Wednesday, December 28, 2011

About "Territory"

Territory will be up in about a month or two -- it's an upcoming project that will pair critical essays about video games with short browser games that make arguments.

Part of it stems from my longstanding distaste of games criticism / writing that doesn't readily offer a translation from theory into practice, an opinion that probably isn't popular with most writers (the idea that criticism must be "useful" otherwise it's just whining) so I won't dwell on it.

Perhaps the hypothesis here is that words alone aren't the best way to discuss games. Discussing games is maybe a job best left for games: instead of writing 750 or so words on a game, a reviewer should make a short game about the game. Readers' comments would take the form of mods and new levels, mutations of existing rulesets and graphics to make a new point. (Eventually, some enterprising online pharmacy will code a spambot that will make spam levels and spam games.)

But for that glorious future to happen, I guess we need to think more about how we "read" games. As game designers, we're always deeply concerned with how players behave and think. Territory might help with that.

Truly, some pieces of games writing really shine with an additional layer of interactivity, although there's probably a tendency among those who call themselves gamers to disregard these interactions as "gimmicks," as if every digital interaction must require repetition, time, and mastery. Without those elements, these aren't games...

... Because games have mechanics! "Games aren't X!" But every time you say that, it doubles as an open invitation to the entire world to make a game that is exactly X. Maybe even 2X.

(A related tangent: these days, toddlers learn how to swipe, pinch, and click, before they ever learn how to spell or type words. What do we make of that?)

Anyway. If Territory is successful, I'll open it up to wider participation and start playing matchmaker for games writers / game developers. For now, I've talked to a few people and I'm planning on making small games based on their essays. It's a test run. We'll see how it goes. If it ends up failing, well, let this post be a testament to my completely benevolent and well-meaning intentions.