I created my indie studio EMOTION THEORY so I can create and publish interactive products I can be proud of; products that are beautiful and meaningful, and serve some purpose to the people. It’s still only a side gig for now, but as I slowly chip away and make something of it, I hope to move forward with a sense of purpose while slowly building up development momentum.
I started by posting this blog as a [worthwhile] exercise in narrowing down what kind of projects I should currently be working on:
In addition to this, I wanted to establish certain qualities that will embody all of my projects, regardless of their individual genres, target audiences, or goals. Qualities that ought to exist at the heart of every EMOTION THEORY product.
This section is a bit of a tangent, but since I wrote it up I thought I’d keep it in the post.
At first I wanted to consider some sort of signature, a mark of autership [read auter theory]. We see a sense of autership in the works of triple-AAA industry people like Fumito Ueda, Suda51, Hideo Kojima, Ken Levine, Tim Schafer, David Cage, Chris Avellone, Peter Molyneux, Warren Spector, and triple-AAA companies like Nintendo, BioWare, Double Fine, Naughty Dog, Rockstar, TellTalle, From Software, and Valve. Games from these developers can be spotted a mile away, easily recognised by their distinct flavourings and offerings.
As much as I’d like to know what kind of work I’ll be doing and how I can mark them with some sort of personal signature, it’s far too early and unrealistic to be able to tell what that could be. I doubt any of these people established such a thing consciously, let alone so early in their career.
I recall an indie dev or an artist (unfortunately cannot remember who) saying something along the lines of, “Start building things. Generic things. In time, you’ll discover who it is you are and what it is to you want to make.”.
Thus, instead, I wish to consider overall qualities I’d like each of my products to carry.
I think if we were using Venn diagrams again, I’d have to say that I want EMOTION THEORY to be the collection of the following qualities, as demonstrated best by these developers:
Beauty / That Game Company
A recurring theme that has interested me time and time again is that of beauty. I usually consider this word’s meaning in every sense, and have enjoyed several games that explore it in different angles and capacities. Beauty is more than what the eye sees; it’s also what your ears hear, what the heart feels, and what the mind discovers. The theme can be applied to everything: beautiful visuals, locations, music, level design, controls, sounds, characters, stories, and so on, which are qualities I wish my games to pay careful mind to.
Communication / Nintendo
The next thing is something that’s a little harder to categorise and describe in a single word, but the closest word I can think of is communication. The way a product sells itself, refers to itself, and communicates with its audience. Much like the way That Game Company’s games are presented, I want the games I make to be seen as works of art, or as pieces of interactive entertainment, rather than contrived video games. The phrase “Push X to attack” or “Kill all enemies” is vocabulary only gamers understand – sounding sadistic when taken out of context. It’s also a direct piece of information intended as a tutorial, yet comes across as utterly contrived. It’s not that I don’t wish to make traditional games for hardcore gamers – not unlike Spelunky; immensely satisfying, difficult and niche – but I want all my games to speak a language that everybody understands. Even if you’re not the target audience of a particular title, you can at least acknowledge and respect it to some degree. In essence, games should consider the way the game communicates through its design, visuals, text, user interface, tutorials, and marketing material, which should all be as thoughtful and human as possible.
Meaning / Jonathan Blow
The last quality is to have some level of meaning. All games should be created to pursue some purpose. Even if a game’s ambition is only to entertain or provide fun for the player, the decision should be consciously made, and somewhat refined. As an example, the purpose of Yoshi’s Wooly World for the Wii U, as stated by one of its creators, is to bring smiles to people’s faces. This is a thoughtful idea to be considered for a game, and I wish to pursue similar ideals. Braid tried to tell a meaningful tale of obsession using layers of metaphors underneath a series of game tropes and clichés. Whether it is to explore a meaningful theme, communicate a certain idea, or bring forth a positive emotion, I want my products to consciously try to deliver something meaningful to players.
Jonathan Blow and his current crew’s latest game, The Witness, seems to hold all of these qualities at heart, with the gameplay ambition of constantly trying to provide the player with a sense of epiphany. I’d have to say that J.B. and the Witness (also, Braid) seems to be a true example of something EMOTION THEORY is attempting to be. While its production values are a far cry from what I ever hope to accomplish (at least in the near future), it most certainly exists as strong inspiration for my personal ambitions for the company.
The purpose of this post was to establish a studio vision and lay out the qualities important to EMOTION THEORY. These are:
I want my games to house a strong sense of beauty; beautiful visuals, locations, music, design, controls, sounds, characters, and stories.
I want my games to communicate in a thoughtful and human way through its design, visuals, text, user interface, tutorials, and marketing material.
I want my games to consciously try to deliver something meaningful to players; explore meaningful themes, communicate meaningful ideas, or bring forth positive emotions.
I think I’ll find [personal] success if I’m able to keep these qualities in mind when developing products, as long as I always ensure that a game is something I want to make, something I want to play, and something I’m capable of making. Full article on that can be read here.
- What is EMOTION THEORY?
- What I want to make vs. What I want made vs. What I’m good at making
- Ron Gilbert’s “Why Adventure Games Suck [and What We Can Do About It]“
- Dream Epoch – adventure / rpg game (Ludum Dare 30 / KiwiJam game jam entry)
- Indie Game Dev Advice and Inspiration
- Game Review Introspective