Gamels: Why bother anyways?

Author’s note: I’m attempting to develop a method for game analysis around irreducible game elements (gamels). This and all the other articles are a sort of log of my thought process, and are not definitive truths. Please feel free to react or comment in any way.

Q: It might seem irrelevant or useless to build a tool for game analysis. I mean, don’t game mags do that already?

A: NO, they don’t. What the gaming press (paper or other) does are game reviews: short and subjective descriptions of a product in order to guide consumers into buying (or not) a game.

Q: Ok ok… So, what about all the talk on game criticism there has been lately?

A: Yeah, that’s a good thing, but it’s not what I’m looking for. Game criticism is very important because it helps us define what games are and what they can be, but since a critique is a literary exercise about a finished product, and since most media critiques are “weak” canonically speaking, they cannot be used as a tool during a development.

Q: And what about Aki Jarvinen’s work on game elements? Isn’t that kinda what you’re doing now, only done better by a guy with more credentials?

A: Well… First off, I must admit I’m a huge fan of Mr. Jarvinen’s work. I think it is a groundbreaking, smart and thought provoking read that should be mandatory in every gaming degree out there. Of course, I also slightly disagree with him on the matter of game elements. It is a very useful tool for analysing a completed game, but I find it too complicated and cumbersome for it to be applicable in the day to day work of a game designer. This is why I set out to find my own model, which is more “tool” oriented than Mr. Jarvinen’s doctoral dissertation.

But the main reason behind it all is that during my studies, I’ve never been taught how to properly analyze and criticize games, focusing on the “craft” of the business. In other media courses, you learn to de-make (analyze) before you get to make. So now I’m trying to learn that by attempting to find a dedicated method to analyze games as games, and not by adapting or borrowing from film or literature (the common method so far).

In a nutshell, what I’m writing about won’t probably become a best-seller (best-blogger?) or change the world, but will at least help me understand what I’m working on a little more .