Doing things differently since the Carter Administration
Let’s play more games!
In This Is The Only Level, you are an elephant.
In Benthic Love, you are a male anglerfish.
In Every Day the Same Dream, you are an office worker.
I wouldn’t say that any of these could be categorized as RPGs because that classification is mostly attributed to D&D and the like. They also could technically be categorized as Area Movement games: The Elephant in This Is The Only Level navigates from one side to the other to get through a tunnel. The Anglerfish in Benthic Love moves on to his next encounter after every text-based turn choice. The Office Worker has a side-scrolling movement as he explores his environment. But what was most interesting about This Is the Only Level and Every Day the Same Dream is that these two games kind of transcend classic mechanics.
Like, technically, you could say there is a movement mechanic in both games, but how do you really classify movement when the movement in both games is fundamentally different? In Every Day the Same Dream, you move your character around, but can the movement mechanic really describe the complexity of how it’s more of a movement/puzzle-y/explore-y/something-or-other?
in This Is The Only Level, is it really sufficient to describe it as a movement-based game, especially when the way you control your elephant movement changes after every stage? It, too is like solving a puzzle. These games take us beyond the classic mechanics we know and love into these ineffable, emergent-type mechanics, where a game could be a puzzler+area movement…but not really either…?
It’s as if the core mechanics we know and the player experience in these games met in the middle to create this special je ne sais quoi… I think other scholars and critics refer to this as outward in/inward out mechanics v. player experience– such as in the MDA framework model.
I also made some notes regarding my experience watching my lab partner play Benthic Love.
“I watched [my lab partner] play Benthic Love. Knowing that [my partner] had encountered death by a crazy-mean fish, I had hoped to not meet the same fate and tried my hand at being a male anglerfish. I managed to mate and merge myself completely into the female anglerfish.
The experience was different in that I tried to read the clues and, perhaps, she didn’t read the clues (I’m not sure), but paying attention to the clues made the game experience more linear, as if it were an actual story.”
After looking back at this earlier conclusion, I reconsidered why I thought my lab partner played the “wrong” way; looking back at that earlier point re: emergent, hybrid mechanics and that ineffable experience: perhaps some mechanics are only experienced by the player, and the observer really cannot understand those unexplained mechanics.
Perhaps my logic is crazy, but surely someone has written a couple things about these emergent mechanics… oh, say, maybe because new art forms and game innovations, in general, are happening all around us.
**Editor’s note: I did find something by the Extra Credits that seems to connect.
Here’s another text-based game I played in the lab, called Don’t Shit Your Pants. I didn’t include it in the analysis, but I couldn’t resist including a picture.