Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Playing Games:Gauntlet

I spent a quality evening with a couple of friends playing Gauntlet on Xbox.

Remember: I haven't been much of a gamer over the past 15 some odd years, so my comfort level with the Xbox controller is not very high.

Fortunately, my friends spend more time than is probably healthy in front of this technology - so they had already built 4 characters to indestructable levels.

Gauntlet is a role-player game. Characters are given a series of tasks to complete. If they successfully complete the task - they move to the next level.

Of course, to complete the task, you have to kill lots of monsters.

Part 1 of my game strategy - pound lots of buttons. This successfully killed lots of monsters in a very impressive manner. My character, a Valkyrie, jumped, spun in a circle, and whacked people with a sword while screetching "Hyaah." There was some magic things that she did too - though I'm not certain how I managed to trigger those actions.

(picture of the xbox controller from

Part 2 of my game strategy - keep up with the other 2. The joystick on the xbox (3 - upper left hand corner) allows you to move your character while killing monsters. Essentially - I became a berserker. Running around... killing things at random....

Of course, when in the midst of extreme exertion, a girl's got to eat. So while running around and killing things, you also have to grab food and money. This is where unfamiliarity with the nuances of the controller hurts. I spent a lot of time trying to maneuver the Valkyrie over food (while still mashing the "kill" buttons, of course). It usually took 2 or 3 attempts for a successful pickup.

What I found most interesting about this game was how it fostered teamwork.

First - the screen would not move forward unless ALL members of the party were within a certain proximity of each other. If one member was lollygagging (or killing extra monsters), the others had to wait.

Second - to teleport - all members had to be near the teleporting areas. This task was made extra interesting for my friends due to the newbie (me) who couldn't get her character in the right place.

Third - certain tasks required a level of team planning. One task required us to convince the big monster to destroy the pylons holding the little monsters. We found that running around in circles, occasionally using the healthiest one of us as "bait" worked nicely....

15 minutes and 1 beer into the game, the most experienced person became the "general". He fell into this by default since the rest of us were focused on mashing buttons and navigating. This role mostly consisted of him screeching "Run this way!" for the better part of 3 hours.

Still, it was interesting watching him plan and communicate strategies for keeping the rest of us alive and getting to the next level.

Admittedly, most of the tasks in Gauntlet are not terribly complicated. Kill all the small monsters and you kill the big monster. But I could easily see games like this as being good communication and leadership exercises.

How do you get 4 people to cooperate on a task? Even if it is killing monsters.....

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