Video Games and the creative professional

4 08 2009

I can admit it, I’m part of the relatively new demographic of video game players.  I’m in my late 20’s, I have buying power (until the economy went berserk), and I own a PlayStation3 and a Wii, and every home Nintendo console since the original NES.  I enjoy games ranging from Gran Turismo (a racing simulator), to Burnout Paradise (a crashing simulator), and from LittleBigPlanet (an adorable platformer about small stuffed sack-people with stickers) to Grand Theft Auto 4 (a game where you try to rise up in the world of organized crime to live the American dream).  However, there is one thing I am always looking for, and never quite able to find: a game that satisfies my creative juices.  Many games keep me amused for a few months, maybe more if there was a way to hack the game directly (I’m looking at you Sims), but none has really kept my occupied fully for the long haul.

The problem is, through my increased knowledge and skills with things like AutoCAD and Sketchup, the creation tools included in any game are FAR to limited and always end with my being frustrated at trying to find work-arounds for seemingly simple things.  It takes the fun in creating a customized level in LittleBigPlanet and drowns it in the work of trying to stay within the programmed physics of the game.

Imagine this: There is a new design competition to design the future Central Park in New York.  They want you to imagine New York City in 200 years, in whatever way you want.  It could be after most of the island is flooded by rising sea levels, it might be choked with smog, or it might have 200 story buildings with roads that are all triple decked.  The historical society just re-found central park, and wants someone to turn it back into a cutting edge park, for the people of the future.  Blank slate, bold ideas, and you can submit your entry in any form of media you want.  *Note To Self: Find/Start a design competition like this!*

Two months in you get the Q & A packet, which includes a few rules amendments: You now have to create the park using the original topography and road layout, and all submissions must be on two 24×36″ poster boards, with their long edges aligned.

Suddenly you realize every idea you come up with either will not work or it needs to be somehow fudged to fit in the tight constraints.  The great design elements you had that shifted beautifully over time now have to show as static images instead of as living art.

This is the situation that invariably finds its way to me with any creative game.  I cannot tell if it is simply that I am spoiled by amazing tools like 3D Studio Max, or if non-designers feel the same way.  For any of you designers who are looking for a relaxing way to stir up some creative juices, or non-designers who are wondering if they really are as creative as they think they are, I’m going to start writing some reviews of my favorite creativity involving games.  From LittleBigPlanet, to The Sims, to Half-Life Mods.

Do you have any favorite creative games that you think I should try? Do you feel like sometime soon there will be a game who has enough creation power to allow it to be used for client presentations?  Or do you just want to know what the appeal is in spending $400 on a piece of hardware and $60 on a game that gives around 40 hours of entertainment?  Either way, let me know!  To play us out, a trailer for the upcoming Scribblenauts, a game I hope to own and review for you all soon.

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