Subversive Play

Take two laptops, two keyboards, two mice, and at least one person who’s never played Portal, and you’ll have all the equipment I had for my misplayed game.

By simply plugging the keyboard and mouse into the other person’s computer, you’re now in control of what the other play sees, unable to see what actions you yourself are performing. While at the inception of my idea, I believed this would be a lot of fun, it turned out to be very frustrating and turn into instructional step-by-step exchanges in commands. It didn’t help that MacKenzie hadn’t played the game before, but the biggest frustration was probably the variation in our mouse sensitivities. Without knowing how sensitive our mice were, I over compensated to move less since he moved a lot and vice versa for him. Without an interface for feedback, one player is forced to offer feedback to the other, and feedback exchange isn’t the most exciting gameplay.

Playing the game, you feel blind and hopeless. You don’t know what you’re doing most of the time, and can only figure things out by talking or looking at each other in game. The game felt particularly anti-social as well, as the only thing you could talk about was how to correct what the other play was doing wrong, which isn’t fun for either player.

As a gameplay mechanic, I’d say this was an unfun failure; as an experiment, a success. While it didn’t provide either of us with fun, it did show me the importance of a seamless feedback loop, and how videogames can ensure players enjoy the bounds and limits of their systems without having to enforce them.