Friday, November 23, 2012


I have an interesting relationship with games (read: video games) in that I don't really play them, but that I also really do sincerely, deeply, emotionally love them. On one hand, they represent such a broken disengagement and unfortunate societal mirror that it's wholeheartedly discouraging. On the other, they represent grand and vast possibilities that are almost as breathtaking as they are wonderful.

Just before video games began getting popular in the late 90's, they were the stuff of pure dreams and good intentions. Games had this sense of overt ambition to them. Their scopes were huge. Games like Populous, for example, tried to create a world in which you, in tandem with everything around you, created the world itself. Games like Populous tried to do things that were almost impossible. Games tried, and they failed. And then they would try again, and fail again. But there were always glimmers of genius in these games, little things that almost worked and made you remember why you dared to dream in the first place. Little reminders of why it was worth it to keep trying. Little things that reminded you why you loved games. Little things that reminded you why you loved love.

And this notion is just almost completely gone in the mega-games of today. And, to be honest, most of the indie games of today suffer from the same problem too. As time has gone on the scope of what games try to do has narrowed, which is the opposite of what should be happening. Instead of being audacious attempts at turning the most foolish of dreams into reality, games have become polished little pieces of entertainment. What's possible and what's not seems to have been firmly decided upon. And that's no way to go about making games. That's no way to go about about life. 

But there are still flashes and glimmers of progress and good things. Many of these are prolonged enough to get excited about. Every once in a while I'll be able to catch myself playing a game in stunned silence, captivated at what a developer tried to do. Games like Dear Esther, games like To The Moon. Games that shouldn't work. Games that are not only games, but opportunities to simultaneously imagine and explore and experience a world filled with both possibilities and impossibilities.

Developer Peter Molyneux (the developer of the aforementioned Populous), who has long been branded as an artist who promises big and impossible games but has difficulties following through with them, is currently working on a new set of ambitions with his new game GODUS. And then, during a recent interview he gave with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, he did something shocking. He broke down. He cried. But it wasn't for the the reasons you might expect. “I just,” he winced, his voice audibly cracking, “I still believe so much.”

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