NIFFF 2012: Videogames are not Games

Michaël Samyn & Auriea Harvey (www.tale-of-tales.com)

(My comments are in italic) : They read a lot of manifestos from paper instead which was hard to capture

They started by playing games, but the joyful exploration was soon stopped by unfriendly creatures.

They want to make games for people who do not play games.

Some examples:

  • Endless Forrest were you play a deer in a magical wood with other deer and do what deers do, sometimes some unexpected things happen
  • The Graveyard you shuffle to a graveyard, sit on a bench, hear a song and in the paid version one day you die peacefully
  • The Path Red Riding Hood had some sisters you didn’t know about and this game you play all of them, this games orients itself on the rather darker versions of the tale
  • Fatale you play John the Baptist, you see a beautiful woman dance, then you get beheaded, after your death you roam the world and have to put out candles, during this exploration, you meet Salome, the beautiful dancer and your head. After you found the last candle and extinguished it you see Salome dance for your head
  • Vanitas is an iPhone game that resembles a mix between a Memento Mori and a curiosity cabinet and is inspired by the expensive gadget it runs on

They are not profitable, they see themselves as artists and as such apply for government funding and independent sponsors. They mostly have some silly ideas, but as soon as they have founding the ideas get serious. They also sell their games on STEAM and find a lot of their audience there and less in social networks.

The non-conventional game mechanics are not easy to make and sometimes they take out interactions to make sure the mood is right. Some of the ideas take years to realize.

To foster new ideas they have founded the platform notgames.org where people can post games, brainstorm, find likeminded people and more.

The last 3 paragraphs are more or less from the Q&A. The reason they are not really detailed is that this talk irked me and there was one question I wanted and not wanted to ask. 

But first what irked me to provoke a whole comment section? I have worked in the games industry and it is full of intelligent, creative people with wide interests and often a vast knowledge in some obscure but game-relevant theme the depth of which characterizes what people call geeks and nerds. They are not some ignorant sheep. And the cited manifestos often implied this. In their answers they were more humble confessed of being vain as artists and wanting a large audience. 

My question was more or less have you talked to game devs working for large game studios and I asked it? They said they did and that they have a very specific point of view and their ideas of a cool game (I don’t want to use the word good here, this is to weighted down with misunderstandings) may not be everybody’s idea of a good game. That not everybody wants and needs to be an artist. 

I remarked that I remember many a lunch break and meeting where various fractions argued for free, explorable worlds others for Quests and Puzzels and other for majestic battles. And so there had to be compromises. 

Their final answer was very endearing, an ironic: other people with other tastes are so difficult, why can’t we all be the same. 

All in all a very interesting and inspiring talk, their games sound very strange as video games. Some of their theories are counter to what serious game research (yes there is such a thing) and the psychological research of fun, interest and reward mostly tell us (yes game devs actually read these papers). Some purists probably would declassify most of these games as not being games, but they know that themselves. I think there is a lot more to this funny world building, simulation, experience making machine that lives in our pockets and on our desks now, than games.

But big budget games are made because there are people who like to play them and people who like to make them. The feeling of doing something that is fun in a concerted effort of a team of 40 or more wildly divergent people and finally holding the box in your hand, because you did skip to your computer store and there it was in the shelf waiting for people to play it, this feeling is something you only understand, if you have done it and its great!