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The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames

Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2013, 04:07:13 pm »

I think you underestimate how far I've traveled, Bruno. But that is understandable in this context.


You have your reasons for saying what you say, I'm only interested in knowing them in greater detail, bearing in mind the parallels and asymmetries which bring us closer, and at the same time set us apart from our ancestors - I say it since this question is indissociable from its own historic essence, as I'm sure you would agree.

Since History and Psychology - and how they intermingle - are my own fields of expertise, I'd certainly benefit from hearing different points of view other than those I already know. I don't underestimate your acquired wisdom. When I put any reasoning to question is because I'm already willing to accept it as being potentially relevant or ultimately truthful.

So what is it about our times that makes you state that we're - by we I take it you mean Western society - more unwilling to fight back than before? Have we grown too reliant on the comforts that economy and technology provide us? Is it a deformity, an outcome of the profound changes witnessed in education and cultural formation? As I said before, being pessimistic and fatalist about contemporaneity is one of the few aspects of cultural history that truly does repeat with each generation. To wit, I once again ask you to remember Yeats' poem from Ceremony of Innocence, written nearly a full century ago.
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2013, 10:33:07 pm »

To get back on topic, I just came across an awesome description of how Portal delivered its story (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/02/14/cara-vs-crysis-3-was-never-a-fair-fight/):

Quote
Look at that game affectionately known as Portal plants you into an easy to understand situation that immediately compels you to explore – and to escape. It then proceeds to tell you a more detailed story gradually through every facet of its environment – level design, audio, decals on the walls, even the glimpses of Chell’s body via a portal. Because the information comes in small doses, you have time to let it dissolve slowly in your mouth like a really piquant cola cube. Sometimes at night I would dream of those brand new sugary doses of story scrawled on the wall of a test chamber.

One idea Ryan and I are exploring in That Dragon, Cancer is the idea of using accessibility as a challenge axis itself. As you go, you essentially teach the audience to deal with more and more challenging content. At that point, you can essentially apply all the usual tools of building a difficulty ramp.
Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2013, 01:31:00 am »

One idea Ryan and I are exploring in That Dragon, Cancer is the idea of using accessibility as a challenge axis itself. As you go, you essentially teach the audience to deal with more and more challenging content. At that point, you can essentially apply all the usual tools of building a difficulty ramp.

Ha, great idea! Cheesy I'm really curious to see if it works out. Also, your project looks really intriguing! Is that all development art from the game? I can definitely see the Geo A Day influence. Smiley
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2013, 02:15:50 pm »

Portal's story is about as involved as a ballet's story. I think it clever but it remains a simple seasoning to the puzzles... what the Portal storytelling is celebrated for is nothing new to any other form of art Smiley

I think there is a fallacy in expecting content creators to not make things too difficult and get the 'full' audience - there is no full audience. I think all art lives in a context within which there are certain expectations and demands. If I read a  mystery novel by Wilkie Collins I expect the plot to be thin and the characters thick; if I read a novel by Hugo I expect (by now) essays and moralism. You could say that Hugo 'squanders' my goodwill and investment in the characters, but that would be only if I was ignorant of the school Hugo comes from.

The original 'side-quest' (why you would name it that I cannot begin to phantom) giving a 'lesson' to earn the trust unlike 2001 is just hypothetical audience reading. What does it matter what some aggregated average percentage thinks? Popularity is no measurement of value or success. I can appreciate 2001 for how it runs - you do not have to 'earn my trust'.

As to whether we not ought to reach as many people as possible - no, we ought no such thing. You could, but I would prefer my audience to be educated in the same matters as I and enjoy matters in that way. I do not see the audience as some large ocean - it is a series of lakes, rivers and ponds. One can choose which pond one belongs to - but there is no meaningful 'mass' to which you could appeal. Mass audience Hollywood productions, for instance, do not appeal to anybody in my own circles. It is a lie that my circles would somehow not be as validating as the (non-existing) general audience.

EDIT: Perhaps my point is that any thought hinging on 'the audience' without defining the audience is a fallacy.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 02:17:42 pm by Jeroen D. Stout »
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #19 on: February 16, 2013, 09:28:32 am »

So what is it about our times that makes you state that we're - by we I take it you mean Western society - more unwilling to fight back than before? Have we grown too reliant on the comforts that economy and technology provide us? Is it a deformity, an outcome of the profound changes witnessed in education and cultural formation? As I said before, being pessimistic and fatalist about contemporaneity is one of the few aspects of cultural history that truly does repeat with each generation. To wit, I once again ask you to remember Yeats' poem from Ceremony of Innocence, written nearly a full century ago.

This is a very long discussion that we should have some time, elsewhere.

But please note that my sentiments are all but pessimistic. Perhaps the problems I see are of all times. But I believe something can be done. I do not merely lament. I identify where things are wrong and devise of methods to correct them.

Truth is irrelevant here. Faith is what matters. And the outcome of our actions.
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2013, 09:45:01 am »

Popularity is no measurement of value or success.

I absolutely agree. Popularity is not my motivation to reach a wider audience (this very forum is testament to the fact that I feel most comfortable in relative obscurity). It is kindness.

I am frustrated by the fact that so many people find my work difficult to penetrate. I want to give them the kind of joy that I feel when playing my games. And I think I can, by working harder and avoiding difficulty as much as possible. I don't have a big message. I just want to give beauty.

Perhaps my point is that any thought hinging on 'the audience' without defining the audience is a fallacy.

There is a political dimension to this for me. In terms of the urgency mentioned above, the ultimate audience is people who have the power to change the world. It is their good-will that needs to be generated (or supported or encouraged). In our current social constructions this happens under pressure from the masses: an idea, a feeling, a hope needs to spread over many to allow/force those in power to make the right decisions.

And since the most problematic issue that I perceive is a lack of willingness (not a lack of inventiveness or ideology), beauty is the most perfect persuader. Because the experience of beauty makes people kinder.
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #21 on: February 17, 2013, 12:17:31 pm »


Truth is irrelevant here. Faith is what matters. And the outcome of our actions.

I thought as much, Michaël. And if I may add, faith is underrated too often, and has been for too long.
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #22 on: February 17, 2013, 04:33:30 pm »

EDIT: Perhaps my point is that any thought hinging on 'the audience' without defining the audience is a fallacy.

I think is a very good point, Mr Stout. My intention here was to say something along these lines: "If we are attempting to change gaming, then our primary audience either a) likes games and doesn't have a good idea of art or b) likes art but is suspicious of games." (For what it's worth, I think we have to reach audience a before we can even touch audience b (just like what happened in comics)). Making the kind of games we do for the audience that already cares about those games has resulted in a community roughly this size. If we care at all for the community or the style to grow, we need to be inclusive.

I'm not saying the artist should compromise their output. In my own experience, I'd say an artist has a few different ideas at one time. It may simply be more practical to produce the simpler ideas first, and subsequently the more complex ones. Our audience, mostly, I consider to be gamers who are resistent to being told that what they currently like isn't artistic enough. So when Dear Esther or Amnesia: The Dark Descent comes out, it's wildly popular because it's friendly to its origins. When something like Bientot L'ete comes out, they feel threatened and react in the ridiculously antagonist way Michael reported in another thread. Yes, it's immature. But I think there's something to be said for winning them over.

Like Michael said, it's about kindness. I'm not saying we should sell out our integrity for popularity; I'm saying that we should try to persuade people to our side gently.

I've been reading the essay you recommended on your tumblr, Mr Stout, about building literary taste. The author says many people try to read the classics and find them dry. The point he makes is that they simply aren't ready to read the classics. When he begins the reader on his path to understanding, he chooses Charles Lamb for starts because "[h]e is a great writer, wide in his appeal, of a highly sympathetic temperament; and his finest achievements are simple and very short." In the absence of a wide library of great notgames of varying complexity, it is my humble suggestion that we strive, for the time being, to emulate Charles Lamb. The time for James Joyce is later.
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"Wonder had gone away, and he had forgotten that all life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other."
--H.P. Lovecraft

Call me Dale Smiley
Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #23 on: February 17, 2013, 09:36:07 pm »


Perhaps my point is that any thought hinging on 'the audience' without defining the audience is a fallacy.

Remarkably put, Jeroen.
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #24 on: February 18, 2013, 08:20:27 pm »

In the absence of a wide library of great notgames of varying complexity, it is my humble suggestion that we strive, for the time being, to emulate Charles Lamb. The time for James Joyce is later.

And that is a great explanation for why we're using "content" as a difficulty ramp.
Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #25 on: February 24, 2013, 11:17:32 pm »

Mr Dale,

I have thought about your point of 'easing' people into games. I found it hard to respond to because it is part of the 'great struggle' I have in me about this exact point. At one end, I took time to read, sometimes in the way of the essay forcing myself to read, in order to know something. I studied some philosophy, some art history, know a little about musical notation, make certain I go to concerts... this gives me a body of knowledge which I never find enough. I would even say I am far below the level that I would consider 'normal'. At the other end, we are facing an audience which has (by large) not made the investment but is very acquainted with another side of culture, one in which I am not and never will be at home; and producing work in this medium means (by large) engaging that audience.

To me it feels that to produce great works, one should have an audience that is far superior to what constitutes my own present knowledge. John Donne, for instance, writes absolutely staggering poems (when in a good mood) that I with effort on my side can understand; though never as well as a contemporary with a proper classical education (I do not even read Latin, &c.). I could write in his style and (when in a good mood) do attempt to. When showing the poems to others I realize they are struggling with them in the same way I struggle with Donne; we are ill-prepared to read the metaphysical conceits as humorous and instead expect 'shallow' metaphors. (This is not to say my poems are also simply not good enough.) But I feel that expectation is a fault easily remedied; we simply need to read more poetry of a different order.

What I am perturbed and conflicted by is this:

Were I a poet, I would want nothing less than to study and write at Donne's level. I know times have changed and tastes have changed with them, but like many artists I can look back to different times (be they Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Modern) and know that my work, when viewed in that context, can have merit and can be something of Value in a sense that is more than mere taste. So at heart I feel myself a 'struggling artist' who is in the wrong time for the work he adores most. I would be willing to thin my wine with water if that means I can reach a better audience; perhaps grow them with me.

However, what you suggest (and nobly so, in many ways) is not for me to write as an easy Donne. What you suggest is that we all make games far below Donne's level. It will be as-if Donne never existed and we will have to re-invent culture from scratch. It practically infuriates me when bad poetry appears in games and is 'acceptable' because apparently games exist in the universe in which the metaphysical poets never existed; or bad 'concept-art' is lauded while it is only okay because in the game bubble Vermeer never existed. Games have a lot of new components (because playground games and sport could never compare to Rayman) but act as-if all components are new. They are not. Every game lends from things but often refuses to acknowledge this or learn from it. I know there are opposite cases but I rarely find a case where it is more than an exception in the context of games.

So what you suggest probably is wise from many points of view. But at the same time I literally find the idea of making games culturally easy a retarded approach. You are ignoring the culture which already exists because it is new to game culture. But I do not even like game culture. I am not sure I am the person to gently nudge people in the right direction if I cannot be at home in game culture. I want to be the person who strides forwards and innovates, not a food processing unit. I would like to be the Lamb of games, yes, but for an audience that knows Lamb already. I do not want to be the Lamb that makes Lamb easy for non-readers.

Of course you are far more nuanced than I might make you sound; but this is my inner conflict. Because for me, making games at Lamb's level does not mean the actual level of Lamb. We should be easy in terms of learning games (as Michaël often writes) but people can already read Lamb. We should not lower ourselves and teach an audience what other media already have 'learning curves' for.

Perhaps I am outdated in my beliefs but an audience should educate itself for art, not be educated by the art. The essay I summarize precisely puts that the reader should start with Lamb in order to move on; games should be the product of 'existing games' + 'a world in which Lamb is read', not 'existing games' + 'something that in 50 years will re-evolve Lamb'.

And yet I know you are right in many ways. Hence my inner conflict.

(I actually quite liked Lamb and must confess myself a liker of what often is considered simpler authors, especially late at night.)
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #26 on: February 25, 2013, 07:31:35 am »

I agree with you,  Jeroen,  but I believe you underestimate the problem.  I do not see  this issue of lack of culture as limited to games. I see it everywhere. It's a problem that runs deep in our societies and I believe this lack of culture is at the root of many other serious threats to civilisation (the rise of populism,  fundamentalism and the extreme right,  the conquest of capitalism,  even as it is crumbling,  the destruction of the environment,  etc).

That being said,  I don't think all artists should suddenly start appealing to the masses.  A good mix is always preferable.  I wouldn't mind if mass entertainment improved a notch or two. But I also delight in deeply lived through and sincere work,  without which there's not much point to culture anyway.
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #27 on: February 26, 2013, 01:55:24 am »

Mr Stout:

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I should hardly have hoped to disagree with a more civil person. And indeed, there is much credit to your point. It seems the worst form of pandering to disregard all the learning you have done in your own life so as not to frighten the uncultured; I am the first to agree that the artist's first duty is to their message. Here one treads close to label sell-out, rightly considered a stigma. In your response, however, I imagine you have hit on quite the point:
Quote from: Jeroen D. Stout
Were I a poet, I would want nothing less than to study and write at Donne's level.

And indeed, Mr. Stout, were you a poet, it would right and proper to do so. Poetry has had their Donne, and all his predecessors, and successors. The baby steps have been taken, and you may leap-frog along the path to any degree you see fit — but, with due respect and in at least this context, you are not a poet. Though one may easily say that Donne has existed, and his ideas may taken from the culture at will, it seems inconsistent with the evolution of art.

The 20th century has brought us three bold new forms of narrative art — the film, the comic, and the videogame, in approximately that order. These media evolved from having simple tales to increasingly more complex ones. Film came of age in '20s; comics came of age in the '80s; and videogames are coming of age before our very eyes.

The question is not one of the complexity of ideas. Ideas float around in the cultural ether, to be used at will in any medium. The question is one of our understanding of the capabilities of the artform — of the expectations we have about the medium.

For example, the early silent film Fire! has an odd chronology. It shows the building catch fire from the outside, its occupants flee in a panic, and the fire brigade arrives. Subsequently, it shows the occupants inside, when the fire starts, and fleeing. Finally, it shows the fire brigade hanging around in their station and being alerted to the fire.

This unconventional narration isn't framed out of some Tarantino-esque desire to subvert the storytelling paradigm. The film is told this way because it was essentially the first film to tie together different narrative threads in this manner. It didn't know how to handle the chronology! Something that took our conventional intercutting chronology as read, and played games with our expectations (like, for instance, Memento), wouldn't have made sense to the audience of 1901. Memento would be subverting an expectation that didn't even exist. But Jonathan Nolan's short story, "Memento Mori", which his brother Chris adapted for the film, would have been very comprehensible to a discerning 1901 reader. Indeed, experimenting with nonlinear storytelling in literature was beginning already in late 19th century. The conventions of chronology in literature existed, and could be toyed with. Not so with film.

But maybe someone in 1901 would have gotten it. Maybe they knew intuitively what would be happening with chronology in film, and they desired to make a film that played with those expectations as they saw them. I want to make films on the level of Woolf!, they declare. They procure their funding, somehow, and a few out-of-work theater actors, and shoot their masterpiece. Upon release, critics — if any such existed in 1901 — pan it as incomprehensible. But later, in the 1950s, their work would be hailed as ahead of its time!

What could this mean? It means that its creator had advanced into further expectations than their audience — even a film-literate audience — might have had. The film had to wait for the rest of film to catch up — for a whole slew conventional, linear films to firmly establish conventions and expectations.

And here we are. We have thought hard about what we enjoy in the videogames we play, and we find ourselves with a different set of expectations than the rest of the culture. Perhaps, if we have our way, we will later be hailed as ahead of our time.

There is nothing inherently bad bad about choosing to make our games at the level of Woolf or Donne. But it should be understood that those games will not be received outside the philosophical confines represented by this forum. There is a formal constraint on us, Mr. Stout; it is not sufficient that we desire to play games that evoke the complicated poetry we so admire, even if every other gamer knew this poetry well. The conventions of gaming are not where we need them to be to establish such complicated projects in a widely-comprehensible way. If we skip too many steps, we alienate people who took different branches.

Where this all brings me is this: we are not ignoring Donne. We are merely acknowledging that videogames right now, as a medium, as a culture, isn't ready for him. If he were alive today, right now, and his poetry well-regarded, and he made videogames of comparable depth and complexity — well, it is likely he'd be having this same conversation, right here, right now.

Your idea "'existing games' + 'a world in which Lamb is read'" supposes too much — not because Lamb is not read; it would suppose too much even if he were. For even if he were, one could not translate an essay by Lamb into a videogame. Lamb was a writer — drawing no pictures and creating no music; Lamb's use of language is too nuanced, his craft too exact. It used the tools and conventions of a 2000-year-old tradition of writing. The foundation of videogame expectations is, right now, not as high as the foundation of literature when Lamb was writing. The only way to create a videogame of such complexity as Lamb is to build it out of sand. The state of the art, in its very original sense, is not yet there.

In a way, Lamb's existence can be taken to aid your game — if you make a game that plays very much like a normal game but seems like an essay by Lamb, it will probably be well-received. Hence the relative success of Dear Esther: expectations for walking and listening in videogames are well-entrenched. But if we desire, as we seem to, to revolutionize the very form of gaming, our ideas will be constrained by the formal conventions of the medium, which have yet to be established in our favor. We must seek to lay a path, stone by stone, from where we are to what we see. Indeed, if we do not, it is possible that no one will.

However, Mr. Stout, if you like, you can be our beacon instead of our foreman.
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"Wonder had gone away, and he had forgotten that all life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other."
--H.P. Lovecraft

Call me Dale Smiley
Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #28 on: February 26, 2013, 06:38:00 pm »

Well stated, Dale. Smiley
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Re: The Audience's Goodwill in Notgames
« Reply #29 on: February 26, 2013, 09:10:00 pm »

Well stated, Dale. Smiley

Thank you, axcho, for both kindnesses Smiley
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"Wonder had gone away, and he had forgotten that all life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other."
--H.P. Lovecraft

Call me Dale Smiley
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