In deference to the almighty Plucky, I wanted to discuss, oh, not necessarily a particular game, although as this blog matures we will certainly get into all that, but rather some general concepts, our Modus Operandi, if you will, regarding this site and what we like to talk about. In the previous class we touched upon the issue of games being for adults versus children. I don’t mean this in terms of age at all, so maybe a more accurate description is intelligence versus the lack thereof.
All computer games, IMO, break down into three categories, with a fourth category reserved for games that already exist in another context and get translated for the computer or console. Games like Poker and Chess fall into this category, and with rare exception don’t get picked up on the SHSIBAE radar.
The first type of game is the Columbine High School game. First Person Shooters that afford your typical thirteen year old the opportunity to desensitize himself to extreme acts of violence and murder, and in the process grant them a powerful sense of self-worth that they do not get from their parents, their teachers or even their own friends. Games like Quake or Grand Theft Auto are perfect examples of this. Who doesn’t appreciate the chance to kill hundreds, nay thousands of people in a single sitting, using every weapon imaginable? I know I do. But after thirty minutes, my complex brain, which seems to function very differently than most Americans, can’t bear to play that type of game for too much longer, certainly not for the dozens of hours that is typical of your teenager. This is why I then start to enjoy Simulated Realities, the next step up.
Here we have a chance to escape our real life, create a character, engage in the interactions of a fictitious universe. Then, as “-e” noted in a previous comment during our last class, we realize quickly, after maybe two or three hours, that this life we are playing in the game is rather hard. And guess what, our real lives are hard, too. Why do I want to work hard all day, then come home and worry about whether or not my Sim wiped his ass or passed out on the street because he was too stupid to take time out to sleep. And gold, I have to worry about finding and acquiring gold in my world? Shit, I want that in real life, don’t make me waste time achieving some bullshit goal that gets me nowhere except for the chance to be one-upped by a thirteen year old or a farm player in China.
So this is where the third and final category comes in, the “enlightened” category, in fact a category that comes across as being “dull” to most gamers’ standards. But to really understand the concept of the serious Simulation game, one almost has to accept that these perhaps aren’t games in the traditional sense. They are, for all intents and purposes, akin to a train set. And surely someone who wants to shoot zombies for twelve hours a day or battle level 60 Paladins wouldn’t fully appreciate the delicate, sublime beauty of a train set. Simcity and Railroad Tycoon are original staples of this genre, and in some ways transcend the technology race of polygons and 3D environments because they are true simulations. Not to say that technology can’t improve upon a game, because AI plays an enormous factor in this genre.
Look at Spore and you will see how a game like Simcity can evolve into something much more amazing than what you saw even in the 4th version. The AI, in the true sense of the word, lets the game itself decide what the consequences are of a particular action, setting into motion a complex evolution based on, for lack of a better word, “what it thinks will happen” versus thousands of lines of code that anticipate various commands.
If they pull this off, maybe we’re looking at a fourth genre, one based most closely on real life, after all. Or it could fail and we will be left with being chased through a space station by a thirteen year old with a Gamma Ray gun. If that’s the case, I guess it’s time to break out the train set.