Friday, September 16, 2011

Games communicate what now?

A constant theme in my game design classes is the idea of intent.  What do you, the designer intend to say with your work.  Do you have a point?  Even if "making a kick-ass game with space orcs" was the entirety of your thought process, doesn't that point to your intent?

Looking at a slightly more mature medium like television or film, we see in even the most banal content an attempt communicate to an audience, not just entertain.  Take Happy Days, a popular American sitcom that ran from the mid-seventies through the early eighties.  While primarily a comedy, the show was known for trying to tackle some sensitive issue. In the Fifth season episode "Richie Almost Dies," Richie does indeed almost die.  Due to the popularity of most of the Happy Days characters, especially Fonzie, it allowed the audience to explore the themes of inner strength, faith, and loss... well almost loss.  After all, Richie doesn't die, he almost dies.  Says so right in the title.

Yeah, it's pretty cheesy by today's standards, but addressing dramatic themes in a comedy show was not common in that era although there are some exceptional stand outs. See M*A*S*H or Norman Lear's body of work.

I guess my point is that all creators of media need to understand the power they wield.  Even the purveyors of pedestrian fare like 70s and 80s sitcoms understood that in their own little way, they could try to do some good.

So whither game design?  In future posts, I hope to address where we're making progress and where I think we're falling short.