Getting Lost in the Haze

There’s this KickStarter link that I saw on Twitter … or Google+, I can’t remember which one. And it came up again on one of my co-worker’s monitors earlier today. This KickStarter got me thinking a little bit. Ignoring the whole “girl power” aspect. I don’t get “girl power” when it is applied to intellectual fields. I don’t see how gender is a hindrance to the use of your brain, but whatever.

Back to the point. There’s a couple things that this KickStarter made me think about. First is that it’s cool to get kids into game development. Before you start declaring heresy on me, hear me out. If the end goal of all this was to become a programmer, I probably wouldn’t be so fluffy and nice about it. Using RPG Maker is definitely not going to be very helpful in going down the programming path. However, I don’t see any problem if your goal is to be a designer. Designers use tools like this all the time, whether it’s Unity, Unreal Engine, Unigine, or tools for an engine that you rolled out in-house. The real issue is whether they continue to improve themselves afterwards, instead of just being a one time thing. If RPG Maker is capable of making a gaming experience and is accessible enough for a child to use it, that’s all good things. Similar to how drawing has a low barrier of entry. Pencil and paper and you’re good to go! I find no wrong in having a low barrier of entry platform for children to make games on. It may not be fully featured and do all the fancy stuff we tech heads like to ogle at, but for a kid, it’s good enough. Most definitely the first game they make isn’t going to be very good, but that’s not the point. What if there’s a second? Or a third? And they progressively get better? And if the tool is easy enough to use (like drawing) that kids can just get into and have fun, then I’m fine with that. There’s a lot of value to be said about having fun. If I have fun doing something, I’m way more likely to go back and try it again. Human being are creatures of repetition, children even more so. How many times have you seen a child watch the same movie or favorite episode of their favorite TV show over and over and over and over and over again? I believe that if we make tools that enable kids to make games AND have fun at the same time, we’ll have a winning combination for the prospective designers for the next generation of developers.

All of the above thoughts also got me thinking about how, as developers, sometimes we can lose sight of the goal. I know I sometimes get caught up in the tech and think things like, “Alright, gotta get that animation blending system in and it’s gonna be awesome!” I’m sure other developers get caught up like that too. We get caught up in all the new flashy things that we forget about just making a good game. I’m a firm believer in limitations bringing out creativity. I mean, come on, just look at the Super Nintendo era of games. By today’s standards, that machine is a piece of junk, yet it still captured our imaginations as kids (or teenager if you’re a bit older). I sometimes wonder if we’d create games with better narrative and gameplay if we applied more technological restrictions to ourselves (you know, less time building shiny tech that doesn’t necessarily contribute to gameplay or experience). Somewhere deep down, I want the 8-/16-bit era to make a comback with projects like the Uzebox, but that’s realistically never going to happen.

Anyhow, this post is kind of random and my thoughts are kind of jumbled up, but I think somewhere in there there’s some coherency that makes sense. Until next time!

EDIT: Haha, wow, that KickStarter certainly turned into something else. Regardless, that has no impact on the points I was making.