I just found out that a “game search engine” got about $8 million in venture capital money. The search engine, Wazap, “provides news articles, and tips and tricks about how to play games — for example, a video clip demonstrating how a gamer is able to slay a particular dragon.”

On one level, I’m happy to see specialized search engines developing (a point I’ll be developing at a conference on media reform this Friday). The big names need some robust competitors. On the other hand, given my inexperience in this world, Julian Stallabrass’s take feels about right now:

For unsympathetic or bemused onlookers, computer gaming is collapsed into two worrying but possibly contradictory characterizations: of mindless addiction to an alien and impoverished experience, and also the feeling of utter exclusion , that they could not possibly begin to understand or play the game.

From Gargantua: Manufactured Mass Culture, 99.

I mean, isn’t the point to figure out for yourself how to kill the dragon? If you’re going to use a search engine, why not just get a cheat cartridge, or hire people to do it? Oh, wait, that’s already being done.

2 Thoughts to “Wazzup? Wazap!”

  1. The point is sometimes to learn how to kill the dragon for yourself. The point is also sometimes to get past the dragon so that you can learn how to kill the gargoyle for yourself (that encounter being more fun). The point is also sometimes to watch the plot unfold, to which the dragon is an obstacle. Motivations for playing games are extremely complex, and one shouldn’t assume that any given game is meant to be played in only one way.

  2. Someone who plays a puzzle game, but looks up solutions to all of the puzzles, strikes me as pretty bizarre as well. But I can tell you that the fun of a game can erode pretty quickly if you beat your head against the wall of a particular challenge for an hour (or more) straight without any sign of progress; sometimes you’ve simply missed something, or the solution was a bit too obscure. Looking up the solution can help you move on, as a sort of last resort — in the same way that people pay 99 cents for the answers to up to 3 clues in the NY Times crossword.

    As for Stallabrass’s take, I would disagree strongly with the first part–that games are “mindless” or “impoverished”–for reasons I’ve explored elsewhere. But the second bit is a real problem. The more realistic games get, which seems to be the trend, the more of a learning curve there is to become familiar with each one — i.e., before you can even start having fun. This is particularly true for strategy games or military sims where the keyboard controls are less important than knowing what each unit does. The problem is even worse as more games match you against online, human opponents — primarily college kids and teenagers who have nothing better to do than spend 24/7 learning the game. Casual gamers cannot hope to perform any better than abysmally bad against such competition, which (see above re: beating head against the wall) spoils the fun pretty quickly.

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