For this edition of Metagame Monday, the question is: Which lets players express themselves more, Heavy Rain or World of Warcraft?
World of WarCraft
This game has so much to see and do, including a bevy of mostly cosmetic and aesthetic driven actions such as in-game fishing! I have not played the game in a lot of years, but I also remember being able to activate a series of pre-rendered actions such as friendly waves, salutes and bows to other avatars (or no one in particular) as well as a fairly active in-game chat based on your party, clan and/or local region.
The phrasing “Which lets players express themselves more” is tricky, as it can be interpreted as distinguishing between intended game design and player controlled possibilities (which are often not the same). I choose to interpret the question as leaning towards the latter: in that case, the possibilities for social and interpersonal expression through player initiated gatherings and translation of non-gameplay related relationships through World of WarCraft make it the clear answer to this week’s question.
Based on my brief time with the game, this psychological thriller from David Cage and the team at Quantic Dream is more of an interactive simulator than a video game. I make that statement as an observation rather than a criticism, as it is a carefully controlled narrative experience that allows a degree of freedom in the specific order of interactions with each environment, but still seems to funnel each player between fixed narrative sequences. I believe there are various branching paths that can eventually lead to very different endings, and the multiple outcomes provide some flexibility towards a player’s ability to express themselves: as a tightly designed story experience, Heavy Rain can provide a high fidelity narrative experience that relies on what the player wants to express at various critical decision points.
In this edition of Metagame Monday, we discuss: Which is a better simulation of its subject, Gran Turismo or Call of Duty: Black Ops?
In a racing genre loaded with exaggerated durability and speed, the Gran Turismo series has stood out as a refined driving experience that focuses on accurately simulating the real experience of racing in functional automobiles. This stands out more than ever in an era when even other simulators such as the Forza Motorsport series have adapted concessions to user experience over reality such as the instant rewind button, while Gran Turismo holds fast to its core design of real cars with real physics. There are no power ups, artificial shortcuts or other gameplay design elements specifically used by many other games to appeal to the player outside the boundaries of its core environment, as the Gran Turismo series continues to use authenticity and realism as its calling cards in an increasingly crowded driving genre of gaming.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
First person shooter games can be a controversial topic, in that the games that purport to be realistic are almost never an actual representation of the realities and challenges of combat. For all of the stylized action and violence wrapped in increasingly sophisticated game engines and detail in the models and textures that render those worlds, Call of Duty has long since moved away from the relatively grounded roots of the earlier games in World War II and towards a heavily amplified combat experience that encourages score accumulation and outrageous action for public consumption in events such as YouTube competitions and eSports streams. Black Ops does a lot to excite gamers with its blend of action and frenetic pace, but none of that is designed to simulate a real combat experience.
Without much debate, the winner is Gran Turismo and its representation of vehicular racing. Call of Duty: Black Ops suffers in this argument not only from its many concessions to shooter gameplay design choices over simulating reality, but also because it has decided to market and promote its games in increasingly fantastical ways that highlight the stark contrasts between Black Ops and more grounded/realistic shooter games such as the Rainbow Six series.
That’s it for this week, which game do you think works as a better simulator of its subject?
For the latest edition of Metagame Monday, the Metagame wonders: Which is more elegant, Street Fighter II or Flower?
Street Fighter II Before some of you scoff, think about what the second entry in the Street Fighter series really accomplished when it arrived in 1991. It popularized the 1 on 1, fixed arena fighting game with a combination of state of the art graphics, sophisticated gameplay mechanics (common motions such as the quarter circle + a button tap were new in that area) and an appreciation for interesting (if sparse) character histories that intertwine with each other. In an era without the Internet and a sparse selection of infrequently released video game magazines (for non-Nintendo games, mostly GamePro and the original incarnation of Electronic Gaming Monthly), there was a simplicity and direct appeal to the gamer that Street Fighter II offered: you learned from the mags, your friends or determine it yourself. There’s an elegance in refining the core experience down to a distilled point (in large part due to the circumstances at the time), and allowing the player to figure things out for themselves.
Flower This seems like the easier and obvious choice, right? Flower is a game that has been hailed by many gamers and artists alike as one of the defining arguments for interactive entertainment as art, and it has a uniquely compelling look and feel that has been recognized by prestigious institutions such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum in their The Art of Video Games exhibit. thatgamecompany is a developer that has made their mark with gorgeous, vivid games such as flOw and Journey that all share key traits such as graceful movement and a smooth, curved visual look that avoids sharp edges and geometry at seemingly all costs, except where used for effect such as the final urban level in Flower.
The elegance in this game extended to the movement sensor based controls, one of the few titles that really took advantage of the Dualshock 3 controller’s ability to send position in a 3-dimensional space. From gently tilting between the potted plants at the menu screen to the soaring epiphany of rushing through a field of lush grass and flowers that blossom under your touch, Flower has a sensuality and grace that defines it as one of the most elegant interactive entertainment experiences ever made.