The Influence of Travel
I have recently returned from 2 weeks of travel abroad, first to Prague, Czech Republic, then Barcelona, Spain. Beth and I try to enjoy at least one big trip every year and this was ours for 2014. Every destination offers something unique and appeals to the senses differently. Ones current mindset also takes advantage or alters the perception of the travel.
This year, I was very taken by my two destinations, as well as what they offered in the terms of design and ideas for design. I wanted to write about this shortly.
I was most taken with the architectural works of Antoni Gaudi, who was clearly a nutter or brilliant or both. If you've been to Europe, you've seen the cathedrals. If you've been to Asia, you've seen homes entirely unlike ours here in the United States. If you've been to Barcelona, you've seen structures like the Palau Guell, or La Pedrera, or the Sagrada Familia, and others, that are entirely unlike anything you've seen. In the real world, or your imagination.
Gaudi despised straight lines and took his inspiration from the beauty and natural strengths of nature. His work was not only aesthetically beautiful and unique, but functionally sharp.
As I walked around the Palau Guell in particular, my mouth was constantly open. I was just blown away by what I was seeing. It was just incredible. Naturally, I wanted to play within such an experience of wonder and construction. The first and obvious thing that comes to mind are Legos, though I'm not sure the rigid blocks could emulate the alien curves and arches of Gaudi.
Even if I can't figure out a way to emulate his works in a game or like idea, I can take to heart the spirit of his efforts. Gaudi was a meticulous, passionate, and original craftsman. He sought the marriage of form and function and personally oversaw details down to the door handles or the design of a chair. It is easy to take that to heart, but less simple to execute against it. I shall try.
My mind was also entertained with the notion of language, or more accurately, not knowing a language. In both Prague and Barcelona we did not speak the languages and had to do our best with simple phrases or locals used to American tourists.
I thought to that scene in the 13th Warrior, where Antonio Banderas is sitting around the fire. Everything his companions say in their language is gibberish to him. Yet, slowly, over time, it becomes English. This, of course, is the film's way of saying he is learning their language.
Some games already experiment with limited or alternate languages. Hanabi is beautiful because players must learn to use a few words in incredibly diverse and broad ways. Mysterium is about using the language of visuals to communicate complex things. Ugg-Tect is a game about cave men, in which you must communicate in grunts and whacks of an inflatable stick.
I want, seriously, to design a game about language. Or, more accurately, a game where the core mechanic or hook is that you do not speak the same language. What if there were a trading game where the competing parties had to agree to terms using different words or communication mechanics? Didn't the ancient tribes have to do the same? What about a war in which allies must work together with differing languages? Or merely just combining a game of diplomacy with one in which people don't speak the same language. One in which a faux pas or poor translation leads to something dire.
Another concept that spoke to me was being lost in a foreign city. We always think about navigation and exploration in terms of the ocean, or broad lands like in Lord of the Rings. But, it's quite easy to find oneself utterly lost in a new city. It's one of my favorite parts of travel.
I wonder whether it would be compelling to create a game about exploring a city? Perhaps an ancient city. Or, an abandoned city. Or one partially destroyed through conflict. Perhaps it would be about finding things in a city just like Prague or Barcelona without such gamer trappings. I think it'd be fascinating and full of interesting ideas.
Think of the markets, the sights, the people, and the mix of common public areas and more intimate neighborhoods. A new city offers so many sights and scenes uncommon to visitors. I think it'd be a shame not to capitalize on them.
Finally, much in the way I'm so overwhelmed and inspired by Gaudi's attention to detail and pursuit of perfection, I'm inspired by tapas. Yes, the delicious small plates of food eaten before, or for, dinner, often with a group of friends with a glass of cava or beer. Tapas are delicious and simple. They pack tons of flavor in just a few bites, requiring only a few ingredients and often a generous pour of olive oil.
I'm not really entertained or interested in micro games. They don't interest me much to play, or to design. But, I do love to create focused experiences, or focused mechanisms with a strong impact. Hocus Poker is what I'd call a "meaty filler." Same with Landfall, which as an overall product greatly mimics the tapas experience. You'll get many delicious, small, incredible bites.
I love to travel, see new things, and eat the local cuisine. I love to take inspiration from the world around me and travel provides a unique, though brief source of inspiration. What, if anything, stood out to you in one of your recent travels? How did it influence you or your work?
Thanks for reading.