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This Developer's Life: What Should I Write Next?

Somehow I ended up out of sync with my Game Culture version of this blog, so I figured I'd use this week to throw some article ideas at you guys and ask what I should write next.

I’m putting together some new articles for Gama proper, but I can’t decide what to write next, so I thought I’d ask you guys.  Right now I’m noodling with:

Right Brain Games 

An article about the challenge of, well, making right brain challenges in games.  I use right brain loosely here, but let’s assume it means instinctual/intuitive/emotional.  These types of challenges are incredibly difficult to craft (or perhaps we simply haven’t put enough time into exploring them as we already had a great deal of groundwork for left brain challenges when the medium began to take off).

This started to intrigue me when someone asked me “Why aren’t there any hardcore games for girls?”  What she meant by “hardcore games” were games that were meant to be an experience, games that were deeply immersive and 20+ hours long &c. &c.  I think the reason is that we can’t build one, or rather haven’t put in the effort to yet.  If we can understand how to craft right brain challenges we’ll go a long way towards making our games more universal (not just making better “girl” games but making games that cross a broader demographic in general and are more holistically satisfying than some of what we present now). 

Work for Hire

A few weeks ago I threatened to write a piece about doing work for hire as a start up and how to avoid it being a noxious trap.  After writing that I was asked to actually keep my promise (seriously people, what are you thinking, wanting me to make good on what I say…) by the heads of several smaller independent studios – so I’m thinking about doing it. 

New Games Movement

This is the first time I’ll mention this in print, but something’s happening in our industry, something big.  It’s more than just the move from an entertainment to an art: we’re facing a sea change.  We all feel it; we can all taste it in the air.  I’ve been considering writing about it, why it’s happening, the aspects of it I can see.  I think I’m going to call it “The New Games Movement”. 

Method Designing

So, when designing experiences I try and go live them.  If I’m going to design a World War Two FPS, I’m going to go shoot a gun, if I’m going to make a survival horror game I’ll do something retarded like lock myself in a meat locker with most of my more primal fears.  Sounds incredibly dense, I know, but each time I’ve tried living an experience rather than just surmising about it from my ivory tower it’s taught me a great deal about the experience I’m trying to deliver.  Of course there’s more than just living the experience, one has to learn to observe oneself in real time, as the experience is occurring.  This article would go over that process and talk about how to get the most out of this technique and delivering better (not more realistic) experience to the user by better understanding the fantasy behind them through living the reality.

The Mother Theresa, Hitler Dilemma

We seem to a very hard time producing ambiguous moral choices in games.  When we try and address questions of moral choice we usually end up letting the player choose between being Mother Theresa and being Hitler (inFamous, Bioshock, Mass Effect…whoops I wasn’t supposed to name any specific games…).

This is old hat.  What’s intriguing to me is that it seems to rarely be brought up that this is as much a development question as it is a writing question.  Crafting ambiguous moral choices, making them meaningful and impactful can often require the creation of additional content and put a number of other burdens on the developer…at least if they’re not careful.  In this article I will discuss my thoughts on how to minimize the development impact of presenting real ambiguous choice (and I’ll probably spout a little about what I think ambiguous choice means).

Difficult vs Punishing

Just because something is difficult does not mean it has to be punishing.  I like a challenge but have no desire to prove my masculinity by enduring noisome unpleasantness in my leisure time(I did that once by watching 24 hours straight of Trauma films). 

So how do we bring challenge back to gaming without making games for that small niche of the ultra hardcore that will slog through flagellant play?  In this article I’ll discuss what methods I’ve come across, offer theoretical solution for the future, and, most importantly, discuss the essential mindset difference in attempting to make a game that is difficult without being punishing rather than simply making a punishing game. 

So that’s what I’ll put on deck.  Go vote (or recommend new things).  Write me at [email protected].

(oh…and someone asked me last week…yes you can twitter me too: JamesPortnow)

I’m Out…

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