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Many people who went to film school will tell you that film school made them hate watching films. In a similar fashion, as someone who has worked on triple-A video games in the past, the only thing that impresses me about triple-A video games is the amount of work that goes into constructing them. Project managers and producers are the miracle workers of triple-A game development.
I’m hardly being facetious when I say that the most impressive thing about Assassin’s Creed IIIis probably that they got 300 people to work together on one thing without that thing falling apart at the seams. And when they’re done, triple-A games are virtual tourism at best—and what an amazing place Assassin’s Creed III has made for us to virtually visit.
The Problem, as it were, for me, is that once I’m in the beautifully-realized virtual tourist destination, my brain snags on all the little things I can’t do. Before you comment about me being a hateful, snippy jerk who simply gets off on tearing things down, realize that “details” is actually my job description. If no one ever complained about not being able to talk to his mom from 500 miles away, would anyone have ever invented a telephone?
Having said that: Assassin’s Creed III as virtual tourism is, to me, like the police clamping a security collar on my neck the second I get off the plane a Honolulu International Airport: “This will explode if you remove a single article of your clothing; enjoy your stay[, asshole].” For the sake of argument, let’s say I was wearing a pair of jeans, hiking boots, and a heavy leather jacket as I got off the plane: this is not an enjoyable surfing outfit.
Prolonged exposure to the inner clockworkings of triple-A games has only heightened my sensitivity to my reason for engaging professionally with games in the first place: I enjoy games for their great “physical” moments. My imagination thrives during momentary sparks no longer than a small multiple of 11 milliseconds, during which a turnabout occurs, and “nothing is happening” becomes “something is happening”. Parrying in Street Fighter III,aiming in Under Defeat, skidding and turning around inSuper Mario Bros., and countless other similar actions inspired me to someday get involved with making games.
In other words, my ideal video games are muscle-memory buffets, silver platters piled high with the finger-food of 20-millisecond-long psychic screen / finger coordination contests.
You’d think this makes me the perfect candidate for a guy who’s going to call Halo 4 “The Game Of The Year”.
I hate to let you down: I am an antisocial jerk; I can’t get my head around the task of loving the modern first-person shooter’s faceless online multiplayer contest component. Every FPS these days feels like it’s trying to be chess, and forgetting how good Quake III was at being checkers.Quake III! Man, that game had such a viscerality about it. It was like soccer on a field the size of a hockey rink. It was like baseball played to speed metal. It was like basketball with guns. It was like Connect Four played to a metronome. It was like checkers, where you’re shooting the checkers. FPSes these days are like chess with chimpanzees, where the meta-goal of not getting feces crammed in your ear canal becomes more important than checkmating the other guy. (I mean that critically, metaphorically, and politically.)
So, in devoting my time to developing, designing, and consulting on mobile games, by playing tens of hours a month of mobile games, I have developed an appreciation for mobile games.
Gasketball (developed by Mikengreg for the iPad) is my favorite game of 2012. It is the “silver platter piled high with the finger-food of twenty-millisecond-long screen / finger coordination contests” that I yearned for just three paragraphs up.
Gasketball is a touch-controls physics puzzle game—you know, like Angry Birds.
Oh no—maybe I scared you away. Come back!
First of all, now that you’re back: get over yourself. Angry Birds is not that horrible. Just because somewhere out there a die-hardAngry Birds fan rolls their eyes just as fiercely at the notion of a first-person shooter as you roll your eyes at the notion of Angry Birds doesn’t mean you should write the game off. Just because Angry Birds isn’t great art doesn’t mean it’s trash. Well—actually, yes, Angry Birds is trash, though it’s not, like, a half-eaten slice of pizza: it’s more like a perfectly clean chair that someone threw away.
Angry Birds is a game about “selection”: you select an angle and power level at which to launch a projectile toward a pile of objects. The goal is to knock the objects over, crushing targets. The projectile is a “bird”, and the “targets” are pigs.
I say Angry Birds is a game about “selection”, and I put “selection” into quotation marks lest you mistake this for my saying the game is about “choices”. It’s not about choices: you have no choice. This isn’t Bioshock, where you choose to kill the innocent little girl or not. The “choice” inAngry Birds is already made for you: kill the pigs.
In Angry Birds, you don’t even face the choice of how to kill the pigs: you kill the pigs by shooting a bird at them.
Angry Birds‘ levels are puzzles during which you must select which objects to aim your bird at: either the pigs themselves, or numerous breakable or bumpable blocks or walls which can fall over to either damage the pigs or cause them to fall to their death.