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How “hard core” attitudes hold back the video game industry Dr. Lewis Pulsipher Teachgamedesign.blogspot.co m Pulsiphergames.com pulsiphergamedesign.blogsp.

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Presentation on theme: "How “hard core” attitudes hold back the video game industry Dr. Lewis Pulsipher Teachgamedesign.blogspot.co m Pulsiphergames.com pulsiphergamedesign.blogsp."— Presentation transcript:

1 How “hard core” attitudes hold back the video game industry Dr. Lewis Pulsipher Teachgamedesign.blogspot.co m Pulsiphergames.com pulsiphergamedesign.blogsp ot.com Copyright 2009 Lewis Pulsipher

2 April 27, 2015 Who am I?  Designed my own games from a very young age  Began playing commercial wargames in early ‘60s  Early video game experience: Atari 2600, DOS  Designer of six commercially-published board wargames (most recently, foreign language editions of Britannia, Nov ‘08)  Worked in computer support (programming, chief of PC/network support) at Womack medical center 9+ years  First to teach game design in North Carolina as far as I know (Fall ’04)  Presently writing book(s) about how to design games, and how to teach people to design games  Teaching is my profession, game design my avocation  Games good to me (met wife thanks to D&D!)  Pulsipher.net  

3 April 27, 2015 Note about the slides  Slides are provided primarily for those who want detailed notes later, not as an accompaniment to the talk  Consequently, they are “rather wordy”  Available at  Or just go to pulsipher.net (not.com) and look for teaching material

4 My objectives  Help game creators realize how atypical they are as players/consumers  Help game creators realize how industry discussions are skewed toward “hard core” attitudes  Do you make games for yourself? NO!  Encourage a broad view of game design and game creation  This was created for the Triangle Game Conference, 30 minutes is insufficient, but we’ll try April 27, 2015

5 What makes a game good?  Let’s make a brief quick list, then I’ll ask some questions  Audience suggestions (I don’t bite)

6 April 27, 2015 Are games good… ...when you can have fun playing the game with your friends/family? ...when you can make the best moves and slowly (or swiftly!) crush your opponents? ...when it makes you think about life and serious matters? ...when it presents really interesting problems for you to solve? ...when you’re surprised? ...when it appears to model some part of reality, or an imagined reality, very well? ...when it tells a good story? ...when it puts you in the position of an historical figure who must make important decisions (usually about war and diplomacy)? ...when it teaches you how to do something?  Not everyone will say yes to every question  Keep your answers in mind as we explore this topic:

7 April 27, 2015 Hard core gamer and game creator attitudes hold back the industry  As exemplified in: –Gamasutra and other developer sites –Books about game creation –Web sites about playing games –Online forums –Talking with the “hard core”

8 April 27, 2015 Four Categories  The “holy grail” of technological immersion  “Shooter disease”  Domination by programmers (“developers”)  Envy of more mature industries  (No time to include “graphics disease”—which is related to immersion)

9 April 27, 2015 Is technological “immersion” the primary goal of game design?  Immersion through technological means, photorealism, destructible environments, etc.  “Immersive”: “generating a three- dimensional image which appears to surround the user” Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English (second definition)  Examples: the Star Trek holodeck, the Matrix

10 April 27, 2015 The “holy grail” of immersion  Best expression of the notion that “immersion” is necessary to video games: “Making Experiences” by Rick Ellis, PC Gamer Feb 2009 p. 84:  ”...what we create are experiences, not ‘games’.  “...we get to play with your emotions, get you attached to your characters, provide the unexpected, and influence your heart rate. When we do our jobs well, you forget that you are playing a game, and the events in it feel very real and matter to you.”  “...are all about: immersion, escapism, and creating emotional believability.”  Sounds appealing; but only to a minority!

11 April 27, 2015 What immersion is NOT  “Immersion” is NOT synonymous with “I enjoy it”! –My experience with Gamasutra article  Not everyone wants to be immersed in a game. In fact, most don’t.  How many of the characteristics we listed, how many of the questions I asked you, required techno immersion?  Most game players want to relax, to enjoy the company of others, to learn—they have no desire (or time) to be “immersed” in an emotional journey  So why do we hold up immersion as the ideal of game design?  Because the hard core (players and creators) like it so, because they tend to prefer high immersion

12 April 27, 2015 Technological immersion is undesirable in many game types  Role-fulfillment vs. rules emergence  Escape from reality is not enjoyable for many people –And looks very bad to outsiders  Models of reality don’t require immersion –Game designer is an idealist, not a realist  The “most realistic” games are often not the most enjoyable to play (experience of the non-electronic world) (Crysis)  Emotional “experiences” could be created in games (especially Dungeons and Dragons) long before the love affair with technology

13 What do people actually buy?  What’s the best-selling console? The one that does not provide technological immersion (Wii  Handhelds with their tech limitations are more common than most consoles (see VGChartz.com)  What are the best-selling games? Not the immersive ones... – “games for Nintendo systems accounted for some 49 percent of all U.S. [console & handheld] game software units sold” in (Gamasutra/VGchartz) –Top 5 selling games 2008 worldwide: Wii games  What’s the big growth area in video games? Casual (2D!) games.

14 April 27, 2015 What should we conclude?  Why focus on high-tech immersion? –Most players don’t want it most of the time –Most kinds of games don’t benefit from it –It’s terrifically expensive and time-consuming  Designers should not focus on “immersion” through photorealism and related technology; most won’t have the opportunity to achieve it (at least, not soon), nor do we need to  Make games that other people like to play!  (Non-electronic game (hours played) examples Brit, D&D, Settlers)

15 April 27, 2015 Four Categories  The “holy grail” of technological immersion  “Shooter disease”  Domination by programmers (“developers”)  Envy of more mature industries  (No time to include “graphics disease”—which is related to immersion)

16 April 27, 2015 “Shooter disease”  Fixation on shooters as the “ideal” holds back the industry  Yet shooters actually aren’t very widely played as a category –Pew survey, p. ii (10 th of 14 categories at 47%)  But they sell really well to the hard core –Not many are made (too expensive = risky) –Squeaky wheel syndrome--those who don’t play them aren’t “noisy” about their preferences  What characterizes shooters? –Blow things up and kill things –Reaction and movement rather than thinking –Tendency to blood and gore (like “R” movie instead of “PG”)

17 April 27, 2015 Effect on Outsiders  What does a shooter look like to outsiders? –Like child’s play, like immature dreams of power, like escapism –Like a major exhibit of games as promoters of violence! –Like a “waste of time”, or “killing time” –(How many are going to call that “art”?) –My mother-in-law cannot understand why anyone would ever teach people how to create games—and shooters are a big part of the reason why

18 April 27, 2015 Shooters dominate terminology  “Level design”? (What are you doing in this class?) –Most games don’t have levels, it’s mainly a shooter/actioner thing –Let’s call them “adventures” (D&D) or “scenarios” (Civilization) or “stages” or “episodes” –Let’s get away from “level brainwashing”  Left4Dead and “maturity”: –Player “Getting old” because no longer interested? –Instead, maybe the player grew up?  I’m not saying, don’t play them, I’m saying, don’t take shooters as an ideal type of game

19 April 27, 2015 Why let shooters dominate?  There’s nothing wrong with making games that millions enjoy!  But we can stop letting shooters dominate our discussions, dominate AAA game design, dominate “ideals” of game design  If this is what you like to play, play them, but don’t presume that everyone likes them or that they’re an example of what’s best in games  Shooters condemn video games to a “ghetto”. Maybe the industry should “grow up”.  Jobs-Coca-Cola-Apple story

20 April 27, 2015 Four Categories  The “holy grail” of technological immersion  “Shooter disease”  Domination by programmers (“developers”)  Envy of more mature industries

21 April 27, 2015 “Game Developer” confuses  To the “outside world”, “developer” means programmer –Except in non-electronic games where “developer” is a kind of publisher-assigned subsidiary designer  Before 1990, every game creator had to be a programmer  But nearly two decades later... –Programming is a support function –Programming is necessary for video games, but not primarily creative in a maturing industry –Game engines (CASE tools) are designed to reduce required programming –Programming is not an inherent part of games: there’s no programming at all in board or card games –Programming is the “necessary evil” of video games!

22 April 27, 2015 So why not “game creators”?  Games are created by designers first, artists second, programmers a distant third! –Yet many games fail owing to errors in programming  Why confuse computer-knowledgeable people?  Confuse educators too—”game development” at many schools is programming, not design or art  Heck, ordinary people don’t know what “developer” means--“creator” is clearer  So why do we say “game developer”?—it’s an old- timer hard core thing rather than a sensible term  And we still have “game developer” magazine, the “game developers” conference, IGDA, etc.  Let’s join the 21 st century!

23 April 27, 2015 Four Categories  The “holy grail” of technological immersion  “Shooter disease”  Domination by programmers (“developers”)  Envy of more mature industries

24 April 27, 2015 Many game creators envy older related industries  An “inferiority complex”?  Film Envy –Take cues from film, want to emulate the film industry –No prestigious awards (Oscars), no prizes (Pulitzer) –But games aren’t inherently a story medium –Each medium has its own paths to success, why try to adopt film paths? –(Example: in film the consumer sees what characters do; in plays consumer hears what characters say; in novels consumer learns what characters think; what will the method ultimately be in video games?)  Art Envy –Want games “to be taken seriously” –But they’re certainly not inherently “high art” High art doesn’t get playtested!

25 April 27, 2015 Games and art  You can make money AND make art! –Beethoven and Mozart made “art” as a byproduct of trying to make money!  And what’s called “art” changes –Louis Spohr, J. S. Bach  Mechanical art vs. liberal art (J. Sharp) –Mechanical—works of the hands –Liberal—works of the mind—more respected  Games ARE clearly “liberal art”, but the confusion of programming with game creation associates game creation with “mechanical art”  Non-electronic game people don’t have “art envy”, maybe because such games are clearly works of the mind (no programming)  Really, who cares? Not the game players. They want to play (and enjoy) the game

26 April 27, 2015 So...?  Why do we let “art” discussions muddy the waters of game design and production?  Do we need to be doing something “Important”?  If you make games that people like to play, why care whether they’re “art” or “film” or anything else? Games have existed for millennia because they entertain. –Whatever else a game does, if it does not entertain, it’s a failure (Miyamoto, Knizia)  Wait until someone exclaims “I LOVE this game” about a game you made, and you’ll understand

27 April 27, 2015 Four Categories  The “holy grail” of technological immersion  “Shooter disease”  Domination by programmers (“developers”)  Envy of more mature industries

28 April 27, 2015 Text versions of these viewpoints  “Holy Grail”—Gamasutra 19 Dec ‘08  “Shooter disease”—not yet completed  Game creator, not “developer”— submitted to Gamasutra (they “see it as a lost battle”)  Envy—not started, don’t know if I will  Graphics disease—don’t know that I will

29 Questions? Comments?

30 END


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