Wednesday, November 15, 2006

what lies beyond gun, car and run in games?

Game design is a field about which I have a lot to learn. But I do get the impression from some experts (Zimmerman, Koster) that currently there is a market driven commercial log-jam from which something more creative and interesting than gun, car and run will emerge. We don't know what.

Eric Zimmerman, interviewed by Gamasutra:
Gamasutra: Any gaming trends that are exciting or bothersome?

Well, I could talk about the increasing homogenization of the field of commercial games. That's sort of an old song, but I still think it's true. If you go to E3 where Sony and Nintendo have their booths and stand everywhere, you can see hundreds of screens at once, and they almost all look exactly the same in the sense that they're all 3D spaces with a horizontal plane in the middle and an object in the lower center of the screen. It might be the barrel of a gun, a vehicle, a person running. And it's amazing, considering how with today's technology we can really put almost anything on-screen, that there's such a structural homogeneity, both terms on aesthetics and in terms of content, but especially in the structure of the gameplay... it's shocking. But it's also hard to innovate. And as I said, that's both a business dilemma and a creative or design dilemma....

... there are great huge, unsolved problems in games. In other words, the subject matter that we see depicted in games is relatively narrow. Scott McCloud talks about what he thinks about what comics could depict or could do as a medium and what they have done, and he sees it like we've seen a little narrow slice and there's this whole huge world, and I think it's even more true about games.
Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen are co-authors of Rules of Play. I haven't read this but I liked this review by K. Sampanthar "kes_sampanthar" at amazon, which outlines the following interesting parts of the book:
- Reiner Knizia - writing about how he designed the Lord of the Rings Board game
- Richard Garfield (Sibling Rivalry), Frank Lantz (Iron Clad), Kira Snyder (Sneak) and James Ernest (Caribbean Star) - design board games for the book and each of them describe how they went about designing. (Note: James Ernest's game Caribbean Star is available as part of a game collection he released from his company Cheapass games - check out "Chief Herman's Next Big Thing" )
- There are game design exercises that students or teachers can use to learn more about each of the concepts. These exercises are split into 3 categories: game creation, game modification and game analysis.
- Complexity, Emergence, self organization as they refer to games
- Probability and Randomness (luck) in games
- Information Theory - uncertainty, noise and redundancy
- Systems of Information - public and private information
- Cybernetics - Feedback loops and game balancing
- Game Theory - Cake division and the prisoner's dilemma
- Conflict and Cooperation
- Interactivity
- Flow - Entrainment, reward schedules, behavior theory and addiction
- Edward De Bono's L Game
- Narrative play - story arcs etc..
- Simulations - games as simulations
- Metagames - the larger social context of games
- Open Source Games - like Icehouse
- Game modifications - Alterations, Juxtapositions, Reinventions
- Blurring the boundary between "real" and "play"

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