There’s something that has always stayed with me from my philosophy classes in high school. In my memory the idea is attributed to 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, whose work I still admire. But it could have come from somewhere else too.
Anyway, they idea goes something like this:
Happiness does not exist. There is only suffering. Sometimes the suffering is reduced a little. When this happens, we call it happiness.
This idea often comes to mind when I’m playing a video game.
It seems like most game designers’ strategy works through the same principle: they start by making life hard for you, and then they remove the problem. The relief that you feel at that moment is experienced as “fun”, “joy”, or “happiness”. While in reality, all the game did was take away the misery it had caused to you in the first place.
It strikes me that this method, while effective, is very different from how Auriea and I design games. If one would call the method described above as subtractive, then our method could be called additive. At Tale of Tales, we try to start from wherever the player is at the moment when he or she starts playing. And we build up from there. We like to think of our games as things that add something to your life, that become a part of it, rather than replace it temporarily. We expect the player to bring something to the game. We expect a human being, who knows what it is to love and to desire, who knows how fresh sheets feel on skin and wet grass between bare toes. We need you to be somebody, not an empty shell, or a shadow without memories. But a strong core around which the game can wrap itself.