The last light has gone. The stars are coming out in the black sea above. Many are hidden by ice-fingered winds. My father is still not returned and the fire is almost gone.
But this is how life is: always an edge. A thin sheet on a diving-deep pool.
I hope he will return soon. I cannot summon him.
Merry Christmas, and if you’ve just unwrapped a new game, here’s a sobering puppy-for-life type statistic which is urban legend in the games industry, and might even be true: the majority of console games are played once.
So what? you might think. Most books are read once, most DVDs are watched once, most Christmas cakes eaten once… But I don’t mean finished, I mean played. The majority of console games are opened, installed, booted up, played for a single session (possibly of several hours), then never booted up again. Even though games can afford tens of hours of entertainment; and even though games cost four times as much as books or films.
And that isn’t true of books, or DVDs, or Christmas cake. So why the difference? Is it just because people can get stuck on games?
I don’t think so. I think it’s deeper than that. In fact, I’m not sure there is a difference between the consumption pattern for a DVD, book or a game. I think instead that the difference is in what we mean by the word finished. (And, what is inkle going to do about it?)
I’ve been busting my way through a holiday text adventure, the way one does. A couple of days off is the perfect time to get 80% of a game down, ready to be shelved, redrafted, tweaked, and polished until it no longer seems like such a good idea.
I had the puzzle structure worked out before I coded a single word. I’m now 80% of the way through, but then I got distracted, adding hyperlinks.
I just turned off the actual text prompt thing. It seemed so… retro. There are just these buttons now. It feels kinda okay.
Time to announce my new project:
Our first project, Frankenstein, is being published in association with award-winning London-based publiser Profile Books; and is being written by Dave Morris (author of Mirabilis) and Jamie Thomson, super-talented writers with a long history of gamebook work.
It’s a really good piece of work and shows real potential for making text games accessible: teaching the syntax while letting people get on with the game. But it also highlights one of the text games major problems – there’s way too much choice.
I’ll be talking the Futurebook conference in London on the 5th of December as part of a panel on the topic of gamification, alongside Anna Rafferty, MD of Penguin Digital and Jess Brallier of Pearson US.
It’s been hard for me to pin down exactly what I want to say. The normal rules for talking about game design don’t really apply – the audience will be publishers, editors and writers, and I think a standard design talk about risk/reward and challenge/learning might send people to sleep.