Indie Game Spotlight – Norwegian Wood

Over at the Creative Fluff design blog I’ve started a new, hopefully weekly feature called, in case you couldn’t guess, is Indie Game Spotlight. I’ve decided to highlight a different indie game each week. These games don’t have the huge marketing push of the AAA titles so they can use any and all attention they can get. These aren’t reviews or critiques, just bringing attention to a title I think deserves some attention.

A note to the future of the series. I’ve done cross concept posts between this site and Creative Fluff. I hope to make as many of the Spotlights such posts. Highlight them there and then do a critique of it here.

For the first Indie Game Spotlight I decided to use No More Fun’s Norwegian Wood. Game helped come into existence thanks to the middle circle’s own Quixotic Engineer.

As for Norwegian Wood, there’s not a lot I can say about the game itself. It has solid and challenging gameplay and the use of the song is inspired. It only uses one song, so I can’t really call it a unique new way to experience music like Guitar Hero and Rock Band were. I did notice something every interesting emerge in the community after it was released. Several people that are on twitter got a little obsessive of the game. They played the thing relentlessly trying to get the high score (which has since doubled in the last week). Even with only one song, it wasn’t the music that kept people coming over and over to the game, as good as it is. Nor was the gameplay in itself addictive to the point that it was the main draw. It was the leaderboard. Even after all these years and innovations it is still a huge motivation to play. To systematically and numerically prove that you are better than everyone else. Except now with the internet it is not longer about being the best in the arcade, it really is about being the best in the world. Though my score has since fallen off the top 30, I see many familiar faces. There are many repeats on it. Nearly all the scores there are new since I last checked about a week ago. People are still playing the game. It only lasts a little over two minutes, but since no one has mastered it the scores will continue to accumulate.

I wonder if that would have been true had they chosen a longer song. Does the briefness of the experience allow the player to be more willing to try again? People on twitter noted the fact of it being limited to a single song alters there experience. Ben Abraham noted how there would have to be multiple learderboards had there been multiple songs and even a second leaderboard would have ruined some of the competitive nature. Each arcade cabinet had only one leaderboard, because there was only one game and that what everyone was playing. Aristotle talked about unity of time and unity of place for the medium of theater. I wonder if, for critical purposes, games should add their own: unity of rules. Not just that everyone has to play by the same rules in an argument of fairness, but within the game structures themselves there should be a unity of rules, as a manner in which to fight against the complexity curve that games have fallen into.

Then again that is all well and good to talk about simplicity when it concerns a simple game about avoiding notes when it comes to song choice, but a very different one when it comes to epic RPGs or tactical shooters. Audiosurf also proved that multiple scoreboards can exist for many different modes and songs. But then the best Audiosurf stories have been about very obscure tracks being played by only two people trying to one up each other. It’s the same there. Everyone is trying to one up each other on a single track. It isn’t all about competition, but the close knit community that get formed in that competition. So in the end I’d have to say, yes the game has one song and is better for it.

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