Tag Archives: culture

Gaming is the Highest Art Form

If the reason for your game is to tell a story you have to tell, consider writing a novel. If the reason for your game is to depict a vision, consider making a film. If the reason for your game is to articulate a political point, consider a blog where you can define your terms.

None of these things preclude a game as a choice, and a great game may have all of them. But the operative aspect of a game is in mechanics which respond to user input. If you do not feel you are ready for that aspect, your great story will be mired in poor scenarios, your grand vision will be worn thin by repetitious experiences, and your political point will be nullified by the dominant strategy gamers naturally discover in playing.

You must first love gaming as an action, a venue, a notion, and a lens through which to view the world. If you love your story, vision, or point more, the game itself will suffer for it. The game will be streamlined to keep player choice inside of these non-game aspects.

Regardless of which suffers intrinsically, the player will have a lesser experience, and all will be undermined. Make solid mechanics and user input the cornerstone of your game, and build upon that cornerstone that which fits on it. This is part of the art form of gaming. It is not in impersonating other art forms, in impressing critics of other fields, or seeking legitimacy by being covered by non-gaming media venues.

Gaming is the highest art form, because it doesn’t tell us strictly about the times in which it was made, or the people who made it, or even how it makes us feel. It can tell us who we are, by allowing us to explore the scope of our moral agency in a controlled fashion. Gaming is the art form which is a moral expression of all who partake.

The ceiling has never been higher for art, let’s not hunch our backs to endear the leading art forms of previous times.

I Am a Gamer

I told myself I wouldn’t write about this. My concern with this blog is video games. Mechanics, designs, trends, culture, as well as the errors in covering such. I try to keep my politics rather separate, and have recently taken steps to keep politics out of my life per a doctor’s advice. Politics came to my gaming, and I’ve been flabbergasted by much of what I have seen.

I’m not going to talk about individuals, or even the hot topics. I am going to address some mental patterns I have observed among us writing class. This was spurred by the sudden appearance of “gamers are dead” themed articles. I don’t care if they appeared as part of a concerted effort, because grassroots or not, the idea itself is a bizarre attitude to take and should be addressed.

I recently wrote an article titled “What Is a Gamer” which explored how the term can be empty, as it is so broad an umbrella that it encompasses almost too many things. Like a stadium with a roof that could be mistaken for the sky. I stand by that article, particularly regarding the scope of my own life, but at the same time I must acknowledge that no matter how broad an umbrella, it still casts a shadow. I am much more than a gamer, all gamers are, but I remain a gamer.

The idea of “gamers” being dead is laughable, but the volume at which it is being touted by those who hold the megaphones on the internet is alarming. How many times have we seen a declaration of PC gaming being dead in the past decade? That was hyperbolic and inaccurate, and was regarded as such by any serious thinkers when it was said. Now we get a proclamation for not just a platform, but a category of people by the editors and writers of the most prominent sites. Is it any less hyperbolic or inaccurate? No. It is inflammatory writing, and frankly diving so deep in to such strong and divisive language is unprofessional. I’m not talking ethics here, I’m talking simply knowing your craft. This is shock authoring with a veneer of critique to claim a transcendence over an audience you don’t like. Continue reading

Indie Devs Seeking Asylum

From time to time I encounter complaints about the setting of video games, particularly horror ones. There is a general lamentation of them taking place in abandoned/old/dilapidated hospitals/prisons/asylums/houses. Getting burnt out on a setting is very understandable, being uninterested in one is also well within reason, but periodically I see the claim that the use of such things has to do with our society’s perception of the unwell/criminal/mentally ill/aristocratic past, et cetera and so on. Often it is suggested that these games are an indication of who we are as a society (ignoring the culture and geographical location of the development team).

I posit a different perspective: money. Horror games work best when simple, which means few mitigating elements, and when exploiting basic fears. Being alone meets both of those requirements from a design and tech standpoint. Horror games are very commonly developed by smaller independent teams, such as Amnesia, or Eyes, which was developed by Paulina Pabis. When there are fewer hands and a smaller budget, reusable or versatile content goes a very long way. A single set of textures, a couple of meshes, some sounds, and a good lighting effect go a very long way toward the goal of the game design.

Another aspect is baggage, and this is where the contemporary cultural anthropoludologists (its fun to make up words) come close to being correct. Few people know anything about these places with any real expertise. They have limited expectations and this frees up the designer considerably in what they can do with the space. Look at the level design of Call of Duty or Half-Life, then look at the level design of Quake or Portal. The former take place in settings we have particular expectations of, the latter in ones with fewer trappings. The result is designer expression. If you want a particular user experience in a Quake map, you make it. If you want that in a Call of Duty or Half-Life map, well, you’re going to need to find some reason for it to happen with this space which the users are going to be familiar with. Quickly you result in convoluted, bordering deus ex machina, configurations, or boring levels. These are results that demolish the mood being built by a horror game.

With fewer (not lowered) expectations, a minimal entry fee for believable content, these settings are a great angle for independent developers, in the same way that “retro” graphics are. There is more economy than égalitaire about the setting of these games.