Three podcast episodes in three days! My intention here was to get the podcast really rolling up front. I feel like it’s kinda crappy to have a podcast with one episode, and two episodes isn’t much better. So now there are three, which is a comfortable starting place, I think.
Quickly I’d like to let people know: I submitted the podcast to iTunes two days ago. Still waiting on the approval; from what I’ve read it can take between 30 minutes and 3 weeks (!). Hopefully it won’t be too much longer.
Today’s episode talks about some of the mythology that we’ve all accepted about technology – specifically virtual reality, AI, and graphics technology above all else. We sort of expect these things to solve our problems for us, but the truth is that they won’t.
(This episode doesn’t make much mention of fan comments, but I’ll get back to that next episode, promise.)
Everyone seems to have an opinion with regards to the complicated relationship between stories and games. People fight about it often, and they’ve been fighting about it for a long time. There have been numerous academic papers and countless articles written about the subject (just Google the words “ludology” and “narratology”, if you don’t know what I’m referring to). There have also been, perhaps, many more words written about how stupid the entire debate is, or about how the debate is totally solved already, or about how it will never be solved, or about how the debate never even happened in the first place.
I think there is actually not all that much disagreement on this subject. Almost the entire problem sprouts from the fact that we aren’t understanding each other’s statements. In short: we don’t agree on what “story” means, and we don’t agree on what “game” means, so any statement regarding the two’s relationship is unclear and/or meaningless. Continue reading →
In Part 1, I discussed the cultural and messaging problems involved with portraying the glorification of violence. In this part, I’ll be discussing the mechanical ruleset issues that tend to arise as a result of working with violent themes and settings.
I do not advocate “starting with theme” – you should certainly not start a game design out by saying something like “Three heroic warriors travel into the Grundendo Forest to find the Enchanted Obelisk and destroy the evil villain Sorcerer Johns.” This is not a game design concept, and I think most designers understand that. You’re not only failing to communicate any mechanical, rule-based idea, but you’re also restricting your ability to develop rules by the metaphor. Essentially, it’s working backwards: theme is the metaphor we apply to our rules to help communicate them. Starting a game design with a theme is like starting a novel with painting the cover artwork.
With that said, it’s useful to at least use small, loose bits of theme, especially during a game’s earliest design phases. If you’re like most designers, you probably start with a “genre” of some kind or a specific game – perhaps something like, “it’s like Advance Wars, but _____”, or it’s a “Rogue-like, but _____”. With that as your “base”, you work out from there. If you’re a good designer, you probably do a lot of problem solving, which involves a lot of dramatic changes to those systems, but you still have that original genre or game as a base. Continue reading →