Saturday, March 27, 2004

Games for the Future

interactive fiction :: games :: technology

What is a game? Why do people play them? What are people's past
experiences with games? What do they want from them in the future?

I'm sure the gaming industry has poured tons of money and research
into answering these very questions. I have no idea what the public may
want from games; but I can share my own views on the matter.

It is my personal opinion that games exercise that desperate human
element that still longs to be running across the plains with it's
closet tribe members, providing food from the hunt for the community,
being a vital part of the never ending cycle: life and death and life.
We want to touch magic that is "real"; we want an immersive environment
that takes us away from the every-day find-the-cheese-in-the-maze

Playing games let us touch this in ways that are either not possible
or at best very difficult to attain practically. We've played things
like "Pong" or "Donkey Kong"... then there was "Doom" and "Quake" --
all of these games changed our lives in one little way or another. Then
there were more recent knock-outs like "System Shock 2", "Deus Ex", and
"Morrowind." These were much more involved and took the gamer deeper
into another world.

However, the games that I return to over and over again, what little
time I have left to game, are the ones with great story lines: when on
the train with my laptop and no connection to the net, I like to fire
up Zork or Nethack. When I do have an internet connection, I like to
play MUDs and MUSHes. I have even built MUSHes of my own. I even used
one for business -- a place where partners and co-workers could chat
online in a unique, friendly environment. Community-based and living,
these strike me for two reasons:

1) I am a voracious reader. I love words and good stories. I love my imagination;

2) I'm a sucker for that old feeling of sitting around with a bunch of friends playing pen-and-paper RPGs.

Along these lines, I've been working with some friends over the past
year building a universe (history, story-line, etc.) that encompases a
huge time frame with lots of interesting possibilities for game play.
We strive to capture everything from science and politics to mysticism
and space travel; linguistics and psycology to economics and
anthropology. Writing the history and developing the languages has been
the best part of this for me. Playing the game will simply be icing on
the cake.

Though some of us have dreams of making 3D environments that echo
this "reality", my aspirations are far simpler: I want to write fun
code, and I want to play with others in my imagination and I want them
to play with me in theirs. A good MUD or MUSH allows for this kind of
interaction with others in a story environment that brings what I like
about gaming together. When it comes down to it, graphics are great but
they are not the reason I play. It's the story that drives me. It's the
people and creative setting that make it fun. The better the story and
the more immersive the environment, the closer I come to capturing that
feeling of running across the plains with my tribe mates ;-)

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