Our timelines are, once again, filling up with discourse.
There is an insane amount of types of video games, all fulfilling different purposes.
Talking about “Video games” as a whole is very hard.
Luckily most of them share one defining feature:
Computers are extremely good at doing the same thing one million times and this shapes games more than any genre, trend or technological development.
Once it has been coded, video game developers are stuck with their core mechanic.
Instead of asking ourselves how we can use that mechanic to express something, instead of investigating what this mechanic expresses inherently, we are only trying to find out how we can stretch it out as much as possible without boring the player too much.
Instead of realising that the tools we have can be used to tell nuanced stories, we use them to create experiences that only allow players to do the same three things for 200 hours.
We are building endless systems because computers were made for that.
The result is the history of video games:
Jump one million times, shoot one million times, catch one million fish.
Of course, at some point you get different things to jump off of, different things to shoot at and at some point you might even catch a different fish, but you are always doing the same things, over and over again, either forever or until you stop playing.
As a player, I do not mind long or infinite games.
They can be good, reliable fun and have often provided me with much needed distraction.
As a developer, I am bored to death by them.
Not only have we already figured out how to keep people playing forever, there are also very smart people sifting through huge piles of data right now, trying to determine the perfect shade of green for a “continue” button.
The art of keeping people engaged forever is actually science.
Yes, we can make endless games.
Yes we can make long games.
We have proven that over and over again.
But can we make games that have more than one primary mode of engagement?
Can we make games that are covering more parts of a story than the action bits, or the adventure bits, or the management bits?
We can, I am sure of it.
But the market does not demand games like that. The market demands more of what it knows, which is repetitive and long and that is okay.
This is not about taking something away from those who rely on it too much.
This is about adding something.
When I ask for shorter games, I do not ask for scaled down version of well established patterns.
I ask for games that resist the pull of the infinite experience.
I ask for games that inhabit more than one perspective.
I ask for games that show me something new and then… end.