this is such an interesting and challenging area of game design.
trying to work my way out of a colonialist narrative+lore in a game with conventional game mechanics & verbs and, folks: games sure are colonial as heck!!

i find myself thinking about this a lot, and am very interested every time i see anyone else wrestling with it. it will take a lot of eyes and hands and approaches to make anything like significant cultural progress in embracing new ideals on a fundamental level.

my current solo project, "nectar thief" is very much about building and horticulture and shaping space. i want to be really conscious in how design work relates to this.

i don't want to be prescriptive, but it is a personal goal for this project to imbue player interactions with the world with a sense of some order other than hierarchical, consumptive, expansionist. almost all the models i have to reference are not very useful in this regard.

i am interested, for instance, in mechanically and narratively giving a sense that the player does not automatically own or get to control distribution of all resources they come across. is someone else in that space? who and what is using this water supply?

i think actually modelling related systems can help, though it's not a cure-all. if you replant an area with trees instead of bushes, what will happen to the birds that ate berries from the bushes?

but also: will players notice the birds are gone, see it as a necessary evil, modify their goals, self-modify?

but also: will players notice the birds are gone, see it as a necessary evil, modify their goals, self-modify?

additionally, systems as solution is not something which fits all contexts or types of game.

with nectar thief, one of the central ideas is that your society is repurposing the infrastructure of a consumptive, self-indulgent society into something sustainable and based on kindness. for that to actually work, the mechanics absolutely cannot just be reskinned harvest moon.

and the challenge here is: if you can build structures and design systems and plant gardens and program devices, how do you not reinforce a sense of the player as sole author and center of the world?

perhaps it is not the goal to design the systems such that people cannot play selfishly. perhaps the systems need to be open, and the goal is to encourage to other types of play, to design systems which are a meaningful exploration of the possibility space.

one tool i am very drawn to is reinforcing that other players' or non-player characters' desires are important. it is one of the central ways one can dismantle a sense of player-centrism.

maybe the game lets you design a perfect optimal stardew valley style system for producing fruit, but also places your efforts in context: where do your resources come from, can your neighbors build things on that scale, who gets to eat the fruit, how does it affect the society?

which characters get to decide what happens with endeavors of that scale? are some people left out? what are the side effects?

it is traditional in games like animal crossing, sim city, etc. to present endless, consequence free growth and resource consumption as fundamentals of the system.

real world systems to have similar values. we have acted as though the ocean is bottomless, but are now facing the reality that it is messy and complicated and that we are both running out of certain types of fish and, in fact, looking at an even larger system collapse.

(for anyone interested in this, looking up hypoxic zones or increasing oceanic acidity are fascinating and tragic eye-openers.)

acts of consumption, acts of resource or labor allocation have very real effects on the world around us.

again, i don't want to be prescriptive about if or how anyone should embrace this in how they play or make games. but if doing so is of interest to you, then it definitely is fascinating to consider how the nature of this is not reflected in games.

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