Micro = Macro
I’m still digesting all the ideas that were flying during the 9 a.m. panel I went to this morning.
A rapid-fire intro by Naughty Dog’s Richard LeMarchand kicked things off. In his talk titled The Primacy of Play, John Sharp dug into historical and philosophical precedents that said that play deserves to evaluated on its own merits. Sharp referenced the Dutch scholar Johan Huizinga, who observed that people submit to the unusual in the name of playing a game. He also quoted German philosopher Friedrich Schiller, who says “Only play can embody beauty and reason.”
Tracy Fullerton talked about the concept of Masterful Play, saying it begins in a deep understanding of the play system. But, what also makes masterful play possible is a culture of appreciation that exists around them. “There’s always a witness,” she said. As a result, deep appeciation of games & play will be a 21st Century reality. N’Gai Croal invoked games like Halo 3 and the N64 Goldeneye to talk about player-controlled difficulty and the way it can further immerse players in the world.
Robin Hunicke (her again!) called out Sony Home for being a stultifyingly boring place and then quickly illustrated how easily user-generated activities could make it a place where players curate and archive the playspace. You kinda had to be there, but Sony should just cut her a check now. Eric Zimmerman’s interactive card-passing game was yet another simple example about the kinds of communication that game-playing creates and really ramped up the energy in the room. Zimmerman’s best thought: It’s a messy system, but play is real magic that allows us to transform into strange identities.
Clint Hocking of Far Cry 2 fame showed how a 100-point grade system like Metacritic creates an inflated and untrustworthy metric for evaluating how much better one game actually is from another.
I really loved Flower so it was like a knife in my heart when miscommunication during my Gamesbeat panel forced me to cut off Jenova Chen’s presentation. I felt a little better watching his microtalk which had much of the same material. The main point he drove home was humans have a broader emotional palette than just fun and we’ll want games that engage the rest of it. Social interaction spurs intellectual stimulation and game designs structured around social activity would result in more meaningful expression and communication. I’d read before about how Chen believes games can generate a sort of spiritual uplift, but seeing him actually map it out was amazing.
What all the talks had in common–besides really impressive high-level thinking and energy–was the desire to urge everybody in the room to get to think out of the box when it comes to the design and critique of video games.
This post is already running long, so once the slides get uploaded to the official GDC site, I’ll update this post.