Dan Golding has an interesting post up on his blog Subject Navigator about Guy Debord and his concept of ‘psychogeography’.
This was a blast from the past for me. I first heard about Debord ideas and their connection to games from Game Design Advance’s founder Frank Lantz. This was back in grad school and when Frank was best known for his work on ‘Big Games’, which were games that sought to layer ludic properties onto the real world.
The connection between psychogeography and level design that Dan draws is a good one. He points out the way that level design is used to subtly manipulate player behavior, such as a directing and pacing them into particularly dramatic moments.
I thought I would also post a couple of videos that some of you may have seen but are a great visual accompaniment to Dan’s post.
The first is called ‘Averaging Gradius’ and is several individual runs by different people of the famous shooter’s first level layered on top of each other:
This is a great demonstration of how level design can influence player behavior while also leaving room for individual styles of play.
The second is also a video of a bunch of different runs layered together, this time the game is a famously difficult hack of Super Mario World:
Here’s a game where the level design is much more punishing, leaving almost no room for improvisation. Each time the player gets to a tough spot he explodes into different possibilities but only one (well, two actually) survive until to the end. Beautiful in the way only a gamer could appreciate.