Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Little Big Planet

Little Big Planet is an interesting game. Some notes:
1. Use of natural materials. The levels are build from fabric, wood and similar. This is interesting. It gives the impression that the levels have been 'built' rather than being a collection of data. This makes the game accessible to technophobes because it's built in the language of reality. People may not understand units and polygons, but they do understand stickers, wooden blocks and string. By turning elements of a video game into metaphors from reality, you make a game that's easy to understand.
2. Stephen Fry. Comforting, familiar voice, associated with culture, comedy and literature. This, again, distances the game from the view of 'pow pow zap! Video game!" and makes it a more open experience for the non-gamer. It also makes the game feel tied to British humour, such as 'The Hitchhiker's Guide', immediately setting a tone of fun and whimsy.
3. Customisation. People love to collect and customise things. I remember in Year 10 of high school, we'd get these big silver folders for Design lessons. It was par for the course that you decorated your DT folder with stickers and drew on it with permanent markers. I used to look at my older sister's thinking "that's so cool!" it had pictures of the members of 'Blur' on it, and messages left by her friends. I couldn't wait to get my own! We were all so excited when we got to year 10 ourselves and were handed our big silver folders to customise. People like to make their mark and express their personality, so making a game all about that is a good idea.
4. Simplicity. When I was a kid, games were simple. My Master System had two buttons. Sonic the Hedgehog only used one! It seems like since then, games have become more and more complex, suffering often from 'feature creep', where games designers think 'hey, let's throw an unskippable racing minigame into this RPG! That's a good idea!' Simplicity isn't a bad thing and shouldn't be feared. Simple games are great, I can play them with my non-Gamer friends and even my Dad! (Mum is just a lost cause). The Wii is good for this, but it's nice to see the PS getting in on the action.

Little Big Planet is a game in which you kind of make your own game. It's like being given a big tub of Lego. First you can build the stuff on the reference sheets that come with the lego, but you're likely to, after a while, want to build your own creations. The game gives the player exactly the tools to do this, then to show what you've made and let other people join in with the play.

Even one player games can be shared experiences. Cosplay (dressing up as game characters, yes, I have done this myself), fanfiction (...okay, yes, I may have written some fanfic in my teens...), fanart (...yes. I'm a total geek, of course I have) and fan games (...I've never actually completed a fangame, but I have dabbled in these waters) are all ways of interacting with the game and with the community. People discuss favourite characters and story points, tell stories about them, boast about achievements and the game becomes something shared. LBP taps into the idea of the gamer as part of a worldwide community and a sort of collective conciousness.

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