Three students at Carnegie Mellon University have been putting together a gaming anthology in which each title seeks to express a different thought, emotion, or experience.
As Emily Gera reports for Polygon Mindful XP,
"[B]egan as the collective effort of Felix Park, Dan Lin and Michael Lee, three students from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center who worked together during their Spring semester at the school to complete 10 standalone games that would be as mechanically and stylistically diverse as they could make them. The idea, they say, was to use games as a medium for communication; to portray meaning through specific attributes that can only be found there."
Unlike most video game developers, these students are working out something fundamental to the medium as a fledgling new form for art: how to communicate meaning.
Just looking at the the triple A games slated to release this March makes the merits of experimenting with the form in concise and discrete ways clear. The new Tomb Raider has already received a wealth of criticism for the dissonance between the character portrait Crystal Dynamics attempted to depict and the gamified violence and exploration around which the game is centered.
And despite the best efforts of those involved, I’m skeptical that the upcoming Gears of War: Judgement will be any more successful. Indeed, even Bioshock Infinite, a game pressumably built from the ground up around a central creator’s ambitious narrative vision, might not be able to blend its gameplay and narrative as well as it claims. In each case the core gameplay remains surprisingly similar, and in each case the creators are trying to force meaning through a pre-set system of conventions hoping to achieve something more.
Of course, it’s worthwhile that the developers behind these games are at least trying to overcome the problems which plague most games which want to be about something. I enjoy titles that have settled for just being fun, but there have been and continue to be so many games which satisfy that need that I’m more interested at this point in the ones that are trying to push for something weirder and stranger.