Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Muggle Quidditch!?

Fans of JK Rowling's Harry Potter heptalogy will be familiar with every wizard's favorite sport: Quidditch. It's like a complicated version of soccer, and it's now available in a Muggle version.

I would have thought that, with networked gaming so popular now, someone would have invented a scaled-down MMORPG-style Quidditch video game, so that the game could be played properly. In Rowling's universe, Quidditch is played on flying brooms, making it a decidedly three-dimensional sport. Only in a computer's brain can you simulate the predatory behavior of the Bludgers-- whose job is to unseat random players-- and the behavior of the Golden Snitch, which flits erratically about, eluding capture by each team's Seeker with startling bursts of raw speed.

A sufficiently complex video game would allow players to try different brooms, each with its own performance quirks-- acceleration/braking ability, turn radius, stability, and susceptibility to magical interference (cheating seems to be part of the reality of Quidditch). Players would choose from among thousands of different magic wands; they'd play in hundreds of different venues, and be subject to all manner of weather conditions and random aerial events (e.g., the occasional low-flying aircraft, flock of geese, or child's kite). That would be Quidditch!

Muggle Quidditch seems so pedestrian in comparison.



Charles said...

The only thing I know about Quidditch is what I've seen in the snippets of films I've caught, and I have to say that Quidditch as a sporting game is completely broken by the introduction of the Golden Snitch. Once you have a magic pill (so to speak) that automatically wins the game for one team, it makes everything else irrelevant. The fact that there is one position (seeker) that, if I remember correctly is devoted to trying to catch the GS makes it even worse. Even if it were a matter of trying to balance your resources between scoring goals (or whatever they call it) and catching the snitch, it would still destroy the strategy aspect of the game, but with a player devoted to that task the game becomes untenable.

I haven't read the books, though, so maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to me that Quidditch is nothing more than a very elaborate plot device (i.e., an opportunity to make Harry the hero) and not a very tenable game in and of itself. It would seem that the Muggle version doesn't have either the snitch or the seeker, which makes a lot of sense to me (and not only because the snitch would be impossible to reproduce in real life).

Kevin said...

Indeed. The struggle to get the Snitch is usually portrayed, in the books, as requiring a good bit of hunting, which makes the Snitch serve as a timer or sorts. The Seekers seem, at times, to be off in their own world, only occasionally flying through the maelstrom of the other players with their Quaffle and Bludgers. According to the story, some Quidditch games have gone on for days and days, but on rare occasions, a Seeker has been known to catch the Snitch right off the bat.

The actual boundaries of a game of Quidditch have never been firmly established within the novels themselves, though Rowling might have said something in interviews or in one of the books she wrote outside the series. I think you can play the game even if play takes you outside the bounds of the Quidditch pitch. There seems to be no height limit, either; sometimes it's necessary to launch oneself pretty high to catch the Snitch.

Scoring is basically 10 points per goal scored with the Quaffle; catching the Snitch not only ends the game but also earns the team 150 points. It's possible for a team to fall so far behind that, even if they catch the Snitch, they will still lose the game. Such a situation arises in the fourth book, when a Hungarian Seeker in the World Cup (Victor Krum) swoops in and catches the Snitch. His team loses against Ireland, which had been beating Hungary badly. Krum's purpose was simply to save the honor of his team and to end the game on his own terms. The added 150 points made Hungary's score less embarrassing, and Hungary at least had the honor of being the side that caught the Snitch.

I think Quidditch would work as a video game, but a lot would depend on how the Snitch behaved, and whether the game would impose physical boundaries on game play. A romp through a fully rendered city like London might be interesting, with players buzzing buildings and buses (caveat: non-magical folks aren't supposed to know that the game even exists); it would also be cool to see a flight through the Swiss Alps. But all that would get memory-intensive, I think, so the easier solution would be for the game designers to impose boundaries on the game.


Kevin said...

Whoops-- Krum's from Bulgaria, not Hungary. My bad. And it's "Viktor," not "Victor."

Now I have to go whip my fact-checking team.


Charles said...

Ah, so you can catch the snitch and still lose the game? That's interesting, and does change things a bit.

But didn't they already make a Quidditch video game, or am I just imagining that? I seem to remember hearing something about that.