Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gaming Journal #2

Brief Synopsis:
Halo is a science fiction video game franchise created by Bungie and owned and published by Microsoft Game Studios. The main trilogy of games center on the experiences of the Master Chief, a cybernetically-enhanced human super-soldier, and his artificial intelligence(AI) companion, Cortana. The Master Chief aids future humanity in battling the Covenant, a theocratic alliance of alien races that store a parasitic organisms known as the Flood. In this science fiction setting, the term "Halo" refers to Halo mega structures: large, habitable ringed structures. But the multiplayer aspect (like seen below) is what has given the Halo series such longevity.

Konzack needs to rethink himself:
I would like to use this blog to focus on two essays, Lars Konzack's "Philisophical Game Design" and Sebastien Genvo's "Understanding Digital Playability." I will use Halo to contradict Konzack's argument: (Key Idea*) that the interaction between philisophical storyline and the choices that a player needs to make are what makes a great game. I'm also going to integate Sebastien Genvo's idea (*Key Idea) that designers must give the will-to-play to the players, so that people will give the game meaning and will continue to play the game.
I would say that an original storyline and flawless gameplay needs a strong multiplayer component (like what is found in the Halo series) in order to make a successful game. I have been a fan of the Halo series for many years, which means that I am extremely biased in its favor, but I love to analyze it's success. So this blog is a compilation of the criticisms of Halo as a powerful cultural phenomenon that reaches over many boundaries creating a very strong following.

The Halo series is the most powerful game series of today's console world, it seemlessly melds an original storyline, gameplay and social interactions. Earlier in the term we read the essay, "Philisophical Game Design" by Lars Konzack, in which he says that a game must have at least one dualist philisophical aspect in order to be successful in our society, because this is what gamers want. However, I think that Halo is a true testament against his argument because Halo's storyline does not give any philisophical choices whithin the narrative that a player would be able to make. The player becomes Masterchief (Spartan 117), a genetically altered human supersoldier that fights for the survival of mankind. Within the first game a cut and dry dualism is created, Masterchief and Human race is "good," whereas the covenant races are "evil," and this "simplicity" has not stalled the success of the series yet.

Looking back on the first Halo I would say that the storyline does not seem well developed enough to grab an audience on it's own, but I do remember the strong multiplayer component, such as the 16 player team based games and the 2 player co-op mode that blended flawless gameplay with a social atmosphere that creates an extremely high replay value. I believe that this emphasis on multiplayer gameplay was what actually made the first Halo so successful in the long run, the developers gave people the will-to-play but integrating many types of meaning that could be molded and changed to fit the culture. When I was a nerdly freshman in high school I remember playing the first Halo with some jock seniors that played the game also, and I never would have met them or gained those connections without Halo's ability to bring groups of people together in order to play team based matches. On the other hand, Halo books allowed the hardcore and/or philisophical loving gamers to delve deeper into the storyline which would give a well rounded experience to any audience. Halo was also versital enough to go far beyond the gameplay and storyline, fans made offshoots of Halo through music and viral videos that developed strong subcultural groups that fall within the umbrella of the Halo series but create an entirely new feel. Red vs. Blue was one of the viral video happenings that started it's very own cultural phenomenon that captured viewers everywhere. The guys at Rooster Teeth are still making the series today, but one must understand that RvB's success has little to do with the Halo storyline.
Youtube Red vs Blue Episode 1

In Halo 2 the dualism and storyline from the first Halo is completely twisted, the narrative is more in-depth and the audience discovers that the war between humans ("good") and the Covenant ("evil") is not as "black and white" as they may have believed after playing the first Halo. Although, Halo 2 did develop a more philisophical edge to the storyline (which I agree does spark interest for the audience), the gameplay was improved as well which explains it's success. But I do not think that the developers and designers of Halo would not have been able to create Halo 2 without the overlying success of the first Halo, that kept people asking for more.

Halo 3 was release September 25, 2007 and it took the first-person shooter gameplay to the next level by expanding on the multiplayer experience. Today's developers and gamers must understand that multiplayer gaming is constantly changing, an online game is never played the same way twice and that the human mind loves the stimulation of a game that is able to mold itself to the playstyles of the individuals that use it. Bungie has also created two new systems that increase replay value and strengthen the Halo community: the Theater and Forge. The theater allows a player to go back into their recently played games (both campaign and multiplayer) and film the gameplay the way that they want it to be viewed, so that they can show it friends and other Halo players. I've made several videos myself that are either funny or bad-ass that I can share with my friends, that way I can go beyond verbal gameplay stories and actually show them the real gameplay.
*I probably choose Halo because its the only game that I have videos to show friends and family. The following videos are fun, and my friends (both online and off) love to see players kick some ass, so these provide social interactions that make us want to play more, not the overlying Halo storyline.

Best Scream Ever: Turn your volume up for this one!!

Forge is an amazing new idea that allows a player to change a multiplayer map to their liking. A player can place and replace weapons, crates, stairs, walls etc... These changes to the map will change the way that gamers will play a map. Online players can share these maps with the Halo community by putting them into message boards so that other gamers can download and play them. Halo has been on the market for more than two years and people are still making fun and interesting forge map. Much more can be said about both of these systems, but I will leave it this so that I don't blow your mind too much.