GIRP is a four letter word

Finally finished GIRP today after a couple of heart-breaking falls at the top of the cliff last night. As is often the case, after finishing it once I’ve been able to finish it a couple more times “without any problems”. Best run up the cliff so far is 14:33, but given that I’ve watched a 5ish minute speed-run on YouTube, I’m not patting myself on the back too hard.

It’s a remarkable game when I think of the journey from first playing to being able to focus on how fast I can get up the cliff. The first playing for me, and many others, revolved around “how the hell can I even get the next hand-hold?” and then something like “5 meters! Yes!”. The difference that is made with some practice is perhaps more drastic than any game I’ve played to date.

Like Skate 3, GIRP “gives you everything” in terms of action-potential from the first moment you lay eyes on it. In fact, the atomic actions you’re given in GIRP are even more amazing for their simplicity. There’s pretty much “grab (at) a specific hold” and “flex”. Where in Skate 3 there’s still a high degree of canned action (an ollie or a kickflip or a 360 flip are all atomic units), in GIRP you essentially have to construct the necessary actions out of your little atoms – specifically, you have to work on the timing and combination of elements in order to actually perform the activity of climbing.

In a lot of ways, this construction of action from smaller parts feels like it makes the game easier to learn, rather than harder, at least to my mind. There’s something much simpler to understand about the “primitives” of GIRP compared to other games, “grab” and “flex” don’t crowd your mind out in the way that “grind-ollie-flip-grab-slide-tweak-manual-nollie-spin-etc” can in Skate 3. Despite this, GIRP feels just as expressive as Skate 3. When you create a fluid climbing motion, or a spinning grab, or a daring leaps, it’s just as beautiful as a great sequence of tricks on your skateboard. Further, it’s more fundamentally created by you.

This question of the combination of atomic actions in games into something expressive is a pretty fundamental one, and it’s interesting seeing someone like Foddy tackling it from one of the most extreme perspectives. It seems like it’s something that can only be explored successfully through the creation of games that experiment with the potential dimensions here, and I’m very glad someone’s engaged in that process.

(Aside: I’m also deeply thankful for a very special feature of GIRP: I don’t have to shoot anyone in the face. Not a single person! Sometimes I might like to shoot that seagull in the face, I suppose, but no, not even that. I’m going through a real anti-shooting patch at the moment and, coming out of the dreamy haze of killing, I’m more than a little horrified by the uniformity of face-shooting as a central game mechanic and form of expression. It’s got to the point where I’m distinctively peeved when Deadly Premonition transitions from quirky exploration with lame puzzles to endless zombie head-shooting, almost enough to stop playing altogether – though I’ll forge on.)

Now I just need to beat the Copenhagen Game Collective’s GIRP score

13 April 2011
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