Conveying Meaningful Messages Through Mechanics

This article was originally posted on Gamasutra. Reposting it here for the sake of posterity.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how to make games that, through the experience they provide, transmit important, heartfelt, and meaningful messages to the player. The conclusion I’ve been reaching is that, if I’m making a videogame, what makes most sense is to transmit the message neither through art nor story, but through what makes games games: mechanics. It’s not a new idea; mindful xp was a collection of prototypes that explored the same concept back in 2013. But it’s an idea I haven’t seen much, and an idea I wanted to try my hand at.

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Wait, wasn’t I making a game called directions?

Yep… but I failed. I tried to make something simpler, but I failed at that too… Really, I could talk about what went wrong, but there isn’t anything more to say than “an interesting idea + a busy week = failure”. It’s incomplete, but you can play what I made here.

It’s pretty lame ending though: out of the 4 games I wanted to make in January, I only made two, failed at one, and couldn’t finish the last one… If anything, I’m going to be giving compatibility another go in February, and if that goes well I might try finishing directions properly.  Ah well… I did learn something though, and I’m glad for that. Let’s hope what I learned here will be useful in the future!

“compatibility”… fail

Hey everyone,

I’m sorry to say that I failed at my 3rd weekly game for “Us.” :/ To be honest, I still had some slim hopes of finishing it today or tomorrow, but in the end I decided it would be best to leave it. What happened? Well, two things mainly:

  • I had a couple of other important obligations for the week, and I ambitiously thought that I would have time to fulfill these and make a game.
  • The game idea I chose to do (compatibility) turned out to be much more complex than I anticipated.

I did start on the game, but really, if I didn’t stop it now it would have eaten into the time of this week’s game, which wasn’t ideal either. I doesn’t mean I have given up on the idea though! I think it’s a pretty good concept, so I’ll get around to in in February. Now though it’s time for the 4th game… directions.

Weekly games… begin!

And so we start! As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m going to be jamming and making a game every week for the next few weeks (although probably only January). I finally decided on the theme I wanted these game to have, and that’s what I want to tell you about. The theme is going to be “relations”, and here’s the title/logo for this ‘anthology’ I’ll be making:


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December and onwards

With December coming to a close, it’s a good time to ask “what did I do in December?”. Before that though, it might make more sense to ask “what did I want to do in December?”. I mentioned my current project vaguely in my last post about my Ludum Dare entry: an”open world puzzle game like The Witness… with Metroidvania-style elements. ” The plan was to make not a finished game but a “proof of concept” kind of demo during the summer, where the timeline was something like:

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