Thoughts on ep. 23 of No Cartridge Audio

Are video games the  new and improved ‘opiate of the masses?’

I’ve come across the relatively recently created podcast called “No Catridge Audio“. It’s good, go listen to it. It was created by Hegelbon (I can’t find his first name as I swim in his pseudonyms), a PhD in literature fellow. In his show he talks about games with or without someone else. The ones that are the most interesting, for me at least, are where he brings in a guest. The other ones are interesting too, don’t get me wrong, keep at ’em Hegelbon. Anyhow, this week in episode 23 he brought a guy by the name of Matt Christman to the show, and Matt markedly does not play games, for reasons. First off, this is refreshing, to have a show to listen to that has a diversity of perspectives on video games. Secondly, I like Matt’s argument (to an extent), and …here I want to write my take on some of what they touched on.

Basically, and this is going to be a terrible summary of his argument, Matt says that games, due to their unique level of interactivity, are especially attuned to giving people who play them the sense of accomplishment that would otherwise only be available in the real world. With a generation weaned on video games, comes a class, ‘the gamer class’, who identify themselves as gamers, and who, due to their lack of real world experience, often end up being a mob of people with strong opinions, but who’s maturity is defined by an unrefelective state of arrested development. This entitled gamer class seems to lack concern for social issues, leading to stupidity such as ‘gamer gate’.

As the conversation continued, and to Hegelbon’s credit, it was broadened to an issue of art and technology, in more general terms.  What I would like to add to the conversation is that I agree, but I want it to go further into more realms than just video games and then open it up to thinking about how ideological and/or spiritual frameworks can play a part in all this. Overall, Matt’s argument would fare well when looking at social media too, and yes they did touch on it in the podcast, but I think we can give this realm just a bit more of its due.

Video games, first, aren’t easy to categorize. Raph Koster, one of the more famous and outspoken designers of early MMO’s, thinks that MMO’s aren’t really games, but sees them more as virtual social worlds. Here’s a link to an amazing talk of his that I also came across recently.  I don’t want to steal his ideas really, but I kinda am with this post because a lot of what I’m arguing for, he really is arguing for. He’s saying there can be some serious social consequences when it comes to designing virtual worlds, like MMO’s and Facebook, and virtual reality tech could take it to a whole new dangerous level.

Some video games are more worlds than games, and some are more like sports. Some video games are more like stories, whereas others are more akin to walking through a park, a park with ummm a bunch of logic puzzles, and odd statues… and meta-puzzles, like The Witness. Traditional games, like Baduk or Chess, are different from many video games, but many video games fit into the traditional game category, like Tetris. For Raph, there’s not that much of a difference between Facebook and MMO’s on a basic level, but Raph doesn’t go so far to discuss issues like ‘gamer class’, I mean, you can only say so much in one talk. But that’s where Matt takes it, and that’s super cool. What I’m getting at is not all video games are the same and that’s an important difference to note for a stronger argument. And throwing in VR, as defined by Raph, as straddling some video games and social networks in there only adds more fuel to Matt’s argument.

All interactive technology whether social or not, has the potential to isolate people and create little basement monsters. Now when looking at it from the social media side, it’s not just about opinionated middle class white boys, but for Moms and uncles and whoever else with a political opinion that has figured out the tweets and the likes. Raph talks about VR and it is clear that VR headset tech is even more captivating than the boogeyman of video games. Facebook wants to own this industry, right? See where we are going by putting Matt and Raph’s arguments together? If this is the case, then we are in for a wild ride and I don’t mean this in a fun ‘video game’ way, but giant swathes of humanity who don’t have a clue of how the world works because the new boob tube is trying to claw its way into our homes.

Where do I come at this though? Frameworks and such? I don’t consider myself a gamer, as I said in my first post. My identity is a Native American (Lakota, Chippewa-Cree), and this comes with some important differences from most Americans, one where I’m happy to meet Matt halfway from. Maybe he’d love it, for all I know, because I don’t know the guy. Anyway, when it comes to knowledge, what we would call the ‘Indigenous Knowledge Framework’ assumes not only objectivity to be a way to gain knowledge, but what some might call relationality (not a stand in for subjectivity). So it’s an equitable system of knowledge with a long tradition and stands in comparison to the Western scientific system of knowledge.

Taking relationality as an onto-epistemological sort of axiom (please don’t let me put those words together again), guides my ethical viewpoint. So when I hear Matt’s argument, I agree in general, not because of my political ideology, but because of my relational-oriented worldview. Isolation, as opposed to connection, breeds crazy. As for communists and Indigenous people, what happened with the Zapatista movement of the 90’s until now, from the Indigenous people’s perspective will stand as a case worth digging into before let’s say, jumping the gun, and saying spirituality is not a big issue in discussions of political ideologies, technology and games. But who’s saying that anyway? I mean, I am,… technically.

And games… I see some are more or less designed to be Skinner-boxes, and regardless people should not be socialized by poor stand-ins for real-life experience, whichever activity is getting in the way. I’ve probably spent way too much time playing video games myself. However, there are so many things that we call games, and many of them aren’t as nefarious as Matt argues them to be. For me, ideally, we wouldn’t even need video games, at all, but here we are in what looks like the gosh-darn age of computers, so .. meh? There are many ways to fight against consciousness traps and isolation, and not-playing games is just one way. Playing them can be another way, depending on what you are playing and what you got going around it, like making a super cool podcast with interesting people.

Anyway, that’s about it for now for my wandering thoughts without conclusion. A podcast made me get a bit soap-boxey! Cheers and hats off to Hegelbon and Matt Christman. I’m now a sub for both of the podcasts they are a part of. Can’t wait to learn and hear more interesting things from interesting places. 🙂

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Hollow Knight (2017)

Check out my review of Hollow Knight over at the Well-Red Mage’s blog!

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“If all the ways I have been along were marked on a map and joined up with a line, it might represent a minotaur.”
-Pablo Picasso

ff3-nes-sage2 Heyo. Wakalapi, aka. Evergreen Sage Mage, here.

A bit about myself… I’m a metroidvaniac, as Well-Red calls it, going way back into the 80’s. I beat the original Metroid before I beat 3rd grade. My heart has also been burnt a deep searing charcoal black from playing and beating the entirety of the Soulsborne games. If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you will absolutely love Hollow Knight. If you’re nothing like me, you will still love it 😉 …because this game is insanely good.

It’s my pleasure to be here again at the Well-Red blog to bring you another review, this time on the absolutely gorgeous, hand-drawn, labyrinthine world called Hollow Knight. It’s been classified as a metroidvania, but really, it’s so much more than…

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Fort Worden: Probably Why I love Exploration Games So Much

Inspired by Kim’s post @Later Level’s, I’m posting some photos of a trip my wife and I  (and Scrappy) went to recently. It’s a place called Fort Worden, a naval base in Port Townsend, WA,  that was built in the early 1900’s, but never saw any action. My Great Uncle Red would take me on walks through here each summer since before I went to elementary school. It is one of my favorite places ever and I was thrilled to be able to share this place with my wife not too long ago, when the weather wasn’t too bad. I mean, it was super windy, but it was also bright and beautiful.

The fort is pretty much a big labyrinth of bunkers overgrown, out by the ocean. The city has taken to turn the barracks part of the fort into a public place with a community center and all sorts of musical and arts activities going on. I’m glad to see it has the love and attention it deserves, but there is a part of me that longs for the times when we could walk through the entire place and not see a single soul.

I was happy to find out that Scrappy loved this place as much as I do

Directly underneath this placid field is an underground lair, seriously.

 

This particular building is now inaccessable, and is being fixed up. Yep, this is like a little pyramid underneath all the grass and ferns.

The battery, where large ship destroying cannons were located

This is connected to many buildings like it through tunnels and is just the best thing to be able to explore

Seems like there was some filming about to happen at this particular spot, maybe for a live-action game? Or a survival horror film? We didn’t bother them, aside from taking a picture of course.

I totally love the r/abandoned subreddit BTW, and it’s no wonder why

Well that’s about it. I wasn’t planning on blogging about this adventure, so I didn’t take a ton of photos, but hope you enjoyed. It’s a wonderful place to visit!

Game design thoughts: Surveying the foothills

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Wait, this mountain doesn’t have any foothills!

Since camping out in what I referred to as “Game Design Mountain“, I’ve spent some time doing a bit of work, and a bit of navel gazing as well. I’ve approached this mountain a bit like a cartographer and also a bit like an ecologist and an anthropologist. I’ve been trying to get a good lay of the land as well as to see who is here and what their worldviews are. I’ve only scratched the surface of the realm of game design, but I thought I’d take some time to pool some thoughts into more of a coherent blog piece than simply allowing my heart to continue to grow this congealing anxious need to communicate.

There is a profession that didn’t exist 50 years ago, I’ve heard stated more than a couple times, called the ‘game designer’. This person specifically designs games. Games have been designed in the past, but they might have just come about through historical iteration, like ancient board games, or they might have just been done by people who were in some other profession. Abstract strategy games have existed for a long time, as we can archaeologically provide evidence of, if people were playing sports games in ancient times, it is hard to tell. If I were to make a bet, it would be on the side that sports existed alongside board games and most likely other children’s games of imagination. Cool, we live in an interesting time because now there’s game designers! But what of some of the stuff people talk about when it comes to game design?

The perennially arising and ritualistically stamped out question of “what is a game?” is something of interest to me. Like a weed that just won’t go away, or perhaps a nagging pain in tooth. If one gets the aching tooth checked out, it just might have to be plucked. There is one point that I’d like to say on this issue, and it’s probably been said a million times elsewhere by far more intelligent beings than myself, that video games although historically newer, are much broader than what one might refer to as a “classic” game. Video games can be ‘classic games’ and they are often a whole lot more than just that. Personally, I enjoy both ‘classic games’ and other kinds of ‘games’ as well. On one hand, I really enjoy sports and strategy. Since I was a kid I love playing games like Basketball, Pool, Backgammon and Chess as well as card games like Spades, Rummy and Poker (and later as a teenager, Magic The Gathering). I’ve also enjoyed video games that I would say are strategic (or tactical), particularly fighting games and multiplayer shooting games.

On the other hand, we have games like Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, Dead Space, Zelda, Metroid, etc. that are more linear, in that they have interactive worlds, with story endings. I greatly enjoy these and hands down, my favorite game I played last year was Inside. I can’t give it more praise. 10 out of 10. I digress,… both classic games and ‘story games’ are interactive and have been shown that they can be more on a spectrum than in a dichotomy, but sometimes can be a two-in-one. Call of Duty Black Ops, the last CoD game that I actually enjoyed the story of, and Dan Cooke does a good job talking about this, is basically two games in one. It’s both what he calls a “hobby” (the multiplayer aspect) and a “content game” (the campaign), but one chooses either or in the main menu. What does one do when faced with a dilemma of two audiences? You grab the bull by the horns and build something for both. For a while the CoD series were the biggest grossing media content pieces in American history.

Demon’s & Dark Souls were a strange and twisted marriage between multiplayer classic game (of fighting) and of narrative and world exploration. Dark Souls is almost a quintessential example of what happens when sport, computers and story are mixed in a complementary way. If I were to diagnose the cause of the problem of ‘game vs story’, I would agree with Raph Koster that it is the two-culture problem and  just the continuing case of Western history, where the romantics split with the scientists. Perhaps because Japan (and everywhere else) just don’t have the same history, it’s easy to ignore this and keep on crafting category busting works.

Game design theorists, though seem to, tend to, from my limited surveying, lean more towards being interested in the classic game side as opposed to all the other stuff we call games these days. If I were to make another bet, it might be because they tend to come from a more objectivist approach, paralleling empiricist methods of “discovering” natural laws (scientific method) and then applying those theories in practice (engineering). They are searching for objective truths about games, game laws?, and then want to apply them by creating interesting dynamic systems of play. They tend to be abstract, strategic games and this is a valid endeavor.

There is another kind of objectivist approach to game design, not mutually exclusive to other approaches, I noticed, that draw heavily on traditional scientific theoretical models of human psychology. They attempt to utilize understandings, particularly from behavioralism, cognitive psychology, and a smidgen of social psychology, to craft games (or interactive media) that fits into the objectivist models of ‘human nature’. The point is, game design appears to be within an objectivist paradigm. But isn’t that really like me pointing out that the sky is blue?

All of this is fine, the paradigm is here, but the game design talk is often a bit too mechanistic and limiting for my tastes. A bit tinny really. I won’t argue with them when it comes to defining games, (Keith Burgun has an interesting set of definitions that are actually pretty useful), but that doesn’t mean that the pursuit of monastic truth is my thing. The Western, theoretical side of game design mountain is now probably a lesser interesting side for me, unless it diversifies its overall framework. I will say that I do see that many people who talk about game design to be interested in the more humanities side and that is pretty cool. I think perhaps the revitalization of game design discussion is coming back with a bit less sharper corners from what I understand of its short but scattered history. Still, it tends to be heavily Eurocentric. That might be because I’m doing all my research in English.

If I had to differentiate myself, I would say that I take more of a pluralistic approach to game design, as I do with philosophy. I don’t have any reason to believe in objective truth, so don’t think there can be objective truths about games either. I think truths are evolving and diverse, much like languages. I appreciate the mechanical side of game design (although my skills aren’t developed in this realm), yet I don’t see the humanities side of games as being opposed to the mechanics side, nor is it simply a qualitative “layer” on a mechanical object. Many video games may not be games, but they aren’t not games either. Many so-called abstract games might not simply be cold mechanics as well, but can be infused with different worldviews too. The ancient game Ur was played in hopes that the god Marduk was on your side. For Mesopotamians, playing this game was a way to engage in the grandiose and the cosmic. It just depends on what myth you ascribe to and whether you are open to acknowledging this plurality.

On Snearing Into Telescopes

Never regret thy fall,

O Icarus of the fearless flight

For the greatest tragedy of them all

Is never to feel the burning light.”

-Oscar Wilde

If only there was an ultimate primal truth that, if understood, could prove to the world, once and for all, what is right and just. Amirite? The world is in some deep shit right now and we could seriously use a pick-me-up. There’s war, politics, a global environmental cataclysm looming, all sorts of mean nasty ugly things and it might do some good to, you know, somehow figure it all out. That way we can all get to work fixin’ up all this silly suffering stuff.

Many people claim to have this Truth© already, but unfortunately for them that leaves them the task of creating a rather large explanation about why It hasn’t been disseminated and accepted across the species called “Homo Sapiens Sapiens”, or if you speak Latin “Man, the Wisest McSmarty Pants”. The truth knowers have yet to get their truth across though and must build elaborate schemes of people being in denial, lacking faith and all sorts of colorful explanations. What a task, to stand on the pedestal of ultimate knowledge! But the knowers aren’t in my telescope. Also, as an aside, if you speak Latin, you are presently one of a kind, and you should get that checked out ASAP.

Some other people will say they are simply in pursuit of this ultimate knowledge and stoically accede that it has not been found, yet. They are faithful that someday we will escape Plato’s cave gleefully into the wax-melting sunlight. And if one is to question them on their holy journey, one might surely receive humanistic philosophical pedantisms aplenty, straight to the face. They believe -No! They are certain– that someday the ‘Wise Primate’ using its intellectual capacity for rationality will someday uncover The Truth of the Universe™. They see this as their goal and will pursue it unto the time they cryogenically freeze themselves, as unreachable in this lifetime as it most likely is for individuals to get to that point. Pursuers.

The first kind of faith might be attacked as mere metaphysical tomfoolery, a faith in something that is empirically contestable and statistically unlikely. The second might be considered the faith in man, however it too is empirically contestable that they should have such a faith in human knowledge. It is also probably just as statistically unlikely that they will uncover anything but their own tracks in their pursuit. Take for instance the question of how many days have gone since they haven’t found The Truth©? Statistically, well, a lot more days than how many days have gone by since they’ve found it, that’s for sure!

Taking a step back from truth talk, and getting a bit more empirical, let’s try to examine for a moment the ecosystem of the pursuer.  What is their habitat? Isn’t it a laboratory, located in outer space, the final frontier? Perhaps for the more powerful ones, yes, but more modestly if not in space, at least it’s in a kind of divorced space from the messy collisions of the mundane rubber hitting proverbial roads. The laboratory is a quasi-enclosed virtual vacuum segmenting wise apes and their smart tools, from their specimens. Think of it like a tree-fort pretending to be a space station where wise and faithful apes can look down on the world and not have to interact with it, at least until lunch time. Or perhaps think of it like a brain living in a vat of juices, floating around in the emptiness of space, looking down at the humdrum Earthly goings-on, with a keen interest in knowing everything.

Oh but me? Perhaps I’m just a little bird on the ground, laughing at the big bird in the sky with my limited and provincial understanding. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, its a spaceship speeding off into oblivion, fueled by denial! Or, if you asked me questions about knowing the universe, I suppose I would just deny knowing anything about all that. I choose not to stand on the pedestal of ultimate knowledge, or to clamor up it.  I don’t care to comment whether knowledge will solve any of the world’s wicked problems. I don’t know that not knowing will solve anything either. Nor do I presently care, but what other Myths about wisdom are out there? I can think of at least two off the top of my head that says knowledge is the actual source (not solution) of the wicked problems, and unsurprisingly they have proven to be much more perennial than the Pursuant’s creed.

 

 

 

 

Game Formalism: Gaming the game of games

 

Ah yes, Game Formalism.

Yeah, so I don’t know what game formalism is. Nobody does, exactly, according to game design theorists. But they go on to say formalism in game design is basically the idea that defining a game as a medium is really important. And, it has something not exactly to do with content.

Now before you pour sugar in my gas tank for even attempting to talk about this subject, you should know that I’ve read A Theory of Fun by the poet Raph Koster and I’ve listened to some podcasts by the music theorist Keith Burgun. I’ve even managed to buy and read a book, at arm’s length, about the philosophy of irony by Ian Bogost. Not to mention the fact that I’ve watched at least three Frank Lantz lectures.

Where was I? 

How important is it to define game and gaminess?

Really important, that’s what!

It makes making games that easily easier to discuss. We can say, “No, that’s not a game!” or “Yes, that’s definitely a game!”, and other important things. We can also say: “Oh gosh, not another so-called ‘video game’ that doesn’t have actual gaming elements!” We can praise games for their depth too, I mean have you even played golf?

The sky is the limit…

…as long as the sky has some sort of interactive system.

You: Weather system? 

Me: You betcha! Climate change is the game of… ummm… winning the sky!

Climate change houses the game of politics, a system you interact with unironically because you can make a difference. This idea of systems inside of systems is like a nesting game nested within another game… of games. The Game of Thrones is literaturely nested, like a dragon-bird, in the climate change game.

Make sure you win! 

Much like blogging, life’s a game. 

Not… a puzzle.

Life is a simulation in a computer.

It’s a big joke.

I mean, this post is…

A joke.

What do you think this is…

some kind of game?


Post-ambulation: I actually like playing all sorts of “games”, games that are more like movies, or where the games are pretty much not games, and games that are deep as *heck*, like chess. I actually like those people I mentioned above, too. 

Childhood Dream Game: Big Trouble in Little China, The Arcade Game

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Poster Artist: I don’t need no photo, I can draw Kurt’s face from memory!

For childhood me, there were two things that were the absolute best things: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game (1989) and the comedy classic Big Trouble in Little China (1986). Because nothing sucks more than elementary school, bro, I -like- spent my time there dreaming of eating New York pizza and drawing out my magnum opus, Big Trouble in Little China, The Arcade Game.

This movie was perfect to turn into a game! It had two main character players to choose from (like Final Fight). In case of this game you could choose either Jack or Wang. Personally, I liked Wang the best because he actually knew martial arts and Jack is really just a bumbling goofball throughout the movie. There were tons of fight scenes to draw from too, and they had absolutely the best bosses. The three storms all had unique traits as bosses and of course there was David Lo pan and other various magical baddies like the eyeball monster and the crusty sewer demon thing. There were plenty of opportunities for power ups too, the biggest of them all was the weird dry ice stuff that the protagonists drank before the final battle.

Image result for big trouble in little china drink

Huge buzz!

In fact, Mortal Kombat’s characters Shang Tsung and Raiden were inspired from this movie. And just because I had to before writing this blog, I searched if someone actually had made a game on this movie. I mean, you never can tell! It turns out there was a Commodore 64 version of this game, but it appears to be total crap. Like a broken Bad Dudes. And upon further interwebs perusal, it seems someone actually made a Bad Dudes ROM hack version and a neo-geo style arcade fighting game mock-up. Oh and don’t forget your board game version as well! (?)

Anyhow, my idea for the game was a side-scrolling beat-em-up, just like the turtles game. Because at least half the movie is crazy fun action, it was pretty obvious how to design the scenes. Upon reminiscing, my scene was from right to left scrolling, as opposed to the conventional left to right. Hmmm…

Nerds like me gushing about the TMNT arcade game

The trailer, for the uninitiated

Sadly, I don’t have any of my original design drawings, but I do remember I had the first level all planned out. The first actual fight scene in the movie takes place in an alleyway in Chinatown, San Fran, where Jack and Wang watch two rival gangs beat the crap out of each other. Basically the good guys are the guys in white and yellow and the bad guys are in red and black. You wouldn’t actually be controlling our main characters, but would be controlling one of the cool good guys. I had it all planned out to how many enemies would come out of alleys as you continue to walk along the main alley (e.g. bad guys x 5 enter through here) and the boss was the nimble bad guy who badassedly suplexes a dude into a shop window in the original fight scene. There would be all kinds of weapons you could pick up like boards, swords and other implements of destruction. The level would end when you reached the three storms. They would kill you and then the cut scene of the semi-truck hurtling down the alley into Lo Pan would end the level. Now that I think about it, it could easily be the tutorial level for the game, teaching you the ropes of the beat em up gameplay.

The alleyway fight scene (cut from TV broadcasts)

I remember showing my design to my friends, my mom and anybody else who would look at my drawings, but absolutely nobody had any interest in both of these things (TMNT & BTiLC) at the same time like I did [I later empathized strongly with The Little Prince having his boa constrictor misunderstood for being a hat!]. Nor were there many aspiring game developers at my elementary school. I didn’t go much further than actually drawing out the first scene because nobody was as pumped up as I was, and I had no idea how one actually makes video games as a 10-year-old anyways.

That’s where my dreams died, kids, and now I’m a bitter old man. If only I had a girl with green eyes!

How about you? Did you have any dream game that you wanted to make? How far did you get?

Design Idea: The Unreliable game system

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Most people are familiar with the idea of an unreliable narrator and most likely you’ve either heard of, or played, the game The Stanley Parable. In that game there is a narrator telling your story and guiding you to where you should go. Yet, you quickly get the inclination that this narrator really doesn’t have your best interests at heart. Playin this game quickly brings the player consciousness to the theme of player agency within a designed game space. Questions border-lining philosophical thought, like “What does it mean if I choose not to play the game as it’s being narrated?” or “Why have I been playing games the way designers always want me to?” start to crop up. Of course, The Stanley Parable isn’t the only game that does this kind of work and there’s a list of games with unreliable narrators being curated here starting with Portal.

What I was thinking would be interesting would be a game that seemed totally fine in many respects, but rather than having an unreliable narrator, the system itself was unreliable. I’m sure I’m not the first one to think of this idea, but it’s still fun to explore. I did a quick google check (right here in the middle of my writing of this) and indeed there is an intriguing Gamasutra article by a fellow named Chris Solarski titled “The Unreliable Gamemaster: Player Motivation in Story-Driven Games“. First off, this article has a much more succinct description of how The Stanley Parable does its special thing. Solarski actually has a pretty well thought-out criticism of story-driven games, rightfully putting Uncharted 4’s story along side The Avengers movies.  He explains that the drama of many stories is the tension between the protagonist’s wants (to get something specific) and their needs (to grow on a personal level). In the case of a narrative game, its the player’s wants (usually to win/finish the story) vs their needs (of some subjective higher experience).  The ending of a good narrative game is kind of like the ending twist in an M. Night Shyamalan movie, but in game form, where for the player experiences a qualitative meaning that is beyond simply winning. The example he gives is from Firewatch, which is a spoiler… so go play it or spoil it for yourself.

In my metroidvania game design idea I actually addressed the need of a player to think about the themes of perspective and truth, not knowing that this is basically good narrative design 101. Now I know, thanks to this fellow Chris! Go check out his amazing article, and totally don’t finish mine!

Anyhow, where was this post going? Right, it’s a game design idea exploration. So rather than actually having a narrator be unreliable, I would have the mechanics and the system themselves be unreliable. Perhaps the game would appear to be a little buggy, but if the player is paying attention it becomes increasingly buggy. The bugs themselves will turn out to be another system in themselves, but they only appeared buggy because the player started in a different and unreliable system of mechanics. The players can play the original game, ignoring the bugs, but it results in a “wow, mechanics game, sooooo mathematical” kind of experience, or they can choose to chase the bug.

I had this idea when I was watching someone talk about how trends in AAA gaming were too hand-holding and had Assassin’s Creed as an example. The video quickly showed the player pick-pocketing money and showing how much money they stole, in text form pop-up. I remember where I saw it, it was in No Clip’s amazing short documentary called Rediscovering Mystery  and it was I believe Jonathan Blow doing the talking. I thought how it would be funny to poke fun at this hand-holding, this overuse of overhead maps and data stuff, to covertly confuse the player. While The Stanley Parable draws overt attention to its unreliable narrator, I wouldn’t make it obvious that there is something unreliable in the game. At least at first.

It can be more of an abstract strategy game, where they are playing and a bug happens. The game might give them data on points or whatever, but they are actually not getting those points on maybe their menu. They can keep playing the game, but as this misinformation builds up they might be thinking, “what the hell is going on here? Is this just a shitty game or is there something else here?” As they pursue this mystery, it should eventually become apparent that this was done purposely. The questions the players might then start to ask are then “Why would they design this in such a way? What is the designer’s motivation?” Perhaps inside of the strategy game if you follow the bug, is a story game.

Of course, it’s to poke fun and to get players and designers alike to examine their expectations of how a game should be played/designed. It’s almost like the counter-argument to player entitlement while simultaneously being another foothold in the ludo-narrative design battle, (itself a smaller version of the quantitative/qualitative paradigms struggle in academia). Of course, the shell strategy game, whatever it is, has to be a good enough game. It can’t just be a shambling pile of crap. It has to draw them in, before it can spit them back out. The joy would hopefully be going back into the game to explore and investigate the meaning of  it’s “bugs” which are themselves the mechanics of the “true” game.