Simon Parkin kicked off an energetic discussion this week with this piece written for the New Statesman. In it, Parkin contends simply and emphatically, that the term ‘gamer’ has become too charged to reclaim, and the idea of a ‘gamer community’ is a non-starter. “If you love games,” Parkin says, “you should refuse to be called a gamer.”
What is the usual canon of games for gamers? I want to add onto what Simon seems to be implying: not only do we need to stop the stereotype perpetuated by assuming people who play games are ‘gamers’ at our events and in the representational aspects of our games, but we also need to interrogate how, even if all of these were solved, games assume a certain kind of player is playing it.
When games like Candy Crush Saga or The Sims are brought up, it’s only because of the profit they’ve made and not why they are great models of design. For instance, imagine if video games took to The Sims as a model to iterate on instead of Halo or GTA III. Maybe 60-second loops of fun and player agency wouldn’t be so central?
To classes with mostly non-gamers, students found my game as a new way of engaging with a person, building empathy. They adopted a bit of my mentality and viewed the world in my perspective. The point for them wasn’t to necessarily accomplish anything, but to understand. It’s because my goal was to say something personal to the player, and if someone doesn’t view games as something for communication, they are not going to engage with it that way. It seems to me that gamers are more likely to dismiss artistic expression in games than non-gamers.
Mortal Kombat 4 showed an attempt to communicate something beyond the shock and gore that was characteristic of the series, and it paved the way for a group of PS2 games that took themselves just a little more seriously.
One of the most significant things about Mortal Kombat 4 is how it de-prioritizes the spectacle event, as it doesn't communicate spectacle but solitude.
Through a formalist lens that prizes "good design" above other forms of expression, Mortal Kombat 4 would be seen as simplistic and unsatisfying in its disregard for balance, but it gains a key expressive element.
Can Bullet Hell Games Be Meditative?
We need to be able to show the difference between madness and malice, because ideologies spread in a way that madness doesn't.
This is why Depression Quest is not simply an “empathy game” that MAKES you understand depression, and why it is something more valuable.
The Five Foundational Design Pillars Of SOMA
1) Everything is story
2) Take the world seriously
3) The player is in charge
4) Trust the player
5) Thematics emerge through play
Extra Credits: Incentive Systems and Politics (Part 2&3)
Learning to Run: Part 2