Abusive Game Design

Now It’s Personal: On Abusive Game Design by Douglas Wilson and Miguel Sicart (2010) just did not work for me. I guess overall, I saw their point in waiting to create games in which the designer was still thought about and considered post-production (much like the author and his intentions are often labored over by English majors and their professors), but more so than that I was just left with pointed questions and a “so what” kind of feeling.

Firstly, creating a game that may not be commercially successful seems to clash with Craig Mod’s ideal earlier in the semester that his digital work could not be quantified (and should be). Isn’t [a designer’s] income a way to quantify success? Do these designers require that kind of validation, and even more importantly, do these designers not require making money off the project they spend so much time on (as abusive games have been shown to be generally unmarketable to large audiences)? Are these what we would call “pet projects,” or side projects built more for the entertainment of the designer than for the commercial success of the game? If traditional video games are built for the lusory attitude of the player, these abusive games could just be seen as “feedback systems that reward” designers for there cattiness and cleverness.

Also, isn’t the idea that the designer is laughing at the player monologic in a different way? The authors purport that a designer designing for the whims and desires of the player is too one-way, but isn’t the designer who designs for his own pleasure (lying and hurting the player) also creating a situation where no “dialogue” is being had? Just because this monologue does not “efface” the designer (as the designer can sometimes be “effaced” by player-centric modes of design) this does not mean that the these abusive games are actually creating any dialogue, and especially not a productive dialogue. The desire to see more abusively designed games seems more a product of designers who have felt shunned and not “noticed” (and then we go back to my original question about a successful game that produces income actually being a quantifier of the designer’s importance and work), or academics who have become bored with the current mode of analyzing games.

And finally, how does the abusive game designer factor into the conversation post-production? The player may be tuned to the designers desires, but then how does the designer respond back? How is the conversation moved forward after this 1-to-1?