Design this game, not all of them.

Something that the last few posts have reminded me of is that what I see as one of the biggest problems in current game design thought is the tendency towards absolute theories. Good games are like this. All games function like that. But theories are abstract, and games are specific. Perhaps that’s what I’m trying to argue for the most – not saying that my games are perfect or that everyone must love them, but saying you can make games like these. And you can make different games, too. In fact, forget about games in general and start looking at them individually.

We keep treating games like tools – it needs to have this feature and that feature and the other feature. But games are art, and are thus much more like people than like tools. What is annoying in one person is endearing in another. To put it another way: Gothic 2 is not the perfect RPG or the perfect game, but it’s pretty close to being the perfect Gothic. And I love it for that.

We need to look at games as themselves. There are many paths to take and all of them lead to places that are interesting. I post with critical and at times confrontational ideas because I think some of those paths need defending. Not as superior, but as equal.


  1. Sarah

    A few observations of mine:
    1. People tend to forget that games are not a genre, but a medium. Animation has the same problem, though that has improved in the last ten years or so.
    2. Generalizations about gaming are even more idiotic than generalizations about movies. There are too many elements to consider, from narrative to gameplay to visuals and everything that those words encompass.
    3. Narrative and gameplay are not two completely separate entities, and should not inhibit one another. Which is what I liked about The Book of Living Magic: it sucked you into the story and kept you consistently immersed without distracting you with frustration or pointlessness. Yes, it could have been trickier, but I believe that might have made for a worse game.
    4. A game should be judged on ‘does it do what it does well?’. If not, take your lumps. If so, fantastic. Let’s use graphics specifically as an example here. I still think LucasArts’ 1998 adventure title Grim Fandango is one of the most beautiful games ever made. The graphics were perfect for the atmosphere of that world. I would not change a thing, even 13 years later. Similarly, The Infinite Ocean’s and The Book of Living Magic’s graphics convey the atmosphere you wished to convey. I felt that clearly about both games. The graphics did not impede the narrative or the gameplay, rather they enhanced it. They did what they do well, and that is enough.
    My two (four!) cents!

  2. Quite

    I’d like you to know that I have read your comment and blog responses. I’m quite honestly too lazy to respond to everything you have written. Take that however you please.

    In general I totally agree with the ideas that you propose, both recently and in the past. I take more issue with how you present them in your writing, particularly your use of pejoratives.

    Another idea here is an artist being upset with how people view his art. Art is personal and subjective. Sure you can argue that some people don’t get it, and that will always be true, but at the end of the day you cannot convince those individuals otherwise. How does criticizing the system or specific people fit into your goal that “you can make games like these. And you can make different games, too.”? There is nothing wrong with voicing your thoughts about the problems of the game industry, but I’m of the opinion that in this case making kick ass, successful (choose whatever definition you want) games is infinitely more potent than words. Of course this is your personal blog and you could rightfully argue I should just get the hell out, because voicing opinions is kind of the point.

    Also, when I said you make games to spread a message, I simply mean that the whole purpose of art is communication. You cannot make a (real) game that doesn’t tell the player something.

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