Underlying and Invisible

Mr. Arms for Eyes

God of Game Theory?

I’m convinced that someone, somewhere, will eventually come out with a game wrapped in a package that is “pure” in terms of art, presentation, interface – something that boils down the essence of what makes a game a game. When I talk about the procedurally rendered universe of the MMO concept thrown out in a design meeting yesterday (two of them I guess), see merit in turning our internal, untextured “test maps” into a game concept, and witness the lasting attraction of “simple” vector graphic arcade games, this is what I’m thinking about:

In a sort of staring-into-the-cascading-numbers-of-the-Matrix way, I found myself looking past the visible aspects of the game and savoring the underlying, invisible mechanics of play. I mapped out the ways that my “lunge” could connect together disparate parts of a battlefield. I experimented with different chained attacks, and mused over the weird millisecond latencies of the button combos. I was no longer thinking about — or even noticing — the blood and guts or the razor-sharp adamantium claws. The game became pure physics and algorithms: Vectors, speed and collision detection. The gore had become mostly irrelevant.

That paragraph is ripped from this article on Wired.com, where Clive Thompson is questioning the necessity of violence in video games (especially the over-the-top sort) … but I think one could push the argument even further and question the necessity of everything that doesn’t simply communicate the underlying nature of what’s being played.

I like his way of describing it. And it illuminates a truth about making games: Everything we do in terms of “content” threatens the underlying core of “game” – if done correctly, everything blends seamlessly. If not, then the best art/interface/VO/story in the world cannot salvage a damaged core.

Btw, I have no idea what the guy with arms coming out of his head has to do with any of this. But he scares the shit out of me, so I thought I better be cool and use his picture somewhere.

4 responses to “Underlying and Invisible”

  1. hey, I will try and do my best. I respect the games coming out from under your hand and the team surrounding you. I have BA degree in plastic arts (photo/video/media major) and psychology (psychoterapy and cognitive psychology major) and hoping to gain admission to a MA in Human-Machine Communication. as far as I’ve researched, studied (and played), there is a great neglect in the psychological aspect of game “packaging”, everything being reduced to marketing and gaming industry research.

    I don’t want to oversimplify, but besides id Software, you and a handful of other companies (the deceased Looking Glass and EPIC, indie developers like Eskil Steenberg of L.O.V.E. etc.) no one gives a humane response to “why make games?”

    I hope that in the future this niche will turn into a priority, but the necessity of a paradigm shift is essential.

    respect for that you do.

  2. personally i play video games in god mode. yes i admit it. i’m a very bad player.

    i play games for the art, storyline and to see how those people designed everything. i loved “Alice” because of it’s unique textures and storyline the most.

    maybe when i’ll get my BFA i’ll be good enough to work in the industry i’ll so some things like that too!

    that statue doesn’t bother me. it looks like a drugged Buddha.

  3. My friend used to bring back strange, funky board games from his native Denmark and try them out on us

    They made for good examples of game design, the ones we chose to keep playing and those to set aside really being decided on how well they fit two factors:

    Easy to learn, but hard to master
    Skill based but with an element of luck

    In a computer game, a poor UI can detract from those, whilst graphics are irrelevant. You can, with a little imagination, set the same well designed game in space or in feudal Japan without losing it’s good design qualities

    As for “Why make a game?” the better question is rather “Why do people play games (generally)?”.

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