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Stereotypes

Created for an interactive exhibit for the “Researcher’s Night”, the game challenges the stereotypes we have as soon as we see a person.

Puzzle Bobble Clones: Bubble your bubbles tobubble!

[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. As part of my master’s thesis I am analysing already existing games that are commonly known to be addictive. A lot of those games are Facebook games.]

Most Puzzle Bobble clones play quite similarly, with their graphics being their most distinguishing feature. The outliers are Bubble Island, which adds the element of time pressure into the mix, and Woobies, which comes from another era of online games, and lacks most of the additional game mechanics the Facebook games use. This core mechanic can be expanded upon, allowing the Facebook game studios to find ways to monetize the game. The game is easy to pick up and is equally well playable with any input device, be it a mouse or a track pad, making it an obvious candidate for a casual game. It is deceptively simple to play: aim, shoot, aim, shoot, with hardly anything that takes the player out of the flow.

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Diamond Dash: It's Groundhog Day … Again

[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. As part of my master’s thesis I am analysing already existing games that are commonly known to be addictive. A lot of those games are Facebook games.]

Diamond Dash by Wooga superficially looks like a matching tile game similar to Candy Crush Saga or Bejeweled, but works slightly different. Diamond Dash lacks some of the refined features of its competitors. When compared to Candy Crush Saga, Diamond Dash seems a bit rough around the edges, both art-wise as well as in the use of game mechanics. While Candy Crush Saga tries to cater to as many player types as possible, Diamond Dash mostly attracts agile, quickly reacting players that like to compete with their friends. Still, the classic Facebook game mechanics are implemented, mainly that one one hand, Facebook games usually provide strong motivations to do certain things but on the other hand directly prevent players to actually do those things – unless, of course, the players pay or bug their friends about it.

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Candy Crush Saga: Fun for the whole family

[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.]

Candy Crush Saga by King.com is a classic casual game (as most Facebook games are), that caters to different player types at once: the puzzler, the explorer as well as the competitive player. Candy Crush Saga is a Bejeweled clone, a simple matching tile game. Candy Crush Saga combines various basic game mechanics and feedback methods in order to attract a diverse set of player types. The basic game allows players to recognise patterns and create order (a common theme with many casual games, which is quite rewarding in itself), the level map caters to the explorer type, while the constant feedback of how well the player’s peers did eggs on competitive players. By catering to all those different player types alike, the producers of the game manage to capture an audience as large as possible, something a therapy game would likely have to achieve as well.

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7 Game Design Rules that Apply to Therapy Games (as well)

My current job/civilian service has given me the unique opportunity to have a look at a variety of therapy games that have been designed for children’s neurorehabilitation. Most of those games come with specialised input devices.

As a matter of fact, it’s usually the input devices that come with games. Too often, the games seem to have been created as an afterthought of the device, and too often, those games have good intentions, but fail to deliver.

In order to be aware of those problems myself, I decided to make a list of my observations and how they could be mitigated.

The following points do not intend to discredit the work of all the people that designed and programmed the therapy games mentioned, it should merely discuss some problems that can occur and should be addressed when designing new games. Of course, that mostly means me, so I don’t fall into those pitfalls myself.

Common Pitfalls and their Resolutions

First of all, it has to be said that if you’re tasked with creating a therapy game for children, you have quite a challenge to overcome. Children are one of the most demanding audiences, and they will have no problems picking your game apart at the seams when they feel like it. They will feel most inclined to do so when you give them reasons. Like creating incoherent game worlds. A running dog that has to avoid exploding mushrooms by jumping whenever boing poked in the belly with a huge hand and meanwhile collecting diamonds that hang suspended in thin air?

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Magic Castle Game Concept

Concepts done for the Zurich University of Arts ZHdK. This serious game aimed at children uses Lokomat, a driven gait orthosis, as its primary input device. With a secondary input device for the upper extremities, the player is able interact with the objects of the game. The game should increase motivation for children during their physical therapy on Lokomat.

Swiss Game Development: Block Duel by Bummzack

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.

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First Person Shooter – Rethought

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.

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Would You Kindly? Playing Irrational Games' Bioshock

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.

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Meta Games

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.

A huge list of meta-games: games about games.

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Fable II: The Storification

Clearly, Fable II has to tell a story. Unfortunately, the designers are so intent on telling this story that everything else becomes secondary.

Fable II is the first game I finished after my vow to actually finish games I started playing. I thought it would be a good idea to write reviews of those games as well, as a way to analyse its strengths and weaknesses, as well as strengthening my own analytical eye.

Fable II is one of the games my brother left me when he gave me his Xbox 360. Since most games by Peter Molyneux are highly praised, I decided to give it a go. And indeed, the first impressions are marvellous. The world is lush and richly coloured. The game features a day-and-night cycle, resulting in breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. You clearly get the impression of a world of wonders, made for you to explore. This first impression is not entirely wrong; in fact, it is wise to keep remembering that later on.

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ID: Me, You (and everybody else)

Aimed at teenagers and specifically designed for the use at schools, this educative Serious Game focusses on a topic that even a lot of adults struggle with: Bullying.

To be introduced in class, the game intends to raise awareness of the topic and teach empathy to the students. During gameplay, players take on different roles and are able to experiment. However, they might see themselves confronted with the consequences of their actions later on. The game exploits the strong points of video games: being possibility machines.

Acquired Abilities: Playing Games as Cultural Skill

Sometimes, as a game designer, you tend to forget how well versed you are in your medium. You tend to think that all people are able to plunge into a virtual world and stroll around. You could not be more wrong.

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Sharp Things and Fluffy Things

Basically, this is a little round-up of interesting iOS games I encountered in the last days.

Thanks to Ars Technica, I’ve found this little, pretty mean gem of an iOS game called Slice HD:

Apparently, people tend to physically flinch when those virtual knives stab at you:

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I'm Strong, But I Can't Help Myself

So first Kim referred to it, then Karin and finally Janina, so yes, I should definitely read that article, right?

So you know what I say? I say screw Strong Female Characters. What we need now are some Weak Female Characters. My arguments below the fold…

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