Tuesday, 15 May 2007

What Does a Six-Year-Old Think of as He Plays Videogames?

A year or so back, I was sat with my son as he played Simpsons' Hit and Run on the PS2. Whenever I'm watching him play a game, he likes to narrate. This has been an incredible series of windows into his head.
Having just begun lecturing in Games Design, I took the opportunity to transcribe his narrative. And here it is, as verbatim as I could manage.
If I appear unresponsive, it was because I was trying not to influence his decision-making process. For anyone who thinks 'computer games are bad,' check out all of these thought processes and calculations. Remember, my son was six when I captured these thoughts. It really is nothing short of astounding.
N.B. We're fast approaching the end of a gruelling project (Haze). Soon I'll have nice pix to post and will be at liberty to blog about some of the ins and outs of game development. This seems an appropriate post to introduce the new 'games' tag.

Start Level 5.
Levels begin open:
Accept missions (follow arrows to next available mission);
Explore (ignore arrows);
*Gain money (Primary sources are wasps, cola boxes, and Krusty cola machines);
*Search for bonus cards (Collect all seven to unlock the level bonus: a race level);
*Find and race in three race challenges. Win all three to unlock bonus car;
*Buy character clothing (sometimes required to undertake mission);
*Buy new cars (sometimes requires to undertake mission);
*Find level gags (jokes).

- - -

Look – Apu!

Oh no – don't forget about that really bad mission with Snake!

Look – there's a man here [car salesman]: shall I buy the cola truck or the police car, because when I buy one, I won't have enough for the other?

  • Police car.

I said I wouldn't have enough. All of the wasps though, don't forget! [defeating wasps rewards player with lots of coins]

There's everything to get though, don't forget!

- checks level progress -

I've got 2% already, look daddy.

Huh – I've just got one car and it says 2%. It's meant to be one!

Oh man!

Ah – wicked: I biffed the wasp when it had its bubble on!

A wasp! Oh no – no wasp.

A wasp!

Oh wicked! I have 350 coins and guess how much the cola truck is? 350!

I can go and buy the cola truck now. Do you think I should?

  • Ok.

Naughty wasp – it biffed me! Naughty naughty.[If player is hit by wasp, a number of coins are released and must be re-collected before they vanish]

Where's my car?

'I am a lean, mean, vindaloo machine!' [imitating Apu]

Do you think I should buy a car on this level? Cola truck or Car Built for Homer?

  • What do you reckon?

Car Built for Homer. Do you?

Ah – I'm, near the Car Built for Homer already.

Yeah, but if I buy the Car Built for Homer, I'll just have 75 coins left.

Ah, but I know where some stuff are actually.

Do you think I should buy Car Built for Homer because I'll just have 85 coins left?

  • It's up to you.


- checks level progress -

8%! There's just 6 jokes!

Why aren't you watching me play?

  • I am!

Oh man! I've got to biff the hover car - and it's really whizzy that one as well! And it's really tough!

I'm never going to do it – it's going to be really hard!

- restarts mission – [frustrated at losing the hover car]

Yay! I biffed him a bit daddy!

  • Oh yeah! A little bit.

I biffed him quite a lot now!

Oh, wait! You naughty, naughty man!

He is really, really naughty. Naughty, naughty.

Hey! Come back here!

He got biffed by himself.

He has to because I'm never going to catch him up.

Well, I will, but it's a problem.

He's flashing! [performance indicator – vehicle damage bar flashes when almost full]

Frinky Kinky's flashing – that's what he's called: Frinky Kinky! [mission title is Frinky Kinky]

Go on! Explode!

Oh, he's just really hard isn't he!

  • Yep.

I got him y'know. And the car's mended now by the spanner. [spanners mend player vehicles. When player's vehicle explodes, numerous coins are released and must be re-collected before they vanish. Repairing exploded cars also costs money]

Oh – nearly 'hit and run'. Oh, it is! [when player causes damage to environment, damage meter fills up. When damage meter is full, 'hit and run' mode is entered and player is pursued by police cars. If caught, player loses lots of coins – possibly the greatest penalty in the game]

Hit and run! Hit and run! Hit and run! Hit and run!

Oh – I got out of the car and he just got me. [entering a building removes 'hit and run' status]

Ah wicked! I've got Professor Frink's hover car now!

I'm going to get it. Shall I go and get it? [player can access vehicle menu by entering a phone box]

  • Yeah.

Let's see how good it is then! [vehicle menu displays stats: speed, acceleration, handling and toughness. Max value in each case is 5 (best)]

Look – I've got it! It's got 4 acceleration and 1 toughness. 3 handling. I'm going to get it.

That's how we can do the really hard missions now.

I'm going slow. Ah wicked! I can't even slow down.

Ahhh – how do you stop?

Way! Yes! Ex-ce-llent!

Ah – this is how we do Frink's mission – with this car.

  • Oh yes.

(Hums along to music.)

Got a wicked car! Yay!

Oh wicked!

  • Did you see that wasp then?

Yeah! Uh oh – it's looking at me. Now that looks scary!

Hey – my car – my beautiful car! My car – my beautiful car!

'Who put this here? It makes no sense.' [imitating Apu]

Every time I crash, I need to get the spanner straight away, because I've just got 1 for toughness, that's why.

I know how to get that wasp.

Ah ha!

Shall I go and buy some clothes?

  • Ok.

- enters shop and looks through available clothing -

I haven't enough. I haven't got enough for any. I've nearly got enough for that. How much more do I need? 61 I think.

  • Yes, that's right! Clever boy!

How did I know that?

If I get a wasp, I think I'll be able to buy it.

I can turn invisible now! [extra property of hover car]

Oh – nearly have enough now definitely.

Well, I found one wasp and I've got 343 [coins] now.

And that's another one.

Ah! That isn't fair, is it! Look! [wasp explodes into coins, but most coins are spawned out of player's reach and require the player to jump from train to collect them]

6 coins to get there!

Yep – I've got enough because I have 398 – nearly 400.

I need to go up again because there is a card and some more coins.

Actually, I need some of these clothes for a mission I think.

Ah man! Look at those coins.

Well, I got some. There's just 3 that I missed.

Actually, I've got enough for 2 clothes now I think.

Look – I have got enough for 2 clothes.

Which one do you think I should buy: this one or this one?

  • Do you need one for a mission?

Yes – this one I think.

Do you think I should do some missions now, because I've got a fast car?

It's up to you. I'm near one anyway.

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