Game Time: Understanding Temporality in Video Games

Game Time: Understanding Temporality in Video Games

Game Time: Understanding Temporality in Video Games

Game Time: Understanding Temporality in Video Games

Synopsis

Preserving, pausing, slowing, rewinding, replaying, reactivating, reanimating.... Has the ability to manipulate video game timelines altered our cultural conceptions of time?

Video game scholar Christopher Hanson argues that the mechanics of time in digital games have presented a new model for understanding time in contemporary culture, a concept he calls game time. Multivalent in nature, game time is characterized by apparent malleability, navigability, and possibility while simultaneously being highly restrictive and requiring replay and repetition. Hanson demonstrates that compared to analog tabletop games, sports, film, television, and other forms of media, the temporal structures of digital games provide unique opportunities to engage players with liveness, causality, potentiality, and lived experience that create new ways of experiencing time.

Hanson's argument features comparative analysis of key video games titles including Braid, Quantum Break, Battle of the Bulge, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Passage, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, Lifeline, and A Dark Room.

Excerpt

Released in 2016, superhot (SUPERHOT Team) might give the initial impression of being an incomplete game, or perhaps one in which the graphics were never finalized; at the very least, superhot is strangely anachronistic in its graphical style. Unlike the highly detailed fps (first-person shooter) games commonly available, superhot uses a minimalist art style, with the game graphics resembling the wire-frame models found in 3-D design applications before their graphics are fully rendered. But these unpolished and fragmentary graphics belie a complex play mechanic that lies beneath the game’s surface. superhot reveals its novel twist on the fps genre as soon as one starts playing. in the game, time barely moves forward as the player stands still and only progresses as the player moves. That is, the enemies in the game are all but frozen if the player does not move the avatar; their movements are slowed to a near-standstill, allowing the player to carefully plot maneuvers through slowly moving bullet trajectories and plan strategies through increasingly complex stages (see fig. 0.1). the player may target enemies in real time while temporality in the game world is slowed, providing a decisive advantage over the numerous enemies. This slow-motion play mechanic is reminiscent of earlier games, such as Max Payne (Remedy Entertainment, 2001), in which the player is able to selectively slow time through the “bullet time” power. But while games such as Max Payne may feature periodic temporal manipulations, superhot is a game constructed entirely around a play mechanic of distorted temporality that is linked directly to player movement and agency. the simplified graphics de-clutter the screen, allowing the player to focus on small critical details, such as bullets slowly moving through the air and the movement of enemies, and to maneuver through levels as though with superhuman reflexes. As if to accentuate this, after completing a level, players are shown replays of their actions in real time, apparently making a series of splitsecond decisions in fluid and continuous fashion, resembling a carefully choreographed gunfight from a John Woo film. superhot illustrates the pleasures of controlling time, but it is only one of a growing number of games that emphasize temporality in their gameplay.

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