Twine Metagame – Is the Murder a Mystery?

When I first began brainstorming for the metagame assignment, my goal was to create a plot-driven twine game that guided players along a specific path, and eventually to the multiple plot twists at the end. It was important to me to have a metagame that was interesting and immersive, so that people wouldn’t lose interest. This metagame attempts to make points about women’s roles in video games, developers’ tendencies to rework games too many times, and the unnecessary attention given to violence in video games. Enjoy!

http://www.philome.la/hmchat/is-the-murder-a-mystery

Reflection post feat. classmate’s articles

Throughout the game log process, I’ve written a lot about immersion in games because I think it’s extremely important for a franchise’s long-term success. Something interesting I found in the game log posts is about Postal Redux, where the author argues that the first installment, played in the third person, is more immersive than the sequel despite it being changed to first-person. It’s completely understandable for people to think playing in first-person helps with a game’s immersion since you’re “in the character’s head”; however, I would agree with the author here, that third-person games can be just as immersive, if not more so. He pulls from Daniel Black’s article to provide support. Black explains that the game’s perspective is not what creates immersion, but rather the game’s ability to bridge the gap from real life to digital fantasy.

One of the three game’s I was discussing this semester was League of Legends. While I discussed its popularity and mechanics, until reading the article FREE GAME!!! I didn’t realize I had left out the game’s more important aspect: it is free. The author points out that this is a big part of the game’s popularity, the fact that it is accessible to almost anyone. Something important to point out is that even though Riot, the game’s developer, doesn’t make any money off of downloads, League of Legends is more lucrative than most video games because of its in-game purchases. The author goes on to explain that by making the game free, it was able to amass a huge fan base with plenty willing to pay huge money for access to more characters. This is a good application to our in-class discussions about the clever marketing strategies used by companies like Atari and Nintendo to stay on top of the video game market.

In the RPG article about Earthbound, I thought the author made an interesting point about the absurd price of original game cartridges, and how playing emulators copies the gameplay but can’t make up for the entire gaming experience. A question I would ask the author is whether or not they thought the rights to a video game should belong to a company infinitely, or if after a specific time period it should be allowed to be copied and shared with people for free?

In the article Racism in Clash of Clans, the author talks about the “racist undertones” in the game, and more specifically, how a character like the Hog Rider is acceptable when it reinforces racial stereotypes. After playing this game, I would disagree with the racist undertones perspective. While it is true that the game might lack diversity, it is important to realize the developers are based in Finland, a predominantly white country. This isn’t an excuse, but it does provide some reasoning to the lack of diversity. The game, however, doesn’t appear to have racist undertones. I would ask the author if they consider troops such as the witch, giant, healer, and skeletons to be part of their own race? It is my opinion that the game developer’s intent was to create new races, not actually reinforce white supremacy or racial stereotypes.

The article, The Addictiveness of Balls and Numbers, is personal considering my roommate chooses to play this game instead of talk to me. The author talks about the game’s appeal and “juiciness”, which is hard to disagree with. The biggest question I would pose is where does the game’s longevity come from? Other than attempting to beat your high score, which gets more and more difficult, there is no narrative and no real reward for any in-game activity. What keeps players coming back for more?

GTA V: The Reinforcement of Racial Stereotypes

GTA has long been recognized as the poster boy for most, if not all, female and racial video game tropes; however, Patrick Polasek’s article, A Critical Race Review of Grand Theft Auto V, provides an interesting new perspective that focuses less on the game’s NPCs and instead puts the spotlight on the storyline’s main characters. The game designers of GTA’s most recent installment understand the series’ shortcomings as far as the portrayal of minorities, so in an attempt to provide a positive outlook they took three seemingly unrelated men (notice there are no major female characters) and brought them together.

In particular the friendship that develops between the white middle-aged con-man Michael and Franklin, a black “street hustler” looking for quick money, seems to be the game-designers’ attempt at diffusing any racial hostility. Instead, Polasek views Michael’s mentorship of Franklin as reinforcing racial stereotypes: “This relationship is an attempt at color blindness, but the power dynamic of Michael over Franklin instead displays color-blind racism (Polasek).” After reading this, it seems obvious how he arrived at this conclusion and begs the question of why more people aren’t concerned with the power dynamic between whites and blacks the game portrays with its main characters.

At first, the designers do a good job of disguising Michael and Franklin’s union as mutualistic. As you move further into the storyline, however, you begin to recognize a more commensalistic relationship. Michael benefits from all of the jobs he has his young “protege” carry out, and Franklin feels as though he is gaining important insight into criminal workings. What is not plainly illustrated through the storyline is the great risks that Franklin is facing while Michael sits comfortably at home, raking in money. While this is somewhat of an extreme perspective, it appears to me that this “alliance” more closely resembles slavery than a partnership: Michael is directly benefiting from the hard work and sacrifices of Franklin while not lifting a finger. Polasek doesn’t actually say this in his article, but it can be inferred.

“The criminal/racial stereotypes in GTA V extend beyond the perception that blacks increase criminality in a community; instead, it extends to crime being race-specific due to racial stereotypes (Polasek).” This quote from the article is referring to the modern day stereotypes that black men are criminals, middle-eastern men are terrorists, etc. Not only is the game strengthening these views, but it is also reinforcing white supremacy through a storyline that was originally supposed to demonstrate racial harmony.

Source: A Critical Race Review of Grand Theft Auto V by: Patrick Polasek, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0160597614532192

Clash of Clans: The Social Appeal and Advantages

One of the most fascinating aspects of Supercell’s approach to design is the focus on social aspects in each game (Lehtonen, The Social Aspect).” In Miikka Lehtonen and J. Harviainen’s article, Mobile Games and Player Communities: Designing for and with Clans, they discuss the rise of Supercell’s games Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. According to her, the one constant among every successful mobile game is the ability to socialize. In the Clash games, this is available through something called Clans. This feature has since been replicated, but in her article, Lehtonen covers exactly why it’s so important to both the players and game designers.

In a previous game log I talked about Clash of Clans’ ability to generate massive amounts of revenue, and the in-game social clans are integral to its vast community. It helps the game, which is free-to-play, draw a large enough audience that is willing to spend big money for in-app purchases. The clans allow players to connect with people they wouldn’t have previously come in contact with. Themes are the common denominator, with some clans built around topics as simple as the players’ nationality or as complex as play-type. In the context of clash of clans, play-type refers to the different attacks someone can use, which depends on the type and amount of individual troops the player has at their disposal. “Instead of segmenting the players top‐down, the company enables users to show how they would like to be categorized (Lehtonen/Harviainen).” I think this is an important observation from Lehtonen because it is well-known that players don’t like for developers to lump them in with broad groups of players. This aspect of clans really allows people to be part of a community where they can feel comfortable and accepted.

Clans provide the fanbase with a sounding board of other players to discuss attacks, defending, and upgrading which Supercell also uses as data to help improve their game. Lehtonen provides insight into how clans quickly became an advantage for the game designers, “Supercell’s own developers engage with the other players in the game and use that insight during development (Lehtonen/Harviainen, Clans as Enhancing the Design Process).” This is something that has allowed Clash of Clans to remain atop the mobile gaming market. The industry in itself is unique because of the opportunity for games to be updated and changed in a way physical games cannot. Supercell’s ability to adapt to their communities’ desires keep modders from developing content the company can’t monitor. The authors summarize Clash of Clan’s success best: “Treating the game as the skeleton and the players as content providers has enabled Supercell to strike a balance between internal design processes and external insights from their customers (Lehtonen/Harviainen).”

Source: Mobile Games and Player Communities: Designing for and with Clans by: Miikka Lehtonen and J. Harviainen, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/drev.12033

League of Legends: The Dramatization of Competitive Play

Last year, 14 qualifying teams from Europe, North America, China, Korea, and two other international wildcards competed in the LoL World Championship for a $5,000,000 prize pool split among 5 players. While this is serious money, what I find more impressive is the event’s ability to sell-out the Seoul World Cup Stadium. The article I’ve found analyses how LoL and other Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games use dramatic dynamics to attract fanbases in the millions, leading to the rise of e-sports and competitive gaming as an entertainment industry.

The author, Chris Winn, begins by discussing the three types of performance time involved with any spectated competition: “Event time, where the performance will continue for as long as it takes for a specific event to be achieved; set time, where a time limit is provided for the performance; and symbolic time, where the amount of time taken for the performance to complete is intended to be representative of a separate amount of time (page 2).” League of Legends involves all three, but is based around event time which, in my opinion, increases the game’s appeal as a spectator. There are long, intense, drawn-out games that leave both spectator and player feeling satisfied after a win, and there are short, hyper-involved games in which one person can tip the scales of the match early-on with a decisive play. Both of these results provide great entertainment, and the beauty of LoL is that each individual game provides the audience with the possibility of either result. This is opposed to a game like Fortnite, which is guaranteed to last around the same time every match.

Another topic Winn covers is performance, which applies and is important to even the most casual video game players. Performance is at the heart of what drives any competitive person, although it is usually used in reference to what people consider “actual sports”, i.e. Basketball, Soccer, Football, etc. E-sport events bring together the best players in the world and provide viewers the chance to watch them. This is often overlooked when analysing the growing population of spectators for e-sport events. Winn also provides his view on this topic, “Even the act of spectating is made productive… watched specifically for improving personal play (page 4).” In the context of League of Legends, there are many areas of the game that the casual and even competitive player can improve upon. Whether it is last-hitting creeps to increase your gold, knowing when to push and drop-back, or signaling your teammates, watching the best players, as with any activity, can help improve your personal game.

Finally, Winn alludes to the structure of dramatic tension, and how this specifically is the main reason people watch any competitive event. Whether it is the last shot in a basketball game, 2-minute drive in the 4th quarter of a football game, or the game-winning play in a video game, the climax is what attracts viewers. For someone who understands the mechanics of League of Legends, the final team fight to decide the game can be as exciting as any sporting event, which is why e-sports has the ability to fill a stadium meant for a World Cup game.

 

Source: The Well-Played MOBA: How DotA 2 and League of Legends use Dramatic Dynamics by: Chris Winn, https://library.med.utah.edu/e-channel/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/digra2015_WINN.pdf

League of Legends: Competition is key

League of Legends has been relevant in the video game community for years, and after a second play through, the reason for its relevance is still a mystery to me. The game’s graphics are average at best, and the insane variety of characters makes learning each one’s mechanics almost impossible for the casual gamer. One thing I have learned is that it is best to stick with one character, until you become proficient with his moves, before moving to another character. The mechanics in League of Legends are the most interesting. In another game devoid of any storyline or narrative, League of Legends relies on its characters to tell the story. No two characters are alike, or even close to similar. Their moves are inventive and unexpected; you can jump to players, go invisible, leap over walls, cast spells, etc. This adds to the game’s hardcore gamer stereotype by giving long-time players and people who know other characters’ moves a huge advantage.

A typical League of Legends fight you would see late in the game

The game’s playing life seems to be infinite, which is good and bad. Hardcore gamers feast on this type of game, playing to climb the leaderboards and assert their dominance. Casual gamers, however, grow bored very quickly. There are very few rewards for winning, and nothing to work towards as far as upgrades or in-game advantages. You are forced to spend the game’s hard-earned currency unlocking characters that are extremely expensive. All of these things are turn-offs for the typical casual gamer, which leaves me wondering how this game has seen so much success. Something that Clash of Clans and League of Legends have in common, other than no storyline, is competition. Both games are predicated on appealing to a person’s competitiveness and desire to win. After the second play This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.through, I found it difficult to stop playing League of Legends because winning fed my hunger for more wins, while losing motivated me to try to win the next time.

Clash of Clans: “Show me the money” – Developers

Since the release of Clash of Clans in 2012, it has dominated the charts of every app store. This past year, the developer reported nearly 850 million dollars in revenue. 6 years later, and the game still faces controversy because of its lack of diversity. It was over 4 years before the developer released an update with a non-white character. This lack of diversity is painfully apparent while playing the game, and one of the main issues of an app that has for years set the standard for pay-to-win phone games.

Clash of Clans lacks any type of narrative or storyline, which begs the question, “How do players become so invested in the game?” While playing, I noticed that the game’s small achievements begin to stack up, and visibly seeing your own village grow is one of the more rewarding feelings you can have while playing video games. In this way, the game designers were able to capture their target audience. When you first start playing, it is very quick and easy to upgrade and add to your village. This visual aspect of seeing your base expand is enticing, while attacking and defeating another player’s village makes even the least competitive person want to win more. The game’s developers used the pull of Agon to make their game stick, and it worked to perfection.

Clash of Clan’s main source of revenue is in-app purchases, like the one pictured

Clash of Clans is a great casual game because it gives users the option of playing for hours every day, or just a few minutes. The lack of storyline actually works to this game’s advantage because it doesn’t force players to sit through cut scenes and narration. In today’s society, everyone is captivated by immediate gratification. People don’t want to wait for anything; they want to see the fruit of their labor immediately. This plays right into the hands of the game developers. By adding substantial wait times to upgrades the further you go in the game, people become impatient and spend money on resources that speed up building times. Clash of Clans is a veritable money tree: it allows casual gamers to play at their own pace, and forces competitive, hardcore gamers to spend hundreds of dollars every update to get the newest character or item. Genius.This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.

GTA V: Do with it what you will

In this second play through, I focused on how immersive GTA is to help break down just what makes this game so appealing to people of so many ages. The three narratives the game designers created are extremely deep and allow the player to feel emotionally connected to the character(s). One unique aspect of GTA V is the game designers made it extremely easy to mod, allowing players to add hundreds of different objects, abilities, etc. in order to keep gameplay fresh. I was able to add my own mods to the game, making my character invincible and able to call a helicopter at a moment’s notice. Doing this made the game way more interesting, allowing a non-experienced player, like myself, to explore even more of GTA’s space. In my opinion, these mods are as important to the game as the initial game itself, especially because of their ability to extend the game’s life for experienced players.

An image from the game highlighting its controversial portrayal of stereotypes

The many critics of GTA V point to the game’s emphasis of violence, sexual depiction of women, and obvious racial prejudices as reasons it should not be played. After going through the second round of playing, it is easy to understand the detractors; however, I think the reason GTA V is so popular and important culturally is the fact that it highlights everything that is wrong in today’s world. Possibly the most unusual part of a video game this violent is what happens when the player chooses to do nothing. The mise-en-scene goes from one reminiscent of an action-packed thriller to one depicting the average hustle and bustle of a major city. I believe the game designers were attempting to make a point: The crime, racism, and sexism that is so often portrayed in the media, is completely avoidable. Just as it is in GTA V’s digitally remade environment, wrongdoing is always a choice.

League of Hardcore Gamers

I had never played League of Legends before, but it is an example of a game that falls directly in the agon category and is meant only for hardcore gamers. In my limited time playing, it was obvious that the only way to become successful is through more time spent playing. The game is based around a five versus five mode, where the teams must work together to destroy the enemy team’s turrets and reach the middle of their base. The large array of characters is appealing at first, but it became too difficult to understand all of their moves. The punishment in this game is minimal, losing does nothing except frustrate you and your teammates. The interruptibility of this game was very low. Any time spent away during a game is a huge setback, and there were a lot of games that lasted close to an hour. The graphics in-game were very appealing and interesting. Each character had its own set of moves that included specific animations and was very entertaining. Some moves were point and click while others were more difficult “skill-shots” that were harder to land. It is easy to understand how someone who is good at League of Legends could become very addicted. Some players became so powerful in game it was impossible to kill them and you were left waiting for the game to end so you could start a new one. The designers did a great job of providing lots of incentives for leveling up and earning the in-game currency. You could choose to unlock new characters, items, or skins that really added to the game’s already competitive playstyle. Audio did not appear to play a huge role in this game, however the unique fictional characters all had their own distinguishable sounds. This is a perfect example of a hardcore game because of the amount of skill required to understand when to attack and when to sit back. I felt in-over my head most of my time playing the game, and only practice would fix that. The most appealing part of League of Legends is that it is completely free to download. Players can choose to spend money in game, however it does not appear to give them any significant advantage in-game. The game had simple controls, however the complexity of buying items and moving around the map made it very difficult to pick up quickly. This game is only for players looking to challenge themselves against other hardcore gamers.

Cars and Guns and Bank Heists, Oh my!

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) is a great example of a hardcore game. The storyline starts immediately, thrusting the player into an intense bank heist. This type of negative plot is especially appealing to hardcore gamers. You earn money by killing people, escaping the cops, robbing stores, etc. To become competitive in the online portion of the game, you have to put a lot of time into leveling up and buying gear. One unusual part of this hardcore game is the interruptibility, which is very high. You can pause the game at any point and come back to it later. There isn’t any real punishment in the game, when you die you lose a small portion of your money and respawn in the middle of the map. Sound plays a large role in GTA 5, with a large variety of music available through any vehicle’s radio. It is up to the player to choose what music they want to listen to, which appeals to a lot of people. It is evident how much time the game designers put into the games audio. Every car, motorcycle, plane, bike has its own unique and identifiable sound. The most appealing part of the game is its storyline, which gives you the chance to follow three different characters along three extremely different paths. You can play only with one main character or all three, and gives the player a lot of freedom while the game designers still have control over the deep narrative. One negative aspect of GTA is the confusing controls, and it doesn’t do a very good job of explaining them either. The button layout doesn’t follow any other stereotypical console game, making it difficult to figure out and get accustomed to them. GTA 5 would fall under the category of Agon, since it is a competitive hardcore game that is necessary for the user to be skilled at driving, shooting, and navigating the map. Not many games can claim to have better graphics than GTA 5, which provides an accurate, real world space in Los Angeles, California. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a very successful franchise because of its immersive gameplay. Hardcore gamers enjoy all of the possibilities that come with ranking up and completing challenges, while casual gamers can enjoy cruising through the streets in a number of vehicles. I would say that GTA 5 doesn’t fit my playstyle because I consider myself a more casual gamer, however my time playing was still very enjoyable because of the variety of mini games and tasks offered in game.