February 4th, 2008

default - cory!

Play Me A Story

I don't think I've ever posted this article here, but I'm rather fond of it, so I'll post it for your reading pleasure. It's from the March 28, 2007 edition of the La Salle Collegian.

In 1961, three students at MIT had a question: Can we simulate a spaceship? From there, things got more complicated. Can we simulate two spaceships? Can they shoot at each other? Can they explode? From there, Steve Russell, Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen created the game Spacewar for the PDP-1 computer. The impact of the digital diversion was phenomenal; now everyone wanted to waste universities’ money by creating these computer games on multi-million dollar machines (machines that were supposed to be figuring out the secrets of space, science and math). Once again, a bunch of dorks screwed up the world.

From Spacewar’s concept of interstellar dodgeball came even more simulations of things that people could never accomplish in real life: shooting space invaders in Space Invaders, shooting asteroids in Asteroids and shooting white pixels in Pong. Games got more and more complex (shooting tanks in BattleZone, shooting wire-frame monsters in Tempest, shooting gangsters in Hogan’s Alley), and soon gamers started to want something else in their endeavors: a reason. The rift of telling a story versus not telling a story is one of the most distinguishable lines in an industry where mixing game genres (action, puzzle, racing) is more common than mixing drinks (gin, vodka, rum), even though both are prevalent and were part of the formula for creating Katamari Damacy. It’s a curious question then: what is more appealing, short games without a story or longer games with a narrative? The answer’s more difficult than the puzzles in Final Fantasy X.
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