What Have I Created?

So in the background I’ve continued working on that platform game based on light I mentioned a while back – I even released a version of it on stimulusresponse a couple of days back. When I say I’ve continued working on it, I guess I mean that I worked on it for one more day and haven’t touched it since then.

Anyway, I made some variations of the first game. In one the game asks you to make the world of the game out of a particular colour – like red, green, blue, etc. – and you hold objects (or whatever else) in front of the camera that are that colour or close to it to make the world. As you can see from the “red” image here, it’s a bit liberal with what counts as the colour – my face isn’t that red. This version of the game is in some ways more satisfying, I think. It also just takes a single image, rather than a cumulative one.

Then I made a version of the game which was based on difference detection – so it makes a level based on all the pixels which “change” over the course of the countdown. That one doesn’t feel as successful, though it’s kind of weird and interesting to interact with and wave your hands around.

The final game I made is a “live” version of the colour game. In this one, rather than having a countdown and then a frozen world of the colour you managed to hold in front of the camera, it continuously monitors for that colour on screen and incorporates it into the game. That means that you can have things moving around in the world while you play, for example. It also means you can “pick up” the avatar by scooping under him with something of the right colour, and then carry him around on the screen in that way.

All of these games have an important feature in common other than their mechanic of using the webcam to generate a world – none of them are particularly interesting or good games. The entirety of the “rules” is to reach a flickering square that is randomly placed on the screen. It’s usually either really easy or really hard, but not often in a way that’s all that interesting. So, currently, the games rely on you to make the experience interesting, through how you construct the world and make things easy or hard on yourself, and the aesthetics of the world itself.

Anyway, this experience with making some prototype games reminds me yet again of my basic attitude, lately, to making stuff, which is that I’ve become very fly-by-night about it all. The comics I draw, the games I make, it’s all fixated on rapidly producing something that’s more of a gimmick than a complete or “deep” idea. Why is that exactly? I’m almost certain that I used to be pretty deep. I used to write novels, I used to want to be a novelist. I used to pick up a grand and impossible project as a matter of course. It saddens me that I’ve lost touch with those ambitions, even though they were usually fruitless.

I suspect that stimulusresponse, while it’s been fantastic for experimenting and churning out “creative content” has been bad for my more ruminative side in terms of making things. Before I felt like I had the kind of arbitrary deadline that the website provides (a sort of “what have you made for me lately?” feeling), I would tend to obsess over a single project, rather than feel the need to make and finish something rapidly. So, in a sense, I kind of orchestrated all sides of a sort of “selling out” of that more long-term, thoughtful side of my making self.

I’m not prepared to say this is a catastrophe and a terrible thing, but I do wonder whether I need some kind of intervention. Again, probably from myself.

5 October 2010
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