Auteurs and Brainbenders

By way of Simon comes an announcement for a new DS game. It’s a game that features a real-world Doctor as its front-and-centre personality and it’s a game that features the word “Brainbenders” in its title. Normally this would be enough to dismiss it outright as yet another clone of the successful “Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training” series. In this case, though, my interest has been piqued simply because of who the title’s Doctor is: Reiner Knizia.

If you play modern board games — German ones especially — then Knizia’s name would be familiar to you. He is a prolific and successful game designer who, amongst many award winning games, designed my favourite board game of the last century: Tigris and Euphrates. A game that, in my opinion, is perfect in its design. Thousands of words can be used to explain why, and maybe one day I’ll write them, but all that needs to be said is: “just play it.” Because of that history, Knizia’s name is enough to turn a throw-away DS title into something on my watch list.

Meanwhile, Gore Verbinski thinks that the game industry needs auteurs. I don’t disagree with him but I don’t think it’s as dire as he makes it out to be. There already are auteurs. They’re the ones designing Rez and Parappa The Rapper and even Tigris and Euphrates. They just aren’t creating bland licensed games and movie industry merchandise. Those will never rise above what they are. And no matter how much creative control Gore Verbinski had with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, they will always remain films based on a fucking amusement park ride, themselves nothing more than merchandise. That whole keynote feels superficial because of that.

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