Teatime With Make Big Things: Solving Mysteries in Games

How do mysteries work in games – RPGs, board games, and video games alike? And how do these different types of games use their mediums to explore and eventually answer mysteries? Does the game have to know the answer to the mystery, or can the game leave that up to the players to determine? What happens when the point of the game is the mystery itself? And why, exactly, is Clue the best game ever? (Just kidding… or are we?)

Since we’re kickstarting Noirlandia, our newest game about solving fantastical mysteries in strange cities, these were questions we wanted to discuss! Luckily, several other people wanted to chat about them with us too during our second monthly Make Big Things teatime. Watch the video of our great conversation below!

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Can we keep games apolitical? (Spoiler alert: no way.)

Can we keep games apolitical? (Spoiler alert: no way.)

Screenshot from Can We Keep Politics Out of Gaming? of a war-based video game

No matter what anyone tells you, games are never really apolitical. Because, well, they’re not created or played in a vacuum, isolated from everything and everyone else. We live in a highly political world. By that, I don’t mean Democrats vs. Republicans. I mean a world where our actions and words and thoughts are shaped by social and economic factors, many of them explicit and obvious – but many more of them implicit and subconscious. And if you think these things don’t affect you when you’re consuming or making a game… well, it’s likely that you’re one of the people benefiting from said social and economic factors.

Still other times, games even have meanings you weren’t even aware of. Like, for example, did you know that Sonic the Hedgehog originally was meant to have an environmental message?

To find out more, watch this great video that asks “Can we keep politics out of gaming?”

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a world in trouble

I’ve been getting all worked up about the state of this planet.  A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (and if we’ve already forgotten, here’s another), nuclear fallout in Japan, a party-line vote to defund NPR, more proposed defunding for Planned Parenthood, and a country where we’re still blaming the victims for acts of heinous and unspeakable violence.

If you’re a human (and you’ve been paying attention), then you’re probably worked up too.  It’s hard to do much of anything, let alone keep making games, when you’re pestered by that nagging suspicion that doom is waiting at your doorstep.

If you’ve haven’t been listening, it’s time to put your ear to the earth (or the sky…or whatever) and start paying attention.  It’s okay to keep making games.  It’s even okay to keep playing games.  But, while you’re busy running away from skeleton archers, don’t forget to remember about that big ol’ world outside.  It’s hurting right now, and it could probably use your help.

Don’t forget to remember. Uh…got that?

the thing about minecraft

Is that someone will always outdo you.  I’m still finishing the porch on my sandstone beachside ranch house, and someone in Iowa has just created a Minecraft lovebot that massages your toes while singing you to sleep at night.

Really, I’m sure it’s been done.

One problem with trying to make games is that a game like Minecraft comes along and…oh…it’s Monday already and I haven’t eaten in three days and I just lost my diamond pickaxe to a creeper so I CAN’T quit NOW.  Minecraft is infinitely creative and beautiful and full of surprises.  There’s no end to it…but there IS the possibility of stumbling upon a pig saddle.  And so, instead of moving forward with my game(s), I’m sitting in a puddle of my own pee mining for redstone.

So, for the sake of comparison:

Sandstone beachside ranch house (not bad, not bad)…

And then there’s this…

And this…

And also this…

game time

I’ve been debating about whether to release this game in pieces, or to crap it out in one chunk. It’s short n’ sweet, so there’s no good reason to release it in installments. I’m just thinking about accountability. The sooner a piece goes up on the site, the faster the rest gets finished.

In the meantime, here’s some in-game art.

every game has a soul

In not so long, I’ll be posting the first installation of my first computer game.  I’m totally excited, and a little scared.  It’s a solo project, which is misleading, because Evan will be doing all of the code. 🙂

What I mean to say is, it’s the first time that I’ll be designing something from start to finish that gets shown to someone other than my parents, or a college film class.  Long gone are the days of gold stars and stick figures proudly emblazoned on the family fridge.  Gone too are the days of agonizing, round-table film critiques.

In a culture where external motivators take a leading role in keeping us going, it’s easy to lose the way.  As the scholastic system of punishment/rewards dissolves, new prompts take its place.  We’ve been duly prepared for this moment, and we’ve got the academic records to prove it.  So, who were you back then?  The straight-A student?  The failure?  The cheat?  Did you strive to be the best?  And if so, did you succeed?

So this really has nothing to do with making independent games.  But in fact, it has everything to do with making independent games!

As I said before, we’ve been well-prepared for this moment.  So, what motivates you now?  Is it money?  Notoriety?  Is it the desire to share something special and unique with others?  For those working outside of a conventional rewards system, the path will be difficult and crooked.  My guess is that you will fail more times than you’re comfortable with.  You will struggle with making a living wage.  And, if you are making enough money, that you’ll wonder about your money’s relationship to your creative potential.

This first game is small.  It’s one baby step down that difficult and crooked path.  It won’t be polished.  The pacing might be awkward, the code might be buggy.  But, this game has a good soul, and I am really looking forward to sharing it.