Gamers are all chronic wishaholics – the inevitable side-effect of having a hobby which is mostly about making the impossible possible. But, for some reason, they tend to be wishes of improvement or alteration: ‘I wish Capcom would release Okami before Christmas’, ‘I wish there was more stuff to do in Just Cause’, ‘I wish Nintendo would sort out its Stars catalogue worldwide so I can stop feeling like a stamped-on snail every time I think of it.’ What we don’t do a lot of is blue-sky wishing. So, here’s my list, on a blue-sky day, of who I wish made games, but doesn’t.
He’s a professor at the department of psychology at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University, and world leader in the design and study of optical illusions. Those of you who aren’t already on the brink of a migraine may want to spend some time tickling the inside of their brains with the hundreds of examples posted at his site. And why do I wish he’d make games? Aesthetics, partly. I’m tired of the real, in a big way. For years the real was brown and grey – sludgy roads, porridgey buildings, pasty people. And I’m even tiring of the new real, which is mostly green (Far Cry, Just Cause, Test Drive etc.) I want the impossible, and unimagined and I want it to be packed with colour – and it seems Kitaoka is qualified on all three counts. And I’m sick of verb/object puzzles – doors that need keys, people that need information, switches that need pressing. How about some persistence of vision puzzles? How about enemies who use visual anomalies as camouflage?
He’s a writer and playwright (not long, I guess, before that gets bastardised down to ‘playwrite’), best known for Ella Minnow Pea, initially introduced as a A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable, but itself bastardised down to A Novel Without Letters. It’s set on the island where the phrase ‘the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’ was first discovered, and documents what happens as successive letters of the alphabet are banned by a totalitarian and fusspot government. It’s a puzzle book, partly for Mark Dunn who has fewer and fewer letters to work with in each successive chapter, and partly for the readers, who are co-opted into the islander’s desperate hunt for a replacement phrase for the rapidly disappearing brown fox. It’s an enormouly playful book, as well as a cracking read (the climax is so satisfying it made me accidentally holler in triumph on a flight to the US, back in the balmy days when such behaviour didn’t get you arrested), and it shows there’s a different way to make games out of words than the narrative-led, conversation-driven techniques of things like Facade.