Game talkGames affecting people

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Jun 302015

This comes up, especially in relation to questions about free speech. It comes up, in terms of working with compulsion loops some might term addictive. It comes, in terms of whether or not game designers worry about what they do.

The most common answer is “no,” likely because it’s an uncomfortable question people would rather not think about, or one that positions games as somehow an implicitly risky medium and vulnerable to censorship, or because of a disclaimer of responsibility embodied in the notion that we’re just providing entertainment and anything past that is the player’s problem. Sometimes there’s an implicit idea that mere entertainment cannot have any effect.

So do designers worry?

Yes. I have, personally.

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Game talkGame design vs UX design

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Jun 292015

Short form: UX design is about removing problems from the user. Game design is about giving problems to the user.

In both cases you look at users’ cognitive reasoning and process capacity. And these days, we have UX designers on game teams, and they are incredibly valuable. But they are in a different discipline from game design.

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Game talkGames vs Sports

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Jun 222015

044515-glossy-black-icon-sports-hobbies-medalFrom a game design “formalist” point of view, they are not different. A rules-centric view of games doesn’t care whether the interface is computerized, mediated via apparatus, or physical, so it makes no distinction between computer chess and physical chess; similarly, it makes no distinction between the rules of, say, baseball, implemented within a computer or by players on a field. They’re both still recognizably baseball. You can diagram them; you can port the higher level rules between media; you can implement even a phsyical version with a ruleset that requires everyone to play on their knees, or in wheelchairs.

The major distinction arises with subgames and interfaces present within the rules. For example, baseball-the-sport makes use of extensive implementations of physics, thanks to the real world providing a very robust physics engine. It also has a very rich set of subgames regarding mastering the controls of the human physical body. Computerized baseball is relatively limited on that front, mostly requiring mastery of just your hands as they manipulate the controller.

Sports historically refers to physical games, but of course even many non-sport games have large physical components involving either strength or dexterity. Many children’s games, such as jacks and tiddlywinks immediately come to mind (not that jacks was always a children’s game…).

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Game talkGamemakingA Jedi Saga

 Posted by (Visited 4482 times)  Game talk, Gamemaking  Tagged with: , , , ,
Apr 162015

Yoda_TPM_RotSContinuing here with the questions that were sent in by Jason Yates! Yesterday it was the TEF system… today it’s Jedi! Some of this stuff has been told before, but it’s actually kind of hard to find it all in one continuous tale. I have to preface this with a huge huge disclaimer, though: it’s been fifteen years since this particular story started, and a dozen since it ended. My memory may well be faulty on many details.

#2 What were the thoughts on Jedi and why were such drastic changes made in patch 9 to the entire system?

-Jason Yates

Well, my opinion is Jedi are evil. Heh.

You see, Jedi are an immense attractant to players, readers, viewers. As a kid, I too waved around plastic lightsabers (we kept bending them as we struck one another, I am pretty sure my mom got really sick of buying new ones). Who can resist the fantasy of having this awesome sword, effectively magical powers — mind control, telekinesis, telepathy, and more — and of course, the classic Hero’s Journey? I mean, it’s basically an ideal play scenario.

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Game talkThe Game Design section

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Feb 122015

Slide1It has taken me almost a year, but the Game Design section of the site has seen truly massive revisions.

Among other things, I have managed to find several presentations which were never on the site:

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GamemakingWorking on Crowfall!

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Jan 222015


Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen me mention that after a couple of years of being fairly quiet, a lot of game announcements would be hitting soon. Well, one of them hit today! I am very happy to be able to tell the world (finally!) that I have been working with Todd Coleman and my other friends at ArtCraft on Crowfall!

I’ve been hopping on Skype every couple of weeks to go over game designs with Todd & crew for almost a year now. It started out as general brainstorming stuff, and as the team grew, we’ve been able to move on to working directly on designs and even picking apart UIs. I’ve helped out on everything from economics and materials design to yeah, dipping my toes into Todd’s bloodthirstiness and the warfare design that is embodied in “play to crush.” :) (If there was any doubt this is Todd’s game, that should be a hefty clue!)

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ArtGame talkMusicPracticing the creativity habit

 Posted by (Visited 2353 times)  Art, Game talk, Music, Writing  Tagged with: ,
Dec 032014

In the wake of posting up the video of my talk on “Practical Creativity,” I got this:

What a great question.

First, I have to admit I slack off a lot. :) But, here are some ways in which I practice, or have practiced it. You might notice some commonalities across media.

Hope you’ll bear with me, because I will get to games last.

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Dec 012014

Slide20I know it seems like most all I post on this blog lately is stuff about speaking one place or another, and you always get three posts in a row: I will speak here, I spoke and here’s the slides… and a little while later, here’s the video.

Well, not to be redundant, but here’s the video! Gamasutra – Video: Practical Creativity – A way to invent new kinds of video games.

This was the session I did at GDCNext about treating (game design) creativity as a skill that can be practiced, offering up tips and tricks on how to be creative.

Nov 032014

Slide1Today I delivered a lecture at GDCNext that was my tips for “practical creativity.” Basically, it’s a collection of techniques, habits, and ways of thinking drawn not only from lots of reading and research into creativity in general, but also my experience in visual, writerly, musical, and ludic arts. It touches on breaking down craft elements in games, on choosing ambitious and unusual themes, on simple lifestyle habits, on the power of “scenius” and collaborators, and much more.

I wanted this to be deeply practical. I myself have been using these methods a lot in the last year — maybe slacking a lot on the “get regular exercise” one. And it’s been very fruitful for me, almost too fruitful, pushing my prototype hit rate over 90%.

I really wanted to emphasize the fact that in all this, the craft is inseparable from the art, too. Creativity in craft drives creativity in art, and vice versa. Continue reading »

Aug 122014

The tl;dr version is “go here for the talk.”

This past week I was in London, attending Wikimania 2014. Many thanks to Ed Saperia and the organizers for inviting me to speak, it was a highly illuminating experience.

I gave a talk about seeing the Wikipedia experience itself as a series of games: the game of being a reader, the game of editing (or attempting to edit) the content within, and the game of active participation in the community, in terms of working with its policies, its infrastructure, and so on.

Along the way, my intent was to basically toss a few hand grenades in the general vicinity of the foundations of Wikipedia, and in fact of the larger Wikimedia project. This is one of the most idealistic projects in all of human history, and a group of highly intelligent and altruistic people who are fortunately very open to self-examination. So I felt that maybe questioning some of the fundamental assumptions about how they saw themselves and their project was something healthy, and maybe something that would be extra-helpful if done by an outsider.

To make it extra fun, I tried to make the slides look like they were from an old print book.

You can find the slides as a slideshow or as a PDF, and even video of the talk, all here on this new page I have created. I also participated in a panel with a bunch of wonderful folks, on the broader topic of virtual communities. That video is also posted there.

I left the conference thinking a lot about complex systems thanks to lengthy chats with Yaneer Bar-Yam, and toying with the idea of reframing my various definitions of play and games as just “dealing with complexity.” About which more later, I am sure, as it continues to percolate.