The Case for Competition, part 2

When I first was introduced to competitive gaming on a scale larger than just my brother and myself, I found so much I didn’t even realize was there, and I know that gradually as eSports continues to grow as well, people will find competitive gaming to be far larger and more significant than they ever thought possible.

With games being the largest media industry in the world revenue-wise (besides books of course, but they got a serious headstart), anything that affects it greatly must be a big deal. There’s something unique about competitive gaming above competition in other disciplines such as musical competition, and that’s the fact that just about everyone who plays a competitive video game can be considered a competitor, as that’s commonly the basis for play in the game.

Just because you play a musical instrument, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a “competitor,” and that’s regardless of skill level. In my opinion, music at it’s core isn’t really meant for competition. Sure, I’ve won awards in Scottish fiddle competitions, won awards in marching band competitions in high school, whatnot, but I have never considered music to be an objectively competitive realm beyond people’s egos. Music is not athleticism, it’s clearly an artform and extremely subjective – and I think I will always be of that opinion.

On the other hand, even from early video games such as Space Invaders, the scoring aspect has naturally brought out the competitive nature and depth of the games. I mean that even in regards to Pong as well, and Computer Space.

Video games even in their earliest days were competitive by nature. Even if it was just two people standing there at the machine out of the whole world, that’s still competitive. Still, if Ralph Baer (engineer for the “Brown Box” and Magnavox Odyssey, among other iconic things) expected to see people paid to play video games as their full-time job, I would be very surprised.

Video games (or things like Chess, which can be transformed into video games) are objective, much moreso than most things. There’s something beautiful about really deep yet objective things that are practically impossible to become perfect in… and still, games can be so simple and still achieve this. That’s really significant.

At some point, competitive gaming becomes a sort of “figuring out” of people’s inward thinking, as it soon becomes less about the game and more about the individuals themselves once the play becomes higher level.

When it comes to individuals… I like to say that nice guys finish 1st. Obviously it’s not always true, but it can often get to a point where there’s some sort of integrity almost in winning a game. Yea, I know that’s really esoteric and woo-woo, but I have felt that way for a long time. Let me tell you a story to finish off this post and show you what I mean…

There was this dude in high school, (we’ll call him Snake, because I don’t even remember his name) that was friends with one of my close friends, Tony. I used to play games with Tony a lot, and we’d always talk about games when at school or whatever. Snake had a visible ego when it came to his playing ability in video games, and if anyone knows me really well they know I can’t stand people that show extreme ego (admittedly, it’s much because I wish I could seriously think even half that highly of myself, but also because I hate being made aware of their great opinion of themselves all the time).

One day Snake said at lunch that he could beat anyone at any game if they told him what game and gave him two weeks. I said, “ok, well do you think you could beat me at Mario Kart DS?” Tony bursted out laughing, because he knew that it was a challenge that would end poorly for Snake. At the time, I was still playing Mario Kart DS a ton, and ultimately (years later) I became the world champion.

Snake decided he was going to beat me in Mario Kart DS, and proceeded to borrow Tony’s copy. Two MONTHS later, he finally played against me, and I lapped him in two races in a row, but then we had to go to class. Neither of us said anything at the time.

A couple years after that, Snake would play Smash Bros Brawl against Tony online, and he eventually wanted to play against me. He won one game after a few weeks, barely, but I didn’t take it too hard considering I had beaten him every other time, and besides, it was Brawl online, which sucked anyway in terms of latency and options.

He proceeded to send me a message the next day on the Wii starting with, “How’s it feel to lose?” I wanted to respond with, “I don’t know, you tell me,” but decided it would be best to not start a fight. Instead, I played him again, this time with the plan of demolishing him with a slow character because he always played fast characters. I played King Dedede and won without losing a stock. Tony called me up on the phone saying that Snake was actually at his house and he saw the whole match, and was saying, “You owned this guy! With a slow character! That was so crazy!” and all this stuff… After that, Snake never spoke with me again, but it was ok because inside, I felt like I proved myself and proved that it’s good to not rub it in against people you win against. Besides, I never liked him anyway. 🙂

In a couple of weeks I’m going with my friend Jeff, a very good player in my opinion of several NES games as well as Smash Bros Melee, to a Melee tournament at Carolina Games Summit in Goldsboro, NC. I played Quake 3 at that event in 2010 and won 2nd place, (not getting fragged once until the semi-finals by the way), and it’s a great environment with a lot of gamers. I’m looking forward to it, because everyone at that event loves playing the games, and that’s cool, because most of them are still really friendly and the tournaments are organized very well.

(to be continued again?)

~David

Our Greatest Glory

“Our greatest glory lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~Confucius

…That’s my favorite quote and has been for years. There’s much to be felt and understood from Confucius quotes, and just bright quotes in general, but this one touches on something meaningful in a very poetic way.

For anyone reading this that has thought maybe I flaked out on the blog for a while, well, you’re right! I think I’m at a point now in which I can resume, and I had hoped to resume in the short term all along. That’s one thing I have in my favor: I rise every time I fall.

Yea, you know what’s next: “…and this is what this has to do with games…”

😀

I can go back to a quote from Steve Sanders in one of the competitive gaming documentaries he appeared in when he was asked about the point in all the passion around game playing. He spoke about a mountain climber, I think one that had climbed Mt. Everest or something really huge like that, who was asked in an interview about “conquering the mountain,” replying with, “Mountains can’t be conquered. You conquer yourself.”

…To me that’s a big part of the essence of games. It’s especially evident in single-player competitive games, such as those in which you’re competing for a higher score, or a faster time. There’s just you and the machine, and the machine is stuck to doing just the same things. You’re the thing that changes over the journey you have with a game, not so much the game itself (although of course games can be updated, too).

…I’ve been told I’m entertaining to watch when I play a game. I’m not entirely sure why that is, because generally I’ve been told that when the person isn’t even looking much at the screen. I suppose it’s kind of like when I went with my uncle Phil, a wine entrepreneur, into a grocery store and he talked about the wine and looked through everything. It was so interesting to hear and see how he went through the different choices, despite the fact that I don’t drink alcohol and therefore will never have wine.

When you observe someone doing something that they see in a special way, like when I hear Dr. John Turner play Scottish fiddle music, see my father paint, or even see Billy Mitchell play Centipede or Pac-Man, it’s intriguing. I think that’s not only because it’s just cool to see the result, but also the process.

That’s where the idea of enjoying the process comes into play. I’ve been reading again recently about the concept of flow, both from the view of a game developer but also just as a living being. As I always say, games imitate the universe, and that includes the concept of flow as well. Games can be designed to facilitate flow in interesting ways, and I believe people can structure their lives to facilitate flow in much the same way.

All this comes together in this simple way: the winning of the game is just a result, but the playing of the game is really where the interesting things happen. The conquering of yourself is the interesting process, not just the last few steps on the top of Mt. Everest. It’s admirable because of what you went through, not just the result.

~David Klingler

On Computer Addiction

I plan to do the second part of The Case for Competition some other time. This post will be something different than that.

Cat pictures and selfies. Political and grammar/spelling arguments. Spam emails and memes. Is this what the internet is meant for? Is this what computers are meant for? I heard recently that lots of things have increased because of personal computers except for productivity. Regardless of if that’s true or not, it made me think about why that might be.

I’m sure lots of people would say video games are at least partly to blame, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say they have very little (if any) causal relationship to it. Of course that’s in part because I’m always defending games as a medium and as an industry. After all, lots of people said (probably as a joke, I don’t truly know) that Doom was the leading cause of loss in productivity over the year after it came out. Still, I can’t help but feel that video games are not really to blame for the loss of productivity that is such an overarching theme for stigma surrounding different forms of computing.

While computers were originally created out of the desire to calculate things more efficiently (and curiosity I suppose, to some extent), it seems computers mostly have come to promote the opposite of efficiency; at least in the human form of it. Too often I hear about certain companies’ internet bandwidth being used mostly by YouTube, or about someone who quit their job to play an MMO during all that time instead. The overarching theme in articles about this is how bad the internet is or how bad games are for people, but I think this is a problematic way to look at it.

I love games. I work in games. I defend games and their developers at every turn. Still, how could I possibly defend game addiction and internet addiction? Well, that’s not exactly what I’m doing.

The addiction, while sometimes aimed for by developers that I disagree with, is from the use of the technology, not the technology itself. I once read a book about habit-forming products, and there was a clear distinction made about products that are addictive vs  those that are simply habit-forming.

Now, one may argue that the use of a particular technology is the purpose of that technology and therefore must mean that computers are inherently addictive, but I just politely disagree (surprise!).

I don’t know many people now that aren’t addicted to computers, or some form of technology. It’s sad to say, but I’m probably addicted to computers myself.

You can’t necessarily tell until you examine yourself for a break/detox of computers. Not too long ago, I took just a 24 hour break/detox and could feel some strange things regarding the draw to go to my phone and/or turn on my computer. Also, it was honestly weird to feel somehow disconnected from some people, but unlike many people in an internet detox, it was not a negative feeling for me.

So how does all this come together? Well, try to think of it this way: computers don’t make you addicted, it’s the human side of the equation that is addictive. Computers, while giving feelings of withdrawal to some when they are away from their desk or phone, are not inherently addictive, but the modern common uses of them are ironically strongly habit-forming, which in many people can eventually manifest into addiction.

One of my main defenses here, though, is that there is a distinct difference between something addictive and something only habit-forming, but that the two are not mutually exclusive. Something can be both habit-forming and addictive (obviously), but there are many things that are designed to be habit-forming that are not addictive by themselves.

Many humans to some extent yearn for habitual living day-to-day in my opinion. I see it powerfully in just about every person I know. Some prefer sleep, some prefer the news on television, or games, or even reading magazines.

Then there are those on their phones seemingly all the time, which is becoming increasingly common. “I’ve never seen people so emotionally attached to a product than with smartphones,” I remember one psychologist saying in an interview (which was actually years ago, when smartphones were just relatively beginning in market share).

It does seem though that there is a bit of warfare over people’s time these days in separate industries. Reggie Fils-Aime of Nintendo said quite a number of years ago that they (he and his colleagues) were now in the business of competing for people’s time and attention. Sure, video games to some extent have always been in that field, but I feel never more than now.

I personally have said for a long time that I hope video games will overtake television and movies in terms of people’s attention and time. Mostly that is because I feel that video games are the last of media not practically fully controlled by external agendas with almost no turning back, and also because I see so much potential in games as a medium for progressing humanity.

While I know it (games overtaking attention) has happened for certain demographics, there’s still stigma surrounding games in the general media, somehow as if the media isn’t in the same competition for time and attention along with their pushing of propaganda.

“But my grandson Leonard plays his darn Nine Ten X Station Thing™ all the time! The news is real and I need to know what’s going on. He’s just addicted and they make them that way!”

Either way, I’ll continue to talk on this blog from time to time about game addiction and computer addiction. For now, I’m off to get some work done.

Until next time,

~David Klingler

 

The Case for Competition

“Wow you suck at this game.” …I’m sure most people have been told that at some point before when playing a game with someone else. “Get rekt!” is another idiotic saying that’s gained popularity in recent years. I must say I don’t condone saying those things to people. In general I like to have my opponent(s) play at their best, and I feel that trash talking, despite it giving a bit of an advantage in some cases, is just a case of whether or not your values will allow you to do it or not. I show a lot of respect to my opponents, but I would still definitely say I’m competitive when it comes to games.

People that know me very well know that I love competitive gaming. Not so much competing these days in the spotlight, but I’ve placed in or won tournaments for several games in the past (Smash Bros. Melee, Quake 3, Chess, and others) and I hold all 64 official Twin Galaxies world records in Mario Kart DS. There’s still much I would like to do in competitive gaming, but unfortunately I don’t play games nearly as much as I once did. Hopefully that will change at some point, but for now I’m working more these days.

I once told someone as a part of an explanation of what it means to take a game seriously, “I don’t play games for fun. The game isn’t the fun part, it’s the personal growth from competition that’s fun.” Obviously that’s not entirely true, because I love playing games even when not for competition, but as an explanation it actually seemed to make sense to them.

When I was in high school however, I got to a certain point of seriousness with Chess that sadly brought me to stop playing the game I loved so much. When you get to a point in which winning is just expected but losing is some big deal to other people, playing just becomes stressful. I was unfortunately not in the best health during this time, and was on medicine that really made me not think well. I was slow at moving, very tired all the time, etc., and my Chess ability suffered horribly. Yet, I was still in that situation in which winning was just expected and when I lost it was made into this big deal every time with people rudely commenting and even running down the halls cheering and laughing at certain times.

My Chess coach in high school, Mr. Nagy-Lup, is a great man, and the best Chess player I’ve ever known. He would talk with me a lot about my psychological situation with Chess, and even console me between rounds during tournaments. He once said to me that he always thought I was the best player, even when I wasn’t performing the best out of the team, because he knew that my ability was suffering from the illness and medicine I was on. I was alongside some other really incredible players though, so really I don’t know if I would have performed better than them even if I were in good health. Either way, I really appreciated his encouragement.

Mr. Nagy-Lup obviously was very against bad sportsmanship and was always talking about respecting your opponents, being humble, etc., and he was a very humble player himself, despite being a Romanian Chess Champion before coming to my school in the US and teaching Math. I truly believe he will be ranked as a Master one day (International Master most likely, based on what he used to talk about). It was very serendipitous for my life that I was able to be coached by a great Chess coach in middle school (Mr. Hardway), and then another great coach in high school, because I think it was Chess that made me truly realize my competitive nature.

So what does this have to do with video game competition? Everything. (Anyone who knows my philosophical views on games knows that I see board games and video games as much the same in many ways)

Sportsmanship. Respect. Personal growth. …None of those are game mechanics; they have to do with the people playing the game, not as much the game itself. Games can be designed, even accidentally in some cases, to be fantastic for competitive play, but at the highest level, it’s not as much about the game itself. It’s something more meta. That brings into play something I call a game’s meta-narrative.

Think of the documentary The King of Kong. It’s about two competitive players competing for the Donkey Kong official Twin Galaxies world record. Do you think the game was meant to inspire a documentary? I really doubt it. That movie, though, is an example of a meta-narrative from Donkey Kong, and the game’s design lends itself to dramatic meta-narrative, which is why that film is so interesting. I would obviously say the same for Chess, Quake, Smash Bros., Pac-Man, and Counter-Strike.

I truly believe games can be designed purposefully for competitive play, and that comes from depth as well as strong community interaction. Melee doesn’t even have online play, and yet it’s got an extremely strong competitive scene even now, thanks to its depth of play, powerful mind-t0-mind interaction, and great community of players. There’s no doubt to me that it somehow lends itself to competitive play, yet I do have some feeling that much of that was accidental, like the different forms of unusual jumping physics in the Quake games and how that lends those games to incredibly fast movement and therefore fast-paced competition.

The worth of competitive play comes from something very meta when it comes to game design, but it all stems from depth and community interaction. That is absolutely not the same as “complicated with online play” as many game companies today attempting to break into esports seem to think. Some of the greatest games for competition of all time are the simplest in their design (Go is the biggest example that comes to mind).

To be continued?

Until next time,
~David Klingler

Identity

What determines your identity when you’re a game developer? Some might say its in how much money you make, others might say it’s about success in other terms – such as how many players or fellow developers like what you make. I think it’s something different, though.

Lots of people know many of the big-time, legendary sort of developers such as John Romero, Shigeru Miyamoto, or Notch. Is it because of the games they make that determines their identity? Maybe in some ways, but not all. The things I like about John Romero have only little to do with Doom. The things I like about Miyamoto have little to do with Mario. Likewise, Notch is admirable to me for much more than just Minecraft.

If we want to determine someone’s identity by what they make, then it’s very subjective, and I’m not sure if identity is something that’s subjective. In some ways, I’m sure it is, but in terms of the worth of a person, I think it hardly suits for it to be subjective. Perhaps identity isn’t about worth, though.

I’ve personally been a sort of low self-esteem person for most of my life. The only time I can remember really acting like I had an ego purposefully was in middle school when Mario Kart DS had just come out. I would just talk about going home and beating people online. Other than that, most of my life I’ve generally thought little of myself and have been kind of sickened by many people I come across flaunting qualities that, to me, are only visible because of the fact that they’re flaunting them.

I read an interesting quote once about putting yourself out there in the public as an entrepreneur. It went something like this: “Put yourself out there, even if doing so is uncomfortable, for the sake of yourself and your business, otherwise those who are willing to do that will leave you in the dust.”

…After reading that, I’ve made some attempts to be more in the view of people, despite it being a bit uncomfortable for myself. Every day as an entrepreneur, a lot of uncomfortable tasks are undertaken, so it’s no big deal. Still, I honestly have the same obstacle everywhere I go. It’s as if the quote I just mentioned is following me around saying, “See? I told you.”

So coming back to my original question of this post: What determines your identity when you’re a game developer? I definitely don’t think it has to do with the individual’s own worth, and certainly not their own personal sense of worth. I also don’t think it has only to do with the games they create. Sure, it’s how we can really see what they can do, what their abilities are, and it’s a great form of expression, but seeing people in that way is like saying “Steve Jobs is a nice guy because… the iPhone.”

Everyone is unique; the more unique the better in many circumstances. Where does that uniqueness come from? I really think one’s unique identity has a lot more to do with their experiences and perspective than it does with things they’ve made. It also has to do with their personal interactions; that’s part of how they express their experiences.

Think about artists in other mediums: music, for example. Is it always the better music that wins in subjective situations? Turn on the radio and you already learn: clearly no; that’s why it’s called subjective. What affects that subjectivity? Experience. That affects how people both express and feel music.

It’s too often that people allow others’ experiences to largely affect their own interpretation of things. I mean that in many ways. What I ask of people right now is to look at the artists you see everywhere and evaluate them on something about them individually other than just what other people think. Who is qualified to decide if someone is good at something? Think about it. It’s like, who decided what kind of ripped pants are cool? It’s just a stupid thing to consider. Craftsmanship does exist, but it’s not the only thing that qualifies people to be able to create things for other people to like.

Being a unique person, and understanding what makes you unique makes you qualified to create things. In other words, everyone has their own right to create, and everyone in my opinion has a potential audience. I’m sick of the world being so driven only by those that think ridiculously highly of themselves and talk constantly about how great they are.

…I digress…

Clearly there’s some emotional tension in me regarding this subject. 🙂

I suppose it’s just because it’s something I’m dealing with personally right now, albeit slowly. As time goes on, I hope to have myself “out there” more, as I know people take an interest in my experiences and perspective. I may struggle with my image of myself, but I do know there’s something one-of-a-kind there. That’s how I see my identity, anyway.

Until next time,

~David Klingler

Directions

I’ve been thinking about where to go with this blog. There are many things I want to do with it, not the least of which is to just express my views on games as a medium. Most of all, this is a blog for me, and in memory of my brother, the person that originally got me interested in games.

Sure, I’m writing this and others will be able to read it, but that’s not the reason I’m writing it. It’s like what Tommy Refenes said in Indie Game: The Movie, “…it’s not a game I made for people. I made it for myself.”

That brings me to the thought of examining WHY we do the things we do. Why am I doing this blog? For myself. Why do people play games? For themselves? Perhaps, but does that make gaming a selfish endeavor? What about making games? …So many things to think about.

I play games for different reasons depending on the game. Sometimes it’s to slow down, sometimes it’s for conscious personal reflection, sometimes it’s for competition. Very rarely when people ask me why do I play will I say that it’s just for fun. Still, I do play for fun, like when I play Super Smash Bros. Melee with my cousin Gabe. That’s definitely a lot of fun.

Just like the interpretation of works of art are subjective, I think that the interpretation of the WHY (for why they’re experienced down to why they’re originally made) is also subjective. Maybe we don’t know enough about ourselves to understand the reasoning behind why we choose to play games or make them, but I think sometimes we know why.

I’ll leave you this week with contemplating the reasons behind what you do. That’s just another thing games have that reflect real life. You make all of these choices, but why do you make each one? Try to be aware of habits and be aware of your awareness itself.

…and don’t forget to play some games…
Until next time,
~David Klingler

National Video Games Day Was the 12th

Monday the 12th was National Video Games Day, and that’s what relates to this blog the most. Despite this, some bad things have happened lately, and I’m going to keep today’s post short because of things related to that.

I’m going to talk a bit about a few notable games that have affected my life in a big way, in chronological order of when I first played them. I may revisit talking about this in the future, but for now I’m just going to give a small bit of information on each one and how they affected me.

Earthworm Jim – first played in 1996

earthworm-jim-1-03

This is the game that launched my obsession with games. An action adventure game about a worm in a super suit originally on the Sega Genesis (aka the Mega Drive) from Shiny Entertainment that went on to be featured in everything from action figures and a TV show to some great (and not-so-great…) sequels and remakes on all sorts of platforms. I first played the Special Edition of the game on Windows 95 when my brother got it for his 8th birthday from Don, who would soon become one of our uncles.

Chess – first played in 2000

chessboard

The ever-present, globally-recognized board game about capturing the opponent’s king by taking turns moving pieces with different movement properties around an 8×8 board. I later played in a middle school and high school chess team, winning quite a few awards.

Mario Kart DS – first played in 2005

mkdsscreenshot

The installment on the Nintendo DS in the kart-racing Mario spin-off series. It was the first Nintendo Wifi connection game. I originally wasn’t even going to buy it but quickly became extremely competitive with it and eventually got all 64 world records in the game on Twin Galaxies.

Quake 3 Arena – first played in 2007

quake3a

Although I first played this fast-paced multiplayer shooter about eight years after it originally released, I soon was playing a lot (to put it lightly). This game was honestly what got me into esports and I never have grown tired of it. I don’t play much now because it takes such an investment of time, but I love Quake 3.

 

A few other games that could fit on this list, even though that still wouldn’t complete it: Metroid Fusion, Yugioh TCG, Pokemon Blue, Zelda Ocarina of Time, Zelda the Wind Waker, Zelda Twilight Princess, Donkey Kong, Paper Mario, Super Smash Bros Melee.

 

Until next time,

~David Klingler

 

Give it a rest, give it a chance

Far too often…
I find certain games that are wonderful getting overlooked. Yesterday I saw a video of someone playing a game called “This is Forever” which is a free game on gamejolt. The person playing the game kept saying, “man, this is beautiful…” and I was so glad to hear that.

This game wasn’t anything incredible at first, nor was it particularly deep in its game design or graphics. I felt like the most important thing in the game was the pacing and audio in relation to the activities and spacial organization. This is just one recent example of a game that I feel has been overlooked by many people.

Sure, it’s depressing for me to see games that I think are great getting overlooked, but I also understand that there’s really nothing out there that remedies the problem. The problem is not just discovery, either.

Games that don’t grab you right at the beginning aren’t necessarily bad games. Same for games that don’t teach you absolutely everything you need to do – they aren’t inherently bad. Besides, what is “bad” anyway? It’s so subjective. Give it a rest harping on a game that’s trying to do something different, and give it a chance for a change.

Another game I recently found on gamejolt is called “Dandelion.” It is played using the microphone to influence the wind that moves a dandelion seed in the air. It’s not a long game, and I don’t think it would make sense to charge a lot of money for it, but it’s memorable to me.

I don’t imagine a world where all games are just like “This is Forever” or “Dandelion” but I do think the creation of games like these, and the understanding of games like these, are extremely important for our medium. What would it be like if the only music in existence was what you hear on the radio? That would be horrible in my opinion (for many of us).

I’m concerned that games are presently or soon will be an artform in which people limit themselves to only what they’re told is good. I suppose you can think of it like poetry. Poetry that is really accessible and popular is usually thought of as very poor to many people that get deeply into poetry. There could be so many incredible experiences specifically for you that maybe didn’t mesh with the majority of the population that is considered to be “the authority” on the subject.

Always keep thoughts like this in mind when you find yourself disagreeing with someone or their creation. You’ll normally only find me disagreeing with someone when it’s a defense against their previous disagreement. I get in heated “discussions” (read: arguments) with people over the work of other game developers because many people simply hate on things just for the sake of hating on it without fully exploring the creation or even understanding it beyond the absolute surface. I know, however, I do that too sometimes.

Either way… Give it a rest. Give it a chance. Games can be more than what you see in commercials. Just because someone tells you what they think is good and bad doesn’t mean they’re the same as what you would think if you have an open mind.

~David Klingler

Let there be light

Have you ever wondered…
What is it that makes someone good at something? What is it about their mind/body/environment that’s different than those that aren’t considered to be good at the same thing? I think that games can explain this.

When someone is good at something, they can use some of the same thought processes to become good at something else, even if it isn’t really related. How do you think certain people are “good at games” and others just aren’t? If you think about everything in terms of games, you can see that becoming good at one video game after another is not just a matter of learning things specific to video games. One must learn things about learning itself. That’s one thing that’s special about games; they involve learning within themselves.

What’s something that involves learning within itself? Life. From the very day each of us was born, we’ve had to learn things in order to progress and learn more things. What’s the purpose here? I couldn’t tell you at this point. One thing I can say however, that I strongly believe, is that the universe, our lives and our thoughts are all governed by some underlying system. This system works the way games do.

Thinking of the universe in terms of games can at first be a tricky concept to come to terms with, since society in general likes to think of games as a pastime. I don’t think that’s entirely so, as you probably already know if you’re reading this. Games can be a very good pastime; they can be entertaining, they can be fun. However, games can also be enriching to our personalities, our relationships, our abilities and our fulfillment in life. That’s not it, either; games are what encompass all of the systems of the universe, and we can use that to make discoveries and understand what we’re all doing here.

This may sound like I’m going off the deep end, but I assure you if you begin to think of the world in terms of games and game mechanics, you will find an uncanny world of reasoning within that. This is certainly not a religious concept, yet it does not clash with any religious ideals that I know of, and I feel that this type of thinking can do much good for humanity.

Let’s take Albert Einstein for example. One of my role models for most of my life, it’s because of his enjoyment of the violin that I decided I wanted to play the violin. It’s also because of his quotes about “thinking in terms of music” that made me begin to think of the world in terms of games.

If you were to tell someone out of the blue, “the universe is all music,” they’d probably think, “Oh that’s nice,” and they would just ignore you thinking that either you’ve lost your mind or that you’re saying something sentimental and esoteric about music and butterflies or whatever. I hope you know better than to ignore ideas like this and odd thoughts that could challenge your present belief system. Again, I mean none of this in regards to religion. It’s just a way to perceive and understand.

When I say that the world is all based around games, I don’t mean “games” in the way you might think of them. Games are not at their core just toys, nor are they just conflict. I know that games at this point do not yet have a clear agreed upon definition among designers and theorists, however I can assure you that they can go far beyond how most people in the general public think of them. That’s something I’ll be exploring a lot on this blog in the future, alongside other somewhat more tangible ways of looking at games.

I hope you’ve enjoyed yet another ongoing train of thought from me. I’ll leave you this time with this question to ponder:
“What around me right now works like games do?”

Until next time,

~David Klingler

In the beginning

I remember when I was younger,
I couldn’t wait to get home to play games. First it was Earthworm Jim I think. To this day Earthworm Jim Special Edition for Windows 95 is my favorite game. The reason for this is not that I think it’s the best game ever made (although I do think it’s pretty far up there), it’s because of how much Earthworm Jim affected my life.

Earthworm Jim was the game that made me obsessive about games. I was four years old when I first played it. My brother got it for his eighth birthday from Don (who later became one of our uncles), and at first I had to be convinced into playing it. I was very unsure at first, and would just watch my brother play in the beginning, but not long after I was the one playing it the most!

By the way, the reason we had a computer in our house so early in my life was because my dad is a graphic artist. He bought a computer for work, and he and my mom would teach my brother and me lots of different things on the computer through educational games when those were really awesome and experimentation with programs such as notepad and Fauve Matisse. I pretty much got started on computers when I was three years old, most of the time just watching my dad work on the computer.

Back to Earthworm Jim.

We got Earthworm Jim on Windows 95 in 1996. That was the same year as the event that has turned out to be my oldest conscious memory, the night of hurricane Fran in North Carolina. For some reason, I remember that night in black and white. While that is definitely a whole different story, I’ll say this for the sake of this subject: I needed something to latch onto after that, and that’s when Earthworm Jim came onto the stage.

For me, games are everything. Everything is a game if you look at it in a certain way. I think in terms of games and mechanics. It is partly because of this that I see things differently than others. I think that games have incredible potential for changing the world and enriching lives that is somewhat ignored in favor of pure polish and commercialization.

The games of the future that I imagine are not drastically different in some ways from the games we’ve played before, but in other ways they’re completely in another direction.

Games in my mind are not best as slick products. They can have a point at which you can relate with the game and/or the game developer(s). Sure, if the game doesn’t work at all, that’s not good either. Same for if you can’t at all tell what’s going on no matter how much you know about the game. I’m not saying that games with poor craftsmanship are somehow better all the time, because that makes no sense. What I’m saying is that a feeling of honesty and openness from the game developer(s) can be present in games that are still enjoyable, or, if not meant to be enjoyable, still intriguing.

I almost never play a game to be presented with a blockbuster big-budget showdown with a screen. I know I’m in the minority now, but I prefer games that really affect me, and generally extreme graphics take away from that. It’s kind of like music. You can play an instrument really well technically, but if you can’t affect how I feel, it’s all pointless. As Carlos Santana said, “You can get a lot more emotion out of one note than you can out of twenty.” I feel that way about games. It is vain to do with more what can be done with less (however at the same time minimalist design is not quite always the best way to the goal).

…I can go on and on about games, and that’s what this whole blogging thing is going to be about for me. My posts will consist of long streams of thought, statements on games and the industry, and other things. I hope it will be of interest to you, and I appreciate you giving me a chance.

As you follow my blog on Independent Gamesman, you’ll learn my story, as well as my take on the story of games as a medium and where it’s all heading next.

Today is the day I had planned a few months ago to begin blogging. Today, the 16th of August 2016, would have been my brother Mitchell‘s 28th birthday. Mitchell is the person that really got me into games, challenged me and supported me in games, and I owe him forever. Mitchell died by suicide earlier this year on February 13th after a long battle with depression and addiction. I’m blogging about games in memory of my brother, and I hope you will understand why that is. I at the very least plan to maintain it regularly until what would have been Mitchell’s 29th birthday a year from today. If there is enough interest, I’ll hopefully continue after that as well.

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