But is this just part of the reality of play with many games or is it just an expression of frustration and/or disappointment?
Some people might argue that a first person shooter with a good story is about as possible as a dramatic porno movie. That is, who’d watch it without the porno? Who’d say, “Wow, without that sloppy stuff this’d be a damned good film.” A little beside the point, but there you go.
In John’s demo of Deus Ex and Medal of Honor I noted that “story” had been woven into DE as a spur to accompany levels of complexity. There was no guarantee that the story would be fulfilling beyond the surmounting experience or that, in any case, one player would care about it while some other player would be influenced more by circumstances, filial relationship, or darkness. I didn’t see enough of MOH to really grasp a sense of story beyond the intro mission. These describe my ignorance of the game but also the sense that I get of how story is involved in action games rather than those of adventures.
In chess we have a story behind the play–two kingdoms going at it, an image of perpetual conflict, triumph or stalemate resolves the story. All chess games, it could be said, are different, but all chess games are the same because they are, in any instance of play, “the game of chess.” An infinite game with infinite variations but restricted to a simple set of rules or computations. But there’s more. I used to play chess with a friend after tennis. M could whip me on the court so chess was my revenge. It was more than just the rules. And more so than my own frivolous revenge. It was a way for us to discuss, vent, siesta, and drink beer. My father would look over our shoulders and tell us what dumb moves we were making. What’s more, we’d shift the rules a bit to include a graduation of push-ups per taken piece–five for pawn, 50 for Rook, 75 for Queen, and so forth. So chess also became another way to workout.
It’s hard to talk about chess as just a set of rules. Chess is an infinite space. John Timmons is fascinated not just by how games change space but how space changes games, finding things in Deus Ex that he’d never encountered in prior play because of how “the situation of play” altered decisions. When we watched Susan Gibb play her hand at Silent Hill I saw another game being played beyond the one I’d had going. Variations on a theme. In a way we’re not studying games, but we’re learning a lot nonetheless about what makes for interest and complexity in serious play.