I've been thinking about the games and media we get nostalgic about, and about how they felt the first time we played them. Not just video games, but tabletop games and books and movies and whatever.
There were some emotions that you felt when you played those games, watched those movies. The feeling in your chest that new places were being explored, and that amazing things were getting done.
We don't feel that way much any more. I don't, at any rate. I don't think it's because games have gotten less epic. I think it's because I've become used to epicness. Like a child learning to play the piano - at first, they finally manage to play "Chopsticks" and they feel a great sense of accomplishment. But that gets pretty tired after you've played it a hundred times.
There are three basic ways that people progress from that initial accomplishment. The first is that they play more complex songs, reveling in the technical challenge of the art. The second is that they play the songs they have mastered with more care and flair, imparting more meaning and emotion to them. The third is that they innovate - improvising, arranging, writing new songs.
I think we can consider the act of epic adventure to be similar to the act of playing the piano. The games we play now are still epic adventures, but we are focusing on the challenge of ever more complicated epic adventures. Our skill at epic adventuring is being challenged at a technical level, and there's definitely fun to be had there, like trying to master Flight of the Bumblebee on your preferred instrument.
But there are two other directions we can go. We can make epic adventures which allow us to express ourselves more meaningfully. And we can make epic adventures where we are allowed to improvise and arrange consciously.
Of course we can also do two or even all three at once, but it might be best to focus on just one at a time.
I was thinking about how to make an epic adventure feel epic again. More technically complex adventures are interesting, but they don't give you that feeling in your chest. I think you need one of the other models to do that.
I've been working with a few ideas on that front, but I'd be interested to hear any opinions you have.