Breaking Down Games by Playing Them
Jared Petty

 

There’s a small, wonderful corner of games that overtly challenges the conventions games are built on. The indie space has thrived on refining our genre expectations, but likewise in dissecting them. Braid’s anti-heroic narrative, The Witness’s journey through game interface as a language, The Oregon Trail’s invitation to bend and break the boundaries of acceptable behavior… these all demand that we think about what a game is not through some academic study, but rather through the interactive, metatextual experience that only a game can provide. And at their best, these games can be both intellectually challenging and damn fun… consider the accolades Inscryption earned this year for so neatly sticking the landing on both. 

There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension is another product of this tradition, a good-spirited, humorous look at what makes games tick and the assumptions we make about them. I talked with Pascal Cammisotto, the author/director There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension from Draw Me A Pixel. I asked him some questions about what he calls a “non-game” and how it both satirizes and celebrates gaming. If you like what you read, you can find There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension on Switch for sale now through January 9th at Limited Run Games

Jared: So There Is No Game. What does that even mean?!

Pascal: The origin of this title goes back to June 2015. I participated solo in a game jam for Newgrounds. The theme was “deception.” I asked myself what the worst lie a game could offer was and came up with the idea for this title, which was the starting point for everything. But when I started writing the game for a commercial version, I wanted the title to have a deeper meaning. 

Jared: The word “meta” gets thrown around a lot these days, but when it comes to There Is No Game, I think a meta-textual perspective really applies. What did you want to accomplish with There Is No Game, and how did you leverage the mechanics and narrative experience of a non-game to get there?

Pascal: I simply wanted to make a romantic comedy that would constantly surprise the player. When I created the jam game, I didn't ask myself any questions—I just made the story and the mechanics without any real thought, just for fun. But I didn't expect those ten minutes of absurd comedy to be so successful. When I then started to rework this material into a non-game lasting several hours, I was faced with the question: how to go beyond these ten minutes without tiring the player? 

It was absolutely necessary to keep this notion of surprise and the unexpected. So I came up with the idea of a video game dimensional journey. Traveling through several types of games allowed me to renew the experience and the situations. 

Jared: I’ve personally enjoyed The Magic Circle, The Stanley Parable, and Pony Island, games that take a pretty sardonic approach to what makes games function. What were some of your inspirations for There Is No Game?

Pascal: I haven't played Pony Island or Magic Circle. But I loved Stanley Parable and it was one of my references when I created the the game.

As for the sardonic approach, there is no malice in There Is No Game. I make fun of a lot of video game clichés but I do it with a lot of love... Except maybe the F2P games.

I hate F2P games.

Jared: What makes this version of There Is No Game a Wrong Dimension?

Pascal: Haha! In each dimension, the player cannot play the game in front of him. He has to find a roundabout way to act on it. So, we can say that each time, there is no game!

So you can imagine Game's voice telling us: "Sorry, there is no game here. Wrong dimension. Next one maybe."

Jared: What’s a development challenge you faced in creating There Is No Game that people might not expect, and how did you overcome it?

Pascal: There were two challenges. The first, which I have already mentioned, was the desire to regularly surprise the player and even confuse him by breaking the traditional codes of video games. The second challenge we faced was the variety of dimensions. Each world is built differently. It's like creating 6 technically different games without breaking their common base. It wasn't easy but I think we managed to do it pretty well.

Jared: What makes There Is No Game tick? What’s the core of it? And what makes it fun?

Pascal: This is a question that is more for the users. But I would say that the core of this non-game is the message of love that I wanted to send to the video game universe. A message written with humor, sometimes clumsiness, but always with great sincerity.

But if you're talking about the gameplay, the particularity of this non-game is the inversion of roles. There is a real pleasure in sabotaging the game against its will!

Jared: What are you most proud of about the game?

Pascal: To have succeeded in making the players laugh and to have touched them emotionally. And also for going through with the project despite the failure of the Kickstarter. (Which I have integrated into the story. Let's be as META as possible!)

Jared: What are you playing right now?

Pascal: As a Tim Schafer fan, I just finished the amazing Psychonauts 2. And at the moment I'm playing Desperado 3 which is excellent. (I loved the first one)

But I must admit I have a ton of other games to try out or finish. There are too many !!!!

You can pre-order your copy of There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension now through January 9 at LRG. It’s available in both Standard and Collector’s Editions

 

Limited Run Games:

the industry leader in the production and distribution of premium physical video games. Founded in 2015, they have published over 1,000 physical games and soundtracks in addition to winning a number of awards for their bespoke Collector’s Editions. Limited Run is the gold standard in bringing digital games to physical form for casual fans and collectors alike. Visit limitedrungames.comfor the latest offerings, or follow the brand on your social media platform of choice for all LRG-related updates:@limitedrungames.

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