Sunday, December 9, 2012

#16 Warning Forever

Around the same time I was working on “Cutting Leaves of Grass,” I was had a job at Quiznos. As a “sandwich artist” at Quiznos, we would be hit with intense RTP lunch rushes from about 11:30am to 2pm where time would fly by as I made one sandwich after another only breaking to grab more ingredients out of the cooler.  During these moments my muscles would take over without much conscious effort from my brain. My arms knew how to cut the bread without looking, the right amount of meat without weighting it, the right order to stack the tomatoes and cheese and the way to slide the sandwich into the oven.  My muscles worked like a computer: customers would say their order to me and my muscles would output the sandwich within a few seconds over and over and over.

After nights of closing the store at Quiznos, I would come home and play Warning Forever, still dressed in my black collard Quiznos shirt and think about Chris’s racist theories on black customers or which evening station was the easiest: dishes, moping or stations. With practice, my fingers took over for my brain in Warning Forever the same way they did at Quiznos.

Although different from Carax’95 in subtle ways, the ultimate joy of Warning Forever is the same: simple futuristic graphics combined with intense button-mashing action where mastery requires devising a deliberate plan of attack. Like Carax’95, Warning Forever is a simplistic Japanese freeware space shooter game, but, unlike Carax’95, it is not a continuous wave of levels that are identical on every playthrough.

Given its randomly generated nature, it is difficult to deconstruct the specific strategy you need for each level like in Carax’95, but instead you have to apply certain basic principles to each random boss. Most chess players, except for the masters who have memorized countless different board states and have a deep understanding of the appropriate strategies in each situation to the point that it requires little mental processing time, approach chess in the same way, using some overarching principles and strategies to help them make each decision in the game. Warning Forever works in a similar way where generalized strategy serves you well regardless of what kind of boss the game throws your way.

In Warning Forever, you navigate your tiny space ship around randomly generated and increasingly gigantic bosses with a variety of moving parts and different kinds of weapons. After the first few easy levels with relatively small bosses, the bosses start to take up the majority of the screen giving you more than a little corner to dodge bullets. Being aggressively intentional about taking out certain areas of the ship is critical in these later levels to afford yourself more screen real estate to maneuver. Targeting weak structural points in the boss’s ship can blow off an entire limb. Destroying specific weapons like the torpedo cannons is also critical to your survival.

As you will see from most of the rest of the list (save two other games including the next one), few hand-eye coordination, arcade style games have captured my attention enough to become one of my favorite games. Whereas most action games and especially first person shooters require keen hearing and seeing to be able to react quickly and decisively, I prefer games that use my internal skills, allowing me to think and strategize and understand and deconstruct. Therefore, both Carax’95 and Warning Forever are special games to me in that they feel comforting, allowing me to go onto meditative autopilot while playing and at the same time allowing me to think of new techniques in between games. As evident by the fact that there are nothing but more simple action games on this list, this combination of simple repetition and strategic depth create an experience that, like a perfectly crafted pop song (Good Vibrations is better than any Beatles song), is perfect in its coat of sublime simplicity. Many, many more unique and intricate action games have come and gone, but few can recreate the same experience of Warning Forever.

Warning Forever can be downloaded here:

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