333 posts, half way to hell

So according to Blogger this should be post number 333. Although somewhat auspicious all on it's own, it's not really what I'm here to write about today.

I've mentioned before that I felt a similarity between game design and music. At the time I didn't really have the words or the experience to describe what I meant exactly. I think I may have gotten a little more under my belt now to be able to define it more clearly.

The first thing I'd recommend is that you find and acquire, my preferred method for such is iTunes, Moonlight Sonata, by Ludwig van Beethoven, Nocturne No.2 in E flat, Opus 9, No. 2, by Frederic Chopin, and Claire de Lune by Claude Debussy. Since I've managed to stumble across all of these, I doubt they're too far down the classical music rabbit hole. Now just listen to each of them, but turn the volume up fairly high, you want it to be comfortable to listen to, but also to be able to hear more than the melody. What you'll probably notice is that there is a subtext to the music, most notably in Chopin's work. For the other two, this subtext is the play of the resonance of the notes, how long you can continue to hear a particular note's influence on the sound.

So here we have subtext, but there is also speed. Depending on performance in the Moonlight Sonata certain notes will be rushed through while another just on it's heels will be drawn out for some time. But each variance in speed creates a different feel to the note, where the same sound let to draw on might be poignant, moving quickly it can be a foundation for a longer phrase that is collectively more effective.

One of the best things about listening to piano music at a higher volume, though, is that you can hear the soul of the instrument. The vibration of the hammers striking the chords and filling the area with a sound that you can feel in your chest. Even if you can't feel it yourself, you can just hear, even through the recording, that it felt like that in the room as they were playing.

And I choose these songs because they are not merely good, they are great. Each one is a communication of the soul of the player into the world. A sort of indescribable truth made for a short while into an almost tangible reality by the composers writing and the performers drive and talents. My concern for games right now is that we have so few who even seek to be great. In MMOs in particular the rallying cry is some sort of need to be a greater commercial success than WoW, and my primary contention is that such success isn't even a worthy goal, and more likely than not self defeating. To be perfectly honest, I have yet to see a major studio aspire to greatness, indeed most of them seem to aim consciously for some level of "just good".

A game designer has the ability to create the sort of powerful performance that catches us so tightly in music. And we see an occasional glimpse of that in games like Iji, Shadow of the Colossus, or Facade, but compared to the power of Beethoven's music even those don't quite make the mark. Which isn't to say we haven't had any designers that were important, or pretty fucking good, just that I haven't seen any that crossed that unspoken line into the realm of truly great. Most importantly though, it's valuable, in and of itself, that we push ourselves to reach those heights.

But for now I have to go back to my spot in the cheap seats and wonder. Is it really so unfair to not care about the next big thing, but want, or better yet demand, greatness. To rail against the state of affairs not because I think it's bad, but because it could be so much more.

1 comment:

  1. Eh, it's not halfway to hell, it's just a triple-Nelson, as they call them in cricket.