Friday, 25 February 2011

Relatively Good

BattleField Bad Company 2 for iPhone
“this games actually pretty good”

My flatmate Jamie’s surprised reaction to playing an iPhone game I purchased recently. The game was Battlefield Bad Company 2. The game is based on the popular multiplatform game of the same title, but has been built for mobile platforms. 

As he watched the clunky characters wobble about and wrestled with iPhone’s touch-screen interpretation of first-person shooter controls, I mused that he would scoff at it on any other platform. It got me thinking: has this game received a positive reaction from the player entirely because of relative and not absolute expectations? Is it only good because his expectations on this platform are low?

It makes an interesting comparison, since a game with an identical brief (and title) has been produced for other platforms which allows us to make direct comparisons. The console version has undeniably better graphics, better control, longer gameplay, more dramatic cutscenes, more weapon variety… the list goes on. If the mobile game were ported directly, with no changes made, onto a console platform, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that gives the game the time of day.

Of course, it seems perfectly natural to scale our expectations to match the platform on which we are playing. However, if our ultimate goal of playing a game is to enjoy it, is our observation of “good” – relative or otherwise – at all relevant anyway? Shouldn’t we be making comments like “this games actually pretty fun”? As soon as we force our observations to meet the criteria of “fun”, we can make relevant relative comparisons across not just platform, but also time: “the new Prince of Persia games haven’t been as fun as Sands of Time”.

The next best thing to having
a magical Ocarina in your pocket
One of the most anticipated titles for Nintendo’s new handheld, the 3DS, is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time. The decision to remake this game for 3DS might have been out of convenience – production costs for remakes are certainly lower. It might have been for the sake of the game's heritage and renown. Or just maybe it was because what was fun 13 years ago will still be fun today?

Minutes later, a different flatmate walked past and said the above iPhone game looked like sh**.

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