games with defects

While attending the Third Annual Conference of the Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung (GFF), at the University of Zurich I got to know René Bauer, a game designer who teaches at the Hochschule der Künste in Zürich (ZHdK). He showed us quite some of the projects done by his students—see yourself at and-or—wonderful, fantastic, up to absolutely hilarious. I especially like the idea of creating computer games with built-in gameplay defects which are making you think. Take for example laichenberg‘, a first-person shooter which was advertised as being ‘more realistic than doom3, unreal etc.’
With the graphics craze of the last decade one naturally assumes that the game features hyper naturalistic graphics to fulfill the claim. But the idea is totally different. Usually in fps-games wherein you rake up insane amounts of frags, the remains of the enemies you’ve overcome dissappear after a while. In ‘Doom 3’ the rationale for that happening is that the killed demons and zombies are returning to hell. In ‘Quake 3,’ or its reincarnation ‘Quake Live,’ the idea is that the Vadriggar, the unseen gamemasters of the arena, remove the fallen warrior who a moment later respawns. And so on. The real reason of course is that the corpses are not only irritating but strain the system which has to render them. Now, ‘laichenberg’ allows the corpses to remain in the game world. That way its archetypical fps-setting, a subterranean maze of bunkers, bit by bit gets filled up with the corpses—until the player can’t move anymore.
Discrimination Pong
Another example which took my breath away is ‘Discrimination Pong—here’s how the developers themselves describe it:

DISCRIMINATION PONG is an anti-discrimination Pong-game. The GameArt project features some serious defects. It visualizes discrimination/racism, makes it playable and very tangible. The player experiences discrimination/racism first-hand while trying to establish a win in this unfair variation of Pong. The ‘not so white-paddle’ is discriminated in several aspects: from its visuals and its movements to the overall gamemechanic of the game. It is very hard for the discriminated player to win a match. Discrimination is implemented in different ways: the ‘not-so-white-paddle’ gets darker and darker. The left paddle may be slower than the right one. The ball may accelerate on the left side of the playground and become too fast to catch in time. The white paddle on the right may receive an extra ball without deserving it. And maybe worst of all, the ball never touches the right wall or paddle but loops slowly back to the left and takes on a faster pace as soon as it reaches the left side of the playground again. A very unfair game indeed! Find out what types of discrimination/racism you have to expect in DISCRIMINATION PONG.
    Virtual worlds and above all games should be a place for equal access. Suggesting a ‘tabula-rasa-play’, as this variation of Pong does in its subtext, amounts to a vision of a world in which all actants have the same chance. But today more and more gamedesigners are willing to implement unfair elements in their games like the option to buy game-relevant items with real currency for personal (in-game) gain.

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