Archive for October, 2012

Elle dit:

Oct 31 2012 Published by under Duras

Je crois que c’est terminé, qu’après ce livre je ne peux plus rien écrire, c’est fini. C’est terrible et en même temps je serai débarrassée de cette corvée.
—Yann Andréa, Cet amour-là

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Elle dit:

Oct 29 2012 Published by under Duras

il n’y a rien à comprendre, cessez avec ça, ne faites pas tout le temps l’enfant.
—Yann Andréa, Cet amour-là

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J’ai peur pour elle

Oct 28 2012 Published by under Duras

J’ai peur pour elle, de la voir là debout face à cette salle pleine. Peur qu’on n’aime pas ce film, India Song, comme si c’était possible, comme si ça pouvait exister, qu’on lui fasse du mal. Et je vois qu’elle souffre, que pour elle, ce film c’est plus qu’un film, qu’elle aime ce film comme si ce n’était pas elle qui l’avait fait. Elle est folle d’amour pour ce film, (…)

—Yann Andréa, Cet amour-là

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Don’t speak.

Oct 19 2012 Published by under musing

Do you wish people to believe good of you? Don’t speak.
— Blaise Pascal, Pensées

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Imperfect perfection.

Oct 17 2012 Published by under concept

There’s a number of things in Bientôt l’été that are imperfect in some ways but that I cannot change because they are perfect in others. They are logical, theoretically sound, but they don’t quite feel right.

This probably explains in part the interesting reactions we get sometimes. People clearly really experiencing something special and unique, but being put off by a detail. Such a detail is often the result of pure logic, of building a system that makes sense, but that is too raw for easy human pleasure.

I do believe that ideally systems should be tweaked to optimize human experience. Yet somehow I cannot bring myself to damage the perfection of these systems. It’s probably laziness in part. The systems are straightforward and logical and tweaking them for messy human consumption would require adding lots of ifs and buts (are there any programming languages that have but statements next to if statements?).

This is a sin in my ideology of putting humans above machines. And yet it feels right somehow. I want the player of Bientôt l’été to enter the digital domain. The experience should be mixed, hybrid, give and take. Bientôt l’été does not solely exist to give you pleasure. It also wants to receive pleasure. So player and game need to meet each other half way. In that vague electronic realm of cyberspace.

Because Bientôt l’été exists. It is a thing. It is not just a means for your enjoyment. It is an entity with its own history, its own culture, its own identity. As such, it requires your respect. When you visit it, you enter a foreign land. Yes, it’s a land that was built on what you know as your culture, your life. But it has improvised on top of that, laid bare some aspects of it, mutilated others. Not randomly, not systematically, but very precisely. Bientôt l’été looks at your life and points out what it finds interesting, what fascinates it, while not entirely comprehending, questioning, amused perhaps, wondering.

This look from the outside may feel disturbing at times, even wrong. A foreigner’s interpretation of your culture is always crude, always feels like a misinformed caricature.

I have no justification for the moments in Bientôt l’été that feel awkward, jarring, disturbing, incongruous. There is no justification. If I were a better designer, I would fix them, smooth out the experience, become successful. But somehow I feel that this would be betrayal. Betrayal of the logic. And also, I feel that this imperfect version should exist first, in its pure untweaked form, before somebody picks up on it and creates an experience that does fit the human form perfectly.

Of course, this way, I remain the uncelebrated forerunner, the mad creator who, almost pathologically, blurts out wisdoms that he does not comprehend himself but that inspire others to greatness. It’s a noble, yet lonely position that I do not intend to stay in all my life. But for Bientôt l’été, it seems appropriate. I’m curious to see what this one’s ideas will give birth to.

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Honest or popular.

Oct 16 2012 Published by under musing

I’m sure that there are many people who are by nature kind and joyful and generous and happy with just about anything they encounter. For others it takes more effort to be positive all the time. And for yet others, being a cheerful participant would require deep dishonesty.

I’m pretty sure I fall in the latter category. That doesn’t mean that I am an eternal pessimist. On the contrary: it probably means I am more hopeful than most. As such my expectations are high and I am quickly disappointed. I am impatient.

One of the most fascinating things I have learned from Lionhead’s superb first Black & White videogame is that the quickest way to make the player like a character, is to make the character seem to like the player.

I think this process occurs in real life as well. If you like people, they will like you back. And what a wonderful time we live in for liking! Liking is the very basis for our dear persistent and pervasive web 2.0. We are all liking each other 24/7. We have never been more happy.

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Have our players reached maturity yet?

Oct 15 2012 Published by under musing

I wonder if the people who were wishing for more when The Graveyard came out are starting to feel silly now. It’s been over 4 years now since we released it. And, even though the “official” games industry doesn’t seem to have moved much, a lot has happened alongside of it. A lot of games have been released by many different authors and a lot of talking has been done. And although the hardcore ludic branch of the spectrum is stronger than ever, recently being reinforced by a new popularity of non-video games, there has never been as much acceptance and appreciation for more artistic types of interactive work in the games audience.

Do they feel silly now, asking for more story or for puzzles or -jokingly- for enemies to overcome? Or are we ready, as a group, to engage with pure interaction? With doing things for the sake of doing them. With making up our own minds as to what these things mean. With being the creators of our own entertainment. With using these interactive experiences as tools. Tools for self-exploration, for amusement, for investigation of certain themes. Or do we still need the author to take us by the hand, to make us feel things, to tell us a story? Have we grown up as players yet?

That is a question we seldom ask, is it? We’re often going on about how young, even infantile, videogames are as a medium. But we seldom question the maturity of our players. At least not within the play activity (outside of it, sadly, there has been some lamentable displays of childishness; but many others have commented on this already).

In fact, many of the more mainstream games seem to assume no such maturity exists. The simplistic stories, the excessive tutorials, the extreme hands holding all point to an assumption in the designers that the players of their work are children, or grown-ups with the mentality of children.

Children don’t like art films. Children seldom read literature. Classical music is mostly wasted on children. Children get bored in museums. Do we become children again when we play a videogame?

It takes maturity to appreciate a story by Kafka, a cantata by Bach or a film by Duras. Not just in the sense of having had some life experience to frame the artistic one. But also in the sense of discipline, initiative and endurance. We have to be able to bring ourself to the work, to enter a state in which we are receptive to its beauty, to let go of many of our expectations, even of the expectation to understand or decipher the meaning of the piece. It takes maturity to accept a mystery without feeling the need to comprehend it.

Have we achieved that sort of maturity yet when engaging with videogames?

It is odd to think that the same people who have no problem getting through Beckett or Godard would not be able to deal with an artistic game. And yet that was exactly the situation 4 years ago, when The Graveyard came out. It will be interesting to see how things have changed when Bientôt l’été is released.

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A noble subversion.

Oct 13 2012 Published by under musing

After the experience of feeling out of place at IndieCade, I started doubting whether we should submit Bientôt l’été to the Independent Games Festival as we had planned. Every title in the IGF is selected by a jury and the IndieCade jury had rejected us. IGF does not have an “Official Selection” to highlight works the organizers find important.

But the chance of rejection didn’t matter much. It hurts to be rejected. But since our games are so different, we can always blame any rejection on conservatism in the jury. So we have an emotional shield in place. That’s the advantage of making art. You can always tell yourself that the public doesn’t understand your work.

A stronger deterrent was the realization that even winning the IGF would be completely meaningless to us. Usually, I imagine, people are overjoyed to win, because they have been chosen among their peers as the best. But I don’t see what our work has in common with most of theirs. So any recognition by the IGF would only mean that perhaps the games industry is now a little bit more open to artistic experiments like ours. It wouldn’t say anything about the quality of our work. Because there’s nothing to compare it to.

But while moaning over email, I started thinking about Dear Esther. And how happy I was that it got nominated for so many awards. Not so much because it’s a recognition of the immense talents of its creators. Because there’s no competition for them either: there’s nothing out there to compare Dear Esther to. I realized that it makes me happy because people are choosing beautiful art over fun entertainment.

So you can blame Jessica Curry for talking me into submitting Bientôt l’été to the IGF.

I was reminded of our early position with regards to commercial distribution of our work -long before we even considered independent development. I was imagining the shop shelves in the games stores with all the fantasy games and the gun games and the driving and sports games. And in the midst of all that, there would be our game, a silent, gentle game, a game that was just beautiful, that didn’t challenge your competitive instincts but created space to think, to connect, to feel.

Simply offering the players an option, a choice. That was our goal. We didn’t need to conquer the games industry, we didn’t even need recognition. We just wanted our work to be there, on the shelves, for people who might want an alternative, something different.

That should be enough.

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Among games.

Oct 12 2012 Published by under musing

IndieCade was a wonderful festival. Happy faces, joyful games, spirited political engagement, parties, fun, everybody loving each other. There was not a single quiet moment.

Not a single moment for silence. For a little contemplation. For some quiet observation. For taking in serene beauty. For allowing the cosmos to flow over you.

However unique IndieCade may be in other respects, it has the energy and noise in common with all other public game events. And why not? Games are fun. Games are for people to have fun with each other.

So why don’t they reject us? The IndieCade jury tried to by refusing to nominate Bientôt l’été. But then the staff made us part of the Official Selection. So our game was there, in a hot tent on a town square packed with computers and humans. The loudest of them attracting the attention. As always. Of course.

It makes one wonder. Would videogames have evolved more quickly if there had been a more serene way of celebrating them in public? The fun party atmosphere obviously benefits loud and colorful games, encourages casual interactions and makes it impossible to concentrate on anything.

Videogames are not games. At least they don’t have to be. But when they are not, they become weak. The beauty of the videogame medium is its intimacy. Videogames are best enjoyed by solitary players, at home, when everything around them is silent. This is a fragile form of beauty, an intense collaboration between man and machine, a strange form of electro-human meditation.

How does one celebrate such a solemn event? How does one celebrate quiet? Peace? Beauty? Calm? Focus? The things that our civilization needs much more of?

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Good enough.

Oct 10 2012 Published by under musing

For a while, I have been thinking that the lack of massive critical success of our work was due to the fact that it wasn’t good enough. That one day we would make something that would be so good that everyone would appreciate it. I don’t believe that anymore.

Our work is “good enough”. It’s damn good, in fact. It’s just not for everyone. And if we were to make a game that everybody likes, it would simply be another type of work, something that is easier to love. Better made? Perhaps, in that way that widely appreciated things are well made.

But if I search my own soul for things that I love, I don’t see such things at the top. I see messy things, adventurous things, flawed things. Things like, I guess Bientôt l’été.

I’m also in deep doubt whether videogames is still a relevant context for our work. More and more good games are appearing that have nothing to do with what I am looking for in the medium. I cannot deny that they are good. They are just not my taste. They don’t move me. And they take attention away from our work. Probably appropriately so. Because they fit much better in the tradition of games.

I would like to play a “home match” for a change. Present our work in a context where most people appreciate it. There certainly are enough people in the world for that to be possible. They just don’t happen to be united under a “games” banner.

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