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Game Development- An Art or a Science? Part 2

November 16, 2009

If you haven’t had a chance to read part one, check it out before you continue.

PortalHopefully, you have gathered a few key points from my previous post, but I’ll recap briefly keep it fresh. I’ve mentioned that a science has defined rules (like the rules of programming in C), and an art has no defined rules, relying instead on expression of emotion. As you begin to examine game design, however, the lines become blurred. So if the question here is “Does game design have rules?”, then the answer is yes… and no. In programming, the rules are unbreakable. You must use semicolons, you must draw objects to the screen to make them appear; that never changes. But when you are drawing a picture, for example, the rules are far less defined. Do you have to use a brush? Do you have to use color? Are there any rules at all? In game design, there are rules that can be obeyed or disobeyed, rules that are optional, rules that aren’t unbreakable, but hurt the game to ignore them, and areas where there are no rules at all.

Electroplankton

The "rules" are getting harder and harder to define

Defining the rules of game design, like the rules of the English language, is tricky. A rule of English could be as follows: A sentence must have a subject and a verb. This seems perfectly acceptable, and it’s a rule that everybody follows. The problem related back to what I said earlier about a science having unbreakable rules. Could you ignore that English rule? Sure. Hey, look at that, I just did! I’m not the only one either. May authors take artistic liberties in order to convey a message, or to express their personal style. Now that you have an example, I’ll discuss it in terms of game design. What’s one thing that every game you’ve ever played has had in common? One thing that comes to my mind, would be that they all have pictures. So, could it be said that it’s a rule that all video games must have images, text, or any other sort of visual? Well, I played a game on the “XBOX Indie games” (although granted not a very fun one) where the screen was entirely black, and that game used sounds to communicate ideas to the player. So was the rule broken, or was there even a rule to break in the first place? This is the main argument I’ve had with myself, and, from what I’ve deducted, it seems that it is up for interpretation. There really isn’t a right or wrong. Just patterns and norms.

Pixel Junk

How do you define a video game?

Does it pay to follow the norms? Should you be different and “break the rules” just for the sake of doing so? How far can a game stray from the norm and still be accepted by the mainstream? These questions leave any sort of objective realm, and are based entirely on opinion. I could give you my thoughts on the subject, but I think it would be more beneficial to form your own. One of things that I love so much about games is the variety, so the fact that these questions even exist is something to celebrate.

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