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Game Design

In: English and Literature

Submitted By surfboard
Words 1075
Pages 5
Games can be very powerful. Spacewar, Counter Strike, and the News Games are examples of three influential games that had powerful and lasting historical impacts. These three games subverted traditional game concepts, representations, or mechanics. Although some people may view video games purely as a casual source of fun and entertainment, a deeper examination of their messages can reveal what different games tell us about our culture, giving us a better understanding of why games are created and sometimes even insights into having a better experience playing those games. In this essay I will analyze three games from the readings and discuss how those games’ movements subverted mainstream culture through their concepts and representation.

Spacewar subverted mainstream culture by providing the gamer, for the first time, with visual engagement. Steward Brand wrote a great article on Spacewar. This article takes takes readers back to a time when games were still not popular. I thoroughly enjoyed this reading because it gave me so many great historical facts about Spacewar. He began his article with the declaration, “Ready or not, computers are coming to the people.” This sentence set off a great tone for the article. I was intrigued because I have always wondered about how people in the past lived their lives without access to computers. Nowadays, we use computers for several purposes such as sending emails, surfing webs, and creating beautiful visual works. It was amazing how the creators came up with the idea of Spacewar when they did not really have computers as an easily accessible medium to work with. Brand wrote “"It was the first minicomputer, ridiculously inexpensive for its time. And it was just sitting there. It had a console typewriter that worked right, which was rare, and a paper tape reader and a cathode ray tube display, [There had been CRT displays before, but primarily in the Air Defense System.] Somebody had built some little pattern-generating programs which made interesting patterns like a kaleidoscope. Not a very good demonstration. Here was this display that could do all sorts of good things! So we started talking about it, figuring what would be interesting displays. We decided that probably you could make a two-Dimensional maneuvering sort of thing, and decided that naturally the obvious thing to do was spaceships."

Therefore, before Spacewar, sometimes considered one of the first digital computer games, was created, most games did not have visual representations that engaged humans interaction with one another or with the game itself. Spacewar broke this barrier and subverted the status quo by giving “life” to the game. People would now be able to see an interface and dynamic graphics that engaged them in the game. One of the game's creators stated in Brand's article that "something which I wanted to do is get some interesting sort of fleet action. There are some versions of Spacewar which allow two, three ships, but as far as I know no one has been sufficiently clever to set things up so there are ships with noticeably different characteristics that could fight in interesting combinations." This showed that the creator really thought about people's interests and what they really wanted in a game, which is what made the game so successful.

Counter Strike was yet another revolutionary game. The game was, as Pearce wrote, “a complete rebuild of the popular commercial game Half Life.” (p.76) A lot of people did not have a problem switching from Half Life to Counter Strike because they wanted to experience a more rich and engaging environment that Counter Strike had to offer. Not only did Counter Strike subvert the culture of violence and the competitive nature of the game, it also created a model for a modding culture. Pearce wrote in the article that “Counter Strike ultimately earned its creators not only cult-status as modders, but also garnered them a number of awards, including the coveted “Best Rookie Studio of the Year” from the International Game Developer’s Association." Another new aspect of Counter Strike was its democratic features. The game let the players have a say in the rules and the mechanics of the game. In other words, players could choose the direction in which they wanted to see the game progress. The developers were welcoming of all of the players' opinions and willing to let them make customizations. This was meant to be a reflection on our society that normal people now had a voice for change and the ability to guide things to become better.

Finally, the News Games subverted a political culture by bringing the community together. According to the article by Fron, et al., the News Games movement was created “in response to the Vietnam War and the civil unrest of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, and [had] much to offer both the creation and analysis of digital games” One thing that interested me the most in the article was how the News Games was implemented at the University of Southern California. Had these games been implemented at Georgia Tech, the reaction to them may have been very different. The News Games were supposed to be “a source of inspiration and political empowerment” to students and faculty. Fron also explained that the “idea that playing together in a public forum could be considered a political act.”

The games that were played in the News Games movement were Rock-Paper-Scissors Tag, the Lap Game, Dum-Dum Da Da, Knots and the Lap Game, Panter-Person-Porcupine and Hug Tag. According to Fron, these games “awakened the participants to the thought that there might be more to gaming than the marketing departments of mainstream game companies would have us believe. The group parted with a sense of renewed hope and enthusiasm for the enterprise of game making that could only have been arrived at through a highly personal experience of play.” To me, this developed the message that politics is all about coming together as a community, rather than seeking individual power. These games arrived at USC as “presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry bickered bitterly about the cost and conduct of the war in Iraq, social security reform, tax cuts, and same-sex marriages in one of the most divisive U.S. elections in decades.” As such, the News Games movement subverted the political culture of the time by uniting America into one instead of dividing them up into Republicans and Democrats.

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