in Life is a game

Une nouvelle façon de raconter les voyages : le travel gaming

Comme d’autres écrivent un journal de bord, dessinent ou podcastent pendant un voyage, Jordan Magnuson a inventé une nouvelle façon de raconter les voyages : le travel gaming.

Cet Américain qui vit et travaille en Corée du Sud a décidé d’allier ses deux passions, le voyage et le jeu vidéo à travers un projet ambitieux, Game Trekking.
Le concept est simple : au cours d’un voyage d’un an, créer des jeux vidéo qui seront intimement liés avec les expériences de Jordan dans les différents pays visités.

Des jeux pour jouer ? Pas seulement, Jordan s’intéresse avant tout à l’expérience et à l’interaction nécessairement suscitées par le jeu, et à la capacité de ce dernier à faire changer les mentalités !
Un bon exemple est à cet égard une animation Flash, “Freedom Bridge”, à mi chemin entre artgame et expérience online, et qui puise son inspiration dans l’histoire politique des deux Corées.

Jordan a gentiment accepté de répondre à mes questions, long échange que je retranscris ci-dessous.
Si ce projet vous plaît comme il m’a plu, n’hésitez pas à aller voir la présentation du projet et à donner un coup de pouce à ce backpacker hors du commun, à qui il manque actuellement un peu plus de 1000$ pour concrétiser son rêve !

In this interview, you say that ““Fun” in and of itself isn’t a huge focus for me”. How would you define a game?

That is a tough question. Truth be told, I’m not too fussed about defining exactly what make a game a game. But if pressed for a definition, I think that key components of games include goals, rules, challenge, interaction, and some notion of “fun.” To successfully complete a game requires some combination of skill, luck, and strategy.

So by my own definition, a lot of the things I make are clearly not games. I like games, but my focus in creating computer games (if you want to call them that) is more on the interactive aspect, and less on the gameplay aspect.

If I make something and it’s fun, or it’s not fun, that’s just one aspect of the creation to me, either way, and it’s not usually my main focus. Which is why I think the “computer game” label is somewhat confusing… we don’t really have a word for something that’s interactive, and about an experience, but not actually a game… everything just gets lumped into being called a “computer game” or “video game”.

I label a lot of my creations as “notgames” to try to avoid the confusion to some extent, but like I said, I’m not too fussed about labels or definitions, because I don’t like boxes: I’m more interested in simply getting on with making and playing the things.

Do you think gaming (besides being real fun) is able to help learning or to change political views or to draw attention on a peculiar subject etc.?

Definitely. Why shouldn’t they? Why should games, simply because they are interactive, be incapable of addressing and challenging a political view, or education someone about a topic?

If anything, I think that the interactive component of computer games provides them with a unique strength, because they require a kind of active engagement that reading a book or watching a movie or listening to music does not.

Take Super Columbine Massacre RPG! For example: it forces its players to actually enter into the world of Columbine as active participants, to come face to face with what happened there, and to make decisions about what they believe with regard to the incident and the people involved–all in a way that documentaries on the subject can never do.

Are you interested in game culture? For instance, have you studied the famous / popular games in the countries you will be visiting?

I am definitely interested in game culture and history, and yes, I’ve been doing a little bit of “studying up” in that regard about the places I’ll be visiting. That being said, the gaming culture of a country is only one of the aspects I’m interested in, along with everything else that makes a country unique, and it won’t necessarily serve as my inspiration any more than what type of food they like in a particular place, or what kind of music they listen to.

But certainly, its something that I’m interested in, and something I would like to incorporate into some of my games.

In order to build the games, will you share your scenarios with the people there, for instance to check if the games matches their culture, or will the game be only based on your travel experiences?

First of all, yes, I would love to run my games past people from the country in question, to get their input, and hear their views.
That being said, I think it’s fairly obvious that despite my best attempts, there is no way I am going to be able to create a collection of games that is some sort of “perfect representation” of even the smallest of countries I visit.
There are too many people, there are too many places, there are too many points of view, etc., and even if all of that were manageable, everything would still always be coming through my warped, subjective, sociohistorically-bound, outsider lens.

Take all that into account, and you might justifiably ask why I’m setting out on this journey to begin with, what I hope to achieve. And my answer is that I simply hope to achieve the most that any of us can ever hope to achieve, on any venture: something that, while very tainted and subjective, might still be valuable in some way.
It won’t be objective in any sense of the word, but nothing that we create ever is. It will be a small glimpse of the world from one vantage point, a small glimpse of myself, a small experiment with the interactive medium. That’s all.

Would you say that gaming can be considered as universal? Why?

Right now, I would say no, that gaming is not universal. Games are played by a particular group of people, small enough and strange enough that they get a label all to themselves: we call them “gamers.” We think of them, more often than not, as time-wasters, juveniles, or nerds. At least as “gamers”.

This isn’t true for other activities like reading, watching films, or walking. In general, we don’t label someone who reads as a “reader,” we don’t label someone who watches a movie as a “watcher,” we don’t label someone who walks across the street as a “walker.” Those activities are universal. That’s where I want games to be, but they’re just not there yet, and I think we need to work to expand the medium before they can get there. Right now, games just don’t have that much universal appeal, and they require a skill-set that’s not universally practiced.

What kind of people is your target through “travel gaming”: people that won’t travel but somehow experience the travel through the game, people that will play after the travel, people that will play before (in the same way they could read a travel book)?

I’m not really aiming at a particular group of people. I know that some people will like the things, and other people won’t, that some people will be affected, and other people won’t… but I hope that divide doesn’t follow so closely along lines like whether someone is going to visit a place, or has already visited, or will never visit.

I hope that yes, someone might play one of my games and experience some small aspect about a country that they have never been to, and that it might increase their global awareness just a bit. I also hope that yes, someone might play one of the games about a country they just traveled to, or lived in for a long time, and that it still might bring something home for them, or express something that they’ve felt themselves, but didn’t know how to express.

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