I've been thinking about peaceful games, lately. I don't mean nonviolent games... I mean peaceful games. I've been thinking about the idea because I've been playing a lot of games that make me wish there was no pressure at all. It's hard to explain what I mean by this, but I'll try.
Something like Animal Crossing seems like it might be the ultimate ideal of a peaceful game, but it's really not what I'm talking about. Animal Crossing is a grind-filled casual game. There's an implicit push to do really dumb things like make shit-tons of money and buy stuff.
It's probably impossible to make a game with no implicit goals, but the idea behind a peaceful game is to make those goals very relaxing.
There are some relaxing games out there, ranging from Jaruu Tenk to Knytt and so forth. But these games are rather more shallow than I like. Jaruu Tenk allows you to spend a huge amount of time with the inhabitants of this little house, but nothing you do has any significant effect and the harder you try to do anything meaningful, the more of an outright bastard the character in question becomes.
How about this idea: Let's take Simcity Societies and mod it. In our heads, because the game doesn't support this level of modification, and even if it did, it would crash every half hour.
You don't build your city build your city build build build. Instead of spending cash on new buildings, you have to spend public will. Which means that once you run dry, you need to go amongst the people.
The people live in the buildings and on the streets you have made. There's a few interesting stories happening at any given time, ranging from thieves to summer crushes. All of the stories are built around the buildings you have put up and their situation. That boring row of houses you put up? There's a squad of ten year olds that really hate living there, man.
You get your public will by simply touching these stories, perhaps making a few of the decisions or introducing a few new elements or building something. You don't have to solve them, or do anything specific.
This is a clumsy example, but the idea is to take the focus off the building of the city and put it onto the people living in the city you're building.
Perhaps a better example is in Civ IV. Civ IV is a great game, but I keep thinking, "I don't want to play it from this angle." I'm not interested in what tile to put a city on, or even whether we have open borders with someone. However, seeing how the people live in the nation is very interesting to me. Ideally, I would be able to play the game by simply guiding stories, and the AI would expand, negotiate, and research for me around the story resolutions.
The thing is that these "character driven games" are only possible because of the complex "reality" behind them. Joe and Sue fall in love because they spend all day at that coffee shop you built so close to the fountain. The Knights of Agrigore only formed because your bandit problem was growing too serious. The trade union is only being attacked because the black hole is passing through sector 14...
While there's theoretically a strong implicit goal to maximize your empire or whatever, the fact of the matter is that such things don't matter. No matter what you do, there will be stories. The kind of world you build using them determines what kind of stories you'll have in the future.
There are a lot of different relaxing games you could build, I imagine. Raph built one about flapping your wings. But, to me, it's got to be people and long-term state changes. I don't like "games" that don't give me any control over the world, and I don't feel interested in games which don't have people/people-like-things/stories-of-people in them.
Well, just thinking. What do you think?