A Long Hello

Here goes my first blog post! I’m Felix, and I’m mindful xp’s designer. Since this is the semi-beginning of our project, we’d like to answer a couple of questions that might be swimming around your head now (if you’re super interested in our project and want to know more, shoot an email over to mindfulxp@gmail.com!)

So who are you guys?

We are mindful xp, a group of graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, and mindful xp is our self-directed project for this Spring semester. Our team is Michael Lee, who is our programmer; Daniel Lin, our artist; and me, Felix Park, taking on the role of designer. Not to say that Mike is only programming, or Dan is the only one creating art, since on such a small team we’ll helping each other on and getting all up in each other’s biznazz.

We decided to work together for a singular purpose: to make meaningful video games, games that could invoke the kinds of thoughts and feelings that games we cherish spark. We’re all followers of the indie game community as well as the mainstream industry, love games of all shapes and sizes, and have an ardent passion for what we’re doing.

So you guys just like, make games then?

Not quite! We’re making games, but our formal goal is a number of things:

1. To make video games that achieve their meaning ultimately through their systems, rules, mechanics, interactions, or anything that makes them games, rendering them unrepresentable in other mediums in any deep way.
2. To make games fast. Our hope is to release on average a game per week for our project’s 16 (now 13) week duration.
3. To “discover” what goes into making a meaningful game, by constantly experimenting with our process.
4. To document and share whatever insights or revelations we have with the greater development community.

Systems? Rules? Mecha-whats?

These are all concepts closely attached to what makes games so unique as a medium. While other mediums certainly have their own forays into these concepts (modern composers utilizing procedural systems, artists in the Fluxus movement using rules, etc.) no medium quite does what games do in such depth, especially as it relates to audience – which makes them games.

The really important bit is that we want to achieve meaning in ways only games can do – if you can see and movie version or read the book version of the game and still reach the same conclusions then we’ve kind of been going about it the wrong way. If its even possible for one of our games top be transferred to another medium, then that might be a warning flag!

Meaningful this, meaningful that – isn’t that just so vague?

Yes! To a degree, what is meaningful can never be defined. Even discussing it among our small 3-person team results in disagreement between what is “meaningful” vs. what is not, or even whether it is possible for any work to not contain some meaning, given interpretation or intent.

We’re not trying to act as cultural arbiters or anything, and we can never say something like, “Unequivocally, Game X holds transcendent meaning for all human beings”. But we want to make games that can speak to an audience, whether that be 10 people or 10,000. Meaning is derived from such personal perspective (one person’s Transformers 2 might be another’s Guernica), that the best we can hope for is making games that speak to ourselves, and hope that the universality of what we’re trying to express is just enough to make other people go, “Yeah, there was something to that experience.”

As a research project, we’re posting our games online to gather your feedback, and finding out if what we’re doing does result in some sort of poignancy, or shift in perspective, or introspective quality to our work.

What are you expecting to discover? There is no surefire way to make a meaningful movie, or a book – what makes games different?

With regards to how we develop meaningful games, we’re not aiming for a magic bullet that will instantly lead to a 67% chance of making a meaningful game for 34% of people – but instead trying to find practices, frameworks, and ideas that might just aid that central goal. People creating deeply personal, meaningful works is nothing new – but video games have only been around for so long, and we feel that their potential for expressiveness and meaning can still yet be expanded, and at least in some small way we want to contribute to that.

Why give all this attention to games anyway?

Because they are cool and important and we like them.

I am a developer who already makes meaningful games, and this is bull****!

We’re sorry, we’re trying! Give us a break!

Okay, okay – any way I can help?

Play our games! Give us feedback! Spread the word by tweeting, Facebooking, talking about us in your niche whiteboard enthusiasts forum, giving your mother-in-law our URL, anything!