So I found these super cool guys at Kill Screen who run a column called The Meta. It’s the way they talk about games that caught my attention. Just look at the opening to a conversation they had about animation canceling in games:
“All animation cancels should be destroyed.”
Woah. I can count the people I know who make statements like that on one hand. I love that it’s such a strong position, because even if someone disagrees, the conversation that follows is bound to be interesting. You should definitely check it out.
The fundamental question of the conversation is this: “Is it okay for a game to have unintuitive, unexplained aspects of its technique in the name of skill?” Animation canceling, can of worms that it is, is only one aspect of the issue. And if you’re reading this and saying “WTF is animation canceling?” consider yourself a perfect demonstration of the problem.
But there’s one quote in particular that I want to talk about. It’s a quote that subtly colored the entire conversation, and it exposes some of the biases that we have about how to make games.
Justin Groot: “Aren’t mechanics that make things arbitrarily more difficult essentially the definition of any competitive game though?”
What a question. There’s a lot of baggage implied there, and I want to unpack it. It seems obvious that competitive games need skill, but it really matters what he means by “skill.” Not all skills are compatible with each other, and using conventional skills like dexterity and reflexes has a way of limiting a designer’s imagination, of cutting off all kinds of depth that other skills have to offer. Above all, designers should be purposeful and shrewd about which skills they put into their games instead of relying on whatever skills accidentally made it in. Continue reading