Posted by: bracehare | December 2, 2011

Games that hate their players

As I’m sure many who know me are aware, I have a soft spot in my heart for games which… shall we say, put the player outside of their comfort zone. In fact, both of my main projects for my game design class took this form. My first game was intended to emulate, in some sense, the experience of being homeless and searching for work. The game I am currently on is meant to put the player in the role of a fascist thug, fighting a purely one sided battle. Neither of these experiences are intended to be pleasant, although it is also clear they both aim to instill a different form of unpleasantness. However, I am not the first person to ever use a game to communicate in this fashion. Below are a few examples of games which beat me to the punch, along with descriptions of how they managed this.

  • Takeshi no Chousenjou

One of the oldest “troll” games, Takeshi no Chousenjou takes advantage of both the sponsorship and the ideas of Takeshi Kitano.  Made for the Famicon (the Japanese model of the NES), this loveable creation allows players to attack any character, gives them little idea if any about how to move forward through the game, and forces players to complete such eccentric tasks as singing karaoke, quitting their job and getting a divorce, hitting an enemy 20,000 times and, in one instance, not touching the controls for an hour.  It is possible to get a game over on the start menu by selecting the wrong option.  Through it’s deliberate and inflammatory absurdity, this game is a treasured example of what is perhaps the first game to ever use unorthodox mechanics as a means to frustrate the player.

Takeshi’s Adventure

  • Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days

This is a much more recent game, and one which I think has been critically misunderstood by most of its players.  Detested by both the press and gaming public for its imprecise aiming, severely unfocused storyline, unlovable characters and repetitive gameplay, this is a perfect example from the medium of a game which puts players outside of their comfort zone.  It is generally thought that this is unintentional, being a result of poor gameplay design, but I am more inclined to think it is deliberate; perhaps even a send-up of the gaming scene as a whole.  The first person shooter genre is rife with examples of characters who shoot thousands upon thousands of mooks, yet are portrayed as beacons of morality and good.  In the rare cases where morality is called into question, it is very deliberate and theatrical.  You get the sense that the creator took a big highlighter to the part of the game which is supposed to demonstrate moral ambiguity.  Kane and Lynch 2 gives what I believe to be a much more plausible picture of protagonists inclined to and capable of serial murder and mayhem in the streets.  Kane and Lynch are completely repugnant and inelegant in everything they do. It makes the games nausea inducing to play, but in a way it’s refreshing.  It’s a step back from the popular paradox of the noble slaughterer found in mainstream games, and in this capacity it also brutally and relentlessly mocks the player for wanting to play it.

The two men you will be spending your time with if you play this 

 

  • I wanna be the guy!

Unlike the previous two games in terms of its scope and origin, this popular homebrew title nonetheless gets a spot on the list for taking the platforming genre and turning the difficulty up to the point that the entire game becomes about simple rote memorization.  The slogan of the game is “The game where everything kills you.  Even the moon”.  This should be enough to tell you what you’re dealing with here.  The overwhelming number of obstacles in this game quite simply cannot be dealt with if you haven’t seen them before.  There are also quite a few obstacles between any two given save points, meaning the game mandates a fiercely upsetting iterative process in which the player learns the location of every trap by dying to them, usually multiple times, and must internalize this knowledge and then ultimately play flawlessly in the context of it to progress.  It may owe a bit of its difficulty to romhacks such as “Brutal Mario”, but the difference is that such games generally have a traditional sort of difficulty to them.  I wanna be the guy sets up expectations and then breaks them.  There are very few if any consistent patterns.  In one of the very earliest sections of the game, the player can discover that cherries which fall from trees will kill them.  Then, if they elect to jump over these cherries, they can quickly discover that some of them are scripted to fall up.  At one point, true to the tagline, the moon does indeed fall out of the sky before chasing you through a deadly obstacle course like a sentient version of the boulder from Raiders of the Lost Ark.  One section dumps you into the bottom of the chamber of a tetris game, and forces you to navigate your way out over the falling blocks.  I wanna be the guy is pure sadism, and it’s gorgeous for it.

I do not wanna be the guy ;_;

  • Desert Bus

This particular specimen, produced by the magicians Penn and Teller, was incontestably created for the sole purpose of trolling.  It is a game about tedium.  You drive a bus through a monotonous, never changing desert landscape, from Tuscon to Vegas, in real time.  At the top speed of 45 miles per hour.  You get 1 point for each successful completion of a journey, and each journey takes 8 hours.  In addition to this, the bus has a steering problem; it veers right slightly.  This prevents the player from simply holding down the accelerator, as doing so would cause them to drive off the road.  For some reason, and who even knows why, there are people who have set out to attain high scores at this game.  If you thought World of Warcraft made a depressing statement about human nature, keep that in mind (although to be fair, at least Desert Bus at least doesn’t make the player pay for the privilege of grinding).

With the skillset needed to play this game to completion, you could drive an actual bus and make a living

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Responses

  1. Trolling video games? Awesome.

  2. A danish video game theoretician wrote a text on these types of games, at least some of them, which I find totally awesome because of the accompanying design ethos zie describes:

    http://doougle.net/articles/Abusive_Game_Design.pdf


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