[The following text is part of my upcoming master's thesis on the use of game mechanics in therapy games for children. This is just a rough first draft, and I gladly welcome all critique and suggestions – be it on a content level or regarding my use of language.
After having analysed some of the most-played Facebook games in previous instalments of this series (Candy Crush Saga, FarmVille 2, Puzzle Bobble Clones, Diamond Dash and Pet Rescue Saga), this final chapter looks at what is so "social" about these "social games" – if at all.]
It is a common assumption that games that are part of the Facebook platform are inherently more "social" than other games, since that platform offers the possibility to developers to tap into the social graph.
Over at The Astronauts, someone figured something out. Sometimes, games work even when you're not shooting things.
Listed below, there are five well known action-adventure games. Think about your favorite, most memorable moments from the single player part of each, then click on the + spoiler button and see if I have managed to guess any of these moments.
What do all these moments have in common?
They are game-free. They are gameplay-less.
That’s right. You heard me.
If we understand gameplay as something that a challenge is a crucial part of, then none of these moments features any gameplay. You just walk, or swim, or ride a horse, but that’s it. You cannot die. You don’t make choices that have any long term consequences. No skill is involved.
There is no gameplay.
In other words, certain things worth remembering from certain video games are not what these video games are all about.
What this guy now figures is that you have to remove gameplay from games to get those moments.
But I don't think so. It has nothing to do with gameplay. But a lot with pacing.
A lot of games just keep stomping on, throwing new enemies to battle at the player even before he finished the old ones off, in order to make the game "gripping". The makers fear that if there is just the slightest lull, the players will become bored and stop playing. But will they?
In most other narrative media it is well known that ceaseless screaming action is very tiring and impossible to watch.
This is no exception, even more so because it will be relevant to my current work. Two posts by Dan dos Santos about basic image composition, the first one about value structure, the second one about temperature structure.
Those two posts struck a chord with me, since they clearly explain what I already plan to do in the therapy game I'm working on.
When it comes to games, adding depth to the composition is seemingly less of a problem, since the movement already provides you with that information. However, discerning objects you can interact with from the ones that act purely as set pieces is another question.1 The higher the player's velocity within the 3D space, the faster he has to parse the environment for clues – especially when the players are not able to influence their own velocity, which is the case in rail shooters. As it happens, I'm exactly making one of those, thus the need for an environment that can be parsed instantly.
Since I'm always on the lookout for game studies related material, here is a new, interesting journal: Well Played.
The Well Played Journal is a forum for in-depth close readings of video games that parse out the various meanings to be found in the experience of playing a game. It is a reviewed journal open to submissions that will be released on a regular basis with high-quality essays.
Contributors are encouraged to analyze sequences in a game in detail in order to illustrate and interpret how the various components of a game can come together to create a fulfilling playing experience unique to this medium. Through contributors, the journal will provide a variety of perspectives on the value of games.
The journal is released under a CreativeCommons License, so grab it while it's hot! [found via jesperjuul.net]
Half a year after my bachelor's thesis game was presented at the bachelor's exhibition, it is now available as a download on this website.
The version is still largely the one that could be seen at the exhibition, with an additional, though very rough, English translation added.
Still, there are some bugs around. It might be best to understand the current state of the game as a tech demo: Most of the functionality is here, but it still lacks content and proper balancing. Play around – and tell me what you think.
- ID: Me, You (and everybody else) – Mac OS X Intel, Revision 117
- ID: Me, You (and everybody else) – Windows, Revision 117
- Some dialogue options lead astray or produce errors. If you encounter one, please let me know the last working option. Pressing ESC will allow you to interrupt the dialogue and start again.
- Moving around while carrying the moving box and looking at the floor will make you bump around – weird physics. Should have exchanged the box model with another one upon picking it up.
- Kicking the ball around might result in it dropping out of the level.
The complete list of all known issues can be found over here.
If you encounter bugs or have other suggestions, please get in touch with me. Thank you!
Actually, this is quite old and Janina told me about it a long time ago, but it remained in my little box of ideas that still need to be processed.
So, Disney actually produced an iPad game for their Cars franchise – using actual toy cars, that can be dragged over the iPad screen, controlling the game.
Probably best to have a look at it:
What's interesting is the fact that the idea is not entirely new. Infocom had a similar concept named feelies, packing physical artefacts with their video games, some of them even necessary to solve the puzzles, acting as a sort of copy protection.
What fascinates me is the combination of a video game and a physical artefact. Not necessarily just a special controller, like Guitar Hero and co., but actual objects that are relevant to gameplay in some other way. I haven't exactly have an idea how to pull it off right now, but it is an idea I'd like to explore further.
Given the fact that I've produced a game that is all about bullying as my bachelor's thesis, I'm now more aware of the topic. Even more so given the fact that the game in its current form is still more a proof of concept rather than a proper game. Since I plan to finish and release the game at some point, I keep an eye open for any developments and insights on the field.
It is therefore extremely interesting to stumble on a recent study by Alice E. Marwick and Danah Boyd called The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying in Networked Publics. The authors argue that teenagers are wary to call bullying what it is. Instead, they opt to call it "drama".
Using drama, the teenagers are able not to get pushed into the role of the victim, instead staying above the situation:
Dismissing a conflict that’s really hurting their feelings as drama lets teenagers demonstrate that they don’t care about such petty concerns. They can save face while feeling superior to those tormenting them by dismissing them as desperate for attention. Or, if they’re the instigators, the word drama lets teenagers feel that they’re participating in something innocuous or even funny, rather than having to admit that they’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Drama allows them to distance themselves from painful situations.
Obviously, this does not solve the underlying problem. Bullying still happens, just by another name. Feelings still get hurt, and this needs to be addressed. Yet, it is something that I will have to keep in mind when developing the story further.
When there is actually something happening it the Swiss games' scene, it should be noted. Even more so when the game is
- available for free
- based on a clever idea
- and released without much fanfare.
Well, here comes the fanfare.
Roman Schmid (likely known to you as @bummzack on Twitter) created a Tetris clone for two, playable on your iPad, named Block Duel. It's not just your normal 1v1 game you know from the GameBoy version. You play on the same screen, one player with white blocks, the other with black ones – and whatever your opponent drops on his side becomes a hole from your perspective. It is, in short, a clever play on negative space – but what else could you expect from a person well thought in the arts of graphic design?
Apparently a common choice, as proven on various occasions (okay, okay, on two couples I know of). ↩
If it weren't for developers like [Defiant Development], you'd easily believe that creativity in the games industry is nearly extinct.
But those guys actually manage to take a really old and tired concept – i.e. a first person shooter – and spin it in order to make something else entirely:
A first person shooter.
Seriously. Hear me out.
Warco is a first-person game where players shoot footage instead of a gun. A work in progress at Brisbane, Australia-based studio Defiant Development, the game is a collaboration of sorts; Defiant is working with both a journalist and a filmmaker to create a game that puts you in the role of a journalist embedded in a warzone.
The game itself — the title of which is actually short for “war correspondent” — follows the story of journalist Jesse DeMarco. Players will experience the process of filming conflicts, going into dangerous situations armed with nothing but a camera. They will then edit the footage into a compelling news story. The scenarios range from intense bursts of action to quieter moments as you discuss the events of the day with fellow journalists in a hotel. Though the main mechanic will be filming the action, Warco is also very much about choice.
Well, this is how [WIRED] puts it, anyway. The developers obviously make it [sound a bit more dramatic]:
WARCO lets players shoot and record what they see ‘through the lens’ – framing shots, panning and zooming, grabbing powerful images of combatants and civilians caught up in war. They’ve got AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades – you’ve got a flak jacket, a video camera, and a burning desire to get the story.
The praise that Bioshock has received from other critics is – after having played through the game – definitely well earned. Even though I'm usually not exactly a very good FPS player, I managed to get through the whole game. And it definitely was worth it. The world building in Bioshock is excellent, be its embedment into the historical background, or the rich story that shines through at every corner, or finally the beautifully captured art deco architecture, which simply is a joy to explore and walk through.
Gameplay itself is reasonably varied as well. While some parts leave the player wondering whether they were just added to draw out game length1, the "magic" abilities one receives over time offer enough variation and allow the player to change his tactics over time.
Later in the game, some near-failure states are added: at one point, one continually looses maximum health, forcing the player to react faster. At another, the player isn't able to choose his currently activated plasmid. Not only is the game randomly cycling between the equipped plasmids, but between others as well, allowing the player to test out previously unavailable plasmids – and requiring him to change his tactics to deal with splicers every minute or so.
With Bioshock having distinct horror elements as well, sound plays an important element as well.
Even though they might leave this impression, all parts are able to tell some part of the background story, allowing the player to dive deeper into the world. ↩
‘I realised that the skills I had developed in the virtual world were useless in the real world. I wanted to make them useful,’ says the 27-year-old [Lee Wei Chen].
So, as any self-respecting 27-year-old design student would, he clamped a game onto a washing machine, as Design Week reports.
The machine looks like an arcade style video console – but the bottom half of the unit is a washing machine, with the components’ circuitry linked together. Therefore, the washing cycle is dependent on the success of the person playing the game, meaning that if they struggle, extra coins are needed to make sure the washing cycle is completed.
While the idea might seem halfway funny at first, it becomes clear that Chen obviously doesn't have to wash clothes himself:
Despite the genius behind the idea, it seems Chen is still far from becoming a domestic god, remaining blissfully unaware of the nuances of actually washing clothes.
‘I don’t even know how to choose the programme,’ he says.
Well yeah – why would you redesign something that can be left alone most of the time as it does its work so that you have to stand right beside it the whole time?
Redesign something boring that actually requires attendance during its process – now that would make a lot more sense.
Once again shows that just slamming a game onto everything to make it "fun" (a.k.a. "gamification") is not such a sure-fire recipe as some people would want you to believe.
[found via BoingBoing]
And as long as we're at the lists for game design students, this one might come in handy as well: A list of 20 game design blogs that students will love:
As video games continue to rise in popularity, game designers are being asked to create even more challenging and satisfying user experiences. Game design students are looking for information on the latest tips, tricks and techniques to help you take your games to the next level. Fortunately, there are several high-quality game design blogs to help guide your studies, skill development and provide you with the latest trends in the field.
Of the many game design blogs in cyberspace, we selected 20 that we think you’ll find useful now and long after you earn a game design degree.
I would, however, add three other blogs worth checking out:
- The Border House Blog: Yes, it has a clearly feminist twang, and don't always agree with them. But the point is: this blog keeps on reminding you that there are female, gay and lesbian players out there that do not constantly have to be reminded of their non-mainstream existence just because you, the game designer, once again designed the game to fit the wet dreams of a heterosexual 13-year old male …
- Robert Yang: Game Designer at the Parsons University in New York – provides thoughtful analysis of games, level design and general out-of-the-box-thinking.
- Terra Nova: This clearly goes into the realm of game studies – as such, the articles are usually rather long and contain convoluted words. Never fear!
Hidden deep in the trenches of Instapaper I found this little gem – as a matter of fact, this should be required reading for all game design students.
Over the last few years, I've been collecting examples of metagames — not the strategy of metagaming, but playable games about videogames. Most of these, like Desert Bus or Quest for the Crown, are one-joke games for a quick laugh. Others, like Cow Clicker and Upgrade Complete, are playable critiques of game mechanics. Some are even (gasp!) fun.
Since I couldn't find an exhaustive list (this TV Tropes guide to "Deconstruction Games" is the closest), I thought I'd try to pull one together along with some gameplay videos.
It contains such classics like Desert Bus, First-Person Tetris or You have to burn the Rope, all of which you should check out at some point.
Currently, I'm sitting on a plane leaving for Amsterdam. So yes, I'm on holidays!
Internet connectivity might be limited during the next two weeks until August 8 – depending on the availability of free WiFi. All your pending requests and mail will be dealt with after my return, promised.
But then again, you might be in for some new flickr pictures afterwards … ;)
So it's no wonder I find Nothing's Time Tracker and Office Dashboard such an awesome idea.
Everyone continuously tracks the tasks they’re working on and thus generates his own stream of project Tracs, and there’s also a “team stream” running on a monitor in Twitter-like manner.
Project time tracking was now not only to be done as info to the project manager, but as statement of one’s own efforts. This new significance boosted meaning and quality of the Tracs. With that there is a much clearer picture of how different types of projects – and also for different sorts of clients – work.
The stream of Tracs is another knowledge tool that leads to many exchanges like “You’re having trouble with this? Maybe I can help.” or “Interesting stuff you do!“. Our latest “meta tool” therefore impacted positively on the internal communication culture: It was fun to add to the information stream with events and have an exchange in real-time. It repeatedly prevented task redundancies and helps tapping existing knowledge instead of creating it from scratch.
It functions similar to Twitter by keeping everyone in the loop.