Indie Diary #2 - the Trail in the Woods
In any given project, there's always a few initial hurdles to overcome in order to get the ball rolling. In my very small but focused experience in creating games (two student-team projects in undergrad and my first indie now) a very apparent motivator is the fact that games are still quite limited in scope. Mechanics are constricted - most of the time at least - to overplayed genres dressed up in story-driven guises. But, at the end of the day, the evident gameplay patterns reveal that mechanics, narrative, and design have yet to be properly integrated in order to create a truly compelling interactive device.
My goal in game development is to help further the now growing trend to creative interactive actions that not only propel a story, but instead define it entirely. That's why my current project is so heavily-driven by the mental state of my character, a depressed modern man or woman subconsciously relearning how to see the world as it really is - impossibly amazing and limitless.
The result I'm aiming for would be a product that is fun, therapeutic, and touching as I'm using the experience of child-like wonder of the world lost to depressed certainty of the world as a means of creating mechanics, design, and narrative. Judging from conversations with various people - writers as well as players of all interest levels - such an experience isn't only welcomed but desired.
That's why we're seeing so many more games addressing such topics each year; Journey, Depression Quest, Papers Please, The Stanley Parable, and Gone Home being prime examples in the past two. It seems quite evident to me that smaller teams, ease of releasing titles, democratized markets, social fundraisers, and (most importantly) creation kits akin to Adobe programs such as the Unity game engine are all speeding up the risky development of odd, beautiful, and enriching games.
British philosopher Alan Watts proclaimed that the only way we can live is to "follow our own weird." So far, it couldn't be much closer to the truth in the game industry, where corporate giants producing flagship programs seem to be having more trouble than indie developers who make really odd titles like the Unfinished Swan (albeit, backed by Sony) or Hohokum.
So, I guess in the spirit of providing self-reflective advice, know that there are tools out there that can enable even the foremost beginners (such as myself) to create really different types of experiences.
All you have to do is follow your own weird, as many indies are fearlessly doing more and more, and the game you should be making will seem to make itself - like a lump of clay forming, effortlessly, into a serpentine dragon beneath your fingertips.