Creators Statement and Experimental Games

How do we describe what a game is? More specifically, how do we describe what our game is? If a games experience could be accurately described with words, why make the game? If we don't agree that games are art, then there's no need for a creator's statement because there isn't any underlying meaning to the work.

Creator Statements are how the creator describes the Experience.

As designers, developers, storytellers, artists, operations and whomever else creates games, those games will be consumed by an audience. The experiences had by these players may last beyond their lifetime, as games, like art, influence and are influenced by the world around it.

How we describe a game in a Game Design Document is not the same as how the end player will truly receive it. Subjectivity is a hard thing to quantify.

Experimental games exist in an interesting Cursed Problem, being that they want to both provide an experience that is "niche" by nature (being one of a non-clearly-defined storyline) and is widely introduced to people.

Should designers need to explain or define the experience intended for the player? Some games are meant to have multiple interpretations, and some art(games) are made to say something about the one experiencing, based on what he/she thinks and feels, rather than about the artist and his/her thoughts and feelings. The artist's statement could have meant to show the intent of their work so that one can gauge how successful they were. This is not only beneficial to the growth of the artist, but the growth of the medium itself.

People can find meaning when there's none. And people will fail to see meaning where placed. Artistic vision and intent or expression in games, suffers from the necessity of the audience to extrapolate subtexts or meanings simply because:

  • the audience will generally not be amenable to extracting them
  • the artist/developer simply not being good enough at all the diverse aspects of game creation to make their intent accessible enough

Often when people talk about the meaning being open for interpretation, what they actually mean is that the expression of that meaning is open for interpretation, because explaining something in words which can't really be conveyed in words often creates multiple contradictory explanations, even though they're all talking about the same core idea.

In Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art, most theoreticians argue that it is not that, "something is interpretable" that is the questions, it is to what extent, it is. A common argument is that the more conducive a piece of Art is to conveying its underlying intention (the confrontation of intentionalities that Ingarden calls "concretion" which creates a particular Work of Art by actualizing it from the many possible ones) the "better" it is. 

For instance, saying the word "cloud" doesn't give you the experience of seeing any particular cloud. The specifics of each cloud at each moment can't really be put into words (although it can be captured in a picture or a video, even that isn't the same).

There's always going to be this gulf between reality and explanations of it. And that gulf may be the reason authors don't bother with written statements: because people would assume that the author's own simplified explanation of their work explains it completely when it would necessarily be a simplification of it and in some cases a badly simplified one.

When people make written explanations for their games, a lot of people complain that it shouldn't need it and that a game should stand on its own, and that the author is a failure if he has to explain it. If they don't make written explanations, a lot of people will complain that they didn't know what the heck the game was about and that the author should have told them what it all means.

The Virtue of Good Design

Simply telling the player the meanings behind the game may very well make the game more accessible, much in the way that playing a game with a step-by-step walkthrough will make it more accessible. But it's not a substitute for good game design. The proper way to make a game accessible is to make it accessible by virtue of good design, not by virtue of telling the player what to do or think in order to make up for the game's shortcomings.

Even with highly cognitive games like Opera Omnia, the primary experiences -- the parts that make the game worth playing,  the memorable stuff -- are sensual rather than conceptual. The conceptual stuff is like the icing on the cake, not the cake.