The Video Game Machine
Join the Founder's Program

Creativity and Play: A Gaming Retrospective

Published on Monday, May 20, 2019 By ScottTykoski In The Video Game Machine Dev Journals

If you've played Stardock games before, you know how much we try to encourage the modding of our titles. Making games is fun, and we do our best to open it up for players to enjoy.

There's something amazing about that first time you edit a text file, then start up a game to see the change as you play. Sure, 8-year old you would probably just change the phrase "Player 1 Start" to "Player 1 Fart"  - * guilty cough * - but it really is an eye opening moment: YOU have the power to change & create within the games you love.

The goal of The Video Game Machine is to put this power at the player's fingertips. And while we bring some fresh ideas to the table, we're certainly not the first ones to tap into the creativity of gamers.

Here are some of our favorite Games, Tools, and Accessories that allowed us to get creative!








Lode Runner
Systems: C64, NES, PC

One of the first titles I ever encountered with a Level Editor, Lode Runner let you make single-room levels where collecting gold and avoiding enemies was the name of the game.

Simple and straightforward, but even with just a handful of options it was a extremely engaging.








System: NES

Nothing was better then passing the controller back and forth, making devilishly difficult Excitebike tracks for your friends to try out.

Just don't be the guy that makes a track of only Mud Puddles. Nobody likes that guy.






D&D Unlimited Adventures
System: PC

Unlimited Adventures was a pretty amazing toolkit - letting you make maps, quests, battle encounters, and everything that makes an RPG fun.

Wolfenstein3D - Map Editor
System: PC

Looking back, the true power of the Wolfenstein Editor was in how dirt-simple it was to use. You placed blocks down on a grid and out popped a 3D level for you to run around in. As we'll talk about later, 3D can quickly lead to control issues & frustrations.

That this tool pulled it off is impressive (even if it wasn't REAL 3D, but back then it felt real enough).

Mario Paint
System: SNES

OK, so you couldn't design games in it, but you can't talk about creativity in games without bringing up this little masterpiece. I mean, if you had a VCR with the proper setup, you could even use this game to make your own cartoons!

Also, many of the UI Themes and ideas started here would find their way into Mario Maker, so that was cool to see (for all us Mario Paint veterans).


Galactic Civilizations II
System: PC

Forgive me for listing a Stardock game here, but the appeal & longevity of GalCiv2's 'Ship Designer' still blows me away. To this day - nearly 13 years after it's release - players still create and show off their ships. That's the power of creativity when used as a game mechanic.

Systems: Anything with a Screen.

You know it. You've loved it. It's 3D Legos. It's made all the money.

Moving on…

Little Big Planet
Systems: Playstation

One of the leading forces of creativity in the newer console generations, Little Big Planet was tons of fun to build content for. The talented team at Media Molecule even has a new game - Dreams - that can make some amazing 3D creations.

Disney Infinity
Systems: Wii, XBox, Playstation

One of the first casualties of the "Toys to Life" game explosion, Disney Infinity actually seemed to do everything right - ESPECIALLY their amazing 'Toybox' mode. Here, you could use objects unlocked in the main game to build your own worlds to play in. The problem - for me, at least - was that the 3D controls made the creation process too slow & cumbersome. It would take a long time to make something, and often the finished product was too far from what you envisioned.

This is a big reason we went 2D w/ Pixel Art: quick design iteration with an interpretive visual style should alleviate some of those problems.

As a whole, however, Disney Infinity was an amazing package that my kids and I still play.

Super Mario Maker
Systems: WiiU

The current creativity juggernaut is the Super Mario Maker series. With a sequel coming out next month for the switch, it seems gamers are certainly excited to do more with their games than simply play them.

Where Does The Video Game Machine Fit In?

There have been a TON of great gaming options for unleashing your creativity over the past 25 years. This leads the the obvious question about The Video Game Machine "Where does it fit in?"

  • It's For Everyone: Ease-of-use has taken the top design spot as we've created The Video Game Machine. A long Early Access period will ensure the rough edges are all filed down so Everyone can be a Game Designer.
  • It's for Short or Long Adventures: In the above examples, almost each one limits the player to one area/scene/level. One of VGMs benifits is that you're making an ENTIRE game, meaning multiple levels. This gives the player lots of room to build a properly epic adventure.
  • It's for Players that want to Tell A Story: Dialog systems and Narration rules make it very easy for players to interject their creation with custom, world building text.
  • It's for Sharing: Right out the gates, TVGM will allow you to upload your creations to share with others, or download games made by the community to play.

So will VGM stack up against these creative classics? We certainly think so, but more importantly - what tools or games did we miss from this list?  When we talk about getting creative in a video game, what experiences comes to mind?

Let us know in the comments!