Creating Feeling in Simple Games

Pippin Barr’s Breaksout takes the retro game known by most people and creates something unique and entertaining. In the original, the player controls a paddle and moves left and right in order to catch a falling ball and cause it to bounce. The objective of the game is to destroy all of the bricks near the top of the screen by using the bouncing ball. In Barr’s version of the game, there are 36 variations that are each played a different way. For example, by pressing “b” for Blackout, one plays a version of the game that becomes darker and darker the more you break the bricks. In this way, Pippin has taken a basic game and created something that allows anyone playing it to come up with 36 different narratives if they chose to.

Another example of a simple game given a narrative is Thomas Was Alone. However, in Thomas Was Alone there is an actual voice narrating as you play the game, giving feelings and personalities to simple quadrilaterals. What would normally be a simple puzzle game becomes an intricate story about the feeling of being alone and the teamwork that comes with finding friends. In the game, pieces of code are brought to life and begin to question the reason for their existence. The game begins with Thomas, a red rectangle who, despite the amounts of puzzles and discovering to keep him busy, feels crushingly alone. Luckily, as the game goes on, Thomas meets more and more quadrilaterals. Together, Thomas and the other quadrilaterals go on a quest to free themselves from the confines of the game.

What both of these games have in common is that they take what is otherwise a simple game and with very few changes, create something new and unique. In Breaksout’s case, each level of the game is created with only a few changes to the games code. In Thomas Was Alone’s case, a simple voice-over changed a puzzle game into an exciting and heartfelt story. Because of these two games, when I play puzzle games in the future I will be sure to consider what simple changes made to the game can create a beautiful narrative.

2 thoughts on “Creating Feeling in Simple Games

  1. Touching on your point about narration giving feelings and personalities, I wonder why narration encourages or enhances player immersion. Could it be that players regress back to childhood momentarily to when parents and teachers read stories? Perhaps, players just enjoy the sound of another persons voice? Whichever is the case, narration could be another tool for immersion.


  2. I think your last sentence–“Because of these two games, when I play puzzle games in the future I will be sure to consider what simple changes made to the game can create a beautiful narrative”–is worthwhile to look at, because it connects to the idea that has came up in class, as well as in my Twine group, that the player’s prior personal experiences informs their play experience. It’s interesting that in this case, the games themselves become your prior experience that will inform the way you play other games. This chain of events shows a way games are inevitably put into conversation with each other.


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