Just after years of functioning on Halo, Contact of Duty, and other triple-A franchises, Matthew Burns went the independent route and has now, with Zachtronics, released the arresting visual novel Eliza, a story about the ethical conflicts surrounding an AI therapy plan.
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Matthew joins Gamasutra’s Kris Graft and Alissa McAloon on the newly-minted GDC Podcast to chat about how a game with so small space for decision was brilliantly created to say so considerably about player agency. And yes, we just referred to as a visual novel a game, but only mainly because Matthew gave us permission to.
GDC Podcast music by Mike Meehan.
“I consider any textbook that you open about game design and style will essentially say, ‘games are distinct mainly because they are interactive. Games are distinct from other mediums mainly because they present you with options.’ That is the defining function of games. Any pundit speaking about games will say this.
“And so, what is so potent to me in that is essentially denying somebody a decision. That can be such a potent move, mainly because it is a game and you would that that you would want to give persons a decision. And so going against that is a seriously intriguing way to use the tools that you have as a game designer. It really is like making use of silence as a composer or blank space as a writer.
“But the absence of the issue that tends to make the medium what it is can boost the other options that come later.”
“I essentially never agree with that, that a game is a series of intriguing [decisions]. I consider that what a game is is essentially quite tough to define…Ludwig Wittgenstein picked the word “game” as an instance of a word that is not possible to define, and he had all these examples of why or how you cannot define the word ‘game.’ It really is worth reading.
“Every person has their personal definition of ‘game.’ A lot of persons consider visual novels are not games at all. But I consider that Eliza does have intriguing options in it — or at least a single intriguing decision in it. So if Eliza is a series of a single quite intriguing decision, is it a game or not? I never know, I will let you choose — as lengthy as you invest in it and play it, I am delighted.”
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