Stated! Goals! 2016!
It has become a tradition at the end of the year to write down the basic goals of the games I made in the year as a way of thinking about what kinds of ideas I was after. (See also: 2012, 2014, 2015.) So with absolutely no ado at all:
Play VVVVVV/How Do You Do It?/Desert Golfing/The Artist Is Present/The Graveyard as Breakout
Write a novel
Do the Abramovic Method after an apocalypse
Contemplate a room in different spatial configurations
Contemplate objects you can’t see because they’re inside generic cubes
Push a rock up a hill/Eat an apple and drink water/Break free of your chains/Fill a bathtub and have a bath/Run a footrace
Experience classic game studies concepts through slapstick
Contemplate a complete, disastrous playing of The Oregon Trail
Pretend to play chess
Explore an abandoned nuclear facility (made of text)
What can I say about these goals? Like I said last year, I think they’re at least somewhat diverse in terms of things you might do inside a videogame? Writing a novel, having a bath, and pretending to play chess are all relatively different kinds of activities… I think I’d be prepared to argue for that.
Although my games are always pretty “meta“, this group seems perhaps more meta than usual. From games remediated into a different game in BREAKSOUT, to another game (about a method) reset post-apocalypse, to another game reframed so that you can win (instead of be eternally punished), to a game where you pretend to play a game. And, for that matter, a game about the academic study of games… so this is definitely some one-eyebrow-up and a faint smile (or is it a frown?!) stuff. Does that mean it was also a more inaccessible year? Couldn’t tell you, but I wonder if it was. If it was… sorry?
The role of violence in game generally is something I care about, so I’m also prone to wondering/worrying about violence in my own work. The 2016 games involve pretty much no explicit violence – certainly not violence enacted by the player explicitly. There’s some violence to be suffered (the eagle eating your liver if you don’t break your chains, an oversize tennis ball hitting you in the face, an irradiated final moment) and there’s some violence that’s implied (post-apocalyptic landscapes had to come from somewhere, the Oregon Trail is a nasty place). So ultimately I like that the player isn’t violent, and that the violence in the games is usually minimal or has a point/role to play in the overall idea (beyond just being part of a “core game loop”, say).
Apparently I think the games are contemplative given that I wrote that word three times in my descriptors. It’s true that a significant number of the games in 2016 involved little player activity in the sense of doing things to the world and more encountering a world and thinking about what it is the way it is, or trying to look at it from different angles. To go with that perhaps I’d say that a lot of the games were spatial in nature, not least of all because it was a year where I was trying to more seriously pick up Unity as a tool of my trade. Thus a number of games were environments to be looked at (often with some extra philosophical element added for, well, contemplation). Even Burnt Matches was heavily spatial in nature, despite being made in Twine.
Four of the games had pretty solid art world references involved in them, or more often integral to their very being. This of course includes references to Marina Abramovic’s work, but also to the work of Gregor Schneider and Donald Judd.
There you go, kid. Make of it what you will.