Been a while. This is just a short informal entry, anyway, getting back into the swing of things.
Went to a talk yesterday at my new haunt in the Toronto indie/art gaming scene: Electric Perfume. (Yes, the proprietress Daniele Hopkins is a friend of mine that I’ve promoted in this space before…but nobody’s getting paid for this.) I’d been there on Saturday for the annual general meeting of the Hand-Eye Society . That got slightly dry, but I got the reminder for last night’s boss event, so it was worth it.
What was it about? Well, it was Kyle Duffield (Hopkin’s longtime artistic partner and EP Technical Director) and Ryerson’s Walter Lai talking about video game bosses: what they’re for, what characterizes them, the role of the boss within the game experience, how they reinforce a game’s aesthetic, how they’re often used to break the fourth wall, that kind of thing.
They pulled out loads of examples of bosses for this, everyone from Psycho Mantis to a few Colossii to good ol’ Bowser. Duffield and Lai included a few that I’d never heard of, like the first “boss” character: the Gold Dragon from an ancient 80’s Dungeons and Dragons game, or this big ol’ UFO from an old Galaga-alike that looked like an early Atari version of the Tron fight against the MCP.
Weirdest part? Most of the fights were demonstrated using YouTube clips. It was effective, but maybe a bit too effective. For a lot of them, I found myself thinking “just let it play!” when they were skipping forward and back in the clip. It reminded me how invested we become in these conflicts. Players often tune out the regular mooks, but boss fights? Fully in the moment, especially if it’s a good one.
I did provide a bit of a contribution myself. They’d asked about favorite boss fights. My answer? The Lich King. Definitely The Lich King. Blizzard has always been good at building shockingly elaborate bosses in their games, and the entire endgame of World of Warcraft basically serves as elaborate lobby for their baroque boss fights. But thanks to the combination of a near-decade of character history and Blizzard spending the entire game building him up as an omnipotent force, it was a big deal to finally take him on in a fight that was both mechanically complex and thematically appropriate. Even broke the fourth wall a bit with the resurrection gimmick.
(Plus, like all raids, it was massively co-op. Co-op makes any boss fight infinitely better. I think that’s a law or something.)
Sadly couldn’t stick around for their followup event where you recorded “boss taunts” for Hopkins and Duffields’ own “Laser Equipped Annihilation Protocol”—an honest-to-goodness real-world security laser-dodging game—but I was glad to come out.