Grey hair is under-appreciated in game dev discussion, so I super-loved Rand Miller’s wise responses to questions about success and suffering. He talks about what it meant for Myst to be the “most successful PC game of the 90s.” Talking to Michael Staniszwski about Bound was one of the most illuminating chats I’ve had. Start there if you like charming Polish accents, game philosophy, and want to understand the tension between demoscene “games” and traditional games. Parenting while in game development is something we’re all wrestling with more and more. So I can’t heartily-enough recommend Amy and Ryan Green’s interview, where we talk about life/crunch balance and their game, That Dragon, Cancer.
Most of those are Gamechurch podcasts that I did with my co-host Drew Dixon. Others were with Thomas Henshell (Archmage Rises). In addition, Drew and I interviewed experts like Kert Gartner (a fellow trailer producer) and Science Mike (a science & religion guy). Drew and I also hosted a few more discussions on themes like grace in games,PAX West, and what games Jesus loves (a tongue-in-cheek discussion).
I look forward to continuing these kinds of interviews in 2017 — and can’t wait to share our most recent interview with Thumper designer/programmer, Marc Flury.
You want to hear from experts whenever you listen to podcasts. And while most of my expertise is in trailer production, I’m also a huge fan of processing the nature of play with different communities — including faith communities. Video games handle grace in powerful ways, and you’ll probably agree that video game discernment is broken, but the question is whether or not you’re up for some hour-long conversations on those subjects from some experts (myself included)? If you haven’t closed this tab by now, you’re clearly in the right place.
Grace in Games
We wrangled Gamechurch writers together to explore games that handle Grace with, er, um, grace:
We love playing Heavy Metal Messiah in DOOM, but why? I rip and tear into that question in this article. A snippet:
DOOM gives you messianic rights; it tells you you’re the chosen one—and gives you all the guns you need to rid the world of sin—one Glory Kill at a time. DOOM overwhelms the senses with satanic imagery and the most Ultra-Violent challenge anybody could ask for, yet ultimately DOOM is still too easy—too doable to express the unnerving tensions of the true messianic self-sacrifice that we’re invited to. And that’s why we love DOOM so much: it makes messiahship easy.
DOOM’s Fight Like Hell cinematic trailer does something rare: it inserts us into the game’s brainspace without showing any gameplay. The only on-screen verbs are reproducible in-game. Notice the shots of the Doom Marine’s armor. Those shots tell us the most important thing about the game’s story: your demonic clashes are the story. Your actions matter. DOOM’s first-person gameplay showcases this, but this trailer shows us what the player looks like.
Keep this in the back of your mind when you think about your game’s trailer: how do we show the player? How do we show that their actions are the story?
I feel like a Vegan at a sausage fest when I play Stephen’s Sausage Roll. Being out of place isn’t unfamiliar. I’ve worked at a tech company surrounded by MIT and Harvard grads when I’ve barely got through a local art school, but Stephen’s Sausage Roll questions my intellect at every juncture. I hammer my brain against its near-impossible puzzles, making almost no progress at all. It feels like a showdown against my old nemesis: Impostor Syndrome. He shouts me down at every step of the game, “You don’t belong here, dumbass!” That nasty old Impostor Syndrome isn’t going down without a fight, but I think I’m finally ready to give that old coot a swift kick to the sausage.
Fifteen minutes later, I’m ready to say uncle—again.
This trailer didn’t invite me into the tensions of the play experience. While the length, tone, and single-shot stylings are admirable, you can’t gain a sense of the player’s motivation or the core verb set. While it was wise to keep the lid on those puzzle-breakthroughs, I’m afraid that this trailer only serves as an additional gate to those on the fence of spending the $30 premium asking price. A different framing device could have showcased the smart tactical grilling required to ensure an even four-part sausage cook; and thus, helped would-be players over that final purchase decision hurdle.
The best and most-powerful game trailers toss us through a ringer of ups and downs. That rapid-fire assault of emotional intensity is what grabs us. It’s what makes us say, “I want that.” The thing is, most game trailers forget the player’s emotions.
Being careful doesn’t sell a game. Taking risks does. Fierce space-action [in the trailer] sold me on Galak-Z even though it wasn’t accurate to my experience with the game… You’d rather see what happens when the crap hits the fan. Fan-crap-spray sells games.
Since starting to make indie game trailers, I’ve learned that the best ones make you want to play regardless of whether or not the game is fun. Not only do these trailers do this by captivating our longings and our fears, but all of them do this exceptionally well.