Archive for May, 2008

games & mathematics

“Playing four 15-minute sessions of board games such as snakes and ladders can improve a child’s mathematical abilities significantly, according to a study of four and five-year-olds. And the improvement in numerical tests is still measurable nine weeks later.”,,2267895,00.html

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more or less… on simplicity

“Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential”

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graphic design principals of good design

Chuck Green on commercial ‘graphic’ designers, with many parallels for game design.

edited with comments;

Design is more than meets the eye … The purpose of design is to communicate an idea. It is as much, if not more, about function as it is about looks. It is as much intellectual and visceral as it is visual. If you don’t have a clear, well designed message, you don’t have a design. Design is marketing, marketing is design”

The purpose of game design is to provide an enjoyable experience. Focus on a clear defined core experience as a base.

Design is about communicating benefits… No matter what you’re selling or giving away, if I am your prospect, I want to know what’s in it for me. I have hard-earned money or time to invest and I rarely part with either without the promise of some return. Are you going to entertain me? Educate me? Inspire me? Solve my problems?”

Is the core experience something that players want, will identify and enjoy?

Design is not about designers … The good designer pleads “Create a design that answers your client’s needs.” The bad designer commands “Don’t be an idiot—design something that’ll look good in your portfolio.”

You are rarely, if ever be the target audience. Understand what the experience your audience will appreciate.

Design is not an ocean it’s a fishbowl … Design and marketing ideas are not always interchangeable—be careful about the principles you apply and how you apply them.

High concepts and designs are not the same thing.

Design is creating something you believe in … The saying goes something like this: “great advertising will kill a poor product faster than no advertising at all.” The same is true with design—good design will attract an audience faster than poor design. …Step away rather than compromise your values.”

Form over function leads to shallow experiences, function without engaging form is a dry game. Good function is the bedrock of game design.

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mystery and mis-direction

Valerian to Boy in The Book of Dead Days, by Marcus Sedgwick (fiction) on the 5 principles of a magician or illusionist;

  • Mystery
  • Preparation
  • Mis-direction
  • Practice
  • (natural) Skill

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you have 10 minutes

Ten minutes to grab the player, teach them and reward them or let them get something back from the game before their attention wanders off.

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perfection, when there is nothing left to take away

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Antoine de Saint Exupéry

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reward categories

  • Currency rewards: the acquisition of a game resource that can be spent represents a fairly universal reward system…
  • Rank Rewards: the player gains benefits from acquiring points towards an eventual step up in rank.
  • Mechanical Rewards: such as increases in stats that the player can feel the effect of.
  • Narrative rewards: a little narrative is effective for certain players as a reward.
  • Emotional rewards: when the player feels they have done something for someone in the game.
  • New Toys: anything new that can be experimented with is a ‘new toy’.
  • New Places: are a mimicry reward for players driven to explore
  • Completeness: achieving completeness (chasing 100% for instance) can be a reward in itself.
  • Victory: defeating a challenging foe (or a boss).

(This is stolen/paraphrased from the blog Only a Game) via Andrew Chen

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challenging your decision making thinking

1. Whenever possible, consider alternatives
2. Reframe the question
3. Correlation doesn’t equal causation
4. Never forget the sample size

5. Anticipate your impulsivity
People find it difficult to predict just how far off course their emotions can pull them. It’s all about planning ahead.
6. Make contingency plans
Humans are better at concrete goals.
7. Make important decisions when relaxed and rested
8. Weigh costs against benefits

Research shows that our minds prefer to consider either costs or benefits; taking both into account takes considerable effort. We often forget is the ‘opportunity cost’
9. Imagine your decision will be spot-checked
10. Distance yourself
Big decisions are always better made after a night’s sleep.
11. Beware the vivid, personal and anecdotal
12. All decisions are not equal
13. Be rational!

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add some mystery to your rewards

It helps for player’s to understand why they get a reward or score, it links them to the simulation at the core of the game. Occasionally, and for certain types of rewards it might add to the enjoyment if there was more mystery about the reason.
“We try to reduce our uncertainty by explaining positive events and thereby reduce the amount of positive emotion we feel.”
“Research shows that when people are exposed to traumatic events, the sooner they ‘make sense’ of what has happened, the sooner the negative emotion is reduced and they recover.
Exactly the same process seems to operate for positive emotions. We try to reduce our uncertainty by explaining positive events and thereby reduce the amount of positive emotion we feel. It’s an unfortunate consequence of an adaptive process that normally helps us recover from traumatic and upsetting events.
So, the next time you give someone an unexpected gift and they ask why, just smile mysteriously and let them enjoy the moment for a little longer. Sometimes explanations really do kill the magic.”

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can you do more than one thing at once?

“If you want to get more done, be mindful
If you want to have more time, be mindful.
Mindful means one thing at a time.
It’s how the brain works, no matter how you try to convince yourself you can do it (although there is evidence that fast media/video-gamer kids are a little faster at switching. Not because they have a younger brain, but because their brains were more wired for this pace at a younger age).”
“In the flow state, Csikszentmihalyi found, people engage so completely in what they are doing that they lose track of time. Hours pass in minutes. All sense of self recedes. At the same time, they are pushing beyond their limits and developing new abilities. Indeed, the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to capacity. People emerge from each flow experience more complex, Csikszentmihalyi found.”
The Art of Work [Fast Company] via Find your flow []
“The human brain, with its hundred billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections, is a cognitive powerhouse in many ways. “But a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once,” said René Marois, a neuroscientist and director of the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University.”

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is the pyschology of money, the psychology of score?

While money has more importance to people in their real lives, score shares many of the same influences to gamers when they are playing and in the gaming zone.

“We’ve all got money on the mind.

Not a day goes by when we aren’t thinking about money in some way. We’re deciding how to get it, what to spend it on, saving it up or wondering where it’s all gone. Whether we like it or not we spend much of our everyday lives deciding what to do with our money, from a simple cup of coffee to buying a house.

Despite this, most people understand very little about their relationship with money. We are remarkably insensitive to how it warps our thoughts, tugs at the emotions and changes our behaviour towards other people. Money seems to have an almost magical effect on us.”

“…your brain’s (edit) ‘reward centres’ will ‘light up’ if you make more money than your colleagues. Now money sounds like a drug again.”

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