About a year and a half ago now, I had imagined wanting to augment the written word portions of “The Story” with small, contained videogames. I had first considered the idea after seeing stories told in 48-hour game jam games, and thought, why not try? It’s been over a year since I last dug into that idea seriously, but it’s not a failure, because its seeds still were able to flower into reasonable storytelling ideas.
Spoilers?: Minor [developing one setting]
The structure of the minigame was going to be based on the Roll-A-Ball tutorial.
The nice thing about programming and videogame development now compared to twenty years ago when I first attempted to learn programming is that tools and frameworks are much more accessible now. It might be much more visual than the pure programming I once attempted to learn, but I was having fun using the tutorial to acquaint myself with the basics. The way I imagined it, I would learn these fundamentals through the tutorial, and then I would take my little level that I would build after completing the tutorial and turn it into Trishna’s greenhouse. The title refers to “A” which I would consider a side-story to the main “The” stories in “The Story,” spoonie as in spoon theory, and greenhouse because it takes place in a greenhouse.
I stopped working on this project when I stopped doing videogame development.
That’s not to say I won’t return to videogame development, learning the basics of programming, or working on this project. It’s been sufficiently long enough to where it would be better that I scrap the project, which I just did, rather than trying to think back to where I was and how I had worked on it before. This [failed] project, more than anything, reinforced the notion that I am a storyteller in the written format like this. If I had kept up with videogame development, I could have made something kinda neat.
Here was my idea:
I thought of having a full greenhouse of plants that one could water, which would have become a project bigger than Viridi, so just play that game instead for the gameplay. The elements that I would be concerned with, for storytelling and design, are the ideas I saved. Especially now that Trishna’s family don’t live out in the country where she might have some kind of large greenhouse, she might only have a small shed in their backyard to act as her greenhouse, if that, so from a purely narrative perspective, the idea might have died on the vine. The sorts of ideas I seeded, however, can live on.
What if, when John and Trishna move into the city, they can join a communal greenhouse?
I’ve seen these with upscale apartments downtown, or in the upscale parts of town, where they have community gardens, so it wouldn’t be crazy to imagine their college having a similar feature. That’s where I think more than considering your half-baked projects as failures, think about what they could help you brainstorm out. If the videogame medium were easier for me to draft out ideas than drawing settings, I would certainly go that route. If I had the support of the videogame development community I was once part of, then learning from them would, too, be a good way to learn these skills that have more cross-marketability into viable jobs now, then in the past.
But like I say, this essay isn’t about lamenting the past.
Instead, it’s about wondering about the dissection process for creativity. After you learn the basics of videogame development, you stop looking at videogames as purely entertainment media. We practiced introductory movie criticism in one college class, where during our discussion on the homework, one classmate lamented over losing his innocence toward merely watching movies. After learning these skills, he couldn’t help but apply his movie criticism skills, so, is it better to never have learned these skills, or look at videogames, movies, or fiction through the lens of someone that has made or analyzed these media?
I think if the media is good, then analysis makes the media better.
If not, then the flaws of the media are more apparent and less ignorable. We might still fully understand the subpar level design, the poorly-edited scene, or the poorly-edited sentence, but without having chopped our way through the level or sentence, or without having written our criticism for a videogame, movie, or novel, we might not be able to articulate our thoughts well enough.
I’m happy with my time spent putzing around in videogame development.
For one, it can be helpful for my real-world skills, and for two, it helped me scope out what skills John and Trishna might learn in their college years. They might take more general studies, but I don’t think they’ll go down the programming route. Even in their weird, amalgamation world, where there’s technologies from our 90s through 20s in their world, programming is still somewhat esoteric. They might befriend programmers but it’s nowhere near the level of accessibility for them or me to where anyone can do it. Some people just don’t have the brains for it. I have the confidence to where, professionally, the most I could do is find myself in a QA/testing role. Maybe, eventually, I could do more.
But then what becomes more important about the greenhouse: game design or narrative/level design?
The game design aspect is learning enough programming to make a competent level showing the greenhouse. The narrative/level design aspect is learning enough about the greenhouse itself to show the greenhouse, whether in a videogame or over the course of some short stories or novels, and deciding the value of each item. Phrased differently, it’s not like every item in your house as some kind of deep meaning, but you keep everything for a reason.
Considering each item in Trishna’s greenhouse, or in any scene’s setting, is more interesting for me narratively than from a programming perspective.
|Sources: The Story’s Imaginarium.|
|Inspirations: I had a thematic weekend going with yesterday’s essay and this one. I would say, though, that if you want to write short stories and novels, build what you can using the skills you already have, and only add in new skills if you can find readily-accessible teachers in these new skills [as I had with videogame development] or the tools are obviously going to help you. There’s no point in learning graphic design if sketching in MS Paint or on paper will suffice, if you purely want to write, for example.|
|Related: Essays building “The Story.”|
|Written On: 2020 June 02 [3:27pm to 4:08pm] [then a bit until 4:15pm because I forgot some stuff]|
|Last Edited: 2020 June 02 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|