[MUD-Dev] DGN: Reasons for play [was: Emergent Behaviorsspawnedfrom...]

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Sat Nov 19 05:24:34 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


"cruise" <cruise at casual-tempest.net> wrote:

> Interestingly, gamasutra's "Most Underrated Games" article is now
> online.

>   http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20051114/hong_01.shtml

That was a thoroughly interesting article. Most of the time, these
"underrated games" articles just target the same six or seven games
(ie Beyond Good and Evil) or list games that either suck or were
popular enough to not qualify as underrated. Those are the
non-experts.

Luckily, this time, they had some real underdogs. Man, Operation
Inner Space was great. They actually had some people with fond
memories and insight into games more than two years old. Could've
been less US/Europe centric. Seriously, I think it is against the
law to have a list like that without mentioning at least one
Treasure game...

> If someone doesn't like a game (or does like a game) then no one
> should rightfully expect to reverse that opinion, "because I said
> so."  But if we can provide reasons, a director's commentary if
> you will, then we may be able to expand their range of value
> points, and provide additional yardsticks to judge with. They may
> still not agree with your opinion of the game (or film, or song,
> or whatever), but hopefully they may now understand it.

> We lack decent yardsticks for games. This is what the role of the
> "Philosopher Kings"/experts/connoisseurs would seem to be. Not to
> define what is good or bad, but to explain how to tell what is
> good and bad.

Yes! Exactly! Man, I wish I'd thought to describe it that way from
the beginning.

> Any introduction to a new concept or subject should ideally start
> with "shallow," visceral versions.

I actually had problems with that in school. They tend to teach
through repetition and concentration on the specifics. Instead, I
learn best when presented with the theory first and skip the minor
specifics. I remember getting in an argument with my CS professor
because I missed a question between breadth-first or depth-first
tree transversal - despite the fact that I could describe and
implement either perfectly, I never really learned the terminology
because it wasn't important. I deserved to miss that question. My
issue was the fact that the test was nothing but terminology :)

> Most of us have been playing games of various genres for a long
> time (over two decades personally, for example), and so we wonder
> at the "lack of depth" in games that appeal to the "mass market,"
> and ask why we haven't moved on from such games. We have. But a
> lot of people haven't - they've only just begun the journey.

My guess is that gaming is fairly new to a lot of people, even in
the late 20s. They may have had a NES when they were kids, but they
weren't "gamers" in the classical sense of the word. Instead, they
are just joining in now and don't have quite the considerable
library that some of us do. It's really amusing whenever a game gets
rereleased (like Super Mario Bros 3 on the GBA) and the GameFAQs
forums are filled with all sorts of people discovering it for the
first time.

I do question how long they can keep it up. I own thousands of games
(sad but true), and somehow gaming still interests me enough to buy
several games a month. Even if I am jaded, I still pay the bills of
people who probably don't deserve it. So, I get the distinct
impression that Madden 2045 will sell just as well as Madden 2005.

> What we are lacking, however, are more types of
> journey. Complexity and depth isn't the only goal. Breadth is also
> desirable.

I think the videogame industry provides plenty of breadth. It's just
that there's all these loose threads that are never followed up
on. One of my favorite games of all time is a Japanese collectable
dungeon building GBC game called Seme COM Dungeons Druaga - it's a
brilliant game, but didn't sell very well and I guess we'll never
see anything like it here in the states, or people taking the
concept and expanding on it. The same holds true for dozens upon
dozens of games.

There's no shortage of design creativity in the game industry. Just
design skill.

- Sean
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