I’ve been working on another game for the Experimental Gameplay Project this week. As you may notice, the month ends today, and unfortunately – it doesn’t look like I’m going to have something serious to show on time. I’ll try to make a quick development session today and have at least something to show for it, maybe also work on it a little bit in a personally-declared overtime. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share some of the philosophy behind my project.
There are many game genres out there. We have shooters, real-time strategy, turn-based strategy, turn-based tactics, brawlers, puzzlers, management, and many others, all of which are drastically different from each other.
But wait – the word “genre” can mean several different things. In all these genres, the game mechanics are indeed drastically different from each other. But what about the content? What are these games “about”? In that case, suddenly almost all creativity disappears. All the different, clever mechanics are used almost always in the context of fighting. Anything from one-on-one fighting in Street fighter, to huge multiplanetary wars in Total Annihilation. Almost every game currently available that I can see, involves killing something, or trying to. In some rare cases we get two other possible goals – earning money (mostly in management-style games) and getting out of somewhere (in puzzle games). Often these are combined with killing things, and anyway – they’re limited to their own genres. Most genres have only one thing – killing stuff. So why is that, and is that the only possible direction for the gaming world to go?
I admit – fighting is, despite its horrible uses, an interesting thing. It allows a wide variety of options and strategies, requires many different skills, is inherently symmetrical and is very dynamic. However, is that really the reason so many games go for that? I think it’s quite obviously not. It’s becoming more and more outstanding in the recent 10-15 years – as graphics become more and more realistic, we see the game industry’s order of priorities – huge resources are put into things that don’t affect the gameplay and don’t improve the graphics, but simply make things more violent.
So if the industry is doing it because people like violence and not because it’s the only option, could there be an additional option? Could we be missing an entire world of game worlds based on the same genres (in terms of game mechanics), but with different contexts than killing stuff? I think it’s possible. And the game I’ve been working on for the past week is kind of a test of that. As you might expect from a week’s work it’s hardly polished and might not actually be very fun, but I hope it will turn out to have some potential. What exactly is the context? It’s something I think can fill an entire world of games, no less rich than war, and can be applied to almost every genre where war is currently used. I’ll wait until it’s ready before announcing it, but you can have a little hint – the Experimental Gameplay Project theme for this month is “temperature”.
Just to clarify – I don’t (entirely) have a problem with violence in video games. I do have a problem with evil in video games as I’ve explained before, but games based on fighting are fine – the problem is when *every* game is based on fighting. My problem here is the lack of creativity.
 This is seriously a quote (or at least a paraphrase) I personally heard in a talk by someone from the Total War franchise, introducing their next game: “We made animations so much more realistic […] the soldiers will now have facial expressions of sadness as their fellow soldiers die”.
 Almost needless to say how self-fulfilling that prophecy is – companies assume something about the target audience, make the games for them, they buy the games, companies check data about the people who buy their games, and find their assumptions were correct. How shocking.
 Hopefully, even something you’ll be able to explain to non-gamers without cringing. I think the multiplayer mode of Assassin’s Creed is really cool in its mechanics, for example, but can you imagine showing that to a non-gamer, who is presumably a normal person, and offering them to try playing it? “Here is where you violently slit the throat of a innocent civilian, it causes you a minor inconvenience because it wasn’t who you were supposed to kill. And here you can kick someone’s dead body, you get 50 points for that”.