Less Talking, More Doing

One of the Project Horseshoe reports includes the question, “How could one build a game that delivers the experience of tasting a peach?” An article at 1Up asks, “Can a game make you cry?” Eric Zimmerman hosts the Game Design Challenge panel at GDC… the first one was “How do you make a game about a love story?”

My answer to each of these questions is, “Who cares?” All of these are interesting topics to BS about in various collections of game developers, but at the end of the day, this is not how these things are actually going to be accomplished. One day some guy we’ve never heard of will decide that what he really wants to do is to make a game about a love story. Let’s call him Betty (because I hope he’s actually a woman. We need more of those in this industry.)

Betty will come up with some game that she’s sure will launch this new genre, but it will not do very well. After all this was Betty’s first game and she didn’t really know what she was doing. Undeterred, she’ll try again, and again, and will eventually reach her goal. Maybe her game will be a huge commercial success, or maybe not, but it will be a game that gives the player the same sort of feeling they get from a romantic book or movie.

The reason that Betty will ultimately succeed is that making a game about love is her passion. She’ll keep plugging away until she gets it right and won’t listen to the people who tell her it’s not possible. She won’t get her ideas by sitting in a BS session at a conference, she’ll incorporate bits of other media, parts of existing games, scraps from books, and portions of her own life, and make game after game until the work, improving each one with the results from the previous try.

This is how it always works. A great (and recent) example of this happening, is the story of Harmonix. According to their website, this is how it started:

Harmonix was founded in 1995 by Alex Rigopulos (CEO) and Eran Egozy (CTO), who met while working in the computer music group at the MIT Media Laboratory. Alex and Eran formed Harmonix initially not to develop videogames, but rather to create new ways for non-musicians to experience the unique joy that comes from making music.

Their first two attempts at doing this with a game did fairly well in the marketplace, but didn’t really reach the goal of showing non-musicians the joy of making music. They didn’t stop there, though, and eventually came out with Guitar Hero. Talk about a game that makes you feel like you’re making music…

As far as I know nobody actually cares enough about putting the taste of peaches, tear-jerking, or love stories into games to actually show this kind of dedication. The people who participate in this sort intellectual exploration aren’t going to bring about these sorts of games. At best they are providing a little entertainment for the rest of us.

So if you really care about these sort of radically different game designs, don’t just talk about them. And if you aren’t, why don’t you talk about something you do care about? I bet those ideas are more interesting anyway, and way more likely to ever be implemented.

~Joe


2 Responses to “Less Talking, More Doing”

  1. Psychochild said on :

    Well, most of the Project Horseshoe groups had specific goals they set for themselves and needed to accomplish. The legitimacy group, of which I was a member, wasn’t just complaining about the lack of legitimacy but is actively working to establish a sense of history through an archive of old games. So, there is some doing along with the talking.

    The peach group got caught up in Raph’s speech and challenge as to why there hasn’t been a game about “eating a peach.” Personally, I agree with you: there’s not much to be gained in focusing on a game about eating a peach. There are a lot more socially redeeming topics we could cover. I think we also need to accept that some media just are not ideal for handling certain experiences. Eating a peach in a game isn’t exactly a perfect use for the medium.

    My thoughts,

  2. Joe thought on :

    Well I didn’t mean to paint all of Project Horseshoe with the same brush. Specifically it’s the peach group, or at least the peach topic, that seemed like a waste of everyone’s time.

    The playdough group’s report was very interesting, for instance. I should dig into it more in a post of its own.

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