Game Eaters

Monday, February 27, 2006


I just don't understand the poor reviews gathering around Marc Ecko's Getting Up game. I don't think the tone of his response is going to win him any fans but at least I can see where he's coming from. Both the game press and less mature gamer crowd seem happy to roast him and his game in the process of proving him right.

Maybe it's exactly the opposite problem I had with Shadow of the Colossus but the much-maligned camera simply doesn't trouble me at all, and for everything it gets wrong there's so much good going for it. It does swing around when you reach the boundary of a level, which is a relatively subtle cue of "don't go this way," and it does occasionally shift oddly when you're in graffiti mode, until you realize that it's actually pointing at a civilian or cop who's about to hassle you. The "translucent avatar and walls" solution to obscured third-person view is given a very complex and visually appealing treatment. When it comes to stealth challenges, the appearance of "surveillance camera" reticles and static on HUD cleverly reminds the player that the character is being watched all the time... if not by the cops, then by the player. The implementation of this camera feature has far more emotional impact than the underlying "you have 5 seconds to get out of the cone of vision" game mechanic would naturally suggest.

In general, the game borrows conventions when they work well for the setting (PoP platforming, "rep" meters, the Buffy combat system, completion statistics), invents new ones when it needs to (texture selection and spraying, drips, a substantially different setting from other "urban" games) and brings a lot of new twists on old ideas (intuition, in-game music, game secrets, the protagonist can't shoot!). The game is surprisingly respectful of good game design while trying to introduce the concepts of graffiti culture as seen by Marc Ecko.

This is undeniably an "outsider" game. It had the backing of a seasoned developer team, but the motivation and experience of play is substantially rooted outside of game culture. The game does not make you feel like a badass, a hero or a cunning strategist. Instead, it makes you feel like an angry teen, constantly harrassed by external forces, looking for any opportunity to stand out, to "get up." Combined with a relatively complex message about class and power, and how criminality is defined within those variables, Getting Up could be an important tool in the fight for games to be recognized as a viable medium of expression for all kinds of different, culturally important messages. If only gamers could learn the value of appreciating what they don't necessarily agree with.


  • Edge gave it an 8.
    That's REALLY good for Edge.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:30 PM  

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