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Gary Penn
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There’s some overlap here: The very idea that we could explore anything other than the utterly frivolous through toys and play (actual or virtual) is culturally unacceptable. I also see no evidence that we have a strong enough inherent appreciation of how to use toys and play to express ourselves in more radical ways. Sometimes it feels like the medium is stuck in the equivalent of (shudder) a silent slapstick era :)
Toggle Commented Sep 29, 2011 on Can Games Be Radical? [Art] at What Games Are
Feel is EVERYTHING (well, almost). Feel is broad and nebulous, encompassing sensory and emotional stimulus; a need for everything to feel direct, tangible, reactive, plausible; to make you feel moved, involved, empowered, like you make the difference - like you are just enough in control that success and failure always feel like your doing. Feel almost feels so vague as to feel meaningless. But feel inescapably encompasses and reflects so much beneath the surface. Red hat reactions are the best form of feedback for designers. As much as it can hurt, you can't argue with feel. If something feels unresponsive or unfair to players or clearly doesn't move players - that's how they feel (but shouldn't be confused with black hat reactions). The tricky bit is trying to get those players to express as honestly as possible so you can more accurately identify the issues; the trickier bit is trying to figure out how best to fix the issues (but, again, feel can provide a target - an end). Most versions of Tetris have bad feel. The latest incarnation on Facebook is fantastic - the best yet. (I was so wrong that it'd had its day.) Scrabble is extremely variable in feel. Some of the undirected play and random letter selections can feel VERY unfair - as can inadvertently playing against someone significantly better than you online :< Limbo is a mixed bag that's sometimes more successful than not. The visual style occasionally contributes more to the quality of the feel than the unremarkable controls. That said, the feeling of playing with an incapable character clearly out of his depth does have its moments (even though it usually left me swearing).
Toggle Commented Aug 15, 2011 on Getting the Jumps Right [Testing] at What Games Are
There are degrees of challenge, for sure (and Farmville's even thinner than Plants Versus Zombies in that regard). I can have fun playing with the Plants Versus Zombies toys with their natural rules (that govern the microcosm) and even supernatural rules (that govern how to play) but it's still only play (and I say "only" with great respect for the power of play) but ONLY when a challenge - that unique combination of goal and threat of failure - is introduced do I feel there's a game to be played. I'm in two minds about the need for a feedback system to make a game; it can help, certainly, but you could just as easily (artistically) choose not to provide any feedback - even any acknowledgement of what needs to be done and your status. Feedback seems more about enrichment. Feedback contributes to fulfilling a pillar of "Alive" (attentive and informative) - and how you do that - the extent to which you do that - is down to author preference. (There's arguably more merit to a game with no feedback than one with too much.) If there's no formal clarification of challenge then it has to be self-generated - but that's still a challenge to overcome: a game to be won. Any feedback'd also be generated by yourself. With the example of Foursquare, only with feedback do you know there's a challenge completed - whether you were driven to complete that challenge or not. There again, you could just've easily set that challenge (made the game) yourself. Foursquare fulfils a pillar of "Convenience" in that it tracks statistics you'd otherwise have to track yourself (and that could involve near-implausible effort) - information you can use to determine a challenge and its degree of completion. There's definitely a degree of semantics involved. It's a matter of whatever works - a degree of repeatable pragmatism - otherwise it's no more than rhetoric, no matter how entertaining :)
I like the way this piece is so antagonistic, Tadhg :) Here's my tuppence hanging off your initial statements. There's certainly plenty of scope to throw in more. "Games are the next evolution of storytelling." As much as, say, a song can tell a story - but still serves as music first and foremost. "Games are just games. If I want a story, I’ll read a book." You'd be a blind fool not to see that games have evolved and are still evolving; games have absorbed (and will continue to absorb) - and now reflect - other media and the world around them. But there's still scope for the more abstract, purer forms that effectively constitute building blocks. "Games are storytelling because of the branches of possibility they offer." As much as, say, a game of chess or football can be interpreted and represented as a compelling story (good sports journalists touch on this). But the game itself isn't the story; the interpreter makes the story. "No, games are all about gameplay." No matter which of the many definitions of 'gameplay' you prefer, this is blatantly no longer true. Play and challenge are at the heart of every game but there's clearly so much more to games these days - and more to come as games bleed into reality and vice versa. Authors and players are getting better at expressing themselves through play. One day games will be like irony, only more widespread; you won't be certain about sincerity ever again :) "My game story experience is unique. I build my own narrative." Players (and viewers) can make their own stories from what's suggested (and stories built on suggestion tend to be far more powerful); people can't help themselves; they have to connect the dots. But most players can't, won't ever and shouldn't ever need to be bothered wit that. "Tetris does not need a story, you are talking nonsense." Tetris needs a story as much as certain styles of painting, sculpture, music, etc don't. Angry Birds would work fine if it was as abstract as Tetris - but it works significantly better with a story. The characters, plot and sense of place and purpose massively improve Feel, Convenience, Drama and Life. More people can relate to it more readily and more passionately. They don't have to make the same effort to get into it or get anything out of it as they do with the likes of Tetris, but ultimately they get much more out of it. Tetris has been stale for years. It needs to evolve or die.
Another thoughtful piece, Mr Kelly. I also disagree with Jane. Of course games are about winning (well, overcoming challenges). There is no game without challenge otherwise it's just play. Play in itself can be rewarding but you need challenges to make play compelling. Challenges can be primary (the big win), secondary (supporting the big win) or tertiary (no effect on the big win). Challenges create friction and friction means drama and emotional stimulation. Freytag's triangle/pyramid applies just as much to games as it does good stories. Your Transport Tycoon example shows how the lack of drama can undermine a game (the exploit killed the friction). I don't think it's as simple as perceived fairness. It's more a matter of feeling like you can make the difference and a sense of 'fair play' is part of that - but, as we see with sports and many card and board games, luck can play just a big a role (but too great a dependency on luck is a bad thing). Tetris tends to lack explicit challenges so there's nothing formal to win. But I agree that if you set yourself the challenge of, say, beating a score then it's perfectly wintastic. (As an aside, I find most versions of Tetris are inadequate games because they lack formal challenges so I'm forced to make my own entertainment.) Your comments about Scrabble remind me of the value of opponents who are out not to win necessarily but to make sure you have the best fun. Such opponents are seldom human so there's enormous scope for improving artificial player performances (and most people have no idea if they are playing real or artificial players online anyway).
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Feb 9, 2011