Wednesday 28 September 2011

How To Learn From Games

The four games you meet in heaven

I’ve spent about a thousand hours a day playing computer games since way before I was born. That’s turned out to be quite useful, not because I work in games but because I don’t. Games have a lot to say and if you don’t make games, you can learn an incredible amount from them. The inverse is true for people who do make games, but hey, those guys are a bunch of nerds, right?

People are different and we can learn from each other
The problem is that there are more games out there than there are stars in the sky, so working out which ones can teach you the most is basically impossible. I’ve already played literally every game ever made, so here’s my break-down of THE GAME that can teach you the most, based on your profession.

It’s extremely important to note that you have to actually play these games. If you just read this and think you’ve learned anything except which game you should play, then you are an idiot. A big stupid idiot. Reading a few words written by another idiot about the most important games in the world is no match whatsoever for actually playing them. You spend more than it costs to buy these games and their accompanying consoles on lunch and stupid shirts in less than a week, so go and put the time in. In exchange, you will be hailed as a genius by your tribe. It’s not a bad deal.

Oh god just please go and play this now, oh god please. Way of the Samurai is half sword fighting game, half choose your own adventure. It’s set in 1878, at the end of the Samurai era. The fighting game is fun and the whole thing is very short. 

It’s arranged into areas and each area presents the player with a dilemma and leaves them to decide how to deal with it. Depending on how they react, the situation in the next area they visit may be affected. Because the game is very short, players can and will play through it several times, getting to see what the effects of their actions truly are from many different perspectives.

Typical Samurai dress circa 1878
The fighting bit is highly enjoyable and the desire to see what else might happen is incredibly high. You learn a great deal about 1870s Japan and you bloody love doing it. Go, now, play, now. You’re wasting your time if you haven’t seen how well this can be done. 

If you work in marketing then you are interested in gamification. And, if you are interested in gamification, you’ve heard that games people don’t think gamification is worth shit. Well Demon's Souls is the game that will demonstrate exactly what they are talking about, and it will do so with utterly brutal efficiency. 

Demon's Souls is fucking hard. Really, totally fucking hard. It is a game about loss. About losing. About losing over and over and over again, until you win. And when you win, it is the best feeling since that one time when you smoked rainbows while having sex with god, dressed as a unicorn.

What is this, I don't even...
If you want to understand what actual games rather than the operant conditioning machines of Facebook have to offer your profession, you’ll go home and beat yourself against this game until you finally bend it to your will, by which point you will have become an immortal being, a god among men.

Demon's Souls is the opposite of gamification and will teach you more about what gamification can actually offer than any other object in the known universe. Get on with it.

This one is as effortlessly enjoyable as it is embarrassing to every single person who works in online advertising. As the game is loading, it lets you play Galaga, an ancient 80s arcade shooting game. You play for a few seconds, then the game starts and you play that instead. 
They don't think it be like it is, but it do

It’s incredibly simple and fun. It is the most engaging pre-roll ever made. Literally no piece of pre-roll or interruption advertising has been as good as this was. And it’s been there since 1994, four years before Google existed. Go, get a PlayStation, and play it. Then stop making pre-roll videos, start engaging people through engaging objects and receive a colossal pay-rise and infinite respect from your co-lifeforms.

Oh how I envy you. To be able to go back to a time when I hadn’t played Final Fantasy 12 is a regular subject of my thrice-hourly daydreaming sessions. It’s a gigantic, huge, sprawling epic of a game that takes forever to finish. It’s on a scale with watching the whole of The Wire. That was worth doing and so is this.

The reason is that this is a game that basically plays itself. You tell it how you want it to play and it does that. It’s a game that seems to take control away from the player, but actually gives them greatly more, by giving them a position as director rather than actor.

Owls are both passive and interactive

If you want to know how to do passive, sit-back, yet interactive programming, then go and play this game, then have a good long think. Control isn’t just about pressing buttons and seeing a man jump or an enemy die. From the lightest of touches in the rightest of places, you can give people an incredibly interactive experience. Go and learn how. Now.

This is the end bit

I’ve said here before that we all do the same job, that we all need to look outwards, not inwards. Well now you know exactly where to start looking when it comes to games. The time and money you spend on actually playing these games will repay you a thousandfold. I don’t even have a joke to finish off with here.