Friday, January 20, 2012

The most enjoyable videogames are the most insane ones

The funny thing about video games is that they are essentially incredibly - indeed, impressively - complex and convoluted ways of making you do the same thing over and over again and not getting bored (in other words, something like Einstein's oft-heard definition of insanity, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" - which in this case, I guess, is a new high score). No matter how sophisticated games have become, they're effectively just riffing off of Asteroid and Space Invaders. The enemies change, but the objective remains the same.

Because of this, I find it really easy to become jaded by games. Especially these days, what with the trend of marketing games as "sandboxes" and "open worlds." Skyrim, the latest game in the Elder Scrolls series, is praised for its level of detail and freedom, and the dynamic nature of its dragon attacks. These are indeed cool facets, yes, but it's still basically just a game where you go around killing stuff, finding pick-ups, and reaching the end of quests. That's right: it's Super Mario. If "open world" just means you can smith, sneak, and enchant, then presumably the real world is just composed of mere addenda to eating, sleeping, pooping, and fornicating.

...well, that was an injurious analogy - metaphysically-speaking.

But, look: this shouldn't be seen as some terrible conspiracy or an awful ontological premise; it's just the facts of the matter. It's impossible to create a videogame that gives the player the same freedom as real life - and once that game is created, our lives will in fact change for ever, and the games won't be games any longer. But, as I said, it's very easy to get jaded about games when developers do little more than change the faucets. There are exceptions: I've played a ton of Mount & Blade lately precisely because the game has an incredibly well developed melee combat engine. There's literally no other game out there that can compare with M&B's multidirectional, manual-blocking medieval sword fights (and if you find one that can, tell me immediately). By way of contrast, Skyrim's melee combat feels like peanut butter monsters fighting each other with giant foam hands - inside a jar of pickle juice.

But there's also another type of game, a type of game that's getting more and more popular as indie developers rise and publish sweet, sweet videogame nostalgia-nirvana. These are the games that make you happy to play with the same old machinery you've always played with, just by weight of their sheer awesomeness. Super Crate Box is one of those games.

What is Super Crate Box? It's a single-screen platform shooter where your objective is to pick up crates. Every time you pick up a crate, you get a random weapon. Oh, and monsters are spilling from the sky.

Oh, and if you don't kill the monsters, they turn into undead monsters and come back to kill you.

Oh, and you score points by picking up crates.

Yeah. It's amazing. It's ridiculous. It's the same thing over and over again, and it doesn't try to hide it. And it's amazing.

Super Crate Box, ladies and gentlemen. Get to it. My high score is a paltry 68; what's yours?


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