Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
17 February 2006
Orson Scott Card said *that* about *whom*?!
In today's market, I think this November 1983 quote from Orson Scott Card (of Ender's Game fame) is telling. See if you can guess the real name of Mystery Game Company:
The software firm [Mystery Game Company] has added a fifth [creativity] requirement for itself: The game must be truly original. No [...] clones in this group, of games. Even though each of their games has roots in gaming traditions, the object has not been to recreate a favorite board game, or duplicate a sport, or translate an arcade game.
Before getting around to the answer, here's what Card was saying about his requirements for videogames:

And I do ask for a lot [from new games]:

  1. A home computer game should not be designed to minimize playtime - it should not be designed to take away quarters by making the game impossible to beat.
  2. It should use the full power of the computer - it should do things that only the computer can do well, and it should use all the appropriate resources the computer provides.
  3. It should be an excellent game, not just excellent programming - the play itself should be exciting and not serve merely as an excuse to show off the programmer's expertise.
  4. Above all, the game should be designed so the player controls and, to some degree, creates the game as he plays - I have little patience with games that play me, forcing me to follow only one possible track or learn one mechanical skill if I hope to win.
If those requirements sound like what you want, too, I have good news for you: there are finally some software companies making a serious effort to create exactly this kind of game.
Ah, to be young and idealistic again!

According to Card, the Mystery Game Company had added a fifth requirement -- that the game be essentially original -- to these four of his own.

So, what game company was impressing the world with its dedication to innovation and originality? The same company that made M.U.L.E. and Archon and Mail Order Monsters and Racing Destruction Set and Wasteland...

You know -- Electronic Arts.

The full text of Orson Scott Card's article "Games Grow Up" is available online here. The modern relevance of Card's comments is discussed here.
--Matt Matthews at 19:51
Comment [ 4 ]

Comments on this post:

Off tracka bit, but I don't really like point 3 of that list. It is pretty restrictive of game design, and possibly rules out both some good games and some popular (and thus presumably entertaining) games.

As well, a version of that logic leads to things like Nintendo DS games having to find sometimes silly pretenses to support touch screen use.

By Anonymous Baines, at 18 February, 2006 20:30  

As one who grew up in the 80s, especially the period before the NES when computers were _the_ game machines to have, and consoles were for the cheap, I can vouch for the accuracy of this article. Heck, I think I subscribed to COMPUTE! around then. They had BASIC programs for the various platforms you could type in and run. But I digress...

Way back then, Electronic Arts was a good company. They also had competition, not exclusive deals. The biggest complaint we had about them was how their spiral-track copy protection caused out Commodore 1541 disk drive heads to go out of alignment, and how annoying it was to have to wait an average of two minutes for a game to load (1541s transferred data at about 256 bytes/sec).

M.U.L.E. is still an incredibly fun game, even though now I'm playing it on a C64 emulator on my Palm Tungsten T3, and one game can eat the whole battery charge. I miss them and the old cube/sphere/pyramid logo.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 18 February, 2006 23:41  

Yep, MULE was great, and it holds up surprisingly well, as I and some friends discovered a couple of years ago.

Electronic Arts used to be almost the Google of game publishing. That they fell into evil so quickly, relatively speaking, is a bit frightening.

By Blogger JohnH, at 19 February, 2006 00:41  

You can play MULE online.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 21 February, 2006 11:04  

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