Written by Ian Hertzberg
Game Blurb is another column about smaller talking points regarding games and design. Basically, they’re just me trying to collect and publish some loose thoughts rattling around in my brain. This one, in particular, can be translated into a lot of mediums other than game design, but I’ll be strictly talking about it in those terms for the sake of staying on topic.
Our topic for today is experience and no I’m not talking about points used to level up a character in a Role-Playing Game or an MMO, but instead about life experiences in general and how they have inspired games and their design. It’s actually pretty amazing how much of the games creators goes into the games they produce.
One of the earliest examples of life experience being translated to a game that I can think of is Shigeru Miyamoto’s inspiration for the original Legend of Zelda game which was inspired by his exploration of the hills, caves, and woodlands surrounding his hometown. Translating these experiences into a game is what drove Miyamoto’s design and the games early concept. Link, like young Shigeru Miyamoto, would wander and explore various areas. One of the most important elements of this exploration Miyamoto wanted to convey was a sense of discovery, hence all of the secrets that players can stumble across while exploring the game’s world.
Quantic Dream CEO, writer, and director, David Cage created Beyond: Two Souls based on his experiences with the loss of a loved one. He took a highly personal and heartbreaking experience and turned it into a touching and thrilling experience in which protagonist, Jodi Holmes, explores feelings related to death and loss throughout her story within the game.
“But the more I wrote, the more I realised I was writing about what I had experienced. Writing is a strange process, because you don’t always know what you have to say when you start. It’s only when you read yourself that you realise ‘okay, this is what my inner voice had to say” – David Cage
Lastly, we have Uncharted 4, which I recently wrote about in a previous article. In a Game Informer interview with Uncharted 4 game director Bruce Straley and creative director Neil Druckmann. The two talk about the development of both Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and the previous game they developed The Last of Us , but in the interview, they also touch on the relatability of the characters and what has inspired some of their narrative choices. Neil Druckmann talked about how his passion for making games mirrors the main character, Drake’s, passion for adventure. Both of them struggle with sacrifices in the pursuit of their passions, specifically a sacrifice of family. Neil mentioned that he hasn’t been able to spend as much time with his family as he’d always like because he is working on games. So then the game’s narrative ended up exploring obsession and passion. Can it go too far? What would you sacrifice? What should you sacrifice?
Pulling from experiences such as those above adds greatly to the narrative and design of any game. They add a level of relatability and honesty that only comes from conveying a true experience. If you’re thinking, “We’ll I want to make a game about a secret agent or a samurai, but I don’t know anything about that experience.” Then I would advise you to find the relatable experience from what you do know about the game or narrative you’re creating. Maybe you know or are someone who leads a double life of sorts. You could convey that experience in the creation of your secret agent game. Or maybe you have a strong sense of integrity and honor or live by a code of some sort, you could relate that to your samurai game.
What I guess I’m trying to say is that you can inject personal experience into games in a lot of ways by drawing from not only events but feelings as well and then translate them into your games creating an honest and relatable story. Easier said than done, but I think that’s part of the trick, part of the magic of narrative, especially in games which are, in a way, synthetic experiences.
Hope you gained something from the article, I know I did.
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Until next time,