I attended Boston Gameloop today. It felt good to actually start connecting with some of the game development community around here. I just wish they hadn’t started the damn thing at 9 in the morning. I shouldn’t have to get up an hour and a half earlier on Saturday than I do during the week. So I was a little baked for the morning portion of the unconference. Observers might have described me as ‘catatonic’.
There were two key talks that I really took a lot away from. Alexx Kay, one of my co-designers at 2K Boston, did a great discussion on implicit worldviews in game mechanics. We talked about how in Civilization, unprovoked attacks on friendly nations are almost always part of an optimal strategy. What message do these mechanics send about the state of the real world? I mentioned that all the sims in The Sims 2 are effectively bisexual. What assumed, implicit message does that send to players? I think this kind of thematic deconstruction is extra interesting because it is something that is only possible in games. We’ve been analyzing themes in canned storylines forever. How many classical philosophers ever considered the worldview implicit in the rules of Chess?
The second talk generated some ideas that I’ll probably want to expand into an article here. It was a discussion about emergent narrative. My main point was that we don’t have a shortage of emergent narrative in many games (especially strategy games). The events themselves are all there. What we lack is a way to make the game interpret the events and connect the dots together into a story. All that work is left to the player, and I don’t think game designers really realized that anything was missing at all. More to come on this.