Each week at the Game Center, Professor Bennett Foddy, Technical Coordinator Brendan Byrne, and a group of Game Design MFA’s curate games for our arcade cabinets. By playing these games on actual cabinets, using traditional arcade controls, we can better understand the design history of arcade games.
Every week, the curators display a new collection of commercial arcade games alongside new student work. The games might be similar in theme or genre, or differ in mechanics and controls, but taken together, they share a common thread that offers some insight into game design.
The arcade cabinets also promote those student-made games, both within the school community and to the public. Because anyone can play and enjoy these games during our many free, public events, these arcade cabinets become a social space where people can compete for high scores and talk game design.
As Professor Foddy states, ultimately the cabinets are used to, “teach students about the rich history of arcade games, and [to demonstrate] many dimensions of game design.”
This week’s games, available to play until November 14, are:
The Joystick Cabinet
Dead Angle (1988) is a joystick-controlled shooting gallery game by Seibu Kaihatsu, the Japanese company that is best known for the influential shoot-em-up Raiden. it brings something of Punch Out to the genre, representing the player as an outline silhouette, so their body can be a kind of damage meter, showing bulletholes as the enemies shoot at you. The game is strangely cinematic for a shooting gallery game, telling a vague organized-crime story set in Italy, but maybe most interesting thing about it is that it pioneers the recoil mechanics that later became so popular in Counter-Strike: your aiming reticle jumps up slightly with every shot you take, so you constantly have to fight to keep it at the right height.
The Trackball Cabinet
Cabal (Taito, 1988) is probably the first cover shooter! Using the trackball, you shoot enemies until the ‘enemy’ gauge is exhausted. The unusual thing about Cabal is that the player’s movement and aiming are both mapped to the trackball, which means you can choose to aim, or to dodge, but not both at the same time. The trackball thus becomes a mixed-mode controller, switching between absolute control over the pixel positioning of the crosshair to relative control over the movement of the player avatar. You can play 2-player co-op, which I recommend. Oh, and the dodge mechanics aren’t obvious — stop shooting and give the trackball a sharp diagonal push to make the guy do an invincible, Dark Souls-style dive roll.
The Feminine Mystique Cabinet
Student curator Alexander King writes:
This week we have a fascinating Commodore 64 game, 1984’s Dream House by Joyce Hakansson. Featuring advanced editing tools for the time, Dream House lets the player decorate and furnish the house of their dreams. Prefiguring the home-decorating gameplay of The Sims or Animal Crossing, Dream House is one of the earliest digital dollhouses. Joyce Hakansson is a pioneer in education technology, starting many of the first library computer labs and was responsible for introducing computers to the Children’s Television Workshop (the makers of Sesame Street). Her games company, where she served as Creative Director, produced games designed to help children see the magic of computers. “It’s like theater,” she said in an interview, “The computer is a little world you can enter.”
Finally we have Rainbow Ricochet by MFA student Burgess Voshell (BV_) on the Winnitron, a two-player arena shooter with bouncing lasers. Burgess writes: “Shoot and avoid deadly rays of reflecting and refracting light in Rainbow Ricochet! You must move to propagate your shot. Use cover and confine your enemy between the narrow streaks of lethal ROYGBIV. Just don’t shoot yourself; it would be so embarrassing.”