Writer’s Unblocked

Since finishing the football simulation part of Kicker I kind of spiraled into pretty deep confusion about the game and really lost a lot of traction on it – although some of the lost traction is also just thanks to the looming fact of moving to a new country (Malta) in the near future. Given that I (kind of) managed to pull out of the confusion today I thought I would write about it.

So the key idea with the game originally revolved around the idea (had with Doug Wilson) of being an important player in a team sport who isn’t necessarily always contributing. This corresponds to those (very interesting and worthwhile) modes in sports games where you control a single player no matter what’s going on – I’ve written about how much I like that in the past. In those games, however, it’s still the case that you tend to skip periods of time in the game where you’re not actually playing. And naturally I think that it’s possibly true that the times when you’re not playing are also very important and interesting experiences. (See also, as Doug said at the time, the movie Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait).

And because we were meeting up with Danish IF author Simon Christiansen (he made the excellent PataNoir and other great IFs) the idea came around to make such a game as a text adventure. Because that just seems like a very good thing to do somehow. So yes, we end up with a football simulation in which you play as the kicker, a player who only rarely plays on the field, spending most of your time on the sidelines somehow killing time. But then I got lost.

The getting lost revolved around thinking this game, by virtue of being IF I suppose, needed to somehow be literary and serious. And once set on that track I find it very difficult to pull out, presumably because I had big literary ambitions for a substantial period of my life. So somehow I decided that while not playing in the “real” football game, the kicker would sit there reminiscing about his early life, introducing a “remember x” verb to the parser. And you would kind of exist in this memories but occasionally snap out of them to play in the real game. Which I maintain is a pretty interesting thing in itself…

… but which was never the idea behind the game. The point was for the vast majority of the game to be banal, but that the banality of the sidelines was part of your job as the kicker. So those extended periods of boredom were a central part of who you are as that character, and thus integral to what it means to play that role. You don’t just skip it, you live it.

The way that I realised I was getting it wrong was, predictably, by just getting to work on the game. As I wrote up descriptions of the field and the sidelines and added the ability to drink gatorade, I realised that this was all the stuff that the game should be. It is almost literally always the case that getting to work on your project instead of “thinking” about it will lead to everything working out. I knew that before this happened, and I know it again now.

So the project is back on track. But I’m now realising that since I plan on submitting it to the Interactive Fiction Competition, I’m not going to be able to release it on this website for quite a while. Guh. So this is the second project in a row (Celebrate FTW! is still waiting to be exhibited in Baltimore) that I can’t technically put out there when it’s finished. Which is a lesson all in itself in terms of vanity.

So thanks, universe, for all the lessons. One at a time would be nice…

26 July 2012
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