Dreams has just entered early access on PlayStation 4. Dreams is a "game" that gives you creator tools in order to make your own games. Or music. Or art. Or whatever you'd like to make in a sandbox development environment. Dreams is being developed by Media Molecule, the same folks that made LittleBigPlanet, another game that is like, Here's a toolbox, kid, now go make something.
While LittleBigPlanet was more or less confined to making 2.5D sidescrollers, Dreams is completely off the leash when it comes to that stuff. The tutorial by itself is acclimating me to moving around and building and manipulating objects in a three-dimensional space. You have a little spark, or a quark, or something—a mouse pointer, basically—that you move around the screen by aiming the controller like a flashlight. So few video games (or anything) use that ability as a mouse pointer that it's going to take the most getting used to. But I'm going to try.
I'm not writing an essay about it or anything, but I bought Dreams as homework. I don't have aspirations to become a video game designer. I'm content exploring other people's worlds and characters. But I've been a video game critic for 15 years now. While it's not necessary to be an artist to critique art, nor is it necessary to be a world class chef to critique a chef, I don't think it's necessary to make video games to critique them. But in seems in the past two or three years, the average Metacritic on video games is plummeting. And I think it's important to maintain perspective on how challenging video game development really is, without turning myself into a review bomber on the Steam forums (or wherever) just because I don't feel like I have a voice in game development.
So, I'm going to tackle the tutorials. I'm going to get used to the PS4 controller as more of a paintbrush than an analog control. And I'm going to make a level or two of a video game of my own design. Yes, I'm going to do it in Dreams, a set of creator tools that is designed to make video game development 1,000 times easier than, say, being handed the Frostbite Engine or Unreal Engine and being told to make a triple-A product in the next three or four years. Having never made a video game of any sort before, however, I'm hoping Dreams lends me that little bit of perspective I should have as a video game critic. It's not going to give every game I review a +1 or +2 to its final score. But it's also going to ensure that I don't give a game a 5 out of 10 just because I don't like the loot progression and the load screens are a little long.
Again, Dreams early access launched Tuesday on PS4. I'll keep you updated on the progress I'm making out of my first 5 out of 10 video game.