Stated Goals!

Both Anna Anthropy and Gregory Weir wrote blog posts about the “stated goals” of their games, and it sounds like a fun mental exercise to engage in, along with being potentially hugely psychologically revealing, so I thought I’d engage in the same thing and see what came out of it. I’m a little confused by what to call the “stated” goal of some of my games, but I’ll do my best with it nonetheless.

So, I’ll write up what I take to be the stated (or at least implied) goals of my games, but sans game titles, since that seems to be the format used by the others. I’ll try to keep each one pretty snappy and as “abstract” as they can be.

Walk through a landscape and then talk to a guru about whatever you want.

Decide whether to punish or forgive people who break the ten commandments.

Survive a plane crash and its aftermath.

Participate in a performance artwork.

Make ethical decisions.

Compete in a dance-off.

Fly from left to right.

Engage in one of five infinite and fruitless activities.

Collect coins and exit the level.

Destroy the bricks with the ball / make the ball miss paddle miss the ball.

Master a saxophone solo and win Eurovision / YouTube glory.

Avoid missing ball for high score / Avoid ball for high score / etc.

Make coffee.

Shoot enemy soldiers and answer psych evaluation questions.

Shove your opponents and be the last player standing.

Serve as the kicker on a professional (American) football team.

The next step in the blog posts I’m jumping off from here is to look for patterns in the kinds of games you’ve made – I guess both as a form of reflexive psychoanalysis and to get some idea about your approach to game design. I’m struggling a tiny bit to find dominant patterns, but let’s see what I can come up with if I try…

Oddly, the biggest trend in the goals is probably something like “banal game goals” – the PONGS goals, the Two Player Breakout goals, the War Game goal, the You Say Jump I Say How High goal, and the All’s Well That Ends Well goal are all exceedingly simple “arcade game” goals that we see all the time I guess. And really each game is based on a very simple arcade-y model, so that’s probably not surprising. It makes sense, too, in that a lot of the time my interest has been in working with and around existing game forms, rather than inventing new systems.

There’s a small, three-game trend toward “artistic expression”, perhaps? Dancing, performance art, and playing music are themes that come up, and my next game is in the same area too, actually. I’d say this makes sense, as I’m definitely interested in “the arts” and particularly interested in the idea of using games as a medium of expression (though I haven’t got too far down that second road yet – hopefully Art Game will be something of a shot in that direction).

There’s another three-game trend toward “textual self-expression”? GuruQuestWar Game, and Kicker all partly or entirely involve expressing yourself by typing in words rather than by taking atomic actions in a game world. That’s certainly something I’m fascinated by, though I don’t think any of the games really “get there” entirely. But the notion of player freedom to say what they want, rather than participate in the few verbs provided by a game is attractive.

There’s a two-game “trend” toward “ethics” with Let There Be Smite! and Trolley Problem, both of which ask you to make decisions based on your (or an imagined) moral code. But really, hard to call it a trend even though it’s something I’m personally very interested in.

There’s an anti-trend toward violence? I do have one game that involves shooting, and one mode in PONGS gives you a laser-gun, but by and large none of my games involve attacking someone else in a literal sense (I guess you could claim that ZORBA is “aggressive” if you desperately wanted to). All’s Well That Ends Well is “violent” in the sense that you keep dying, but you don’t really enact violence in an obvious way. Ludwig Von Beatdown involves physicality, but I wouldn’t call it violent.

Okay, there are probably lots of anti-trends though, right? An anti-trend toward princesses, an anti-trend toward communist ideology, an anti-trend toward baseball…

Done. Now you know me better than I know myself.

7 December 2012
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