Monday, August 31, 2009

That's So Meta

Achievement Unlocked is a little flash game I came across a while ago, where the actual game is secondary to your need to earn all the achievements, which are dished out with comic abandon (there is one for moving left, moving right, jumping, pausing the game, clicking on the scroll bar, pretty much everything). Despite the extremely basic nature of the game, I found it suprisingly compulsive, which no doubt says lots of things about me, none of them good. It does also have an awesome soundtrack, though.

Bear in mind I had to stop to take screen caps

I discovered later than the creator of Achievement Unlocked had made another flash game, Upgrade Complete, which similarly satirises the way many games extend themselves by playing off our desire to accumulate with a simple vertical scrolling shmup in which the gameplay takes a back seat to the need to unlock pretty much everything in the game with in-game currency. There is a more wordy post about Upgrade Complete here, if you want to check it out.

My fully upgraded ship pwns all

These meta-elements are becoming more and more common as gaming becomes more mature and self-aware. We have long since reached the stage where we can watch a movie that is so awful it actually becomes enjoyable, so have we reached the same point in video games? To an extent, I think we have. Most of the games on and Double Fine Production's website are entertaining simply because they are so rubbish, with the idea behind them being far more important than the actual gameplay. It is a similar story with most of the games from The Independent Games Source's hilarious Video Game Name Generator and Bootleg Demake contests.

Yes, these are all actual games, in various stages of completion

However, all these games have two very important elements to them: they're short, and they're free. Games require far more active participation and contain far more repitition than movies do, so if you are going to take up any significant amount of the player's time or money, then no matter how funny this sort of meta-humour is, the joke is ultimately on the player.

Matt Hazard takes on a JRPG boss

I was quite interested in Vicious Cycle's Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, which set itself up as the return of a fictional gaming hero (they even went as far as making up a back-catalogue) to the "next gen" era, in which they could make fun of all sorts of gaming tropes. It seemed like a great idea to wrap a serviceable third person shooter in, but unfortunately the game itself was savaged by the critics, proving that you need to have a solid game first if you want to charge money for this sort of thing. The idea of the game still appeals to me, and it seems like the sort of game that would get ridiculously cheap at some stage, so I might even give it a try if the price is right, but would remain to be seen who would have the last laugh in that case.

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