‘We have the power to create… right now’

To create a video game from scratch seems like an impossible task. Other forms of creative expression have very low barriers to entry: writing requires a pencil and paper, photography requires a camera, singing requires a voice… all that is needed is basic knowledge of how to operate these tools. Video games, on the other hand, seem to require an almost encyclopedic knowledge of computer sciences in order for somebody to execute their vision. As a result of this barrier to entry, the only people who’s creative visions are being executive are those who have the privilege to attain these skills. According to Porpentine’s article, these developers are ‘rich white people’ and have created a homogenous, misrepresented environment. The way to overcome this? Twine.

Twine is an application that allows the user to create a text-based game, or interactive fiction, without requiring any prior programming knowledge. The application comprehends the input of English phrases and syntax and converts it into HTML/CSS. The idea is that the user is solely responsible for executing the creative vision while Twine handles the technical backend of the process. This allows for many people of varying backgrounds to represent themselves and their visions in video games. If they have a story they wish to express or a message they wish to spread, they are now be able to. For example, if they are in agreement with Porpentine’s assessment that BioWare misrepresents lesbian sexuality, Twine empowers these designers and allows them to have a voice.

There is something to be said for people producing amazing creations utilizing user friendly tools. Players of Minecraft have created absolutely incredible monuments and mini-games using simple in-game software. Even something as archaic as Microsoft Paint has been adopted by people and used as means of expression. While I wholeheartedly agree with Porpentine’s vision of enabling a diverse set of people to execute their vision, I disagree with her disdain towards traditional programming languages.

Her article equates knowing how to program to being a machine and that designing a game using traditional means only serves to interrupt the emotional aspect. To her, Twine removes all of these ‘distractions.’ This advocation of solely using Twine to create games and avoiding learning programming seems to be a dangerous path. If somebody is truly passionate about designing video games and possess copious amounts of ideas, it would seem bizarre for them to lack the technical knowledge. In fact, it would limit their ability to create and would leave them with an inability to transfer or expand upon their skills. When somebody wants to build a car, they need to know more than just how to drive. They need to possess the knowledge of exactly how every moving part interacts with one another in order to create the best car they can.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recognized that people were having difficulty grasping fundamental computer science and acknowledged it’s difficulty. With this in mind, they created a tool called Scratch. Similar to Twine, it presents an accessible, user friendly interface where the user is able to execute commands by solely relying on their comprehension of the English language. The purpose of Scratch is an educational tool for those who are interested in acquiring programming skills. While presenting a simple interface, it is simultaneously teaching it’s user the fundamental logic and principles of computer science by associating its tools to programming functions. For example, boolean expressions are presented as ‘sensing’, loops are presented as ‘control’ and variables as ‘data’. Similar to Twine, it allows practically anybody to create, but while simultaneously education them.

Twine would be a much more efficient if it was viewed in a similar manner to Scratch; as an educational tool. By empowering people to create their own interactive fiction, it has the potential to serve as a stepping stone to developing their skills as game makers and story tellers. It should stimulate peoples desire to design games and motivate them to continue learning traditional methods in order to better execute the visions they hope to achieve.

Porpentine’s game did a great job of transcending the typical confines of text-based adventures. I’ve never played a game with such ambitious and fantastical themes. Having a recently acquired a basic knowledge of how applications functions, thanks in part to Scratch, it was interesting to see where she implemented her loops. This game embodies her philosophy of augmentation in opposition of consumption by her disregard of traditional storytelling rules. After completing the game, I was left with a need for ‘more’. Imagine what she, and every other designer, could achieve outside of these confines?

References

Porpentine. “Creation Under Capitalism and the Twine Revolution.” Nightmare Mode. November 25, 2012. http://nightmaremode.thegamerstrust.com/2012/11/25/creation-under-capitalism/

Resnick, Mitchel et al. Scratch. Computer software. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT Scratch Team. Web. 19 February 2015.

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