Richard Perrin tweeted about an article called “Why we need to kill gameplay to make better games” written by Adrian Chmielarz on the blog for his new indie studio, The Astronauts. Chmielarz was previously the creative director of People Can Fly, so we’re not talking about someone wet behind the ears when it comes to game development.
The article noted that all the best videogame moments have nothing to do with actual gameplay, that you could take the challenge away and be left with an awesome moment. The Astronauts are clearly heading down territory marked out by the notgames crowd, especially when you check out their list of “indie games that will make you feel things”.
I’ve no problem with games that offer no challenge, but I felt it was a mistake to think there was no connection between challenge and some of our finest moments. Chmielarz recently tweeted about last month’s Electron Dance essay “A Slave Obeys” so I thought I’d engage him directly on Twitter. Here’s the conversation with a few minor corrections…
@ElectronDance: Great moments are often charged through gameplay. Sometimes taking the play out of the game will fuck the moment. Cart Life is feeling the struggle, day by day, the grind. Failure, for the right player, is powerful. My eyes did moisten.
@adrianchm: I am against ever taking interaction out of a game. But are those gameplay moments you cherish really *pure gameplay*?
@ElectronDance: I’m not going to say they’re pure gameplay, but some are hybrid even though they don’t appear so. I’m not disagreeing with your message! I recently said my best level of World of Goo was one without gameplay! But I can’t say great moments are *always* unrelated to play. Some need it (Andrew Ryan Bioshock) – some don’t (Bioshock opening)
@adrianchm: Not sure how is Andrew Ryan connected to gameplay (understood as something that needs a “challenge” element)? 🙂
@ElectronDance: The power of the Andrew Ryan showdown depends on you understanding how your gameplay actions have been manipulated.
@adrianchm: But it was Fontaine who manipulated me, not Ryan, right? My memory is hazy 🙂
@ElectronDance: Yes, you’re right! But Ryan has choice and the game highlights everything up to that point… was *not* your choice. It is far more effective with gameplay leading up to it. It thrives on the player experience to mean something.
@adrianchm: But… Food for thought: would the entire thing be less effective if I played the game in god mode?
@ElectronDance: Personally? Yes. I know challenged play tends to invest me more. I find the Ryan bit far more memorable than the Rapture intro. I am averse to using trainer/cheats to making games easier. Maybe my personal psychology… but I wouldn’t think I’m unique.
This is all thought experiment opinion-type stuff and I’m not sure we have solid evidence going one way or the other. Is challenge always superfluous to single-player moments that elicit emotion?