Execution

By: Derek Yu

On: May 19th, 2008

Execution

Execution is a short, experimental game from Jesse Venbrux about the consequences of one’s actions. I’ll leave the discourse for the comments (don’t read them if you don’t want to be spoiled).

(Source: Jared, via Puppy Buckets)







  • Willum

    Love it or hate it, it sure has started debate! I’ve seen this on a few threads now and they all have 50 – 60 comments…

    As for the game itself, it’s in interesting idea. It would be cool to see the idea of ever lasting concequences in a larger game world though.

  • wormguy

    I think the intention here is unclear. Is this supposed to be a rejection of stereotypical video game mechanics or is it a moral commentary?

    The phrase “Your consequences have actions” could be either one. In video games, all too often we can just load up a save file and start over from an earlier point. But in real life, I am quite aware that my consequences have actions. I’m not a small child or a puppy that needs to be told that.

    Furthermore, it all seems a bit arbitrary. Alright, the guy is dead. Apparently I lost. Big deal, right? I had no emotional attachment to the character. I don’t care that I lost the game. So what’s the point? I don’t feel like lightly slapping me on the hand for doing something I am prodded into doing through visual cues is a good way of going about this sort of thing.

    And even if you win, and you go back, you are presented with the same choice. What’s the point? You don’t have any choices other than to kill the prisoner or walk away and leave everything the way it was. That doesn’t really seem like a choice to me.

  • nullerator

    “If I wanted to play a game that evoked an emotional response, I’d play “Passage” again. But I don’t need to, because I get enough emotional response out of actually living.”

    I’ll remember to use this next time someone wants to watch a movie like Schindler’s List with me. ‘Screw that’, I’ll say, ‘If I want to feel emotions I’ll just think about my dead grandmother’.

  • http://www.venbrux.com Jesse

    “If you will, drop that entire morality concept and just see it as an interesting rejection of established game mechanics.”

    I like that idea. Honestly I never wanted to teach any moral lesson. I don’t feel the need to.

    Basically, I got the idea for a gameplay concept I hadn’t seen before and wanted to try it out. It turned into something rather artsy, even though that wasn’t really my point. Now there’s lots of debate and everyone has his/her own interpretation, which I like.

    The intentions are very unclear, but actually, isn’t that the case in many art-forms? People can also have different interpretations of paintings.
    (that just came off the top of my head, but as I said, I never intended this to be an “art game”).

  • Anarkex

    @ muku: “Really, what tells us to shoot the person is our video game conditioning.”

    I don’t believe it’s our video game conditioning that tells us to shoot the person, I think it’s our video game conditioning that makes us inclined to use the only path given in-game. When I load up a video game, I accept that the game is a separate world from reality. The automatic assumption is that unless stated otherwise, all possible paths and answers take place in the game. There are situations nowadays that stray from that, for instance Zelda: Phantom Hourglass’ “imprinting” puzzle the answer of which was to close your DS and open it again. Things like this go back at least to Startropics on the NES, where the player had to find a secret code in the game by using a note packaged with the game in real life. The difference is that in those puzzles there are no other paths or triggers, so at the very least the player never loses the opportunity to figure it out. This is what Karoshi 2 did, and it gave a pretty awesome feeling of the game screwing with your head. In the majority of cases solving these puzzles, a person will resort to real-world solutions only after exhausting every possible in-game solution. That’s really the only reason why I take Execution as kind of a low blow. As much as the creator states often that it was just an experiment, it’s hard to deny the game feels pretty hollow, even for that.

    sorry for the wall of text, just thinking out loud here.

  • wormguy

    OK, time to get philosophical, and I’m sorry if I sound a bit harsh. My set-up will take a while, so bear with me.

    This game obviously was not meant to and therefore cannot be judged on the basis of fun gameplay mechanics. If you designed this to be fun you must spend a lot of time watching paint dry or grass grow. It was certainly meant to be something people see as a clever idea, an “AH-HA I see what you did there” sort of thing, and whether you intended it to be an “art game” or not that is how it turned out.

    Obviously not all things we create are art. If I plunk some notes on a piano and record it, passing it off as a song, I doubt it would be considered art. If I throw a bucket of paint on a canvas, I doubt it would be considered art (unless I’m Jackson Pollock, in which case people will worship me as though I were a god).

    Therefore, I think we can agree that the essence of art lies in meaning and nothing else. Obviously this creates a problem: Meaning to who? Meaning to the artist or the person experiencing the art?

    My answer: Who cares? If art has meaning it should be identifiable, even if subtly.

    If someone’s art has such a weak point or theme that everyone takes something different from it, why did the author even bother to create it? They have essentially said nothing.

    And I feel that that is the problem I have with this game. You said yourself that the intentions are unclear; and with no intention it is hard to find meaning. There are a couple of interpretations here, but people have even been arguing with the validity of these interpretations within the context of the game. So, as an art game, this doesn’t really do it for me.

    Sorry if that sounds harsh, please don’t think I’m hating on you…I LOVE Frozzd and Karoshi! Keep making games! The fact that this one provoked such a huge response from me probably means you’re on to SOMETHING at the very least.

  • Helm

    I pressed esc the first time I played the game, however I didn’t feel I ‘won’ anything.

    Moral imperative is meaningless when described in game terms. There is no winning or losing involved in moral choices. What there is is consequence. The consequence is categorized as a person desires, there is no meaningful outside system that can evaluate it.

    Furthermore, Jesse, what I thought your concept was attempting, would work much better if the scheduled execution was presented in detail, the person presented in detail – as many have said – the results of your actions were illustrated for a few moments of program-time at least and no direct value judgment by you, the programmer were thrown to our faces.

    All that being said, just by reading the comments you should be able to tell that there is much potency in this sort of use of interactive media.

  • Ben

    I won. The game can’t tell me if I lost. I excelled at the action of its namesake.

    Now, if anyone can give me an example where the objective of the game is the OPPOSITE of the title (besides this one), I’d like to hear what’s out there.

    Anyway, I know I’m playing a computer “game.” Don’t go all Fox News on me and call me a psychopath for shooting a gray-headed cartoon thing.

  • Moose

    > You miss the point. Every GM game
    > that uses a highscore table will
    > leave that kind of information on
    > your PC, and I haven’t seen one that
    > gives you the option to wipe that
    > data.

    The post above said that “deleting the .EXE did not work”. To me, that means that when he tried to delete the .EXE, it did not work, and the .EXE file remained on the disk. That is certainly spyware like behaviour.

  • muku

    > In the majority of cases solving these puzzles, a person will resort to real-world solutions only after exhausting every possible in-game solution. That’s really the only reason why I take Execution as kind of a low blow.

    But the introduction to the game made it abundantly clear that this was not a “normal” game about honing your aiming skills. To me, it felt completely clear that shooting the man would be “wrong” in terms of the game, and the bit about “consequence” obviously was a warning that the approach “hm, let’s try shooting him and see what happens” wouldn’t be a good idea either. (Besides, call me queasy, but shooting a helpless man, even if it’s just a video game character, felt a bit revolting to me. You could say the game did elicit some emotional response from me.)

    So, after shooting at some other stuff (most notably the dust ball), I actually *did* feel that all “in-game” options as you call them were exhausted, so I started to think a bit more unconventionally.

    Besides, who says hitting Escape can’t be an in-game option. Sure, usually it’s used to quit a game, but for instance you might consider this game having a key map like: “LMB, fire gun; Esc, drop gun”. Basically, Esc is just another key, although of course here our conditioning comes back into play.

  • muku

    > The post above said that “deleting the .EXE did not work”. To me, that means that when he tried to delete the .EXE, it did not work, and the .EXE file remained on the disk. That is certainly spyware like behaviour.

    Resetting the game state by deleting the .exe doesn’t work. Don’t worry, deleting the game itself works without problems, I did it myself ;)

  • http://www.g4g.it FireSword

    At Deepsleeper: Wrong, the executioner thinks he is right beacouse he is psyco, i mean just beacouse u name shit in another way shit remains shit. If you don t kill for self defence, it s criminal, no matter how much money they give you.

    At Anonybomb:damn rite.

    Is there another way other then open gm and reset the highscore?

  • Helm

    Though the art style seems cartoony, this doesn’t seem very much like a video-game, since it stands very still, waiting for the single action rom the player. Video games don’t often do that, and I think that’s where I got clued in when I ran the game that I shouldn’t put on my twitchshooting hat.

    If you ran the program and immediately shot the guy, that’s a very interesting phenomenon.

  • Anonybomb

    When I played it, I thought, Well, shooting this guy will give me the bad ending, cause it’s totally predictable like that. So I tried to look for some method to be a true american non-lethal hero, but I said fuck it, this is boring, and killed the guy.

    When I opened it again and saw he was dead, I knew right then I just needed to close the game beforehand.

    Still doesn’t change the fact that this is a pretty horrible “game”. Don’t understand why it’s even up here.

  • namuol

    how could this have generated so much discourse?

    i won before i even downloaded it. maybe i “play” too many games like this.

  • Prio

    I am not one to care about orders from a game, and didn’t really care much if I won or lost. (Won what? No new car? No beach vacation?) I shot him because I had a gun, he was there, and, I suppose, I wanted to witness the result.
    So I came back, to try again, and when I discovered that you cannot try it over again — that that, as they say, was that — it was jarring. It got me thinking about other ways we (or I) can end up making irrevocable decisions, closing off this possibility or that possibility forever, without really thinking about it or realizing it. In this case it happens by action, but in real life inaction can do the same thing.
    So I liked it. So there. Nyeah. It ain’t The Cherry Orchard by a long shot, but it does get your hands dirty.

  • UnexplainedDemonArm

    Beat my highscore – I didn’t download it.

  • Kairos

    Uh, who is KKairos? The name is too similar for comfort.

  • Spore

    I am amazed I won on my first try. What a spin on the usual objective in videogames.

  • notext

    This is neat! The only thing I’m not sure about is that not killing the guy doesn’t have a consequence, beyond his still being tied to a pole if you come back. Of course, this is probably just to tempt the player’s morbid curiosity. And it’s a lot easier to take life than to give it back.

    Interesting that people are assuming the guy tied to a pole is tied to a pole because he’s done something “wrong”. If a guy is tied to a pole at night with nobody around and a gun pointed at his head, my first thought is not that the guy is being justly punished for crimes against his fellow man.

  • lolz

    This game just didn’t appeal to me. I opened it and was like “wow, what the hell is this, this blows” and exited and I won. I wish all games I didn’t really care to play would just say I won for quitting. It sure would make things a lot easier.

  • Spore

    @lolz
    If your first though was “what the hell is this?” without even doing anything upon entering it then you can’t really judge a game.

  • Darren

    @lolz Hahaha! Yeah, that’d be great. It’d certainly save a lot of time.

  • Radix

    I figured the gimmick just from Derek’s description, but I shot him anyway. Players naturally try to figure out what to do when they first open a game, and in this game there’s only one thing you *can* do. You shoot him, and that’s it, you’ve gotten the game to do everything it’s going to do. Once you’ve done that you’ve WON, regardless of what the game over text says.

  • lolz

    Then I GUESS I SHOULD HAVE SHOT THE GUY AND LOST THEN! LOLOL!

  • lolz

    I mean, there really isn’t much to judge. Maybe if there was more to the game then yeah, but this is a game you win by losing interest and quitting. Good thing the game wasn’t that interesting to me in the first place, I already won.

  • moon_rabbits

    That was neat.

  • Radix

    Not playing is not winning. If that were the case then the ultimate victory would be not downloading.

    Actually yeah, in this case.

  • shilrobot

    I think the game is actually about finding the registry key.

  • Lailoken

    I think the fact that there are so many varied opinions makes this successful as art. The purpose of art is not necessarily to beat you over the head with an opinion.

    To those who are talking about the morality issues. You don’t have to be a psychopath to shoot someone. There are a lot more people out there shooting each other than there are psychopaths.

    I remember learning in PSYCH about an experiment where the researches manages to convince people to electrocute this guy (who is pretending to get shocked) more and more severely because the researcher tells him it’s ok, to the point where he is pleading for help and beating on the walls.

    Also anybody who is interested in evidence of seemingly moral people behaving amorally check out: http://www.prisonexp.org/

  • Lailoken

    oops forgot I couldnt post links.

    I think the fact that there are so many varied opinions makes this successful as art. The purpose of art is not necessarily to beat you over the head with an opinion.

    To those who are talking about the morality issues. You don’t have to be a psychopath to shoot someone. There are a lot more people out there shooting each other than there are psychopaths.

    I remember learning in PSYCH about an experiment where the researches manages to convince people to electrocute this guy (who is pretending to get shocked) more and more severely because the researcher tells him it’s ok, to the point where he is pleading for help and beating on the walls.

    Also anybody who is interested in evidence of seemingly moral people behaving amorally check out: w w w . prisonexp . org
    This comment has been flagged for moderator approval. It won’t appear on this blog until the author approves it.

  • K-Mi

    I liked the game and the message. The only problem for me, and I really think it’s a big issue, is the fact that to win you have to press “Escape”… As if running away from this kind of situation was the right option. I’m not sure this is the right way to solve problems.

    The author would have to find a way to involve the player in helping this guy.

    Escape is never the good option in life.

    Ps: Sorry for my terrible english.

  • lambda(x)

    I won the first time because it was obvious to me that shooting the guy was the fail condition.

    After winning, I ran the program again. I shot that fool in the face and was rewarded with a much nicer animation than winning.

    FUCK WINNING THIS GAME. LOSING IS WAY MORE AWESOME. Thanks Execution for learning me!