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superPSTW the RPG.

January 17, 2011

over at boingboing today was a post about this video:

The video was a remake of a comment/ critique that someone with a terrible sense of diction and grammar left on the page for the game PSTW the RPG (Press Space to Win, the RPG).   I love the brilliantly read dramatic reading of this comment from the thread, but moreover I love how this person (and many others who commented on this game) totally missed the point of the game.   PSTW is what it purports itself to be, an RPG where all you have to do to complete and win the game is to push the space bar.    There is no room for choice whatsoever in terms of the direction of your “character” nor his actions.   When prompted, push the space bar and the action all takes care of itself.

Your quest is simple, rescue the Princess from the evil King, while pressing space along the way.  You’ll encounter obstacles (press space to jump over them), you’ll encounter enemies (press space to vanquish them), you’ll find a magic sword (press space to remove it from it’s rocky resting place) and more.  Guess what you do with other encounters??

What the people in the comments thread seem to be missing is the understanding that PSTW is a satire on the whole RPG genre.   Many RPGs (mostly those by Square-Enix.. Final Fantasy, Chrono-Trigger, etc ) use a single button on the game controller as your confirmation button for nearly all actions in combat and item management.  This same button is generally used to open treasure chests, and to talk to and interact with other characters that inhabit the game world.   What PSTW does is highlight the absurdity of it all.   It’s strips the RPG down to its base elements.  Including giving it a super lo-fi non-descript set of 8 bit characters and backgrounds.  PSTW doesn’t simply satirize the mechanics of this style of game, nor does it stop at satirizing the illusory sense of choice that players have in these games;  it also touches on many of the tropes and themes that re-occur in them as well.

First there’s the “evil knight” whom you must fight as your main adversary at certain points throughout the game.    After you vanquish him, he sees the error of his ways, and sacrifices himself so that you may continue your quest.   I swear that this narrative device is in like EVERY Final Fantasy game I’ve played in the series, and I’ve played almost all of them.   Also, when you face the evil king and think him defeated he transforms into a super natural creature that you must defeat as well (again typical of every FF end boss).  How do you defeat him?  PSTW, just as the game tells you to.

This game is a wonderfully cheeky satire on RPGs and their underlying linear nature.   When Final Fantasy 13 came out last year, I remember a sales person at the store I purchased it at saying, “it’s a great game, if you like pushing one button and running in a straight line for 40hrs”.  Indeed that was the most apt. criticism of the game I had encountered.

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