Designing games that enrich the life

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by VaderSB, Sep 6, 2007.

  1. VaderSB

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    Ok, guys, let's talk about some heavy conceptual indie things, not about how to increase the amount of orgasms of a housewife playing another match3 clone by fine tuning the action-reward gameplay chains. Just kidding - I don't want you to feel that I'm trying to bring some elitist attitude towards some kinds of games like casual games.

    First of all, what kind of games I'm talking about. The games that enrich your life, that provide you with positive emotions, that provide you with enthusiasm in solving your life problems or achieving your life goals. The games that make you better. The games that help you grow. Ok, it's difficult to pack all these features in one game, but it's possible to have some part of them.

    Let's remember that the games are a form of art. And there is a common opinion that the purpose of art is to make you a better human.

    Ok, maybe this sounds a bit too theoretical, so let's continue with examples.

    There are a lot of obvoius ones. First, good examples. Let's take some other art forms like music or movies. I bet everyone can name some movie that had influenced him, provoke him to think over his life and maybe even caused some life changes. In other words that movie made some difference in his life. Music is another obvious example - most of us have some favorite music bands to listen during the work, doing excercise or just relaxing. All these art pieces help us to live. Sometimes art help us to cope with emotions. Sometimes it helps us to believe that we're capable of doing some amazing things in our lives.

    Now the bad examples. There are some art 'products' that doesn't help you in your life. Actually they are ruining it. I guess everybody heard of guys who wasted thousands of hours on something like World of Warcraft. They don't have a social life, they don't care about their career, their families are suffering from their _addiction_. Surely it's an extreme example, but it's good in defining the problem with such products. We can name examples from other art forms, like tv-series. I heard that casual games are winning over tv-series as a form of spending free time for housewifes. And it's not surprising, as playing another match3 is a similiar experience - something like mental masturbation. You spent a couple of hours playing match3 and all you feel that you just wasted these two hours and gained nothing. You can say that it can be used as a stress reliever but it's a bad tool for this job. It's not about coping with stress. It's about running away from your life problems instead of solving them. Escapism. I'm not going agitate against this kind of products. There are plenty of them and there will be plenty of them. But it's just like a fast food. Many eat it, but it's still unhealty.

    So I would like to talk about the games that are 'healthy food'. Is it possible to design such games? What guidelines should we use?

    Oh, I need to state clearly, I'm not talking about some kind of self-help/personal development products. You see, when you're listening to Rammstein in gym and achieve your new personal sport record there is nothing in Rammstein of a self-help product. You won't find something like "improve your sport results!" on their album cover. Their art helps you just because it is the very nature of this piece of art.

    So what are the possible guidelines?

    *First of all these games must not be addictive. I know this sounds a little weird as we all are TOO used to games that ARE addictive. But actually it's not a must! You listen to your favorite music and it makes your day WITHOUT being addictive.

    *One game session must be short. Something like 5mins-50mins. And there must be a sence of completeness after the game session not an urge to 'play-it-just-one-more-time'. That doesn't have to be SO strict but as with your favorite song. You may enjoy it a couple of times at once, but I doubt you'll listen to it 20 times in loop.

    *High replayability is a good option. On the other hand - linear games ('storytelling' ones) are also possible.

    *Competing with other human beings is a good option. Even if it is just through a highscores table.

    *The game can raise some serious questions. Life and death, human relationships, world hunger, terrorism, etc. Something to think about.

    *The game can help you to relax. But there is a fine line between relaxation and escapism. If you take a meditation as a classic form of relaxation you will notice that in meditation guidelines there is a point that you should keep your eyes open during the meditation to acknowledge the world around you. Not to run from it.


    Ok, as I already mentioned most of these guidelines are not a must, but just are options for designing a game.

    The important point is that these games must not be boring. They must be what they are - the games. Rammstein helps you to lift 100kgs without being boring, also as WoW ruin the life without being boring, too.

    I believe that this approach to designing games brings just amazing possibilities. There are a lot to explore as currently we have just a rare examples of games that follow some of guidelines I've mentioned. And I believe it's possible to find more guidelines and rules that will help to design such games.

    Let's find them! After all, if anybody should open this new page in computers games history, it's definitely us - independent developers!
     
  2. papillon

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    Music can definitely be addictive (and break the brain worse than games... play a game long enough and you'll start dreaming it, listen to a song too much and you may have it in your head nonstop while awake)

    Some people make lasting friends or romances through online games, and most people's lives are not ruined by them.

    Just because YOU say that casual games are masturbation and escapism rather than relaxation doesn't necessarily make it so. Doesn't mean they aren't either, but you're not making your case.

    Your rules for what would be a 'good' game seem arbitrary and bizarre.

    Honestly, I have no idea what you're trying to get at.
     
  3. cliffski

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    quite a few people who played kudos told me the game had made them sit and evaluate their life, especially the extent to which they took the time to stay in touch with their friends. I like the idea of games that give you something to think about when the PC is switched off. Hopefully Democracy does that too. I wish there were more games that aimed to do the kind of thing you describe.
     
  4. Mikademus

    Mikademus New Member

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    Why such hostile reply? The OP is passionate and idealistic, and from this comes both horrible and wonderful things.

    Games are at their best art. Art at its best elevates humanity into something better. Art is easily corrupted into something vulgar; mainstream eagerly corrupts art into repetitive mediocrity; and capitalism rewards mass-marketability by reduction to the least-common-denominator, actively debases humanity.

    What's wrong with the idealistic drive to create rich, innovative Games of Art (lacking a better term), to attempt to use games as a medium to improve life and humankind, and to try to find principles behind such a thing (even though perhaps impossible)?

    And all you who want to reply "Impractical, I'm in it for the money" etc, can't you agree to let those with other opinions have their say without knee-jerkedly ridiculing them at first post? Bah.


    ----------

    I too have dreams of creating a game that is though-provoking, alluring, stimulating and basically makes you (in some way) a better person; games that invokes other sensibilities than hostility and aggression, and features other paraphernalia than weapons of increasing massiveness.

    I personally think Lucasarts and some of (then) Sierra On-Line's adventure games fit the idea of Games of Art, games that improves the people playing them, or enrichens their life beyond the act of playing. Other games that have had that impact on me have been Richard Garriot's Ultima games.
     
    #4 Mikademus, Sep 6, 2007
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2007
  5. papillon

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    I don't mean to be hostile, I just *really* don't understand what he's talking about, other than 'these games are terrible and eat the souls of their players'.

    I'm an adventure/RPG fan, I am all about games being art and having meaningful stories. Of course, the OP seems to be anti-RPG, with that 'short game sessions' thing. Nor are these games about competing with other humans. I find that competitive games are more likely to have a negative impact on your life, but obviously he feels differently. I just don't know why.

    Now who's being kneejerk? :)

    I can also appreciate that Chuzzles is a particular *kind* of art and a very different kind than Planescape Torment. :)
     
  6. Tom Cain

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    I have two opinions to contribute that I hope will further your discussion. These occur to me whenever I come across a serious discussion like this.

    1. Games are art, but not like movies are art. Most games are art like Monopoly is art. This is why no one ever truly recreates the "movie experience" as a computer game but recreating the "board game experience" is simple. I don't think what you'd like to achieve is a matter of figuring out the correct formula. I think it's a matter of choosing the correct medium and games are generally a poor medium for it. Which leads to:

    2. Art doesn't generally move people, stories move people. This is why movies are on the list of successes. If you removed the story element from movies it wouldn't meet your objectives. For example, sculpture is an old, revered art form, yet most people are completely unmoved by it. Story is universally moving across all cultures, and true story artists can affect masses of people. Games have proven to be a poor medium for telling stories. Your best bet is adventure and RPG games which have story as a strong component. When people list games that moved them, it's almost always an adventure or RPG, and it was really the story within the game that moved them rather than the game itself.

    I think the best chance games have of affecting people the way you'd like is social interaction, specifically massively multiplayer games. This is a component that games have almost exclusively. People can form and continue meaningful relationships with others, and they do this, again, by storytelling with each other. Maybe by creating a "meaningful" social sandbox for them to interact within will best accomplish your goals.
     
  7. electronicStar

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    Actually the fact that you dream games is a normal thing, it's the normal way of work of the brain, when confronted with a problem, it tries to find solutions while you're asleep. It's part of the conservation instinct.
    Generally you play the game better afterward, I could find solutions to adventure games or pass to the next level of arcade games after a good night of sleep.
     
  8. papillon

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    While I haven't played either, I have heard people talk about Ico and Shadow of the Colussus in ways that suggested they managed to produce emotional reactions with visual display and gameplay elements rather than strict 'story'. Said people also go on about how rare this is. But as I haven't played them, I can't comment on how much of that is really 'story'.

    I mentioned Chuzzle in particular because with all the shiny and the colors, it reminds me in ways of certain installations I've seen in modern art museums. Indeed, they did not move me. The emotions involved there were usually curiosity and 'entertainment' if that's an emotion. There's something basically 'neat' about blinkenlightzen.

    It's true that sculpture, even really great sculpture, tends not to move me, unless it's associated with some event that is in itself emotional and the sculpture just serves as a focus for those feelings. Paintings are more likely to pull off an emotional reaction. Why are paintings clearer than scultpure? Paintings can have a story behind them, but so can sculptures... I dunno.
     
  9. tagged

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    Not true in my opinion, I found Indigo Prophecy to be a "movie experience". Of course it was designed that way, and it was how it came off to me. My memory even gives off the impression it was a movie more than a game :) Even with all it's short comings*, it is an experience I recommend people experience.

    *3-4 hours of story cut near the end, you'll end up totally confused at one point. The promise of the demo, the first scene, never held up unfortunately but I knew it couldn't even though I wanted it too... Both were apparently due to the release being pushed, naturally.


    I do one better, I figure out problems with my code while sleeping, productivity never stops :D
     
  10. Jesse Hopkins

    Jesse Hopkins New Member

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    ---------------
     
    #10 Jesse Hopkins, Sep 7, 2007
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2010
  11. ZeHa

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    Well, I think these are very personal things, just like movies. There might be some indie movies that really affected some individuals, even more than some bigscreen super-hollywood-bullshit. So at first, I think it's not possible to "aim" for such a game, it's more randomly if a game really affects a player.

    In my case, those were always games where I am a little dude that walks through a nice world. This is some thing of escapism, and I always loved that. Other people surely wouldn't understand what's so special about it, but for me, these are true gems and they may not affect my life obviously (like saying "okay, from now on, I will always be nice to my parents" or something :D ), but more subconciously, at least in the way of what I call "romantic" or which situations or places I search in real-life because they make me feel good.

    One example for this would be "Snake Rattle'n'Roll", with its beautiful isometric and surreal world, or "Pac-Mania", or many others which don't jump into my mind when I want to talk about them :D

    A very new example is "Knytt", which is just perfect for me, because I can walk through endless worlds, accompanied by moody music and the nice sound of those footsteps, and you have so much to discover. I can't say if it really has impact on my life, but in my current situation, it at least feeds my desire for "roaming around" ;)

    There may be other games that affected my life in a different way, but then it might have been so subconciously that I can't really tell it. At least, there are many games that told me "you should also be a game developer"... :)
     
  12. cliffski

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    art moves me, but stories rarely do. people put such emphasis on stories, especially game designers, and can get very pompous about how vital a good story is to a game. I find this irritating. Some people don't give a damn about story. That doesn't mean they don't appreciate great art. I like a lot of music, but never listen to the lyrics. I enjoyed bioshock, but skipped all the diaries and the plot, I couldn't give a damn.
    People are different.
     
  13. zoombapup

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    I think youre right there cliffy. I'm not a big fan of "story" in games. But I appreciate great mechanics and I like strong and clear choices.

    A little anecdote to add to this mix.

    I was going to the cinema a while back and didnt have a film in mind to see. In the end I went for "good night and good luck" which was a black and white film made by george clooney about the time of the McCarthy anti-communist witch-hunts in the US.

    Anyway, in the film there was this subtle peice where the main character is talking to a crowd of journalists at at some conference/awards ceremony. The amazing bit about this, was that he was telling the audience of journalists to not be shallow and to question the world around them. What struck me was that the message was in fact aimed at US, the cinema audience. It was asking us to not be shallow and to question the world around us. At that point, I thought to myself "games will NEVER achieve this level of subtleness, this film OWNS games".

    Of course, I couldnt help myself when I got home, I read the reviews from the public of the film and you know what? Nobody saw that. All they saw was a black and white film they didnt get. Amazing.

    So as Cliff points out, people are different. Sadly, theyre almost entirely dumb too, so dont expect any of your ART to be seen as such by joe public. Perhaps one in ten thousand might actually appreciate your work as art, but unless you write in big flashing letters "THIS IS ART" I doubt you'll get many seeing it that way.

    Personally, I dont care. I'm not after uplifting anyone, I'd rather just entertain them.
     
  14. cliffski

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    that was an awesome film. the main dude in it was the guy who played the blind hacker in sneakers. I think its clooneys best film by far.
    I'm sure a good chunk of people seeing the film did get the various messages within it, although the audience for a film about mcarthyism is fairly self-selecting.

    I think games can do this. most people do not try. especially in indie game space, games get dumbed down. I weep when people ask if using the right mouse button is too complex for players. There are lots of intelligent people out there. You could become wealthy just selling a game that only people with a phd would buy, if its good enough, and they heard about it, there are lots of well educated and clever people on earth*.

    A lot of clever people will 'put up with' dumbed down entertainment, whereas the dumb people just can't handle the clever stuff. as a result, we tend to think that there is a smaller market for intelligent entertainment than there really is.

    nobody makes games for that market, so it seems the market does not exist. but it does. I sold 3 copies of Democracy while I slept last night.

    *my wife always reminds me that well educated != clever, which is ironic, as she has a phd, and I failed my degree,
     
  15. ZeHa

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    And to underline the thing that I said a few posts ago, I think it's a very personal thing WHAT someone might get off a game. It might even be something that the author didn't intend.

    For example, I used to play "Worms 2" with my sister a lot, and often, we didn't play the usual "war gameplay", instead we took caved levels and tried to rescue ourselves from the water level (which starts to raise after a certain time). This was so much fun, and while we had a worm of each team somewhere right below the top, we used the other ones to either bomb away big portions of the landscape, or to commit some interesting suicides. Or sometimes we did other things, we made a flat landscape, then chose 3 teams with 6 worms each (to get the highest possible number), teleported them onto each other to build a pyramid, and then the one that is on the bottom in the middle would lay down a "holy grenade" and we had a nice worm-firework :D

    In that case, the game morphes from a game into a toy, but it's fun and I think these are the things that affect their players the most. If your game can offer alternative uses, or "abuses" ;), it can be very interesting, inspiring, and impacting ;)
     
  16. Bernard François

    Bernard François New Member

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    Funny... Yesterday I've been reading some chapters of the book 'A Theory of Fun for Game Design', and it has a lot of similarities with this thread :)
    I'd recommend the book for anyone who's interested in subject of this thread.

    I don't know if spending hours in a fitness centrum is actually 'better' than playing an addictive game for hours. Sports/fitnessing can be as addictive as computer games, but nobody seems to see it as a waste of time.

    If someone plays chess for hours and hours, few people will say it's a total waste of time.

    Maybe it's just all about perception. Maybe we shouldn't worry too much about games being a total waste of time...

    Games that don't learn you anything are just boring, they won't be addictive neither.

    You won't play the same match 3 game level for 20 times, if the challenge doesn't rise, you get the same feeling as when you play the same song a few times.

    Playing match 3 games might learn you to see appreciate subtle changes.

    If someone isn't handy/experienced in using computers, that doesn't mean the person cant' be intelligent. You can still create a game which is accessible (in the way it is controlled) and challenging for intelligent people.
     
  17. Mikademus

    Mikademus New Member

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    The problem with going for the least common denominator is that it is always lower: that means, mass-marketing is always heading for increasingly stupidity. Now, people are adaptable, but rather than intentionally adapt, they subconsciously adapt to their environment (in this case, media). If you're always fed uplifting stuff you will become smarter, if you're always fed propaganda you will believe it, if you are always fed increasingly stupid things you will become baser.

    One example if this was that someone here, a while ago, asked whether his quite nice-looking 3D beat'em-up (similar in style to Double Dragon, but 3D) could sell as a casual game, and he got the recommendation that "using two buttons is too complex" (I almost bailed out of here then).

    There really isn't any point to this argument, since everyone here only ever making more virtually identical Match-3's will continue to do so, the market will continue to produce ever prettier but shallower media (games and movies), mass-market music will be ever more mainstreamed and intrinsically worthless, producers ignoring idealistic calls to improve their world, instead continuing to build and create a homogeneous mass-market --a "mainstream population"-- that will be increasingly enfeebled by being offered and consuming ever lower swill, since that's the media momentum of current society. It needn't be like that, though, but that's idealism.

    Somethign that makes me a bit sad is that in movies "indie" carries a connotation of a wish to produce something of greater meaning than blockbuster megaproductions, but, from this forum it seems that "indie" games simply means ideal-less homebrews.
     
  18. ZeHa

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    Well okay, there are really a lot of match-3s and clones ;) but also there are so many idealistic games out there, or at least games that prove to be different and interesting.
     
  19. MedievalElks

    MedievalElks New Member

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    Man, what's in the water these days? Last week someone was on about games that would change the world. Games are entertainment. Frankly, if someone told me a game changed their life I would consider that person shallow and perhaps borderline psychotic.

    If you want to change your life, adopt a kid or do mission work in Africa. Play games to relax and recharge.
     
  20. papillon

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    Of course, 'emotionally moving' isn't necessarily the same thing as 'enriches the life', although I still don't know precisely what the OP meant by that. :) I and many other people *bawled* when first playing through the Elite Beat Agents level featuring the little girl whose father died. It's a very simple story presented in only a few pictures, but the combination of the story and the striving to 'help' with the gameplay made people cry. Just being told the story wouldn't have the same effect as playing it.

    But, on the other hand, this clearly doesn't have a life-changing effect or make you think about anything much, other than maybe going and giving your family a hug.

    Narcissu, another work that comes up in discussions of 'games that made you cry', has more serious issues to think about, but it's not really a GAME, it's a slightly illustrated story.
     

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