Friday, February 26, 2010

Why design Games?

I started out as a player of a very difficult game called life when I was just 1 second old, but I only really started playing games when I was 3 or 4, something like that, maybe earlier, but I have no recollection whatsoever of that. After all that’s about as young as I can remember talking, therefore having memories. It were those everyday outdoor games all kids play at some point in their lives, sometimes with a whole bunch of neighbors: Tag, Hide-and-Seek and etc. Odds and Evens and Rock-Paper-Scissors were favorites to pick who would seek or who was tagging first, so you can count those in too.

As years went by I started playing and getting involved with different types of media for games: card games, board games, tabletop games, RPG’s. Of course I didn’t play RPG’s when I was 8, nor did I play tabletop games when I was 6. They came in their own time, but they did eventually. I had a lot of fun playing games when I was a kid. I still do, though my tastes and preferences have gotten the best of me now. I enjoyed having no expectations and discovering something every time I did some new or tried something different. Though, even at that time, I already felt there was some underlying meaning to all of that. The game, at its core, was very subtly stimulating something in me like it had some sort of lesson to teach. A lesson that, with practice, could be adapted and converted into knowledge usable in life.

It’s evident I didn’t have this line of thought when I was a child. But deep down that’s exactly how I felt at the time. It took some time until I truly started to understand and appreciate video games. It wasn’t until I was 11-12 years old that I started speaking my first English words and understand what videogames were really trying to accomplish and say. By the way, I’m Brazilian if you didn’t already know that.

After breaking down that language barrier I started to see that games, sometimes and increasingly more, brought pretty complex and engaging stories that made the player care and really want to advance in order to unravel more and more of it. To communicate and bring knowledge of otherwise non-important themes to the player. After all, what’s the use of fables and fairy tales if not to teach us something while entertaining us? And not just that! What we experience in a game, provided it has a certain level of realism, can be considered practical experience in a lot of fields: Militaries use computer simulations to train soldiers and pilots. Therapy is also starting to see its fair share of use to it. Videogames, just normal everyday videogames, are starting to surpass the storytelling potential of movies. Look at Heavy Rain, for example. It’s an fully interactive game, that tells a pretty emotional story.

That’s why I chose to design games for a living, or at least try for now. Because I truly believe the future of entertainment as whole lies in interactive media. You can a tell a story and shock people with its ending. Or you can let them choose their ending. You can treat people with interactive experiences, you can train people. You can make them cry, you can make them laugh, you can make they fear with entertainment. Some people say you only learn something when you live it. Games and interactive media bring that a whole new level. A game can be experienced so deeply by someone that they would actually treat that as reality, and learn from it: Imagine having kids play a game about Little Red Riding Hood. And through the experiences and adventures they draw from the game, they learn and absorb that talking to strangers is not a good idea. It’s just like a vivid dream, and it’s one that is approached in a playful and willingly way. They make the wrong choice, they learn from it.

That’s how any experience can move someone. And it’s that much more satisfying and meaningful to the audience when it has their personal touch to it. When they know, or at least believe, they helped create that outcome, that they lived it, somehow. That’s why I design games, because I believe in them.

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