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of art are subjective, I think that the interpretation of the WHY (for why they’re experienced down to why they’re originally made) is also subjective.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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Without Form

I started the prototype of my first game, Cool-B in Search of Floyd, in December of 2010. I made it in two days, finishing at the airport on the way home from my university in another state (yes, I was there for Computer Science). At the very beginning of January following that, I found out that the school had a meeting about my health (which was absolutely horrible at the time) and they decided that it would be best for me to stay home on medical leave for a while until I got better to come back.

Now, I know this was not for academic reasons. I was doing extremely well there. It was because they cared. I knew this at the time, but I was still upset because I didn’t want to get behind my classmates in terms of progress in the Computer Science program.

After finding out about having to stay home on medical leave, I was thinking, “I can’t just sit around and do nothing.” I decided to give myself a big challenge: make my first video game completely by myself using an engine I make using a programming language I don’t know yet — all at the point in my life in which my health was the worst.

As you can see today, I completed that challenge. The language I chose was C#, I made the engine itself (all the rendering, asset handling, loading processes, game systems, etc.) using the beautiful XNA framework, and I did all the music, graphic assets, design, code, etc. completely alone. It took a while because I didn’t really know what I was doing very much at all for the longest time during that process, but also because of something that I ended up learning the hard way…

I felt tremendous external pressure to rush the development of the game. Therefore I worked normally 17 hours a day, 7 days a week, for several months in a row. I apparently would fall asleep at the dinner table, then eat really quickly when I woke up and go right back to the computer.

…I released the game, but it never did get up to a standard with which I was satisfied. I wanted to make an honest and personal game about my cats, Cool-B and Floyd. I wanted to have a lot of meaning and purpose hidden in this “childlike game about hope” so much that it ended up being confusing to most everyone and was just dismissed mostly as a game with poor craftsmanship.

To this day, I don’t think a single person has found and understood all the things I put in that game that were meant to affect the player’s perspective on life and games. The game as I said was mostly just dismissed by people, and I would say probably one person was able to see the game mostly for what it was for. I also did receive dozens and dozens of encouraging emails for years after the game came out. Either way, I moved on after that.

By the way, you can still get Cool-B in Search of Floyd on GameJolt for free on PC and Mac. Also, the mobile version can be found on the App Store for iOS, and the Google Play Store for Android. The game is free on all platforms.

The university I was talking about earlier was Neumont University in Utah. It was in South Jordan at the time, but is now in Salt Lake City. I never did go back, mainly because I was headfirst into game development, but I have much respect for that school, and I was lucky to have that experience in my life.

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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