Play, LIM, and Videogames

Before taking this class, my definition of play was “to engage in any activity for fun or pleasure.” I have worked a lot with children, so when I thought of play, I thought of imaginary games, dolls, tag, and the like. When it came to video games, I thought that to play them was to know every move, path and key combination needed to win the game. Lastly, like the class, I associated play with escapism and immersion. I think of way a game of Monopoly quickly becomes heated or the stereotypes of those who play Dungeons and Dragons–play allows us to temporarily enter different worlds.

I have chosen _LIM_. The game is bright pink square bordered by gray blocks. Inside the border is the world “LIM” spelled by brown blocks. To play, you move the arrow keys through a maze. In the “hallways” of the maze are other blocks of different colors–they can be green, blue, brown, black, pink. You have to press “Z” in order to change your color to blend in with the blocks you’re approaching. If you don’t blend in, they starting attacking you–the blocks will throw themselves against you and the camera zooms in out, shaking. Disorientating music plays and you hear loud crashes as their bodies hit yours. The entire gameplay experience is very discombobulating–you can even at times get knocked out of maze and be forced to complete it from the outside.

A moment that exemplifies “play” for me was when I got knocked out of maze and was forced to complete it from the outside. When I first played the game, I thought I was had lost and refreshed the page. When I looked up what the game was about, I realized that completing it from the outside was possible. This moment, along with discussions of cheat codes with classmates, made me realize that games aren’t always what they seem at face value. They can play with their form and their general constraints to open new possibilities. What may seem like losing or a mistake can actually be woven into the gameplay experience. This moment also made me realize that no gameplay experience is the wrong experience. When I first started playing games for the class, I was worried I was playing them wrong and not getting what others were getting out of it–I thought playing a game meant winning it in a particular way. This moment in LIM taught me to trust that my interactions with a game were valid experiences of that game. In this way, this moment broadened my sense of what constitutes playing. Gameplay isn’t just about finding the right answer right away, but experimenting, losing, and exploring.

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One thought on “Play, LIM, and Videogames

  1. I really like what you mention about the idea of losing being woven into the gameplay experience. As I read this, I immediately thought of an example from the game New Super Mario Bros. for Wii. As you progress, the ultimate goal is to collect 3 star coins from each level in order to unlock World 9, and then beat this final world. One of the few star coins I was unable to find on my own was during a level in World 2, the Desert World. This final star coin was at the bottom of a quicksand tunnel, contrary to my initial thought, that I would die if I sunk all the way to the bottom. Low and behold, it did not bring me back to the beginning of the level, but rather, to a secret room with the final star coin waiting to be collected. This both angered and relieved me at the same time, as it was an unusual place for a coin to be located but I had finally unlocked World 9. Overall, this perfectly shows how the idea of losing can be used by developers and entwined into the gameplay.

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