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POST I.T. SHOOTER ANALYSIS
July 20, 2009, 7:43 pm
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Post I.T. Shooter is game that defies traditional evaluation. Ostensibly a very low resolution shoot-em-up with largely unremarkable gameplay; looked at with the cold, scientific eye of the IGN reviewer, it doesn’t add up to much.

Yet Post I.T. Shooter transcends its outward limitations to become something else, something beyond its humble origins, something approaching, dare I say it… art?

The game was crafted by Finnish designer Petri Purho, the man behind Crayon Physics Delux. Part of the Experimental Gameplay Project – where independent designers are charged with creating a game on their own in a mere 7 days – Post I.T. is a response to the brief “Unexperimental Shooter.”

And in many ways, it’s just that, a conventional, albeit massively basic shooter. One at a time, enemies enter from the right of the screen and you must shoot them while avoiding their bullets. That’s it. Purho provides an amusing one sentence context, something about your girlfriend being killed by space invaders, but it’s an arbitrary addition. We destroy what enters from the right of the screen because that’s we’ve done since we first started bashing buttons.

Rather more unique is the enemy design. Purho was inspired by Jared Tarbell’s ‘Invader Fractal’ algorithm for the random generation of enemies. Without getting bogged down in the maths of it all, the adoption of this technique allows the production of thousands upon thousands of unique, randomly generated enemy designs. Play Post I.T. Shooter for as long as you want, it’s unlikely you find the shapes repeating themselves.

But randomly generated enemies and the most basic of shooter designs are certainly not what make this game remarkable. It is, of course, the visuals. Post I.T. Shooter is made entirely of different colored post-it notes animated in a stop-motion fashion. It’s more than just a quirky aesthetic. It may seem overly grand for such an unassuming game, but the use of low-fi organic materials in videogames engages with the relationship between nature and technology in a manner as-yet unexplored by the medium.

Videogames and the notion of technological spectacle have long gone hand in hand. Indeed it is arguable that for large sections of the videogame industry this is the primary concern. Commercial videogames have always been a race to provide ever-increasing visual fidelity. Generation after generation of platforms arrive not with the promise of improved gameplay, but of improved graphical grunt.

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Post I.T. Shooter throws off this baggage by essentially operating in a game space of 32 x 34 pixels. In this way the desperate need for improved graphical fidelity is willfully subverted. Even at the dawn of videogame design, such a low resolution was deemed unacceptable.

Independently produced games created in 7 days are not famed for their high-res visuals, of course. But by creating these ‘pixels’ from what are essentially square pieces of paper, Purho deconstructs the existing binaries of digital/analogue and nature/technology to create a staggeringly unique game. Videogames uphold those binaries more strongly than any other medium. Purho destroys them like so many Invaders.

By making a fully-functioning videogame that enters into this dialogue, by making a game that forgoes gameplay and narrative as its central concerns, Purho has created something something greater than its parts; a side-scrolling shooter best understood through the use of deconstructionism. Is this the world’s first poststructuralist videogame?

It’s in this way Post I.T. Shooter is proof (if any further proof is needed) that the traditional paradigm of videogame analysis is utterly ineffective. Treating games like household appliances, by breaking the ‘product’ down into constituent parts to be rated out of 10 or 100, simply does not work in this case. The graphics (aside from the quirkiness of their execution), gameplay, controls, presentation and sound are crude and retrogressive, the soundtrack divorced from the on-screen action. Analysed in this framework, Post I.T. Shooter is a bad game. But it is far from worthless.

Post I.T Shooter is a unique, thought-provoking and utterly beautiful creation, one that simultaneously manages to engage with concerns far beyond the average videogame’s scope, while also shining a light on the inadequacies of the way they are discussed. No small feat for a 7 day turnaround. I wonder what Purho could cook up if he had a month?

You can download Post I.T. Shooter for free, over at the developer’s blog, Kloonigames.

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5 Comments so far
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Love the post! I agree, this is like a post-modern video game. And you forgot to mention the great music! 🙂
alexander@musegames.com

Comment by Alex

Cheers Alex,

I did wonder about getting stuck further into the post-modern thing, but I worried about dissapearing up my own arse with too much theory stuff.

Yeah, the music is great. A really nice find.

Cheers for the comment!

Comment by bradlinho

Well, this is a surprisingly deep analysis. I really wouldn’t have thought of this game to be making such a bold statement. You make some very interesting points about the direction of the video game industry as well.

I have always been enthralled by pixellated art. Look at the work done by Cactus for example, or Pixel’s “Cave Story”. It seems like graphics are always at the forefront of today’s era of game design, with innovative gameplay mechanics, if implemented at all, thrown in as an afterthought.

I work at EB Games, so I see what you’re talking about every day. Nobody wants to test out something new unless it has “Good Graphics.” It pains me to sell Terminator Salvation (PS3) or the Transformers game (PS3, 360) when we have artistically unique games like Mad World and Mirror’s Edge idling on our shelves.

Good post, you got my brain cogs grinding.

Comment by Ryan MZ

Cheers Ryan.

I previewed Terminator Salvation earlier in the year and went very easy on it.

It’s a guilt I carry with me every day.

😀

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