In the thread, I tossed in some notes to clarify the discussion:
Wow, thanks for the kind words, Scott!
A few notes on the discussion:
David Freeman didn’t write the foreword to my book, Will Wright did (for the US edition–Masaya Matsuura of Parappa the Rapper is doing the Japanese foreword). I did blurb David’s book, however.
Discussing novelty versus patterns versus puzzles versus learning is tricky without delving into the cognitive science that I spend the first couple of chapters on in the book (trust me, it’s not very dry despite being science!). A lot of people get hung up on the concept of “puzzle” thinking that I mean a literal puzzle such as a crossword, what you find in an adventure game, or even Tetris. From a cognitive point of view, humans tend to be pattern-matching machines. EVERYTHING around us is a “puzzle” in that sense–we’re attempting to match patterns to it and arrive at “chunks” or abstracted understandings of the sensory input we receive.
Novelty matters because if something isn’t novel, we already have a chunk for it. We will, in fact, STOP SEEING the object, in a very literal sense–our eyes will literally feed our brain the assumption rather than the actual sensory input.
Yes, rollercoasters can count, because they are providing a sensory experience that we must learn to interpret. Riding the same rollercoaster will eventually grow boring too, because we will have absorbed and chunked together the experience. This is why I tend to separate out visceral reactions, such as your stomach dropping out on the coaster, from “fun.” You can get a visceral reaction in circumstances where there is no fun, and vice versa. They are often paired, because managing our own body’s reactions is a tough cognitive puzzle indeed (which is why doing sports can often be fun).
Pacing is tough, because everyone has their own chunk libraries, their own life experiences. It’s basically a given that there is no one correct pacing.
Delight is my term for aesthetic appreciation. It seems to be more related to that moment when you successfully apply an existing chunk you have learned, rather than to learning. It’s still immensely valuable and important to design for (for one, it provides a sensation of mastery) but it really does get tiresome pretty quick.
Lastly, a few folks have mentioned that it seems the book applies beyond games. It is in fact being used in educational fields, e-learning and professional training in particular, and has also attracted attention in areas such as graphic design. Since it is rooted in cognitive theory, a lot of it really is generically applicable. It may actually be more useful for showing to non-gamers to help them understand why you dig games, than it is to gamers. I leave it up to you, but please buy lots of copies. 😉
Hey, I gotta work it, right? 😉 Come to think of it, Scott’s mention probably explains the spike in Amazon ranking and hits the website got over the last few days.