Scrolling Along

You might be thinking, “Gee that looks a lot like Gradius!” First off, since when do you say ‘gee’? and second, it sort of is! Parodius is a parody of the game Gradius, it has the same mechanics and features but with silly characters and references to Japanese culture, sexy bosses and accompanied by classical music. Now you might say “Why blog about Parodius instead of Gradius?” Well, because of it being a parody, there are differences in some interactions, that are also added, the environment and other features that keep the player entertained.
First off, as any typical side-scrolling shooter does, the ship has many upgrades that supports the player as they defeat the incoming enemies. With Parodius having different silly characters to choose from, each have their own style of upgrade. As seen as with the octopus, when upgraded he shoots out bubbles!
Much like Gradius, the player can maneuver past obstacles going up or down through different sections of the level. This adds a little variety to something that seems to be going only one way. The player also shoots through obstacles to make way.
Parodius has a bell that occasionally enters the scene which the player can shoot. Shooting it enough times changes the color and depending on the color will effect how it benefits the player when they collect it:
Red- More points
Green- The player and it’s mini helpers will grow and be granted invincibility for limited time.
White- Turn into a paper megaphone that shouts out phrases and Einsteins equation… which deals out more damage

I really like the environments and crazy themes in this game, and gives me something to reflect on with my own work as it’s not set in a typical outer space scene. And the music really adds to the energy and chaotic surrounding, so the player has no reason to feel bored, but is at risk for getting distracted.

Who We Are and Who We Want To Be

One of the most interesting finds concerning my essay is a book called Alter Ego: Avatars and Their Creators. In this book, the photographer brilliantly shows the player opposite their online persona.
What really got my attention was how much their avatars meant to them in a way that it was a vessel to express themselves compared to their real life disabilities, gender or social standing.

An overweight man played as a tank protecting the weaker players and being the heart of strength in the team, and because of that appreciated position he had, it affected his social life which was eventually attended to once realizing what was happening to him. Another man had a different standing online, where he made many friends, one that lead to marriage with a woman, even though he was married in real life. The marriage was nothing beyond friendship, and he even got permission off his real wife who apparently had respect for their friendship and also helped when comforting his online wife.

Many players were the opposite gender to their avatar, for many points. One of the main reasons was how it affected their gameplay experience and how other players reacted to them due to their sex. One teacher had changed from a male alter_4character to a small childish female character purely for the reason that it got more attention and was approachable when selling things at the market. One woman played as a man to avoid sexist ridicule of her abilities and harassment so players could appreciate her abilities fairly. Which in fact, isn’t fair at all, showing how players are forced to be something they did not envision just to play a game peacefully.
On the other hand, a man played as a bubbly cheerleader for he felt like this avatar represented his true self.

avatar_creatorOne of my favorites to read was about a disabled man who made his ideal figure and representation and made friends regardless of  his disabilities in real life. A similar story but about a group, took turns in controlling a girl avatar, and enjoyed the opportunity the game offered them that they could not do in real life.
Situations like this are why avatars can be so important for some people as it’s presented as a second life for them. It helps to break the barrier that they may encounter due to their physical appearance and thus produces a more truthful  relationship, and in saying that I mean, whether or not the avatar is a true representation of the player, their behavior will still impact their experience.

Meet The Sims

Most of us, at some degree, love the Sims! A virtual dollhouse with a huge ocean of fans varying from gender, age and background. Unlike other games, where we are often fending for our lives against some unfamiliar species and thrown into unlikely scenarios, shooting energy balls from the palm of our hands, flying across landscapes, picking up heavy objects with insane strength and- I’m going off track… -ahem!- While most other games are breathtaking as mentioned, the_sims_3_pets_45Sims is set in an all too familiar (but fictional) world. But no, it’s still enjoyable to an extent that you will keep playing it as there is no end to the game with endless potential to keep the player engaged.

As this title has advanced and now on its third installment, with a handful of expansion packs, the psychological mechanics of the Sims have improved adding to the life-like element. The most vital, inner core and fascinating feature of this game are the avatars; the Sims. Given that its a virtual dollhouse, in no way is the player completely in control of their Sims. The Sims will not always rely on the player to give them controls, because they are able to independently take care of important needs like eating or going to the toilet (saves the cashmere carpet that way).

Typically when given the option to customize a character, we take pride in making the perfect and ideal form to us, thus making the gaming experience more personal and enjoyable. The Sims enable us to do the same thing, and the most common form we create is a representation of ourselves. And that’s a representation with certain additions, dream hair or eye color, stylish outfits and that inner personality trait that we have never had the guts to unleash in real life.

Along with making ourselves, we also fashion Sims after people we know in real life, like friends and family or a crush~
Although Sims is a simulation of an ordinary life, expansion packs add flavor to the experience, introducing themes that further develop what we can do with our Sims and give them more opportunities and keeping us entertained. So life in the suburbs isn’t all that peaceful 🙂

The Sims not only encourages the player to keep their Sims happy, but also gives them an opportunity to experiment with things that they wouldn’t do in real life, or can’t. This results in Sims abandoned in a swimming pool with no way of getting out of it and eventually dying and watching them starve to death in an empty house with again, no way of getting out and other life threatening scenarios. Mentioning these examples, doesn’t exactly mean that we are all secret sims-torture-pool-bsociopaths with hidden intentions to kill, but shows the curious approach people take to see what the outcome is… while laughing at it. But never the less, there are positive and negative approaches to the game players can take, in which they are either influenced by curiosity, or how their real life has affected them and whether they are creating their ideal world of happiness or a chaotic town for funsies!

Interestingly, the game has been played for reasons other than entertainment. One being used by a soon to be mother, as a parenting insight on how well they will cope in the real world, and apparently it helped!
One use was a really touching approach for a young adopted boy who had trouble talking about his past, so instead created a visual recap of his past with him and his parents and what happened.

Reference:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200310/the-sims-suburban-rhapsody

http://thesimsofficialmag.com/07_psychology.html#.URBEHx1g9vd