Why Your Game Should Matter: Giving it a Purpose
(This blogpost has also appeared on Indiewatch (link down below) and is aimed at new gamedevelopers, advising to make games with a unifying theme, using Woven as an example.)
Does it? Does your game matter?
The function of almost any game is to be enjoyed, but their purposes are diverse. As a designer, you should be aware of what that purpose is, and how to better support it in your game.
This purpose can be to earn yourself money, give enjoyment to your players, give the designers fame, share an artistic view, and so many other things. Some of these are seen as more morally correct then others, but hey, we won’t pass judgement.
Because when you are income-dependent of your game; of course your game and its financial success matter to you. Nobody will hold that against you, and your whole team should work their collective butts off to make it happen.
So why should your game matter, in the grander scheme of things?
Well… perhaps because it can.
Making a fun game is cool, but as a game designer you have a chance to create an experience for your players. You have a chance to enrich their lives and add to their experience. That’s a very precious thing, and a chance for you to give something of value to your players, besides enjoyment.
Some designers might even not be aware of the purpose of their game. About what the game can give to their players. Perhaps, your players are learning about adventure; more inclined to go out and adventure in real life, perhaps they are learning about hardship, about losing love or finding friendship. It can be many things.
Giving back through a theme
In all our games we try to add a little something, to give back to the world. Game mechanics, artwork and themes in music or narrative can be designed to support this purpose, bringing a unifying theme to your game. You can find a strong example for this in the great title: Brother, Tale of two sons. On that game, the brotherly theme is both incorporated into the game mechanics, in the key artwork and in the title itself!
We try to educate players about personality in our Mohawk game. We designed Geobeast with an incentive to go out into nature and, in Woven, there are strong themes of friendship present. The story in Woven is about two very different characters that become tethered to each other through friendship and shared circumstances. We know that designing themes like this won’t change the world, but we try anyway; and I think that that is important.
Theme in Woven
The title of Woven is tied to the theme of the game.
In earlier sketches of Woven, Glitch was literally tethered to Stuffy by a wire. The idea was that alone Glitch couldn’t fly, and without Glitch, Stuffy wouldn’t know where to go.
Stuffy holding Glitch like a balloon was also visually very pleasing.
But it also looked a bit like Stuffy had captured the little robot, and that wasn’t part of what we wanted to say.
The ties that bind, in this case, should be friendship and a more natural symbiosis.
Woven was first designed as a virtual get-away, A soft and woolen place in which you could roam freely. Something akin to a secret tree house, a safe place. Playing Woven should feel like that tree house you build as a kid, while enjoying an engaging story.
To all developers reading this: that following you’ve been hoarding on your social media channels, for a Kickstarter or Steam Greenlight campaign; try to give a shout-out to a non-profit organization once in a while. Your screenshots are great, but pass the attention around!
Like we did for these guys: http://www.secondlife.toys/en/. They are campaigning for donor-awareness for children in Japan. They are even doing it Woven style, so there is no excuse not to show it to the audience of our social media channel.
Find the organizations you care about or the one your audience might be interested in. There is nothing wrong with non-gaming content on your channels once in a while. Although it’s always more respectful to your subscribers when there is a link between the non-profit project and your game.
For developers to take one thing from this post, I’d like it be about these questions: What is the purpose of your game? How could you bind that in a unifying theme? Who or what could you support with it?
And then it is up to you.
Thank you for reading
For more info on Woven in development check out our Facebook
PS: the original article can be found here: https://indiewatch.net/2016/05/24/why-your-game-should-matter-giving-it-a-purpose/