Demotivational Metonymy

I went through a pretty big dip in confidence and happiness about game making a week or two back and I thought it would be worth at least briefly mentioning a nice point that Rilla made about it. Specifically, after talking about it all for a while, we found that a core problem was confusing the praise/hype associated with a game that ends up being popular online (e.g. Safety Instructions, The Artist Is Present) with the reason for making that game (and by extension other games) at all. It’s extraordinarily difficult not to fall into this trap, at least for me, and it can lead to feel pretty seriously bad about what you’re doing – because that internet attention doesn’t always come! (See: Trolley Problem, You Say Jump I Say How High, and others.)

Rilla positioned it as a kind of “evil metonymy”. So you let a particular part stand in for and be the chief representative of the entire experience of making games. Thus, “making games” ends up equated with “internet attention”, and then it becomes a whole lot less fun. Not just because you don’t always get the attention, but because it totally ignores the many elements of game making that really are rewarding each time – the creative process, the work of putting something together, and so on. You could similarly think of this as a problematic “indexical sign” from Peircean semiotics – one small effect it taken as representative of an entire process. So, sure, the weather vane stands for the wind, but it isn’t the wind.

29 March 2012
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