Dogma05: Experimental Gameplay

Our philosophy that complexity is not necessary for fun, and that it is possible to have fun even with basic primitives given a compelling interaction and goal.

Born by the initiative of four students at the Carnegie Melon University, Experimental Gameplay is as much a project as a manifesto by which the participants commit themselves to make games under three constraints: one person, one week, one topic, an attitude which parallels that of the Dogma 95 filmmaker movement.

In a situation where mainstream videogame developing is quickly moving towards the same practices of film industry, with evergrowing companies and games which aspire to comprise as many different experiences as possible, it seems a paradox that some young creators want to refine their skills by putting boundaries to their work. However, there are in fact many benefits in doing so: a seven day deadline underlines the need for accuracy and self criticism, both in analyzing the problem and giving solutions to it; that the work must be all done by oneself forces to face all the elements of game creation, which will result in a better understanding of the teammates in bigger productions; and limiting the subject focuses the problem, thus stimulating creativity and putting the technical and craftmanship skills to a test. Moreover, an emphasys is made in that the main goal is not to show off those skills, to output “tech toys”, but to make playable games: wise words! It is especially relevant that this search for purity comes from within the University, and in this respect one should praise that “at the ETC (Enterntainment Technology Center), we are open and flexible and we expect our applicants to be the same”, as maybe this project wouldn´t have been possible under a different policy.

And so, have the results been positive so far? Definitely yes: the project has had a tremendous success, acclaimed equally by critics and gamers. Many excellent games are already available to download for free, and a new row is in the works. My favourite, as shown in the picture, is “Tower of Goo”, a game where one constructs towers by stretching goo grains to create pillars which interleave to make a supporting structure for the subsequent levels. There´s no goal other than reaching as high as you can, but this is no easy task: very soon one starts to “rethink the structure” so that it won´t collapse, and since the options are endless (broad base pyramid? slim skyscraper?), so is the the challenge and therefore the replayability. The game has a nice cartoonish feel to it, the particles make cute sounds when you interact with them, and the superb Astor Piazzolla´s score creates a constant urge to go forward, to keep on building. (I now understand the Doozers much better!).

Experimental Gameplay, in its interest to renew by getting to the core, may evidence a new generation which already surprises by its clarity of thought and the freshness of the offspring. I´ll keep on returning often to the site to check out for new releases, and I advise you to do the same. In the end it´s all about games, and believe me, they are making very good ones.

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