I don't normally like "My philosophy" posts, either reading them or writing them, but if you can't be self indulgent on your own blog now and again then you're missing out on being able spout your ideas out like they carry some sort of importance with your readers, and lets face it the majority of blogs are ego driven, so why not stroke it once in a while ?
This has been troubling me for a little while now, I tweeted about it a
while back, and figured that a 140 chars just isn't enough.
The art, in whatever media, I really admire makes me think. It doesn't hand anything on a plate to me, it doesn't dumb itself down to a nice easy level, it pushes me to reach it's level. In return for the extra "effort" on my behalf I believe I get a richer experience.
David Simon, co-writer / co-creator of The Wire said
"Fuck the average viewer."
This is one of many reasons his work is so astoundingly good. He doesn't compromise, he doesn't go for the lowest common denominator, he writes as if writing for the target audience alone, whether that be cops in "Homicide" or marines in "Generation Kill". He, like all good artists, assumes a level of intelligence in the people viewing the art. Maybe that's intellectual snobbery, and if it is, maybe that's not a bad thing if you stay true to your vision.
I find with our medium, we're a lot more American Idol level of dumb than The Wire level of smarts. Don't get me wrong, there's more than a place for mass market junk food like gaming, shit, Chock a Box isn't exactly redefining genres, I'm not kicking through boundaries with my own work, but I do think there should be a counter point to the happy go lucky games that we all produce.
We work in a market where nothing can be simply implied. Everything has to be clearly spelled out, and that results in dumbing down. Everything has to be explained and sign posted otherwise it's thrown back in your face as a bug or sloppy design on your behalf.
There's that inane question "Why does no one on 24 ever go for a piss ?". They do. It's just not shown, not even implied, because it doesn't push the narrative forward. Seeing Jack coming out of the toilet and warning Chloe not to go in there for 30mins wouldn't make the story any richer, it wouldn't defuse the bomb any quicker, it wouldn't give us the payback for our invested time.
Is the Flash game market made up of people who wonder why Jack has gone another 24 hours without having a slash ? I like to think not. And yet as developers we all have to adopt the latest design staples for fear of some sort of backlash.
The other end of the spectrum is "Art" games. This for me at times is going too far the other way, although not for the most obvious reasons. I loved "ImmorTall", I thought it was a great experience. The gameplay mechanic is ultra simplistic, it's all the other stuff which comes with it that makes it shine.
What I can't stand is the collective orgasm that a lot of blogs have to any and every "Art" game ( There's got to be a better term for this genre ? ). This at times blind worship of all things indie, where dreadful design choices are forgiven because it's an "Experience more than a game".
If you want a backlash against mainstream gaming, whether that be shit produced by script kiddies, unimaginative popular casual games or even console fps, you've still got to be even handed. You can't take the line that all mainstream gaming is shit, so be default anything outside of the mainstream is good. It's really not.
So where do we stand ? On one side we've got the hand holding of the players to try and wring out those extra couple of points at our favourite portals, at the other we've got the almost willfully obscure games that at times go out of there way to fuck the player just to cast a different light on gaming, even at the expense of enjoyment.
Can't there be some middle ground ? Where you can treat the player with a high degree of intelligence ? Where you can use things that are subtle instead of ramming them down throats, where things are implied and the player can fill in the gaps themselves to gain a richer experience and obtain a level of ownership due to their investment.
Yes I think there can be, and although despite my bitching I still like dipping my toes into the populist throw away, I'm going to make more of an effort to reward the player, the player I want to reach out to, with games that don't treat them like they're 12. If that costs me a handful of points on a portal, who really cares ? I'd rather just one person really enjoy one of my games than a 1000 think it just ok.