March Roundup: ‘Extended Play’

I want to make this clear from the get-go: there are no April Fool’s jokes to be found here. Just 100% undiluted Blogs of the Round Table. This month, we were discussing “Extended Play”

Have you ever been so immersed or so invested in a game that it bleeds over (or extends over, if you will) the border of the screen and into your life? Maybe after a particularly gruelling game session, you incorporated the game into your dream. Maybe while shopping at the grocery store you momentarily had to fight off the urge to see how much of your carrying capacity was left and whether you needed to “drop” a few items to lighten the load – or maybe you considered how many rupees you had instead of real-world currency in line at the check-out. Have you ever attempted to apply game logic outside a game? Forgotten you don’t actually know how to shoot a bow at all? We’d like to hear about the moments in your day-to-day where the line between game-fiction and reality have, even if only for a moment, collided. What was the result? Did the collision force you to think about the game in a different way? About reality differently? both? Share your thoughts with us on the expandable and extending barriers of play.”

Over on his blog, Hoeyboey, Joseph Dwan considers the way 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 doors and Virtue’s Last Reward prime players to continue thinking about the story and strategies when they weren’t playing. He notes:

“The style is difficult to play for an extended period, meaning the player is given this time to consider the story, to really think about where it’s going.”

Elsewhere on JEB Writes, Jeb Wrench discusses how grinding in Monster Hunter 4 gave him something to do and to focus on while he was giving up his smoking habit. Jeb notes that Monster Hunter 4 was specifically ideal because,

“It’s a game that not only requires both hands to play well, but also doesn’t usually let up during the action long enough to keep a cigarette going to periodically steal a drag off while hunting.”

Next up, Sean Seyler compares his childhood attachment to Hinopio, the shop owner located in the volcano in Super Mario RPG, to his life as a store clerk now. He states,

“Between my gameplay and my reflection on those experiences of play, I am comfortable with what it means to be a clerk. In the pre-dream stories I would tell myself, I had constructed the possible self that dealt with tedious retail work. I wouldn’t have guessed back then that I was directing myself towards becoming a sales clerk, but I feel the imagined possibility of “something more” was, in the end, something simple and defined.”

This month, Phill from Tim and Phill Talk Games writes about the blurry line between fugue states while driving and flow in driving simulators, or more specifically, the moments when the brain slightly confuses the two and makes game suggestions to the driver’s mind. Phill describes a driving experience in which game impulses from Burnout came to mind:

“I was receiving impulses to cross lanes, powerslide into corners, and bump cars to the left and right of me into freeway exits. It was more than a little disturbing to realise the barrier between the reality of driving and its arcade simulacrum was being blurred.”

Leigh Harrison, from As Houses, discusses how Portal 2, beyond any other game, has most haunted his psyche post-play. While Harrison notes Portal is the better game, he states:

“it actually resonated with me much more strongly precisely because it so wonderfully follows an already watertight game in a smart way. Portal cements all the basics of storytelling, mechanics and tone, which leaves its successor ample room to finely craft character and place.”

Elsewhere, Steph Roman describes the psychological imprint left on her from playing Heavy Rain and a jarring moment when an ad campaign called “Project Butterfly” (a campaign meant to be uplifting) became a sinister reminder of Heavy Rain’s serial killer. Roman remarks:

“What was supposed to be an uplifting image of community outreach was to me a completely abject, horrifying reminder of the Origami Killer’s malevolent torture chamber.”

Moving into more theoretical territory, Mark Thorne extends Derrida’s observation about the interrelational dependence of language to make a similar claim about game mechanics. He states:

“Just like the words that make up our language, mechanics come with their own history, one which feeds the understanding the player takes from situations the game places themselves in.”

Despite this, Thorne finds that games frequently make the mistake of saying too much, whereas other mediums are better tuned to say a great deal by crafting what goes unstated and unsaid. In trying to create the “every-game,” games have neglected to take the necessary risks intrinsic to art.

Rounding off the round up, Wendi Sierra examines the residual effects (and how she overcame them) that followed playing Elder Scrolls: Oblivion for 50 hours in a week. The residual effects weren’t just confined to the impulse to collect flowers for alchemy, but instead included conflicted feelings of guilt and shame too. Sierra leaves us with a nice closing thought for the month:

“It’s ok for play to just be play, not always in service of some higher goal or ideal. It’s ok for us, as people, to simply enjoy play and not always work to justify it as a more “legitimate” pursuit.”

I hope you enjoy/have enjoyed reading this round of submissions as much as I did. I was pleased to see the variety this theme brought and the way it provoked personal narrative alongside game analysis. Thank you to the participants for such enjoyable reads! If you haven’t already, feel free to use this code to embed the links in your blog (provided your publishing platform allows iframes, that is):

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As a final note, I want to announce that Mark Filipowich will be managing Blogs of the Round Table solo for the next few months. I am preparing to take qualifying exams for my PhD and need all the focus time I can get. Mark will make sure BoRT contributors continue to get the attention they rightly deserve. I’ll be back in mid-to-late summer. In the meantime, I know you’ll enjoy the themes Mark has up his sleeve! Have fun.