The slow food movement has been around for several years now. The movement espouses the benefits of restoring the joy of food, family, and friends to long meals. In other words it replaces snacking with savoring.
Slow gaming, like slow food, is about how you interact with others, how the game changes your interactions with the world, and with one another. Traditional gaming focuses on point acquisition, goal achievement, and completion. These are important in slow gaming, but not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal of slow gaming is interaction, not isolation.
A friend of mine recently pointed out the fact that you are able to download multiple localizations of games through Steam. He was very excited about this feature having spent the past year in Germany and was concerned with maintaining his language ability. He downloaded his entire library in German, and was very happy to report his girls progressing through Skyrim using only German.
This is an immersive, interesting, and helpful example of how slow gaming can change both the player, and ultimately the world for the better.
Being immersed in the environment, whether it’s Skyrim, Raccoon City, or Rapture, is perhaps a surprising first step. For those games where you can bring a friend along to help, or hinder, your progress, all the better. The immersion helps you to focus on a task, build your negotiation skills, and collaboratively problem solve with others or the AI.
Immersion shouldn’t be isolation, but a study in transcendence. In other words enabling a move from your current understanding of yourself and the world to one where you can understand the world better. This immersion should help you see yourself as being better for having gamed and therefore more motivated to make positive changes in the world.
There has been a lot of talk about games designed for the greater good. Whether it is protein folding, or solving societal woes, these games most often use a fast game or casual game approach. Certainly there is nothing wrong with the outcome, but constructing that outcome or benefit as the sole purpose of a game doesn’t change how people see themselves or the world. The change is necessary before the game in order to convince people to spend their time contributing to a solution.
There is a great space in the game market for the types of games where your involvement in them and the knowledge gained playing them leads to personal, societal, or communal growth without breaking the obvious fourth wall of video game narrative. In other words, the abstraction needs to be within the story-making, not within the outcome. The outcome is clear for the player, a new skill, a new mindset, a new world.
Fast games are fun, and in some cases necessary as an escape and mental break from the stresses of everyday life. But I believe it is important to save some time for the slow game. As game makers it is even more important for us to build slow games that immerse, teach, and train people to do more than position a reticle over the zombie’s head.