Blueprints for game designers who want to express meaning through systems

There has been a lot of talk about how developers can use game mechanics and game design to be expressive of the human condition. If you need a point of reference, just think of Jonathan Blow’s Braid and Jason Rohrer’s Passage. Recently, Michael Thomsen wrote an article about it for our site. Still, the question remains. Exactly how do you get from logic to meaning? 

The graphic designer Genis Carreras has devoted some thought to the subject and came up with a set of 24 posters that represent philosophical ideas through abstract design. 

[The] London-based graphic designer, created [the posters] to build “a new language to communicate philosophy visually, in order to make it more accessible and attractive.” 

His words sounds eerily similar to those of Jason Rohrer, the developer of Passage, who is quoted in Thomsen’s article.  

“We need to be inventing new challenges that complement what we’re trying to express, Rohrer said. “Then [game difficulty] won’t feel like a gimmick, but a potent expressive tool.”

These are both curious exercises in abstraction. Carreras reduces philosophy to shapes and colors, while Rohrer reduces human expression to the logic of game rules. While philosophy could benefit from being a little easier to grasp, I’d like to see videogames explore deeper and more complex territory before being reduced to the basic principles of computer science.

-Jason Johnson