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October 10, 2015


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Nicely written. I think that the crux of the discussion is the difference between an experience-oriented (art) and competition-oriented (sport) game. Once the game attaches a number or symbol score to the experience and the player values that number or symbol, the game stops being an experience and starts being a competition and if the player devalues that, vice-versa. If the player scores ranks 'Ghost' in Hitman: Blood Money, the player can only understand the significance of that score and rank in relation and comparison to other scores and ranks. So, the second time, the player scores 1 million; if the player recognizes that he, in the present, played twice as good as he had in the past, he is now optimizing to compete with his own score and others'. Everything non-optimal to optimizing his score is redundant and ignored (id est the experience, the art).

I disagree that Hockey is a better game than Soccer: you only have to analyze the myriad styles of Soccer played by various national and club teams in comparison to Hockey teams to understand that Soccer is better, and probably the best sport ever created. That's my benchmark for great games: how much self-expression does it allow. The 100m sprint is an amazing event, but there is negligible self-expression because efficiency drives the sport, not style; every sprint is, for the most part, uniform. If a sprinter adopted a different style and increased efficiency relative to other sprinters, the other sprinters would simply adopt that style and there would be an equilibrium again. That's an extreme example. I don't think that Counter-Strike is too far off that end of the spectrum. So, I would claim that Hockey is objectively a better game than Counter-Strike.

Excellent writing about the First Person Shooter. I would have never guessed such a thoughtful discourse could occur about a genre of video games that can so often be considered the thoughtless, twitch-fire, money makers (Call of Duty, etc). I say that as a lover of first person shooters. Glad to see intelligent "dialectic" about our industry. Definitely going to check out the book and the deal!

This part really grabbed me: "For some the gun is an equalizer; representing the promise of liberty, for others it is a symbol of fear, oppression and violence."

The metaphorical meaning of guns in games has always interested me. Apart from the way they allow the player to push the narrative forward or beat the other guy in a PvP, or just interact with a beautiful work of art, what do they mean? As a kid/young man, playing shooters used to be a cathartic experience. Using guns meant I beat Halo and could bask in the glow of my achievement, or winning a round of Quake meant I was the best player for that moment. So, agency had a lot to do with it. And, yes, feeling "free". Later, I required a good story to maintain my interests. Blasting things was still fun, but it wasn't enough in itself. Either I needed a great story or the involvement of my fellow players to maintain my interest.

Clearly, the first part of your sentence applied to me. I, the hero, killed the zombies and helped the human race survive. Had the idea of guns held a different meaning for me, I doubt I would had enjoyed playing these games so much.

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