Last week I was lucky enough to make a last minute trip to San Francisco, just in time for the annual game developers conference (GDC), to present Beyond Eyes to the international press for the very first time. As usual the wonderful weather + encounters with friends and acquaintances, both new and old, were a great source of inspiration and joy, especially since I've been often missing out on both since my move to the UK in January.
Another source of inspiration is Lost Levels, a un-conference of sorts held on 1 day during GDC where everyone can talk about anything. All you have to do is write you name and the title of your talk on a post it and you'll have everybody's attention for 5 minutes. Some people prepare their talks, others decide to do it on the spot, often inspired by other participants. I just enjoy listening to the talks, knowing myself well enough that 5 minutes will never be enough to talk about the subjects that I care about. That was until yesterday. I was talking to one of my friends when I suddenly knew what I wanted to share with the people at Lost Levels. Of course I can wait another year to give my talk but I prefer to talk about it today, so here we go. 5 minutes!
As usual, this conversation started with me being annoyed with something and in this case that something was a new game called Life is Strange. Don't get me wrong, I haven't played the game so I can't form an opinion about the game yet, but yes I was annoyed. These are the important things you need to know about Life is Strange for this blogpost:
1 The developers are French
2 The game is set in an American city
One of my biggest complains about many games over the last years is that they feel utterly uninspired, taking the same stories and settings over and over again, stripping them of personal culture and influences to appeal the largest market possible. Apparently this market is the USA. If you've been wondering why everything feels the same, this is your answer. Shooters have American soldiers fighting Arabs, Russians and Germans and unique French games like Heavy Rain, Life is Strange and Fahrenheit are set in non descript American cities. Even the realms of fantasy and Sci Fi keep going back to the same tropes, elves, orcs, dwarves, occasionally throwing in a British or French accent to spice things up.
If you're a Polish developer of fantasy games, why not get inspired by a Bagiennik? These waterdwelling nasties shoot hot oil from their nostrils, burning their victims alive. It's also known to heal deep wounds, making it a perfect ingredient for potion crafting!
If you're a studio based in Paris, show me! I'm not saying you should place an Eiffel tower on every corner but please don't ignore the beauty and the stories of your country. Heck, my vacations to France were a great inspiration for Beyond Eyes, along with a few other lovely European countries. Be proud of your roots and stop believing that 'internationalising' your design means to make it more America.. The world is bigger and better than just that.
My point is, we all have unique insights, stories, cultures and subcultures to share with eachother and more than any other medium, games will allow us to share to this with our players and let them walk a mile in our shoes!
Let's share our stories and let our games reflect who we are and where we came from. Let it shine through our art, our design, our audio and our writing. Everyone has a story to tell and a game to be made.
I'll show you mine if you show me yours ;)