Locke: You saw the film, Jack. This is a… this is a two person job, at least.
Sayid: This argument is irrelevant.
Jack: Sayid, don’t.
Jack: Don’t. It’s not real. Look, you want to push the button, you do it yourself.
Locke: If it’s not real, then what are you doing here, Jack? Why did you come back? Why do you find it so hard to believe?
Jack: Why do you find it so easy?
Locke: It’s never been easy!
Kate: Maybe you should just do it.
Jack: No…It’s a button.
The Internet had a meltdown last night, following the evening launch of Sword & Sorcery EP for iPad. The Superbrothers and Capybara Games pixelated adventure includes a novel implementation of Twitter, one which the developers claim was intended to encourage player collaboration. Whenever a piece of dialogue appears, all of which are under written within 140 characters, you can share it with the world, complete with #sworcery hashtag. Within moments, everyone was #sworcerying, resulting in Twitter timelines filled with the game’s wittiest bits (“Bark!”) shared over and over and over again.
If you didn’t know what Sword & Sworcery was—heck, even if you did—the resulting flood could have been annoying. Cynically, though understandingly, the criticism quickly turned towards the game itself, figuring Sword & Sorcery had been crafted with an auto-Tweet function, ala Uncharted 2, wherein the game would send a short message to your Twitter friends after simply completing a chapter. That’s not the case, and I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at the folks, many of them good friends, getting upset.
The developers have only said the Twitter functionality in Sword & Sorcery was an “experiment.” I can’t assume the goals of the developer, but the resulting action did two things: create awareness for the game using content within the game itself (writing) and simultaneously expose a double standard about sharing that’s typically blasted against social networking driven games like Zynga’s FarmVille.
Consider the title of this blog, Push The Button. It holds meaning for what’s happened here. You do not have to share anything in Sword & Sorcery. It’s entirely driven by players. So far, I’ve opted to not share anything I’ve encountered, even though my Twitter account’s configured. Every few seconds, however, you are given the opportunity; the “tweet” button appears, taunting you. It only takes a single press and, voila, you’ve shared a humorous quip with the world. You’re not forced to see its impact on your Twitter feed; it just disappears into the virtual void. But it exposes an important relationship between designer and player and, also, game and player. Sword & Sorcery manipulated a bunch of players who more than likely would tell you they eye-roll at FarmVille players on Facebook.
The reason I laughed at anyone upset over the #sworcery phenomenon was because they had no one to blame but their own friends for falling prey to one of gaming’s most fundamental mechanics: push the button. We all want to push the button; pushing buttons, at least until the last few years, has been our foundation of interaction. In this case, the temptation to push becomes exponentially more taunting; Sword & Sorcery exists on a touchable device. You’re supposed to push! Push! Push! Why wouldn’t you want to press it…you know, at least once?
When it comes to pushing buttons, players don’t have much will power. It’s understandable; we’ve been wired that way and Sword & Sorcery decided to play us like a fiddle. Well done, puppet masters.
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