I took a game design class my first semester at college, and it was definitely not all fun and games. Specifically, I remember the crunch during the last week of the semester. Our final project was (unsurprisingly) to fully design and create a board game. The game we were making was a board game with a computer program supplement: the pitch was Carcassonne meets Sim City. We had been working for weeks, but always had more to do. The project was due on a Thursday afternoon; Tuesday night, I got barely any sleep working on the project. Then Wednesday came. We met after classes were done for the day at 4pm, and worked straight until 9, when we moved to another building which was open later. We were there all night; I remember texting my girlfriend good night and good morning while working.
There were three of us: one person ironing out the final mechanics, one working on the art for the game, and I was writing the program for the computer supplement. It was miserable. I kept finding bugs that needed fixing, the girl working on the mechanics kept asking me to add features, and I was so sick of programming that I wanted to vomit. We continued work straight through the morning; I missed my final English class of the semester, and we worked right until it was time to present. I had never slept so little and gone so crazy over one project… but even though the work was miserable, I ended up really enjoying it. It was a shame that I actually had to turn in the game and could not keep it. (Man, I should really be a game designer…)
Anyway, anecdote aside, I only have one comment on the article itself.
Game devs think back wistfully to those days before they became a creator and could dive headlong into truly just playing a videogame. They talk about games that came out before they took their first computer class like those days are gone forever. They know, even if they change careers, that they will still know how the magic tricks are done. They’ve seen things they can’t unsee.
While this is true, I think it’s worth adding that there’s an upside to this. Sure, you become more critical of games once you see how they work and learn the tricks, and it becomes more difficult to enjoy some games, but when you happen across a game you can truly love and enjoy even after all the game design experience…. it’s a wonderful feeling. Your appreciation of the game is so much richer since you can enjoy the game and appreciate its design merits. I would happily trade my naivete and enjoyment of perhaps lesser games in exchange for a fuller enjoyment of my favorites again, and encourage anyone with the opportunity to do the same.
Well, you’re right, but departing from a strange point of view. Are there really people who think that making games is just sitting around popping headshots and drinking beer? If so, I am certain that those people have never seen a computer code. Not even html. Anyone who’s tried writing those knows that computers are fickle and strange creatures, and anyone who didn’t probably thinks they could make a great porn star as well.
Part of it is probably the industry. No way the reliance on dreary crunch times is inherent to gaming, it’s something big companies have invented to release games in time for Christmas, for example. And like any creative field, you can truly enjoy the act of creation even if it’s objectively work.
Regarding that, I think gamers should be encouraged to create games. You can’t wander into a library without bumping into a wannabe novelist, you can barely walk out of a record store without being given a flyer for someone’s garage band, and just being in the same college building as any movie-related course is taught will land you in someone’s experimental movie (yeah!) but few gamers have a desire for creating a thing of their own. Creating a game is for one person as easy as shooting a movie (that is, not at all, but not impossible if you skirt around your weaknesses). I plan to try my hand at creating a roguelike as soon as I figure out what language to use and emerge from that hideous failure considering myself even more superior to others.
Debate here! Portal? It’s a quirky, funny puzzle game. A work of art? Not even close. Just being different doesn’t make it art. Ocarina of Time? Immersive. Excellent game. Solid narrative. Doesn’t make it a work of art. Same with BioShock.
Good graphics, music and/or narrative do not make games artistic. None of those games I mentioned (Having not played Braid of Shadow of the Colossus) have gameplay which helps acheive an artistic vision. The closest games I’ve played have been Ico and I Wanna Be The Guy.
The Mona Lisa? Just a picture of a woman with a wonky smile. Nice to look at, but art? No. The Lord of the Rings? Immersive, great book, solid narrative. Doesn’t make it a work of art. The Godfather had a fantastic story and masterful acting, along with solid direction, but does that make it art?
My point here is that the arguments you’re using against those games being art can equally be used against things which the majority of people do consider art. To me, art means something that’ll evoke emotions, really make me feel something. I’m currently re-playing the original Mass Effect, and just the other day I finished Noveria. Since I’m the kind of guy who always plays the good guy, I’m being evil on this playthrough, which meant killing the Rachni queen:
It genuinely upset me. Despite being, at the back of my mind, fully aware that it was a fictional character I felt awful when I made the decision to kill her. I had a much more powerful emotional reaction from a simple choice in a video game than I would have to most classical works of art. That is the “artistic vision” that games are aiming to achieve – to make us feel, whether it’s exultation at finally beating a boss, joy at a happy ending, fear when stumbling around Silent Hill in the fog or anger at ourselves for what we’ve chosen to do within the game.
In response to “The Indie Space/Time Continuum” from The Escapist Forum: Being a basement game dev is a niche hobby, and like all niche hobbies it gets very lonely at times. Even if you are surrounded by friends and family you can’t help shake the feeling that nobody understands what you are doing and why. I think meet ups like the ones in the article are more about “walking among your own people” than building up collaborative teams.
Imagine being the only Victorian era costume maker or RC airplane flier in a small town. People know what your hobby is and generally respect you for it, but they don’t get excited over the same things you do. Ultimately you get the impression they are humoring your hobby based rants rather than appreciating the struggles and victories behind them.
Indie meet ups like the Game Jam and GDC are similar Commicon to the comic book geek. One weekend a year to spend time with people who “get it.”
In response to “We Are Not Mainstream” from The Escapist Forum: Since when is “Mainstream” another word for financially successful? I always thought it was a description of the cultural reception of a thing. This article just says that games don’t make as much money as movies and uses that as evidence against games being almost completely woven into our everyday lives. It ignores the fact that nearly every household which has a TV on which to watch a movie, also has a PC or console in it on which to play games. Games are made out of films and books, in fact they are increasingly certain of being found as part of a blockbuster movie’s marketing strategy.
The fact of the matter is that money has nothing to do with ‘mainstream’ and everything to do with how many of the public enjoy/have interaction with a particular phenomenon. Gaming has been mainstream for years (probably since the PS1) irrespective of the amount of money spent on it. This article is effectively a pretty long way of saying there’s a lot of money in movies. Big deal.