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Experimental Gameplay Session: The Concept Car

The Experimental Gameplay Session reminded me of concept cars at an auto show, including the unfortunate aspects...
Gamasutra covered the Experimental Gameplay Session at GDC (completely, Mr. Totilo!), and I have to say, other than OnLive, this was the second most interesting news to come out of GDC this year. But, as part of my cynical nature, I find some fault with the entries this year.

Like A Concept Car
Experimental Gameplay is the game industry's equivalent of the concept car. The games are still in their early stages of (commercial) development, and, while they look fantastic, they most likely won't look the same after they've gone through the wringer. Regardless, these games really capture the essence of gaming. They present concepts that are new and fun.

Also Like A Concept Car
The only thing that holds it back (from my perspective), is that they use traditional gameplay methods to tackle these far-out concepts. It's a reworking of a genre instead of a rewriting. Granted, I am entirely attracted to the ideas they represent in a game format, but they are still a side-scroller/RTS/etc. What good is a concept car if it retains all the components of the car you currently drive?

There is a "gamer language" that has been firmly established which few games seem to venture away from. The games at Experimental Gameplay have high concepts, but they're crammed into a genre that can barely support it. While I'm absolutely blown away at Achron's time-altering mechanic, by all other factors, it's an RTS.

I got the same feeling when I saw a clip of Backbreaker. While I love the idea of unscripted tackles, putting that great technology into a football game seemed a little short-sighted. Wouldn't it be put to better use in something like Carmageddon?

To The Moon
This is why I find Daniel Benmergui's recent works in narrative to be truly fascinating. Instead of using tried-and-true gameplay, he focused on making something accessible that demonstrated his idea. It doesn't take a lot of effort from a standard (i.e. non-gamer) person to learn the rules of the game, and the results of mastering those rules are both emotional and awesome. Unlike the other entries in the show, the concepts behind Mr. Benmergui's work could be extrapolated into any genre or media. For instance, I can see a concept like this to be used in movies of the future.

Whoa Whoa There!
My intent is not to throw cold water on any of these games -- I could only imagine getting to that level of game design knowhow. Considering how I find (found) the industry in a state of stagnation, seeing such games gives me faith that the creative spark is still alight. It's always exciting to see people out there making games instead of products, and I look forward to what next year's GDC will bring.

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