Sarah Pavis

Gamificationexpialidocious

There’s mainstream videogames and then there’s indie videogames and then there’s experimental videogames. It’s always neat to hear what might be surfacing from the deep end of the pool. One game that’s shooting for a 2013 release date is a game that’s as much about programming as it about its cyberpunk spy plot.

“One of the ulterior motives of the game is to get people interested in learning very basic programming fundamentals,” Blendo Games’ Brendon Chung says of his upcoming title Quadrilateral Cowboy. Don’t be scared, though: this isn’t some modern take on Mario Teaches Typing. It’s a cyberpunk adventure where you take on the role of a hacker for hire, with companies utilizing your expertise to break through security systems and sneak into buildings — but in order to do so you’ll need to learn to code. 

"You have to actually learn the syntax of this miniature operating system — somewhat along the lines of DOS or Linux," says Chung. "But it’s pretty easy to pick up and there’s a pretty low learning curve." You may need to open a door or shut off a security camera, or program a small robot to move through the level. And as the game progresses you’ll even learn how to string actions together — for instance, a camera might need to be turned off for a certain period of time, and you can link that action up to a door opening on the other side of the room, letting you get through it without being detected. 

It may sound like a daunting premise to those who don’t know how to code, but Chung says that he was surprised by how easily non-programmers were able to pick the game up during a recent showing at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. He’s hoping that Quadrilateral Cowboy will help those players become more tech literate. “I think that as the world gets more tech oriented and as people get more tech savvy, having that knowledge kind of gives you a bit of an edge,” says Chung. “I’m pretty excited to see people play it and learn this stuff. The game is fun, but at the same time you’re getting something out of it, and that’s something that I try to strive for.”

Gamification gets a bad rap but I think a game that tricks you into liking something or learning something that you otherwise wouldn’t have isn’t a bad thing. Expecially if it’s fun & executed well. 

One of my favoriate games in recent memory is Telltale’s Walking Dead game which I’m convinced exists solely to trick nerds into have genuine emotions about moral dilemas. It’s also really fun! But it’s a game that fundamentally tears at your heartstrings. 

The further games get away from stuff like Farmville, the better IMO. 

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