Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Tone Rebellion: Unique Theme

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Blogger Rafael Van Daele-Hunt said...

Insightful! I hadn't thought about your points 1 & 2 in the context of weird themes before. As usual, though, I'm going to devote more words to the bits I disagree with. ;-)

3 & 4 are true as far as they go, but I think they don't actually award a marketing advantage, because completey new, strange material alienates pretty much everybody. People that hate SF & Fantasy are likely to reject anything that doesn't resemble our real world, and many SF & Fantasy fans reject anything that violates genre conventions, so what you end up with is a niche that has, as you say, no competition, but also very limited appeal. Even if your theme has the potential to start a new cult, you have to make first contact somehow; most potential customers just skim the names & pictures of games they're considering playing, looking for something attractive, which means familiar. Of course, there are a few freaks out there (like you and me, apparently) whose eye is caught by the bizarre, so it isn't completely hopeless.

Point 5 also resonates with me, although I think it important that art is practically never really revolutionary. Tolkien may have invented Fantasy, but he did it by riffing on established mythology -- and I think that was essential to his success, although that's hard to prove. Impressionism and abstract art developed in small steps. Dali is a lot like Renaissance art, and even his off-the-wall bits turn into recurring themes (forked sticks, burning giraffes), which is like making a sequel to a successful innovative game.

What I'm getting at is that, while copying existing games sucks for all the reasons you mention, trying to be an unique as possible may also not be the right goal, artistically or commercially.

12 September, 2006 09:30  
Blogger Krystian Majewski said...

Thank you for your comments, I find them always very intriguing. I agree almost with everythig you said, so everyhing I can do is just to add something to your thoughts.

I think mechanics of target groups and "familiar" themes are incredibly complex. It may be true that people, who hate Sci-Fi may be attracted to rather "realisitic" themes. But a bizzare and unique theme can be "realistic" as well, think of something like Franz Kafka, for example.
I think concerning target groups, it gets more and more difficult to use "The Tone Rebellion" as the only example because, although its theme is quite strange, it has generally some paralells to traditional Sci-Fi Themes. You have space, aliens etc.
What about games like "Myst", which were quite surreal and were quite popular with older players.

Also, as you have mentioned, you need to establish some "first contact" to new target groups. I completly agree! That didn't happen in "The Tone Rebellion". I don't know so well about "Myst" but I remember that it was being sold and used as a demo in rather serious PC (and Apple!)Stores.

If you want to adress new customers, don't even think about such things as them going in a store and skimming through names and pictures. People, who don't play games simply don't cosider playing a game, they will never set foot in a games store. Even if they did, they would be instantly driven away by the intimidating atmosphere. Imagine your parents in a local EB Games, they would be lost and confused. You have think about how to meet such customers somewhere else. At a theatre, in a books store, in a museum, while waiting for a train, etc.. What you want to archieve is a stituation where they wouldn't realize that they are about to play a computer game. You have to challenge their views and prejudices of what a computer game is. I think a unusual theme might be quite helpful at doing so.

As for what is "really revolutionary": Communication in general is based on recombination and transformation of already known elements. On the other hand, everything we percieve is always judged and evaluated by comparing it to previous works. I think the term "true innovation" is overused, overhyped and simply misunderstood. It fits well to what you said at the end. I agree that just being "unique" for the sake of it is quite short-sighted. But then again, so is blind immitation.

Innovation shouldn't be a goal to work towards. It should be rather part of what you do. You can see in "The Tone Rebellion" that the unique theme isn't just something that has been tacked-on. It is an integral part of the game and I believe that the game would have been more successfull if Logic Factory had been consequent enough include even marketing in their strategy.

Avant-garde vs. Mainstream, has been discussed for years and I doubt we will come to a conculsion here. I would like to add some last thoughts:
So far, games have been quite market-oriented. I think this is what keeps them from gaining much attention as part of our culture. We have to change that. I believe that goverment funding for games might face game designers with the question of what they want to archieve with their games. Just because some stuff sells well doesn't mean that it is a good and valuable idea.

15 September, 2006 17:04  

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