Confession time. I suffer from an odd disorder called This Could Be a Game Syndrome. Perhaps you can relate. I navigate through my daily routines - parenting, work, play, eating, sleeping - just like 'normal' people, but several times a day TCBAGS (pronounced 'Tee-See-Bags') strikes, and my consciousness is overtaken by an uncontrollable compulsion to translate whatever I'm doing into a video game.
TCBAGS can strike anywhere. For example, I'm sitting in the dentist's chair having my teeth cleaned, and I'm suddenly seized by the idea of an anxiety-reducing game that enables a child to play the role of dentist and enact the same cleaning procedure her dentist will perform in advance of her visit. I've had similar TCBAGS attacks in the doctor's and optometrist's office. Just imagine how much more fun a visit to the eye doctor could be if a savvy game designer got his hands on the standard eye exam.
The idle mind is fertile ground for TCBAGS. The most potent attacks frequently occur in the shower or while lying in bed. Even the most mundane activities, like washing dishes, can spur an episode of TCBAGS. I recently designed an arcade game involving silverware, a sponge, a drain, and bubbles. I'm not suggesting it was a good game by any means. TCBAGS appears to have no impact on cleverness or originality.
I spend a fair amount of time being a dad, and I've often wondered why so few games deal with parenthood. As I've written here before, fathers can be brave. Fathers can be heroic. Fathers can do deeds of daring on behalf of their families. Novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers have been telling us their stories for as long as those media have existed. Everybody agrees fathers can be engaging and dynamic characters. So where are the video game dads? When TCBAGS hits me, it's often provoked by a feeling that fathers are driven by powerful motivations that, at least in my book, often trump those assigned the typical superhero.
Other activities can also bring on TCBAGS. Lately, without consciously choosing to do so, I find myself watching movies and brainstorming the many ways they could be turned into bad games. For example, I saw The Hurt Locker this weekend, a powerful account of a US Army bomb squad during the Iraq War in 2004. I greatly admired the film and enjoyed a vigorous conversation about it afterward with my son. But then TCBAGS kicked in, and we were soon designing bomb diffusing missions with cludgy Wiimote controls; rail shooting in tanks during sandstorms; and dialogue tree haggling with street vendors. Like I said, it's a sickness.
If anybody else has a self-diagnosed case of TCBAGS, I'd love to hear about it, if only to reassure myself that I'm not crazy. ;-) Maybe we could start a support group. Or, better yet, we could design a game about a support group of TCBAGS victims. Yeah, that's the ticket! I'm thinking a first-person shooter, no?