I just returned from a wonderful experience at the Christian Game Developer’s Conference. The trip ended up being pretty last-minute, as we found out we had an opportunity to VJ with Weiv for the band BarlowGirl (more on how that went later).
The Success?? of Christian?? Games
My favorite talk of the conference was the last one, a roundtable discussion that led with a question about the perceived lack of success of Christian games compared to other media. I just came across a post by John Hanan about it, which inspired this post.
To me, the panelists’ answers mostly avoided the issue by trying to challenge the question – you see this a lot in politics – with rebuttals like “What does success really mean?” and “What does a Christian game really mean?”
LAME. At that point, my passions started to stir (and they are still stirred as you can tell by my last post!). To me, exploring definitions is much less important at this point, if you look at the progress made – or lack thereof – in game design that is deeply meaningful at all, let alone that is Christian specifically.
We Need More Shotguns
Now, do I believe we’re in a golden age of videogames? Of course! But that doesn’t mean we’ve made a lot of progress in making them meaningful. The exciting part is that we’re shotgunning new game ideas due mostly to the Internet, and in part to more-open-than-console mobile platforms. But I want to make something clear: we need a hell of a lot more shotguns.
And so, just like I asked at the end of that panel, I ask it here. And just like I prefaced this question at the end of that panel, I preface it here:
I do not want any cop-out answers. I want real examples. How do we, as game designers, actually design a meaningful game? FOR REAL. Like actually design one that is actually meaningful. I am looking for resources to do this, and I have found very few. It seems to me like we should be holding 10 game jams per year trying to figure this out.
Unintentionally, I asked it rather accusingly, so what followed ended up being mildly embarassing. But I probably would have exploded had I not asked this, so it was a fair trade.
A Sense of Urgency
The answers? It seems that no one really knows at this point. And that should be a Really Big Deal™ for all game developers interested in designing games that are intended to deliver a meaningful experience. It should be our #1 priority to figure this out. We should all be running to our laptops and feverishly creating experiences that attempt to explore this issue, and then sharing the results.
And yet… I can only find a handful of other designers with a sense of urgency about this, and most of those few are not sharing results in a way that progresses game design. Including me! Shame on me. I don’t know, maybe a sense of urgency is the wrong thing to look for, but I guess that’s what tends to inspire and motivate me. I keep remembering a conversation I had with Greg Wohlwend where we likened a sense of urgency in creating something to being chased by a lion. I think it is a beautiful picture.
It scares me that I, as a wannabe videogame designer of meaningful experiences, am starved for resources on how to actually do this. The important thing is that if that’s the case for me, then it is most likely the case for many others.
My Solution: A Meaningful Gameplay Game Jam
I love game jams. At this point, I’ve been involved with roughly 9 or 10 of them since 2007, most of which I helped organize. I think they are a savior of sorts for videogames as a medium. And so naturally I turn to the game jam to solve this problem. I’m probably biased, heh.
I have a vision for a game jam dedicated to exploring meaningful gameplay. I think it can be structured in a way to help solve this problem. And I think it deserves its own post, so I’ll save that for next. Sit tight.