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Raph Koster
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I found it funny that you outlined three simple master principles and then disclaimed master principles at the end. :) (just teasing gently here -- this is a good piece!). I think your principles do have clear antecedents: the former is what people avoid calling ludonarrative dissonance these days because the term has fallen out of favor for some reason. The third is covered at length in Theory of Fun as the notion of "noise." I kind of love the term perplexity for it. I've always struggled to convey ythe very important notion you do here, that every individual has their own "window" over the landscape, driven by their past experiences, their cognitive library, their developmental stage, and much more; and that therefore the threshold of perplexity varies radically by individual. I disagree that there's no comparable notion of elegance from the narrative angle. Dangling plot threads, confusing symbols, and other writerly issues have long been discussed in writing programs using terms like "inelegant." Succint conveyance of depth is highly prized in many forms of poetry. In my talk "Playing with 'Game'" I offered up the example of the short story attributed to Hemingway, about never worn baby shoes.
Toggle Commented Feb 4, 2015 on The Aesthetic Flaws of Games at ihobo
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I think you make the mistake of confusing people whose brains work differently than yours with "morons." There are plenty of artists, for example, who would benefit from learning to code, but for whom the barrier to entry for regular programming languages is high. Different people have different learning styles *even though they may be equally smart*. Creating a more visual way of seeing code flow would help these people understand what is going on. Some of the points he makes would make debuggers way nicer; why do we live without those features? Because the people who write debuggers and IDEs are not infoviz or UX specialists and therefore don't even think to have those nice graphical bells and whistles in the debugger. Again, because different brains lean towards different solutions. "Reading the code" or "reading the manual" is actually a very good example. A very large proportion of the population actually prefers to learn by doing. Is every idea he suggests a good one? No, not in my opinion. Is the overall idea good? Absolutely. Code literacy is going to be increasingly important. I WANT people who have had trouble learning it to have an easier time. I especially want future politicians to understand it, before they set up even more silly policies.
Toggle Commented Sep 28, 2012 on Programming for morons? at Coding Wisdom
"If the only story that is there would be the one we can only tell after the experience, how could suspense, anticipation, surprise, shock etc exist during gameplay?" First off, I DON'T think that story is only ever constructed after the fact. That would leave out, most obviously, design-directed stories -- which I may not think of as a mechanic (cf my blog post on that--!) but that I certainly do not claim don't exist! That said, I think it is dangerous to assume that surprise, suspense, anticipation, and shock are limited to story, unless you want to put the game of peek-a-boo in the frame of "story." At that point, you're using the word to describe nothing more than really basic cognitive phenomena like constancy and prediction of behavior. Lab rats can show anticipation and surprise. I completely agree that we build story-models of our experience as we go. I don't agree that "a mental image of the state of things" is the same thing, though. I don't think that bluffing in Poker qualifies as story.
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I love the phrase "richly interpretable" and what it implies. It lines up very well with what I suspect is going on: the gradual building on mental models. It has been said that an awful lot of thinking is actually memory, pattern-matching against past experiences. A richly interpretable experience is by its nature something that cannot easily be reduced down to the iconified schema and chunks that we normally operate against. So we would continue working to build our understanding of it. I don't think that the "click of comprehension" is the be-all end-all, in other words. I think that the sort of pleasure we can get from sinking deeply into a piece of art is exactly the same sort of thing that you are talking about.
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This is a wonderful series. :) A few random notes... - I do believe that socially constructed ad hoc games happen all the time around tea parties, make believe, impromptu races, etc. One of the most interested things about games and game rules is that often the vast majority of the rules are implicit (as Salen and Zimmerman explain). I tend to think of a lot of things that we consider "free form play" as having a lot MORE rules in their model, rather than less. - visceral fun, delight, social fun, and "real fun" are just my restatement of Nicole Lazzaro's four types of fun (which she derived empirically using cluster analysis of microexpressions during play). You can directly equate her "hard fun" to what I call "fun" in my book. So "visceral" just means the fun ascribed to physical reactions such as vertigo, etc. That said, I do think that there is a mastery element in mastering one's own physical reactions that is in effect a defined systemic model with which to interact. - As far as the tautology... looking at fun that way is not intended to serve as definitional for games. Rather, say that fun can be found in plenty of places outside of games; but games are constructs intended to directly evoke fun. They are constructs intended to create the learning loop that you are about to discuss in the context of Dan Cook's work. - I do think there is scientific evidence that play is used as a survival strategy in evolutionary terms, but we can agree to disagree on that. It's more at the level of hypothesis than theory. - As far as many players not enjoying challenging learning... basically, the book argues that this is going to be the case for any given cognitive challenge, that it will fall on a spectrum between noise and obvious. Something too close to the noise end is what people consider "challenging learning." - I did write on the issue of playing games for exercise of mastery here: http://www.raphkoster.com/2011/03/10/replay-as-meditation/ In short: you can keep playing to keep climbing into more and more obscure challenges (speed runs, style points, etc), or you may do it for purely meditative reasons. And you are right, there is absolutely an implicit aesthetic judgment there. I essentially believe playing-for-learning to be "deliberate practice" in the Ericsson sense (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Practice_%28learning_method%29#Deliberate_practice). Games are in some sense "deliberate practice machines." All this stuff is intimately tied in with the game grammar stuff and so I am eagerly awaiting your breakdown on Dan's material. :)
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"How long before we have "note farmers" - people who go to class just to take notes and sell them?" Someone named Cliff, perhaps?
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2011 on Notehall: RMT Comes to the Classroom at Terra Nova
"Games are unique among all forms of culture because they engage both the Machiavellian and the Erasmian, the play and the art brains, at the same time." Interesting... Not sure that is *precisely* true. After all, when we dig into many other forms of art, we find that they are also driven by certain sorts of logic and rules, and the play brain may very well engage with them in a sort of "puzzle solving" sense and try to "solve" them. The distinction might lie in the fact that typically other media implicitly impose an answer; eg, music is driven heavily by the concept of leading tones, and in effect "answers itself." There are also works of art in other media which do not in fact provide answers and also feature elements of goal choice or solution choice... thinking here of everything from improvisatory theater stuff to dance to music like John Cage's 4'33", works of sculpture where specific perspective matters, or book-length works like Cortazar's Hopscotch. Not to disagree with the core point, of course. Just pointing out the lines get pretty blurry there.
Looooong comment on a particularly tiny nitpicky minor issue! I'm definitely sure we can't generalize to all ball sports. Dodgeball's ball, for example, does not act solely as a currency. ;) I think there are many games wherein there are tokens of which you may have temporary possession, but which may also have anywhere from event-driven to self-driven behaviors within the system, and which may be used as tools. Many if not most of them can be analogized as either tools or territory if we want to go all the way to the abstract. The place where I am dubious about calling it a currency is most fundamentally in its lack of fungibility. Two different balls (as occurs within a single game of football/soccer) will have differing statistical profiles, causing them to be subtly different in play. Their response to physics stimuli will differ (and I think we have to regard physics itself as an implicit part of the ruleset of the game -- I always analogize it to an "imported library" in code). This makes me think of them more like a form of token than like a currency. As a comparison, you *could* make the case that territory can be treated as a currency -- see my breakdown on Blokus, for example, or the classic Rules of Play example for tic-tac-toe/noughts & crosses. But territory nodes have topology attached to them, and that makes differing territory non-fungible. So we end up regarding territory as its own "part of speech." So let me try to make my case indirectly. If we look at, say, cue sports, I think we would be hard-pressed to regard the billiard balls as pure currency; they occupy territory and are even used as tools on one another. They implicitly have differing statistical profiles according to the ruleset (stripes, solids, the 8) and this affects the outcome when they do interact (the cue ball must strike one of your balls before caroming off an opponent's, for example). Can the same sort of case be made for a football/soccer ball? I think it can; there's a variety of spatially related rules that touch on the ball's physical location, including offsides, goalmaking, and tackling vs foul. Plus there's at the least the convention that you do not use the ball as a physical weapon (though tricks like intentionally bouncing it off of an opponent's shin to drive it out of bounds are comparable to some degree). These all argue for the use of the ball as a tool, similar to billiard balls. I think the billiards case is pretty evident, and the football one less so, but I think that's just because the presence of multiple of the balls. Fungibility and equivalency is a core characteristic of pretty much every definition of currency in other fields... I would be very hesitant to surrender that aspect of the word. After all, when we do exchanges with things that are non-fungible and non-equivalent, we call that barter, and explicitly do not consider the goods exchanged to be currencies. But like I said, damn, this is a pedantic point. :)
Near perfect match to the game grammar breakdown I did way back when. I think the one thing I would question is whether the ball can really be defined as a currency. It has behaviors, after all (affected by physics, bounces, independent location, etc). To me that shifts it out of being a currency and into the realm of being an actor of some sort. From a graph analysis point of view, you could actually see the ball as a territory node, I suppose. I want to say that some of the other game grammarians were able to break down football/soccer (not the American kind) successfully... Stephane Bura or Dan Cook might know, I think they did it at Project Horseshoe.
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Nov 3, 2011