Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How To Not Suck At Writing About Mechanics



Patrick Miller has this superb article at Insert Credit called "How To Not Suck At Ziggurat". It was published back in February, but I only just read it this week. I absolutely love it--not least of all because it is exemplary of a style of writing I utterly suck at.

I can easily write about how a game 'feels' in an emotive, affective way. I could write about how Ziggurat gives this great sense of stress and tension as you are slowly and inevitably swamped by The Aliens That Killed Everyone Else. I could talk for ages about the weird, unpleasurable-yet-awesome, discordant sensation of trying to hit a yellow alien with a charged up shot only to aim a pixel too low and have it bounce off the ziggurat into space, utterly wasted. But I cannot for the life of me write about how a game 'feels' physically, tactually, hapticly.

I love twitchy, precision games like Ziggurat, Super Crate Box, or Geometry Wars. I love figuring out what they want of me, and I get a real satisfaction of figuring out what to do with my fingers to kind of master the game's mechanics. I develop a real appreciation for these games and what I am able to do with them through my fingers, yet I can never find the words to succinctly describe these pleasures.

Miller's article does just that. He doesn't just list off the rules or goals or mechanics of the game, but successfully details just what you are able to do in the game and how it feels to do it. I tried to write something similar about Geometry Wars once, and at about 15,000 words I was no closer to describing the pleasures of that beautiful, beautiful game than I was before I started.

So Miller's piece is perhaps one of my favourite pieces of games writing for the year thus far, if only because it does so superbly something I wish I could do.

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