One Year’s Introspection

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One year ago today I began this blog because of my love of games.

I’ve often wondered why some people, myself included see games from radically different positions than other seemingly like-minded people. Games, externally, are pretty misleading – someone asks you what you do for a job and you break into a sweat – “I make games you respond with apprehension” as the person you’re facing straightens their posture, and with a sneer states “I’ve always thought games were a bit of a waste of time”. Much like a lot of things, people will take considerably different positions within and without a knowledge base, but almost none more than the video game will establish such division between those who understand and those who do not. I’ve always wondered what created these barriers – I’m sure that at some stage everyone has enjoyed a game of some sort, but I’m beginning to think that it takes a certain experience to plant the seeds of a certain way of thinking; an experience that takes such a firm grasp upon our minds; a feeling so strong that we spend our lives compelled to seek it and understand it, and those who do must live with the knowledge that it is their duty to share it amongt their kin.

Video games were somewhat of a mutual topic between my friends and myself, even before I got the chance to own a computer or console of any sort. Perhaps it was the persistent separation that drove me to create my own ideas, as I waited impatiently for a chance to visit my friends and burn through another level of Doom. Paradoxically, games always felt second to the imagination as we re-enacted Doom with our rubbish plastic ray guns; the borders between reality and fiction vanishing into the aether as we created our own timeless adventures, often spending entire days buried in the depths of our imagination. When I wasn’t with my friends, I’d create my own absurd mental fantasies as I longed to relive those experiences – every flat surface of my house filled with crude sketches of monsters and my own stories that I’d created for these games.

At that age, the ongoing imagination transcended the games itself. The game providing a base for our own creative tangents, eventually disappearing as we built our own fiction; our own worlds to explore, even if that meant running around a forest with a plastic Ak-47, taking turns at advancing each ludicrous twist and turn of our personal fiction.

There was a certain internal sadness when we moved quite some distance and I lost contact with these friends, as my imagination lingered but my output was somewhat stifled. Games inevitably slipped into the category of plain entertainment as I whiled away my introverted primary school years, until I found mutual grounds in gaming with a good friend of mine. We would regale each other ad nauseum about games, as he tried and failed to bring me into the sheer joy he experienced from Final Fantasy.

I’d lost touch with the game. Entertainment had re-established itself as the product of our experiences, rather than the action of playing itself.

The conviction in this guy’s voice as he spoke of these games, these enrapturing experiences; it all made me really consider my own values in gaming, and my connections to the experiences I had, had on a more emotional level. School progressed and I had found this mutual fascination with more and more friends, but I still found that their experiences had never really risen above plain entertainment as the majority of my friends only really considered it a pastime. This frustrated me a little.

Once again, friends and experiences vanished as I moved to the school in which I’ve spent my time at to the present; I’d had a gutful, but regardless I met more interesting people. Irrespective of the slump in creativity that haphazardly established itself at this time, I’d remembered what I had discussed with this guy previously, and my good friend and co-writer as our shared love for games grew to an unexpected experience.

After around one and a half years of meandering through years 6 and 7, my outlook on games was completely revised as my friend Jack (that chap who sometimes writes something clever here) casually told me that he was messing around with an idea for a game. At the time I was seriously considering a career in the special effects industry as I enjoyed building things and blowing things up in equal measures, but this moment cut to the soul of my latent creativity and proposed a serious idea that I’ve held to this day.

Why not make games.

It seemed obvious. I’d always found myself interested in creating things, but I always favoured the meditative bliss of the game as I’d never found an output. When the idea of actually making games arose, I was dumfounded, it just seemed perfect. For hours we’d pour over a sketchpad and brainstorm, trying to match concepts that were never intended, and when we didn’t have a sketch pad, we had animated conversations. This process continued for some years until we’d came to a point in which we had one big incoherent mess with no unified concepts, or stable ideas at all. It was a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle mid-air with pieces from every kit imaginable until it reached the point that we decided to just can it for good. Regardless of this monster we’d created, we’d truly learnt. We may not have gained a stabled understanding of how games were put together at the time, but this gave us an excellent platform to build from. From there we went on the refine our ideas, and actually come close to making games.

Games take time, ideas and commitment.

November 2008. I’d assembled what I felt like the perfect team of delightful misfits to work on our first title Silhouette. We battled, we forged, we cursed the gods, but eventually we caved leaving a great deal of assets unused, and The Behemoth community slightly puzzled (sorry about that guys we still want to do it sometime), but once again we grew. By taking the next step we ultimately put ourselves into an incredibly challenging situation, and lack of organisation and forethought tore us apart. I don’t consider it a failure at all, there’s still the potential to finish Silhouette, but most importantly we all took a short and incredibly harsh lesson in team dynamics.

Since then we’ve floated ideas, began work on concepts but have generally grown closer. Knowing that it may be a long time before I manage to assemble an actual team drove me to start this blog as an outlet for my ideas. Actually, the blog was born out of my attempt to document the death throes of Silhouette and our potential projects (and as an impulsive step into creating a web presence), and has since grown into something. I must stress something.

I’ve always liked writing, and I owe a lot to this routine practice, but I figured that whether or not I’m especially good at it, I’d hope to transfer some of my thoughts and ideas onto paper, so that other people may stroke their chins and nod approvingly, or raise their fists and defiance. At the moment I’m a little stumped as to where this blog should be heading as it has been a shamble of ideas and styles over the last year, and looking back, it would be hard to think that it was the same blog. I guess I really want to return to what made me such an impassioned gamer in the first place; that creativity, the imagination that shone through the mere realm of entertainment. To me games are most certainly entertainment, whether it be a new experience for myself, or just doing something stupid with my friends, but it will always reach further than that. Games are an intricate matrix of ideas, concepts and theories, worth more than just a cursory glance, just as they are worth more than an underdeveloped concept. They are there for our appreciation, our interpretation, but really they are there because we’ve shown them nothing but love since we were brought into this world, destined to enjoy, and maybe to create and share what has made us who we are.

Miles Newton – The Machination

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