I enjoy seeing what happens when I make something I don’t fully understand, with little conscious thought involved. I don’t make from a position of craft, except perhaps in the oldest sense of the word.
Playing around with hypertext mechanics is fun because you can’t rely on traditional tools or ways of thinking, which is good because I don’t particularly like puzzles. Most of the crunchy bits in my games are just crystallizations of narrative, emerging and receding interfaces–a system for traversing your lover’s back or a crowd turning into a flurry of links.
The purpose of a puzzle is to provide resistance. For me, that resistance doesn’t need to be coercive or challenging, just interesting and aesthetic. My mechanics are to be touched. Games are perhaps the most intimate art because the player must remain touching at all times. They must touch or the game does not exist.
Many games are designed on the principle of the hover hand, an embarrassing disavowal of this intimate relationship. And furthermore they are designed to connect with the worst in us, a bloodless, sexless part of our brain where nothing can surprise us, where “Nothing would ever change; nothing new could ever be expected.”
So I think a lot about transferring emotions from one body to another–I try to make every word count so people can experience my stories at the rate I’m feeling them, like a heartbeat, so we can be intimate, so there can be as little separation as possible.
And it could be said that I’ve developed a kind of language anorexia where I’m acutely aware of the words I generate as if they were an extension of my body and I feel unwell if they are corpulent, imprecise, I can’t sleep. I have beaten the physical form of this but the intense need for spareness still lingers, fighting the words which are part of my body because words never stop, they grow like cells, that “resisting organism of the word”.
Seeing my own words is bizarre to me, like looking at stalactites or some other frozen accretion of an ordinarily fluid thing. My friend Erin said, “it can be very hard to maintain what is called “writerly control” when with every passing second, words on the page feel different.” I agree.
What would a nonexpressive poetry look like? A poetry of intellect rather than emotion? One in which the substitutions at the heart of metaphor and image were replaced by the direct presentation of language itself, with “spontaneous overflow” supplanted by meticulous procedure and exhaustively logical process? In which the self-regard of the poet’s ego were turned back onto the self-reflexive language of the poem itself? So that the test of poetry were no longer whether it could have been done better (the question of the workshop), but whether it could conceivably have been done otherwise.
Constant [Nieuwenhuys]’s megastructures … would be populated by homo ludens - man at play. In the New Babylon, the bourgeois shackles of work, family life, and civic responsibility would be discarded. The post-revolutionary individual would wander from one leisure environment to another in search of new sensations … [where] deductive reasoning, goal-oriented production, the construction and betterment of a political community - all these were eschewed.
I wonder instead whether the work is trying to exclude itself from “gameyness.” By and large, these are games about people who lack power and lack control. The message gets across because games have always been about agency; gamers are used to having power and control, and to have the game itself deny it is a wake up slap across the face.
Effectively, these are games as rhetoric not games as dialectic, moving against the fundamental current of gameness. And the rhetorical move is “destroy everything,” as Porpentine put it in her GDC13 session with Terry Cavanaugh on indie games.
Overall, to me it feels like it speaks to a conflicted relationship with games. The creators of these works do not want to be excluded: it is their medium. At the same time, the aesthetic argues for un-gaming things.
Games are uncomfortable with themselves, and not just on the level of “what are our narratives.” But actually on the level of “what are games for?” We see our tools taken up by crass moves into marketing and monetization, we see the craft we developed being used for manipulation, and we start asking ourselves whether everything we do is manipulation, whether we are fundamentally crass.
All in all, I wonder whether fundamentally we as a community are doing a bit too much ranting. In the games and in the aesthetic and yes, from stage at GDC. Oh, I don’t mean in the literal sense of strident complaint. I mean in the metaphorical sense of holding forth. Games have had nothing to say for so long that I worry that we have collectively concluded that “saying something personal” is what makes them worthwhile art.
Ranting is a rhetorical device. It’s unidirectional. Yes, it’s all part of a larger conversation, of course. And sometimes we need to speak loudly to be heard, especially if we are from a marginalized group. But fundamentally it is hard to listen when everyone is loud, and the aesthetic of control is all about the player listening, and not getting to speak. Fundamentally, these design moves are about impositional narrative, not about the narrative the player constructs. Imposing a narrative, a norming, a worldview – I thought that is what we were ranting against. Running away from attempted engagement – I thought that is what we were ranting against.
The beginnings of several days worth of very lively debate.
Another successful defense of society against the culture within itself is to give artists a place by regarding them as the producers of property, thus elevating the value of consuming art, or owning it. It is notable that very large collections of art, and all the world’s major museums, are the work of the very rich or of societies during strongly nationalistic periods. All the principle museums in New York, for example, are associated with the names of the famously rich: Carnegie, Frick, Rockefeller, Guggenheim, Whitney, Morgan, Lehman.
Such museums are not designed to protect the art from people, but to protect the people from art.
[Unitary Urbanism] is opposed to the fixation of people at certain points of a city. It is the foundation for a civilization of leisure and play. One should note that in the shackles of the current economic system, technology has been used to further multiply the pseudo-games of passivity and social disintegration (television), while the new forms of playful participation that are made possible by this same technology are regulated and policed.
Bishop writes, “If the digital means anything for visual art, it is the need to take stock of this orientation and to question art’s most treasured assumptions. At its most utopian, the digital revolution opens up a new dematerialized, deauthored, and unmarketable reality of collective culture; at its worst, it signals the impending obsolescence of visual art itself.”
This is to my mind a good thing. As we all know there is no chance that art will become obsolete, but there is a good chance that Art and the trappings of the Art World could, and for some in the new media sector, that’s what we’ve been working towards – not getting included within Art’s boundaries, but obliterating boundaries altogether, seeing art not as a noun but as a verb, as something one does, one practices, not something that is.
… I know that there have been a few occasions where our work has inspired the design of videogames that reached a much larger audience. But I would like to see if I can’t make something on that level myself. I’ve always more or less accepted that I’m simply too weird to ever make something for anyone outside of a small elite. But through the work on Bientôt l’été, which I consider one of the most extreme cases of elitist game design I have been involved with, I have started to think of overcoming my handicap as a sort of challenge.
Maybe I’m finally old enough to be mild and kind now. Maybe I’m just sick of rebelling. Maybe this is just a phase. Or it’s simply a form of vanity. This change in attitude may not make much of a difference to anyone but myself. I just want to make something nice now. Try to avoid my contrary nature and make something that people find pretty and fun, something that moves them without having to be very erudite or jumping through all sorts of ambiguous hoops. If only for a change.
I guess I also feel that I can do this now, because there’s so many more developers now than ever who are exploring this medium in sincerity and with ambition. Only a few years ago, it probably felt like a holy duty to me to make these kinds of experimental videogames. But now there’s several very interesting developers exploring the underwater part of the proverbial iceberg, from many different directions. So I can relax a bit. It’s very exciting!
I love games more than anything else, and I can barely stand them.
In order to succeed, you must orchestrate your actions carefully and learn from repeated trial and error. In the early versions there was no way to save a game in midplay, and therefore a mistake meant repeating the entire correct procedure from the beginning. In a way, the computer was programming the player.
Two of the most common approaches to adventure games seem to be apologetics and trivialization. Both generally fail to grasp the intrinsic qualities of the genre, because they both privilege the aesthetic ideals of another genre, that of narrative literature, typically the novel. For the apologists, adventure games may one day - when their Cervantes or Dickens comes along - reach their true potential, produce works of literary value that rival the current narrative masterpieces, and claim their place in the canon. For the trivialists, this will never happen; adventure games are games - they cannot possibly be taken seriously as literature nor attain the level of sophistication of a good novel. Although the trivialists are right … they are also making an irrelevant point … and while the apologists certainly are wrong … they are right in insisting that the genre may improve and eventually turn out something rich and wonderful. This may or may not happen, so the only way to understand the genre is to study the various works that already exist and how they are played.
…This trajectory is typical of industrial terms appropriated by analysts of technoculture and shows how commercial rhetoric is accepted uncritically by academics with little concern for precise definitions or implicit ideologies. The word interactive operates textually rather than analytically, as it connotes various vague ideas of computer screens, user freedom, and personalized media, while denoting nothing. … To declare a system interactive is to endorse it with a magic power.
Star Logo, SimCity, and its recent companion “The Sims” are designer environments that can help biological brains learn to get to grips with decentralized emergent order. They can help us develop skills for understanding those peculiar kinds of complex systems of which we ourselves are one striking instance. Experience with such tools should be compulsory elements in our educational practice.
Different neural circuits provide different capacities, and all contribute in different ways to our sense of self, of where we are, of what we can do, and to decision making and choice. External, nonbiological elements provide still further capacities and contribute in additional ways to our sense of who we are, where we are, of what we can do, and to decision making and choice. No single tool among this complex kit is intrinsically thoughtful, ultimately in control, or the “seat of the self.” We, meaning we human individuals, just are these shifting coalitions of tools. We are “soft-selves,” continuously open to change and driven to leak through the confines of skin and skull, annexing more and more nonbiological elements as aspects of the machinery of mind itself.