I seem to be hating a lot of things recently. I’ve always been mature for my age, so I think at 30 I may have started to cross over into crotchety old man territory. If I had a lawn and cared about lawns I’d be yelling at kids to get off of my goddamn lawn, but since I have none of these things I just silently rage at my roommates being sloppy.
Seriously, butter on the floor? How does that even happen?
This interacts interestingly with my new project, ProMaRaRo. I’m a couple of hours into my first game for the project and I’m already nursing a healthy degree of resentment. If I wanted to write snarky reviews I would be rather well equipped with snark at this point, but as such reviews fall well within the domain of my disdain, that is not an appealing option either.
When I first hate a thing, I’m comfortable in assuming that that thing is just bad. After I hate three things in a row, though, I start to wonder if A) everything at some point suddenly started being terrible, or B) I’m just in a bad mood. I guess it could be both, I have to imagine there’s some degree of correlation there. It affects my self image in strange ways, though: Since I usually tend to curate my entertainment so carefully, I almost never end up hating anything. I have gotten comfortable with thinking of myself as someone who is generally positive about video games, what they can offer us, and what they can lead us to. That self image is under attack by my suddenly very clear perception that I’m also someone who has had all patience with clumsy design and ham-fisted writing eroded by two decades of both the best and the worst the medium has to offer.
Can I consider myself to be someone who likes video games when most of my appreciation for them approximates a bubbling cauldron of contempt?
Yes I damn well fucking can and screw you for asking. I love the medium, I love what it can be, which frustrates me all the more when it isn’t. I don’t generally blame the developers, because I know that there’s a million things that can throw an otherwise promising game off-track, I know that a problem that’s blindingly obvious to someone on the outside can be completely invisible to the people who work on a project every day, and I know that not everyone has access to the best resources when it comes to code, assets, or even design.
But: Isn’t that a problem? Why do independent developers have to operate with these limitations?
Programming-related issues are getting better as better and easier-to-use tools, such as Unity, become available. Assets, not a lot can be done about: You either have the resources to make the assets your game demands or your don’t: The only real control you have lies in tweaking the aesthetic of the game to bring the asset demands within the domain of what you can provide.
Somewhere in-between, though, is design – this is where I get really frustrated. There are lots of resources for game design online, lists of tropes and techniques and ideas, but… Well. It’s not that the ideas contained within these resources are bad so much as that they are solutions to specific problems, and few would-be designers seem to respect that fact. Each design trope is useful as a means to an end, as a tool to craft a specific experience, but I don’t see them discussed this way, or included/disincluded with most games on that basis. Game design elements are instead accumulated based on vague conceptions of genre, of variations on and expansions of a theme, of building outwards and upwards and bigger and better and stronger instead of more suited to a specific purpose.
What drives me crazy about mediocre games is that so much of their mediocrity stems from the dearth of this simple understanding: Everything you add has to have a purpose, every aspect of your game should be bent towards solving the problem of how to convey what you’re trying to convey. If that isn’t the case, you’ve fucked up, and your game will probably make me angry.
I hope you’re pleased with yourself, you’ve tormented a prematurely crotchety old young man.
You sick bastard.