Last week, we spent a bit of time thinking about games and, er, time – the relationship between a game when it’s dormant and when it’s being played, what happens when games you made recede into the difference, what happens if you slow the process of playing a game right down. And instead of arguing about it incessantly, we decided it was probably better to all go away and write up a bit of what we thought.
Time in a game can be a lot of things.
It can be a score – how long did you survive? Or: how long did it take you to succeed?
If can be a straightforward measure of how much potential play is left: an hourglass running through, some number in a corner on a screen, bigger numbers on an LED display over the stadium.
There is a version of this post in which I logged all of my network traffic, from all of my devices, for two weeks, and interpreted the data as audio. In the beautiful interactive timeline visualisation I produced, patterns appear. Human rhythms, work and play, rest and arousal. The pervasive digital hiss of our machines automatically organising themselves around us. Sudden slabs of noise as content is streamed and consumed.
Hide&Seek’s central concern as a studio is with the creation of games for public spaces. As our practice has developed, we have sought out ways that our designs can support public play without the need for human intervention in the form of an event. Projects such as Tate Trumps (Tate Modern, 2009) and The Building Is… (Gâité Lyrique, 2012) create experiences where play is mediated by technology, while retaining the live, human, social qualities of festivals. Our work situates video game design in the public realm, claiming it as a form of civic culture.
We like to think that there is no secret to making a good game, no magic bullet that shortcuts the unpredictable trials of testing and balancing and bug fixing and refining. We’re kidding ourselves, though. There is an absolute, guaranteed, three step process for making a good game. It’s this…
You can’t touch a game. You can touch the book containing the rules of a game, you can touch the playing pieces, you can touch the disc or cartridge it comes on, but you cannot touch a game. Games only exist as mental constructs in the minds of the players and the observers. Chess, when you’re not playing it, is a list of rules, a board and some pieces. Only when you engage with those rules and pieces does the game itself come into existence.