Planning the Theme

Posted On: 2018-10-08

By Mark

As mentioned in my previous post, this post will briefly cover the desired themes and feeling that I will be aiming to achieve in my current project. I will be aiming to cover them in enough detail that this can serve as a tool to measure the fitness of future features (so I can ask "does this feature serve one of these themes?") but not necessarily enough detail to prescribe what the game actually will be. Although this post is primarily focused on my current project, I am hopeful that this is also useful as an example of the way I go about planning generally.

For the purpose of this post, a theme is a concept or aspect of life that the creative work is about. Although this is not a particularly academic or detailed definition, I think it is sufficient for what I'm trying to do: establish a primary set of constraints for the work. Constraints are a valuable tool for narrowing the possibility space that is available to explore, and they can serve as a means to measure the fitness of a particular idea or implementation. Inevitably, more will be created than can be included in the game, so it is important to focus it early on and frequently re-evaluate in-progress or completed work against these constraints, to identity what belongs and what should be cut.

The primary theme I am interested in exploring is "knowing truth". To narrow it a bit further: I am particularly interested in exploring the experience of, and way we react to, acquiring knowledge of previously unknown truth (unappealing or undesirable truths are particularly interesting). My interest in this theme stems from several of my own beliefs and preconceptions about knowledge and truth, such as "the only way to be right is to discover you are wrong and change your mind." Throughout my life, I have had many opportunities to see others as they try to navigate the experience of gaining knowledge of undesirable truths (as well as experience it for myself.) In time I have had opportunities to reflect on it, I feel that I have grown a great deal as a result. It is my hope that my game will help players have opportunities to explore and reflect on this experience for themselves.

Some supporting sub-themes include systematization and identity. Systematization (creating systems to describe or define entities) is both about synthesizing new truths as well as apt to be undermined by unknown truths. Identity, as in the way we view ourselves or are viewed by others, is in many ways a form of systematization of individuals, that is, a way to use a system (such as belonging a social group) to describe an individual. What is particularly interesting about identity in this context, is that we often have a multiplicity of identities, and for many people one or more of these identities conflict with each other.

Regarding the emotive or affective feeling of playing the game: it seems that I actually hold two (almost) incompatible views:

For now, I will try to deliver on both of them - since the circumstances under which these two are relevant are different from one-another, it seems possible to use a juxtaposition of both these emotive experiences (ie. a threatening feeling to introduce something new, but follow it not long after with a safe, comforting place wherein they can safely explore their feelings about the earlier experience.) If I find this doesn't work out, I am open to revising it (but as it stands, it seems like it could work, if executed sufficiently well.)

Hopefully this window into how I am approaching planning is interesting and/or useful. If you have any thoughts or feedback about any of this, please let me know.

Thank you,