Curious Games: Expressive Play

curious games, Process Writing, research

When Pippin told us to go off and play expressively/personally, which is to say go and play a game in a way that deviates from the standard modes of play, it made me consider how much agency I really have in games. There are a lot of games where the kinds of play are fairly limited – where there’s not a lot of “world” to go and explore, or where there aren’t as many glitches to exploit. There’s also a lot of games where it seems like you have a lot of agency, but you have limited controls or in the end you’re being forced towards certain paths anyway.

After thinking about that a bit depressively for a while, I thought about instances of exploratory play that I had already engaged in. For example, in Skyrim, I engage in two activities that I also practice in real life: “scuba diving” – which is diving around on all the sunken boats in the environments, especially up north in the cold, and “rock climbing” – which is where I go over mountains that it should be impossible for me to walk on instead of finding the path in or around. I could list similar behaviours for all sorts of games: Unfinished Swan (where I would use the freeze time for paint globules function and then load up 100+ of them to make things like plants grow, or painting entire sections of the world completely black), all the GTAs, Fallout (where I would go off and explore the maps until I had visited every section possible, especially the secret vaults), and loads of others. I thought of doing it for Minecraft but decided that that was too easy since we were playing it this week anyway.

But, I wanted to choose a game for this and start some exploratory play in something completely new. So, I decided to play Fable 3 for the 360 and see what happened. I hadn’t yet played Fable 3. I had played Fable 2 and remember it being a fairly open world with interesting things to do, and what’s more, I remember it also being a fairly funny game.

After a few minutes of play, I started to run into things that said ‘unlock blah blah blah on the Hero’s Path to be able to do blah blah blah.’ What? This was not the Fable that I remembered, where anyone could do anything so long as they had the skill and the money. Well, I didn’t let that daunt me, although it did curb my enthusiasm a little bit.

In the end, I shook hands with everyone that I met (if you hold it to the sweet spot, you do a ‘handshake plus slap slap fist bump’ and people are pretty enthusiastic about it) and then, using the “hold hands” function, lead anyone who would hold my hand to one spot in Brightwood village. Then I played the lute for them in my own impromptu concert. They mostly liked it.

Honestly, there’s so much preamble to newer games that I should have known better than to choose an RPG/adventure game, but I find the worlds that are involved in those games particularly interesting. I didn’t have much success finding creative things to do in Fable 3 (since I haven’t even unlocked eating yet or something…in the old game, you could eat until you were really, really large and slow and you also had an “attractiveness” factor). So, instead I think I’ll go back to snorkelling in Skyrim.