I chose Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Nile” – the computer game that is, not the book, film, play, an episode from the TV series or, more recently, a graphic novel that have lent itself to the Christie brand – for two simple reasons:
- I like murder mysteries and this story is very familiar to me;
- I wanted a “gentle” re-introduction into computer gaming having been out of it for nearly 20 years.
So, in many ways, I took the approach that Gee (2007) originally adopted and went for something that would “interest” me. If you look at Berens & Howard’s (2001, cited in Newman, 2005, p. 12) gaming genres, this game sat firmly in the platforms and puzzles domain – though I would say more puzzles and less platforms. The game is definately not roleplaying, even though you are playing Hercule Poirot and it’s definately not a first-person game.
Let me explain. my idea of a roleplaying game involves interacting with the other characters – you don’t do this in the game. Firstly, there are short black-and-white silent movie moments where the characters “talk” via text at the bottom of the screen, in other words there are no spoken words. Secondly, the “interviewing” of the suspects also uses this silent movie approach whereby you click on the “next” button to read the “conversation” that is going on. So immediately the game isn’t immersive as you are not acting and interacting, you’re just reading text from the screen.
The first-person approach allows you to see through the eyes of the character and allows you to interact with objects and people. What the game does offer is 24 rooms with “hidden objects” that you have to find over 14 scenes. You are given 25 minutes per scene to find the objects that appears on the list of things to find. Some will be clues to the murder and others are just thow-away objects. After each scene, there’s a more traditional slider-type puzzle to solve. So the game is promoting keen observation skills and logical thinking. I managed to complete the entire game in one sitting that took about 5 hours to complete.
Although I had successfully completed the game, I didn’t feel any sense of satisfaction from completing it as I didn’t feel that the game particularly challenged me; this well-known story was rather secondary and somewhat superfluous; the characters were non-existant as if they were devoid of any personality – it would have, I think, be different if the characters were allowed to “talk” so that their “personalities” were able to shine through the words that they “spoke” and the “accents” that they used to speak them. It would seem that I wanted some that went a little beyond the “gentle” re-introduction that I thought I needed. The game wasn’t animated enough, it has already been documented that action-based games are more engaging that still-based games, however nice the graphics and music should be.
I should say that a couple of years ago I did buy one of those interactive DVD games that you play on the TV. I purchased Agatha Christie’s “After the Funeral” which was intersperse with video clips from the TV show, games and puzzles and linked together by David Suchet?playing “Hercule Poirot”. Whilst this game is not action-based like the computer game, it had the added bonus of the video clips and David Suchet as Hercule Poirot talking directly at you, which gave the impression that you were in the game rather than outside of it. There is definately something to be said for computer games that have animated action sequences rather than still ones.
Gee, J.P. (2007). What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning And Literacy (Revised and Updated Edition). New York, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Newman, J. (2004). Videogames. London: Routledge.