One of the nicer things about GDC was the huge stack of free magazines I took home with me. Among those was an issue of Edge, the glossy games magazine designed to look good on a coffee table next to the likes of Vogue (or whatever). I was briefly subscribed to Edge, but ended up not renewing because I could read reviews online and the articles weren’t all that good.
The january 2008 issue I brought home did have some nice bits in it—in particular an interview with Yoshinori Ono, the producer of Street Fighter IV. This latest incarnation of the game aims to go back to what made Street Fighter II great. What I liked about the interview was Ono’s clear dedication to players, not force feeding them what the designers think would be cool. Something often lacking in game design.
““First of all, the most important thing about SFIV is ‘fair rules’, and by that I mean fair and clear rules that can be understood by everyone very easily.” A lesson learned from the birth of modern videogaming: ‘Avoid missing ball for high score’.”
This of course is a reference to PONG. Allan Alcorn (the designer of the arcade coin operated version of PONG) famously refused to include instructions with the game because he believed if a game needed written instructions, it was crap.
Later on in the same article, Ono says:
“[…] what the game is — a tool for having fun. A tool to give the players a virtual fighting stage — an imaginary arena, if you like.”
(Emphasis mine.) I like the fact that he sees the game as something to be used, as opposed to something to be consumed. Admittedly, it is easier to think of a fighting game this way than for instance an adventure game—which has much more embedded narrative—but in any case I think it is a more productive view.
While we’re on the topic of magazines. A while back I read an enjoyable little piece in my favorite free magazine Vice about the alleged clash between ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ gamers:
“Casual games are taking off like never before, with half of today’s games being little fun quizzes or about playing tennis or golf by waving your arms around. The Hardcore crowd are shitting themselves that there might not be a Halo 4 if girls and old people carry on buying simple games where everyone’s a winner and all you have to do is wave a magic wand around and press a button every few times.”
Only half serious, to be sure, but could it be at least partly true? I wouldn’t mind it to be so. I appreciate the rise of the casual game mainly for the way it brings focus back to player centred game design. Similar to Yoshinori Ono’s attitude in redesigning Street Fighter.