On Failceeding


What a horrible word that is. A horrible portmanteau, no less.

Anyway, I thought I would stop in (to my own website, yeah) to write a brief ode to the Mediterranean Game Jam that took place back at the start of July this year. Rilla and I participated and managed to get pretty excited about a game that would use retro videogames to tell a story about a person stuck at home trying to stay positive while not actually feeling very good.

We failed pretty hard. By the afternoon of the second day we decided to give up, because we just weren’t ‘getting it’ somehow, and it started to feel pretty clear we didn’t quite understand what we were doing. (Despite that, I think there’s something in the idea, so maybe it will re-emerge sometime. I love how working with Rilla pushes the kinds of things I’d consider doing in such a different direction.)

So the game jam was kind of a failure in the sense of making a game.

But somehow it got me quite obsessed with Breakout. All I did during the jam itself, really, was build a funny-looking version of Breakout (it did look quite nice), based on iPhone photographs of CRT televisions, which distort in interesting ways because of the beam scanning the screen. But I ended up with Breakout on the brain to such as extent that when we later went for a bit of a vacation on Gozo (the ‘other’ island of Malta) in a farmhouse, I spent almost all my free time (of which there was plenty) thinking of ways to leverage Breakout.

This ended up with fairly detailed designs for three games entirely premised on Breakout, the first of which is hopefully kind of obviously BREAKSOUT which I’m making at the moment, 36 variations of Breakout as a kind of ‘sequel’ to PONGS. But then I have two whole other projects, one of them surprisingly ambitious (for me), also based on Breakout.

So in brief, falling apart at a game jam in the context of working on Breakout led me to think a lot about Breakout afterwards (much of it in the ‘why?! why?!’ sense of self-berating) and ultimately to see that Breakout could be quite a strangely versatile way of examining games more generally, that obsessing (through design) over a single game could actually ‘say’ quite a large potential range of things about game design.


Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is that if you flame out at a game jam you should beat yourself up about it continuously until you forge a beautiful diamond of design.

RIght? That sounds uplifting enough? A failcess, no less? Good night.

18 August 2015
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