Saturday, 10 March 2012

Nuggets of Wisdom: the Joy of Discovery

Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid and The Witness, recently spoke about what he thinks modern Japanese games tend to do badly.

They don't just give you a simple situation and let you work it out. They explicitly tell you what to do and then say "It's not hard, don't be worried, go ahead, you try now". You know? And then you try and you do it and half-way, when you're in the middle of doing it, it stops you and it says "Now remember: during the next part rotate the block to the right!".
Once you've done that it eliminates the joy of discovery which, as I've said, is something I really value. I really value that click that happens in your head between you see something and you don't quite understand it and then suddenly you do understand it. And that is a fundamental part of human existence in the world, is that kind of mental growth, that kind of expanding my sphere of understanding the world around me. And when you build an entire game that's "I tell you what to do then you do it", OK you're not going to lose the player, but you've prevented that player from having any of joy of discovery at all, and I don't want to play games that are like that.

Of course, this flaw is not exclusive among Japanese games. Many Western games fall into the same pitfalls in their relentless quest to ensure games are seen 'the way they're meant to be seen' and the player is reduced to little more than a kind of 'God of the gaps' role. Japanese games do tend to be a little more heavy-handed in their approach, though (Ghost Trick springs to mind as a recent example).

I strongly recommend you listen to the full interview with Jonathan Blow.

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