Sunil's Blog

I make games! Mostly weird ones.

Category: writing

Learning from other media

With the recent debate of what the definition of a “game” is, I thought I would write this post up. Video games are not movies. VIdeo games are not books. Video games are video games. But at the same time, I find it valuable to learn from other media to empower the medium that you are woking on.

Many game developers, including myself, get angry when studios, especially triple-A, try to develop video games with this hollywood-esque movie format (i.e. quick time events, lengthy cutscenes). Instead of playing a game and experiencing a story through the gameplay, we are subjected to play a game, watch a video for about 10-15 minutes, than go back to playing. This pattern pretty much goes throughout the entirety of the game. This is a very common format in video games these days, and I feel as if we’ve hit a wall in this regard. We need to learn and experiment with new ways to represent the stories and experiences in video games.

Video games are going through an identity crisis. We don’t know what we are, consequently sucking up all parts of different types of media into one cesspool. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if used wisely. There have been amazing games that have incorporated music videos, and animations quite nicely (go take a look at POP).

It’s organic in a way. We look at the past to try and improve the present. This viewpoint can be directly linked to video games. Game developers are looking at past media, and trying to improve upon it. If we can learn about what makes movies good, and what makes books good, maybe then we can learn what makes games good. For the game I’m currently developing, I’m looking at a certain movie opening (For the curious, the opening scene to the movie Enter the Void) that I’m trying to incorporate into my game. The difference is that instead of just copying the opening, making it into a video, and stick in as the intro of the game as a cut-scene, I’m trying to “gamify” it. In other words, make it video game-like, somehow. This is where the challenge comes, but a welcomed one.

Lots of developers. including myself, bash games for having too many elements from other media, especially movies. After some thought, I disagree. Instead of completely removing aspects of video games that aren’t games, let’s try to gamify other media!

Let’s take the movie Lion King. It’s a great children’s movie with some important themes that are good for children to be taught at a young age. If one was to go about and make a video game about Lion King (SNES!), and Instead of just using cut-scenes and cinematics, we should be looking at the important themes present in the movie, and try to make those themes into a game, somehow.

This all may seem a bit idealistic, but I do believe that we can learn from other media in a positive way. The problem is that it’s simply hard because of how new video games truly are. The reason I make games is because it’s the only medium where everything feels new, where there’s plenty of untapped potential. So with that pioneer spirit, let’s make some cool games in weird ways!

Take the Plunge

Tackling controversial topics is a scary thing. Whether it’s the fear of being disingenuous  or the fear of failure, it is universal. When it comes to video games, this fear is especially prevalent. We’re scared of what people will think, and we’re scared of how people will react and play the game. This is the problem.

Art is a powerful tool. It can touch you in ways like no other. It will directly hit you in the heart, in ways that feel good and even in ways that feel uncomfortable. Video games have this power, especially so since we have that unique dimension of interaction from the player.

So why don’t we use this awesome tool that we have to the fullest? I may be taking an artistic stance here, but our job as game developers should be making the players of our games feel something they haven’t really felt, or thought about, before. You should be able to take away a new way of thinking, or a new feeling you haven’t felt before. Something unique and special that you can call your own.

With that said, don’t let fear bog you down. Go head first, and make a game about something you don’t really understand. That’s okay. The important thing is you learning from that experience and growing as a game developer. You’ll learn from your missteps and make a better game in the future. Promise. So be naive and make games.

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