GS: Can gaming take any lessons from MySpace and Digg?
Have you been spying on me? I've been pushing these things (from
Friendster forward) as interesting user-driven communities,
far more interesting social interactions than most games. Still,
in the end, I love games and simulations. I want to see The
Sims meets an immersive action game meets MySpace. Some
of the pseudo-MMO's are trying to do this, but aren't there yet.
Games can learn a ton from these services or spimes or whatever
At the game writers' conference in Austin recently we talked about
avatars and psychology. I found like 12 different Marlon Brando
avatars in various chat rooms, each that allowed a user to express
something totally different. The self-expression symbologies behind
Brando avatars are personal, not globally-significant. Whether
people are using Brando-as-Kurtz, Brando-as-Godfather, or Brando-as-Moreau,
each user is filling the avatar vessel with personally-meaningful
mythology. Games should facilitate more of that human drive, which
is the stock and trade of sites like MySpace.
Ex: Invisible War
GS: Will Wright has recently been talking more about conveying
deeper messages in games; how much responsibility do designers
have to consider social messages in their games?
had a super influential conversation one night in a pub in Australia
with Ian Bell, creator of Elite (the
space trading game). He helped open my eyes to the implicit politics
In Deus Ex, the politics we considered were
mostly overt, but (importantly) we tried to let the player choose
sides. (Later games, like Knights of the Old Republic and Black & White,
have also done this.)
But Ian is a smart guy and talked a lot about how Elite reinforced
a capitalistic view of profit-as-sole-value, which I thought was
super interesting. Even as someone who believes in (moderated)
free markets, I don't want to support profit as the only (or
even most important) value. That led me to consider military shooters,
where an authority figure gives a briefing, as implicitly supportive
of bureaucratic, patriarchal systems. And a ton of similar things.
It's not necessarily that I'm against all of that all the time
(since I'm not really an extremist and I think there's a time and
useful place for most things), but damn, I at least want to consider
all the angles before I support one view or another; I at least
want to be aware of what I'm saying (overtly or otherwise).
GS: Is there a boundary as a designer between stretching
a game design to convey a specific message over considering its
pure entertainment value?
HS: I agree with Marc Leblanc's
model of games as pleasure. People enjoy games on many levels:
Sensation, Fantasy, Narrative, Challenge,
Fellowship, Discovery, Expression, Pastime. People sit and throw
rocks into water and have fun. They whittle sticks, play Solitaire,
chat with IM programs until 3AM, or try to spit on ants. (Admit
it, you've done it.) People find a lot of stuff entertaining. Shakespeare
is entertaining, even when the story is about death and betrayal.
So, is there an inherent conflict between making something entertaining
and conveying messages? Not for me. As Will Wright said when we
were at Gallery1988, "That's the design challenge."