Joystick: The angles of ‘breaking’ a game

Published 10:16 am Thursday, July 11, 2013

Congratulations, you have bounced your last bad guy, shot the final boss, solved the final puzzle and did everything necessary to beat a game and watch the end credits. What will you do now?

“Break” it, in a manner of speaking.

I briefly wrote last week about many gamers’ desires for metagaming, a concept where you take the rules of a certain game and bend them to create your own fun challenge. It’s something almost every gamer has done: Remember trying to find all the warp tunnels in “Super Mario World?” Gamers have tried to beat Mario games as fast as possible for more than 20 years and half the fun of a good Nintendo classic is doing a speed run, or completing the game in record time.

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Others prefer more difficult sets of rules, like the Pokemon franchise’s dreaded Nuzlocke challenge. Named after the online handle of the first person who did it, a Nuzlocke challenge involves playing one of the main Pokemon games, only catching the first Pokemon you encounter in any given area and releasing Pokemon who have been knocked out in battle. It’s an incredibly difficult, often emotional challenge that forces players to bond with their Pokemon far more than usual. Your team probably won’t be as well-rounded, but you’ll definitely increase the game’s tension.

Yet challenges like speed runs and Nuzlockes only exist because we as players don’t always follow a game’s set path. There are plenty of opportunities to divert from a given scenario in almost every game, after all. Want to find out how long you can hold off police in Grand Theft Auto? Start blasting and find out. How many times can you snipe another player in “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield 3”? Better have plenty of ammo.

It all goes back to a gamer’s desire to delve into the game’s world itself. Once you’re presented with a fun dimension with its own set of rules, how can you not test its boundaries every once in a while? So the next time you play a game, try to make up your own challenge. See how long you can last against hordes of zombies without firing a shot, or chain together the biggest combo possible against enemies. Find a way to “break” the game and see what happens.