Countergaming without Modding

This latest chapter from Galloway described countergaming and its prevalence in mods throughout the span of blockbuster game titles.  I would like to challenge the restriction of countergaming to just mods and offer the possibility of a form of countergaming being within certain mainstream games.  Now I do not mean that the user takes actions to simulate countergaming, I meant hat the user, by exploiting certain glitches and/or bugs in the game, transforms the space into a form of countergaming and an abstract expression to be explored.  My example is from 2004 the highly anticipated game, Halo 2.  At first glance this game just appears to be a normal shooter genre game that was very successful.  In my experience with the game as well as a sizeable part of the fanbase, there were many glitches that could be exploited to amusing effects such as the “super jump” shown here: Halo 2 Super Jump.  Using this and a variety of techniques, a player could work their way “outside of a level.”  This space being defined as going outside of the designed space by developers.  This led to interesting consequences.  When outside of the level, the game stopped acting as a game.  This is where it transformed into a counter game instead of a game.  Transparency was lost.  Instead of being in a continuous virtual world, you could plainly see how different parts of the game were constructed and used to create the illusion of a unified space.  Both gameplay and aestheticism were lost.  Controls often did not function as usual due to invisible walls, disappearing platforms and other events that cannot be explained.  The space was covered with artifacts, buildings and scenery all turned into 2 dimensional flats with no little to no detailing and gaping holes in them.  In this chaotic space, the machine was in almost complete control.  players could die or be shot out of the world in an instant.  This space contains many of the main descriptors of countergaming and thus I see no reason to not consider it a form of countergaming.  The only missing element, although substantial, is purpose.  This however is not essential to be considered countergaming.  In the following image the player is looking outside of a level shown by the gap in the building.  Once in that space, the countergaming begins.

Looking outside a level



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3 Responses to Countergaming without Modding

  1. Jason Ko says:

    Let me bring my viewpoint as a programmer into this discussion to try and explain why these errors occur. I will try to be as non-technical as possible. Still, feel free to ask for clarification, and I will do my best to explain further.

    The breaking of the illusion of a 3D space as walls and platforms disappear is a result of the nature of 3D graphics. Such visuals are created by mapping textures (2D graphics) to 3D planes. Thus, all 3D objects are rendered hollow, as if they were made in papercraft, instead of truly solid. Certain sides of objects become invisible because they are being viewed from a viewpoint from which these objects were never intended to be seen. Textures are only applied to one side of the plane, with the other side being completely transparent. One could create a game engine where textures are rendered on both sides, but why should processing power be wasted on something which should never be seen?

    Being shot out of the world is a result of a collision detection glitch. Once again, the core of this problem is that the player was never intended to enter these areas. However, entry into these areas is a result of unexpected circumstances. Collision of two objects in a game is done by advancing the state of the game from frame x to frame x+1, and then resolving problems with objects penetrating into other objects. If the penetration of one object into another is too severe, then the collision will not be resolved as expected. The actual resultant behavior depends on the implementation of the physics system, and to a lesser extent the rendering pipeline. If the player achieved an extraordinarily high velocity (or simply “unexpectedly high”), or other such effect, it would be thus possible to enter the countergaming space “outside” a level. The effect of being suddenly shot out of the world would occur when the player reaches a point where the game is once again able to resolve the collisions and attempts to place the player in a “correct” position once again. However, it could be possible that this collision resolution places the player in an even more bizarre space, as the code which handles collision resolution has no way of knowing what areas are “acceptable” and seeks only to push the objects apart as to resolve the penetration of one object into another.

  2. cole says:

    That is a really interesting take on countergaming, just to back it up here are some of the specific elements of countergaming defined by Galloway that fit with using exploits:

    Transparency vs Foregrounding. Once you make it ‘outside’ of a level in Halo some of the scenery is almost like a one way mirror. When you are inside the level you see the opaque side of the scenery. From the outside you see the transparent part of the scenery. Using the transparency of these walls the layout and guts of the level’s architecture become easily visible.

    Game Play vs Aestheticism. Again as Icarus mentions in his post once you are outside of the level the walls can lose all detail, invisible walls can sprout up, and random deaths can occur.

    Representational Modeling vs Visual Artifacts. Galloway actually brings up glitches in a game as an example of Visual Artifacts, because glitches destroy the cohesion of the game’s graphical story.

    Natural Physics vs Invented Physics. To access the areas in Halo often requires breaking the ‘natural physics’. Especially in the case of the ‘super jump’. Other examples within halo 2 include the rocket/sword launch, and the two player sword bounce. The physics involved in these glitches is accidental, but it is also far from ‘natural physics.’

    Interactivity vs Noncorrespondence. Part of the weirdness of being outside of a level in halo is how unresponsive the environment is. Within the typical arenas of play there are destructible objects, shooting will creates bullet marks, and explosions will create black char marks. Outside of the level the only thing you can usually effect is yourself, through suicide.

  3. I think the glitch in Halo 2 highlights the difference between countergames (noun) and countergaming (verb). That is, a designer, hacker, or modder can create a countergame. But it might be possible for a player to play a conventional game as a countergame, by exploiting a glitch—or, as an example we’ll look at in class shows, by playing it in a different context.

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