Can games exist without players?

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us interviews with the developers behind Cibele and Uriel's Chasm, as well as a meditation on games that aren't meant to be played.

First up, Keith Stuart chatted with Nina Freeman about her recent game Cibele:

Has [Nina] ever been concerned about the implications of putting herself out there so honestly? “Putting myself into these stories in a vulnerable way has definitely taken practice. I’m more and more comfortable with each project. I have learned to separate my present personal life from them, because it could be uncomfortable to feel like critics are talking about me when they talk about the game. Yes, they are talking about me, in a sense, but they are really talking about the character I created based on me. That distinction is important.”

At Kill Screen, Chris Priestman interviewed alt games creator Dylan Barry about his newest project, Uriel’s Chasm 2:

Barry didn’t realize that bringing these games to Steam would seemingly offend so many people. He saw in their reaction a familiar “religious behaviour,” as if he had walked into their temple and smashed their stone commandments, which laid out what games were and how they should be… It was for aspects such as this, along with its esoteric narrative and peculiar challenges, that Uriel’s Chasm was labeled “bundleware”… But Barry wore this label as a badge of honor. This is exactly what he was going for. “My aim was to potentially change a person’s life with something made for mass bundling,” he tells me. “I wanted to play right into the pigeon hole I’d been put in, then feel around for the walls, the limitations of exactly what could be achieved in that dark place.”

Meanwhile, Ed Smith is worried about how children are presented as characters:

You encounter humanity in games not in people but through simpler, more tangible non-human vectors. You never speak to people, because people are complicated. Instead, you straightforwardly learn about people through architecture, diaries and robots, objects which can purport an essence of humanity but also be used to conveniently sidestep the pressures and expectations of writing and creating a believable human character.

Games scholar Brendan Keogh imagines videogames without players:

Designed without a human player, the system would work perfectly, without hiccups, and much faster. While the computer can smash out thousands of decisions and act on them in a microsecond, the player has to drag their lumpy fleshy digits from one button to another and press it while also pushing on a thumbstick and thinking about what to do while also not being distracted by a barking dog or the afternoon sun glare on their television screen.

And finally, this week comedian and critic Brock Wilbur looks inside himself to consider what it means to shoot virtual and real guns in the wake of the Paris attacks:

I don’t think that the video games or even the guns are bad — they’re nothing more or less than beautifully consumer products made for a predominantly male audience — just that they may no longer be good for me. I can’t be alone there. I can’t be the only one starting to suspect that if he’s not a survivor, he’s something awfully close. I can’t be the only one starting to behave accordingly.

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Notable Replies

  1. Headline contains a question mark. No is axiomatic.

  2. tekk says:

    When can we get some proper terminology getting in here? If there's no gameplay, then it's not a game; a game without a player isn't even an interactive movie. The term you're looking for, in fact, is indeed a movie. Now if you're talking a game that's mainly meant to be seen as art rather than something fun or entertaining, I'm inclined to say interactive experience. Course the line can be blurred a little bit, I'd probably consider the works of Jason Rohrer to be games, although some of them like

    There's nothing wrong with a work being either of those, but it's a bit mad to get offended when people buy something that was advertised as a game, and then complain about it because they didn't understand your rather bizarre definition of a game.

  3. "Yes. Number of players: zero."

    Wargames.

  4. Yet I still manage to suck at it.

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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