Friday, 4 December 2015
What would Weegee do?
You know what’s wrong with violence? It’s too easy. Sure, violence solves problems. But not in an interesting way.
Hobby boardgames are a great source of game design ideas. That’s because you can see just how the rules fit together to create interesting gameplay. And the very best hobby boardgames come out of Germany – classics like Adel Verpflichtet (rivalry and theft in the antique-collecting world), Intrigue (Renaissance courtiers) and Settlers of Catan (colonists).
What these great games have in common, apart from the meticulous logic of the Teutonic mind, is that none of them is based on violence.
There’s a good reason for that, of course. Modern Germans are not as a rule very fond of games of war. Consequently, designers of hobby boardgames in Germany have been denied the easy solution of violence. So they have been forced to make their gameplay really good instead.
Think about how that might work in computer games design. First-person shooters, say. There have been plenty of excellent, innovative FPSs, but the core factor in almost all is still violence. You run around and you aim to snipe away the other guy’s hit points without losing your own. But what if you had to design a first-person shooter without the shooting? There are plenty of themes to choose from. Let’s think about a Swinging Sixties paparazzi FPS where you have to scoot around town getting snapshots of all the celebrities.
In the absence of violence, we’d need to find other factors to make the game interesting. What are the resources? You can’t be everywhere at once, so time is an obvious one. Another is film. Maybe I need to get my scoop in for the late edition in order to pick up another roll of film. So do I go back for another roll, or delay until I get one more shot? Should I develop my film (pre-digital, remember) in a back alley, risking sabotage from other paparazzi, or do I take it safely to the lab?
Okay, I don’t doubt you can come up with a dozen better ideas than this. The point is that, if you can’t fall back on violence, whether in a videogame or a gamebook, you will be devising choices that have to be really rewarding in their own right. Afterwards, if you like, you can plug the violence back in. But not because you need it for easy gameplay, only because it’s fun.