When Is The Shining Not The Shining?

Let's Play The Shining

As threatened, I’m going to write some words about making this new game, now “officially” titled Let’s Play: The Shining. Not too many words, as I’m trying to ease back into this writing thing gently, but a few. A few mediocre words of a Wednesday evening.

One of the biggest struggles with this game has been coming up with an “identity” for it. Not so much the game itself as almost my understanding of “who is making it”. Now, obviously, I am making it, but I mean that in a more stylistic sense. What sort of ethos is it made with, what sort of philosophy? Because understanding those things provides important constraints without which it generally feels impossible to proceed.

This game originally came about when I thought it would be funny to make a game that just follows Jack’s story through The Shining. (I mean, the movie borderline does this too, of course.) So it would be a sort of antihero thing where you find yourself doing bad stuff as the “hero” of the game. But this idea ran into a bit of trouble, oddly, when I was trying to title the game. I didn’t feel I could call it The Shining, because it wouldn’t actually be representative of the movie. And The Shining: Jack’s Story, while a bit hilarious, wasn’t completely what I wanted to capture. So, that one kind of fell away.

However, on thinking about calling the game literally The Shining I started thinking about the idea of making a game representative of the movie. And then I started thinking about old games like E. T. that were made apparently kind of cynically to tie into a successful movie. And I liked that. So I tried to imagine I would make a game called The Shining which was conceptually being made by some people at Atari trying to make a quick buck with a movie tie-in. With part of the joke here being that The Shining wasn’t all that successful. Har har. This led me down various paths (which I will write about more when I look at some of the past visuals for the game), focused on adapting various Atari style graphics and gameplay into scenes from The Shining. I went pretty far down this road before feeling derailed by a lack of cohesive visuals.

What I ended up settling on is something a bit less meta that the Atari tie-in version. Now it’s a game of The Shining, but not titled The Shining so as to avoid any charge of not getting it “right” and, in particular, not adapting the entire movie. Instead it’s Let’s Play: The Shining, which adds some of the levity I enjoyed from the Atari version without wedding me to retro-fidelity and strangely high-concept design tasks. Rather, the game refers back to my old game Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment and I think is thus allowed to be light, but still to include some of the play around being the bad guy (Jack chopping the door) and also the play around the idea of the cinematic (e.g. the opening car sequence) and playing around with the relationship specifically between game and movie (in this case particularly as concerns space and “control” by the hotel/player – deep right?)

So that’s a microcosm of what has been going on. Looking at it, it’s interesting to me how much this has revolved around, or at least been represented by, titling the game. The power of names.

8 April 2015
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