GDAM’s January topic is “Mechanics That Artificially Lenghten Gameplay”

January 2010’s topic is Mechanics That Artificially Lenghten Gameplay.

A significant number of players complain about game designs that seem to be deliberately wasting their time. Due to the amount of grinding and long walks that can be seen in this genre, it is often MMORPG’s that are subject to such criticism . It appears, however, that from time to time all types of games and genres suffer from sequences that mindlessly waste the time of players.

During it’s January rally, GDAM asks you to provide insight and answers to the problem of game mechanics that artificially lengthen gameplay. In the broader sense, we ask you what methods or mechanics the game designer has at her disposal to lenghten gameplay without annoying the gamers. In particular, we ask the following questions in the hope to inspire you for articles:

  • What is the relation between business models and mechanics that artificially lengthen gameplay? Which business models or design principles built around mechanics that artificially lengthen gameplay could serve to increase a game’s value for both players and developers?
  • How can dead time in runs and overall travel time be reduced without destroying the rationale behind the business model and the overall pace and rythm of the game in question?
  • What design methods do exist that could be helpful in creating mechanics that preserve player motivation while gameplay is artificially lenghtened? How, in that regard, can we utilize psychological processes like for example matching creatively?
  • What kind of ancillary reward systems do exist or could be developed and how could these help to foster a feel of environmental progression in the game that makes long walks feel like they are part of the game rather than being pointless and repetitive tasks?
  • What are design methods and principles that can be helpful in manipulating felt time and making it easier on the player when gameplay is lenghtened artificially? How can we stretch game sequences by building additional moves into game mechanicsm without making them feel artificial?

New Poem Translations

I’ve contributed with the translations of two poems to the lastes issue of the art and literature journal insanzamanmekan. One of the poems is André Breton’s “Le Verb Etré”; the other one is from Paul Verlaine, Charleroi. Both of them are quite deep and sad and I always felt moved when I read them. Having them translated into the turkish langıuage  feels great…  although I am not so sure whether the translation are really good.

Time will show, I hope to get some feedback soon!

Narrative Probability and Gamer Intelligence

Some time ago, Frank Lantz at Game Design Advance wrote a short article about gamer intelligence. He proposes the concept as something “that can be seen in opposition to storytelling as a way of understanding the world”.  The following quote summarizes his central argument.

“Many games encourage a particular style of thinking – a way of looking at situations as possibility spaces and applying systemic, algorithmic, and probabilistic cognitive techniques.”

The article gave the impression that it was written against the tendency to see everything as narrative (which is quite understandable). It was pointing out that games got us thinking and operating in a way that was different from storytelling.

After giving the argument some consideration, I had to ask myself whether the concept of narrative that game researchers nowadays build upon is not subject to a reduction that is similar to the one they want to create a critical awareness for. The problem I see here is that the dominant idea about narratives is one that sees no possibility space in them. Narratives are thought of like they are set in stone, because ultimately you can’t change what was written. But how come, then, that we enjoy them so much? Isn’t it true that during their consumption, narratives are anything else than being set in stone?

I think the way in which contempary game studies picture narratives neglects the lively unpredictability that we experience while we traverse them.  The argumentation here choses a notion of narrative that captures  it  at a moment where it had been already consumed. But is that moment of the narrative the one that tells us most about its probability space and our relation to it as readers? Shouldn’t we be looking rather into those moments in which the narrative is yet undecided and gets us sweating with the many probabilities that lie ahead? How, otherwise, would narratives maintain curiosity for example? Seen this way, it’s not difficult to tell that storytelling techniques are exactly about creating possibility space and getting us to think about it.

The problem that game studies seems to face here is an unwillingness to see narratology as having some interesting answers to game-related issues. For example probability is not a new issue in narratology. Claude Bremond explored probability space to understand story logic and the forces of necessity and character motivation (It’s interesting to see that the “event schemes” that he developed during his research on probability in narratives resemble circuits in Boolean logic). Based on these studies, Roland Barthes described the decision-nodes in narratives as the “areas of risk”, because there was always the probability that the character could have chosen to do something different from what was envisioned by the narrative designer. More than that, at one of these nodes, she could have simply chosen to reject to follow up the plot any further, which would have put an immediate end to the story.

Following this notion of “areas of risk”, the game medium could be described as presenting us narratives in which the risk of deviation has become a *real* one. Despite all the work that the author puts into setting up the ‘energy fields’ of the story (the logic of forces that lets the characters chose what is “good” for the story), the player (who, in terms of narratology, is present in the game world as an actant) indeed could decide to follow a path that will not lead to any “story progress”. In other words, the way the “reader” engages with the “text” has new implications in regard to possibility space. But the problem basically remains the same: How can we “force” the reader/player to stay on the track we want her to stay without making her look like she’s stripped from her “free will”. Or, how can we make sure that all of the stories that emerge from her decisions remain withing the meaningful/logical.

Probability space as a game design issue is then first and foremost a concern to get the story right.  Just check out the Builder Tutorials at Bioware’s NWN pages for example. They’re all about teaching you how to build a space for narrative probability. In other words, probability space is of importance in games because of its story potential and not because it is something that liberates us from the ‘tyranny of the narrative’. Gamer intelligence goes hand in hand with narrative intelligence.

As an aside I want to point at the way in which the word interaction (which implies a reciprocal relation between at least two sides) has become a word that only advocates (perceives) one side of the relation: the player. The vision behind this is that games are ‘configurative arts’ and that players create “their” stories with the tools provided to them. This depicts the tool/sandbox as something that is quite idle: A system you interact with; one that  just passes you over the results of your ‘interactions’. But what about the ways a game configures the player through controls or interface design? What about the ways a game configures a player as a fictional character in a fictional world? What about the systems ‘interactions’ on us? The problem I see here is that we seem to only really recognize the configurative actions on the player’s side and ignore how a narrative/game puts in equal (if not more) efforts to configure its addressee as a (in narrative terms) ‘functional’ entity that can join the reciprocity cycle.

Our notion of interaction is too player-centric.

My Latest Article Up At GDAM: An Advertising Approach to High Concept Pitching

You can read my latest article on High Concept pitching at Game Design Aspect of the Month (GDAM). The article will be published in two parts, so don’t forget to check back in a few days to read the second part.

Btw, GDAM is still looking for writers who would like to contribute a short (500-1000 words) article about the topic.

There is also just one day left to announce the topic for January, so stay tuned!

We’re in the Game!

It’s official now: Gazimağusa (Famagusta) is part of this year’s Global Game Jam.

The event will take place at the Green Hall Complex of the EMU Faculty of Communication in Gazimağusa between 29-31 January 2010. Participation is free. Tea and coffee will be provided throughout the event.

We expect a lot of participants to show up and create a couple of fun games! Please contact me if you are interested in participating.

GDAM January 2010 Poll

Please visit GDAM and vote for the January 2010 topic!

The choices are:

  • Cheats
  • Mechanics that artificially lengthen gameplay
  • Multiplayer Economies

Voting is open until  December 25.

Flipbook Workshop: Creative Fission!

In mid-week, there was a two-day workshop at our faculty. Our guest was artist and photographer Christine Deboosere and she helped us in creating professional-looking flipbooks!

It was a very entertaining workshop which also helped  me to realize that I must improve my software skills!

Me, working on the animation frames of my flipbook


The best thing was that after several hours of hard work, I had created my first ever professional looking flipbook, Fission. I was so happy with the achievement, I literally flipped!

The cover of my flipbook, Fission.

The particles enter the scene...

In midst of the action! Collisions create energy fields...

The End - Thanks a lot to Christine Deboosere! :)

GDAM reboots!

Game Design Aspect of the Month made a reboot to prepare itself for the new year.

The statement on the blog says:

After a very fruitful first year, the Game Design Aspect of the Month editors are preparing for the new year with the goal of building on last year’s achievements and improving GDAM’s features. We want to continue to present game designers, industry professionals and game researchers with a platform for high-standard discussions and exchange. We would like to express our gratitude to our readers and to all those who during the past year contributed to GDAM with their articles or took the time to participate in our podcasts: Thank you very much!

GDAM is now looking for writers to contribute with articles to the current topic which is Pitching and High Concepts. The topic had been suggested by narrative designer Tobias Heussner and you can find a more detailed topic description here.

Also the GDAM editors are all ears for topic suggestions for the month of January, so why don’t you give it a shot? Just for some inspiration: topic suggestions of the past included Mature Games, Prototyping and Player Death.