Where should I go now?
The other thing I can't seem to shake is meaning. I need anything I create to carry a tangible message that makes a difference to people's lives, to the point where most of my games and plays are really just about that, about the anxiousness to do good and make a difference.
From now on, this blog is about the fusion of these two passions. In my recent game design, quasi-academic research and general thinking I keep stumbling onto tropes and techniques that games and interactive worlds can use to convey messages, emotions and information using what I will call the language of exploration. How can a place be used as a metaphor for a person? How can a place be charged with memories of backstory events, and how can the player in turn best be encouraged to charge places with their own memories? Can the sweeping emotions of exploration and discovery be used to complement a linear story – or a non-linear one? In short; how do we speak using not words, but places?
Film has long since developed a powerful language of cuts and composition, scenes and sequences. Games have several language already developing, but this particular one I feel we're all speaking on a toddler level. My hope is that this series can help designers of adventure games, Metroidvanias, sandboxes and pure notgame exploration experiences and get us all thinking about this largely unexplored yet deeply archetypal artistic language.
I will touch on the science of mental mapping and how spaces can be made navigable (but still challenging!) for the human brain, dwell a bit on my own mistakes in trying to design a compelling world in Residue, explore various models of progression (linear and non-linear) through space, present tools for evoking loneliness, awe, familiarity, resolve, fear and all kinds of spatially driven emotions and dissect exploration tropes from dead ends to fetch quests, and how they can serve or hinder a thoughtful game design.
Click the "exploration" tag on this blog to see all other posts, including my old Super Metroid analysis - an absolute master class in explorative level design. And I went ahead and did a first trope post to serve as an example of what I'll be trying to achieve here. It's called Mementos!