Simple love?

Michaël Samyn, June 26, 2012

I was half-hoping that Bientôt l’été could be a game about love, moving as a Hollywood tear jerker or a melancholic love song. Rather silly, of course, given Marguerite Duras as the main inspiration. Her work moves me when I read it, but only once in a while, in the little points that she makes, after unnoticeably building up to them. And these moments are never about the surrender or the ecstasy of love but more about accepting its complexity, and embracing the sadness as well as the joy.

This complexity shines through in Bientôt l’été, I think. But that still leaves The Game About Love on my to do list. I’ve learned something about how to approach it, though. The annoying thing about videogames is that they don’t lend themselves well to subtlety. That’s not so much caused by the limitations of the medium itself as by the wildly different ways in which people play videogames, and a greater sense of “ownership” of the experience, because of agency.

So The Game About Love will have to be extremely romantic, naive like a Disney movie, casting aside all doubts and complexities. That seems contradictory to the exciting openness that a procedural medium allows for. But it’s only logical that a creative desire to evoke a specific emotional effect clashes with that openness.

Our stance has always been to not force things too much, to allow people to have any emotional response to the work they like. And I’m still interested in that approach. But not for making The Game About Love. Then you have to be merciless, grab the hearts of the players and not let go until you’ve squeezed out every bit of tear they can muster.

It’s hard to call a deep emotional response to a work of art shallow, but in a way it is. Maybe it’s intellectually shallow when one emotion overwhelms, necessarily at the expense of any other reactions. As a result, such uncomplicated experiences may be somewhat forgettable. But that’s perfectly acceptable. There will always be the memory of the joy, even if the joy itself cannot be felt again by merely recollecting it.

We can’t leave videogames split into simple games about negative emotions and complex games about positive emotions. We also need simple games about positive emotions -and complex games about negative ones.

There’s something simple and gentle about love. And I hope to capture that in a future game.

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