March 30th through April 1st marked the worldwide, multi-location game jam What Would Molydeux?, wherein participants design and make games based on the crazy tweets and musings of PeterMolydeux, a Twitterer that suggests radical game design ideas in a ramped-up style of impersonating Peter Molyneux.
The general consensus I’m seeing is that if you actually went to the jam and got to make something, it was fun. The games themselves are a lot to slog through. By my count, there are 242 different games listed in the 291-item list. In reverse order, I intend to play all of those games and give my impressions.
So my first is #291, The Guy That Should Not Be Here, based on the tweet “Game where your arms are controlled by a psychopath who keeps firing guns at innocent people. You must turn away from them and run.”
Installing was not fun, as it made me restart my machine without asking, then continued with the installation from there. There was no title screen to reflect what I was about to experience, and it was made using Unreal Engine 3.
I went for single player and had a fairly generic laser gun and was immediately dropped into something that looked like it was for kids. There was a Nintendo/Rare/Mario Kart cutesy soundtrack with bright green grass and trees, a farm-type setting filled with foliage and cute creatures, turtles, rabbits, everywhere, all wandering up to me the way a cat does to hesitantly smell your hand. And I started firing. Only, like in the tweet, I could not help but fire. I could, however, aim away. That was the extent of my control. Move and force the aim away.
It’s very difficult to never kill one, and when that happens they start mewling “He’s massacring us!” and “Run away!” I got bored, and killed 20 of them, and got a message. “You are a horrible human being.” I had set it for default settings. 20 kills, 20 minutes.
The idea by itself is hardly a game at all, but what can we expect from 48 hours? And this is not a mechanic that seems worth designing an entire game around.
However, I will say that playing this did give me a feeling of powerlessness, something games generally fail to do. Most games, when they want you be powerless, do one of two things. The first is when a script activates where you lose control, then you get knocked out or watch a horrible event. These are generally (Bioshock being an obvious and great exception) ineffective, as you know you will get control back anyway. The other is a situation where you are thrown in prison or lose all your inventory.
This is also an illusion of loss of control, as really all it is is a change in controls. You’ll still wake up and then have to figure something out, either talk to a person, distract a guard, find a crack in the wall or an object to dig a hole or something to get out. This situation often involves a scene first as well. Even in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s “No Russian” level, you really didn’t have to shoot any civilians. You can just follow them and wait for the scene to end and get control back. It’s a character switch anyway, so really what that level does it let you intimately experience the terrorists’ event, the catalyst that sets the action levels your about to play in motion.
But in The Guy That Should Not Be Here, you could move where you want, but you could not stop firing, and you could only not kill them with great effort. There are plenty of sci-fi/fantasy settings where a person is being mind-controlled. How awesome would this mechanic have been when you weren’t expecting it, in a dramatic action setting that involves innocents? What if the failure to resist led to dire consequences, affecting the outcome of the game? Even if not that, it would still have been a surprise.
Mechanics don’t have to form the basis of the game. Sometimes, they’re the gravy or the icing. This first, or should I say, last game on the list reminds us that games can induce a broad spectrum of feelings, reactions. Remember The Darkness? Remember how you could watch the movie with your girlfriend for a while, or leave early? That wasn’t the entire game, but we are glad it was in there just the same.
Every week, we’ll run an update of Mike’s quest. More of his Molyjam work will run on his blog.