Gregg Mayles, the man who plays (and makes) video games for a living. But the game playing isn’t restricted to the screen only. Oh no. “I try and turn everything into a game.” In the Corridor of Courage, he challenges himself to walk with his eyes closed for as far as far as possible. In the supermarket, Trolley Tetris spices up the weekly shop. Brilliant.
Maybe it’s his playful approach to life that has made Gregg so good at knowing what makes a great game. He says it’s all about telling a story and thinking about the emotions you want the user to experience while playing. With lots of games, too little thought goes into this. Focus on emotions like ‘powerful’ or ‘happy’ isn’t not that original really.
Another clincher is of course the key functionality you want for a game. So, when concepting or pitching an idea for a game, there always need to be prototypes. Gregg explains that “prototypes should be rough and ugly. As ugly as possible. Sometimes I have to ask the designers to take some graphics out, because they just look too beautiful”. The point of prototypes is being a demonstration of the real thing. But if it to looks too much like a finished game, it’ll still fall short compared to an actual game.
Next, Gregg goes into some examples of the games he’s worked on in the past: some pretty incredible stuff. First up, a classic: Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong looks like a gorilla and moves like one too. But when it came to programming his movements, it took a fair few different attempts and models to get it right. “We even dressed up as gorillas ourselves to figure out how the body should move.” The problem with actual gorillas was that they don’t actually DO a great deal.
In the end, it was our favourite wind-in-the-mane friend that saved the day: the horse. Yes, Donkey Kong’s moves were modelled on a horse. Thanks horsey! (Maybe that’ll make him more appealing to pre-teen girls?)
Another game Gregg worked on was Viva la Pinata – which has an interesting concept but never really quite made it. It’s based on the fun he had attracting different sorts of birds and animals into his garden. The friendly Robin, the chirpy bluetit and, with much patience, the elusive Goldfink. “It was such a great feeling when I finally got the Goldfink to come into my garden that I wanted to make a game of it.”
He emphasises how a lot of his inspiration for games comes from personal experiences, because they provide insights into what we actually enjoy doing.
Being in the games industry, Gregg obviously doesn’t get around doing some Kinect stuff too. The challenge they had with Kinect Sport was not only making movements look natural and life-like, but also getting the game to recognise different sporting movements executed in an endless variety of ways. “People have a whole life’s worth of teaching themselves how to do something, like throwing a ball, and everyone has a slightly different way of doing it. The game needs to recognise all of them to work properly.”
As for the future of gaming, Gregg thinks facial expressions could be a really interesting area to explore with Kinect. Generally though, he thinks we need to look at the way people play games, at where and when they play it. We could challenge what a game actually is and turn gaming completely on its head.
In any case, we can’t wait to see what games Gregg comes up with next.
A ma-HOO-sive THANKS to our partner Microsoft for curating this event with us, bringing in some truly inspirational speakers and providing us with such a beautiful venue. None of this would’ve have been possible without you. We’re looking forward to more awesome collaborations like this!