Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Thought to Chew: Self-Awareness in Gaming

I think there's something intelligent about a game being self-aware and self-referential. It's like a sly admittance of "Shucks, you got me!". There's certainly nothing wrong with a game that doesn't occasionally poke fun at itself (see: most games), but it's almost a lost art.
Games way back when, mostly always point-and-clicks, literally messed with the player the whole time. Obviously, the format allows this to happen- it's a game where the player looks like an idiot in an almost fruitless attempt to beat the game- but it's not limited to those games. However, the obvious decline in such games means that there is a justified decrease in self-awareness, but I digress.
Hilariously, most games guilty of this pandering are JRPGs.

The most famous current example is probably the mouth-sore Hyperdimension Neptunia, a game guilty of fan service, scantily-clad chicks, and body figure anomalies for a lack of a better term. However, while other games just put them in for the sake of the fans, this series straight-up ribs its fans. Obviously, you can kind of see that the game is a parody experience straight-up, albeit one that isn't designed solely as such- heck, the characters are designed to represent different gaming systems for Christ's sake. That's not to say the game is a cakewalk- it's notoriously a grind-fest. (Then again, what JRPG isn't? Truly?) The reason the game has cultivated its own fanbase is the intense characterization and fairly unique schtick. (And yeah, the chests, but like, whatever, man.)
Other than that, most games that indulge in the trend are quite rare. Sure, they might nudge at the player from time to time (I'm sure Sonic Boom does this, though quite frankly there's not enough care in me to find out), but it's hard to find games that crap all over the player.
Indie games are the most suspect for this tomfoolery, a notable example being the beloved The Witness.
At its heart, it's a puzzle game, which I'm sure is a real shocker. "Wow, an indie puzzler? Where have I seen that before? " Either way, it's unique and very pretty.
The game is made so that once you beat the game, you're put back in through the endless cycle, plopped back at the beginning to do the game over and over, with the watching as all the puzzles reset themselves. However, instead of replaying the game, on the second go-around, align the beam attached to the first gate to the Sun, causing the gate to burst open and reveal a secret entrance leading to a hotel lobby. Inside, you solve a final puzzle before being presented with the real ending.
You appear in some guy's living room, and after a short walk through a void filled with floating lamps and figures, you encounter a cutscene showing some guy having just completed the game, assumedly the player itself. We then stumble through eight long minutes of watching yourself stumble around in soiled pants, rubbing your hands against things with the stiffness of, well, a video game character.
It's an indie game, so obviously it has some pretentious and profound meaning, but the way I interpret it is that the player gets so enveloped into the game that when confronted with reality, he wanders through in a moronic trance. It's essentially making fun of the player, with the idea of trying to attain a higher perspective on their actual life having completed the game but instead looking like a complete idiot. So take that.

For the last Interview with Final Smash, CLICK HERE.
For the last A Thought to Chew involving fixed camera angles in Pokemon Black 2/White 2, CLICK HERE.
I know my interview schedule is terrible right now, so I apologize. I'll try to work on some more. I don't know, it's daunting!

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