Tag Archives: mechanic

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.