GAMES AS A MANIPULATION OF VIRTUAL SPACE: ACTIVE SPACE 3

We have looked at the role of active space in terms of the player controlling the space immediately available to their in-game avatar; and furthermore how these interactions can be limited by the presence of other in-game objects.

To round off this basic look at active space, we now look at how the amount of space available to a player can change, depending on context; using Street Fighter II’s female character Chun-Li as an example.

In Street Fighter II, there are six immediate attack options afforded to the player. These differ in function subtly from one chosen character to the next, but are always in some form consistent with the design of the control scheme; light, medium and hard variations of both punch and kick.

Top row L-R: light, medium and hard punch. Bottom row L-R: light, medium and hard kick.
Top row L-R: light, medium and hard punch. Bottom row L-R: light, medium and hard kick.

In red are approximations of the ‘hitbox’ collision for each attack. This represents the space commanded by Chun-Li’s standing one-button attacks. When combined, this shows that Chun-Li commands a modest area of space at the touch of a button:

Chun-Li's command of space from a single-button attack.
Chun-Li’s command of space from a single-button attack.

A core part of Street Fighter II and other fighting games is to learn how to command space. From this example, we can see that this active space is only to the front of Chun-Li, and only at the top part of her character sprite. The options from here seem limited.

However, in this case there are modifiers that a player can employ to change this. Crouching, for example, will essentially cover the lower half exclusively – leaving the upper portion of the screen vulnerable.

Whilst the player is committed to a move though, the options for space control disappear until the move’s animation is complete; if Chun-Li were to employ a jumping attack, the amount of controlled space increases by a large margin, but there is no way to change this controlled space until this jumping assault is over.

It therefore becomes apparent that there is a temporal element to player avatar control; games are about the manipulation of time as well as space. This shall be covered later, but next we shall explore potential space and its relation to the player’s control options and threats.

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