23 Apr 2013

My Lost Levels Talk

During GDC week, I attended Lost Levels, a fantastic “unconference” about games. I’d just planned to attend and listen to the talks. When the planned talks ended early, the organizers announced that anyone who hadn’t given a talk now could if they wanted to. A couple people I’d met earlier that week convinced me to do it. I gathered my thoughts for about 15 minutes and then talked about Taste vs Ability.

After the talk, I planned on writing up what I would have said had I time to actually prepare. It turns out that my talk was recorded, and I think it’s more in line with the atmosphere of the event to just let that stand than to revise it.

In that talk, I mentioned an interview with Ira Glass. I hadn’t watched it in a while, and absolutely did not do it justice. I also misremembered parts of it. I’ll simply defer to Ira here:

The topic came into being the night before in a conversation with Paul Mcgee, who’d later suggest that I give the talk. We discussed the things covered in the video, and Paul added something that wasn’t present there: that people who do have the ability have a responsibility to make games that meet their tastes. That stuck with me, especially in light of the Game Developers Choice Awards results.

As I started to run out of material for my talk about 45 seconds in, it felt right to explore what Paul had said. I read the GDC Awards as a “collective confession” that the industry was not making games that satisfied their tastes.

This isn’t a condemnation of the industry, though. Games need to be made for the much larger population on non-game-developers, in order for the whole venture to be economically viable. There is also danger of insularity by developing games targeting the very people who make them. I think this confession may be the first step in more mainstream exploration of experiences outside of what are typically produced. The Innovation Award has long been ceded to “independent” developers, but the other awards never seemed similarly threatened. Hopefully Journey doesn’t end up merely an exception, but rather charts a course for other creators to make something novel that satisfies their own tastes.

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