It’s especially hard to dwell on the future right now. Nothing is certain. There’s no more secure ground. In the COVID-19 world, we exist in a constant state of response, prey in the jaws of the world. This isn’t new for most people on earth, those in countries who have seen vicious wars, members of oppressed minority groups, those subjugated by the parasitic churn of global capitalism, the violence of our planet rears its ugly head daily. It’s less often that a well-to-do white American kid from the burbs of Boston gets to see it. I hear about it, I read about it. I care. It hits you different when it’s on your front door. Suddenly, it seems a lot less useful to be making video games.
Anyways, this week I wrote design documents and finalized some level designs.
Too Much Space
Last week I was listening to the Game Maker’s Notebook episode with Halo and Destiny Composer, Marty O’Donnell while polishing off my levels. They talked a lot about grandeur, the lush orchestration of Destiny, the gold-plated microphones in Abbey Road, visions of the swirling blue earth from the surface of the moon. A lot of people are chasing grandeur, especially in this country. I thought Captain Smokestack might have that same gleam in his eye.
Success changes people. Luck always plays a significant role in the material conditions of their rise. But it rarely features in the myth they elect to construct. This is an ego thing, of course. A small business owner is also rarely worth vilifying. Ego plus new money plus the chase for grandeur leads you down a path to reading rooms, sitting rooms, game rooms, mudrooms, foyers, atriums, labyrinthine hallways, an abundance of greenery, and extra-length dining tables.
A lot of space, but no evil. Too much space for one, you might say. But when you can only think of the earth as a marble on the horizon of the moon, does too much space even have meaning? Architecture can be very telling.
When designing a level, it’s my job to try and explain all of that as clearly as I can without a word. Smokestack is not trying to impress with his long hallways, he’s trying to fit in. He needs a place to sit and work as much as he needs a dozen plants to show that he doesn’t have to work so hard. I hope that this might come across in the level design.
The Bit Where I Get Emotional About The Future
When I create, I do try and cram humanity in every corner of what I put on paper or in engine. I don’t think I’m very good at it just yet, but I’m still learning. It’s even harder working from home. I try anyways. Genuinely, for me it’s not about grandeur. It’s about trying to understand the world through the languages I’m fluent in. Sometimes that’s English, sometimes that’s games.
There are a lot of platitudes to be recited: “Games can be an escape for people”, or “there’s nothing more to be done about the virus”, or “it’s best not to dwell on it”. Honestly, I don’t think much of the good in our world has come from not thinking, or from running away. But if that’s what the people who love games most think they’re good for, then isn’t that what they’re good for? I don’t have any answers, just a belief. I’m not sure games are important, yet I love games with my whole heart. Maybe they can help us love each other? Or at the very least, understand each other? Nobody can know what the future holds.
Hopefully that rambling wasn’t too incoherent or pretentious. I try to avoid both, but inevitably slip up. Same time, next week. Peace.
If you liked what I had to say, check out my previous blog post about how having a varied palate can help in developing strong game designs.