essay, video games

Press Start

There has been a bit of conversation since the last post. Between Ross and I, the idea of the importance of the designer and the player have been batted back and forth. Notably, we exchanged a couple different links to Another Castle and to The Escapist. It was the later that lead me to reconsider my hard stance.

I had said that the designer’s vision was the most important. Regardless of the audience’s reaction and sometimes in spite of it, I said the designer was all important in the equation for an aesthetic reaction. I had forgotten something quite obvious and important to the entire experience: the player.

It is an important to realize that the flow of control from both designer and player is a fluid one. While one game’s rules may provide a wide range of expressions and options, another may not. There is a constant pull of the wide range of responses to a work to the push that is the designer’s original intent. However, the player is always important to the equation and the balance. Without it, the designer has made something only half finished.

While it is true that the designer must try to limit the number of interpretations, the designer cannot enforce this. The work will speak for itself and the responses from the audience will, over time, congeal into the general opinion of the piece. The audience will mold and shape the opinion of the work by their experiences, moods and cultural understanding.

The push-pull of audience and designer is part of the atmosphere of many different publishing areas. Published writers perform for an audience and to get paid. Artists are often commissioned. The work is of the designer’s vision but also for a reason, for an audience. Without the money, the writer and artist cannot continue to met their own needs. In most traditional mediums, the designer works for both themselves and their market. In video games, this is true to an even more extreme.

To play a game is a voluntary act. The player must met the game on its level and continue the interaction for an extended period of time. The player must be fed experiences that produce an aesthetic reaction that will cause the player to continue the interaction. If the designer creates something in a way that the player cannot interact with it then the player cannot interact with it. Games, in the traditional sense, are meant to be played. Without the player, the game remains only one half of an experience. The player breathes in the life and completes the circuit between the rules and those following the rules.

Without players, the game is at a standstill. The game cannot operate without players. As long as players are not engaging with a game, the game is not, in a since, a game. It is a list of algorithms and rules that have been crafted but are not active. Upon the voluntary act of taking on the rules and operating with the content, the player creates the game.