This is why I love the Internet. Why the wider game blogging community is so profoundly wonderful. That such educational discourse can take place for the betterment of our understanding of video games.
Tom Francis, game journalist and indie developer, recently wrote a manifesto about what he considers to be a well-made video game, or rather, what he personally is going to go about making. This comes “coincidentally” just a little after e3. You could read the manifesto as perhaps a response to the very-controlling nature of a lot of triple-A titles shown at e3 this year i.e. the way triple-A titles dole out interactive experiences like it was a precious commodity, the way DLCs are handled, what it means to present a gamic experience, etc., or you could just read it as some of the ill feelings he has harbored towards the way a lot of video games are being designed today.
Read his manifesto here.
This was shortly followed up by a blog post by another prominent name in the blogosphere, Justin Keverne from Groping the Elephant, a game writer and non-professional dev. He talks about how for the most part, he agrees with Tom’s manifesto, but the one contention he had was how he felt he was being a bit harsh with this statement:
If you hamstring that to ensure the player gets a pre-packaged experience, you’re crippling this medium to make it resemble a less interesting one.
Keverne reads the statement as a not-so-subtle stab at Call of Duty, and the Call of Duties of the video game world. He goes on to say that we cannot discount what value Call of Duty brings to the table of the game industry, even if a lot of us “elitist” video gamer types consider Call of Duty the scourge of the “Art” that is video games. Indulge me for a moment with this metaphor: Call of Duty is like a bag of chips in comparison to games like Braid which is our bite-sized gastronomy at a Michelin-star restaurant. What Keverne is saying is that doesn’t make the bag of chips any less eatable, nor tasty, in its own way. It just isn’t healthy in large doses. But we should look at the bag of chips just as much as that well-crafted piece of salmon in a dash of red wine.
He says it without metaphor as below:
Why is making a game [like Call of Duty] that is “film like” a bad thing? Interactive Fiction is “book like” but that didn’t stop the Interactive Fiction panel at PAX East 2010 from being the single most creative and intelligent part of that entire event. To completely dismiss a design approach because it appears to represent or reinterpret one medium in the form of another shows either a surfeit of hubris or a dearth of imagination.
Call of Duty is not a film. The very things that make it “not a film” are worthy of examination and critical engagement rather than blanket ridicule. There are few better ways of destroying a community than by instituting a purity test and that’s exactly what we do when we use language like “actual video game” or “crippling this medium”.
Read his whole blog post here. I think there is an interesting tension in how a lot of game critics are treating e3 in the aftermath of the event, that they are coming away with a bad taste in their mouths about the lack of variety with a lot of the video games on display. To me, it feels like we are all just realizing the fact that the capitalistic nature of the video game industry is shifting to go down a not-so savory path. It is still gaming, just not in the way that us “educated” types want it to be.
The bottom line is, I think it is really cool that such discourse can happen where one blogger can respond to another, and that every Tom, Dick, and Harry who is interested in reading about it, can do so. This is what makes the Internet so beautiful. Learning for everyone.
::EDIT: I mistook Justin for a girl, LOL. Sorry bro. Been following Groping the Elephant for sometime, how could I have made this mistake. Tut tut me.