Some Thoughts on Gaming

by alphamonkey on December 12, 2007 · 5 comments

in Uncategorized

Gaming ClubSlate’s Gaming Club convened for its inaugural run on Monday, and so far the resulting conversation has a been a wonderful lesson in the philosophy of gaming. While it may seem like a discussion on the best games of 2007 wouldn’t be the obvious choice for a fairly in-depth look at the battle for the philosophical heart of gaming, in truth the conversation should be on interest to anyone who spent more than a few minutes with a favorite game this year.

I’m particularly interested in the reward theory of gaming, as I both resent how manipulative it can be (which works solely to the game developer’s benefit) as well as crave it (in the form of Super Mario Galaxy’s ridiculously engaging gameplay). Game Designer Jonathan Blow has more than a little to say on the subject, as it remains a bone of some contention for him as both a gamer and a designer, and if you’re willing to take the time to listen to his recent speech on the subject, you’ll find a hearty nugget of conversation seed therein.

Another point of interest (both to me and to a number of commentators on this site) is the notion of whether games should aspire to art (be it cinematic or otherwise) in the first place. I’ve got a well-known bias against what I see as ‘art on rails’ in gaming, as I’d rather stick with film or literature for narrative and leave gaming for sheer fun and experience, not to mention the fact that ‘open ended’ games just present a series of false choices (since you can never choose against the game designer’s wishes or intent), so that even the most open-ended of games remains nothing more than a Choose Your Own Adventure experience with a D-pad. Skip all the pretense and just give me a game, dammit.

So, all in all, I very much recommend this Gaming Club discussion for those interested in the medium, and I’ll throw this out there: Super Mario Galaxy is hands down the best game I’ve played all year (and more than likely one of the best games ever made). What’s your best, and why?

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  • Adam B.

    Cool stuff here – I think video games have a lot you can discuss about them, and they’ve integrated themselves into our culture so much, they’re on par with movies in terms of looking at why they appeal to such a mass audience.
    Mario Galaxy IS a great game, and a total rethinking of the platforming genre. In fact, of the three consoles, I have to give Nintendo my thumbs up. They’re still the only company that can, again and again, make games that are FUN TO PLAY (notice, I said play, not ‘watch’).
    My favorite game? I might have to harken back to the good ole’ days of yore – Monkey Island is right there at the top, just because of the unique charm the game carries through its entire experience. LoZ: Link to the Past is tied, if not at least a very close 2nd, because… can never go wrong with Legend of Zelda :)

  • .alphamonkey.

    Well, I should have clarified: I was thinking more along the lines of the best game from this year, but hell yes. Monkey Island (and really, anything put out by LucasArts in the day) was a phenomenal game.

  • elkciN

    I’ll have to agree, here, that Nintendo is doing the right thing. They seem to be the only company in the industry that understands that games are supposed to be fun, anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love my 360, but the sense of wonder that a game like Galaxy produces is just unmatched. Technically, I suppose you could find flaws in the game, but the fact of the matter remains that Galaxy made me feel like a kid again, discovering everything anew, and that’s a feeling that no other game has elicited from me since I actually WAS a child. All the bump mapping and advanced AI in the world is useless, compared to that. At least in my eyes.

    Also, Monkey Island fans should seriously check out Zack and Wiki for the Wii. It’s such a great game, and it’s been criminally overlooked. If you can get past the saccharine appearance of the game, you’re left with a damn fine point and click puzzle/adventure game. People need to buy this game, because I want more of it. My second favorite game of the year (yes, even edging out Mass Effect and Bioshock), and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you which comes in first.

    As far as all-time goes, I wouldn’t say ‘best’, but the game that will always hold a place in my heart is Rygar, for the NES. Hell, I didn’t even know it was Rygar, until recently asking some friends using vague descriptions of the images I remembered in my head. It’s not because it was particularly great (though in my memory it is), just because when I think back to the first game that ‘hooked’ me, that’s the one. It’s also one of the last memories I have of my mother, both of us huddled in front of the TV, passing the controller back and forth.

  • Adam B.

    Zack and Wiki is phenomenal – I agree. It did have a Monkey Island-esque feel to it.
    And – another Rygar game is in the works for the Wii, and needless to say, many of us are excited!

  • Adam B.

    Oh – and best game of the year? Mario Galaxy :) 2nd – Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Bioshock would be otherwise, but I’m getting a little tired of ultra-serious and dark/twisted first-person shooters that focus more on being digital movies than games. Though certainly, the game is very innovative and unique.

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