No, no, wait, hear me out.
I too, a while back (like in this 2005 Gamasutra soapbox – why did they change from calling them “soapboxes” to “opinions” anyway?) would often try to rally the cry for innovation in games. Much like Juan Gril does in his article last week.
Looking at this year’s IGF entrants, there’s definitely some innovative stuff there. And I’m really happy that there’s now more of an environment in the industry that those games can get made, find their audience, and be successful in some fashion. Most of them are never gonna get huge sales, but they should hopefully find enough people who like their uniqueness to keep their creators going. And that is a truly wonderful thing.
BUT. Let’s not get carried away jumping and screaming for innovation, yeah? Innovation without a purpose is a gimmick. Gimmicks are fine, they are often the start of or hook to something much more meaningful in a game. But it’s still a gimmick. Let’s call gimmicky duck a gimmicky duck, ya know?
Innovation is a means to an end. If you want to make someone feel something they’ve never felt from a game before, you have to innovate, obviously. But innovation for innovation’s sake doesn’t actually advance any of our understanding of the medium as an art, nor does it, more importantly, show the player some truth – truth about the world, about human nature, or about themselves. It does not necessarily open their perceptions in any way.
Hey, you can make control a character made out of jelly/peanut butter/sandwiches/whatever, but it’s only meaningful if there’s some truth to be found in being those things. (And to clarify, I’m not saying there’s not. In fact, it presents quite an interesting design challenge. How does playing peanut butter and/or jelly give oneself better understanding of one’s own nature? I, seriously, digress.)
The important thing is the end result. The feelings or thoughts you engender in your audience. Whatever those are, if those are not in the forefront of your mind at all times while making a game, however large or small, it will indoubtably fail to engender those thoughts & feelings.
Now for lunch! PB&J, naturally.