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May 26, 2020
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Understanding the Medium

by Jason Bakker on 12/20/10 02:56:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


What does it mean to be a storyteller in games?

I've talked before about how each game is its own medium. This means that each game you make doesn't equate to "a book", "a movie" or "a song"; for each game you create you are both making the content and devising the delivery mechanism.

I can go into detail to prove this fact - I could point out the existence of Minecraft, or mods, or even multiplayer games in general, in which a limitless range of potential stories may be told.

Or I could discuss how the line that players draw between acceptable and unacceptable game design imitation is arbitrary only until you draw a corresponding line between medium and message. But it's more important to talk about how we use this piece of information to further our work.

Big budget game developers understand this already or, not understanding, follow this principle and have been doing so successfully for years. The medium is the gameplay mechanics, the systems and the holistic experiential structure of the game.

The message is not just the theme, it is the content - it is everything that has been put into the game by the creator, and the experiences that are created through the player's interaction with the mechanics.

Independent developers struggle morally with the concepts of imitation, mimicry and "sequelitis", while seeing in the big-budget sphere that these processes time and time again have positive qualitative results.

Too many independent developers are attempting to reinvent the medium, being unable to separate innovating with the medium and creating interesting, compelling content. Count myself among this number.

This is not a call for acceptance of "cloned" games (ie. Fruit Ninja -> Veggie Samurai) - it is simply an idea to take under consideration - the idea that your medium does not have to be recreated with every game in order for it to be an original game.

Perhaps, through careful cultivation of your own personal medium over the course of many developed games, you could grow as an artist of that unique medium, and create ever more complex and nuanced works within it.

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