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To Find Purchase In Clouds

Once again, I sit at the foot of four days off, and find my impetus to action unable to generate forward movement for all the stumbling over mental bric-a-brac I am doing.  Perhaps a cluttered mind is a critically thinking adult's legacy, because critical thinking is about rethinking ideas and never being so certain of the validity of your current understanding of them as to put them away completely.  However, I tire of this clutter.

It begins with an identity crisis.  I think myself an electronic gamer, but I do not approach gaming with the zeal I did when I was younger.  Why?  Many aspects of the human mind are a block box, even to the individual observing their own, so it is hard to say.   However, I feel reasonably certain that this is because I have already played the more popular genres of games to death, to resurrection, and to death again.
You kids with your fancy SNES, XBOXes, ect.  Heck, when I got started, it was with a
neighbor's Atari 2600.  Though the Commodore 64 is where my gaming mojo really began.
If people can play genres to death, then why have genres of games?  A large part of that is because investors are more willing to invest in the tried and true.  However, having dabbled in game development, I can see a reason that is possibly as powerful as the almighty dollar: clones are just a whole lot easier to make.  This is because, after having played one, it is relatively easy to understand all the parts involved and where they go.  When you make a game that is not a clone, you are reinventing the wheel, and that is a whole new batch of parts with ambiguous purpose and placement.

Another issue is where the bar of games has been risen.

When electronic gaming started, I could simply enjoy that I was able to interact with the magic box called a television through the medium of a computer.  If you look at some of those early Atari 2600 games, most would qualify as little more than tech demos by today's standards.  "OMG, those pixels on the TV screen kind of look like things we recognize, and things happen when they collide with each other!"  Bravo.
Bioshock: Infinite's immersion is so flawless that it hardly needs introduction.  If only it were employed to greater ends than a single story.
Now, with the invention of truly immersive games, we can look at games as windows into a whole other world.  These types of games attempt to portray a world custom tailored to our desires, a simulated environment with meaningful goals of its own.  True microcosms of life, not mere pixel collision.  (Perhaps these are cruel illusions considering that they are, in reality, mere constructs of silicon reading binary.)  I suppose, even as far back as an oscilloscope representing tennis, there was some degree of this being a microcosm, but just look how far we have taken that!

There is plenty of evidence that a microcosmic focus is where the bar of gaming has been moved:
  • World of Warcraft and Skyrim, both built around representing vast worlds, either massively multiplayer or not.  Actually, the whole role-playing genre is literally this kind of escapism, seeking release by a vacation to the imagination.
  • Minecraft was a remarkably pure expression of a microcosm, a boxy world that stretches on practically forever.  By inviting the players to build wherever they like, whatever they like, it is inviting them inside.
  • Even FarmVille is here, when interpreted technically, as this is a little plot of digital land, your gateway to an agricultural ideal.
These are ultimately escapism simulators, first and foremost.  If this is the true focus of what most gamers want from gaming, then it should be no coincidence that these are examples are among the single most popular games that there are.  I doubt it.
This was ultimately why I was so excited about WildStar and ArcheAge, both looked like
escapism simulators that might have pushed the bar.
Following this logic, perhaps I was wrong to believe I am tired of the same old genres.  Maybe all games are really a part of the same genre, escapism simulators, and I have been playing them for decades!  This would mean problem is actually that I am frustrated by the limits of current-day escapism simulators. 

By "limits," I am not necessarily referring to immersion alone.  Having worthwhile activities within those simulators is essential.  What frustrates me the most is that I have exhausted the entertainment potential of the simulators I have already played.  Perhaps this is what I really meant when I said I had played all the genres to death?

I think that brings me to where I am now.  By and large, it seems that the game development industry is too mired down by money concerns and/or lacking vision to push their escapism simulators forward fast enough for my liking.  If I can not trust others to do it, then it's up to me, and so I have been making shaky overtures in the direction of becoming a game developer.  I know that the simulation of the microcosm is important, and this is probably why my muse walks out on me during the very second it looks like I am making something else.

It is also why I am having such a hard time shaping my vision to GameMaker Studio, Construct 2, or Clickteam Fusion 2.5: these engines are ultimately focused on delivering graphics and collisions, something old school consoles were all about.  In each engine, I face a silly single room/scene/frame scope limit that actively discourages simulating microcosms of larger scenes, entire worlds, or even universes. 

Alright, then; I think that this rant might have sorted enough bric-a-brac off of the floor my mind for me to find traction (and I do not imagine it will be long until I make a mess of it again).  Yet, all this really does is put me at the foot of the beginning of a journey.  Where to go from where?


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