Getting serious

I’ve been delinquent in my posts recently, so my apologies. I’ve been cracking away on our story about the so-called “serious games” movement. I say so-called because I’ve surprisingly run into a couple of people that can’t stand the term itself. David Wertheimer of the Institute for Creative Technologies flat-out said, ”I hate it. I think it was used back then to counter the frivolity people associated with the word ‘game. But now it doesn’t work.’”

Talking to him also included a pretty outstanding mini-talk about the merits of Dungeons & Dragons, and how all you had back then was a dice, some stuff to read, and your imagination. I still remember intricate details about my dwarf many years ago, and he still remembers what level(s) his characters were. My dwarf rocked.

One person you won’t find in the story, sadly, is Tracy Fullerton, an interactive media prof at USC who runs the Game Innovations Lab. We talked some about ‘Cloud,’ which I had heard of, but never got the chance to play until a few days ago.

Fullerton told me that she’s had some people say they’ve experienced a wealth of emotions whenever they play this game. I invested a few hours into the game, and I didn’t think flying through the air and messing with clouds could be so captivating — after all, I’d just seen an eyeful of ‘Superman’ from EA.

In a lot of ways, “Shadow of the Colossus” prepared me for the atmosphere. Minimal text, intricate controls and a lot of investment in the feelings tied to what you were doing. In “Shadow,” you had a chance to feel sad whenever you killed one of the giants, while in “Cloud,” the simple feeling of flying around would take you back to your childhood, or whatever the last time you’ve wished you could fly. I’d label my experience as pleasant and innocent, which is something I’ve needed since some of my life was wasted on playing “Jaws Unleashed.”