I decided recently that it’s probably difficult to write about videogames when I have no idea how they are made. It’s sort of like wanting to analyze a book without knowing what it’s like to write. Or wanting to be a sports commentator when you’ve never even played. Sure it’s possible, but why would you want to? Right now, in the mainstream world of videogames, games exist as a product; developed by corporations and dependent on the reviews of the community, but lately I’ve started to see games more as a creative medium that can be used as a means of expression.
I’m working on an article to further examine this idea, but for the time being, all I’m trying to say is… I’m going to try my hand at making my own games!
That being said, does anyone have any recommendations of where I should start as someone with no coding ability?
In my post at Gamechurch, I wanted to communicate two key things: 1. Botanicula is a game with a message. 2. The way it communicates that message is through creating a sense of wonder in the player.
I’ve always been fascinated at the potential that games have to do far more than entertain us. A few months ago I spent quite a bit of time mulling over the ability that games had to tell stories, (or to teach us things through their narrative). Lately I’ve been thinking about ways that games can teach us things through their mechanics, their design, and their play experiences in general.
I wrote about the way that the games’ cutesy naturalistic beauty created a spirited affinity for nature itself. The villains- dark, alien, spidery life-suckers- could easily be interpreted as representing anything that threatens the self-sustaining, self-contained ecology of a forest. The obvious conclusion, for anyone who has any concept of the dangers of clear-cutting, deforestation, and the like, is that we humans are those villains.
Every game has a message, conveyed through the combination of its mechanics and setting, whether it’s intentional or not. Call of Duty and its ilk tells us that war is fun. Skyrim perhaps tells us that we were made for a more “epic” life than the one we presently live.
A great article that went up recently at Gamechurch was written by Steven Sukkau. In his review of The Walking Dead game, he examined a game mechanic, that for him illustrated a profound truth. The game offers the player choices on a regular basis, but the choices must be made in an increasingly short amount of time. In his words, “It’s too easy to seem righteous when the options are color-coded. When the tug-of-war lies between demons and angels perched on your shoulders, it’s too easy, too transparent. We do what we think is right, and we learn nothing. But as one character puts it, it’s amazing what a man will do when he thinks his life is over. When push comes to shove, we simply do what we do, and find ourselves staring at who we really are.”
This idea of subliminal communication is something that Christians should be fully aware of as consumers, but also something they should learn to take full advantage of as creators. (Side note for those who care: I’m about to start reading Rise of The Videogame Zinesters by Anna Anthropy, which I understand to be a compelling call for everyone to learn how to make indie games in the same way we might learnt to write poetry or take photographs.) I would love to hear some feedback:
When was the last time you felt like a game was trying to teach you something?
Or have you ever had any sort of revelation about life simply by experiencing a games’ mechanics?
Finally, if any of you readers are on Twitter, give us a follow and we’ll be sure to follow back! I mostly use the F&E account to tweet links to interesting articles, but occasionally I will go on brief rants about certain ideas, etc.