Youth History x Sunset: Why can’t the game be serious and painful?

Let’s talk about games like movies, literature, and art

Ye Zitao | Game designer, host of the podcast “Sunset” 

In recent years, video games have continued to appear in the public eye, from the “League of Legends” S10 finals to the recent popularity of “Moore Manor” on social networks. As a competitive event and a way of socializing, electronic games are gradually getting rid of the stereotype of “mental opium” that parents and schools shunned.

Although the game is chased by capital and the media, people still know very little about it. Except for the keywords of “King of Glory”, eating chicken, e-sports, and 3A, it seems difficult to extract new and universally meaningful games. Understand the framework. On the other hand, under the label of “Ninth Art”, although games as a new medium in academia have begun to be studied and valued, it is difficult to get the same treatment as movies and literature.

“Sunset” is a podcast with a glorious answer to “What is a game, and what is a game”. The principal, Ye Zitao, as a game designer with a background in liberal arts, has been trying to make games collide with other fields, from philosophy, architecture, technology, to politics and contemporary art. At the same time, he was also invited to give the game practitioners, who reinterpreted the concept of people “known”, such as an independent game, 3A masterpiece and the internal logic of krypton gold online games.

In this chat with Zi Tao, we tried to enter the game from a more internal and open perspective and understand the unexplored possibilities of the game. Since its inception, games have grown intertwined with other fields, and the definition of games has never been stable. As he said in the podcast, why can’t games be serious and painful, while philosophy can’t be easy and happy?

01 How to classify games and understand games?

When a thing needs to be classified, it means that it has gone through a relatively long history and solidified some paradigms that can be created by type. In the development of games, new genres continue to emerge, which are not completely classified in the traditional sense, such as RPG (Role-playing game), but cross multiple genres and form new classification dimensions.

Just like the “soul” game led by Hidetaka Miyazaki, it is self-contained because of its perverted difficulty.

Youth History x Sunset: Why can't the game be serious and painful?

“Black Soul 3”

In the 1980s, a game called Rogue was born, and in the development of later generations, it became a popular type called Rogue-like, which is known for its irretrievable nature of random generation and death: players cannot save and die. You have to start again once, and all equipment experience is cleared. Each start is a different map, character, and event. This kind of game mechanism influenced many later “open world” games, but the Rogue-like type was not until seven or eight years ago, with the adjustment and re-excavation of independent games such as “The Combination of Isaac”. Revival again, and continue to evolve more variants, such as Rogue-lite and so on. character

Nowadays, many people often talk about 3A games. In fact, this concept is a lot of controversy. If you don’t entangle the so-called strict definition of the most manpower, the most expensive investment and the highest quality. There are many works that may be produced by “independent game” studios, and their appearance can even reach the standards of 2A or even 3A. The boundary between independent games and 3A masterpieces is becoming blurred. For example, the production team of “Black Myth: Wukong” under development does not belong to any major Internet company, but judging from the texture presented in the trial clips, it is obviously not the same as the traditional independent game.

And if it is divided by game equipment, then how should a multi-terminal interoperable game like “Fortress Night” be defined?

Youth History x Sunset: Why can't the game be serious and painful?

“Fortress Night”

The content, mechanism, and platform are constantly evolving. Facing the changing and complicated game world, I personally prefer the game designer Jonathan Blow’s division of games: buy-out system and free-to-play system. Because the limitation of the business model has the most obvious impact on the game, in the past few decades after the birth of video games, there have been many payment revolutions. In a sense, the history of the evolution of payment methods is the history of the development of the game industry.

For ordinary players, many of them will use the annual TGA (The Game Awards) to understand the game as an industrial product, how exaggerated the technical strength and teamwork ability can be reflected in all aspects, similar to the Oscars in the movie. And I would even recommend people who are willing to understand the potential of the game to pay attention to the award-winning games of the annual Independent Games Festival (IGF). These independent game works that get rid of large teams can often be used in art performance, game design, experimentation, and narrative. , Sound and other aspects show what the sharpest and most stylish independent game looks like today.

Of course, you can also participate in the offline Game Jam. Now there are many such GameJam sites in China, and there are probably several games across the country every year. They also welcome people who have no game experience to participate. You can experience the atmosphere and chat with developers. You don’t need to pay for registration. After you sign up, you can team up with different people and make a playable game prototype in two days (48 hours). Without knowing art and programming, you can also do design and copywriting. This is a very specific and friendly way to enter the game.

02 Highland of capital and technology, slum of humanities

In recent years, games have undergone tremendous changes in the context of China. From the scourge of the year, electronic heroin, to the social core and the object of capital pursuit, the overall social atmosphere has a much higher acceptance of games, but we The game is not good enough to let everyone completely let go of prejudice against it.

For many Internet companies, games appear as capital hematopoietic machines, such as the originator of the Krypton Gold online game “Zhengtu”. With the blessing of capital and technology, it can iterate by leaps and bounds, but the lack of humanistic spirit has also led to a lack of further reflection inside and outside the game industry.

The creator of “Elysium Disco” once said such a sentence, to the effect that all media are dead now, and there are many very good sculptors, but no one cares about them. He believes that the game can fully carry those highly humanistic ambitions, and bring back to life the seemingly outdated spirit of the times.

Youth History x Sunset: Why can't the game be serious and painful?

“Elysium Disco”

Many potentials of the game have not yet been released. This is one of the reasons why I do [Sunset]. As a game designer with a background in liberal arts, I want to make games collide with other fields and connect with different disciplines, so that some cultural and artistic practitioners can see the use of games like this A tool for the possibility of expression or creation.

The relationship between games and other elements in the development of human history is often complicated. Talking about these is also a plan of [Sunset]. Take religion or anthropology as an example. I plan to invite some teachers who study medieval history to talk. Let’s talk about the games and knight culture that prevailed in the Middle Ages in France, and the relationship between games and anthropology is also inseparable. The rituals in many religions are game-like, with a closed system and self-consistent rules. As for the primitive people in Bali, they will use games to gain cultural identity that is unique to their ethnic group.

This is not to make the game look tall, or to prove the legitimacy of the game by making the game have a relationship with philosophy, history, and art. The legitimacy of the game does not need to be proved. The welcome it currently receives and the fans of the players are enough to prove it, but it still has a lot of room for expansion and exploration.

When we cut the game separately and treat it as a means of entertainment, or preconceived that the game must be relaxed and entertaining (conversely, philosophy is boring and painful), then we lose the space for imagination and There is room for creation, and the game will continue some of the bad inertia of the past, and it will continue to be barren on the humanistic soil.

Perhaps we can think in reverse, why can’t philosophy be enjoyable? Why can’t the game be painful?

03 Game literacy: resist the system in the system

As a game designer, I always think when playing games, why is it fun? To what extent does it manipulate me? How can you resist this control?

In 2016, I was so obsessed with “Overwatch” that I almost didn’t care about eating, studying and sleeping, but I actually didn’t like the state of being too immersed, so I thought, it’s better to just study it. Let me indulge in this system, and write my own thoughts into articles and publish them on Zhihu and indienova (the most in-depth independent game information website in China).

As I played more and more games, I found that I slowly formed a certain resistance and a more detached posture, which was for the reflection of game literacy. You will find that in fact, many game experiences are similar. A storyline suspends your appetite, creating numerical card points to know the repetition, and behind it is to make you recharge or spend more time. I can slowly distinguish whether a certain game brings new things or not? Does its repetition outweigh the difference? Some designers may not have so many things to talk about, but due to industry standards, they have to use some mechanisms that deliberately fill the time to consume players’ time. Many games are actually not worth tens of hours or even hundreds of games. The duration of the hour.

For example, many of the current 3A masterpieces are full of repetitive to do lists after completing the basic operations. It is difficult for me to play. Many of my favorite games that have deeply affected me are less than 10 minutes, streamlined and sincere. In the process of playing, you can realize that the creator has spent dozens of times more effort than you, rather than a simple feed of content. In such a game, the player and the creator have a mutually respectful relationship. 

In a sense, playing games is the process of interacting with the system. Of course, you can say that you either simply don’t play at all, but for simple shots , the really interesting point is how to use this system. After realizing its control over you, you can still maintain a certain “subjectivity” of your own to interact with it. Interaction and re-creation are like dancing.

For example, in an enduring game like “Super Mario”, some people constantly use new ways to pass levels, and for example, some people can play “Tetris” with their feet. Or some of the current game anchors, when they play games, they actually form a secondary creation-the live content itself, the same game, in the eyes of different anchors, can create completely different content, and many people are willing to watch it. It’s not a game, but how these anchors play, edit, and modify the game. In my opinion, this is a withdrawal and resistance to the game system in another sense. 

Youth History x Sunset: Why can't the game be serious and painful?

“Super Mario”

04 Play games in a big factory to make surplus

There is no industry that emphasizes innovation more than the Internet. At the same time, many Internet companies are also being criticized for “innovative weakness.” Because once a profit model is found and path dependence is formed, it is difficult to persuade others to make money in another way.

As I said earlier, games are the hematopoietic machines of Internet companies, and it is really difficult for the departments responsible for core products to see so-called disruptive innovations. Because innovation is not quantifiable, in a large company-style organizational model, every proposal must be reviewed. It is difficult to expect a group of colleagues who get together because of their work relationship to make innovations beyond the times. Works like “Hollow Knight” can only be born in the hands of a small and beautiful independent team, rather than a large company with strong financial resources.

But Internet giants are not monolithic. They will look for a gradual innovation model through investment, independent incubation, and external exchanges and cooperation. NExt Studios, where I work , plays a similar special role in the sense of beauty . The formation of such a team means that the company has given a certain amount of time and space to bear the cost, so that everyone can try for a period of time without burdening KPIs. Make some creative works.

We have indeed made a little reputation. However, in large factories where there is a competitive relationship between various studios, such “privileges” cannot exist forever. We need to constantly explore to be able to be self-financing and to do certain irreplaceable things.

Irreplaceability, in my opinion, is a kind of logic against capital.

Working in a large factory can easily be simply interpreted as a “screw in the system”: you have no idea what the upstream and downstream are doing, and mechanically and repetitively complete the work at hand. Although some domestic studios that make games in batches may have this situation. But in my opinion, a really good game production team is closely integrated with upstream and downstream. In addition to games, it is really difficult to find other fields, such as programmers, marketing, planning, art designers, and arrangers. Everyone will sit together and discuss the possibility of convergence and integration of various fields. Games have such opportunities for exchanges. With surplus space, it means you can try and make mistakes and collisions.

The so-called surplus is that people have redundancy, can take certain risks, can spend some things on “seemingly useless” things, and look at the long-term, not short-sighted because of compelling things.

Personally, I will not force myself to do things too much. Except for special periods, I rarely work overtime, because I think good creation requires surplus and leisure, and many original designers who are responsible for core creativity will not work too much overtime. For them, this kind of creation requires a relaxed mind.

Of course, reducing desire can also bring surplus. My biggest expense now is to buy books and control the cost of living in addition to rent. This also provides a surplus for me doing “sunsets”, enough to form a small independent place that allows me to follow the way and rhythm I hope. Reflect and create.

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