By Michael Dellapi, a Highlighter staff columnist
Like many young students that tried to distract themselves from actual work during class whenever their teacher handed out laptops, I spent more time on websites like “Addicting Games” than I care to admit. In particular, my friends and I found ourselves latched onto “The Impossible Quiz.” The game was an amalgam of bizarre questions with equally bizarre answers, designed to make you think outside the box or inside an even stranger one. One segment of the game struck out to me time and again, mainly due to its simplicity and almost out of place ingenuity. The game featured a maze where the player couldn’t touch the pink background, but there was no immediate way to get from the start point to the end point because these points existed in separate circles. It became apparent that the player was supposed to click the right mouse button in order to create a “bridge” using the options window that popped up from doing so. By no means was this Da Vinci’s Code, but it was an interesting puzzle nonetheless because it recognized its inherent “gameness.” By utilizing mechanics unique to the medium of input, the game approaches interesting ground. “Far Cry 3” holds one of my favorite moments in gaming for this very reason, because it manipulates the means of control to elevate its meaning.
In an effort to impersonate a prison guard holding one of your friends, you are forced to torture the very person you intend to rescue in an effort to appear believable. The scene is painfully intimate, never breaking the first person perspective to establish the sense of agony on the characters face. He sits before you in a chair, bruised with an open bullet hole on his left shoulder. The player is tasked with holding down a button on the controller, and in response the protagonist presses into the wound with his thumb. The scene is excruciatingly gruesome and uncomfortable in its own right, but it is the way that the input connected to the action that truly resonated with me. Whether the action was intentional or not, the act of pressing firmly on a button directly mirrored the actions on screen. The goal of the narrative in “Far Cry 3” is to put the player inside the shoes of the protagonist with an uncharacteristically genuine first person perspective.
The eyes of player and protagonist are synonymized, creating a unique bond between the two. The torture sequence allows this bond to become distorted, forcing the player to do actions that they have no choice but to perform in order to maintain believability. The action isn’t a moral choice, unlike some of the other decisions in the game, and deliberately deconstructs the immersion that the game seems to try to establish. It’s important to note that any other input (a trigger press or keyboard button press) would never have the same impact as the controller button press based on the size, shape, and layout of the buttons themselves. In turn, the game creates a unique experience that is inherently dependent on its means of control. I find that especially with the craze of virtual reality that’s rapidly approaching that designers are constantly trying to find ways to dissolve the presence of the medium the game operates under. In other words, by removing a controller from a game the game gets closer to reality. By doing so, they neglect the very things that make games such a distinctive artistic medium: their feel, means of control, and depth of interactivity.