And the Top VideoGame Villain of 2011 is...
There have been many great games in 2011. And with many-a great game, comes a great villain. My top villain for the year comes from a very interesting place and I never saw it coming.After completing the game, I was shocked by how much hatred and spite I could have for a character. A true villain that should go down in history. On top of that this character's villainy revolves around a game design idea I never thought could be used this effectively...
Let me digress for a moment to talk about an interesting or rather frustrating element of game design. These are the bugs (not coding, like insects) in games like Resident Evil 4, the Flood in Halo, Medusa Heads in Castlevania, and basically any flying enemy ever. These are the Annoying elements.
As a game designer I have heard many people say things like, "You should put something in there to annoy people!" And every time I cringe and think "Why would I want to do that?" I don't want my players to feel annoyed, that seems like the exact opposite of enjoyment.
There is one exception that I found where an annoying element can actually elevate a game's design..
Comedy. The best way that I can wholeheartedly accept an annoying element is if its purposeful and hilarious. Easily the best example of this I’ve seen recently is in GIRP and some other games on foddy.net.
If you haven't played, play now. http://www.foddy.net/GIRP.html
In GIRP you’re making a perilous and slow climb to the top of a cliff. This game is really slow and every handhold takes a lot of effort to get to. It's slow, arduous, and takes the utmost patience and concentration. Hardcore NPS for sure. But part way up the cliff though, there’s this damn bird that starts standing in all your hand holds. You have to pull up and swat him out just to be able to use that handhold again. But even after you smack him out he comes back and stands in the same one. It adds insult to injury to a game that is already very difficult both physically and mentally (play it and you’ll know what I mean). On top of that, you’ve probably already spent at least 10 minutes trying to get to the spot on the cliff you’re at before this bird starts pecking at you. And if you fall, you have to start all over again. Eventually you start yelling at the screen, “Get out of here you %#$!ing bird!” in a mix between anger and laughing.
The first time I got through GIRP, getting to the top of the cliff took me about 30 minutes. This is 30 minutes of slow, difficult gameplay with no continues and no rest. All the while this mega-jerk-of-a-bird is slamming in to you and taking a seat on the only lifelines you have. And now finally at the top of this cliff, I see a little present in a pink box with a red bow that is clearly the final goal to grab. After making a few heart stopping leaps through the final handholds and finally within reach of the box, I see the bird coming over towards me. I say, “No bird, get the hell away from my present.” I make one final leap, the present only a few inches away, the bird swoops down again and the screen fades to this:
What the fuck. I laughed so hard. Brilliant design.
One of the most ingenious parts of this design is that it’s only one bird and the same bird the entire time. Any other game designer would have said, “Yeah and maybe we can put some birds in some of the handholds that get in your way so you have to take a different path, and then you climb higher and maybe some other kinds of birds will swoop in.” Not here. Here it’s the same bird just being a total dick to you the whole time while you’re making this really long, difficult climb. Amazing. It’s quite astounding but you actually form a kind of relationship with Bird because he is just one bird and has character. However much he annoys me the entire way up the cliff, I think I would be truly sad if he ever were killed off.
Because of the extent of the emotions I felt and the true forming of a multifaceted relationship with a digital foe, I vote for Bird as best villain of 2011.
Some of the other games on foddy.net are also annoying and difficult, but in every one of them, it’s by design. And in every one of them it’s hilarious. Play QWOP or play Winner vs Loser with a friend and try not to laugh.