In the original Breakout, the player controls a paddle-like platform that moves left and right to bounce a pixelated ball around a contained room, save for one side of the game which is the goal for the ball to land and “breakout.” However, there are a few obstacles preventing this ball to escape the contained room, which include the rainbow-arranged blocks separating the ball from the other side of the room, and the player’s attempt to keep the ball bouncing without having it slip past the paddle platform. Each time the ball bounces against a rainbow block, the block disappears, paving a way for more space in order for the ball to break through the rainbow-colored bricks. The player also only has five lives in each game of Breakout, and a life is lost whenever the player cannot bounce the ball back into the general room space.
Based off of the original Breakout, Pippin Barr’s Breaksout is a collection of thirty-six variations of the original, each with slightly different modifications or notable tweaks that put a twist on the original construct of the Atari game. One of the games from Breaksout that particularly threw me off guard was “Breaktime.” The player bounces the ball off of the paddle platform, trying to get the ball past the rainbow brick barrier just as in the original Breakout. However, after the player has bounced the ball successfully for a good while, the game suddenly pauses on its own, and a dialog box pops up asking the player to take a break from playing. The player has no choice but to push the “OK” button on the pop up box and halt their brick-breaking, for the game pauses and remains frozen for an undefined period of time.
Priestman discusses how Barr created this collection of Breakout variations to “[play] with the construction and ‘meaning’ of a game.” I find this quote particularly applicable when looking at the original Breakout game in comparison to Barr’s Breaksout because this brings up the topic of time consumption in gaming, and how much success in a game depends on how much time and effort is put into gameplay. “Breaktime” clearly starts off the same as the original, and does so for a while to perhaps lull the player into an unassuming state of concentration because of familiarity with the concept of the original game, building in the player a goal to break out past the rainbow blocks. Because of this, the player is most likely startled when “Breaktime” suddenly stops and forces them to take an actual break time from playing, like I was when first playing this variation. Many video gamers have been pressured to somehow “prove their worth” by beating and winning games, which in turn appears to be one of the reasons that gamers tend to spend a lot of time invested into a game. Although Breakout‘s objective is simple in that the player only has to bounce the ball past the brick obstacles to escape, this may take many tries to do so, and therefore the player spends a good chunk of time on mastering how to best go about breaking out. To have this intense and continuous concentration on getting the ball to escape interrupted by a dialog box urging the player to take a break, of all things, is perhaps one of the most startling ways to stop and reflect a little by how much time consumption plays a role in gaming, especially since “Breaktime” purposely keeps the game paused after one “OK”s the dialog box. In this way, Barr manipulates the construction of the original game’s never-ending block-breaking until escape into a game variation that seems to mock and break the time continuity of the bouncing ball.