Learning to Game, Gaming to Learn

Four Decembers ago, while browsing Flickr I stumbled over a series of screens from a pair of previously unknown games, apparently designed with Recreational Software Designs’ Game-Maker. I contacted the account’s owner, and soon found myself in a fascinating discussion with Bionic Commando associate producer James W. Morris. The topic strayed from Game-Maker through a tour of the Shareware era, before fixing on the problems and potential of educational games.

This interview has sat on my shelf for over three years, waiting for formatting and a sympathetic host. Here I present in full James W. Morris, on learning to game and gaming to learn.

The Game-Maker Story: Infoboxes

Here’s a little archive relic that I’ve tossed up on Gamasutra for the hell of it.

The Andy Stone interview went through several iterations, as it bounced from one publication to the next. When I reformatted it for Game Developer Magazine, I also threw together a couple of infoboxes to help with the layout of the piece. When GDM ceased publication the article fell through, and the sidebar text has since sat neglected in my article folder. Here I reproduce the compact version, to sit alongside the earlier Gamasutra Blog edition of the interview.

Old interviews; recent posts!

I forgot to mention this. Recently I also put up some excised bits from the Andy Stone interview — interesting details, yet possibly even more specialist than the rest of the interview — and a rambling probe into the mind of Gary Acord. If you don’t know who that is… well, read on. Be astounded.

It’s getting hard to find time to do things. I’ve a few more articles in the backend there, waiting for a few tweaks before they go up. I’ve got the long-delayed conclusion to my series of posts on the history of A-J Games. I’ve got my novel that I’m writing. I’ve got a knee-deep pile of untended emails, comments, tweets, and who knows what other missives. I’ve got wiki articles to edit and update. I’ve got my own design projects to explore.

But I’ve also got work and life here. So, stuff is coming. It’s just coming slowly. And it’s going to keep being that way.

The sidebar over there has decided to be strange. I think part of the database went corrupt. That’s okay! If I ever publish another half-dozen articles, it will right itself.

From Shooter to Shooter: The Rise of cly5m

Seiklus was a turning point for the indie scene. Even if you’ve never played it, you’ve played something influenced by cly5m’s game. Seiklus was one of the first “exploration platformers,” now a booming and distinctly indie genre. A small man, nearly a stick figure, travels a gentle flat-colored world, collecting pointless trinkets and the occasional control upgrade, to find his way back home again. There is no death, and no overt violence; Seiklus is all about the journey, and the player’s relationship with the game world.

Seiklus comes off as a very personal game. Although the controls amount to little more than walking and jumping, and the presentation is nearly as minimalist, the experience feels emotionally rich. Its level geometry and sequencing trade epiphanies for careful observation and experimentation, and the sound design creates a distinct and whimsical atmosphere.

The stripped-down expression of Seiklus has helped to legitimize canned game creation systems, leading Mark Overmars’ Game Maker to become the respected behemoth it is now, and lending the indie scene an entry-level spine. There have been tributes and parodies. It’s just an important game.

For all its influence, Seiklus is kind of a one-off. For a while creator cly5m and Robert Lupinek teased the Internet with Velella, a sort of spiritual successor involving dream flight. Otherwise, the last eight years have passed pretty quietly. The previous eight, though – that’s a different story.

( Continue reading at insert credit )