With the advent of starting my own game studio and using the term “non-fiction games,” I figure I should explain my reasoning behind the term.
My work as an artist is narrative based interactive fiction. I grew up on SCUMM era games like Sam & Max and of Live-Action Video (LAV) titles like Tex Murphy. I explored the ages of Myst and the saved the time-space continuum in Buried in Time. Art to me is exploring the space between the audience member and the work of art itself. Good art allows the audience to fill in that space by giving enough information to make the experience owned by the audience. I’m constantly perfecting my skills in this craft to explore this space.
The Current Serious Space
While and establishing myself in fiction works, I started to think about the other areas of thought this art form can tackle. I’ve mused about this before with topics like “The Corporation for Public Gaming” for the Serious Games space. Loosely described as games that have a real-world purpose. While there are great works, I find the space lacking. There’s a series of toys created to find the quickest way to illustrate a narrowed concept. They’re not rewarding experiences for the most part and at best a sense of guilt that you must play this game rather than wanting to.
A browser based LAV game called “Bow Street Runner” has stuck out with me in what I want from non-fiction works. Done by Littleloud as a commission for a Channel 4 show called “City of Vice,” the game is arguably more rememberable than the show. The player is a Bow Street Runner, the pre-cursor to our modern police system. While the game is historical fiction, it is still taking history and only filling in gaps to make it approachable in our history. Different from the attempts that Assassin’s Creed takes where a completely alternative universe is created with our existing understanding of history.
For the better part of my career, I’ve worked on making games that fit within the universe of an existing IP. While some were more restrictive than others, the titles I help to realize had a certain degree of rules mandated by the franchise. The question I ask: How is this different from a non-fiction topics? How difficult is it to follow the rules of the universe of a fictional franchise to the universe we exist in?
Non-Fiction Gaming is my approach to close this gap. Non-fiction gaming is taking the same approach of fictional game development to non-fiction topics. Instead of deep-diving into a fictional world, I choose to dive into our own world. Gaming needs it’s Maus and Persepolis. It needs it’s NPR: Planet Money and This American Life. It needs it’s Cosmos: A Personal Journey. I choose to take the same love and care I approach an existing fictional universe to the world of science, history, art, and anything else I care to talk about though my art.
In the end, what I care about is the space between the work of art I create and the player themselves. That part where both sides come together and only the player can create. A space that isn’t restricted to works of fiction. This is why I started my studio.
Edits: Added headers and corrected grammar. (1/15/2013)