Several thousand years ago, the Greeks held parties where people were invited to get drunk, listen to music and engage in intellectual discussion. They called them symposiums. The term has also come to mean a collection of writing on the same subject, and also a conference on a certain topic. I hope that this symposium will be closer to the friendly conviviality of the former than modern academic events bearing the name!
In order to participate, you must be familiar with the notion of a play specification, which you will find described here.
The Subject: Shooters
In order to keep this discussion focussed, I am proposing that we constrain our discussions to one particular region of the domain of games. Because of their antiquity and ubiquity, the area I am suggesting we focus upon are those games in which two of the key verbs are move and shoot (and possibly aim as well).
This should include any number of first person shooter games, run-and-gun third person shooters of all kinds, not to mention classic style shoot-em-ups going all the way back to Space Invaders (1978) and Nutting’s Computer Space (1971).
What to do
The purpose of this symposium is to explore play specifications. In particular, because this is a subjective notation, it may be interesting to see any differences in how people choose to notate certain games – but it might transpire that the common areas will be more interesting; we just don’t know yet.
To create a play specification, simply think about all the activities you pursue in any given game and then identify what you do (the verbs) and what you do it to or with (the nouns). Then, list them. Don’t worry about adjectives unless you want to; the nouns and verbs are the important component.
It shouldn't take more than 5-10 minutes to write out a play spec. If it takes longer, you are either overthinking or dealing with a particularly tricky game!
Who can take part?
Anyone! There are two ways to participate:
- Via Blog: simply post your contribution to your own blog, then trackback and/or post a comment here to let us know.
- Via Comments: or, if you don’t have a blog, you can just post a play specification in the comments here.
Either way, I’ll bounce them up to the top level here by some means.
When It Ends
To set a framework for this symposium, I will call it complete when we have a dozen participants, or when I give up hope that we will get the full twelve. I encourage each participant to submit as many or as few play specifications as they wish, and not worry about duplication of specific titles.
To get the ball rolling, here is my play specification for the classic arcade shooter Nemesis/Gradius:
Nemesis/Gradius (Konami, 1985)
Specified by Chris
Dodge (enemy shots)
Choose (i.e. select when to power up; Button 3)
Shoot (shots, two-way shots, laser; Button 1/missile; Button 2)
Warp Rattler/Vic Viper (avatar)
Foe (produces a Power Crystal if you destroy a complete set)
Boss (Nemesis, “Bio-nemesis”, Brain)
Power Meter (the sequence of power ups)
Notes: I decided to put the controls into this play spec, but they should be considered an entirely optional component! I decided to include the verb 'dodge' in this spec, because I feel it's a central part of the play of this game. We could include 'dodge' in 'move', of course, but then something of the play might be lost.
I hope you'll be tempted to experiment with play specifications, and I look forward to reading how various games appear when seen through an assortment of different viewpoints. Thanks in advance for supporting this symposium!