Girp Redux

While on holiday in Paris I was specifically not really playing or thinking about games. Well, except for one game, GIRP, which I just can’t seem to leave alone. A couple of weeks back on I got competitive with the Copenhagen Game Collective for GIRP times, and that spurred me into being far more interested than I’ve ever been in actually trying to master a game.

As such, while I didn’t play a lot in Paris, I did squeeze in GIRP sessions here and there, when Rilla was brushing her teeth or the kettle was boiling or something. The upshot of which was that I pulled off a pretty respectable time of 5:36. It’s not even remotely the best time I’ve heard of – that seems to be roughly around the 4:30 mark or so, but it’s pretty fast and at the very least would seem to put me “up there” in the (probably dwindling) world of GIRPing.

Still, it amazes me that I committed not just to playing a game obsessively because it’s deeply fun and interesting (e.g. Skate 3) or somehow addictive (e.g. Baseball Stars), but because I wanted to beat it. I mean, I literally watched the best speed-run on YouTube for pointers on technique and paths up the cliff. I worked on my “jerk-to-grip” timing to get the best boost upward as I climbed. I got into the habit of releasing a grip if I hadn’t positioned myself on it perfectly for the following grip. These are all behaviours that are deeply foreign to me as a game player – normally I put the thing on easy and have the experience.

Most of which is just to say that GIRP is a superbly well-made game (and that I was stunned to find out just how little time Bennet Foddy spent making it). It also makes me wonder whether it’s particularly hard to come up with these games with very small, atomic actions that build skill in the player instead of in the system. Games like GIRP and QWOP come across as exceedingly simple to design, and maybe even to think of, but why aren’t there more of them? Part of it is obviously that a lot of gamers simply don’t want to play that sort of thing – it’s absurdly hard to begin with and only begins to make sense after a lot of perseverance, and even then you suck at it for a long, long time.

Still, this design model of atomic actions makes a lot of sense to me as a route for game to go in so as to allow more expressive play – improving at GIRP is like learning to dance. It’s something I’ve admired endlessly in the Skate series of games, but Foddy’s work suggests that a similar effect can be created much more cheaply. Something I shall have to give some thought to when I move on to another game project.

28 April 2011
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