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Games, notgames, notnotgames?

Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« on: August 26, 2011, 09:52:06 am »

A challenging quote from a blog post about the recent Notgames Fest in Cologne:
Quote from: Bloutiouf
Également une remarque globale sur la plupart des jeux, il faut avoir un background un peu joueur pour pleinement les apprécier. J'ai vu des visiteurs ne pas comprendre en quoi les œuvres différaient des vrais jeux puisqu'ils ne connaissaient pas non plus les structures des vrais jeux.

So he says that you need to be a bit of a gamer to appreciate our not-so games. And that there's people who don't understand how these games are different from real games since they're not familiar with real games anyway.

Part of this is of course caused by the awkward name of "notgames" which people continue to interpret as the name of a category that is subsequently taken so literally that they feel that Amnesia doesn't fit in this category (which is what triggered this writer's comment). I guess it's too difficult for people to understand that "notgames" is a word used to invite and challenge designers to think differently about interaction design.

But on the other hand, he's probably right: most of our work requires some experience with (traditional) gaming to appreciate. This is unfortunate since one of our goals is to expand the medium so that other audiences can enjoy it as well.

And for these other audiences, there probably isn't much of a difference between what we make and more mainstream video-games, either because they don't delve deeply enough in either, or because they already enjoy mainstream video-games more for their notgames qualities (immersion, narrative, emotion, play, etc) than for their traditional competitive qualities.
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2011, 03:30:57 pm »

Notgames might still be good for the general public. Because even though many people are not familiar with videogames, they often have a belief of what videogames are. The term "notgames" then tells them: "these games are not like how you believe games to be". This might make people realize that videogames can actually have content that they would be interested in taking part of.
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2011, 06:39:46 pm »

Quote
I saw some visitors do not understand how the works were different from the real games because they knew not the structures of real games.

Here's the Google translation. That word 'structures' is striking to me. They don't understand the structures of games, so there's not a recognizable structural difference in what was at the exhibition. The amazing conclusion from that statement is that either the examples were not good enough to show a distinction or that there's no conflict to begin with because a distinction can't be discerned.

In addition, I appreciated the critique that, given the concept itself is experimental, there wasn't enough experimental work that traded production values for impact. The works presented were rather the results of experiments so that it became harder to deliver a clear, pure idea on what makes notgames different.

Overall, this seems to suggest that the message of notgames is developer-based, not consumer-based. Like what Thomas said, consumers will probably care more about a message centered around content rather than form. If that's the case, it would be more productive to market these things as "experiences with subject matter you'll care about" instead of "experiences that are structurally unlike games." I guess that's already been discussed here to some degree.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2011, 06:48:30 pm by God at play »
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2011, 07:56:40 pm »

But on the other hand, he's probably right: most of our work requires some experience with (traditional) gaming to appreciate. This is unfortunate since one of our goals is to expand the medium so that other audiences can enjoy it as well.

But perhaps 'experience with traditional games' is required because they have to derive their knowledge from somewhere. It might just be the case that our games require a non-trivial effort to play and are not plenteous enough for someone to assume you could have gained this knowledge from other notgames. It might just be more likely someone would become acquainted with WASD through other games, and hence the idea that you need to play other games to be able to play a notgame.

I for one find it encouraging we had a qualitatively high exhibition; but I find 'real' artefacts a lot more interesting than pure experiments, because ultimately that is what I would want to play.
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2011, 08:42:39 pm »

Very interesting.  This person is basically telling us that our current efforts are really some kind of internal squabble.  This gives me pause, because one of the things that annoys me about modern fine art is its navel-gazing self-involvement, where all new art is some comment on old art, or on how art should be done rather than using a technique to deliver inspired content.  This makes fine art unapproachable to most, in my opinion, and I think lots of the more important people in the art world like it that way.  I definitely don't want to become that.

WASD is a great example.  When you sit down to make a game, one of the most basic assumptions you will probably make is to put WASD control in because everyone will sit down and automatically know what to do.  But if you just clear your mind and look at the keyboard, there's nothing obvious about it at all.  We should probably ask how our grandmothers would approach one of these experiences for the first time and try to build an intuitive system around that.  This obviously has direct implications for the other thread about how to give people instructions for playing.
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2011, 09:00:56 pm »

This person is basically telling us that our current efforts are really some kind of internal squabble.

That is exactly what I meant I said the message is developer-focused and not consumer-focused; I think you put it better, though. Tongue And that is what makes me think that when looking "outward" the message should be about providing experiences with subject matter people care about.

It would be nice to get more points of view, though.
Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2011, 09:23:16 pm »

I'm not sure why you are concerned about reaching non-gamers. The pool of non-gamers is drying up as computers become increasingly ubiquitous. I don't see the point of thinking "I'm going to make a game for non-gamers." It just  seems silly to me. Make what you want to make and make it as awesome as possible.

People always bring up the grandma test - you wouldn't plop your grandmother in front of a desktop or laptop anyway. It would be much better to give her a tablet. The touch interface is about as simple as it gets. If infants and cats can figure it out, grandmothers can.

None of us are EA, Ubisoft or whatever, stop worrying about who plays the game, worry about people playing it at all. Wink
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2011, 10:26:02 pm »


People always bring up the grandma test - you wouldn't plop your grandmother in front of a desktop or laptop anyway. It would be much better to give her a tablet. The touch interface is about as simple as it gets. If infants and cats can figure it out, grandmothers can.



Ha!  That's exactly where I was going next with that thought, though I didn't want it to become an essay.  Like I've mentioned in other places, I do feel like the computer box is an unfriendly place.  Any way the technology can be expanded or shaped to fit more naturally with our lives is welcome.  Your point is very well taken that getting anyone interested in our work is the first step - we're hardly in danger of running out of gamers to target.  But I can never help myself when it comes to thinking through some of the longer view issues, even if it's just a theoretical exercise.
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2011, 10:29:38 pm »

I'm not sure why you are concerned about reaching non-gamers.
...
Make what you want to make and make it as awesome as possible.

I can see both sides, but I just wanted to point out that the issue is coming up because some people want to make games for non-gamers.
Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2011, 11:38:37 pm »

Well, making games for non-gamers is surely awesome!
Because gamers already have lots of games to play but non-gamers don´t.

However my doubt here is: what is our purpose? Do we want to expand videogames as an expressive medium or expand videogames to a new audience? I´m not sure we can do both at the same time. We need a language to build literature. To expand it as a medium we need a richer language. By asuming concepts and schemes as the WASD controls as an alphabet we can go deeper and complexify the experience. What I mean is that we need a complex and evolved language to express ourselves fully. We cannot create meaningful and deep experiences with baby-talk.

And yes, the pain is that this restricts our work to the gaming audience. So, should we write for the ilustrated or teach those who cannot read? Is there a way to do both?
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2011, 12:06:58 am »

Notgames was originally intended as a concept to inspire developers. In this light perhaps it's unfortunate that it was used towards the public. But then again, I do see Thomas' point: that the word "notgames" explicitly challenges people with prejudices against games. So that's good.

There seem to be two worlds. The world I hear about on the internet where almost everyone plays video-games or has an iPad. And then there's the world I see outside of my window in Gent, Belgium, where not many people really care much about any of this. All of my friends here read books, watch movies, listen to music, go to art exhibitions, like pretty clothes, good food, etc, but not one of them plays video-games. So I guess this "making games for non-gamers" thing is kind of personal for me.

On the other hand, it is true that both the size and diversity of the video-games-literate audience is growing. It is certainly far easier to find an audience for these strange not-so-games now than it was two years ago, when we released The Path.

Creating interfaces is very problematic in this context. The game-conventions don't make a lot of sense for many games that I come up with plus they are absurd to people who are not used to them. So I always want to be a good designer and craft intuitive controls that fit the purpose. But no matter how smartly they are designed, and how easy to use for beginners, leaving out the conventional ways of controlling a game turns gamers into helpless cry-babies. Gamers are so used to their conventions that they can't stand learning a new interface to experience something new. God forbid they have to turn the joystick the other way than they're used to to move the camera, and don't even trying making a first person game without WASD navigation. It's quite a dilemma.
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2011, 05:44:38 pm »

Notgames was originally intended as a concept to inspire developers. In this light perhaps it's unfortunate that it was used towards the public. But then again, I do see Thomas' point: that the word "notgames" explicitly challenges people with prejudices against games. So that's good.

There seem to be two worlds. The world I hear about on the internet where almost everyone plays video-games or has an iPad. And then there's the world I see outside of my window in Gent, Belgium, where not many people really care much about any of this. All of my friends here read books, watch movies, listen to music, go to art exhibitions, like pretty clothes, good food, etc, but not one of them plays video-games. So I guess this "making games for non-gamers" thing is kind of personal for me.

You are certainly not alone in this, and I think things such as the Köln notgames fest might be a way to reach these people. I find that these days I am easily weary of people who play games as it usually is their principal hobby to which all other occupations are secondary; and while not a 1:1 correlation, often the other hobbies they have are not very aesthetic to me. So my interest does lie in games for non-gamers; not out of spite for gamers as a group, but because I feel it is easier for me to resonate with. (And my apologies to gamers with beautiful and interesting hobbies - your only fault is being so hard to find.)

I worry that as much as non-gamers are perplexed by conventions from games, a lot of gamers are perplexed by conventions from literature. It is the culture problem which I also thought about on my tumbler; the problem really is not goodwill or desire, the problem is that any artform requires conventions to work fullest, and that the target audience who (I think) matches my own narrative interests is a different audience who matches my interactive interests.

I have thought in the past about making a novel/game combination and finding a way of getting them combined and sold in a book-store as a book-with-mini-DVD; and now that I resurface this idea it strikes me as quite fitting for something like Dear Esther, which could have a more House of Leaves type of freedom with content.

What are your thoughts on using the Trojan method of getting games to people?
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2011, 07:08:20 pm »

Quote
What are your thoughts on using the Trojan method of getting games to people?

I simply don't see the point. And it seems like a bad idea because such an approach could backfire. If you're approaching art with the idea of "tricking" people because you think they won't like the art if you present it as it is, you're doing it wrong.

Do you seriously think anything we are doing would appeal to people that take this bullshit seriously:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx_E4DUWXbE

or this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNw7CL23h08

or this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px_Z8Q6FaZM

or this

http://www.regretsy.com/2011/04/02/saturday-night-special/

And Jeroen, sorry, but literary types simply do not care about games or anything even remotely associated with them. There is virtually no cross-over.

Seriously. The best potential audience is gamers, whether you like it or not.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2011, 07:23:50 pm by ghostwheel »
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2011, 07:18:44 pm »

But people might simply not be 'ready' for the art, or not able to understand it directly. I think 'Trojan' is the wrong word, perhaps I mean piggybacking.

I mean, you could have a book with a game (as one artpiece), and while people might purchase the book without the game, they might not otherwise come into contact with the game; as they go to bookstores and not game sites; and without the book all they see is the word 'game' and are turned off.

It is not about tricking people, it is about making it easier for them to realize they like something which, when confronted with it normally, they would not be open to.
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Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames?
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2011, 07:33:17 pm »

But people might simply not be 'ready' for the art, or not able to understand it directly. I think 'Trojan' is the wrong word, perhaps I mean piggybacking.

I mean, you could have a book with a game (as one artpiece), and while people might purchase the book without the game, they might not otherwise come into contact with the game; as they go to bookstores and not game sites; and without the book all they see is the word 'game' and are turned off.

It is not about tricking people, it is about making it easier for them to realize they like something which, when confronted with it normally, they would not be open to.

But that's already happening on places like Facebook. There are literally millions of people playing games on Facebook that have never played any type of computer game and probably still wouldn't consider themselves "gamers." This conversation is like arguing for the worldwide adoption of Esperanto when English has already accomplished much of what the Esperanto proponents wanted.

If you want to reach a non-gamer audience, you should try to get your stuff on various social networks in a browser-playable form.
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