Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Global Gaming Spotlight: Calabouço Tétrico (Brazil)

With each post in this mini-feature, I highlight a game from a different country around the world. Keep in mind these aren't necessarily the best or most popular games from each nation, but simply a fitting representative.

Calabouço Tétrico - Loodo, 2008 (play it here)

After traversing the familiar gaming grounds of the United States, Japan, and Europe, the Global Gaming Spotlight moves south of the Equator. This is really the purpose of my feature--highlighting games made in countries you wouldn't expect so we can expand the horizons of our medium.

Calabouço Tétrico (Portuguese for Tetric Dungeon) is an adaptation of Raph Koster's commentary on the "skin" of games, made by Brazilian designer Raphael Aleixo. Koster wrote about the disconnect between a game's skin and its mechanics, because often hardcore gamers see past the skin. When players see a hooker in Grand Theft Auto, they don't see a blow job; they see a power-up. Mechanics-wise, they're right, but the skin can have a deeper effect.

Aleixo illustrates this with Calabouço Tétrico. When it comes to gameplay, it's simply Tetris with no bells or whistles. But Aleixo changes the skin. Instead of abstract blocks, the player is dropping prisoners into a giant pit. The player-character is the executioner. The prisoners let out a ghastly scream as they're crunched lower into the pit whenever the player clears a line of "blocks." It's jarringly violent.

Is this really so different from Tetris? Aleixo's game tells us that despite the superficiality of a game's skin, it can change the entire tone and meaning. It's also an interesting role reversal where the gameplay stays the same, but the player moves from being the arbitrary protagonist of Tetris to the murderous antagonist of Calabouço Tétrico. When the player loses, the prisoners climb out of the pit and finally attack the executioner. Do we really want to "win" this game?

It's important to highlight video games being made outside the global hubs of North America, East Asia, and Western Europe. South America is only going to get bigger in the gaming landscape over the next decade.

The Global Gaming Spotlight map so far:

View Global Gaming Spotlight in a larger map

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