How do you create a classic? That means a game that will stand the test of time and will be remembered for decades to come. Classics are very easy to find. Whenever I talk to people that were gamers in the 80’s and 90’s they bring up the same games: Wolf3D or Doom, Another World, Sensible World of Soccer, River Raid, Civilization, Contra. ANYONE that has been passionate about games back then knows these games. It’s like asking old people about the Beatles. Those are classics.
Birth of a classic
I could go on and list why each of these games were great, presenting features and new concepts they brought. This is an approach that I do not like, because it is looking at the results. The results did not spawn these games they are only effects. What was the CAUSE of these games happening?
Listen to this while I present you my thoughts.
It’s Partita in D minor for solo violin – BWV 1004 – movement 5 aka Ciaccona aka Chaconne.
The music of J.S. Bach isn’t pleasant to the ears because it uses chords and scales. Chords were manufactured because people by trial and error noticed that certain groups of notes sound pleasant. The pleasure from the sounds they created was the cause of creating chords – so that is also the real cause of music sounding good to us now.
This is VERY important to understand, because it gives you the idea why emotions are so key in the process of creating the game. Let’s take the process of creating a masterpiece. I claim that the cause of Chaconne, a piece that is breathtaking is not Bach himself, or what he thought of himself. It was something beyond him.
Was it supernatural? I don’t know but it doesn’t have to be, I don’t really dwell in the supernatural because it is just a word for the unknown. If something is beyond somebody I mean it is beyond what the person consciously perceives. So in the case of Johann I think the only thing that he was perceiving while creating it was just the pleasure it brought him.
Sheer pleasure of creation.
I think you can’t understand the act of creating a classic if you look at the result and try to backward engineer it. Like the guys trying to make a Windows compatible system by looking at the processes and assembly code the processor is doing. By looking at that they figure out how the system is built and they make their own compatible system. They do it backwards by looking at results. Of course Windows is not a work of art so they can probably accomplish it but what if you look at a piece of music?
If you ask any violinist that tried to play Chaconne he will say that it is one of the most challenging pieces of music ever to play. They will also say that it is one of the most technically brilliant and elegant songs ever written, it is considered a pinnacle of the solo violin repertoire in that it covers practically every aspect of violin-playing known during Bach’s time. It’s exhaustingly long and consists entirely of a single, succinct musical progression repeated in dozens of variations to create a dauntingly complex architecture of sound. Composed around 1720, on the eve of the European Enlightenment, it is said to be a celebration of the breadth of human possibility.
Joshua Bell, one of the best contemporary violinists, calls it “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect. Plus, it was written for a solo violin, so I won’t be cheating with some half-assed version.”
Just look at a technical analysis of the ciaccona: http://solomonsmusic.net/bachacon.htm
I don’t how about you but that makes me dizzy. How could a man possible manufacture something like this consciously? Connect all the notes, scales, modes, chords and do this for 14 minutes inducing every human emotion that exists in a complete singular structure?
Well he probably didn’t.
It was probably just fun
This goes to any kind of music and any kind of art that is breathtaking and tear provoking. This also goes to game creating. This is probably an important part to the answer of the question: how do we make games art? The question I asked in the first post of this blog.
Johann probably just had fun writing Chaconne. He couldn’t have accomplished it otherwise, nobody would have the patience to engineer it. It brought him pleasure and by doing that he tapped into something larger than himself. Because he was doing what he loved, his whole brain intergrated and started to take beauty itself directly from the entire knowledge of music at the time. It was probably like water coming out of a tap. Nature itself was pouring nectar into his head.
Classics are created just for enjoyment. They are created while having fun. This is why I’m against any kind of disciplining yourself while making games. If you want games to be art you can’t engineer them. The creative process cannot be manufactured and brought upon an arbitrary timetable. It must be spontaneous and driven by emotion. If you can do that and produce results, you will be remembered for ages to come.