Saturday, September 20

Designing With Goosebumps and Without Censors

In my non-fiction class, we're learning about the process of writing. Writing is a a process of creativity, of the imagination, and of the spirit. Writing is this junction point of creativity and imagination, it is an expression, convalescence of emotions and thoughts as words. Our best writing comes naturally and fluidly, but only if we allow it. We have been discussing how a careful first draft is a failed first draft, courtesy of Patricia Hampl. As humans, we have this thing in our mind called a censor. This censor filters our thoughts before they emerge into the open world. The censor is a fact-checker, a security gate checking to see that our thoughts are somehow legitimate before we let them leave our mind. In writing, the censor is more of a hindrance than a benefit. Because our censor questions the validity of our intuition and our imaginative subconscious. Anything our censor finds false, lacking, or incomplete, it throws into the trash for immediate incineration. But this censor halts our imaginative flow and stops our real genius from ever getting on the page. So right now we're practicing over-coming our censor, not letting it block our flow and just writing whatever comes out. There is always room for revision later.

I've come upon the same conclusion for game design. I think the present process of game design is moreso a science than an art. We have a heavy, thick-walled censor for designing games. Or at least I do, and am practicing to overcome it as well. Our game design censor has a face, many actually: reviews, gamers, publishers, friends, design theory, mechanical knowledge, and the gamer we know ourselves to be. So when we design games, every idea we come up with has to pass through this series of security gates, diminishing its chances of ever seeing the light of day. But these ideas our coming from a place of art, a place of genius and creativity and where pigs can fly. This place inside of us is our passion. It can feel the truth of interactivity and joy and learning. But when we allow our censors to fact-check each fairy or brilliant gem that flows by, we lose the imagination and creativity and passion, the essence, of our artistic genius.

Cliff Bleszinski ignores his censor. He designs with goosebumps on his arms. You know what its like. When an epiphany strikes and you know you can feel it, you can feel so strongly that twinge of genius, that spark of awesomeness from within. And the next moments are amazing. As you explore at light speed this universe of ideas. Your smiling and your heart's beating fast because this idea has so much gravity. But almost immediately your censor stops the imagination and asks, "will that actually be fun," and, "how do you control it," and, "will anyone actually want to play this." These questions can be asked later, once you've allowed the ideas to flow and the mystery has been explored. Otherwise the censor will stop you in your tracks and discourage you from exploring what could be something truly great.

CliffyB, I think, designs without his censor. He feels game design. Just watch this Developer Diary about Sound in Gears of War 2:

You see what I mean. He feels. And I think this is what so many games are lacking these days. Feeling. Its so important that games have passion, that they breathe, that they have spirit. And I think this comes from the fact that Cliffy has a connection with his game. Gears 2 is uniquely his own and is infused with his passion and energy.

Next time you get that twinge of enlightenment, ignore your censor for awhile and see where your genius takes you. Don't worry about gamers' expectations, or the AAA benchmark, or what everybody else is doing. Just listen to your spirit talk and let it show you what your passion can achieve when set free.

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