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Old 11-12-2008, 02:03 PM   #2
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Re: Halo: Combat Evolved Discussion - Please Rate This Discussion :P


However, I realized this to be the wrong path, since other mediums used rules as their materials of expression also. The interest in a play is often in the reaction of a character to a given situation. The playwright displays his skill in essentially working out the rules which govern the hypothetical character, thus deducing their reaction to a given event. Similarly in an action movie, rules are constantly presented to the viewer. We are shown that when some one is shot in a certain place, they are killed (or not, accordingly), and so on.

So in fact what a game does, the conclusion I came to, is to essentially present a simplified challenge. Of course, following my train of thought, this challenge exists in real life, but, if we imagine that, during a period in a persons life, they are confronted with various challenges at the same time, and other matters of confusion, then a game might create an alternate world where a player has only one of these challenges which existed in this hypothetical persons life at that time. Thus we can focus on this and learn, by playing, how best to deal with it, and simply experience what it is like to be engaged with it, and the emotions that occur for them while doing so. Perhaps, by viewing it in isolation, one doesn’t necessarily solve it, but they can see it more clearly in their own life, and can live more in peace as ignorance is reduced. The game creator doesn’t necessarily know what messages will be learnt by engaging with his game, he simply puts together what seem like they might be interesting rules and goals, to create a simplified, alternate reality. The rules and goals are themselves organic however (because they have been taken from the real world), and so lessons lie ready to be learnt from them just as they do in their real life manifestations, and similarly do emotions lie ready to rise as you engage as a human being. While other art mediums present alternate realities, the game is the most direct medium for this sort of representation, because they have all of the fundamental components of the real reality. While a film is just presented to you, you engage with a game fundamentally in the same way you would real life, and so it is a form representation which is most like reality. Of course a game does not actually have to have a challenge. It is true that most of the time, our reality is based around some sort of goal, but I think there are some times, perhaps more in some than in others, when we actually don’t strive for anything, and a game could very conceivably be modeled on such an experience. One last point about the medium at large, is that the purpose of games is often not so much any of the above, but is to simply let the player engage with a challenge, or other experience, which, as a human, they have an in built in drive to do, but which has been hampered by modern society. Of course, in such a case, the game would still have the function of teaching lessons on how to complete these challenges, and they might even give rise to various emotions, but the player often plays simply for a chance to live out that sort of experience that they cannot in real life. This is most prevalent in games with ‘skill’ based challenges, like football, Halo and such, but also, more recently, with RPG’s. A game which is designed to be treated in such a way, is likely to be more ‘entertainment’ than ‘art’, but this is not necessarily so.

The FPS deals with a particular sort of reality in which the protagonist is presented with the challenge of killing a certain amount of enemies while not being killed themselves, or something to that effect. On a surface level, it is clear to see where this sort of challenge might occur in reality: on a battlefield. If we let that stand for the moment; then presenting such a challenge is already a great simplification, since a soldier in such a situation might easily be dealing with all sorts of other problems at the same time, in other areas of their life. The reality is further simplified though, since the vast number of variables that might exist on a real battlefield is reduced to the bare minimum, in order that those which are considered to be interesting by the games creator are focused on. There are all sorts of interpretations which one might make of the battlefield when making a game; Chess is one, although admitably it is a very different sort of battlefield that is draws from. The FPS as a form, is one of these possible interpretations of a modern battlefield; in which certain elements are extracted. The form allows for a lot of development on the basic principles though, as has been shown by Halo.

At this point I would like to ‘stick’ (as opposed to twist) there, and go on to how Halo uses and develops on this FPS form; confident that at least some of you would have understood what I have said so far. Unfortunately, I would be worried that perhaps just one person reading this, in that case, would think me un-sophisticated in the picture that I have developed of the FPS form as a whole so far.

The thing is that a games abstraction of a reality isn’t necessarily as simple as that makes it sound. While it may be possible to simply reduce the variables of an actual real life reality, and present it as a game, most games will actually put together elements from different realities to make something more interesting. Whether they were conscious of it or not, the instigators of the FPS genre did just this, and so the FPS isn’t a simple representational abstraction of a real life battlefield reality, as much as it includes this as a general backbone to the form, while imposing on it more general, and more highly abstract, parts of reality to do with balance and skill. FPS games try to mesh the reality of the battle field with another part of reality in which nothing is down to chance, but instead, victory can be achieved by displaying enough skill. In this world ‘virtue’ is rewarded fairly. It could be seen as something of a falsity to impose this onto a battlefield, in which virtue is rarely rewarded in this way, and infact, it shows something of the world-view of the game creators. Of course, in reality, they don’t really hold this world-view; they are simply following in a tradition of a world-view which has prevailed in games since the times of chess and go. At this point in time (now), the concept of ‘balance’ is seen as a given aim for almost any game, as opposed to just one of the many things that could be expressed.

I feel I must apologize for this, but I’m afraid that there are just a few more details about the FPS genre which must be elucidated before we can look at Halo’s contribution. Apart from the actual expressive components of the reality that is created in an FPS game, there are a number of practical conventions which are used just to allow the game to work. These have to be ‘conventions’, because they are so peculiar when you think about them that they can only be acceptable when the are expected by the player, and so not really noticed in the games structure. These include things like invisible walls to prevent the developers from having to create the whole world for just one little battle, also the use of invisible triggers which trigger cut-scenes, enemy reinforcements and so on.
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