Last week I was asked to speak at Pecha Kucha Night Amsterdam #24, an event in which presenters get 20 slides that automatically progress every 20 seconds. The event was a hall full of people who had never really played or considered videogames before, but who were on the frontlines of culture, creation and art in some way. Some were musicians, architects, product designers, commercial designers or digital artists. As I got on stage, I suddenly realized that my talk – a talk about how wide a spectrum our medium really covers – was going to be their first real introduction to videogames.
Last week, I read a magnificent story about an unfortunate EVE player, the pilot of a Titan-class ship who managed to accidentally warp himself into the middle of a hostile fleet of players. Titans, amongst the most valuable and rare ships in the game, can take months to construct and can sustain combat against hundreds of players at once. Naturally, the fleet quickly engaged the unprepared Titan. As reinforcements from both sides poured in, “the battle of Asakai” became part of EVE’s ever-fascinating history. As the battle raged on, both sides started warping in increasingly powerful ships, until several Titans were involved. Since everything in EVE has monetary value (the in-game currency, ISK, has an actual exchange rate) we can say that in the span of a few hours, thousands of players got involved and the value of the ships destroyed or damaged was over $24,000.
Last week, a Facebook post introduced me to the story of David S. Gallant – an indie developer who I had been following on Twitter for a while. I had bought his little autobiographical game “I Get This Call Every Day” when I ran across it a month or two ago. It’s a charming little simulation of David’s job at a call-center, dealing with a rather obnoxious but well-meaning caller who wants to change his home address in the system. Despite your best efforts, it is hard to please the impatient caller – and since the caller does not have the required information available to verify his identity, there is no ‘good’ ending. The best result to the game is you telling the caller to call back later. The most common ending is you getting fired from the job after upsetting the caller. Ironically, David ended up getting fired from his job due to the game.
Last week, I was discussing my love for SPORTSFRIENDS’ leading title, Johann Sebastian Joust. It’s a game you play without screens – a game that you play physically with PlayStation Move controllers. I’ve traveled around the world to play the game against its creator, Douglas Wilson, at locations from the Dom Cathedral in Cologne to the Boston subway, and from office buildings in New York to the cliffs near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Last week, I spent some time playing games myself, too. I try to game at least a few hours a week, so I played through Proteus and did a second run of Antichamber. I spent some time being surprised at the void Far Cry 3 leaves at its conclusion and what that means in terms of its narrative strengths. I vented some frustration in Halo 4, went back into the enchanting world of Fez hunting for some cubes, spent time playing Adult Swim’s Westerado and spent time tapping circles in iOS gem Hundreds.
Some are quick to note that EVE is ‘work’ more than ‘game’. Some are quick to note that Halo 4, Far Cry 3 and Darksiders II are not real games but simply money-grabs by a cynical, economics-driven industry. Some would say they’re not real games because they’re not PC-games. Some point out that Proteus is not a game because you can’t ‘win’ it and that Fez isn’t a game because you can’t die. Some claim Johann Sebastian Joust is not a videogame, but simply a digitized version of tag. Some say Westerado is not a game because it’s played in a browser, or Hundreds because it’s slow-paced and is played on a tablet. Some say “I Get This Call Everyday” is not worthy of the title ‘game’ because it looks like it was made in Microsoft Paint.
As I got on stage, it was such a relief that the only absurd preconceived notion stopping the audience from appreciating the whole spectrum of our medium was the false idea that games cause shooting sprees.