A Place to Talk
Tucked away in the rolling fields of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park nests a deer shelter, one of a number of curiosities left on the grounds from when they belonged to Bretton Hall. Inside, the gentle chill of stone and a quiet hush gives the space the reverence of a chapel. The plain white-washed walls climb to a height that seems impossible from the outside and the lower half is covered with sloped concrete that offers an invitation to sit. This pared back minimalism all focuses on one point in the room, a picture-sized gap in the ceiling which frames an area of sky. It is impossible not to be drawn in. The space guides our attention to focus on the shifting segment of open air, to consider it in a depth that we might not have before.1
Good writing can have the same effect. In Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane looks at both the books that shaped him as a writer and builds a glossary of words for the natural world, specific and often local terms that show facets of the natural world that a broad name cannot depict. The book is a celebration of those who pay close enough attention to think about, and care about, the subtleties and nature of a thing. Although my craft, game design, is far down the list of importance compared to the natural world, I am similarly inspired by the designers who are able to clearly communicate their ideas and process. In particular, Soren Johnson’s Designer Notes2 (an invaluable insight into the work of a designer), and Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling (the go-to source for any topics to do with dynamic narrative) have often and repeatedly challenged my assumptions and shifted my thinking towards design.
I have tried to start my own blog a few times before but the self imposed pressure of perfectionism killed any posts before they could escape the drafts folder. Ira Glass talks about how the only way to bridge the space between the art you can create and the art you want to create is through building a body of work.3 This blog is a part of me bridging that gap, a way of improving at both writing and game design. By exploring design ideas here I hope to learn, to start conversations with anyone willing to read, and to build my grammar of design so that I can say more through my work.
It is not certain what form the posts here will take, personal essays like this or deeper explorations of technical aspects of design. It is going to be a process of discovery and exploration and I am trying to be open to making mistakes. Whatever form it takes, the aim is to write with a sense of focus and care, providing a frame for the details of our craft. I hope you join me for this journey.
Until next time,
The piece is ‘Deer Shelter Skyspace’ (2006), by James Turrell - best known for carving a volcano out into gradients of colour. It was only reading the wonderful post 'How to Do Nothing' by Jenny Odell that I found that there are a number of Skyspaces around the world, which makes me love it that much more; imagining people lifting their eyes to their own patch of sky, connected for a moment by this ritual of reflection.↩
For transparency, at the time of posting this I work for Soren at Mohawk Games, although I read Designer Notes long before starting here.↩
Here’s the video in question, the others are worth a watch as well.↩