Wei Dai’s 500 words paper!
2018 Parsons MFADT Summer Boot Camp Final Paper
The Fool & The Hanged Hierophant
It all started with a game called The Beginner’s Guide by Davey Wreden. It is essentially a collection of unconventional mini-games with bizarre rules and philosophical messages. This game is like anything I’ve played before and it really makes me question my old game design philosophy: Is playability necessary if the game can deliver its message? Is text description or dialogues necessary for storytelling? Is a small and simple game capable of expressing my own philosophy? Does a game really need a win or lose situation? What kind of emotions and thoughts can a scene provoke in an interactive experience?
These questions eventually led me to the exploration of unconventional game design and it really helped me see a lot more possibilities in game design. I see many peers are facing the same problems of being restricted by the “rules” of game design and frustrated to come up with any fresh ideas. This drives me to launch this research on whether people really need those conventional rules to enjoy a game to, hopefully, convince those game designers to revise their design philosophy a bit and help them open their creative minds. I named my project The Fool & The Hanged Hierophant. The fool represents “being unconventional” in taro and the Hierophant represents authority, conventional rules, and strict traditions. By hanging him I declare the death of the conventional logic in this game.
In my game, the player needs to use left and right keys to control the character to proceed through levels. There are four levels and they are carefully designed and placed in order. In the first level, the player is placed in a serene night scene surrounded by Zen ambient music. On the right end of the screen stands a lamppost. It is a symbol of “destination”. I choose lamppost is because of its semiotic meanings as a milestone that guides people in the dark and its wide usage in both movies and video games as the destination. The lamppost is on. Will the player automatically consider it as a destination? All the player needs to do in this level is to walk from the left ends to the right ends where the lamppost stands to enter the 2nd level. In the second level, which is a black and white world with dissonant music in the background, the player can see another lamppost on the right end of the canvas but this time, it is off. Will he notice the difference and guess the meaning behind it? Will he still consider it as THE destination in this level based on the previous experience? If he does, he will have to pass through a room with six bouncing balls that might hit him and send him back to the starting point. What will the player feel when he finds out that nothing will happen when he reaches the lamppost? What will he think when he realizes that the actual gateway to level 3 is, in fact, turn back from where he started in this level and walk to the left end of the canvas? Later in the game, when the player encounters an identical room with 200 bouncing balls in the middle and he finds out that he can no longer go back like he did in level 2, will he be afraid and anxious? Will he hesitate to go through the 200-ball room? When he finally decides to walk through the 200-ball room but realized that there is no collision applied on these balls, meaning they are merely non-interactive background, what will he think? This game is made for attracting data for these questions from testers so I can build my game design theory to help game designers jump out of their mind loop, open their mind and be creative once again.