31 January, 2009
I'm working on a writing project (details to follow once it gets to the point where I have something to announce), and I started doing some research about various topics I'm writing about.
Then I started to think back about the stories of research authors and game developers do. Wait, do game developers do research?
As my hobby is writing, I learn everything I can about it. When I go to Dragon*Con, I love the writer's track for all the information about writing. I've heard lots of stories about people doing deep research into their topics to give it authenticity.
In game development, there are less stories about this. If we were honest, the most used source for research for game development would probably be The Lord of the Rings. (LotRO gets an exception from the snark in that sentence. ;) Or, we play other games to get a feel for the "state of the art" and how we might expand it.
The problem is that this doesn't lead us to new ways of thinking about games. As I read Guns, Germs and Steel, I thought about new ways that societies in fantasy worlds could change over time. Instead of having a world that is created out of whole cloth and that rips off every generic fantasy creation myth out there, what if the forces described in Guns, Germs, and Steel affected people? Not something that a game designer looking to create the backstory for a fantasy world might consider.
Of course, not all game designers are guilty of this. I own a copy of Guns, Germs, and Steel because Raph Koster recommended it and the recommendation was echoed by many other developers. But, what lasting impact has this had on game development? Raph's posts on that page indicate that he was considering the book more as a primer about how player-focused social organizations develop, instead of looking at how a fantasy world would develop.
What about you? Have you done deep research for your games besides reading fantasy books or playing similar games?