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There is a mixture of truth and questionable definitions in this essay. I find myself agreeing with the conclusion, but disagreeing with the strawman term 'Tetrist'

Not all indies with a love of minimalism are moping retro fetishists. (In fact, I don't know any) I see no need to regard yourself as a failure simply because you feel the purity of Tetris (and games like it) are a strong path forward. There is plenty of undiscovered country out in the world of mechanics and systems. And yes, for the most part, the fantasy is merely an entrance and a context, not an end.

take care


Thanks for the comment Danc.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green

I think the reason most indies love minimalism is because it fits within their budget; at least, that's my reason. The increasing price of developing games isn't because we're paying the designers ever more lavish wages, it's because the amount of labor that goes into chasing photorealism is ever increasing.

Yet, indies remember a time when you didn't need to see the reflections off the shiny metal parts of the gun to have a good game. We look back to those previous times and want to recapture the spirit, where we can create a fun game with a small team without having to spend the a sizable chunk of the budget on art assets. (Of course, now it's easier to create and present those old style art assets, so we've lost some of the constraints that helped make those older games so great. But, that's a whole other rant.)

Now, yes, some developers do fetishize the 8/16-bit era a bit too much. They think that game design peaked then, and do want to simply recapture that. But, I think that many of us, at least those of us doing this commercially, see it as a budget thing more than a "purity" thing. And, yeah, it does help our limited marketing budgets if we can tap into a bit of nostalgia as well.... ;)

My thoughts.


Could you cite some people espousing the beliefs that you're presenting as prevalent in the game industry? To my mind I cannot think of a major figure in either the indie or AAA space that holds the beliefs you're describing.

Without citations it seems like you're just setting up strawman arguments to make your own opinions seem more reasonable.


i think this "tetrist" is a strawman. i also think that the focus on developers(rather than players) is a HUGE misstep and may be the root cause of a lot of the (IMO) confused thinking in this piece - who cares if some guy feels left out for not having been able to come up with the idea for tetris because he was born too late? there are plenty of interesting games and rules to be uncovered... meanwhile, players still love and at least appreciate tetris, while hundreds of knock-offs and wannabes have come and gone and become forgotten in the last 20 years.

"Where tetrism is wrong is in discounting the importance of fantasy. While a game is not an exercise in storytelling, it is not enough for the player to sort coloured blocks forever. Regardless of how beautiful it may be, any game dynamic eventually becomes repetitive if there is nothing with which the imagination can engage."

all games can - and should - become repetitive at some point. hell, even real life can become repetitive in the right (wrong?) circumstances. i don't see how "fantasy" has anything to do with repetition...


I think the term "Tetrism" _is_ reasonable, in terms of describing fans on the internet and real life. I don't consider it a strawman because I know a lot of people in real-life (game players, not designers) who frequently make the B: statements, where very few fans _or_ game desingers make the A statements. (except for David Cage, maybe) I guess it depends on who you know, but I constantly hear gamers complain about story in a game, about how much more "pure" the game if it were just like Mario or Tetris.

You can't tell me you've never seen an article where someone says "just go watch a movie", "xyz movie is so much better than this worthless game," "games can't tell a story", "go read a book", "Games are about gameplay, they shouldn't have a story".

Gary Penn

I like the way this piece is so antagonistic, Tadhg :)

Here's my tuppence hanging off your initial statements. There's certainly plenty of scope to throw in more.

"Games are the next evolution of storytelling."
As much as, say, a song can tell a story - but still serves as music first and foremost.

"Games are just games. If I want a story, I’ll read a book."
You'd be a blind fool not to see that games have evolved and are still evolving; games have absorbed (and will continue to absorb) - and now reflect - other media and the world around them. But there's still scope for the more abstract, purer forms that effectively constitute building blocks.

"Games are storytelling because of the branches of possibility they offer."
As much as, say, a game of chess or football can be interpreted and represented as a compelling story (good sports journalists touch on this). But the game itself isn't the story; the interpreter makes the story.

"No, games are all about gameplay."
No matter which of the many definitions of 'gameplay' you prefer, this is blatantly no longer true. Play and challenge are at the heart of every game but there's clearly so much more to games these days - and more to come as games bleed into reality and vice versa. Authors and players are getting better at expressing themselves through play. One day games will be like irony, only more widespread; you won't be certain about sincerity ever again :)

"My game story experience is unique. I build my own narrative."
Players (and viewers) can make their own stories from what's suggested (and stories built on suggestion tend to be far more powerful); people can't help themselves; they have to connect the dots. But most players can't, won't ever and shouldn't ever need to be bothered wit that.

"Tetris does not need a story, you are talking nonsense."
Tetris needs a story as much as certain styles of painting, sculpture, music, etc don't. Angry Birds would work fine if it was as abstract as Tetris - but it works significantly better with a story. The characters, plot and sense of place and purpose massively improve Feel, Convenience, Drama and Life. More people can relate to it more readily and more passionately. They don't have to make the same effort to get into it or get anything out of it as they do with the likes of Tetris, but ultimately they get much more out of it.

Tetris has been stale for years. It needs to evolve or die.


Thanks Gary,

This is why I get into the realms of term definitions that belong to games themselves. So I use the words 'thauma' and 'numina' and 'storysense' and so on to get at the feelings of what makes games awesome (such as the images that frame Angry Birds) without at the same time getting muddled in old debates.

Awesome comment.

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