In Defense of Tedium: When Fun Isn't Good Enough

Let me quickly preface this blog by saying that, in the following text, when I use the word “game”, I’m using it to describe any sort of digital, interactive thing that at least resembles a game.

I participated in my first Ludum Dare this past weekend, and managed to pump out a game within the first seven hours of the competition (and another one in the final few). Obviously, it’s not a complex game, as LD48 entries tend not to be. It’s called Expecting a Call, and I’m pretty pleased with it, especially in the context of the competition’s theme: Alone.

I’d say reception has generally been positive, but I would also place the consensus opinion around a sentiment like, “Very clever application of the theme, but it needs work to be more fun!” The problem is that my clever application of the theme is totally dependent on how much fun it isn’t.

The core conceit of the game is that sixteen different people living in a high-rise are anxiously expecting phone calls, and you click on their apartment when their phone rings to have them answer. It was meant to illustrate the arguably lonely nature of technological communication, and it’s further contrasted against the fact that these people have (at least) fifteen other people living in close proximity to them.

So, even though I’m closing the door on a lot of interpretation and I wish more games invited people to walk away with their own opinion on what it’s about, it really shouldn’t be surprising that, when I set out to make a game about the unsatisfactoriness of telephone communication, I made an unsatisfying game. Could I have made Expecting a Call more mechanically dense? Sure. I could have implemented any number of conventional gameplay systems. However, every feature carries meaning, whether you like it or not. What does it mean if I end players’ games after missing a certain amount of calls? I considered such a lose condition, but I wasn’t sure how it would contribute to how the whole of the game could be interpreted. If my game valuates missed phone calls as bad, then what’s the point of criticizing the telephone as a communication medium? These are the relationships between rules and fiction that most game developers don’t bother to ask themselves, and it may be the most significant hurdle that games face as a serious medium.

For an industry/community that sees immersion as something to aspire to, people seem to think I’ve made a design mistake when I make a game like Expecting a Call, which actually creates a very strong connection between the player experience and the fiction of the game. Many people have said of the game, “It was fun at first, but then I realized how empty of an experience it was.” I don’t know that I could ask for a better reaction to it, honestly. One of my primary interests as a game designer is to create models that are realistic to such an extent that people realize the unsatisfactory/unhealthy/unethical nature of certain real-world phenomena, so fun isn’t always a priority. Valuation and interactivity are.

If people play a game that is designed to reward shooting brown people in the head, I won’t argue that it necessarily encourages people to feel positive about violence towards specific ethnicities (though I think it may to some extent), but it certainly doesn’t discourage such feelings. On the other hand, if I make a game about violence and it’s not fun, people will come out of the experience feeling like violence is less fun than they did before they played my game. It’s just a theory I have, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

I feel like we have a great chance to have our medium mature past power fantasies, which means not treating winning or having fun as ends in themselves. When someone tells me one of my games isn’t a ton of fun (which is typically a fair assessment, admittedly), I don’t think it’s unfair to compare the more critical people in that set to those who would criticize a movie for not having a happy ending.

I don’t think it’s impossible to make a viscerally satisfying game that also has a sad and/or meaningful ending (see: Braid, Limbo), but the fact remains that there aren’t enough Ingmar Bergman types making games. Our auteurs tend not to achieve much more than someone like Kevin Smith (though there are certainly a handful of exceptions). Sure, their games may have a modicum of emotionality, but they don’t invite the same kind of scrutiny or involvement that a classic Bergman film would. At best, we’re surprised by something on the level of a Chasing Amy or Clerks (if those two are Smith’s peaks), but we really tend to be inundated with games more comparable to Mallrats. The protagonist gets what he wanted from the beginning, and that’s the end of it.

Comparing games to movies is dangerous not only because it invites developers to continue making overly cinematic software, but also because a fun movie has an inherently better chance of being engaging than a typical game that sees fun as an end in itself (while also having narrative ambitions).

If, say, Indiana Jones is in a bind and says, “I’ve got an idea”, there is going to be some narrative tension because you want to see how exactly he’s going to get out of whatever scrape he’s in, and there’s a real chance that things won’t go to plan. Compare this to a typical story-driven game, in which there’s no tension, as you know which sequence of actions will resolve a conflict before these actions are even executed. Everything is telegraphed by the goals the game gives you. Also, when a protagonist/player is assigned an objective, we can read this as not just as possible, but inevitable if the player doesn’t give up on the game. We don’t wonder if things will go wrong, because subverting player expectations is not at all common.

We shouldn’t scoff at the effort to make games that are more expressive than they are mechanically delightful. Predictable responses to player input are what make a game feel fair and I think there’s definitely room for that kind of game, but it also makes pretenses of drama incredibly hollow compared to other media.

One solution seems to be to stop treating the player and the protagonist as separate. Playing through a story should involve play in the theatrical sense. To inhabit a character that has bad things happen to him or her, sometimes it should be appropriate to make unfun things happen to the user as a person playing the game. We see this approach here and there, but it’s not nearly prevalent enough for my tastes.

Maybe this means making shorter games, or maybe unfun sections need to be mitigated by quick reversals of fortune (expressed to the player as fun). I’ve taken the former approach so far. I’m sure that a lot of people won’t like my games, but at least I’m not wasting hours upon hours of their time just so they get a complete impression of the thing I made.

As such, while this piece is titled “In Defense of Tedium”, we should be sure not to mistake tedium for laboriousness. There are a lot of games that feel like work because of uninspired level design and storytelling. I would characterize tedium as something different, something that may highlight the reality of a particular activity.

As pretentious as you could call all of this sentiment and my portfolio in general, at least I don’t throw dozens of levels at people and expect them to play through them just because they’re there. That’s not a good enough reason to play something anymore, if it ever was. There are too many people making too many technically competent games for independent game developers not to try to make unusual, personal pieces of software. If you’re not beholden to profits like a studio owned by a publisher would be, then what’s holding you back?

9 Comments
9 Comments
Posted by DevWil

Let me quickly preface this blog by saying that, in the following text, when I use the word “game”, I’m using it to describe any sort of digital, interactive thing that at least resembles a game.

I participated in my first Ludum Dare this past weekend, and managed to pump out a game within the first seven hours of the competition (and another one in the final few). Obviously, it’s not a complex game, as LD48 entries tend not to be. It’s called Expecting a Call, and I’m pretty pleased with it, especially in the context of the competition’s theme: Alone.

I’d say reception has generally been positive, but I would also place the consensus opinion around a sentiment like, “Very clever application of the theme, but it needs work to be more fun!” The problem is that my clever application of the theme is totally dependent on how much fun it isn’t.

The core conceit of the game is that sixteen different people living in a high-rise are anxiously expecting phone calls, and you click on their apartment when their phone rings to have them answer. It was meant to illustrate the arguably lonely nature of technological communication, and it’s further contrasted against the fact that these people have (at least) fifteen other people living in close proximity to them.

So, even though I’m closing the door on a lot of interpretation and I wish more games invited people to walk away with their own opinion on what it’s about, it really shouldn’t be surprising that, when I set out to make a game about the unsatisfactoriness of telephone communication, I made an unsatisfying game. Could I have made Expecting a Call more mechanically dense? Sure. I could have implemented any number of conventional gameplay systems. However, every feature carries meaning, whether you like it or not. What does it mean if I end players’ games after missing a certain amount of calls? I considered such a lose condition, but I wasn’t sure how it would contribute to how the whole of the game could be interpreted. If my game valuates missed phone calls as bad, then what’s the point of criticizing the telephone as a communication medium? These are the relationships between rules and fiction that most game developers don’t bother to ask themselves, and it may be the most significant hurdle that games face as a serious medium.

For an industry/community that sees immersion as something to aspire to, people seem to think I’ve made a design mistake when I make a game like Expecting a Call, which actually creates a very strong connection between the player experience and the fiction of the game. Many people have said of the game, “It was fun at first, but then I realized how empty of an experience it was.” I don’t know that I could ask for a better reaction to it, honestly. One of my primary interests as a game designer is to create models that are realistic to such an extent that people realize the unsatisfactory/unhealthy/unethical nature of certain real-world phenomena, so fun isn’t always a priority. Valuation and interactivity are.

If people play a game that is designed to reward shooting brown people in the head, I won’t argue that it necessarily encourages people to feel positive about violence towards specific ethnicities (though I think it may to some extent), but it certainly doesn’t discourage such feelings. On the other hand, if I make a game about violence and it’s not fun, people will come out of the experience feeling like violence is less fun than they did before they played my game. It’s just a theory I have, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

I feel like we have a great chance to have our medium mature past power fantasies, which means not treating winning or having fun as ends in themselves. When someone tells me one of my games isn’t a ton of fun (which is typically a fair assessment, admittedly), I don’t think it’s unfair to compare the more critical people in that set to those who would criticize a movie for not having a happy ending.

I don’t think it’s impossible to make a viscerally satisfying game that also has a sad and/or meaningful ending (see: Braid, Limbo), but the fact remains that there aren’t enough Ingmar Bergman types making games. Our auteurs tend not to achieve much more than someone like Kevin Smith (though there are certainly a handful of exceptions). Sure, their games may have a modicum of emotionality, but they don’t invite the same kind of scrutiny or involvement that a classic Bergman film would. At best, we’re surprised by something on the level of a Chasing Amy or Clerks (if those two are Smith’s peaks), but we really tend to be inundated with games more comparable to Mallrats. The protagonist gets what he wanted from the beginning, and that’s the end of it.

Comparing games to movies is dangerous not only because it invites developers to continue making overly cinematic software, but also because a fun movie has an inherently better chance of being engaging than a typical game that sees fun as an end in itself (while also having narrative ambitions).

If, say, Indiana Jones is in a bind and says, “I’ve got an idea”, there is going to be some narrative tension because you want to see how exactly he’s going to get out of whatever scrape he’s in, and there’s a real chance that things won’t go to plan. Compare this to a typical story-driven game, in which there’s no tension, as you know which sequence of actions will resolve a conflict before these actions are even executed. Everything is telegraphed by the goals the game gives you. Also, when a protagonist/player is assigned an objective, we can read this as not just as possible, but inevitable if the player doesn’t give up on the game. We don’t wonder if things will go wrong, because subverting player expectations is not at all common.

We shouldn’t scoff at the effort to make games that are more expressive than they are mechanically delightful. Predictable responses to player input are what make a game feel fair and I think there’s definitely room for that kind of game, but it also makes pretenses of drama incredibly hollow compared to other media.

One solution seems to be to stop treating the player and the protagonist as separate. Playing through a story should involve play in the theatrical sense. To inhabit a character that has bad things happen to him or her, sometimes it should be appropriate to make unfun things happen to the user as a person playing the game. We see this approach here and there, but it’s not nearly prevalent enough for my tastes.

Maybe this means making shorter games, or maybe unfun sections need to be mitigated by quick reversals of fortune (expressed to the player as fun). I’ve taken the former approach so far. I’m sure that a lot of people won’t like my games, but at least I’m not wasting hours upon hours of their time just so they get a complete impression of the thing I made.

As such, while this piece is titled “In Defense of Tedium”, we should be sure not to mistake tedium for laboriousness. There are a lot of games that feel like work because of uninspired level design and storytelling. I would characterize tedium as something different, something that may highlight the reality of a particular activity.

As pretentious as you could call all of this sentiment and my portfolio in general, at least I don’t throw dozens of levels at people and expect them to play through them just because they’re there. That’s not a good enough reason to play something anymore, if it ever was. There are too many people making too many technically competent games for independent game developers not to try to make unusual, personal pieces of software. If you’re not beholden to profits like a studio owned by a publisher would be, then what’s holding you back?

Edited by Deleth

After reading through the whole text you've written, which seems like you're actually pretty angry about the reaction towards your "game" that simply wasn't what you expected nor what you wanted I've got to say a few things to you. First off I'm sorry but you didn't so much create a games as you created interactive art. You tried to convey your own feelings, resentment and opinion toward a certain topic and the audience simply didn't seem to like it.

The one in the wrong here isn't the audience, but you.

@DevWil said: We shouldn’t scoff at the effort to make games that are more expressive than they are mechanically delightful.

Yes we should. For various reasons.

@DevWil said: Predictable responses to player input are what make a game feel fair and I think there’s definitely room for that kind of game, but it also makes pretenses of drama incredibly hollow compared to other media.

You always have a predictable responses if you're able to take action. The problem a game has, is that unlike a movie or a book it doesn't have a simple "audience" but people who actually influence the course of the game and participate in the game. It is like trying to incorporate the people watching a movie in said movie, something that is pretty hard if you want to tell a proper story and most likely impossible for certain genres.

@DevWil said: One solution seems to be to stop treating the player and the protagonist as separate. Playing through a story should involve play in the theatrical sense.

Excuse me, but isn't this already being done for quite some time? At least in RPGs? Anyway personally I think you should stop comparing games to pcs. Rather try to see them as interactive books which allow the audience to "live" the story themselves instead of being forced to watch from outside.

@DevWil said: To inhabit a character that has bad things happen to him or her, sometimes it should be appropriate to make unfun things happen to the user as a person playing the game. We see this approach here and there, but it’s not nearly prevalent enough for my tastes.

I am happy that it isn't used more often. Because it does not only take the joy out of a game, I also end up asking myself why I even bothered to play the game in the first place. When bad things constantly happen to me, I'm absolutely helpless and can only watch as things unfold and in the end might get an downer ending regardless of what I do.

I actually worked for my "good ending", I invested tens of hours in some cases and quite a bit of effort to get to a certain point. Unlike a book or movie where I didn't have to do a thing. I like to remember Dragon Age 2 as one of the most recent cases. Through most of the story you're forced to feel completly powerless. No matter what you do the story takes it course. And things get worse and worse with time. It felt like one long kick between the legs to me. In the end I thought it was one of the worst games of the last years I've played and the story was one of the main reasons I felt like that. When I was finished the only question I asked myself was "why the hell did I even bother playing this?".

I don't think I have to say that I'm done with the Dragon Age series. I won't buy another game. I'm going to give Bioware exactly one more chance, and if Mass Effect 3 turns out to be anything similar to Dragon Age 2 I wont buy another game of theirs, ever again. And Bioware for a long time was one of my favorite game developers.

Posted by Icemael
@DevWil said:

As pretentious as you could call all of this sentiment and my portfolio in general, at least I don’t throw dozens of levels at people and expect them to play through them just because they’re there.

I don't know where you live, but in the real world, serious video game developers put a lot of time and hard work into designing levels that players want to play through because they're fun. Meanwhile, indie developers like you shit out shallow, ugly, boring games that are supposed to be worth playing because of their "messages", which are at best on about the same level as the bullshit I farted out to please my English and art teachers back in high school.

Take "Expecting a Call". Not only is the game ugly and dull, it doesn't even do a good job of illustrating your shitty point! Imagine, for instance, the same game, except instead of answering phones, clicking on apartments made their inhabitants open their doors to greet guests. It's the same game -- it's still boring and shallow -- but the characters are now engaging in "real" interaction instead of technologically aided communication. Does it now suddenly show that communicating with someone in the flesh is also an "empty" experience? What if clicking the apartments made the people inside sit down in front of their computers to start coding Flash games called "Expecting a Call" or writing blog posts titled "In Defense of Tedium: When Fun Isn't Good Enough"? Would it then show that making the game and writing this blog post were empty experiences? Your game doesn't even take into account the part where the people actually communicate through their phones (which is what's supposedly "lonely" and "empty") -- it only deals with the process of picking up the handset!

I am so tired of talentless indie developers making boring Flash games promoting shitty hipster/environmentalist/Luddite ideas and pretending that it's important to the progress of video games as an art form. It's not. (And, ironically, the people who play these "intentionally boring" games do so for fun. It's just that for them, the fun comes not from the actual playing, but from "understanding the meaning" or "interpreting the message" or whatever, which gives them something resembling intellectual stimulation and satisfies them that way.)
Edited by DevWil

@Deleth: Thanks for your thorough response, but I'm sure you aren't surprised to hear that I disagree with you quite a bit. My game is exactly what I wanted it to be. I think it's possible that it could be better, but I'm extremely satisfied with what it is. Proud, even. I still don't see a way to make it better without negatively affecting my own interpretation of it. Also, I wouldn't want to change the game until LD48 voting is over. That violates both the spirit and the rules of the competition.

Anyway, I don't think surprising the player with "unfun" (which may be a little too imprecise a term to use) things is the same as denying the player agency. Of course it's frustrating when you feel like your actions don't matter, especially in a long, expensive game like Dragon Age 2. That's not what I'm trying to advocate for. I want the player to feel responsible for what happens to them. I just think game designers are, for the most part, unimaginative when it comes to designing systems of cause and effect. I think that games' greatest artistic potential probably lies in presenting people with unexpected consequences to their actions. This consequences should not merely be annoying, but make the player consider what they've done in a different light. I'm not sure you could sustain such interactions in an RPG that takes dozens of hours to complete, but I'm also not sure that that form of game is the most artistically viable. Maybe games (or interactive art that resembles games... remember that I'm using the word loosely) need to be brief experiences to maximize both expressiveness and, frankly, tolerability.

@Icemael: Just because you didn't like or agree with the sentiment behind my game doesn't mean it's garbage, and you're not going to make me reconsider how I feel about my own work by being rude.

I do think that "fun" can come in many forms, including intellectual stimulation (via art). I believe Raph Koster, in his book A Theory of Fun For Game Design, describes fun as encompassing things as broad as learning and enjoying tragic stories. I believe that games are inherently educational, but most games keep teaching us the same nonsense.

I'm really not trying to pump up Expecting a Call too much. However, the whole point of the game's interactions is that they're ultimately unsatisfying. These people answer their phones and keep answering their phones, but remain alone because communicating in such a way doesn't necessarily remedy a sense of loneliness. If you don't see it that way, that's your opinion, but I still believe that I do, in fact, "do a good job of illustrating [my] shitty point".

At the same time, I do feel a responsibility to make a purely fun game just to prove that I can do it; it would definitely give me greater license afterwards to experiment like I did with my LD48 entries. I'm not going to apologize for the games that I've made, though, because at least they're about something real and not simply the ungrounded interaction of nerd culture symbols like zombies, space marines, etc.

I know it may sound arrogant, but I'm not discouraged by people simply disliking my work. I don't dismiss any criticisms outright, but not all of them are constructive and even fewer are points I can take seriously after I process them through my idea of what I want my work to be. You calling my game "boring and shallow" doesn't provide me with any real insight. At the same time, I'm not going to fight with you about it. I think it's important that people can disagree about games, and I'm sure there are some games you love that I would find "boring and shallow". Unfortunately, we live in a world of Metacritic and games that don't invite interpretation, so most people tend to try to objectively canonize the quality of games. I think Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a well-made game, but I don't know that I particularly like it and I've never finished it. I think that sort of sentiment is sorely lacking from people who play games.

Edit: I've said something like this on another forum, but I'm confident that either my games are really avant garde (if a little half-baked in some aspects) or they're just stupid. It's worth assuming the risk of the latter for the reward of the former.

Edited by Grumbel
@DevWil said:

I'm really not trying to pump up Expecting a Call too much. However, the whole point of the game's interactions is that they're ultimately unsatisfying. These people answer their phones and keep answering their phones, but remain alone because communicating in such a way doesn't necessarily remedy a sense of loneliness. If you don't see it that way, that's your opinion, but I still believe that I do, in fact, "do a good job of illustrating [my] shitty point".

The way I see your game is: You click on things. The End. Took me like 5sec to get that the game has no point and is just random worthless indie shit.
 
I am not opposed to your overall point and of course a quick 48h competition won't produce complex mechanics, so of course one can't expect great things from such a game. But still,  the game really did a bad job of actually making its point. The mechanics where so trivial and pulled into the foreground by the existence of the score, that the setting simply become meaningless. Furthermore the player is completely distances from the setting, who am I as a player actually controlling in the game? There was no interaction or narrative or world simulation, it was simply about clicking on things. If you want to engage the player, you need something that establishes the setting and mechanics that actually enforce whatever your are trying to convey and encourage exploration, your game really didn't do any of that. When I am done with such a game, I want to fell "Oh, now I am getting it" because I learned something I didn't expect, not "There is really no point to this" because the game is actually as primitive as it looks on a quick look. Whatever you want to convey has to actually reach the player in one form or another.

And just to be clear, I am not opposed to simplistic Flash games by itself, One Chance for example was fantastic and not exactly mechanically complex either, but it established a setting, narrative and atmosphere and actually made you care about what is happening. I don't need constant instant gratification, but I need a reason to actually care.
Posted by Duskwind

@DevWil: The best games I've played this generation are the Mass Effect series...Mass Effect 1 from more of a storytelling standpoint, and ME2 from more of a gameplay standpoint. Of course, this is just personal opinion. I'm sure people out there will disagree. To me, this series has everything...enjoyable gameplay, player choice that can change the course of the game (to some degree), cinematic sequences, exploration, great storytelling, plot surprises, etc. Every aspect of the game was more or less enjoyable and designed to hold the player's attention.

One example of a mechanic that comes close to what you describe...a game trying to prove a point rather than be fun...would be the entire planet scanning aspect to find minerals. That would get kinda tedious at times, but I could see why it was there. Building the best equipment necessitated some kind of effort on the part of the player that went above and beyond the norm...in this case, enduring the tedium of scanning planets for resources and launching probes. Could they have handled this better? Maybe. In fact, I hope they do when it comes to ME3. Luckily, all other aspects of ME2 were so great that it was worth bearing.

I guess what I'm trying to say is...I really hate movies with sad endings. I have told people many times, I don't care how good a movie is. If it's sad, I'm not gonna watch it. There can be enough sadness in life at times that I feel no reason to induce it for no reason. If entire games were designed more to prove some kind of point or express the dev's feelings towards a certain subject (kinda like a movie with a sad ending) rather than to be fun, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to play them.

Posted by nintendoeats

I agree completely, but it's worth stepping back a little further and considering how to make these games still entertaining for players.

What we seem to be talking about here is making games that are "entertaining" or "satisfying" without being "fun." This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities, but it is also a space that is woefully under-explored in game design. As a result, there seem to be many indie devs out there who want to build this type of experience, but aren't really sensitive enough or strong enough critical thinkers to pull it off. Creativity alone can lead to great things, but not when there are fundamental technical issues that need to be worked out like "what is a reliable way to make players comfortable with sad things happening in a game?"

Once I've wrapped up the multiplayer component of my current project I'm going to move into a single player story. One of the endings will be one in which the player is mechanically unable to defeat the end boss (there is a point to this, trust me). I've described this to people and the reaction is always extremely negative. The problem is that because we so rarely see this done in a satisfying way, we always assume that sad game endings are a bad thing. What I cannot express to people without actually building the whole game is the OTHER stuff that I am going to do to keep that ending meaningful and rewarding to the player.

TLDR: More dramatic games of the type that you described still need to have entertaining and satisfying qualities, they just shouldn't be described as fun.

Posted by RagingLion

I agree with your sentiments generally. I want more things than just fun as well. Tying into your latest blog as well, there's not a huge breadth of games trying thingsat least that are really polished - the indie scene and also some mainstream are trying to push some things now though there's so much further to go.

I didn't really get the message you were trying to convey from the game, having played it - I didn't find the mechanics and experience to be conveying the point you were trying to make fully. There was maybe a hint of it but it could have meant a number of other things as well. You're trying things out though and games can be hard to make so I'm not criticising it outright.

I'm guessing you might be the kind of person to have seen some of Jonathan Blow's talks before, but if not then I reckon you might be into something like this.

Edited by DevWil

@nintendoeats: yes YES! I LIKE YOU. why is there a "good" ending and a "bad" ending in games with more than one way for things to wrap up? so expressly valuing one over the other turns the narrative itself into a game that you can lose, which is dangerous to say the least! it's like how the meta-game of achievements in a game like mass effect can have an enormously negative impact on someone's experience.

i really want to hear more about the stuff you're doing. if you have a twitter, website, etc... let me know about it.

@RagingLion: i'm disappointed if people don't come away from Expecting a Call with what i hoped they would, but i can also accept that. that's just the way art is. not every person who encounters your work is going to interpret it the way you might want them to, and that doesn't make their interpretation invalid. sometimes people interpreting your work in ways you didn't expect can be very exciting. i had this happen with another game i made in the past few months, Flagship. people took things away from it that i never planned on, fortunately, i was able to keep quiet about my own vision of what the game was supposed to be. i've been much more forthcoming about my own view of Expecting a Call, so it becomes much more controversial.

now, if someone doesn't interpret something the way the author expects and doesn't like it... the best you can hope for is that they're mature enough to say something like "i'm not getting much out of this", and not take it as an opportunity to swear at you.

i mean, in my own situation... i'm making very short games that i'm giving away for free. if you don't like it, you didn't lose anything. i don't think i've made a game yet that requires more than five minutes of your time for you to get a complete impression of what's there. i fully acknowledge that i take an unusual approach to game design (or the design of interactive media, if you don't want to call my work "games"), but because the material stakes are so low in what i make, i'm not afraid to fail. i'd also rather take these risks and fail most of the time than make something that doesn't try to communicate anything. the potential rewards are so great for this medium that it's worth banging out a few clunkers if the same general approach can create work that legitimately makes people feel something other than the ecstasy of victory or agony of defeat.

thanks for that link to the Jonathan Blow talk! i'm always interested in what he has to say, and i haven't seen this one before.

Edit: from the aforementioned Jonathan Blow talk (quickly transcribed as I'm not even done watching):

"When I sit down to make a video game I'm actually not trying to make a game that's the most fun or the best game, or certainly not the game that will make the most money. Most people think that's what a game designer does, try to make the most fun game. Two years ago I would have said that I'm trying to make the most interesting game, but I realize now that's not exactly true, because I'm not trying to optimize the player's experience anymore, because in order to optimize, you need to treat the player in this kind of scientific way. You're using them as an experiment, or an instrument that you're measuring constantly. And that leads to disrespect, almost automatically. So instead of trying to make the most fun game, there are some other things that you can try to do that are, to my mind, loftier goals. You could decide to make an intensely personal game… You can make a game on a subject that interests [you] very much… Or [you] can make the kind of game that affects players the way that you want while still making a reasonable amount of money… These are all totally reasonable goals that can be done from the mindset of respecting the player."

i like listening to Jonathan Blow's opinions!