Keep Games Weird

Hi,

This is Vikram - one of the engineers at Funomena. I work on Wattam and this is actually the first commercial game project that I've worked on. Before this I was a software engineer in test at Google and at Microsoft before that.

When I signed up for writing a blog post, quite a while back, I had to pick a title. I knew I wanted to write about something light. I chose "Keep Games Weird" since I like playing weird little video games - it's the weird ones that excite me the most, and hence I feel are the most rewarding to play in the little time I have in my life these days. But since then I've been thinking about the word "weird", its different meanings and why all of them are good for games. (I actually also thought of different meanings for "Keep" and "Games" too but I am just going to stick to "Weird" for now.)

The first meaning is what most people think when they hear weird - something that's strange, bizarre and maybe also unexpected. Games are capable of moving people in different ways through their form and substance. We have just started exploring different ways of doing this. As a game creator, there's just too much ground to cover to make something only slightly different from what has been done before. As a player your time is too precious to be spent on the same kind of game over and over again. Though we can agree on this in principle, we sometimes forget it and settle into the comfort of the known. That's when a weird game comes along and hits you in such a profound way as to remind you of the real power of games. I think we are actually not doing too bad here and there have been so many "weird" games that have come out in the past year that have personally moved me. The part we can probably do better in the "keep"-ing part is to talk about these games more and provide a platform for more of these games to be made.

The next meaning is more related to the original phrase - "Keep Austin Weird". It's a marketing slogan that has grown well beyond its original purpose into a progressive idea of a culture that accepts people from all different backgrounds - LGBT, intellectuals, naturalists and various non-mainstream subcultures. Applying this idea to games, I think this kind of diversity in creators, themes, players and critics is hugely important right now as it expands from games just serving a small group of people (even though it might not seem so small to many who are already in that group). Personally I have been extremely lucky and privileged to find the right people who accepted me into the game making community and I feel its important for me to help bring more people into the fold. In the wake of unfortunate events in the past year I will just mention one of the efforts to support diversity in games - http://weheart.github.io/. We need to do a lot more here.

Lastly I would like to reflect on something I found in Urban Dictionary (it's all solid sources I'm using here) while researching weird - "Weird (but in a good way)". More specifically the phrase "they're not scared to be themselves". Ultimately being weird is not about just standing out but being true to yourself. And so we make games that we love to make - and they are weird.

 

P.S After choosing the title I found that there is already an essay titled "Keep Games Weird" by Charles Pratt about the New Arcade Movement and No Quarters Exhibition. Please read it here.

 

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Vikram Subramanian, Software Engineer