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Old 06-20-2012, 12:53 AM   #1
Bilgewater
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Formative games

Any long-term gamer has a list of games that they feel were important to them. The one game that shaped my early childhood and future perspective on games was The Legend Of Zelda: Link to the Past. The expansive world and sense of control coupled with great puzzles and a heroic narrative blew my young mind to pieces. LttP remains a fond endearing memory.

But was it really formative? Did I change my worldview after having played it? That's kind of hard to say, because I don't really remember if I had a worldview before that. It is safe to say that I don't go around breaking pots or trying to save princesses, metaphorically or otherwise, in my daily life.

Fallout: New Vegas did have a huge impact on me. That game asks some tough questions about what it means to survive and thrive in any conditions. How brutal must one be? Where is the line between looking out for me and mine and sheer cruelty? Is righteousness really just about perspective? Where are the just people? Do they deserve justice? What is just?

All important questions that have shaped my opinions about many things. My view of social movements, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street have been affected solely by playing this game (which in this context sounds like a dirty word, but we'll leave the vocabulary of "game" alone for now).

Red Dead Redemption asked hard questions about loyalty. Over the past year, I've had a lot of problems with some friends of mine. People I had been friends with for about ten years. People I trusted and loved deeply. Yet they abandoned me. RDR has definitely influenced my choices in dealing with them and reconciling what happened. I have no doubt that it will influence my relationships in the future. It made me question why I wanted to be friends with people who seemingly had little interest in me.

Link to the Past, Sim City, Super Mario World, the Metroid series, all of them great games that left a huge impact on my perspective of the medium. But not games that changed the way I thought about myself, others, and my place in the world.

FO:NV, RDR, Bioshock too. Games that made me question my own beliefs, my own actions.

Which games changed the way you interacted with others? Which games changed your worldview?
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Old 06-26-2012, 02:44 PM   #2
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Re: Formative games

Hmm, good question. I think I've moved more towards the games as entertainment side recently, and am not sure if I have many that have affected me.

Two that spring to mind are The Path and I am Alive, which touch on some similar themes. Although The Path is just not fun to play, at all, it kept me fairly riveted in the first couple of hours. I am Alive made me slightly uncomfortable too.
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Old 06-29-2012, 01:26 AM   #3
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Re: Formative games

I'll definitely have to check out The Path, looks really interesting.

If you're into weird experimental horror (or you just want to play a really good survival horror game) I strongly recommend Lone Survivor. It was recommended on a recent episode of Extra Credits and it did not disappoint. That one still has me scratching my head.

Not many games use drug use as a meaningful mechanic, and Lone Survivor ties it up with violence, perception and sexuality. Definitely worth checking out.
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Old 07-05-2012, 10:55 AM   #4
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Re: Formative games

Ah, I noted Lone Survivor a while back but then it slipped through the net. I'll check it out, thanks Bilgewater.

Don't expect too much from The Path. It's heavy on atmosphere but light on game. Very interesting experience though.
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Old 07-05-2012, 07:33 PM   #5
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Re: Formative games

I posted this already some time ago, but here to reiterate three important games in my gaming-history:

X-Wing (1993)
This game influenced me twofold. The "German" version had a German manual but the whole game was in English, which resulted in me learning english to understand the game. Me having only very basic english skills at that time collided with the games relatively complex nature. It was one of my very first PC games and I was still used to the standard NES controller with not many buttons beside A and B. Now this comes along with missions that are more complex than "just kill everyone". Mindblowing!

UFO - Enemy Unknown (1994)
I never felt afraid for any character in a game before UFO. I was getting used to the heroes of the game being more powerful but at least as powerful as the opponent. I was used to the enemies in a game to use simple patterns, with Mega Man being already rather complex (lol). UFO turned this upside down. The invading aliens were cunning, unpredictable and physical superior to the men and women I commanded. When a grenade blew up three of my soldiers I felt like I let them down. Everytime a sniper killed one of my scouts without me seeing him I felt helpless. The first time I finished a mission without loosing anyone was a triumph! When I invaded Cydonia and my best soldier was mind controlled and blew himself and 2 others up I was in shock. When I finished the mission after all I felt like I'm on top of the world.

Demon's Souls (2010 in Europe, 2009 everywhere else)
One of the most satisfying games I ever played. People say its "hard" but I disagree. It is unforgiving, but it doesn't punish you for playing. It punishes you for having a "jump right in and worry later"-mentality you get awarded for in most other games. It also made me rethink online gaming.
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Old 07-06-2012, 02:27 PM   #6
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Re: Formative games

Pedro,

I'm glad I could help you re-remember to check out Lone Survivor. Having re-read your first response, you definitely got to the core of my intent. I definitely come down on the "video games are art" side of the argument which leads me to

Li-Ion,

Those all sound really interesting, and I feel a little ashamed I've only come close to playing one of them (Dark Souls, no PS3 for Bilgey.) I wonder though, did those games affect your perspective on the world or just on other video games? Based on your response, it sounds like UFO could have had an impact on your perception of war. I often feel like most RTS' dehumanize your units way more than the FPS genre. Very few make you care about the hundreds of people you are sending into certain death. The units in Starcraft or Command & Conquer always seemed more like disposable tools or a means to an end rather than people with parents and spouses and children (ignore the fact that two thirds of the units aren't people, but that zergling still had a mommy!).

What you say about X-Wing is interesting though. Video games have already proven themselves to be a powerful teaching tool despite the fact that most games teach you little more than their own mechanics.

My experience with Dark Souls was great, though I'm not sure how similarly it mirrors Demon's. The art direction of Dark was fantastic. It does not take long for you to realize the world you are in is a dark (har har,) cold, unforgiving place. As a thematic element, this played off the brutality of the combat and the bizarre, semi-psychotic NPCs. It made any level of achievement feel that much more powerful. You find the area boss, you figure out how to kill it, and you brave the treacherous terrain to get there. No one is looking out for you. The best you can hope for is that some lunatic will be more interested in killing things with you rather than just killing you. I'm not sure how much that reveals about humanity, other than to infer that there is no altruism (which I don't believe,) but I found it interesting and beautiful nonetheless.

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To take an opposing view on the "video games as art" question, I guess I'm looking to answer a different question.

Assuming you are not a robot, I would bet there isn't a single one of you who has not been deeply affected by some work of literature, film, song, etc. I can point to Catch-22 as having been hugely influential on my worldview. It's dark humor, cynicism, and ambiguous morality continue to make me re-examine the world and my own life. Whatever your opinion of Catch-22 may be, I think we can all agree it is a work of art. Whatever your definition of art may be, an emotional, meaningful, lasting impression certainly seems to be involved. But how many games have delivered that? How many games can you honestly say have impacted you on a personal level?

Geez, that turned into a wall of text. I'll stop blabbing now.
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Old 07-06-2012, 03:52 PM   #7
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Re: Formative games

I never saw a game affect some online communities like Demon's Souls (and later, Dark) did. Collaboration was the order of the day, sharing of tales and information, and I suppose it was as a result of the game being so intricate that it resulted in all that chat about Cling Rings, Red Knights, Flamelurker and why people were suddenly turning up dead in the Nexus. Though the multiplayer was anonymous for the most part, the shared experience was like a whole little culture on its own. Incredible stuff. I have to say Demon's is a big one for me too.
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Old 07-06-2012, 04:32 PM   #8
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Re: Formative games

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bilgewater View Post
I wonder though, did those games affect your perspective on the world or just on other video games? Based on your response, it sounds like UFO could have had an impact on your perception of war. I often feel like most RTS' dehumanize your units way more than the FPS genre.
I don't even know what it was that made me feel for my soldiers in UFO. They had no elaborate story behind them and were just a bunch of randomly generated numbers. But with some of those random pixel-people I had more of a connection than with pretty much every given NPC, fully voiced with all kind of background information in a full-blown rpg.

Interesting observation that RTS dehumanize more than FPS. In both soldiers are not much more than cannon fodder, but RTS are indeed the most detached one can get from the toll a war takes. RTS are also worse than large scale strategy games. A unit in Civilization is much more valuable than any given unit in e.g. Starcraft 2. Funny enough, Civilization never changed anything I knew or thought I'd know about history or civilizations. I enjoy playing it, still give Civ 4 a spin occasionally, but it never had any lasting impact.

There are few games that make me think or reconsider anything outside the virtual world. Books that I read are more important in terms of impact on my views. But coming back to my examples above, Demon's Souls and later Dark Souls managed to dominate my life for about 2 months each and had impact beyond the game world. They changed the way I look at other games. It's a standard by which I judge games. Before Demon's Souls it also didn't occur to me how much more interesting a story can be when it's not told, but shown. The Souls' games have not much dialogue to speak of of cutscenes. But I understood the world and what had happened just by how everything looked and sounded, small fragments in item descriptions painted a wonderful picture of a world in ruins. I should stop gushing about Demon's Souls now.

Interestingly, games like Deus Ex that supposedly have a message, didn't really change anything for me. I find it funny how the advertising campaign for Deus Ex Human Revolution had more to say about transhumanism in less than 4 minutes, than the entire game in about 30 hours.

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Old 07-08-2012, 07:35 AM   #9
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Re: Formative games

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bilgewater View Post
My experience with Dark Souls was great, though I'm not sure how similarly it mirrors Demon's. The art direction of Dark was fantastic. It does not take long for you to realize the world you are in is a dark (har har,) cold, unforgiving place. As a thematic element, this played off the brutality of the combat and the bizarre, semi-psychotic NPCs. It made any level of achievement feel that much more powerful. You find the area boss, you figure out how to kill it, and you brave the treacherous terrain to get there. No one is looking out for you. The best you can hope for is that some lunatic will be more interested in killing things with you rather than just killing you. I'm not sure how much that reveals about humanity, other than to infer that there is no altruism (which I don't believe,) but I found it interesting and beautiful nonetheless.
I found Demon's Souls to be a very different experience - it was such an oppressive atmosphere in that game that Dark seems light and airy in comparison! Certainly only a couple of areas in Dark touched on the sheer tension and dread that I had as my constant companion in Demon's. You could make some parallels between it and Kafka, or that terrible sense of suffering and hopelessness that you get from some Russian literature (I haven't read much of this, I generally can't get past the first 100 pages of most of them, for that reason). However as a game it has player agency, you can bend this to your will in the end.

Perhaps it is a mistake to focus the games-as-art debate on the traditional criteria (whatever they are), especially given the difficulties games have delivering narrative:

Game: introduces Very Important Character who is integral to the plot.
Gamer: I wonder what happens if I try and kick her off this cliff? Oooooo.

That said, Deadly Premonition did a great job of delivering a plot and making you care about the characters. It sounds like you have an Xbox so you should check this out if you haven't already. Just set it to Easy and blast through the shooty bits.

So it's difficult, I think, to make cases for games having a meaningful impact on your life, apart from how much 'fun' you have with them, your admiration for their design or construction, and the amount of hours you spend playing them.

I liked this response by the creator of Boulderdash (interview here)when asked if it was art:

Quote:
I think it's more appropriate to think of Boulder Dash as a piece of design, where all the pieces mesh to create a compelling experience. If you want to go towards "art", I think words like "beauty" and "aesthetic" are more applicable because you can apply those words to a much wider class of things - popular songs, gadgets, mathematics, cars, etc.
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Old 07-31-2012, 03:01 AM   #10
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Re: Formative games

Well my favorite was Mario. It changed my life completely. I highly influenced by the game. I love to live like Mario to remove all obstacles in my life in a continue process. And finally win the game by achieving the final goal.
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