“I need to slow down.”
That thought has been coming to me, over and over, for the last few years. I was tired, always running, overworked and overstressed. I needed to stop and examine where I was in life, to think less and feel more, to rebuild relations I neglected always focused on the next release date. Stopping was not an option, but slowing down… slowing down was doable.
When I managed to slow down, I noticed that my taste in games changed. My needs as a player changed. I needed games that would slow with me, that would encourage me to reflect, that would make me feel something more than anger, fear, frustration, and euphoria. Games that would feel relevant to my adult life. Games that would give me space to grow at my own pace.
There were not many such games that I found. Those I found, moved me deeply.
I talked about it with friends, colleagues, and strangers, and the conversations left me with a feeling that there are many of us with a sentiment for slower games. There were phrases that kept coming back in our discussions and I decided to write them down, and share with you.
Slow Gaming Manifesto
I believe that games are a medium of telling stories, employing specific tools, but not inherently more or less effective than other media. I believe that this medium is capable of telling the whole range of human stories, not only those about conflict, overcoming frustration, and gaining mastery of a skill. I believe that the creator-player co-authorship is unique for games as a medium.
I want games that treat me as an adult, someone capable of thinking, feeling, and understanding.
I want games that connect with me not as toys but as tales of common human experience.
I want games that challenge not my skills and reflexes but my assumptions and feelings.
I want games that encourage me to take a break and come back later.
I want games that let me experience them at my own pace.
I want games that give me space to grow.
I want games that are slow.
Why do we need a label?
There is a number of games that fit the criteria but they are hard to find. I hope that establishing a tag, a label, will make it easier to talk about games in terms of the values they represent; to create a space where we can gather, discuss, present ideas, exchange experiences and share our work.
Drawing inspiration from such movements as Slow Living or Slow Food is intentional, as I think that Slow Gaming could be more than a collection of products sharing similar characteristics, and become a philosophy of game design and production.
Slow Games Philosophy
This part of the post is more of an optimistic hypothesis than a tested set of business practices.
Our own production of Wanderlust Travel Stories is underway, and while some things work as we hoped, in other areas we are still searching and learning. But at the moment I think these could be the pillars of a Slow Gaming studio.
Sustainable development, that is focused on the long-term existence of the studio, not on short-term growth and profit-maximization, in a way that is not damaging to the lives and creativity of the team.
Local inspirations; focusing on games made by actual people, based on their personal experiences, grounded in their own relations to other people, and focused on ideas and things that are close to the team (emotionally when not geographically).
Originality of voice; the form of the game reflecting the shape of the story, not trends of the market, authenticity of the message, exploring new themes, especially those deemed as not suited for games.
Wholesomeness; not exploiting fears but encouraging growth, not manipulating but being open and honest, having faith in a player's ability to understand the message and add to it, making games enriching both the player and the creators.
After I wrote this post, I found a similar manifesto from a few years back: https://hxovax.itch.io/slow-games-movement-manifesto. It seems that Slow Gaming takes its time to grow, but I feel that the need for slower games is real, and they will, sooner or later, become a part of the industry landscape.
I would love to hear your thoughts, to discuss and share ideas. But I will also be happy if you read the post and think about it for a while.
Take your time.