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Playing the Fool With Johann Sebastian Joust

As GDC 2012 kicks off, Johann Sebastian Joust designer Doug Wilson explains how we need more stupid in our games.

If you watched our Big Live Live Show Live! last year, you witnessed Alex attempting to kill me during a game of Johann Sebastian Joust, a game from Die Gute Fabrik and designed by Doug Wilson.

Wilson had one of the first presentations at the Game Developers Conference this year, and talked extensively about the inspirations behind the still unreleased Johann Sebastian Joust.

"I'm not interested in how technology can improve games," he said. "I'm interested in how games can improve technology."

Wilson lamented over how seriously Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony take their individual pieces of motion technology, wishing more developers with embrace the imperfections of each device.

"Moving in slow motion, no matter what you're playing, is fucking sweet," he said. "That really is the inspiration behind Joust. 'Let's make a game where we just fucking move in slow motion.'"

He's right, you know.

"Despite all these promises and optimism, all of these technologies kind of [sucking] is the reality," he said. "To me, that's awesome. It's precisely because these technologies suck that makes them really interesting and fun. Part of the key is to embrace the set ethnological limitations rather than trying to fight them."

Johann Sebastian Joust makes you look pretty stupid when you're playing. Wilson loves that, and having played it for hours, I'm with him. Wilson believes we should look dumber when we play our games, since games where we look dumb often end up resulting in the players themselves feeling like bad asses and anyone watching is entertained.

"There's an aesthetic in imperfection," he said. "[My] games are deliberately messy, the technology is imperfect and [it's] really embracing that."

He pointed to one of his other games, which involved strapping a Move controller to your…butt…and a bunch of players acting like dogs. I should have snapped a picture.

Wario Ware Smooth Moves is Wilson's favorite Wii games because it embraces lunacy.

"Tying a Move controller to your butt is just not what you typical do with controllers--it's not what they were really designed for," he said. "That's why these games are really fun. Apart from the game itself, there's something fun about using this technology in deliberately stupid ways that you were meant to use them in that kind of way. There is a joy in subversion."

Wilson didn't disclose any new details on when Johann Sebastian Joust might be released (I'm told sometime later this year), Wilson did say Die Gute Fabrik hopes to release a series of Joust-like games on iOS in the future. Die Gute Fabrik are classifying these games as Spielplatz, which means "playground" in German.

I can already see players uploading videos of dropping their brand-new iPhone 5 while playing the new release from Die Gute Fabrik.

Given how often these devices prompt us to endlessly shove our faces in front of their glowing screens, the promise of games encouraging players to physically interact with one another sounds welcoming.

"The only thing that Joust uses is this toy to detect if you move too much," said Wilson. "This isn't that new. We've all been enforcing rules when we play board games and sports for centuries. This is something we'e used to. The design trick is making the players think it's fun to improvise the rules, to enforce the rules, to improve new rules. We can't expect the computer to do everything for us."

Patrick Klepek on Google+
31 Comments
Posted by patrickklepek

If you watched our Big Live Live Show Live! last year, you witnessed Alex attempting to kill me during a game of Johann Sebastian Joust, a game from Die Gute Fabrik and designed by Doug Wilson.

Wilson had one of the first presentations at the Game Developers Conference this year, and talked extensively about the inspirations behind the still unreleased Johann Sebastian Joust.

"I'm not interested in how technology can improve games," he said. "I'm interested in how games can improve technology."

Wilson lamented over how seriously Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony take their individual pieces of motion technology, wishing more developers with embrace the imperfections of each device.

"Moving in slow motion, no matter what you're playing, is fucking sweet," he said. "That really is the inspiration behind Joust. 'Let's make a game where we just fucking move in slow motion.'"

He's right, you know.

"Despite all these promises and optimism, all of these technologies kind of [sucking] is the reality," he said. "To me, that's awesome. It's precisely because these technologies suck that makes them really interesting and fun. Part of the key is to embrace the set ethnological limitations rather than trying to fight them."

Johann Sebastian Joust makes you look pretty stupid when you're playing. Wilson loves that, and having played it for hours, I'm with him. Wilson believes we should look dumber when we play our games, since games where we look dumb often end up resulting in the players themselves feeling like bad asses and anyone watching is entertained.

"There's an aesthetic in imperfection," he said. "[My] games are deliberately messy, the technology is imperfect and [it's] really embracing that."

He pointed to one of his other games, which involved strapping a Move controller to your…butt…and a bunch of players acting like dogs. I should have snapped a picture.

Wario Ware Smooth Moves is Wilson's favorite Wii games because it embraces lunacy.

"Tying a Move controller to your butt is just not what you typical do with controllers--it's not what they were really designed for," he said. "That's why these games are really fun. Apart from the game itself, there's something fun about using this technology in deliberately stupid ways that you were meant to use them in that kind of way. There is a joy in subversion."

Wilson didn't disclose any new details on when Johann Sebastian Joust might be released (I'm told sometime later this year), Wilson did say Die Gute Fabrik hopes to release a series of Joust-like games on iOS in the future. Die Gute Fabrik are classifying these games as Spielplatz, which means "playground" in German.

I can already see players uploading videos of dropping their brand-new iPhone 5 while playing the new release from Die Gute Fabrik.

Given how often these devices prompt us to endlessly shove our faces in front of their glowing screens, the promise of games encouraging players to physically interact with one another sounds welcoming.

"The only thing that Joust uses is this toy to detect if you move too much," said Wilson. "This isn't that new. We've all been enforcing rules when we play board games and sports for centuries. This is something we'e used to. The design trick is making the players think it's fun to improvise the rules, to enforce the rules, to improve new rules. We can't expect the computer to do everything for us."

Staff
Posted by BeefyGrandmole

This game makes me wish i had more friends living close to me.

Posted by DFSVegas

@Pozer27 said:

first

Interesting, care to elaborate?

Posted by KILLER_CATT

Go Denmark! :D

Posted by Arceion

@DFSVegas: nope

Posted by Example1013

FINALLY a game that makes PS3/XBox 360 compatability a reality. You play JSJ while ALSO playing Dance Central!

Posted by buckybit

wow - Patrick is amongst the quickest typidy-type staffers at GDC! Awesome Early Bird Special!

btw - translation: "Die Gute Fabrik" means "The Good Factory" in English. You're welcome, Internet.

Posted by Little_Socrates

We need more stupid in games even outside of motion technology. I could do a whole write-up on why stupid could very well be a metric of success for most titles.

Posted by Arker101

I completely agree, there is a place for extraordinary seriousness and a place for incredible stupidity.

Posted by buckybit

Tim Schafer's "Happy Action Theater" would agree with you @Little_Socrates: @Arker101:

Posted by Winternet

live from GDC. Good job, Patrick baby.

Posted by ChrisTaran

I know game journos love to write about this game, but somehow they've not yet realized that the only people interested in Johann Sebastian Joust are other game journos.

Posted by Little_Socrates

@buckybit: Happy Action Theater will be the first game I purchase if I buy a Kinect. I do already have Child of Eden, though.

Posted by Vigorousjammer

Smartphones seem like the perfect fit for this game, because then you can play anywhere with enough space.

At the beach, in the middle of the mall, in a parking lot somewhere.

Of course, your phone might get broken, but hey, whatever!

They should also put it up for download on the 3DS and the Vita, so everybody can get in on the action.

Posted by Robster
Posted by heatDrive88

Didn't someone throw a chair or something egregious when the crew played it?

Posted by nickux

Although this story isn't really about Johann Sebastian Joust, I am kiiiiiiinda getting tired of reading about that game.  

Posted by Thoseposers

Yeah, this game was never interesting to me

Posted by BonzoPongo

@christaran totally agree. Someone should show them twister. It would blow their fucking minds.

Posted by Skillface

Anybody else really tired of that picture with the girl making the dumb face?

Posted by Tim_the_Corsair

Comments on JSJ articles = easy to tell who has friends/ability to leave the house.

Posted by Xpgamer7

I haven't really explored that angle. I'm really gonna think about what kind of good stuff can be made with his ideas.

Posted by Tamaster92

Man this game might make me buy a move

Posted by Brendan

@Tim_the_Corsair said:

Comments on JSJ articles = easy to tell who has friends/ability to leave the house.

Lol, although there's no way to tell I get the feeling this may be truer than many people would like to admit.

Posted by Yeahbuhwhat

I've lost count of how many sites have run pictures of hipsters playing Johann Sebastian Joust in the past week.

Posted by laserbolts

I appreciate what they are doing but this does not interest me at all.

Posted by Dan_CiTi

Damn, if only Move controllers were not way too much money. I wanna play this soooo bad.

Posted by MeatSim

I will drink to more stupid in games.

Edited by mnzy
@Sharkington said:

I've lost count of how many sites have run pictures of hipsters playing Johann Sebastian Joust in the past week.

It's crazy how much coverage this game gets. And not just since this week, probably for more than a year now. 
I don't really care, but I would really like to know why. 
 
edit: I'm all for more stupid, though!
Posted by KestrelPi

This game is awesome to play, that's all you need to know. It's the most fun to be had with a move controller. This game has found its way into every major UK indie games event in the last few months for a reason. Massive crowd-pleaser.

Posted by BisonHero

:

"Despite all these promises and optimism, all of these technologies kind of [sucking] is the reality," he said. "To me, that's awesome. It's precisely because these technologies suck that makes them really interesting and fun. Part of the key is to embrace the set ethnological limitations rather than trying to fight them."

Unless you're positive that's a direct quote, I'm pretty sure that should be "technological limitations", not "ethnological limitations". Or maybe Doug Wilson is also an anthropology grad student?