Slate’s Gaming Club convened for its inaugural run on Monday, and so far the resulting conversation has a been a wonderful lesson in the philosophy of gaming. While it may seem like a discussion on the best games of 2007 wouldn’t be the obvious choice for a fairly in-depth look at the battle for the philosophical heart of gaming, in truth the conversation should be on interest to anyone who spent more than a few minutes with a favorite game this year.
I’m particularly interested in the reward theory of gaming, as I both resent how manipulative it can be (which works solely to the game developer’s benefit) as well as crave it (in the form of Super Mario Galaxy’s ridiculously engaging gameplay). Game Designer Jonathan Blow has more than a little to say on the subject, as it remains a bone of some contention for him as both a gamer and a designer, and if you’re willing to take the time to listen to his recent speech on the subject, you’ll find a hearty nugget of conversation seed therein.
Another point of interest (both to me and to a number of commentators on this site) is the notion of whether games should aspire to art (be it cinematic or otherwise) in the first place. I’ve got a well-known bias against what I see as ‘art on rails’ in gaming, as I’d rather stick with film or literature for narrative and leave gaming for sheer fun and experience, not to mention the fact that ‘open ended’ games just present a series of false choices (since you can never choose against the game designer’s wishes or intent), so that even the most open-ended of games remains nothing more than a Choose Your Own Adventure experience with a D-pad. Skip all the pretense and just give me a game, dammit.
So, all in all, I very much recommend this Gaming Club discussion for those interested in the medium, and I’ll throw this out there: Super Mario Galaxy is hands down the best game I’ve played all year (and more than likely one of the best games ever made). What’s your best, and why?