Article written by Kris Lipscombe.
Published on 03/02/2013 at 04:30 PM.
In 1959 Richard Feynman gave a lecture called â€śThereâ€™s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.â€ť If youâ€™re not familiar with Feynman he was, without a doubt, one of the most important and influential physicists of the 20th Century, as well as being exceptionally charismatic. If he was alive today heâ€™d probably be a Brian Cox type figure, explaining science to the general population and doing it in a way that youâ€™d grasp instantly.
Even in photos Feynman's charm and charisma are evident.
The central message of Feynmanâ€™s talk, at least to my thinking, is that itâ€™s easy to look at the very big but thereâ€™s some very interesting things that can happen if you focus in on the unimaginably small. Games can learn a lot from that.
When the first computer games started to pop up developers, for the most part, had to think small. There simply werenâ€™t the computing resources to think big, not unless you were very smart like the developers of Elite. No, in general games started out relatively small, and as technology and capabilities have grown so has the scope and size of games. Weâ€™ve grown outwards and outwards to the point that games like Assassinâ€™s Creed and Grand Theft Auto create not only huge sprawling cities, but their surrounding environments and inhabitants.
And then something happened, mobile gaming. Ideas shrunk again, developers started to think smaller and look at what they could do on a device that fits in your pocket. Of course our phones are part of the same technological cycle, themselves becoming increasingly powerful and sophisticated, allowing developers to once again expand their horizons and grow their games outwards.
My question is this: Why is there this general obsession with making things bigger and bigger? There are still small, intimate experiences out there for sure, but theyâ€™re becoming increasingly rare and generally come with a â€śretroâ€ť label.
Take stories. Why do they almost always have to be big adventures, epics that cast our hero into dozens of different difficult situations? Why can we not take a character we love, Nathan Drake for example, and have a dozen smaller, more focussed stories in one game? Is there any particular reason that weâ€™re pushed away from the short story concept, or the â€śMonster of the weekâ€ť idea that TV shows like Buffy and early seasons of the X-Files took?
Super Hexagon shows exactly how compelling a small idea can be.
Obviously itâ€™s not all about story though, and games like Super Hexagon have shown us just how entertaining a well executed, incredibly simple mechanic can be. This type of game is never going to be a AAA console game, but thereâ€™s space to explore those kind of incredibly tight mechanics as well.
While Feynman said thereâ€™s plenty of room at the bottom, I think thereâ€™s plenty of room for everything. Thereâ€™s room to have huge AAA games the size of Skyrim existing side by side with Super Hexagon or Tetris. Thereâ€™s room to have a game with twenty thirty-minute stories and to have a game with a story that lasts days. With digital distribution growing and indie gaming going through somewhat of a renaissance there really is the scope to play with all of these ideas, and Iâ€™d love to have people exploring them more.
There really is plenty of room.