Game talkMessages in mechanics

 Posted by (Visited 21390 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , ,
Jun 232010

Gamasutra has published an opinion piece by a Christian pop culture critic that is perceptive and cogent. In it, Richard Clark argues that games that place storytelling in a privileged position in the game design need to be judged by the same sort of critical and moral standards as we judge storytelling in any other medium.

I agree, of course as those who have read the book and blog know; that said, Clark seems to give a pass to games whose experience is more centered on mechanics:

Not all games call for these kinds of questions. Games like Tetris, Peggle, Torchlight, and Doodle Jump make a deliberate attempt to place gameplay first. The story and characters truly are intended to be containers for game play elements.

I think there are implicit lessons to be derived from mechanics too. So I am not inclined to give any games a pass on serious critical thought, regardless of whether they are heavy on story or not!

Is Loved less to be analyzed because it lacks cutscenes or detailed characters? Check out the comments on the review over at Casual Gameplay and see what you think (and if you haven’t played the game — be sure to play it with the sound on). Note how the game mechanics and content alter as you play based on mechanical choices. And notice how the fundamental questions the games raises are based on a mechanic: the choice to obey or not.

Times have definitely changed though — the comment thread on the Gamasutra piece is running heavily in favor of the article, which I don’t think would have been the case five years ago. Hopefully, we see the sophistication level of game critiques — and game content! — continue to increase as we think more about what we do.

Game talkZuckerberg talks games

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Jun 232010

Inside Social Games has an interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. There are a couple of things there that discuss their games strategy. A few sample quotes specific to games are below, but the whole thing is worth reading.

On viral versus retention (“viral strength… optimizes for apps that are very viral instead of apps that are high quality and that people want to reengage”):

…we intentionally weakened the viral channels recently, and intentionally strengthened reengagement with emails, so that there will be better apps.

On small companies succeeding:

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MusicEllis Paul’s new album — free song

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Jun 152010

As those of you who follow the blog closely know, I listen to (and play) a lot of singer-songwriter music. One of my favorites is Ellis Paul, whom I’ve been listening to since I first heard him on a Kerrville stage in the early 90’s. Every once in a while I mention one of his songs or comment on one of his concerts here…

Well, today an email showed up… seems like his manager noticed. 🙂 I don’t usually put up marketing stuff on here, but as a fan, I’m going to anyway even though this is more of a gaming blog than a folk music blog!

Ellis’ new album was completely funded by the fans, and he is giving the lead single track “Annalee” away for free. Go check it out! You don’t need to give an email, sign up, register, or anything. Just download it — and share it. Share the link with as many people as you want. And if you like what you hear, buy the album (buy all of them, they are all really good) and support a truly indie and truly fantastic singer-songwriter.

Game talkTrinhex

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Jun 102010

On Metaplace there was a puzzle game I designed called Wheelwright. One of our users, known as Obo there but as oscan on Kongregate, just released a game called Trinhex on Kongregate that is inspired by that one. Given that it is hexes, it of course plays very differently, adding triangle swaps and bonus objectives. Check it out!

Game talkWhat UX can (and cannot) learn from games

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Jun 032010

Just add points? What UX can (and cannot) learn from games is a great presentation by Sebastian Deterding examining the currently popular fallacy that adding points to a system is enough to make it into a game or enough to transform a website or service into something fun (something that has spawned some argument lately on Twitter, in fact).

I do think there is much for UX design to learn from games — and vice versa — but I also very much agree with the core thought here, which is that the two disciplines are different, and thinking that you can get by with a superficial understanding of one or the other is a mistake — they are not small disciplines!

Game talkCool event at Harvard tonight

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Jun 022010

I am flying off to Austin tonight, but I kind of wish I could attend this event in Boston! if you happen to live there, stop by and then post a comment here telling us all about it, please!

Who Plays Games and Why: Evolutionary Biology Looks at Videogames

A discussion with Harvard Human Evolutionary Biology Professor Richard Wrangham, Emmanuel College Psychology Professor Joyce Benenson, and game developers Noah Falstein and Kent Quirk.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010.   5:30 -7:30 p.m. (registration begins at 5:00 p.m.)

Location: Harvard Science Center, One Oxford Street, Cambridge

Full description after the break:

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