My games this, my games that…

Why do I suddenly have so many things to write about just now that I don’t have proper internet access? Anyway, something that I realized in the context of the last few posts is that I may end up sounding more defensive than intended because I keep talking about my own games. While not the intent, I acknowledge that it’s very easy to read that as a self-centered artist not wanting to accept any criticism.

The post about narrative as gameplay took a long time to write, mainly because I kept rewriting it to find the right angle. Originally it went into detail both about my games and other people’s games, but that felt wrong for a number of reasons. First of all it felt arrogant, because it felt like I was trying to compare my games to those games. And it also felt presumptuous, because it sounded like I knew what the designers intended. I felt it was more honest and more useful to write about my own work, because there I can speak rather precisely about what was intended and how the result compares to the vision.

I actually find it kind of odious to write about theory. I am primarily interested in making games and allowing them to speak for themselves. (Don’t take this as some kind of statement about what other people should do. Too many of the things I write here are taken in that spirit, even though I say nothing of the kind. This is my perspective, and I do not seek to impose it on you. Neither do I think that my preferences make me superior. I don’t like spinach, but I don’t think spinach should therefore be forbidden.) I only ever end up writing about theory when I feel that certain things are not being said, or that problematic ideas are dominating the discussion without ever being challenged. That’s also why I posted about the IndieCade comments: not bitterness, but a feeling that these comments exemplify certain approaches to games that end up making the field feel restrictive. The comments weren’t terrible, but they were amusing and interesting and worth mentioning.

We need that, I think. We need to question a lot of the assumptions that go into how games are played and reviewed – and designed. Not because there is a better way, but because there are many ways. To take the example of my own games one more time, there are lots of people who enjoy them. From the comments The Book of Living Magic got on Kongregate, there were thousands of people who really loved it just as it is. I don’t say that to brag, but to point out that clearly this is a legit way of making games. When I talked about player reaction to the game in the post about narrative as gameplay, some people thought I was complaining that my game wasn’t successful enough with players. Nothing could be further from the truth – once it actually reached players, I was overjoyed by the response it got. What I will complain about, however, are the attitudes that say that a game like this could never appeal to anybody, that it’s not a proper game, that it doesn’t function. That’s the path to strangling variety and creativity.

Maybe I should try to write about other games more often in the future. I do enjoy doing so, but I think it requires a great deal of thinking and work to be done properly. (Writing The Bolshevik in the Borderlands was not easy.) But I might sound a lot less defensive talking about other people’s work.

Then again, maybe it’s just what I sound like. And that would also be OK.

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1 Comment

  1. Oliver

     /  September 3, 2011

    I think that you should worry less about how your coming across in your articles and just say what u feel. Your entitled to your opinion and your well within your rights to be annoyed with things that happen in regards to your games. I read your blog because you have interesting opinions. I can’t say that i necessarily agree all the time but it certainly is an interesting opinion that is worth spending the time to hear. I feel that games like the book of living magic will never do very well to the mass market simply because its rather intelligent. If you want to be successful in todays industry you have to make your games appeal to an audience of a lesser intellect. Things like IndieCade in reality will go for games that have the potential to make the most money, not the most wonderful piece of art that has been made. We live in a capitalistic society and indie competitions really show that the indie game industry is no different. Now with that in mind I do not believe that you should make games for a stupider audience, I just think that you should care less about things like IndieCade and continue making the wonderful pieces of art that you have made up to this point! If all else fails why dont you make your own online indie competition that focuses more on art then commercial viability! Nothing stopping you at all. I know personnally I would be more interested in that then something like indieCade