Tips on writing imaginary game reviews   2 comments

Entries for the imaginary games from imaginary universes jam are rolling in, but I’d like take a moment to give some general advice. This is the sort of advice that can be gleeful ignored, mind, but if you’re having trouble, this might help.

  • Invoking your improbable and maybe impossible dream game is one route. You can even use that idea to get started but take a single chunk of it and run in another direction.
  • Read one of the myriad definitions of a game. Then try your hardest to write about a game that breaks that definition.
  • Read some of the more fanciful theorists like Peter Molyneux or his doppelganger Peter Molydeux. Take one of their weird ideas and expand it.
  • Take some technology from science fiction (or one that exists but just isn’t common) and imagine how you could use it as the peripheral for a game.
  • Take some obscure game that hasn’t been developed on by other authors and imagine that it spawns a whole genre (the “dragonpasser” genre mentioned here is a good example — King of Dragon Pass is a unique game which hasn’t really had any imitators — but what if it had?).

Here’s one of my own imaginary games, analyzed with respect to the concepts above.

Dragon Hall (22925)
I have never been a fan of the no-genre movement (that is, labeling games by story genre rather than gameplay genre) simply because it seems like everything I’ve tried has been a weak action-adventure made weaker by the lack of commitment.

In any case “just like the holodeck on Star Trek!” never seems to have happened.

The developers at Tale of Tales once wrote an essay wishful that we couldn’t have interactive story with the same flexibility as the Star Trek holodeck. This never turned into a movement, even by them, but I always wondered what it’d be like if it had.

Dragon Hall … well, didn’t change my mind, but for two hours or so, wow. First off, it’s a third-person corporate thriller (already being different there)

I was thinking here of the old Magnetic Scrolls game Corruption, which as far as I know is the only (actual) game ever written in the corporate thriller genre.

where the interaction you’d think is primarily social, but really there’s so many options at any moment it feels like … ok, obviously I’m having trouble here. Look, in an adventure game, I feel like I’m constantly looking for locks to fit keys; in a strategy game, I’m always optimizing; in an action game, I’m priming my reflexes. Here, all I was thinking what would my character do? and somehow I could do every option I thought of, and for a while I was inhabiting a world rather than playing a game.

Here we’re entering “my dream game” territory — what if there was just story, and you had complete flexibility to do whatever occurred to you? (Again similar to the holodeck idea.)

Then the sheen wore off and I was finding the optimum thing to say to the Twile Sisters so they would turn against the Syndicate and give me the password. But it was great while it lasted.

But since this is a review, I imagined cynically this is what would actually happen if anyone tried to sustain such a game at length.

I hadn’t heard of this until after my original game jam post, but these three imaginary game reviews by Alexis Kennedy are terrific.

Remember, deadline for phase 1 is December 13th. I look forward to see what you come up with!

Posted December 1, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “Tips on writing imaginary game reviews

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  1. Doesn’t Andy Phillips have a corporate espionage game? And does Alethicorp count? Alethicorp seems like an imaginary game to me, actually.

    One of my entries is going to be a literal dream game–I had my five reviews lined up and then I dreamed I was playing/in a lost Infocom adventure.

    • Inside Woman has way too many ninjas to qualify.

      Alethicorp is close-ish but not quite. Would be on my if-you-like-this-try-this list though.

      Basically, to qualify as a corporate thriller, something has to be specifically around white-collar crime (even if there’s a murder, it’s because they’re trying to hide the financials from the FCC or whatnot).

      The movie The Big Short coming out soon will likely qualify.

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