The Dumbing Down of Game Creation

by Michael Callisto

In the first chapter of Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, the author argues for the idea that more and more people should have access to the tools needed to create video games in order to have “a wider set of experiences” and to present “a wider range of perspectives” (8). She believes that games should be “personal and meaningful, not just pulp for an established audience” (10). She believes that eliminating some of the challenges one must overcome when creating a video game will result in this wider diversity of perspectives. I believe that this is a misguided view of what makes games as an art form so unique, and why overcoming these challenges is so important for any prospective game maker.

In order to create a coherent, entertaining, and complete game, a creator must combine many different elements from various domains such as computer science, the visual arts, the literary arts, and the musical arts. By relying on these forms to various degrees, the game developer is able to create something that is completely unique and personalized to his or her own desires, strengths, and weaknesses. Part of the maturing process of a game creator is learning what these strengths and weaknesses are, and figuring out what skills you need to develop further. When game-making tools are given to you in forms that are ‘dumbed down’ in a sense, this process cannot happen and any artistic expression that is possible becomes intrinsically more limited. I would liken it to how games such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band allow you to play music like a “musician” without teaching you anything that would be useful when playing a real instrument or actually composing music.

One of the more curious passages to me was when she seems to undermine her argument by saying: “people with something to say will find ways to say it, and there’s a history of clever people using whatever means they can find to modify and subvert digital games and to create new ones” (17). If a person truly feels like they have a story that they must share through the medium of games, then they will find a way to adapt the tools available to them in order to do so, no matter their background. In general, I think that if video game creation were to become as easy as say, writing poetry is today, the quality of games in general would simply plummet and any diamonds that may be produced will be flooded by a sea of garbage. If you want to make a game, you need to put in the hours.

As for her game Dsy4ia, I enjoyed its presentation of the problems one encounters during the transition process, but I lamented the lack of any real consequences of my interaction with the game. At times, I was wondering what the point was of making it interactive at all.

 

Work Cited
Anthropy, Anna. “The Problem With Videogames” and “The History of Magic.” Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts,   Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2012.

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