Nothing like a sinus infection & viral bronchitis combo to slow your week, topped off with busting up your phone! At I can say that I am on the mend; as for the phone, that remains to be seen.
Since the Daily Post doesn’t have this week’s photo challenge up yet, here’s a topic that crossed my mind again recently and does on occasion when I’m writing or designing, or just reading about games and media in general: diversity. I’ll be talking mostly about games here, but a lot of this applies to other media like movies, TV, comics, and so forth, so expect some crisscrossing of that line.
It’s no big secret or shock that most game protagonists are the default white male. Most designers are white men, and historically their target demographic has been white males. It still baffles me that some people react some strongly against this “status quo” being changed or challenged, but that’s a different topic altogether. I understand why this is the default–the old adage of “write what you know” is a powerful and natural direction to take when writing. It’s easiest to imagine yourself as the protagonist of a story. If you were to take a look at all my writing and roleplaying characters over the years, you’d find that most of them were female, white, with red or brown hair. This, and likewise the default white casts or male white protagonists of TV shows, movies and games did not stick out to me as odd for a long time. Read more
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Motion.”
It’s back! A quick refresher, I used to hit up The Daily Post every Friday to see the lovely photos submitted to their weekly photo challenge. Not being a photographer but finding some real lovely pics in there, I started using one picture each week as inspiration for a short piece of writing.
This week’s challenge on was “Motion,” and my inspiration is this picture by danbochat–lovely work!
Lighting the wick within the paper lantern, I was surprised at how effective the small heat source really was at inflating the balloon, at how quickly the lantern in my hands felt eager to lift into the air. Watching the other around me begin to fill the night sky, they were like falling stars in reverse, and it seemed that this was how wishes should be made: on the stars we send into the ether, letting them go, letting them leave us, and trusting that they would bring that wish out into the world. Like the flap of the butterfly’s wings, perhaps, the heat of that small fire would lift the lantern and affect the wind patterns and set off the chain of minute events that lead to the wish it carried coming true. It would be carried off to where it needed to go, lifted by hope and faith and one wish, one tiny flaming wick.
Something about that idea felt more genuine than the path of a star falling to the earth, leaving the heavens to crash to just one point, burdened by the wishes of so many. This lantern now leaving my hands, this was mine and mine alone. And it shared the warm night air with so many others, filling the view above us with our stars and the ones already in the sky, all of them taking flight together, but each with its own wish and its own mission. Not stars that were fading and ending, but stars that were just being lit, just beginning their journeys.
More than once I’ve been asked what advice I have for people who want to design games, and everytime my first piece of advice is make sure everything in the game supports the story/experience.
I have usually just said “story”, but not every game’s main thrust is the story–hence, story/experience. What does that mean? Even if your game is open world exploration or a MOBA fighting game (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) or an FPS, and not an adventure game (as is my wont), there’s still a specific experience you want players to have. A mood, a frame of mind, a social interaction, or whatever else. I would add that I believe most people unconsciously add their own story to games that don’t lay out a specific one (ask me sometime about the narrative I’ve decided to paint when my husband plays World of Tanks!), but even if they don’t add their own, there is still the experience.
That’s what it means in theory. In practice? It means don’t add anything to your game that doesn’t support the story you’re telling. Don’t do it because when you do, you waste your time (and money and resources) and you waste the player’s time on something that is superfluous, unimportant, and may even remove them from the gameplay experience. This is why you should never add a puzzle for the sake of a puzzle. Only add a puzzle if it reinforces a point about the characters, the world, or the plot. If it’s there just to kill time, then that is all you’ve done. Killed time. And with the modern game audience, that’s all it takes for them to move on to the next thing.
My favorite examples of these are, of course, from adventure games. In that community, it gets called “moon logic” a lot, or puzzles where your true goal is to “figure out what the designer was thinking.” At the peak of this in my book are three puzzles from King’s Quest V: cheese in the machine, pie at the yeti, and emeralds in honey.