Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

23 June, 2008

Weekend Design Challenge: A moment of reflection
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 4:19 AM

No deep challenge this weekend given the news that George Carlin passed away.

I always considered Carlin a true artist. He not only found time to entertain us, but also to make us think. A goal I aspire to in my professional life.

We lost someone irreplaceable. :(

If you want to post something or chew something over in your mind: what is the role of an artist, particularly a game developer, beyond making something “fun”. You can argue that a comedian’s most important job is to entertain us or make us laugh, but some like Carlin were also able to make us think a bit while we chuckled. Sometimes there was a bit of painful introspection after the fact, though.

So, how can game developers accomplish this in our medium?

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  1. Many movies that I have seen have had the power to forever change my outlook on life. In most cases I would not describe those movies as “entertaining” or “fun” but meaningful and real perhaps. People watch movies not just to have fun but recognize that it can also be an extremely enriching experience. To a large extent I feel that people don’t approach games in the same way. People tend to play a game to be entertained or to have fun and do not seek out life enriching experiences from interactive media. Creating games which have the same sort of long lasting impact would mean creating games which weren’t necessarily fun or rewarding sometimes and I’m not sure people are ready for that yet. It may be sadly true that many people look to games as a source of escapism and by definition do not want to experience the unpleasant emotions of a perspective changing event.

    That being said I feel that interactive media has a profound protential for lending perspective to people’s lives. When watching a movie, one often imagines what it would be like to be placed in the position of making impossible decisions; in a game you are the one making the decisions and the consequences can have a direct effect on your plans and experience. Perhaps as games progress as an art form in the eyes of the public people will seek out and hope for something more than just “fun” in their gaming experiences.

    Comment by Matt Shanker — 23 June, 2008 @ 8:15 AM

  2. I believe the purpose for all arts is inspiration; inspiration to think, to feel, and to do.

    Human beings are made of both logic and emotion (and will, if you consider that separate). Emotions motivate us to act. Logic alone does not motivate — it’s very common to know what makes sense and fail to perform that action because of an absence or conflict of motivation.

    I think the arts function in the same way. Science, philosophy, religion… such things help us figure out what we can and should do, but people need inspiration to act on that knowledge. The arts can motivate us to question and think (as Carlin did), motivate us to sympathize with other human beings or gather courage, and help us connect emotionally to our responsibilities and goals. Mature artists recognize that every work, like every word out of our mouths, can have a significant effect and therefore comes with responsibility.

    Spore is one example of a game that serves this role. The Creature Creator released last week encourages players to take interest in biomechanics and other elements of biology. You can move limbs around on the body and see how placement, size, and orientation effect the creature’s actions. Those correlations are not entirely realistic, but they inspire players to consider reality more deeply. Wright has said Spore takes example from Montessori learning.

    The arts can fulfill this role of inspiration by simply lifting our moods, helping us to focus on the joy and beauty in life. There are countless ways in which art can inspire.

    Comment by Aaron — 23 June, 2008 @ 11:06 AM

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