Archive for March, 2008

it’s social

Make it social and face to face for more fun.

“…hang out with other gamers all the time, but it’s mostly in multiplayer online play, using headsets. It’s social, sure. But as any psychologist will tell you, hanging out in real life allows for even richer styles of communication to emerge. In face-to-face mode, we’re better at picking up the little nuances — frustration, glee, sarcasm, subvocalized ranting, body language — that build team cohesion, and allow us to game with a positively Vulcan level of mind meld.”

Leave a Comment

Anthropomorphize everything

“People respond to people. Faces and stick-figures, however crudely drawn, immediately
elicit attention, understanding, and reaction. Whether to show relationships and quantities,
emphasize a point, or just provide a sense of scale, draw people in by drawing in people.”

Leave a Comment

listen for what they need?

“We don’t ask consumers what they want. They don’t know. Instead we apply our brainpower to what they need, and will want, and make sure we’re there, ready.”

Akio Morita, Founder of Sony

Feature creep

Leave a Comment

design language: jump moment

A ‘jump moment’ is when the player or viewer involuntarily jumps in reaction to a shock, surprise or spectacular event.

Sudden jumps are the scariest thing, ONLY when the director successfully misdirects you so you don’t expect it.

Leave a Comment

horror game or discovery plot structure


Building a scenario from Call of Cthulhu 6ed

  • a mystery or crisis is posed…
  • the investigators become linked to the problem…
  • the investigators attempt to define the mystery…
  • the investigators use the clues and evidence to confront the danger…
  • the mystery is solved.

Complex discovery plot;

  • onset
  • discovery
  • confirmation
  • confrontation

The Philosophy of Horror, Noel Carroll

Leave a Comment

sell addiction

Achieving flow, consistent rewards and progression should create an addictive experience.

“MMORPGs, tobacco, alcohol, credit. Addictive endeavours. Games=fun/escapism, drugs=euphoria/escapism, credit=”success”. Inescapable products make customers slaves. Could even add security to list, guns/SUV’s/RFID/taxes=”security”, but it’s tangential and political. A new Monopoly board recently released eliminates paper money favor of digitized credit system. Brainwash em young, get em hooked on credit and indebted forever!”

Leave a Comment

design language: willing suspension of disbelief


Alan Kay, TED 2008

“…what fools these mortals be!”

Puck, A Midsummer Nights Dream Act 3
Shakespeare means that we are easily fooled by almost everything. We go to the theatre in order to be fooled, we are actually looking forward to it. The same with magic shows, illusions and games.

Games are immersive fun experiences, that work most effectively if the player willingly suspends their disbelief in the obvious non realities. If either party; the player or the game, break the tacit agreement that supports the player’s suspension of disbelief, then the whole experience unravels and becomes less satisfactory. Games often break this agreement by being inconsistent with how they deal with aspects of the game that are not ‘in game’, e.g. restart, saving or instructions.

“Suspension of disbelief is an aesthetic theory intended to characterize people’s relationships to art. It was coined by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817. It refers to the willingness of a person to accept as true the premises of a work of fiction, even if they are fantastic or impossible. It also refers to the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium, so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises. According to the theory, suspension of disbelief is a quid pro quo: the audience tacitly agrees to provisionally suspend their judgment in exchange for the promise of entertainment.”

Comments (1)

key stages of development useful for designers

Game designers can be informed by the guidelines available for teachers of 3-8 year old kids.

The guidance states that through well-planned play, both indoors and outdoors, children can:

  • Explore, develop and represent learning experiences that help them make sense of the world
  • Practice and build up ideas, concepts and skills
  • Learn how to control impulses and understand the need for rules
  • Be alone, be alongside others, or cooperate as they talk or rehearse their feelings
  • Take risks and make mistakes
  • Think creatively and imaginatively
  • Communicate with others as they investigate or solve problems
  • Express fears or relive anxious experiences in controlled and safe situations

The curriculum is organised into six areas of learning:

  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Communication, language and literacy
  • Mathematical development
  • Knowledge and Understanding of the World
  • Physical development
  • Creative development

Leave a Comment

skinner’s guide to rewards


For many reward situations; use immediate and intermittent responses to player actions.

“One of Skinner’s most important discoveries is that behavior reinforced intermittently (as opposed to consistently) is the most difficult to extinguish. In other words, intermittent rewards beat predictable rewards. It’s the basis of most animal training, but applies to humans as well… which is why slot machines are so appealing, and one needn’t be addicted to feel it.”

Good use of (positive) reinforcers requires;

  • reinforcement of behaviors as soon as they occur
  • starting with continuous reinforcement, changing to irregular reinforcement when the player has repeated successful
  • setting small tasks for a small rewards

Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment

design language: satisfying death

In hard fun games, dying can be a release and crafted to be a good, satisfying experience.

“Ravaja reaches an amazingly counter-intuitive conclusion: Gamers don’t like shooting their opponents, but they’re suffused with pleasure when they themselves are shot dead… Dying was, in some way, fun.”

“His much weirder experimental result, though, is our thrill at dying. Ravajas thinks this might occur because getting killed is “transient relief from engagement”: A first-person shooter is so incredibly stressful that we’re happy to get any respite, even if it requires being blown to pieces.”

“…in a shooter like Call of Duty 4, the emotional current flows like this: I’ll be racing through a war-torn building, hunted down by cackling terrorists, and watching as the blood leaches into the periphery of my vision. My stomach’s in knots, and I’m frantically looking for cover when boom — I’ll stumble into a room full of guys with shotguns and get a face full of pain.
As I watch my corpse crumple to the ground, sure, I feel annoyed. But my annoyance isn’t as powerful as my sense of release: I can feel my whole body unwind. Indeed, I’m often so wrapped up in the game that I don’t even realize how badly I’m clenched up. I may not want to die; but for the sake of my mental health, I probably need to.
Yet, not all deaths are equal. This sounds strange to say, but there are games I enjoy getting killed in more than others, because some designers have a much better sense of how to craft an aesthetically — and ludologically — satisfying death. “

“You could think of it as “the architecture of death,” and game designers ought to pay more attention to it.”

Leave a Comment

design language: zapp rewards


“creating human energy is what zapp is about”

Zapp, William C. Byham with Jeff Cox

Human energy = player passion & engagement

Zapp rewards are moments of recognition or encouragement that energize players rather than frustrate or sapp them. They are given during play rather than at the end of action; they excite action, engagement and fun. A zapp creates energy and encourages the player to keep playing and enjoy themselves.

Set out a ratio of zapps to sapps, and measure in user tests.

Leave a Comment

could do better…


“Each year… 2 million Americans acquire an infection while they are in hospital. Ninety thousand die of that infection… the one thing that halts the spread of infections: washing hands”

Not performing a simple standard process correctly and diligently undermines an otherwise effective process.

“People underestimate the importance of diligence as a virtue…. it is defined as ‘the constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken.’ “

Better, a surgeon’s notes on performance, Atul Gawande

By diligently doing the basics well can significant improve performance, without the need for technology, change or invention.

The Apgar score, allows nurses to rate the condition of babies at birth and after 5 minutes on a scale of 0 to 10, based on immediately visible and very simple measures of health.

“The Apgar score changed everything… wasn’t just a matter of giving the clinicians a quick objective read of how they had done. The score changed the choices that they made about how to do better.”

The score doesn’t change process or improve technology, it simply makes performance visible allowing better choices to be made. And allows numeric measurement and encourages competitive comparison.

Leave a Comment

are you having fun yet?


Hard Fun
Emotions from Meaningful Challenges, Strategies, and Puzzles
Challenge, competition, skill tests, clear progressive accomplishment and risk of failure or frustration.
Success leads to the satisfaction of mastery

Soft Fun
Sheer enjoyment of experiencing the game’s activities
Ambiguity, living world, engagement, wonder, awe & mystery. Rewarding play without pressing competition.
Success leads to engagement & flow

Immersive Fun
(Altered States or Visceral Fun)
How a game makes you feel inside
Immersion, escapism, thrill, excitement & relief.
Success leads to immersion & flow

Social Fun
(the People Factor)
Enjoyment from playing with others inside or outside the game
Competition, co-operation, support & mentor, humour, rivalry, gloating,

Most games are designed around Hard Fun, and risk overwhelming the player with frustration and failure. How many times will a player put down the game having reached a frustrating fail point? Bearing in mind the Peak-End rule, this means their memory of the experience will be heavily coloured by this final emotion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)

choice = possible strategies

“…you have to have multiple viable choices, for strategy to form.  If there’s just one or two ways of going about it, there’s no strategy…”

Leave a Comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.