March Roundup: ‘Choreography’

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Hello once again all, it feels like I’ve been going like crazy lately but when the music’s this hot I can’t help but move. This past month we have asked you how your own worlds of play have been shaped by ‘Choreography’ for another exciting episode of Blogs of the Round Table!

How do human bodies in motion influence games? Is there something scripted about how we move together in our games or should games make us move around more? is choreography in games limited to fighting or are there other ways of moving just as interesting? How do party and music games change the way we play by prompting us to move? We want to know what you think about play in motion and what that means to you.

Matt Leslie kicks us off this month with a look at the recent history of WWE games that just don’t work. Wrestling, as a theatrical performance and as an athletic spectacle, just can’t exist with too much, or too little, of a sense of choreography:

…the true problem is professional wrestling is extremely hard to define because it encompasses elements of so many forms of performance art and media. It’s got the atmosphere and a lot of the psychology of a live sporting event but it’s not an athletic competition, it has angles and storylines that are planned out and written yet there’s a lot of improvisation, and it’s understood that wrestlers are performers portraying a character yet the audience is somewhat expected to care about the real human beings as well.

The first question you have to ask yourself when you’re approaching a wrestling game from a simulation standpoint is “what exactly are we simulating here?” What is the mindset of the player supposed to be? Are we taking the role of the wrestler within the context of the fiction by trying to win the match? Are we supposed to be the performer and attempt to have the best match possible and make the fans happy? Or are we a promoter pulling the strings and attempting to manipulate all the elements into the show we want?

Game developer Alistair Aicheson compares the UI design of Persona 4: Dancing All Night and Hatsune Miku and considers how each create their sense of style and movement:

The aim of basic play is clearly different. P4:DAN challenges players by giving them complex stimulus to process. Hatsune Miku challenges players’ speed of processing stimulus and agility, requiring them to bring out their inner virtuoso.

Joey DiZoglio invites you to consider the choreography of Halo 2 as it compares with Day After Tomorrow, the generically named but underrated 2014 sci-fi action film with a bizarre respawn shtick. Although Halo 2‘s campaign seems compelled to ferry you through a fast-paced, hyper-dangerous world like that of Day After Tomorrow, slowing down and getting to know the game’s layout completely changes how the player moves in it.

If first person shooters are meant to embody military perspectives and fantasies of warfare, who am I when I stop shooting? There is something profoundly un-Master Chief about snooping around for extra sniper ammo, yet, in order to play on Legendary mode, the game’s highest difficulty, the aforementioned “Legend” needs to start doing less running and gunning and more walking and collecting in order to survive.

At Better Games, Better Gamers, Dan Lipson gives an overview of the Kingdom Hearts series and describes how each of the main entries vary in terms of the choreographed flow of movement.

Andrew Gordon of Dreams in Pillow Shots is a new practitioner of Tai Chi, which bears a sort of hyperawareness of movement he’s found in Mirror’s Edge, particularly its time attack mode. For Gordon, both require a keen study of individual motions that come together in a synchronized whole. That in itself is a joy:

In Mirror’s Edge, raw movement is it’s own reward. In Mirror’s Edge, the player can derive considerable enjoyment from simply navigating the environment with poise and panache. Forget scores, objectives, checkpoints, achievements or collectables. In this major studio anomaly from late 2000s – when experimentation was still viable in blockbuster productions and EA, of all companies, was leading the crusade – simply getting from A to B is a joy in and of itself.

Richard Lord considers the choreography of Monument Valley. As a choreographer-turned-game designer, Lord’s perspective is particularly insightful and his read of the game is succinct and thoughtful:

“The choreography of Monument Valley isn’t about how characters move or how the player moves, it’s about how everything moves.”

Our own Taylor Hidalgo describes the motions he goes through in Stardew Valley as a dance maybe more rigid than is worth taking the steps to get through:

At exactly six in the morning, the cries of a rooster pierce through the peaceful rest of the farmhouse in Stardew Valley.

Before my character is even entirely out of bed, my day has already been decided. I’d like to pretend it was really my idea, but it honestly wasn’t.

I decided to try step up and give it the ol’ BoRT-ing try with an entry of my own this month. It looks to me like the movements in Bloodborne cause back pain. I’ll bet it’s uncomfortable.

Well I can only speak for myself but I feel served. I think I’m ready to take a breather and look ahead to next month’s topic. In the meantime, thanks as always to our wonderful contributors and to you, our wonderful readers.

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