Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Three ways of looking at the Broken Leg TD from Madden

This video gained over five million views on Youtube. The player in question, Greg Jennings, happens to be a clutch receiver in real life and went on to catch two touchdowns in Superbowl XLV. But he's probably best known for (sort of) appearing in this video.

(Audio probably NSFW, depending on your W)

How shall we think about this video?

1. It's an example of emergent narrative, whereby the complexity of the game yields unscripted moments of drama and wonder worth sharing. A similar example would be after-action reports, or the tale of the Elven king of dwarves found in one particularly odd game of Dwarf Fortress.

2. It's the video game equivalent of Double Rainbow, where we are as much drawn to the commentator's religious intensity as we are to the subject matter itself. Except in the case of Greg Jennings, it's frightfully postmodern, because it's not the majesty of nature the commentator is holy-ghosting about, it's the determination and will of a figure in a simulation.

3. It's an example of convergence culture: The video game spawns a video, which was referenced by teammates and opponents in the real game. Now we've just learned that "Put Da Team on My Back" is going to be an achievement in Madden '12. Everything flows into everything else.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tower defense sweatshop: the wonderful world of newsgames

[Cross-posted from the Duncan/Channon Posterous...]

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"Sweatshop is a new browser game, developed by Littleloud for Channel 4 Education, in which players fill the role of a factory floor manager in a developing nation. Taking design cues from the tower defense genre, the game tasks you with placing skilled workers and child laborers along a conveyor belt."

I'm a big fan of games that teach, not by lecturing or quizzing, but by letting you take on the role of a newsmaker. You're in a much better position to understand the decision space of the person once you've worked through their decision tree a couple of times. In any case, I'm following the recent wave of newsgames with a fair bit of interest. Their ability to model complex, inhuman systems lets us get past our usual bias towards narratives and personalites, at least that's what we hope for.

Which is how we come to a tower defense game in a sweatshop. Initially, you can make all the jeans or other clothes with fine and safe labor practices, but as the game increases in complexity you're forced to choose which goals you're really working for. Very clever example of procedural rhetoric, and a good use of existing gaming conventions.

The frightening, real-world power of Channel 4's "Sweatshop."