Why Dishonored is Important.

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Dishonored represents the first time in a long while (well excluding Human Revolution and maybe Witcher 2) that it seemed like the developers honestly gave a crap about what their making. More than that, it represents the crystallization of the Looking Glass social experiment. Deeply immersive and affecting game expressed through the gameplay mechanics. BUT NOW? Now they have the art and sound design to draw the players in as well as the understanding of how to introduce a player to a complex game without scaring them.

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via static.guim.co.uk

In reality this is the fundamental failure of Irrational Games. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite are attempts to bring players into a world without scaring them with things like inventory or complex gameplay mechanics. They feel that depth can be expressed through simply intuitive player action. In reality the best route is the middle road between hardcore sim and ‘engaging experience’. Which Dishonored accomplishes and why his love for it is equal to and possibly exceeding stalker. Irrational's methodology means they lose proper immersive depth, which in the long run means they lose freedom of experience and coincidentally staying power within our cultural subconscious. It’s the fundamental question every developer tries to solve and fails miserably most of the time. How do we provide and open experience while it is still a guided experience? People only see two possibilities; The open world game and the linear game. In reality the answer is closer to the immersive sim structure set forth by Deus Ex, Thief, System Shock, Dishonored and, to a far lesser degree, Stalker. The key is creating a guided series of mini sandboxes that we as players can have total control over our experiences in.

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via www.blogcdn.com

I actually think this was the supposed future of the Max Payne games. To expand their destruction and slow motion to become useful tools within a more three dimensional open environment that we have control of. The narrative is still linear but the levels are cubes instead of corridors. Imagine max using slo-mo to fight through an asymmetrical open nightclub full of people where his actions and movements have weight and affect on the environment. Or a level that allows you to approach where you enter and how you combat a scenario (strangely enough in my version of Max Payne he was also bald but because doctors had to shave his head to stitch up a gash where he was shot.)

More appropriately I like to call this system of design; constructed pockets of gameplay leniency along a linear narrative path.

Have you seen this week's Extra Credits? It explains why we have come to this point in development as depicted by the picture. We are, wholly and completely, stuck on the notion of games being 'fun.' Its what creates this disconnect between the focus test games and stuff like dishonored. Those publishers; The EA's the Activisions, treat the notion of a game still as a pastime, an entertainment rather than an experience. It limits us and holds us back in our designs. Because it can't just be enjoyable. We need to make it 'fun' which strips the product of dignity and potential gravitas it may have. Stalker, System Shock, Thief, The Deus Exes, all for the first and most part were not fun, they were enjoyable, immersive affecting experiences. But the problem is that the developers lost sight of the fact that while a game is not fun in the conventional sense, gameplay still needs to be constructed in an intuitive manner that the player can immediately understand but endlessly probe and experiment for more depth as they want. Dishonored, and to a far lesser extent Human Revolution accomplished bridging that razor line between the inanity of 'fun' and the complexity and concentration of immersion.

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via static.guim.co.uk

It’s a confusion of the understanding of fun, really. The publisher’s connotation of fun is so much shallower than ours, which leads to what we have now. It’s about the disposable consumer culture. It’s about immediate thrills more than long lasting affecting experiences. By keeping you satiated from one product to the next with no lag time to realize how hollow these games are. It is short-term damaging thinking that destroys gaming in the long run. It is actually amazing that a game as subversive to the publisher’s understanding of fun could have been funded and distributed under their watch.

So, what is the answer to the publisher dilemma? Crowdsourcing? Neo patronage? The fan base as a participatory element of development, of which we respect and listen to? Personally, I believe not, in as vague a sense of the word, because that leads us to the same problem as before. When we serve the tastes of others, we sacrifice creativity in favor of satisfying the patrons and the crowds. It is just another form of share-based democracy. The group with the greatest investment gets the greatest call and inevitably it leads to appeasement of the masses. It’s not about servicing others. Its not about 'giving them what they want' its about taking control and seeing the cultural and creative curve ahead of the players and guiding them. People, the mass populace, are not a source of intelligent design concepts. (Note: this isn't about mechanics this about how developers perceive their consumers). However, what must never be lost is respect for the player's intelligence. The dark side of this is Steve Jobs. Who took control of the curve, but had no respect for consumers. Instead he built a cult of personality around him and products and instead of giving people what they need, he controlled their desire for what they wanted.

And thus the patronage analogy cannot work. Because patronage implies they have control over you. See in reality the use of patrons in terms of libraries and stores is actually a form of malapropism. Unequivocally and undeniably, these people are still customers. But this is a new form of looking at and interpreting the customer. Where a dialogue is present where we guide and mold the customers as much as they guide us through their sales. It is a modified form of the auteur theory, in a sense. The creator has total control but must understand that he is responsible if his control results in failure.

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via assets.sbnation.com

But what do I know about games? Intelligence is a matter of dedication, more than anything else. What my useless liberal arts education has awarded me with above all else is command of the English language. I can speak at length and at depth about this but I have goddamn clue as to how to act upon my creative urges with regards to game development. Unlike others. So while I may be the more vocally savvy of this dialogue, there are others that are, by far, the smarter people in these conversations.

So, what do you think about Dishonored?