This post is about the development of our game based on Eliezer Yudkowsky’s “The Twelve Virtues of Rationality”.
Are games art?
It’s an interesting question, but it seems that most people who answer that question in the affirmative are—intentionally or not—subscribing to the “hybrid art” view. That is, that games are art because they combine story-telling, music, and visual style; interaction with the system of the game is in service to the storyline, music, and visual style.
I don’t like that. Here is why:
“Art” in general is creative expression through a medium. The hybrid-art view treats gameplay as the icing on the narrative-musical-visual cake. When it should be that gameplay is the cake, and everything else is the icing.
Gameplay, or interaction with the system of the game, is a medium for artistic expression, just like paint is for paintings. I don’t think anyone can deny that interaction with a gun during a hostile situation reeks havoc on our emotions, or that interaction with a loved one can run the emotional gamut. Interaction is powerful.
Games can take advantage of the power of interaction to be expressive. The art of the storyline, music, and visuals ought to be secondary to the art of the gameplay.
I believe that gameplay is a very powerful way to learn, and so the single most important design principle for our current project is expression through gameplay. We want to convey the meaning of each virtue through gameplay. The player should be able examine the method by which they interact with the game to learn the meaning behind the virtue.
In our Curiosity level which is where the game starts, the player must follow a mysterious cat that appears. Very early in the level, the player is faced with a “point of no return”. If they jump down to the ground, they can’t ever go back to the starting area. They must choose to follow the cat, or stay in their “comfort zone” so to speak. They must embrace their curiosity, or ignore it. If they choose to follow the cat, they will eventually discover a much larger area full of mysteries to be solved.