Game Development Journal XXXI: Understanding Video Games

I was lucky to receive a course release this semester to work on a couple of things including the final revisions on my book and a new digital project that I’m calling Understanding Video Games.

I’m modeling this project on a text that changed my life as an undergraduate: Scott McCloud’s Understanding ComicsThis book opened two huge doors for me.  First, it helped me to realize that the kind of in-depth, thoughtful criticism I thought was reserved for the Great Works of the Canon could also be trained upon works of popular culture.  If you have spent any time reading this blog at all, you know that this was absolutely HUGE for me.

Second, it showed me that scholarship could take lots of different forms besides lectures, books, and journal articles.  You see, Understanding Comics is both a critical work on the defining features of comics as a medium and an example of the medium it criticizes.


My new project aims to do the same kind of work.  I want to make a work of criticism that both explores the limits of what it might mean to be a video game and that actually IS a video game.

Originally, I intended for Understanding Video Games to be an adventure game a la Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island and I was going to make it using a new-to-me piece of software called Adventure Game Studio.  However, as I read through the instruction manual for AGS, I realized that RPG Maker, a system I was already familiar with from a previous game project, could do all of the same things that it could and more.  So I decided to stick with that system.

Over the course of Understanding Video Games, players will try out many different genres in order to test the boundaries of what exactly can be considered “game play.”  For example, players will try their hand at this simple stealth/sneaking game reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid.


Later they complete tasks in a traditional role playing game universe that looks like it could be an entry in the Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest series.



And to access these games, players will have to solve puzzles set in the “real world.”  For example, to access a secret arcade, you will have to input the Konami code into a panel hidden behind a painting.

I will continue to share snippets of the game as it develops.  I am definitely trying some new tricks with this project!  I hope it all works out!

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