October 18, 2012 by zack373
Video Game Analysis: Geometry Wars
One of my favorite games growing up was Geometry Wars for the Xbox 360 arcade platform. The Xbox 360 arcade platform is dedicated to downloadable 300 Mega-bytes or less arcade style games that are priced under $9.99. Geometry Wars is one of the most unique arcade games for the Xbox because it is not an arcade re-release nor was it originally released for the Xbox Arcade. Geometry Wars was actually a mini game created by Bizarre Games for the Xbox title: Project Gotham Racing 2 (2003) and placed in the in-game garage. Geometry Wars became an instant cult classic and was later developed for the Xbox 360 arcade platform in 2005. The game is still one of the most downloaded Xbox 360 arcade titles.
Geometry Wars is classified in the multi-directional shooter genre. The game relies on staying alive and defeating infinite spawning swarms of shapes using a variety of weapons (bombs, single shot bullets, multi shot bullets, and flames). The game takes place in a boxed- in rectangle in outer space and has very little narrative. Players compete by seeing who can score the highest amount of points before using all the character lives. The game is divided between two modes: Retro (Original Project Gotham Racing 2 mini game) and Evolved (newer highly polished version). The game is best described as “Asteroids on Speed,” (Miller 1) and requires complete concentration from the gamer due to its wide use of bright visuals and colorful enemy swarms. The most similar game to Geometry Wars in terms of game play and plot is Asteroids (1977). In A Brief Note on Games and Narratives, Jesper Juul argues that “Narratives may be fundamental to human thought, but this does not mean that everything should be described in narrative term.” (Juul 1) This game would be a better example of a ludology approach compared to narratology approach because the game has: no cut scenes; no plot; and centers around an alternate universe with abstract objects. There is also no back-story to the Geometry Wars game; the player assumes based on the title that he/she must go to war with geometry shapes and that is the exact premise of the game. The lack of a strong narrative is mainly due to the fact that the game was initially meant to be a bonus mini game put due to a strong cult following the game was made for the Xbox live arcade.
In Newman’s The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame he speaks about On-Line and Off-line videogames, he writes, “On-Line refers to the state of ergodic participation that we would, in a commonsense manner, think of as playing the game’… Off-line describes periods where no registered input control is received from the player.” (Newman 3) Geometry Wars would easily fall into the On-Line videogame category because once the game starts there are no cut scenes or breaks for the player; the player must be constantly shooting geometric shapes. One interesting characteristic of Geometry Wars is the lack of characters in the game. The main character is a white genderless geometric shape with the ability to shoot different types of bullets. The game has 10 different enemies which appear in swarms and random assortments. The 10 enemies differentiate from each other through both color and shape. A strong point of the game is its amazing visuals that display a wide variety of colors and visuals’ considering the game is 2D (Two- Dimensional).
Geometry Wars has been a huge, unexpected hit and is now distributed multi-platform including the iPad. The iPad version is totally different form the Xbox 360 version because instead of using the controller to spray bullets the user must use the iPad touch screen thus changing the dynamics of the game. The arcade platform sequel Geometry Wars 2: Retro Evolved makes use of a variety of game modes and even includes a Co-op mode, thus creating a bigger narrative presence. Moreover, the game Geometry Wars was turned into a full game for the Nintendo Wii and priced at a $39.99 MSRP (Manufactures Suggested Retail Price). The game is so popular it has even been cloned and freely distributed on the Internet under the title, Grid Wars. Additionally, Microsoft refused for the title to appear on the Playstation network and has accordingly been imitated and marketed as Blast Factor.
Overall, Geometry Wars is a very unique game and does not fall under common videogame classifications and characteristics. The ludology approach is better suited to analyze this game because it lacks characters, plot, and a resolution (the game is infinite assuming you don’t die). Frasca writes in, Simulation versus Representation, “Simulation is act of modeling a system A by a less complex system B, which retains some of A’s original behavior.” (Frasca 3) In Geometry Wars space is modeled in a far less complex way and the idea of space war is portrayed in a more fantasized way. The game sets a milestone in videogame history because it shows the strength of gamer’s feedback to the developer by demanding it be elaborated. Geometry Wars also exemplifies the business savvy of the publisher which turned a mini game into a franchise.
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