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Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games

Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games
« on: February 15, 2010, 07:31:18 pm »

Just wrote a little essay/post on how to a approach designing games with more meaning:
http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2010/02/exploring-deeper-meaning-in-games.html

Very interested in hearing what you all think about it!

(also posted it on gamastura here. Perhaps interesting comments pop up there)
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Re: Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2010, 08:17:10 pm »

I believe you have two things confused here. One is the 'meaning', and the other is the general aesthetic. "A scary and disturbing atmosphere" is clearly an aesthetic goal. Another thing would be if you made it your goal to make a game that conveys "what lies in the deepest and darkest corners of the human soul", for instance.

I think you are very persuasive. I was already in agreement with most of your points since before I read the text, but it feels like you have put your thoughts forward in a very accessible way, so, good job.
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agj
Re: Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2010, 08:28:14 pm »

Very nice read!
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Re: Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2010, 08:29:38 pm »

Yeah, that meaning was probably not the best of formulations as it is quite vague. But cannot one say that meaning could be atmosphere/aesthetics as well? I always thought that for instance David Lynch had a sort of atmosphere as the core meaning. It is just that for me, "meaning" is pretty much the same as "intent" and it just feels right to say that a certain emotion can be a meaning in itself.

I understand this will easily boil down to quoting dictionary entries, but I am very interested in your view on this. I am aware that I use strange definitions at times, so always good and try to use what is most commonly accepted.

And glad you liked the post Smiley
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Re: Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2010, 09:11:44 pm »

Yeah, that meaning was probably not the best of formulations as it is quite vague. But cannot one say that meaning could be atmosphere/aesthetics as well? I always thought that for instance David Lynch had a sort of atmosphere as the core meaning.

Perhaps, but if so, I wouldn't use the word 'meaning' to describe it. In fact, I wouldn't even use that word for what I underlined exclusively, as it suggests that it's necessarily a conscious effort, whereas I would suggest that this 'meaning' could be the result of an unconscious process, for instance. 'Intent' is a bit better; it suggests informing the resulting experience rather than describing it.

But the important thing here is that I consider both to be very different. Aesthetic is (basically) the form, whereas your post is about the content shaping the form. "What lies in the depths of the human soul", as the main conceit (content), could be translated to "a scary and disturbing atmosphere" as its aesthetic, is what I'm saying.
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agj
Re: Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2010, 06:09:16 am »

I like it. Smiley  I have plenty of input, though.  But I'm trying to be constructive, so don't take it as me not liking it.

It seems to me what you're doing is arguing theme vs. plot.  Your assumption seems to be that linear media can be reduced to themes being delivered through a plot.  But I disagree, in a sense.  While linear media is composed of plot events, sometimes those events serve to move the plot forward (in a story-arc sense) and sometimes they drive the themes forward.  In this sense, there are plenty of examples of linear media that are heavier in theme and lighter in plot/story-arc.  I know this is true because some of my favorite movies are like this and I try to seek them out, for example Tarkovsky's Solaris.

Therefore, I think your view of linear media is a little limited.  You mention in your example getting mugged.  That's not the only thing you're able to do with linear media; you can simply describe a series of linear events that are in your interactive example.  Thematic books will do this - they'll describe a scene and the emotions characters go through.  The characters might have conversations that don't necessarily move the plot forward, but instead focus on building up the themes.

I would like to point out something, though.  It seems to me - based on the success of certain linear media - that society as a whole tends to favor more plot-driven media as opposed to thematic media.  I think this is because thematic media tends to be more abstract, which requires knowledge of a language in order to understand.

I think this language is also media-specific.  That's part of what you learn when you study books or film - how to read the themes behind the plot events.

Lastly, your argument for intrinsic value in interaction is excellent!  Graphics are indeed more than just what is needed for gameplay.  Well done there.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2010, 06:12:22 am by God at play »
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Re: Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2010, 09:03:39 am »

In this sense, there are plenty of examples of linear media that are heavier in theme and lighter in plot/story-arc.  I know this is true because some of my favorite movies are like this and I try to seek them out, for example Tarkovsky's Solaris.

I find it interesting that to optimally work with this new medium, we get closer to high artistic accomplishments in previous media than to the mainstream.

I think this language is also media-specific.  That's part of what you learn when you study books or film - how to read the themes behind the plot events.

Imagine that people develop a literacy to "read" theme-based fiction! Suddenly, as a society, we would realize that Tarkovsky is a better director than Spielberg!
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Re: Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2010, 09:45:32 am »

God at play:
Good points! I really want to have criticism as I find it crucial to evolve.

The mugging example was not the best and I realized that interaction version it could done in linear media too, soon after writing it. I think the message that one should not focus on specific events remains though, but I would have liked to have a better example myself too Smiley However, pretty much any interactive experience can be done in some linear form after it has been completed.
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Re: Exploring Deeper Meaning In Games
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2010, 07:32:38 pm »

I totally get why you used the example - current games are very plot-driven and most are not very thematic.  You were simply explaining the most common ways you saw that being presented.

I'm glad you're doing something different with Amnesia. Smiley
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