Thursday 3 June 2010

Cognitive Dissonance as an Obstacle to Performing the Bus Stop

The second of Grand Theft Auto IV’s Liberty City Stories, The Ballad of Gay Tony, is an improvement over The Lost and Damned in that the lead character and his boss aren’t instantly and unremittingly unlikeable, though sadly the same can’t be said of some of the NPCs you work for and have to suffer over-long cutscenes with. Still, the gameplay remains fun, you get a few new toys like parachutes for base jumping, and there are some new activities in the club you manage including dancing.

I do like a bit of a rhythm game, and in the grand tradition GTAIV “dancing” consists of pressing keys in time to music. It starts out a bit freestyle, you can press any key in time to the beat, and if you can manage that for a while then everyone joins in for a bit of a set-piece performance in which you have to press specific keys as they flash up on screen.

After all-too-many years on a QWERTY keyboard I can more or less touch type, I don’t need to look at the keys. When the game flashed up “D”, though, I had no idea where it was and had to glance down at the keyboard, by which time it was too late, and I realised that when “WASD” are used for movement they cease to be letters, they’re just directions, forward, left, back, right. Arrow keys (as used later in the song), no problem at all, and if the letters were accompanied by a direction I’m sure I could hit them easily enough, but “A” on its own required translation to “left” within the context of the game before I could hit it, taking too much time, and I failed the performance earning much derision from the rest of the dance floor. I managed it on the second attempt, but it took a fair bit of effort, and I still missed a few steps. Gave me an idea for a sequel to Typing of the Dead, though: Mavis Beacon Teaches Dancing.

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