Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why do we want ubiquitous gameplay?

In our first class meeting, we watched The Game (David Fincher, 1997).

This film depicts an immersive, reality-based game that blurs the boundaries between play and real life. Although "The Game" played in the movie does not really exist, the movie is an extremely important artifact in the historical development of ubiquitous gaming. The Game has been cited as a major inspiration by the designers of the earliest ubiquitous games--Wink Back Inc.'s The Go Game (2001), Electronic Arts' Majestic (2001), and Microsoft's The Beast (2001). And it continues to serve as a reference for more recent projects, such as Mind Candy's Perplex City (2005).

If you have time to follow the links for these games, you can learn more about their design. What parallels can you find between these real games and The Game?

You can see some of this history played out in the online articles "Geeks Without Borders" and "Games People Play: Life invades games, and vice versa", two of the first popular press discussions of ubiqutious gaming, explore projects like The Go Game and The Beast in relation to The Game.

What do you make of Fincher's vision of immersive gameplay? Would you want to play? Why would anyone want to play such an unbounded game? What desires does it speak to? What thrills does it provide?

Why do you think real-world game developers were so inspired by this movie? What qualities of "The Game" experience do you think game developers would want to replicate in their real games? Why?

11 comments:

Paul Kyle said...

What an interesting film! Though a bit heavy-handed towards the end, the film dramatically provides a narrative framework that explores underlying issues relevant to ubiquitous gameplay, and by contrast, of choices we make in life itself.

It seems important in "The Game" that the filmmakers show how bleak Nicholas' life is in the early scenes, in order to make a point of contrast with his activation after playing the CRS game. For example, with all the money and power one could ask for he eats his birthday meal alone.

Also interesting in the story is the fact that Nicholas's own father committed suicide in the same year that he has just arrived at. Nicholas is haunted by that memory, unable to integrate the loss of his father into this stage of his adult life, as we are shown by the flashback, 8mm footage at the beginning of the film. Once activated by the CRS game, Nicholas becomes enlivened by the options and obstacles confronting him, hyper-sensitive and emboldened to ways of achieving his "goals". Playing the game, Nicholas takes his own literal and symbolic fall off the roof, but ends up surrounded by friends and family, celebrating his life, and open to the new possibilities ahead.

Some more thoughts later!

lisatized said...

One of the things that I found most interesting about "The Game" was the multiple layers that CRS has to design in order for a player to begin to let go of the idea that they are in a game and move on to a level of transformation that can't necessarily be reveled if one continues to be of the game mind set. Throughout the film we saw Nicholas drift in and out of knowing he was in a game, but by the end he was such a mess that the conspiracy had gotten to him and he was fighting to survive. I saw this movie for the first time many years ago and I remember thinking that it got to be too much towards the end, but this time I was watching it in a little different light and thought it was necessary.

jake rose said...

I had seen the film once before ...probably shortly after it first came out. For me it has always been an intriguing concept. The idea that because of outside influences, a person can be completely removed from their mental environment is really interesting to me. The paradigm shift that Nicholas incurs is vital to the effectiveness of his game. I thought that Sean Penn’s character added another essential quality which removed Nicholas from the constraints of “the real world”, in his battle with trying to trust his brother. Watching this movie for a second time I appreciated many of the more subtle aspects of how they personalized his game. After overlooking the unrealistic aspects of this movie ie. the liabilities of running a company like CRS, police involvement, and so forth, i thought the movie as a whole was pretty good.

Jennifer said...

I think the reason so many developers are inspired by this movie is the fact that video games and gameplay- what immediately tend to come to mind when talking about 'games' -is so very limited. As such the only things recent platforms are able to really push is the size of their harddrives, graphic power, processing speed and being able to do additional things such as play music and DVDs and go online.

That's one of the reasons why the two newest Nintendo consols- the DS and Wii -are so intriguing to me. The graphics aren't as high-speed as the 360 or PS3, but the fact that they's so interactive and forces you to play outside the comfort level of sitting on a couch is something to be commended.

Though not being able to control when and where you're able to play is frightening and that's also an intriguing thing to imagine. Because life isn't something that you can control and aspects in it can come at you whenever and wherever. That fact that you can control a game is the main thing that divides it from 'real life'.

Would I ever take part in something like that myself? Not without understand exactly what I was getting myself into. Because there's a frightening fun and then there's just plain frightening.

evelyn said...

Most forms of entertaintment require an imaginative act from participants to immerse themselves in it - the suspension of disbelief. In the CRS scenario the participant doesn't have to imagine very much of anything because the game is really happening to him or her. For the player this means that everything that was once mundane may actually be a vitally important part of the game. In a sense, everything becomes a readymade because the context for viewing objects as such is all encompassing.

grey said...

As we learned in class ubiquitous gaming merges the once separate "game world" with "real life." The blurring of lines between fictional realms and real ones by pushing on or seeming to break the protective boundary of the magic circle adds excitement. But the proximity of game world to real world may also have draw backs.

The problem with ubiquitous games as intense as the one showed in "The Game" is that your actions in the game world may have lasting effects on your real life. While the bullets being shot at you are not real, and the elaborate chases you partake in and conspiracies you solve are all pre-scripted, the fact that you're skipping work and running around town like a crazy person is very real and noticeable to those around you. And unlike in "the Game" where the participant is so rich either all the people around him are in on it, or the face that he goes AWOL for a week doesn't matter (since billionaires are usually pretty excentric).

For the rest of us, if you're speeding through the city trying to get away from "the bad guys", the local P.D. may not be so understanding that you weren't "really" driving recklessly because its "just a game." Equally, since your boss/co-workers most likely aren't characters in the game, (you are trying to escape the everyday, right?) when you're done "solving the mystery" and "saving the day" you may return to work to find you don't have a job any more. Oops.

Of course, most ubiquitous games we play will (hopefully) not be quite as intense as the one from the movie. Whatever the level of intensity, the most dangerous part of this type of game seems to be the same part that makes it so different and appealing: the potential to effect your real life.

doc said...

What immediately fascinated me about the film is that it proposed the idea of gameplay without a safety net. One can play a first person shooter without being emotionally attached because its artificial. Even the most realistic video games depicting realistic violence fail to deliver the same fight or flight response as dangerous real life situations. I can cite the famous Spanish Running Of The Bulls as an excellent example of a real life game play where if one fails to play at their best, actually bodily harm can be done to the player. Another game with actual physical consequences is the experimental German project Pain Station. Players stand upright at a game console playing Pong against an opponent, the shtick is that when a player looses, his hand is whipped by an weed-whacker like wire.

While those games are sure to remain only a novelty to the main stream, it demonstrates that there is a desire in the public consciousness to experience more engaging gamplay. The film we watched further illustrates this. I almost envied the lead character as he tumbled from one event to the next. Emulating The Game to it's scale may be too ambitious of a goal for even the most daring ubiquitous game developer, but as illustrated by the games listed like Perplex City, the film provides an interesting launching point.

Anonymous said...

By: Justin Begalka

This film was very fascinating and it is easy to see how many people would be inspired by this movie. Becasue the movie goes to the extreme of altering ones life into the game, the possibilities become endless as to what a person could do, to design many different games. This was my first time watching this film and I enjoyed it, one reason being that it kept me guessing as to how much of it was real and the lengths the company went through. It really makes me wonder how many games they have going at one time and the amount of people working for the CRS Game company. It was also interesting how it played with the human emotions as well as physically and in the end, changed the life of the character. This is also another draw for game developers in getting people really involved in the possibilities of these types of games.

triclops said...

My favorite part of “The Game” and this whole ubiquitous gaming thang is the potential to play with people. I don’t mean playing cooperatively or competitively with people engaging the same game, I mean using people as toys, game pieces or whatever. Setting up elaborate scenarios and trying to understand the psychology of the players so the play the scenes out properly, seems really fun. It’s as though there are two levels of play going on, the user end level and the creator level. I’m not sure which is more fun. I am an avid gamer and have played every kind of game I’ve had access to, including D&D. I was both player and game master but enjoyed the writing/directing responsibilities of a GM more. It was great trying to guide unknowing players along a loosely scripted path or improving scenarios for when the wandered astray. Knowing where all the traps and treasures are and waiting for those encounters makes for a very interesting experience as well.

Katerina Kaskantiri said...

Είμαι η Κατερίνα Κασκαντίρη, η γνωστή πόρνη της Κορίνθου. Ο μαλάκας άχρηστος προικοθήρας πατέρας μου (Αλέξης Κασκαντίρης) και η κωλόχοντρη σκατομούρα μάνα μου (Νικολέττα Μάρρα) που κατέχουν τους Αλευρόμυλους Μάρρα στην Κόρινθο με εμαθαν από μικρή να τσιμπουκώνω τα στελέχη της επιχείρισής μας και να παρτουζώνομαι με τους άπλυτους εργάτες στη βιομηχανία.

Μου έμεινε συνήθεια λοιπόν και πάντοτε αναζητώ ένα καλό ξεμούνιασμα και ξεκώλιασμα για να ξεμπουκώνουν οι τρύπες μου.

Τα καυτά χύσια στο λαιμό μου είναι σαν τη βότκα που καταναλώνω στα κωλόμπαρα της Αθήνας (είμαι άλλωστε φοιτήτρια Νομικής στο Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών και μέλος της ELSA Athens) προτού καταλήξω να πηδιέμαι στις τουαλέτες!

Κατερίνα Κασκαντίρη said...

Ήταν μια φοιτήτρια, Κατερίνα ξεκωλιάρα την φωνάζανε, φοιτήτρια Νομικής. Και ξεκωλιάρα την εφώναζαν όχι για το μουνί της αλλά επειδή όποιος κι αν επέρναγε γαμούσε το κωλί της. Ευτυχώς είχε προϋπηρεσία στα κωλόμπαρα της Κορίνθου, αφού η μπουρδελο-οικογένειά της κατείχε τους Μύλους Μάρρα!