==> aggregation <==
this is a space for me to aggregate texts that i like. somewhat ranked from top to bottom.
if you like some of them, consider searching for other essays by the same authors!
[last updated: 2021-03-04]
when I was a child, I loved playing games - I wanted to do it all the time. these days however, I can barely feel anything at all while playing them. this has been going on for years now, and over time I've realized that it isn't a problem with the medium per se, but with a popular kind of game: games with Good Game Design(TM), where the purpose isn't to convey a thought-provoking experience, but just to entertain for many hours as possible.
in this blogpost, Melos names these types of games - treatmills -, and breaks down really well that even though they may look innovative and beautiful, at heart they're just... gachas!?!?
this one really fueled my deep-seated aversion for videogames. highly recommend a similar text by them: "Deadgames and Alivegames".
"Okay, so I didn't like Hades that much, BUT, I still felt really compelled to keep playing after putting it down. This is where I noticed the similarities to gacha games: I felt EXACTLY the same putting down Hades as I do when I put down a gacha game or idle game like Kittensgame or Melvor Idle. I have anxiety for a few hours after quitting where I consider re-downloading and leveling up more, doing one more run, etc... going back for another short high"
if the previous text by Melos burned down what was left of my warmth for games, then this text by Nathalie Lawhead built something beautiful right atop the ashes.
there's something that I do from time to time that I call "the itch.io deep dive" - it's when you download a ton of games from itch.io indiscriminately and play through them with absolutely no expectations for each title. most of them will be shitty, but a surprisingly large amount will be Interesting, and a few will be Special. it's always a very nice experience!
in this post, Nathalie Lawhead talks about why this is a cool experience, and gives many pointer for where to start. she mainly talks about "indie horror games", but I'd argue that most of what she's saying applies broadly to "itch.io games". I also appreciate that many other posts of hers contain indie game recommendations.
this blogpost single-handedly refueled my desire to make games and I'm not joking
other essays by her that I like a lot: "I want shorter games with worse graphics made by people who are paid more to work less and I’m not kidding" and "Games are giant weird story machines! (video games, their stories, and building stories for systems)".
"It’s funny that I rarely really remember a lot of what I do in AAA games, even if I spend so much time trying to get through the world. [...] The Last of Us is forgettable. It gave me all the standard things, all the grand story telling, tried really hard to be emotional, but it kind of gets lost to the grand scale of itself. Not that it’s completely forgettable. There are elements to it that I will remember, but the bulk of it kind of seems too “inflated”, so that it can be a Big Scale AAA Game… and that’s where much of the time spent in it gets lost."
this one expresses many of my thoughts about the quite existentialist question "should i work professionally as a game developer?". the main takeaway for me is the mental model of game development as a garage band. it's good stuff
"There aren’t too many indie developers. There are just too many indie developers who don’t realise that being an indie developer is like starting a band. It’s a thing you do and get value out of and, if you’re incredibly lucky, might even make you some money one day maybe."
some texts mark you, create a before and after. this is one of those texts. reading it for the first time was like a veil being lifted. other people feel this too? this arrived at a time when i was struggling to find anyone who shared some of my values on good game experiences. i suggest reading all of his other essays as well. i reread them quite often, and they always feel to me like a gift that keeps on giving.
"My favorite videogames are the games I don’t fully understand."
some of his other essays that i find important: On Videogame Reviews, Saving Zelda, It's Not Coming Back.
i have always found "flow" to be a treacherous concept, often complimented when it should be derided. the concept is too close to "autopilot" for my liking, and the absence of clear differences between them is enough to make me cautious. many of my thoughts about this came after reading this essay from Lana, in which she addresses the relations between flow, objectivity, and the "correct way to design a game". i like it
"It means those intrepid developers who are crafting provocative, dissonant, emotionally challenging games are classified not only as less marketable, but as fundamentally irreligious to the prevailing wisdom of what a good game is supposed to be."
mystery and surprise have always been strong inspirations for me in game development, but i never thought that there existed a conflicted before reading this post (specifically, this phrase) by brough: "In general I make games because I want to play them myself, which means fixed content is pretty much out - I'll know what's there so it can't surprise me." huh!!
this gave me a lot of food for thought, and i suddenly had a lot more respect for procedural generation than i previously had. the rest of the post is also very interesting - i've always been fascinated by post-mortems, and corrypt is a great game (play it if you haven't already!!)
"Why does [Dark Souls] 2 stand out as the most fascinating and exciting in my mind, even if I only played through it once? Why despite [Dark Souls] 1’s first half being so strong, is it still not as memorable as 2?" melos writes about continuity in videogame spaces, and how semi-continuous sapces might be more memorable.
"But there's something I love about such claims, the boldness of saying "you're all doing it wrong, your taste is wrong, this is how things should be done and I'm going to do it better to prove it to you!". It's a fantastic motivation to make stuff." relatable.
what is the problem with simcity? in this presentation, Paolo discusses many aspects of city-building games, and how they fail/succeed to be simulations of the real world. i particularly like the format (slides side-by-side with text commentary)