Name: Half Life
Release Date: Nov 8, 1998
Genre(s): First Person Shooter / Action
Version(s): Current Version: 184.108.40.206
Price: $9.99 USD
Website: Store.steampowered.com/app/70 (This links to the store page as the original website links to the games sequel)
Rating: M (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language)
Released in 1998, the first Half Life is regarded as a milestone in the history of video games. Half Life introduced a lot of elements that gamers today take for granted, such as dynamic story events that unfold as a player completes objectives and moves around the map. Previous to half-life most first person shooters involved the player navigating a series of corridors and killing everything in the way. Any story that was given was mostly an afterthought, basically using story simply as a frame to justify the player’s actions in the world. Half Life changed all that by taking the story and making it impact the player in meaningful ways. For the first time players could see the consequences of their actions. To highlight the importance of story, Half Life takes a huge risk and attempted something that had not been done before, namely there is no action for the first 30 to 45 minutes of the game. A risk that may have bored audiences but instead is used to build tension and atmosphere as the player has the opportunity to learn about the world and the people within it. Additionally, unlike other action games of the past, the games protagonist was not a Space Marine, Combat Samurai, or pumped up action cliché, instead he was just an average Joe, a Scientist who just shows up for work and has to deal with the situation that unfolds around him the best he can. All of these elements are important as it allowed the player to feel fully immersed and added weight behind every story event. Half Life paved the road for countless other games that followed and set a standard for the industry and the medium.
Name: Papers Please
Release Date: Aug. 8, 2013
Genre(s): Adventure, Indie
Version(s): Current Build: 1.1.65 Release Build: 1.0.34
Price: $9.99 USD
Rating: M (contains nudity, scenes of violence, inappropriate language)
Developed by Lucas Pope, who prior worked as developer for Naughty Dog, Papers Please is an interesting example in moral gameplay and player agency. You play as an immigration agent, who has been granted the opportunity though state lottery, to screen all incoming people trying to enter the country. The goal of the game is to check the passports of all incoming people to ensure that everyone has the correct information. Correctly process enough people and you are rewarded with a daily salary, however make mistakes and let people through who have papers that don’t check out and you are penalized and given less money for the day. This is important because you must take care of your family who get can get ill, cold, and hungry if you don’t bring home enough money. In addition to taking care of your family you also have to contend with terrorist attacks and human traffickers, additionally you are given a tranquilizer gun to take out refugees who try and run across the border into the state.
The role of player choice comes heavily into play as you have to decide if your going to pay closer attention to incoming immigrants at the cost of money, or take a risk an let them in. To make more money you can also help out a rebellion group, help them and you are basically an enemy of the state, but if you choose not to and you risk a family member dying. Toward the end of the game you are given the opportunity to make several decisions that can cost the lives of your entire family and yourself.
Here is a link to the Chapter 5 presentation.
In chapter two of “Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating” The author, Juan Gaitan makes the argument that all exhibits impress opinions about their subjects, and these opinions are themselves reflections about the public politics and views. Game Changers 2015 is a good example of this because while video games may not seem to be any kind of political topic, within the art and especially video game community there are just that. Since the birth of the Interactive medium we now refer to as “Video Games” the arguments have always more or less been the same in regards to elevating video games to the coveted stature of “Art”, and they usually boil down to video games as a product or a toy for kids and only view-able at a purely commercial or superficial level holding little to no artistic merit. Game Changers challenges this notion by its very existence. While the theme of the exhibit may have been technological innovations, and it’s time frame spanning some 40 years the public could see a clear time frame of games and could view with their own eyes the advancement of an artistic medium. The public could see it grow from simple beginnings to the complex machines of today. The Public could observe not just graphics growing more complex, but also the birth of interactive narratives that have evolved to grow more complex and eventually reflect more of the human experience. This directly challenges the ideas of art as Consumer products and advances the idea that the interactive medium is one that has limitless artistic possibilities and should be taken seriously as a medium. This idea will inevitably become clearer during the next Game Changers as the topic is about narrative driven experiences and will once again challenge public perception of games, and allow the medium to gain further acceptance in the wider world of artistic expression. VR which was also featured in Game Changers is interesting as well because it will inevitably face the same naysayers that try to prevent video games from being taken seriously as an art form, and indeed this is already happening.