Which “purity” of design? The ideology behind the quest for the “Perfect Game”

An intro and a brief summary on the “Debate”

When one dedicates himself to the analysis of videogames (or, for that matter, to any academic discipline with a large deep enough background), it is usual to stumble sooner or later with the Big Debate. During its development, it was a relatively minor event that only affected its most enthusiast participants, but as it grew and broadened towards non-specialized discourse spaces, it has managed to become one of the medium’s most notable points of tension. The debate, of course, was the one related to find a specific answer on the nature of videogames: what are their most prominent elements? Which qualities make them distinct from other types of media, and most importantly, which are the ones that make the medium special and unique? The attempt to answer this question was the match that ignited many questions that today seem ahead of their time, considering how many of them have slipped to common parlance (for better or worse). Today, despite the fact that many of its original proponents have moved on and begun to focus on their own areas of expertise, a quite impressive body of work around the subject can still be accessed and explored.

Articles like those by Gonzalo Frasca, Markku Eskelinen or James Newman are quite reflective of this particular period of Game Studies, and recent debates bring it back again from time to time. Its persistence can be confusing now, since now newer and more malleable approaches to the nature of videogames are being proposed all the time, to the point that now it seems disingenous to claim for such an absolutist take on the myriad forms that gaming has developed over the years. And yet, some elements of the debate are still somewhat important to consider, since their perspectives have arisen some problematic concerns about we should view videogames.

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Code Hero (Alex Peake, 2011)

On one hand, it is quite obvious that videogames as a whole are an offspring or possible outcome of computer software. This factor already makes their creative process quite unique, since while it is true that other media uses software for its own benefit, videogames depend on coding and computers to exist. As much as their output is visualized through pretty traditional means (screen, speakers etc…), their inner workings have depended on Object Oriented Programming practically since their inception. In a sense, this dependency has made videogames look closer to similar electronic items that have depended on self-processed operations to run effectively, like pinball or slot machines, and in that regard it can be quite obvious given the long-fruitful relationship between amusement centers and digital games. At the same time, however, digital games are also an integral component in the history of computers as a whole. Ever since the ENIAC presented itself to the British public by inviting it to play Chess, programmers and engineers have championed the idea that advances and improvements on information technology can be pushed through games design. Both in the case of amusement centers and personal computers, videogames have proven to be very useful tools to guarantee the existence and usefulness of those fields over the years (at least in the mass market). The most obvious consequence of this way of thinking gets represented on the somewhat common notion that videogames are, more than anything else, products that exist to be consumed and discarded for the next iteration. A quick look at the industry will more than demonstrate that this approach to the medium is firmly entrenched in the corporativist landscape of today’s industry.

On the other hand, there’s been numerous attemtps to broaden this deterministic approach to videogames, in both the entusiast press and the academy. In the case of many scholars discussed above, there has been a repeated claim to associate the newer medium of digital gaming with the more traditional field of traditional games, especially with board or card games. Experts argued this by claiming that, as all forms of play and gaming share similar qualities between themselves, it is only logical to assume that videogames should be defined by those shared traits. This approach also also helped these researchers to see themselves as a continuation of the researching process that philosophers like Johan Huizinga and Wittegenstein had begun at the first half of the 20th century. The results of this work are visible to this day, as the impressive amount of articles that suscribe to this ideology are quite abundant. And after all, why wouldn’t it be? The story of the medium is saturated with evidence that points towards that connection. Designers have attempted to simulate board games since the beginning, sport games are one of the most successful genres in the world, and the entire RPG genre, with its myriad of permutations and variations, started off as a simulation of tabletop games. If we consider this carefully, the only videgames that weren’t completely derived from already existing forms of gaming are interactive fiction, graphic adventures and some particular action games that depend on software. Even in those cases though, it wasn’t strange to see an arcade that directly took inspiration from an existing sport to represent its own rules.

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Battle Chess 4000 (Interplay, 1992)

Given all this evidence towards that connection, it becomes clear why for so many years researchers have spent their lives trying to establish a unified theory that may link both fields once and for all. On the other hand, newer trends in both academic and vernacular circles are showing something of a U-turn in that regard. As some trends get standardized, it becomes evident that our notion of what videogames is expanding exponentially. Granted, some of these new proposals are still receiving some backlash today (especially in certain circles of the consumer audience that is better not to deal with), but if recent trends in both indie and AAA companies are showing anything is that, for the first time in quite a while, videogames have started to be considered not just in their  mechanical or  balancing beauty, but through many more facets. What’s even better, this hasn’t led to an exacerbation of the already too big inferiority complex that the medium faces. In terms of game design, these new venues have allowed for the exploration of smaller, minimalistic and more passive engagements, such as those used in games like ProteusGlitchhikers or Timeframe. Not since the early days of 3D rendering, when the act of representing those worlds was in on itself rewarding for the users, or since the weird experimentation with FMV has there been so much renewed interest on how to engage games in other ways than those purely depended on mechanics or gratifying feedback. Not that this necessarily implies that finely tuned games are going to disappear anytime soon (as some of the already mentioned consumer circles seem to be so worried about), but at the very least, it means that our media landscape is only getting more interesting each by each year.

As it should be, academia has heavily reflected on these changes, and many scholars are wondering that, if it’s true that videogames can rely on something more than mechanics to be engaging, then how is it that “gameplay” has been so championed as the primary drive of their appeal. As of now, two mutually inclusive paths seem to be developing at the field: first, some historical framework is being unraveled to analyze when and how did videogames began to be appreciated only by their input schemes; at the same time, newer takes on the phenomenology and the models of haptic interaction of the medium are attempting to prove that videogames aren’t necesarily defined exclusively by tactile inmersion. Cyborg theory and similar models of haptic theory are being deployed today to widen the scope of game studies, and while it might still be too soon to talk about its outcomes, it is an interesting predicament that we’re on right now.

The question about “purity”

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New Super Mario Bros Coin Adventure Board Game (Epoch, 2006)

With all that been said, there are still many elements from the now “classical” framework of game studies that resist falling into irrelevance today. Like I said before, one of the main claims that Aarseth and Eskelinen had at the time of their writing was that videogames should be recognized as an extension, or rather a newer form, of a much more extensive tradition of playful activities. By pointing out the main elements that characterized those older types of gaming (or, at the very least, as they were seen by Huizinga, Caillois or Sutton-Smith), Ludology came to the conclusion that videogames had to be differentiated from other, more passive forms of media if they were to ever fully reach their potential. By filling those with so much “useless” content (like the much maligned cutscenes), companies were just focusing on the wrong aspects of game design. A claim for a certain brand of “purity” of game design eventually began to take shape, and in ways that, as people like Chris Franklin have pointed out, seems pretty coincidental with the way that the industry was heading. Nevertheless, it was a claim openly asked where games were supposed to go. To put it in other way, it revealed an ideological and prescrptive conception around the role of play and games in society that was much broader than just videogames. Ever since Huizinga made his classical distinction between “serious” and playful activities, a movement for the dignification of the act of playing has been fostering around these ideologues, and some of them (especially Eric Zimmerman and Heather Chaplin) have been very vocal about the idea that play needs to be enthroned and championed for the new century. According to them, information and everyday life is becoming more and more “ludic” as times goes by (a claim itself that doesn’t fall too far away from what many post-modernist philosophers like Lyotard and Baudrillard had been saying decades ago), and with that “gamification” of society, a need to recognize the beauty and potential of playful activities needs to be put in front to properly understand how society will develop in the new century. This manifesto (and similar others) is both disruptive and assertive: it puts into question the way that we have traditionally envisioned media, information and even the way we perceive our daily existence, and furthermore, it calls for the need to recognize and structure the way that play and games can influence our very conceptualization of those same ideas. More immediately, it is a pretty obvious call to arms to recognize what games we should be campaigning for.

That part of the manifesto, however, is a lot more difficult to aspire to, not the least because play can be applied to so many things that even Sutton-Smith’s mammoth taxonomy recognizes to fall short to account for every single iteration of it. Arguably, it has been a lot easier to sketch a theoretical framework around which types of game design should be put above others, but if anything, those judgements are starting to fall short today, what with all the new shapings that the medium is experimenting with. Despite all of this, one question that remains is whether some forms of game design are “purer” than others. If one stays aroud enthusiast press for too long (be it Youtube, Polygon or what have you), it won’t take long to come across some article or video about “the perfect videogame” or about how certain design conventions could be considered “universal” or not. Sometimes, they are interesting musings that may say more about consumer preferences than anything else. Other times, they reveal a growing anxiety for the future of the medium as a whole. As such, entire channels are devoted to find samples of these “examples of good design” and, sometimes, trying to extrapolate them to every videogame. I won’t discuss the validity of their claims (since it is quite obvious that their analysis and theories are quite popular among certain audiences), but it’s interesting to note just how widespread these worries have become.

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Deus Ex‘s famous example of “climbing mines” (Ion Storm, 2000) is pionered as one of the earliest examples of “pure” game design

Earlier examples of this preoccupation with “pure” game design abound, with Jesper Juul’s take on “emergent” game systems being one of the most noteworthy to this date. Eskelinen and Aarseth’s own statements can also be seen as cases of this look for purity. In the latter case, Aarseth puts in front one of my favorite examples, Chess, as an example of how a balanced system and refined rules are all games really need to be legitimite forms of “perfect” design. Since Chess and similar board games, he argues, are so focused on conveying the norms and proceedings of the game to players, and every piece of it is designed to highlight those rules, it becomes a stellar example on how to create a compelling system that doesn’t require any “fluff” or “hook” other than the appeal of the rules themselves. While many of them originated inside a particular cultural framework, their adaptability and ubiquity are taken as seminal examples on how games don’t really need to be studied inside a cultural framework to properly appreciate them. Of course, such an essentialist view of play and games has been mostly discarded by the academia, but when you start to count the number of critics and journalist that write how X game is perfect because of its minimalism or its clarity of desig, then you will notice that this is an argument that has many adepts among both consumers and designers (not surprisingly, Tetris seems to be a favorite among these pundits).

If we were tu summarize in a few words the ideological approach of these “purists,” it would probably look a little bit like this: since games as a whole (not just digital games, but all forms) are self-contained systems that can be studied in isolation, it stands to logic that we should look for those universal elements that may help us understand and define what games really are, as essential objects. Only through this lense will the promise of a truly “Ludic Century” will be fulfilled, since only then we’ll be able to apply the virtues of game design to improve our lives. Admitedly, it is a daunting and tantalizing proposition, and more than anything else, it’s kinda intoxicating in its romanticism and enthusiasm, which is a good reason to explain why so many people are enthralled by it.

However, there are, and in my opinion, should be other ways to understand games, ones that could took more into account their intersection with culture and is less worried about absolutisms. And fortunately, there has been a lot, and unlike what some people may think, it’s a lot older than some may think. Today, I want to show you the case of Chainmail, one of the very first products designed by Gary Gygax (the man behind Dungeons & Dragons) and also the progenitor of the whole tabletop RPG genre.

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Chainmail (Guidon Games, 1971)

Chainmail was one of the many products that were released during the heyday of wargaming in the U.S., a hobbyist industry that never went too big but clearly became an inspiration for many other industries. At the time of its publishing, Chainmail was pionereed as a much required need in the hobby to properly systematize how medieval battles should be simulated on a board. However, what’s interesting to me is Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren’s very first paragraph:

“games based on warfare have interested men for centuries, as such games as checkers and chess prove. the latter games are nohing less than the warfare of the period in which they were developed, abstracted and stylized for play on a board. Chess is so abstracted that it is barely recognizable as a wargame. At the other end of the spectrum, and of much more modern invention, are military miniatures. By use of figures scaled down to an inch or two in size the player more realistically simulate warfare and are not tied to a stylized board…”

The observations and assumptions made here are, in my opinion, more radical and relevant now than they were at the time, because they explicitly present a completely opposed ideological mindset than the one proposed by Aarseth and others. In two and a half sentences, Gygax and Perren present a view of gaming as a filed to simulate and reproduce an existing cultural element. It is a view, therefore, that clearly situates games as a subset of culture, not as elements separated from it. To these designers, Chess and Checkers are less interesting precisely because of their “universality,” because they pretend to be nothing more than balanced systems. And, in a way, they also put into question the supposed “universality” of those systems, since after all, they cannot escape from the fact that they are a stylized form of medieval warfare. At this point, it can be perfectly argued that, just as some cultural practices become disengaged of their original locus and are transplanted to other frameworks, so has Chess, and wathever it was meant to be at its inception, these board games have managed to become their own thing after surviving for so many years in one form or another. Only that, if we were to argue that position, we could easily counterclaim that by saying that, just as some sports carry different meanings for different cultures, and sometimes they adapt themselves to fit those meanings, so have had these board games. And if that so, then where is that supposedly “universal” game that Ludologist claim exists? Where is that system that can be elevated to the point of disengaging it from any culture, even the one that saw its birth? Where is that supposed “purity” that so many consumers and writers evangelize for in their media? At this point, we should being to ask ourselves whether that “purity” is not actually a reflection of any “ideal” form of play, but rather what we consider to be “ideal” play in our culture.

Taking it back to the relationship between videogames and software, we should question if some of the most shining example of “pure” game design (like TetrisDeus Ex and countless variations of Battle Chess) are just nothing more than representatives of a certain mindset about player emergency or replayability. The exploration and sense of wonder that comes from playing something like Myst or the more recent Elegy for a Dead World might respond to some concerns about how software can be exploited to generate the illusion of a real world inside the computer; on the other hand, Tetris and similar puzzle games can be portrayed as example of how computing processes and problem solving can make way to a certain aesthetic on the capacity to focus on a single activity; and games like Deus Ex and similar products can be taken as examples of a certain philosophy around player empowerment that is first and foremost concerned with giving users a sense of control and agency over the objects of the screen. This is not a radical or novel approach to videogames or play in general (Richard Bartle’s player taxonomy stands out, of course, but even Caillois’ categorization of ludic activities could be taken as a very early example of this), but it seems to be relevant to videogames today. As the medium expands and matures, questions about where it might be going are natural to arise. More problematic, of course, are those who not only try to provide some answers to these concerns, but then try to enforce them on every conversation around games. When Chainmail came out the first time, the wargaming scene saw an increase and split of its community between those that wanted to keep on playing and improving upon the old simulated battles and between those that wanted the new possibilities that tabletop RPGs seemed to offer. Nowadays, both industries are clearly differentiated, but they’re still very close to each other and, from time to time, they mutually influence one another. The crossing over of companies, hobbyists and distribution processes helps explain this intimate relationship, but the historical framework also needs to be considered if we ever want to make sense of why these bonds have been kept for so long.

It might be too soon to predict wether videogames are going to face a similar split between the ones that we played in our childhood and the ones that are being explored today. It might be that GeekNight’s predicted separation of the medium between “orthogames” and “ideogames” will become a reality at some point in the future. That doesn’t mean, of course, that these two venues of game design will stop influencing one another. To wish for such a thing in an industry that is still, despite the money and the sales, so comparatively small and localized, is basically foolish. And it would be a shame, since I honestly believe that these mixes and problematizations and insecurities are giving snob people like me plenty of things to talk about. And, if researches like the one made by Keogh seem to indicate something (or Henry Jenkin’s prediction on the convergence of media, for that matter), is that videogames are not going to remain isolated anymore, and that instead of isolating themselves into ever-smaller units, they’re going to become more and more related to other forms of “passive” media. As the old prejudices around the apparent inferiority of “moving images” or the inherent uniqueness of videogames begin to fall apart, writings like Zimmerman’s manifesto are only looking more dated by the moment. It might be true that, in one way or another, videogames will exert an enormous influence on the way we consume media and live life (if they’re not doing it already), but it probably won’t be at the expense of other media, and more to the point, it won’t be without them letting to be “infected” by the “unpure” elements of other cultural artifacts. If the case of Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons can teach us something, is that maybe we need to let the videogames to be “culturalized” and pinned down to specifities, and stop worrying so much about “What Games Are.”

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Devil May Cry and the subversion of Survival Horror tropes

There are many questions that surround the medium of video games at all times that tend to summarize into several trends and fads around game design. It is normal, from the perspective of a developer, to experiment with new venues if the audience is eager to look for new content than the one that has already been refined and presented over and over. Usually, these demands can be summed up into buzzwords or general questions that attempt to encompass as much of these complex dynamics between creators, participants and the medium. One in particular that has always been particular is whether can make us cry. It is a question that has been repeated over and over and serves as a shorthand for the now old yearning of games to “grow up” and be able to sustain more complex, more “serious” content that could be treated with the same dignity and respect as in other media. Not too coincidentally, this is a grievance that tends to be used whenever comparisons between films and games are made. As a good example of this, Russell’s account of the relationship between several companies and developers and cinema companies explicitly puts forward this question as early as 1998, when the first Medal of Honor was conceived.

With so much attention dedicated to this area of game design, there are several others that either aren’t being as sought after today or seem to have a pretty stable consensus. One of these areas could be summed up with the question “Can a game make you laugh?,” and as of today, it seems pretty self-evident that the answer to this question is “yes,” or more specifically “it can if certain requirements are met.” One of them, of course, is whether the game itself is presenting itself as a comedic product. When the narrative elements, the semiotics and the dialog is written in a way that calls out several tropes and references that people identify as comical. Using non sequitur dialog and bizarre juxtaposition is one that is particularly popular, possibly because it proved to be exceptionally effective in earlier graphic adventures.

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Another way to introduce comedy in a video game comes from the gameplay. In a way, player expression by way of mechanics is pretty much a guarantee for comedic situations, and if the massive popularity of the Let’s Play format shows us anything, is that the only thing needed for that is a charismatic host and a willing audience. Any game that allows for room of this format is prone to making people laugh, and even games that aren’t purposefully built to be funny can be taken as such. On the other hand, this generalization might seem a little too broad to be able to distinguish specific cases where some mechanics can prove funny. After all, it would be unreasonable to consider every gameplay aspect in the same terms, especially when some of them aren’t as suited for comedy as others. It could also be argued that not all game genres provide comedy in the same way, so the way that a strategy  game provide for stereotypically “funny” situations makes use of different tools and techniques than a first person shooter.

These are questions that could be explored in much more detail than what I’m doing here, and there are several people who have already talked about it. From informal lists to several articles and essays, to even some conferences, there is quite a lot of information about the topic that is highly informative and enlightening. Certain authors have attempted to explore specific games through certain lenses that may be tangentially related to comedic juxtaposition, like Brian Crimmins’ absurdist take on Metal Gear Solid 2. Parody video games are also one a particular form of game that has been recognized over the years, even though it tends to refer more to semiotic aspects rather than mechanic aspects. When a game copies another system’s mechanics and tries to present itself as a caricature of the first, it is difficult to ascertain their validity if it they don’t directly refer to it. Saints Row, for example, has an identity of its own in terms of brand recognition, but it has also been compared to Grand Theft Auto either as a competitor or a parody of it and sandbox games in general. Saints Row‘s progressively more outrageous content has been exposed as a sign of the developers mimicking all the elements presented in the genre that GTA started, and exaggerating them to a point that it becomes a deliberate parody of the genre as a whole.

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If Saints Row proves that video games can become, through both semiotic and ludic means, effective parodies of higher trends, then we could also ask ourselves how they could become effective satires. In recent years, satire has become kind of a tainted word due to its misuse on the part of several consumers who try to use it as a deflection of criticism to controversial content. This, of course, extends not just to famous games like Grand Theft Autor V, but even to some particularly disgusting cases that show just how unnervingly common this misappropriation of the word has become. With such sinister cases (and similar others), it is easy to understand that the meaning of the word “satire” has been lost somewhat, or at the very least, has been misused to the point that is more difficult to apply it now.

A quick search into the story of satire shows that, more than a form of comedy, satire can be understood as a framing device around which comedy can be used for a specific purpose. In satire, this purpose is usually “social criticism,” meaning that, by using comedic techniques, humor can be used to critique someone’s ideology or to showcase cases of social injustice that would be otherwise be difficult to point out. Satire is a useful tool in democratic countries because of how effective it can be to generate concerns about relevant topics into public discourse. Modern satire is being well represented in TV and cinema today, with movies like Thank you for Smoking and noteworthy talents like Stephen Colbert and Sabina Guzzanti being able to introduce poignant topics into public forums. Video games have also dwelt into satire from time to time, even though it could be argued that their impact hasn’t been as intense as in other media. No More Heroes is a notorious case of a video game being labeled as “satire” by some critics, despite the fact that its actual effectiveness when trying to introduce topics into video game debates is sketchy at best. A similar case can be argued for Spec Ops: The Line, who, despite not being considered a satire for its somber and humorless tone, was nevertheless successful to generate an intensive conversation about the nature of the FPS genre  (incidentally, thank you very much Critical Distance for your amazing compilations, they really help to stay up to date). Both cases can be contrasted to show just how difficult it can be to generate a game that can be humorous and introspective at the same time. As indicated above, player expression can reduce any meaningful message that may be transmitted within the game’s story to nothing but a series of jokes, and if a game is prone to provide this kind of mood from the start, then how effective it can really be? Shouldn’t it be better to establish a serious tone from the beginning so that players may not be distracted by the core mechanics or something?

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There is, however, a notorious case that I wanted to bring about with this article, and that would be the very first Devil May Cry game. As a franchise, Devil May Cry has always been recognized for its irreverent and campy approach to storytelling, and as a game, the Capcom property is revered across the press as one of the progenitors of the modern “Extreme Combat” games (named like this by Chris Bateman in his 21st Century Game Design) while at the same time being able to launch Shinji Mikami’s career into new heights and basically starting Hideki Kamiya’s career. On the other hand, it is interesting to notice just how tame some opinions on the first game seem to be (Jim Sterling sums this up perfectly by calling it a “weird classic“). Most of this comes from the obvious fact that the first Devil May Cry was a jumping point between the series’ original vision as a spin-off of Resident Evil and its eventual maturation into its own genre. In terms of gameplay, this means that the game plays like a strange mix of Code Veronica and later Devil May Crys, with tank controls sitting alongside “spectacle fighter” mechanics that try to make the player feel powerful about himself (and about being Dante). The same apparent disconnect can be found in the play world’s environment: the action happens inside an ominous castle with sinister creatures and threatening music playing all the time, and there are moments where it gets so dark that certain rooms can actually become pretty claustrophobic at times. At the same time, however, Dante’s characterization and overall presentation makes a huge effort to convey a sense of empowerment and “bad-assery,” and the game’s goals and motivators are designed to strengthen those same points all the time, with some notorious innovations like combat focus on “stylish” combat and its insistence on rewarding the player’s performance during those. In a way, it could be argued that the menacing visuals and the foreboding atmosphere are supposed to make the player feel good by confronting them with Dante’s abilities, but if later installments show anything is that this approach has only toned down with each new iteration. This means that, as time passes, the first game is only looking more and more dissonant.

Lastly, there’s no denying that the game’s story is nothing but pure camp. If the title screen doesn’t sell the premise already, every little cutscene and aspect related to the characters is framed in a way that is clearly meant to be as little serious as possible. But meanwhile, the topics and emotions that these cutscenes convey are also compelling in some way, if the popularity of Trish and Nero tells us anything. At the very least, they became popular enough to generate a ridiculous and disturbing backlash when Capcom decided to reboot the whole thing. Extremists tantrums aside, it is true that the story is attractive in the same way that larger than life plots and characters can be in classical plays or genre fiction. Dante, Trish, Angelo and Sparda aren’t much nuanced per se, but they could be seen as archetypes of larger threads and concepts that players can get immersed into. In a way, they are easier to swallow inside a ludic space and are much less distracting for the gameplay, which has always been the main focus of the franchise after all.

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So, with all of this said, how can we properly define Devil May Cry? Should we consider it just a historical stepping stone towards what eventually became of the brand? Should we consider it a failed attempt on the part of Mikami’s team to distance themselves from Resident Evil? All these readings are perfectly adequate and they are widely held by critics and audiences alike. However, the point of my article here is that Devil May Cry can be read as a satirical take on the Survival Horror genre that Resident Evil started, and in doing so, it also works as a somewhat obvious commentary on design conventions and trends of the time.

The first part is relatively easy to see: it is common knowledge that the commercial failure of the first Resident Evil remake was the main motivator behind the massive change that prompted Capcom to turn Resident Evil upside down in the middle of development. Devil May Cry came out as the leftovers of many of the ideas that were going to make it into that game, and thanks to Shinji Mikami, it also took a turn towards action-oriented gameplay. As such, the result of that process led to a game that, while using some conventions of the Survival Horror toolbox, reframes them in a way that, whether intentionally or not, tries to poke fun at the very idea of these mechanics. In Devil May Cry‘s text lies the idea that these design techniques are antiquated and don’t make for a good video game, and if anything, they clearly stand for a mechanical mindset that favors action and instant gratification. As a satire, this might not be considered as profound or relevant as other topics, but from the perspective of video game design itself, it can’t be denied that the early 2000’s saw a massive backlash against convoluted mechanics and a preference towards much more streamlined controls. The repercussions of that statement were clearly felt across the industry, and even though we might have seen the end of it for a while, its shadows still lingers into the discourse of several developers and consumers whenever they try to explain how video games should be. Devil May Cry might seem like a drop of water in the middle of the ocean of complaints against complicated mechanics, but its popularity and success reveals that, at the time, players were quite eager the embrace this new landscape, and in the process, several venues that were being explored at the moment were quietly put aside.

The second reading feeds on many of the statements that I’ve made above. Hideki Kamiya has continued on his career to provide experiences as action-oriented as possible. His company, Platinum Games, is one of the most well-known Japanese developers today. At the same time, discussions and debates about what games could be always gravitate around these subjects. Kamiya’s games seem to make the statement that instant gratification might be an easy route to take when wanting to create a successful video game, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to make one that stands out. Platinum Games seems in many ways like a successor of 16-bit era Treasure games, products that are incredibly honest in their intentions, yet still display an honest and earnest effort while doing so. At the same time, there’s something to be said about a media landscape that only aims at providing these kind of experiences, and while now it seems that a wider array of experiences are allowed to exist. But if the early 2000’s tells us anything about if that people were craving for this sort of thing, maybe because it wasn’t as available in 3D games as they were in 2D. In that sense, games like this always remind me of the way that some people also envision Nintendo games, products that are held as foundational of the medium as a whole. Platinum Games and early 2000’s Capcom provide the same kind of experiences, maybe for a slightly more adult audience, but clearly based around the same premises and philosophies of what games should be. And, by way of mixing both realms, Devil May Cry might be actually signaling that, as much as developers want to provide complex experiences through strange and unintuitive controls, sometimes it is necessary to provide for simpler experiences too. And seeing this coming out from the producers of the original Resident Evil games (which weren’t exactly as complex and nuanced in the first place) is kinda poignant. Just as long as other forms of video games aren’t being denied or, worse yet, labeled as “non-games,” I think we can all have our cake and it it too in that regard.

First entry

As the title of this post implies, this is the first entry of this blog, and its function is mostly aimed to provide some basic guidelines as to what this blog is going to be, or at least, trying to be for the time being

On one hand, I’m planning to translate the musings and philosophizing I did on recent games, mostly those that were centered around my Spanish blog (which is much more loose and wayward than the posts I intend to make here). However, I’m not intending to literally translate them, but try to work on their themes and subjects and deliver a more coherent, in-depth analysis of the elements I want to discuss within specific games I’ll look into. Due to this approach, It is quite possible that my writing is going to be sloppy at a time, and sometimes I might feel the need to change what’s been written (as I’m doing right now with this entry, which was very different as how it is right now). As always, I’ll try to add disclaimers about every edit I’ll do, but if that’s so, it will probably be because I’ve added or removed a huge chunk of the previous draft. Since the purpose of these posts will usually be about one particular game and will try to be as much in-depth as possible, it is likely that I’ll want to go back to a certain game and add something to what I’ve already written.

So, with that being said, it is quite certain that I’m going to write long, extremely messy post that will try to touch as much things as possible within a certain game, and in doing so, I’m also hoping to polish my own analytical approach to video games. I hope that, in doing this, I’ll be able to shed new light on how things like semiotics, themes and narrative progression ties with mechanics, interactive systems and the inner workings of traditional games to form this unique and truly beautiful medium that is the world of videogames (or video games).

That’s all for now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to translate those earlier pieces I did, and expand on them as soon as I’ve got the time.

See you soon!

Tomás