Glitch Feed


Cultural relevance as the main course by +peter
October 23, 2006, 11:42 am
Filed under: Game design, Glitch Feed, Glitch Feed Game Development, Relevant Game Design

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Stephanie and I always seem to line our conversations with some sort of commentary on the interactive digital medium more commonly known as video games. These thoughts go far beyond the typical trolling of “man, games today suck, why do they suck?” “I dunno, we should make a cool one.” “Yeah, a wicked cool one, man! With guns and wicked awesome graphics.”

Such statements are impossible because Stephanie would never say ‘wicked’ during casual conversation, and secondly because we each have sworn an oath to never use “awesome graphics” as a means to a successful gaming project. I consider there to be a chasm sized distinction between awesome (ultra realistic) graphics and exceptional art direction, but those truths are for another post.

We had a moment of clarity, Stephanie and I. The tumult of graphics and erroneous plot gave way and we re-discovered one of the factors responsible for holding the medium back from being a recognized and significant art form. Cultural relevance is a facet that is needed to legitimatize any artistic medium. The inability or unwillingness to comment on, question or analyze society by any critical method is what forces video games into cultural obscurity.

Suddenly, any fictional narrative we were considering felt devalued. In our haste to spin an epic tale, we had lost sight of what made Glitch Feed’s perspective different from everyones else’s. The core of the gaming experience must be transfigured by focusing upon the base concept. Graphics, sound, game-play, even story all suffer if the concept is poor.

In an effort to focus ourselves onto what we consider to be important in game design, Stephanie suggested a series of projects focusing on developing the concept and core game-play before anything else.

Hit the jump to see how we (and you) will make this manifesto a reality!

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The idea is to pick a story from a current periodical (news paper, web site) that has some cultural relevance to it. We then design a game concept around that story and later in the week, share our ideas with each other.

The desire is to allow us to really practice designing game-play models that are somehow inspired by reality and not some fantasy world. These game-play models can be as obscure or obvious as the creator desires, but the hope is that we would explore different avenues within the medium of video games to comment, question and analyze our present-day society.

The time frame we have placed upon ourselves is one week (ending this coming Sunday, or Monday if you live in Japan). By the *28/29th, we will have worked out a game concept to be shared and critiqued by others. (* or a week after, heh)
The concept is not supposed to be for a grand game proposal, but rather a single “level” or episode. Stephanie’s desire is to keep it small and focused so each concept does not mushroom into something impossibly huge.

From that point, the goal will be to actually make your concept using whatever game engine you desire (example: Steph and I will probably use the Unreal engine, since we have had the most experience with it). This step is not required of anybody who participated in the initial conception stage, it for those who want the challenge of adapting their concept into a playable demo. Again, the project should remain focused on getting game-play mechanics and concepts worked out and omit any trivial elements (such as wicked awesome graphics, well, unless you have the time).

I encourage anyone who reads this site (I know your out there) to participate in this little exercise. Next week I will post all the concepts for viewers to read and critique. Go ahead and email me at peteralt@umich.edu.

Stephanie “Bajaba”
Peter “needs a new alias”

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16 Comments so far
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Hm; I like your point about needing games with more cultural reference. Some people would say GTA is a good example, then again; I never got into GTA because I don’t live in America, I just didn’t understand or like it. I loved ‘Wario Ware Inc’ (GBA) because it’s minigames were everyday-situations. Ie: having to drive into a 90 degree park without crashing into other cars. Classic 😀

Comment by mouseecstasy

Would you then say that Wario Ware, and possibly GTA, aid in transforming video games into a legitimate artistic medium?

Thanks for the comment!

Comment by rooster

Hard to say since ‘art’ is so hard to define. I believe that games are already an artistic medium; however they need to be widely recognised as one.
Checkout Select Parks: http://selectparks.net

Comment by mouseecstasy

Actually, I am a frequent visitor to selectparks.net as well! Very good site indeed.

I also agree that “video gaming” is already an artistic medium. I have come to believe that if there are no acute changes to content, concept and play mechanics, than gaming will remain on the same level of serious artistic recognition as, for example, comic books.

I struggle with the challenge of identifying what exactly it is that will pull this medium out of culture obscurity. I would love to see this medium, that has so much potential, be respected in the same way that the more traditional arts are.

Comment by rooster

Perhaps it needs to find a practical application. Painting, for example, was used primarily to depict far away/abstract scenes and present them in a participartory way. Literature developed for much the same purpose – including the abstract regions of thought rather than merely form. Video captures movement and forces juxtaposition on the viewer.

I think the key would be to find out “gaming’s” primary contribution (perhaps interactivity?) and exploit it so that it is essentially integrated into the masses.

Comment by bajaba

Hm, it’s certainly a hard topic. I reckon the first step for games to be recognised is to change people’s perception. I think most people still see games as a gimick and a childish past-time. There needs to be more ‘adult’ more ‘serious’ themed games. I wish games would get out of this steriotyped childish/ teenager rut!

Comment by mouseecstasy

Mouseecstacy, This might help, French and video games.
Steph, you are totally correct, this medium’s main contribution is its interactivity, yet when I read your comment I realized something. This medium’s strength is not only in interactivity, but more so its feedback to the user’s decisions.
Open for debate!

Comment by rooster

Thanks! Go the French 🙂

Comment by mouseecstasy

not so much debate, but how are you differentiating between interactivity and ‘feedback to the user’s decisions’? I feel they are very similar, unless, of course, you mean some ai/your_game_concept_1 type of feedback.

Comment by bajaba

Allons! Laissez nous vivons en France!!!

Comment by bajaba

[…] You might notice that this challenge was published about two weeks ago. At that time we claimed we would have our resulting labors published, a paltry seven days later. Those finely edited works would then be ready for all you in blogoland to consume, digest and worship. […]

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A ping back? Neato! (too bad its my own post)

For me, the word “interactive” wallows in buzz word hell. Myself, you Steph and I am sure Mouseecstasy all remember the CD-ROM era. (I remember the early Mac CD-ROM era when we had to put the CDs in wierd little plastic holders that were then inserted into the computer)

Well, it was around that time that the word “Interactive” became the popular buzzword, interactive, and … what was the other one .. MULTIMEDIA! You had to buy a MULTIMEDIA computer.

Interactive, at the time, meant that if you clicked a button, the computer would respond and display a picture. It somehow gave a false sense of the computer working with you to accomplish what you wanted.

It was interactive, but its feed back was very limited, maybe a sound was played, a bomb exploded, something scripted and predetermined happened.

This might be a shortcoming of my perception, but interactive still feels static to me. I will draw a parallel to Web 1.0 versus Web 2.0.

Web 1 is a basic web page with interactive buttons that take you to other sites. Web 2.0 not only allows users to manipulate websites but also provide feedback to other users, encouraging a more social internet society as opposed to a static one.

Is this ramble making any sense? Maybe I should do a post about this?

Comment by rooster

I can see an entire post devoted to this…but we should probably wait until the next time we promise a timely concept delivery…^^

Comment by bajaba

Hm how can I explain my last comment better… I’ll probably have to devote a entire post for it too ^_^ Too bad this is not a forum.
Kinda meant – games are art; really, everything is art. It’s just what people think. I mean; if Salvador dali sneazed on a canvas critics would call it art, while a childs painting isn’t in there eyes. It’s a wide term that I personally hate to use.
Games could be better percieved as art if people took them more seriously I reckon.

Comment by mouseecstasy

Mouseecstasy – you are completely correct. The medium is not the problem, it is the content. Videogames are more akin to comic books with regards to artistic acceptance due to their lack of willingness to critique modern society.

Also, if you want to write a post and have it published here, just email me something! Glitch Feed is an open community!

Comment by rooster

[…] Steph and I took our time to get here (we have a list of assorted excuses) but we would like to announce that we will again commit to the simple exercise of creating a gameplay model based upon real world events. For a description of what we did last time, go here and then here. […]

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