Friday, June 1

Playing the Players: Subverting gameplay

Players login to a games server, spawn and start purchasing semi-automatic weapons and grenades in preparation for the standoff. They're playing Counter-strike, a now dated game that retains a diehard group of fans years on. They swap tips: turn graphics down to up your framerate, fire machine guns in short bursts to increase accuracy - anything to give them an edge in this hardcore FPS (first person shooter) featuring terrorist/counter terrorist squads. But some players have different ideas.

Recipe for Heart Stand-in by A.M.S.

  1. Ask the members of your Counter-Strike team, (must be at least 14), Counter-Terrorist or Terrorist, to stand in a large, low, flat open area in the game that can be viewed from above.
  2. Arrange everyone to stand in the shape of a heart. Do not move or return fire.
  3. On all player chat send out the message repeatedly: "Love and Peace"
  4. Retain position stoicly.

Terms for this type of behaviour are as wide ranging as the 'interventions' themselves - griefing, meta-games, performance. Wikipedia states that, "In this meta-game, there are no rules of engagement, and the objective is to make someone else miserable." Microsoft shifts the definition of griefer to being "plain cyberbullies" and perceives the behaviour and the players as purely negative; "ne'er-do-wells".

Projects like Velvet Strike (mentioned above) use political reasoning to justify their actions, launching into a treatise on Post 911 America, violence, realism, and the shooter genre. Some players want to test others, like Sims blocking paths for other sims. Others use this behaviour to explore gameplay and systems. One player of the experimental narrative game Facade explains. "The first time I played Facade, a friend who was with me asked, 'So, how are you going to play first time through?' 'I’m gonna break this f***er,' I replied."

Lisa Galarneau, member of the GamesLab at the University of Waikato, sees this behaviour as positive, experimental catharsis, saying " often do we get to see what happens when we are jerks to others? One of my hypotheses is that there is not so much a griefer archetype, so much as there are people who play at griefing just to see what happens when they do." Her article entitled "Is it really so bad to be bad?" elaborates: "Isn't it better to take out my aggressions in some PvP (editor: Player versus Player) rather than beating my wife or kids, or pulling someone out of their car and beating the bejeezus out of them when they cut me off in traffic? The world is a horrible, frustrating place. Where else is that anger going to go?"

1 comment:

lduncalfe said...

A bit like a game of Counter Strike in street performance .. a roving "guerrilla theater piece in New York City" where Iraq war veterans arrested protesting citizens. Resembling badly scripted computer AI too by the looks of a Youtube clip, perhaps accidentally.