Archive for October, 2013

October 3, 2013

Wargaming, sculpture and architecture

Patrick Stuart of the RPG blog False Machine writes a lot of very provocative meditations on art, gaming, writing and so on. This is the first time I’ve seen him take on the phenomenology of architecture, and… it just might be the most interesting thing I’ve ever read on the subject.
Mini’s might be like sculpture, but the battlefield is more like a cathedral… They are information-producing spaces. The information is a narrative.  In the cathedral the story is the religion. It never changes, but you are meant to. 

The battlefield is a story you create and reshape moment by moment.

The cathedral is a space you transit through, saints and the like look down on you from above. The battlefield is a space you create and change as you play. In both cases there is a kind of movement through the space, one literally with your body, the other with your intent and minds-eye.
…Most of what you see of you miniatures on the table is them facing away from you. Yes you can, and will see them from every other angle as the game goes on. But the primary, the assumed angle is from behind and from above, at about 75 (I think) degrees.
 
This is the same angle from which the Saints view you. Which explains why a great many religions are obsessed with certain headgears, robes and haircuts. It’s because God is looking at you from the same angle. 75 degrees. From behind. He wants you to have a distinctive reverse silhouette so he can pick you out of your squad. In case he needs to grab you.
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Computer wargames (especially “real time strategy” games like original Warcraft, Command and Conquer) of course adopt the same perspective (because their markets grew out of tabletop wargamers and because of the same practical reasons used on the tabletop – that’s how you and Napoleon and Garry Kasparov find it easiest to move forces around)…
WarcraftIII-Gameplay
But they’ve largely abandoned this view in their advertising – which is supposed to “immerse” (involve and implicate) you in the game’s world and get you to identify with the characters
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maybe because the actual experience of play is adapted for utility of interaction, not maximum visual impact,
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maybe because actually playing the game looks kinda nerdy. By which I mean containing purposes and interactions not immediately obvious to bystanders.
And as the mode of interaction becomes “freer” (less continuously directed toward a defined set of goals) so the amount of incidental space in the game increases and the screen of the player becomes less entertaining to bystanders.
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