Thursday, 8 December 2011

Timeless games

The main reason I work in gaming is because games is an area where there is much needed improvement and development. Most other forms of media are harder to innovate because they have been around for a longer period of time.

There is no such thing as a timeless game. There is timeless movies, music, literature and theater, but there is no timeless games.

People have listened to and enjoyed the music of J.S Bach long before you were born and they will continue to long after you die

But will people play Mario or Angry Birds in the future? Games don't have the same lasting power as other mediums do. When you listen to Toccata and Fugue, you know that this is an epic work, that it is a masterpiece. He made all of the right decisions in that work an it will last forever. Some forms of art are like monumental buildings, such as the pyramids. Toccata and Fugue is one of these works of art.

Games are fun and do not have the same lasting effect. I find that even mind blowing games are only fun for a certain length of time.

There is a fundamental difference in the way that other mediums are produced and games. Toccata and Fugue is 10 minutes long. But it took a lifetime to compose. Now I don't mean that Bach started to work on this since he was a little kid and then one day he released it. He worked on his craft and the culmination of all of his experiences made that work amazing. He probably did spend a lot of time writing and perfecting that song. Great art has hours of thought put into a few seconds of experience.

Movies are produced the same way. Next time you see an amazing movie look at every scene. Most of the time that scene was made with extreme care.

With games I find most of the production is rushed and not thought out. Now there is one key difference that game producers have to take into account

Interactivity

Interactivity is a big part of games and it is the reason why games do not stand up against other mediums. In games you have to craft experiences. You have to take into account how people perceive the game and make it fun for them. Nobody has solved this yet.  This for me is the best part of game design: so many unsolved problems. 

There is one game that comes close and that game is the Mass Effect series. I give a round of applause to the BioWare team which is located in the Canadian city of Edmonton. Seriously, if you love art go play this game. It is absolutely amazing. Whatever the code base they have for that game I still feel that it is a few generations out from being a true masterpiece. 

I recently showed Mass Effect to my friend and I started the opening sequence and I got the same tingly feeling I get when I listen to a great work such as Toccata and Fugue or watch an amazing movie like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. BioWare is the closest company to achieving a timeless game. If they make Mass Effect 3 awesome then I would say it could be a contender.

Here is what a timeless game needs
  • To be able to be fun, relatable and revelvant at any time
  • To have extremely rich content
  • To emotionally move people at any given time
Mass effect has extremely rich content, but we will have to see about the other factors. Any game developer who solves this will be the JS Bach, imhotep or George Seurat of our time

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