Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Individual Project Meetings Next Week

Get ready! We'll be having 25-minute conversations about your individual projects next Monday and Wednesday.

To prepare, please type and bring with you a list of problems or questions you have related to your project.

Week 7: Information Systems and Cybernetic Systems

For your game critique this week, consider the following:

-Does the game you've played have, overall, "perfect information" (chess, Pac-Man) or "imperfect information" (Witchhunt, poker)? What are the different kinds of information contained in the game? Is there an economy of information? How does it work?

-Does the game feature either positive feedback (tends toward extremes, unbalanced play) or negative feedback (tends to stabilize, balanced play) ? In what way? How does the feedback affect your game experience?

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Week 6: Emergent Play

On Wednesday, we discussed Design for an Ebay Resistant Virtual Economy, an excellent example of a game designer observing emergent play (twinking, muling, ebaying), tracing the play back to key design choices(gifting, scarcity, e.g.) , and making new design choices to encourage a different kind of play.

Your assignment this weekend: Find an example of emergent play in a game that resembles your final project. That is, answer the following question: What are players of that game doing before, during or after play that could not be anticipated just by reading the rules of the game? Once you have identified the emergent phenomenon, discuss what design choice or choices you think are responsible for it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Subservient Chicken

A slightly random post to encourage you to check out Subservient Chicken, the strange interactive site at which you give commands to a giant, creepy looking chicken-suit.

Take 5 minutes or more to play with this system. What are your instincts as you begin to play? Do they change over time?

Subservient Chicken is an excellent example of emergent play. I'll update this post later with links to evidence of this emergent play, but for now-- just check it out.

(Oh, I can't help it: Here is some evidence of emergent play with the Subservient Chicken system: here, and here. Why do you think I'm calling this stuff emergent play? Also, there's lots more out there, find anything interesting?)

Week 6: Meaningful Play

According to Salen & Zimmerman, meaningful play requires that players be given opportunities to take non-random actions or make decisions that have a discernable (immediately clear) and integrated (makes "big-picture" sense) effect on the game.

For your game critique this week, please evaluate a game you play by asking the question: Does meaningful play happen? To what degree is it meaningful, compared to other games? Which game design elements make it meaningful (or not)?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Week 5: Core Mechanic

Today's topic: core mechanic, the thing players do over and over again during a game.

Emphasizing the core mechanic at the start of a game design project is "designing by verb"-- thinking first and foremost about what you want players to DO, rather than the story you want to tell, the site you want to play in, the characters you want to create, the puzzles you want to make, or the scale you want to achieve, for example.

To help you with your next project post, here is a web site with 3100 Enlish language verbs.

By Monday, pick out some verbs that you think might make interesting core mechanics or supporting mechanics for your individual game project. What about these verbs would make for interesting play? What kind of gaming experience would they help you create? What kinds of interaction, narrative, or decision making might they lead to or support?

Most controversial games of all time

As promised, here is that killer article on the history of computer game controversies:

Also, a very cool article on the 20 worst (digital) games of all-time.

Notice in both of these articles the huge role backstory plays in generating controversy about a game... it's at least as controversy-inspiring as the other major "bad guy", graphical realism (e.g., realistic violence).

Also, some new "games we're studying" links in the sidebar ---> Including that classic backstory-driven adult Atari game, some snippets from the manual I present to you here (I swear this is verbatim, this is from the actua game manual! good heavens...) :

The object of the game is to use your paddle control to line up the Spanish Fly with the flying bachelor, giving him a shot of energy and causing him to rebound, and "scoring" with one of the lovely young ladies attending his party. When the game starts, the bachelor has four lives. Every time he misses the Spanish Fly he loses one life and a musical theme is played. After each life is lost, you must depress the button again. When all the lives are lost the game is over. Small squares on the stripe at the bottom of the screen show how many lives are remaining in addition to the one then in play. Note that when the bachelor flies toward the women, his private part (P.P.) is in an erect state. As he returns toward the Spanish Fly, it is in a limp condition. Also note that as the bachelor travels around,The Flight of the Bumble Bee is played. Scoring
When the bachelor successfully "scores" with a woman you score 5 points and the woman disappears. As the bachelor "scores", a fanfare of Charge is played.

You can visit the sidebar link for more from the manual, the pong-like screenshots, and more...

Week 5: Narrative

Can I interest anyone in a quick game of Mrs. Magruder's? Nuns Gone Wild? or the defacing gods game whose name escapes me? Space Cat, of course, is on its way...

Well. Your re-designs of the plain ol' dice game on Monday were impressive, outrageous and incredibly instructive. You took a supremely boring, repetitive de-contextualized game and gave it a backstory and a new, story-driven tracking mechanism that created all kinds of emergent performed story and, yes, I think many stories of play. (I for one have since related some of the game highlights to a few folks...) Also, cheers to all for being extremely daring playtesters this week.

For your game critique this week, please analyze a game for its:
Presented Narratives:
1) Backstory
2) Revealed story, and
Emergent Narratives:
3) Peformed story
4) Story of play
Which elements are most important to this particular game? How specifically are they presented, or how do they emerge? What are the game elements that re-inforce, develop or allow the narrative to be presented or emerge?

(*Jane now resumes her Dunkino worship.)