Reading Notes 4

1. Documentary games is an “aspirational pre-naming”.  Documentary as a filmic genre has some very specific properties. Simply porting that name and filmic techniques to games with little investigation into the intrinsic documentary qualities of games would be a mistake. Digital Media can do interesting things with code, for example running simulations with realistic parameters, that explore how a game might be documentary. Using Bill Nichols modes of cinematic documentary as a basis for exploring game documentary potential helps create a framework on which to build a digital game documentary genre.

2. SCMRPG! was a bust. No operational windows machines in my home. I’ll try to get access to one soon.

Ute was not terribly fun to play but enjoyable to consider. The player, as Ute, is trapped in a system that completely removes the agency of the men, portrays them as fragile hearted goofs and rewards Ute for collecting them as conquests. I’m not entirely sure what the point was, but it did present something different than the norm.

3. Polemical games are not usually fun because more effort has gone into didactic expression than into the elements required for an enjoyable experience. There is, of course, great potential to make games that operate successfully as expressive and fun simultaneously. Game design is normally a very slow process filled with play testing and small tweaks. Taking on the ambitious task of being both fun and informative or expressive takes even longer and requires great effort.

4. I’m eager to see documentary games find their own language apart from film, but agree that looking to documentary film is a good first step in recognizing how “documentary” operates.

I think the documentary game is great idea and the potential of expressing complexity in moving systems is far more interesting to me than the passive experience of a documentary film. The computational aspect of digital games is engaging. The way a digital game could read my investment in the experience through my input and adjust its rules or mode of presentation are compelling. On the negative side, I may already be spending too much time sitting and looking at screens. That said, I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy letting a skilled documentary film maker present me with new and potentially life changing information. Watching a documentary with another person can lead to great conversation.