Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mucking About

The Glob private view went very well. Thanks to some fantastic testing and bug-tracking by Nat, the game behaved itself impeccably, and it was a genuine delight to watch people exploring it - including a number of people who probably don't play many video games, if any at all ever. There is now a version available to play on the website at www.gleanofglob.org, and apparently the exhibition will be discussed on the BBC Radio 4's Saturday Review programme.

The week continues apace. I'm down in Brighton this week for the Develop conference, where I have a number of meetings with my new company. I imagine I'll blog more about that when there's something more definite to say.

Work on Glob has led me, tangentially, to think a bit about playful games recently. By playful, I mean games which are comfortable in their own skin, and prepared to have a bit of fun with the player, and doing so perhaps lift them out of the experience of playing a video game a little bit.

This could be something really big, like having gameplay which is willfully obtuse and confusing but in a fun way - the best example I can think of right now is Wrath of Transparator, which is a game by Matt Korba et al where you control a gigantic monster trashing everything, but where you are also completely invisible, and have to work hard to even keep track of where you are on the screen.

Or it could be something really small, like the layer of gaming references in No More Heroes. Or the way you have to swap control pad ports to beat that boss in Metal Gear (not sure which version - never played it, but loved the idea). Or the caricature animation and crowd taunts in Rock Star's Table Tennis on the Wii (I didn't notice quite so much piss-taking in the 360 version, so perhaps they retro-fitted it).

In fact, playfulness can even be inscribed into the very DNA of a game, as it is in the Katamari series. I'd suggest that probably the Japanese are very much better at being playful than western developers.

I think in general, playfulness in games is underlooked. We work so hard iterating mechanics to make them play well, and then polishing up the content, that we don't leave enough time, or energy to muck around a little bit. And the result is too often these slick po-faced blockbusters that don't feel like the people making them were having enough fun.


Adam said...

...totally thought your PV was tonight, Wednesday! Jeez, really sorry! That sucks, was really up for it.

Adam said...

Agree with you about playfulness in games, can think of a couple more examlples - Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube liked to mess with fooling you that you were ACTUALLY losing your mind and that you cube was possessed, Phantom Hourglass was a bit playful particularly having to close the ds case to stamp something (completely flummoxed me for about half an hour till I got it).

Matt Korba said...

Hey Ricky, How ya Been? Karoshi 2.0 is an excellent example of breaking the fourth wall/playfulness in games.

This is the sequel but the first one is quite good too.