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Archive for the ‘Passion’ Category

Final Fantasy IV
One game, many playstyles. I want to give players the power to express themselves in pursuit of their goals, to do what they want, when they want, and to empower them to create beautiful and original experiences in the process.

I’m a nut for beauty in myriad forms. My entire life is devoted to creating it, whether it’s beautiful music, beautiful emotions, beautiful pictures, even a beautiful life. It’s not just visuals, but the aesthetics of absolutely everything.

Most games are showcases of the efforts of people making beautiful things. Designers teach each other about how to make rewarding feedback loops and plan difficulty curves, level layouts, cutscenes. They make games that give you tasks and challenge you to learn skills that will let you accomplish them, or provide puzzles and challenge you to tease out a solution. These games create beautiful experiences, and give you chance to immerse yourself in them. They take your ticket, hold your hand, and take you on a guided tour of the museum of amazing gameplay.

It would be easy for me to get carried away by the current, and design games like that. I tell myself (tut tut, I say) that not everyone loves making things as much as I do, and games that lead people along by the nose are the most mass-market games, the way games have to be. Secretly, when I find the need to tell myself these things, I know it’s because I’m suppressing my passion with false pragmatism. Then someone makes The Sims, Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft, Little Big Planet. BAM. It’s not about difficulty curves anymore. It’s not about cutscenes. It’s not about story, or building a flow channel. It’s about you, the player, doing whatever you want to do, when you want to do it. The world salivates over freedom, and I keep living as a dreamer in denial.

Everyone loves making, customizing, living on their own terms. We play with legos, dolls, action figures. We draw cartoons, write rap lyrics, photograph architecture. We raise children, record videos, tell jokes, plant gardens, dance, sing, pick out clothing, cook food, cheer others up, laugh at jokes, fall in love, build sand castles, play Will Wright games, and in endless other ways, love to make wonderful things, wonderful moments, wonderful relationships, wonderful life. Even when we watch television, we’re appreciating the output of thousands of other creative people, and then we get up and do something amazing of our own.

I’ve devoted my life to creating beauty, and I don’t want to stop with what I can create with my own pen. I don’t just want to make levels, I want to make algorithms that can generate thousands of beautiful levels in the space of a single breath. I don’t just want to create games, I want to create games that empower you to do beautiful things and create beautiful experiences for yourself. I want to empower you to do things I never imagined and have a wonderful time doing it. I don’t want to show off what I did. I want to let you play.

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Childhood Passion

Final Fantasy Tactics

As a kid, I used to read about games only because I wasn’t playing them. My love for games was desperate — my gut would ache, I would feel heat in my stomach, shortness of breath in my longing for other worlds, escapism, power, love, and wonder. When I encountered great gameplay, I basked in it. I loved games so much that it hurt my ability to function in the real world.

One time I took screenshots of Final Fantasy Tactics, at that time released only in Japan, and used the photoshop clone tool to edit out all the Japanese text, replacing it with my own. I visualized what the scenes were about, what the menu options were, how the characters moved across the screen. I wished I could manipulate the placement of characters as well, but the clone tool wouldn’t replace background art. I spent hours crafting and polishing something that nobody would see, just the product of my pining for something that didn’t even exist.

I never look forward to games that way anymore. There’s far greater happiness in my contentment, but there’s a spark I’ve missed. I’ve lost something. Now I read about games because I’m studying my craft. It’s a different kind of passion. It’s like saying I’m passionate about mathematics. I don’t stay up late at night, forgetting to breathe. When I encounter good gameplay, my brain doesn’t explode in joy. The gears turn and I analyze it.

Sometimes I want to experience that wide-eyed childhood passion, and stop thinking so hard about games. Sometimes I want to immerse myself in other worlds and other ways of thinking, to learn new things I’ve never learned before, and be continually amazed. Sometimes I want to lose sleep in anticipation of christmas and birthday presents, and be heartbroken by the difficulty of following social graces instead of rushing to a computer or console to play.

If you make games, and have loved them the way I have, channel some of that raw childhood passion into making the kind of games that would take your inner child’s breath away. It’s not enough to have smart design, precise balance, and clever execution — lose sleep with love of the thing you’re doing. Do the first thing that comes to mind, fly, and at least for a time, let yourself break free of second-guessing, sanity checks, and doubt.

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