Doing the undefined, with each other.

Michaël Samyn, March 8, 2012

When making the kinds of games that we do, it’s common to think in terms of expression, meaning and narrative. And while it is important to at least guide the player a little bit towards an interpretation that makes sense, I believe that a videogame should allow for as much freedom as possible for the player to play how they want to. Often technical limitations prevent us from offering all the possible interactions and features a player might desire. But sometimes reducing the amount of features can lead to more ways of playing.

My best experiences in multiplayer games are often the ones in which I “abuse” the system for my own story. Having our avatars intersect with each other in A Tale in the Desert is a beautiful romantic memory. Having Jin and Xiaoyu tackle each other in Tekken turned into an erotic fantasy. We didn’t need our avatars to play animations of hugging or having sex. In fact, it was more fun to attribute our own meaning to what we were doing. It made the activity more personal.

I remember adding such personal layers to table top games as well: inventing stories that are only vaguely related to what the board and the pawns and the rules represented. It’s a fun thing to do together.

So rather than defining the meaning of certain actions that a player can do in Bientôt l’été, or figuring out how to implement a wide range of recognizable gestures and interactions, I think I will offer simple, rather meaningless things to do instead. Putting an object on the table and moving it around means nothing. Until you do this while another person is watching and when this other person can do the same. Then a communication can develop. This communication may not have any specific meaning. But does that matter? How many of our conversations in real life are actually exchanges of information? Is communication often not simply testing how much we like each other and expressing these feelings? Even when we might not really feel all that fond of someone, it’s often simply fun to act as if we are.

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