All posts by David T. Marchand

About David T. Marchand

Author of several games and interactive stories. Twine 2’s Spanish language translator. Enthusiast for games shorter than 5 minutes.

Windows, borders and defamiliarization in Daniel Linssen’s games

For some minutes he had been watching the Tower of Art […] As is the case with many things that are totally familiar, he hadn’t really looked at it for years.

Guards! Guards! (Terry Pratchett, 1989)

The first game by Daniel “Managore” Linssen I played was his metroidvania birdsong (2014). The game’s main appeal, in at least two ways, is its camera. The first way is the clearest: the viewport encompasses Continue reading Windows, borders and defamiliarization in Daniel Linssen’s games

The Real Escapist Was Houdini: Molleindustria and Games for Facing Reality

…we can imagine ways to fix Monopoly – either rewarding players who are behind to keep them within a reasonable distance of the leaders, or making progress more difficult for rich players. Or course – this might impact the game’s ability to recreate the reality of monopoly practices – but reality isn’t always “fun”.

MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research
Hunicke, LeBlanc y Zubek, 2004

Game criticism always goes back to the question of what’s the purpose of games. The answer has to be complex because not every game has the same goal, and different players look for different things (sometimes in the same games).

For common sense, there is no complexity to it: the purpose of all games is to produce fun, and the player is always looking for new ways to escape from their mundane reality. Sooner or later one encounters different forms of this escapist idea as a justification for criticism being unnecessary, since criticism often explores the juncture where games and reality are more closely related. Criticism is then left in the awkward position of arguing that many games couldn’t care less if their players are having fun, which is true yet counterintuitive.

Continue reading The Real Escapist Was Houdini: Molleindustria and Games for Facing Reality

All Mechanics Convey Meaning

A rather annoying thing is how people who don’t know the first thing about videogames think no game can say anything relevant on a human level. But well, we can ignore those people. In my experience reflecting on videogames, the true pebble in the shoe is the people who know them very well and decide that we can only take the message of a game seriously if we’re going to praise it. If instead the game says something toxic and we intend to criticize it, then it is meant to entertain and all criticism is an exaggeration.

The logic governing this reaction is full of false assumptions: that only a few games convey a message, that entertainment has nothing to say, that if criticisms were correct players would replicate in-game actions in real life, that you can make art without your subjectivity getting in the way, that freedom of artistic expression means toxic ideas are above scrutiny.

Continue reading All Mechanics Convey Meaning

Minimal input games and the exploration of juice

We’ve all played a game that is simply too much fun to touch. A thing whooshes when you move it, two things wiggle as they push into each other, it all feels alive and reacts to the controls with glee. There might be many things that make the game good (or bad), but just interacting with it on a superficial level you already feel like a baby who can’t look away from the flashing lights of a toy, or the song it plays.

Some game designers call this “juice”. You can define it as “tons of cascading action and response for minimal user input”. A game can be juicy, and most games should be juicy, or so the saying goes. Another saying goes, “Game design is quite hard and it’s impossible to give broad statements that are true for everything, but adding juiciness to your game makes your game better 100% of the time”. Continue reading Minimal input games and the exploration of juice

Asdfasd

Genre is a slippery concept. Audiences tend to think of genres as separate shelves where every book, every movie, every song has a definitive place. In videogames, this is reinforced every time a company capitalizes on our shelving compulsion to sell us stuff, or every time an indie hit spawns a thousand derivative games, giving birth to a genre that is more an awkward formula for success than an organic system of expressive devices.

I’m about to tell you how refreshing it feels when I come across what feels like a True Genre, however absurd or insignificant it might be, but don’t let anybody define “genre” for you. Games are experiences. You’re not supposed to buy into marketing-born, feature-based experience classifications. I mean, you are, in fact, but what I’m trying to say is: don’t. Continue reading Asdfasd

Vernacular

Photographs can’t lie, can they? I mean of course they could, but they look like they wouldn’t. We do associate them with proof, after all. Why is that? I bet it’s the mechanical aspect of it. We see a machine, eating light through a lens then excreting an image. Where could a lie hide there? Light wouldn’t lie and neither would a machine, much less excrement of any kind. Only people lie, and they weren’t a part of the process.

Except they were, of course. People built the machine. They chose what light to feed it. They… did things to the excrement. Continue reading Vernacular

Games as Art: Introduction to the Death of a Debate

The question of whether videogame development is an art discipline was prevalent a few years back, but now it’s pretty diluted. Most folks involved got tired of it. The same old arguments learned to repeat themselves all on their own. Many realized that proving one thing or the other wasn’t going to change anyone’s life.

However, the concern is understandable, especially for newcomers. After the hundredth game sold to us like a toothbrush, the slightest contact with the medium’s nuances and its deepest virtues pushes us toward art as the only field able to give meaning to our experiences. And with good reason, too. Continue reading Games as Art: Introduction to the Death of a Debate

Don’t Look Back

The world of videogames moves at a very quick pace and we have a tendency to forget about some of the most interesting titles we’ve had the pleasure of coming across. A recent conversation reminded me of a truly notable title: Don’t Look Back. As some of you will already know, it’s the title of the game Don’t Look Back by Terry Cavanagh, published in 2009.

What could be so interesting about the title of this game? After all, it’s only three common words and their meaning is clear — it’d be more worthwhile to reflect on the game’s virtues. But no, today I’m more interested in its name, and more particularly in the semantic mutations it’s subject to throughout the game. Continue reading Don’t Look Back

Corporate Climber

Today I’m going to tell you about a piece of interactive humor called Corporate Climber (Pixeljam, 2011), and Corporate Climber, in turn, is going to tell us that the real interactive joke is authority.

The game’s structure is that of the gradual rise to power, the most widely used structure in games both old and new: a male and somewhat pale individual starts off in the world with nothing to his name and accumulates power-ups until he’s become a superior… something. Continue reading Corporate Climber

A Friendship in Four Colors

Damian Sommer made A friendship ​​in four colors in 2011 for TOJam 6. The game is ostensibly designed for two players, but I didn’t have anyone at hand back when I found it. I beat the early stages controlling one character with my left hand and the other with the right, and it started to grow on me.

Luckily it’s not a competitive game. Both characters depend on each other to reach the same goal. Levels only end when both characters arrive safely to the finish line, and the death of either sends you back to the starting point. Continue reading A Friendship in Four Colors