Das Game is a tongue-in-cheek look at the genesis of some modern philosophy from German existentialists. The gameplay is abstracted and purposefully confusing. The player needs to figure out what to do – just like in life.
I’ve been trying for some time to combine my interest in philosophy and my love of making games and this is the first stab at it. When teaching philosophy in class (it comes up naturally in design courses), I find that students are either intimidated by the subject or have trouble relating. Thus, I set out to make a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and won’t turn people away who are new to the subject.
Philosophy can be a hard thing to get into for a variety of reasons, one such reason could be that finding clear-cut answers is nearly impossible – something that internet culture is not good at. For example, if one was to ask what are the similarities between Sartre and Nietzsche, one would have to also look at Plato, Hegel, and Heidegger – a large task. Another option would be to watch videos about their thinking but that means getting an interpretation of complex materials which can vary.
On top of all of that existentialism can be scary for people. Thinking about why life is and what happens when we die doesn’t come up in everyday conversation.
With luck, Das Game will encourage people to find out more about modern philosophy. If it doesn’t, then hopefully players will have a laugh.
Some activities within the game are hidden while others are obvious. As mentioned, above the game is purposefully abstract and confusing. What the player does impacts a score calculation (which can be a negative total) that ultimately means nothing, err something.
The game is put into three main sections each of which is influenced by a philosopher I’ve found interesting. Really, this could all just be about Nietzsche but a little extra spice is nice.
To experience the true life of Being one needs to do the following:
- Be one with oneself
- Be one with nature
- Be one with community
Be one with oneself
Friedrich Nietzsche gets the whole ball rolling. Best known for proclaiming “God is dead“:
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125, tr. Walter Kaufmann
Now that God is dead how are we to define ourselves? Nietzsche found that European culture hinged on the belief of a God existing and now without that god society and the self will both break down. To Nietzsche, this means we can turn inwards and find meaning for ourselves and at the very least we need a new framework for assessing moral behaviour.
To Be one with oneself can be read to mean many things in this context. Within the game are there are subtle small activities one can play to figure out what this all could mean.
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
Be one with nature
Martin Heidegger was a horrible human being. He also happened to have some interesting insights for the world of philosophy to ponder. This is best captured in The Question Concerning Technology which examines humanity’s relationship with and essence of technology in relation to Being.
As Micheal Zimmerman writes in Heidegger and Deep Ecology:
Because he criticized technological modernity’s domineering attitude toward nature, and because he envisioned a postmodern era in which people would “let things be,” Heidegger has sometimes been read as an intellectual forerunner of today’s “deep ecology” movement.
In that paper, Zimmmerman points out (quite rightly) Heidegger was a Nazi and this will forever taint Heidegger’s thinking. However, we shouldn’t discount the problems about existence that he gave us to address. Indeed, we shouldn’t be that worried his thinking will turn people fascist as even “deep ecologists are far more influenced by democratic ideals than Heidegger was.”
There is a joke somewhere here about the game being played on a computer.
Be one with community
Ludwig Wittgenstein is impossible to fully understand. I will never purport to completely “get” Wittgenstein’s work but is fun to explore and play with. Which is why he is the influence for a part of the game.
A key point in Wittgenstein’s work is the use of language and communication. To oversimplify his thinking to an offensive level: if we don’t have the same conception of the meaning of a word then we can’t talk conclusively about the world around us. Words are how we communicate but words are dependent on subjective meaning. Indeed, to take it one step further language itself limits the extent of our knowing about the world around us.
How can we communicate our ideas as philosophers/thinkers/everyday people if we can’t even agree on basic meaning?
Wikipedia has this nice quote from the ever-amazing James Burke about Wittgenstein:
Someone apparently went up to the great philosopher Wittgenstein and said “What a lot of morons back in the Middle Ages must have been to have looked, every morning, at the dawn and to have thought what they were seeing was the Sun going around the Earth,” when every school kid knows that the Earth goes around the Sun, to which Wittgenstein replied “Yeah, but I wonder what it would have looked like if the Sun had been going around the Earth?” Burke’s point is that it “would have looked exactly the same: you see what your knowledge tells you you’re seeing.”
Making the game
The development started as a game jam game and was put on hold afterwards (like so many jam games). Participating in One Game a Month encouraged me to finish the game. The game art was all done during the weekend-long jam except for the game menu and icon. The game’s working title was Sü-zagne until Nick Packwood came up with the excellent title of Das Game (he has been a great help for this entire game!).
Like Gnome Oppressor, Das Game is also made in GameSalad. With Das Game I wanted to explore some of the advanced aspects of GameSalad like using the accelerometer and a score system comprised of multiple variables.
As I mentioned in a previous #1GAM post, I’m learning C# and switching between visual editors and text based is not proving to be seamless. This may just be the last GameSalad game I create, but I will not stop suggesting the tool (alongside Scratch, GameMaker, etc.) to people not familiar with coding.
The score system was easy and quick to setup, same with the rest of the game. The ongoing difficulty is in getting pixel-perfect procedural generation (which I also dealt with in Gnome Oppressor).
Getting the accelerometer to work was easier than expected but its performance is rather…lacking. As far as I can tell there is no way to tell what a ‘resting state’ is for the device. That means that if the player moves their mobile around while playing (standing instead of sitting) the accelerometer could get an improper reading. The accelerometer needs to be coordinated with layout options online. Overall, there was some frustration with how GameSalad mixes their online tools with the installed game editor.
Make a game inspired by Slavoj Žižek.
Anybody know any places or events that focus on philosophy games?
- Eyal Assaf – Code & Art
- Nicholas Packwood – Sound
- Manaf Fakhro – Art
- Lauri Lewis – Art
- Jeremy Cardarelli – Art
Download it now:
My previous #1GAM games:
January – Gnome Oppressor
February – Village of Cards
March – AstroDoge
April – Scapa Flow
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