Chris Crawford's "Dragon Speech"

Andrei Marks · September 24, 2011

I recently happened upon Chris Crawford’s 1993 “Dragon Speech,” and thought it was pretty entertaining, with some very important observations about the essence of electronic games. There were a couple of points that I found especially noteworthy.

Good Dreaming

First, he states the somewhat counterintuitive notion that “good dreaming is hard work.”  Dreaming exists somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between fantasy and planning. The former is the pie-in-the-sky, imagination-gone-wild sort of fantasizing, while the latter is the polar opposite, characterized by narrow objectives and sequences of realistic steps. Dreaming, in contrast, is something that requires a little bit of fantasy and a little bit of planning; dream universes are desirable universes that are in some way plausible. He also characterizes the “good” dreamer as a rare person, as someone who can walk with their eyes on the stars even while walking across uneven ground (paraphrase).

Games As Art

Second, part of his own dream is to see the electronic game elevated to a true art form, able to resonate with and compel people emotionally. He makes the very strong point that games shouldn’t do this simply by emulating other forms of art wholesale. Instead, they should come into their own by emphasizing one of their most fundamental properties: interactivity. I think this resonates really well with an article I read recently, which suggested that games should focus on the emotions that they are naturally capable of compelling from people, such as the sorrow and frustration that comes along with losing a character a player might have become attached to.

Effective vs. Efficient Communication

Third, he uses the effective communication vs. efficient communication dichotomy to describe another thing that games do quite well. One-on-one teaching would be an example of effective communication, because someone is learning directly from another’s teaching. On the other side, a lecture or any sort of mass media type of communication would be considered efficient communication, because you reach more people with a single broadcast, so to speak. Electronic games, though, are a form of efficient communication (mass production and distribution of a single game is possible) with the added potential for effective communication in the form of interactive teaching.

Tech Allowing for Emotional Connection

Fourth, he discusses a few features of games that he believes are necessary to achieve an emotional connection with the player. These include facial expressions, artificial personalities, and a language of emotional expression. I think we’ve already achieved plenty of this in many games (though the technologies are still far from perfect), which is why visiting Mr. Crawford’s current website and projects are something of a disappointment, because he doesn’t seem to be implementing much of what’s out there, game creation-wise.

Insanity

Finally, there’s a little praise for insanity, the “inability to come to terms with reality,” a notion I’ve always been very fond of.

Here’s the 5-part video:

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