Human Time versus Calculator Time

Game & Watch Donkey Kong

In my continuing regression through (game) time, I’ve started playing emulated versions of the old Game & Watch games by Nintendo, and brilliantly reproduced on Pica Pic. There’s so much to like about the level of design creativity around what were, to some extent, the same kinds of hardware used by calculators. The nice combinations of permanents rendered elements along side the changeable parts. The ‘animation’ achieved by just switching on and off different parts of the screen. Really nice stuff. (Funny, too, how the graphics here are kind of ‘better’ than, for example, the NES Donkey Kong, say. More detailed – I mean, look at that flaming barrel!)

One small observation which I’ve particularly enjoyed is the nature of time in these games. Generally speaking the computer’s side of gameplay advances on a kind of clock, beeping each time the various bits of the game (like the barrels in Donkey Kong) move. So there’s a very rigid structure of time for the computer. But then on the player side you don’t have the same restriction – the little “Jumpman” in the Game & Watch Donkey Kong can move more or less as many spaces as he wants (at least in the Pica Pic rendering). So while a barrel moves one space you can rush through four or five or more (barrel locations permitting).

The idea of having separate structures of time for the simulation of the world and the simulation of the player is really refreshing and seems to lead to alternate kinds of challenges and experiences. Something to think about.

15 January 2016
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