Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Game Notes: Frog Fractions

Image from Twin Beard Studios
I'm going to take this whole "experimental Tuesday" thing to heart and start what I hope to be an ongoing series in which I post some of the notes I take while playing video games. Of course, this kind of thing raises some questions:

Why do you take notes while playing a game?

 Because I am a nerd, clearly. Also: I have to remember things in order to write and podcast about them and my ancient brain isn't as absorbent as it used to be.

How will you publish these notes?

If it's a digital document, I'll just link or embed it. I'll post screenshots of my mad scribblings if I have a notebook. Finally, maybe I'll go all Twin Peaks and post voice memos as I encounter points of interest. Think of it as live casting, but not live.

Will this change your note taking practices (physics observable experiment effect)?

Maybe, but what are you going to do? It's true that the simple act of adding this extra layer will probably have some kind of impact on my "natural" process, but I'll try not to post for every game and try to keep myself focused on notes.

 I came up with this idea while playing Frog Fractions. Before reading any further, you should really go play the game yourself. It won't take long and I'm about to reveal the hilarious ending. Frog Fractions is partly a parody of old educational games, but you don't actually have to do any math until the very end when you gain control over the production of bug pornography. The point is that you have to make a profit selling it on the open market while taking into consideration the costs of production and the risks of unknown setbacks. After a couple losing campaigns, I started writing things down in a spreadsheet:

It started innocently enough: writing down single numbers just to remember totals. It then morphed into something a little more serious with expected net/gross totals, complete with cells that took into account the data entered in other cells. Without meaning to, I was beginning to poorly and crudely reinvent accounting 101.

I soon realized better ways of organizing the spreadsheet and more accurate ways of tracking expenses while factoring in unexpected setbacks. I cursed my younger self for not taking more practical classes in college as I painstakingly expanded my profit margins. Then I realized that I would probably have to play the game all day in order to legitimately hit my target profit and opted instead to simply print enough money to finish the game. As the game says, let the next generation deal with inflation.

There are probably some real world lessons in here somewhere. The fiscally responsible option will always be slower and more time consuming to maintain than the quick and easy option. A grasp of basic economics would probably solve a lot of personal and political problems in this world. One freak storm can destroy an entire production run of insect pornography. The list goes on.

One thing's for sure: it had been a long time since a game inspired me to create a spreadsheet.

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