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Designing for the tools on hand June 2, 2007

Posted by joshg in General.
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Quick thought; I’ve often approached this from the perspective of looking for faith-related themes and trying to see how they can be expressed through the methods of game design.  But what about coming at it from the opposite direction as well?  Perhaps it’s equally important to begin by considering major elements of game design, and then explore how they relate to belief and religion and faith.

One off the top of my head is the idea of achievement.  Games, when designed well, are a powerful way to create a sense of achievement in the player.  With that as our starting point, what can we discover as we move towards expressing religious and spiritual thought?

For religions with an explicit sense of achievement through concepts such as reincarnation, there’s a strong and immediate connection.  However, for beliefs which de-emphasize achievement things can get tricky.  I believe there might be things worth deconstructing and exploring even there, though.

For example, say I start with an understanding of Christianity in which there is less emphasis on achievement when compared to sin and forgiveness which cannot be earned but only given as a gift.  Obviously at this point, a traditional game structure is going to have a hard time relating; games need a goal that you work towards, and nobody wants to play a game in which you simply ask, “Can I win now?” and the rules then say, “Okay!”  But is this an endpoint, or is this a conflict which can be explored?

Perhaps the expectation of achievement in a game can be used to shed light on the modern tendency to place notions of achievement within Christianity, despite what it teaches; for example, the expectation that only those who are some sort of spiritual “elite” will experience the miraculous, or the converse notion that a Christian claiming to experience something supernatural must inherently be claiming to be “more spiritual” than someone who doesn’t share that experience.

There might not be a lot there in that particular example, but I thought I’d get this posted somewhere so that I’m forced to remember to think about it later.  Reversing the design process is the key idea that I ought to remember to keep in mind, but I can’t stand writing about how something should be done without at least giving an example of what that could look like.