Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Giant Play

Throughout my game culture class I wanted to focus on different ways I could prove that video games were an art form. It was the underlying theme behind all of my work. For my the other part in my final paper, I wanted to look at the choices made within Shadow of the Colossus. I only focused on two terms from class, but i want to look further into this game.

The Use of Ludus and Paida Play (in Shadow of the Colossus)

The narration of Shadow of the Colossus is told not only through traditional cut scenes, but through elements of game play as well. Video games have a unique ability to place the audience in the role of the "actor". Within Shadow of the Colossus, the player participates with the unfolding of the narrative. In order to successfully convey the story and themes of the narration, the game considers the different ways that people play video games. Shadow of the Colossus so fully incorporates the main theme of "respect for nature" that regardless of the person in control of the game, the story is revealed. Bernard Perron defines the difference between "player" and "gamer" in his article From Gamers to Players and Gameplayers. Players participate in Ludus play, or rule bound linear play, while gamers participate in paidia play or free play.

Anyone can be a gamer or a player at anytime while playing a game. To compensate for this, Shadow of the Colossus integrates elements of both within its main theme. The world of Shadow of the Colossus is vast and regardless of how much time a person spends outside of the main quest, the design of the world reflects the main theme. There are many distinctive areas to explore that are heavily detailed and full of rewards. An example are the white tailed lizards and fruit that increase both grip and health gauges respectively. The player's bond with the horse, Agro, can also grow by riding, petting, and playing with her. This environment is ideal for paidia/sandbox play. A player can explore nature on their own and discover its beauty, rewards, and friendships. In this way, it is possible for a person to learn of nature's value through simulation.

Ludus play of the game yields a slightly different result. As you actively kill the massive Colossi with only a sword and bow, the fragility of nature becomes apparent. It shows how the simulated world that you fell in love with in paidia play, can be easily torn apart by your actions. The main game endows respect by displaying the results of nature’s destruction. It warns of the dangers of destroying nature for one’s own purposes by showcasing the pain felt by the wanderer, Agro, and the world itself. The game therefore, uses both play styles as different chapters of the narrative. The narrative requires both ludus and paidia play to be fully realized, which is uncommon in videos games, but the ultimate message of the game is obtainable through either.

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