Processes more than artifacts but artifacts can be nice
I thought Dys4ia was great. I have to my surprise been thinking about it days and weeks after playing it.
I’m with Danc and Raph Koster on thinking about games in terms of systems, mechanics, feedback and loops more than anything else. The fact that I started to prototype, design and code my game mechanics makes it even more clearer to me that it’s all about that.
But the story-based Dys4ia touched me because of its original story, a story that I rarely encountered before –except by reading the fantastic story of Lynn Conway or Rebecca Heineman’s– it gave me something new to understand. The everyday struggle, the mindset behind humans complexity.
Anna’s game worked for me, pushed the message in a better way than reading would have.
My point is if you want to do a story-based game, it needs to be different if you want a game to work around something as static as narrative. Because really, narrative is not a game mechanic (I’m totally going to make this t-shirt).
Dys4ia is so personal. We need real things to come through our games, too. We have a pretty high level of polish today (thanks to better and better tools) but people don’t throw themselves in, they don’t try to express anything, they call their game “Pew Pew You’re Dead” or “Robots and Bologna”. We shouldn’t just play around nostalgia with a twist in 2012 because hey, “they’re just games”. They are more than that and it’s a 35 year old culture now.
So in this sense RPS is right to ask game developers to create something more.
There are mangas about wine (I mean, “The sale of fine wines in South Korea has increased significantly as a result of the popularity of the comic”) there are shows on TV about stuffing animals, dancing moms and thank god we have Octodad and some weird truck simulations but we are so bland compared to other mediums. Big lack of flavors and diversity. The other day I watched the 4D whale Futurama episode, it was brilliant. Just in one episode you had enough material, themes, funny shit to create multiple games on.
To me it’s not just about games being immature by really trying hard to be movies, it’s that even the immature part is not great or inspired.
So as Daniel explains it much better than I do:
Games are a thing onto themselves. They are human processes. They are loops. They illuminate complexity through hands-on mastery. They author artificial systems to generate culture. They can (and will!) advance forward to encompass a vast breadth of human interactions with the world.
We def should aim for that but those concepts are hard to grasp. Systems are annoying to most people, systems are the opposite of what a writer likes. Talking and writing about systems will never interest the public, it sadly, barely interests game developers. They’re busy with shaders :p
On the other hand, if you go the “narrative” way for your game, please reach for something wicked, interesting, personal, poignant and stop spreading generic fiction stories (I seriously can’t stand anymore any story about gods and mysterious civilizations and what not). We have enough of them.