It is up to the player to decide whether or not to turn in the criminal. He notes that this question of morality occurs early in the game, “…setting the stage for the rest of the game and communicating to the player ‘Your choices will have a great impact on how this story plays out’”. Postal acts similarly with its early introduction of moral questioning that impacts the way the player plays the game. William also brings up a good example with GTA: San Andreas in that sometimes moral sensitivity is discarded for quick and fun destruction and violence which would otherwise be out of question. I would never want to harm an innocent bystander, but sometimes it is fun to experience what it would be like to do so. William argues that many times in the gaming industry, moral sensitivity is neglected in favor for exciting gameplay that can allow us to experience situations we would normally never be in. What I found to be most interesting in this article is about how the game, “…wants you to get into the mind of the character Geralt and make the character your own by making him act as you would”. So I ask William, do gamers see in game characters as extensions of themselves or as separate entities that are simply used to fulfill tasks in order to reach a goal? To further question, do you play The Witcher 3 with your mindset or with Geralt’s mindset?

Sae-Won’s article “Inside: The Problem of Player-Character Deaths” reveals how games make death a routine and how this is problematic for the game’s narrative. This trivialization of death desensitizes the player to their in game character’s death, thus making a less meaningful narrative. I agree with what Sae-Won is saying here, and have experienced this in my game, Pixel Dungeon. My game is more or less trial and error to find the best way to progress through each dungeon but I have realized now that dying is not as impactful as it is in other game’s I have played (dying in Bloodborne still boils my blood, no pun intended haha). I have began to equate dying to more gameplay which has made me not appreciate the gameplay what I have experienced pre-death. Sae-Won brings up a good point however, “But if you make the game too easy so that the player does not experience an ‘unemotional’ or trivialized death, would the game be any fun?” I agree with this statement. The fun in a game is the challenge and the achievement, if the difficulty is too low, the game seems like you are just going through the motions. On the other hand, are difficult games causing players to accept death and thus become normalized to the feeling of loss? Where is the middle ground? This article has made me question balance in games and what it means to lose.

Ethan’s article “Can you hear me now?” is a deeper look at The Last of Us‘s use of audio. In this game’s case, audio is an integral part of gameplay and it is necessary to use audio in order to aide your progression through the game. In the past, I have played a few of the Metal Gear Solid games and their gameplay is also based on stealth. Stealth games like The Last of Us and Metal Gear Solid require close attention to audio in order to not be spotted by the enemy. I think more games should implement gameplay that focuses on audio instead of having it as a supplement to the experience. Ethan shortly explains the role of music in The Last of Us and it is here where I am most intrigued. Ethan notes the use of huge symphonic music to create dramatic gameplay as you fight against a horde of zombies. Music in gameplay is equally as important to the gameplay as the story. Music aides in setting the atmosphere and telling the player how to feel. Take a look at games such as Tony Hawk Pro Skater or Minecraft. In THPS, the rockin’ soundtrack gets you pumped up for extreme sports action while in Minecraft, the ambient electronica settles you down for a more relaxed gameplay experience. In my case, Earthbound‘s groovy and electronic pieces complement the quirky nature of the game perfectly. I cannot imagine how the gameplay experience would change if Earthbound had an orchestral soundtrack a kin to God of War. I would ask Ethan to try and turn the music volume down all the way in the settings if possible and see how that impacts his gameplay experience.

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