The Definition of Terms

This week I researched different commonly used terms used in the study of game design and game development. The task was to find two different meanings to commonly used terms that are often differently viewed between different people, and then define them myself. I found Chris Crawford’s writing ‘The Art of Computer Game Design’ the most relatable of all the sources I looked at. He himself understands that in order to understand games and game design, you must determine what the word ‘game’ means (Crawford, 1982). From his writing and others (which I will mention shortly) I was able to recognise my own interpretation of these terms.

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Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling

Artists and engineers as cats and dogs: implications for interactive storytelling.

I choose to look into this chapter as collaborating with other artists and developers is something I’m coming across more and more as the years go on.

Crawford states clearly the divide between programmers and artists and how it needs to be resolved in order to achieve a good story. In order to do this he says that programmers or engineers must make a solid effort to create tool for the artists that meets their needs. It also helps to learn some of the artists terminology. Artists must learn the basics of algebra, and must coherently express their needs to the engineers. Most importantly the artists and engineers must have mutual respect for each other.

Bjorn Hurri

“I love to create worlds, regardless of what that world is.”

Bjorn Hurri is a well respected lead concept artist working on games such as Bioshock Infinite, Dead Space 2, Army of Two:Devils Cartel and Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 plus many more. His works are inspiriting. Watching a lecture online about him I really thought that documenting the key advice he gives would be well worth it:

“You need Imagination and Really interesting ideas to pursue. Make sure the game is very interesting to experience. Learn traditional aspects of drawing art, Creating models drawing with pencils or painting is the foundation that’s extremely important because when you do understand that foundation you can apply that to anything regardless of tools.”

Why Games and Learning?

Over the course of this assignment I did the most research I possibly could in the time given – and I enjoyed it. Doris C. Rusch in my opinion is right when she says that games need deeper meanings. We’re past the point where games can just be used for entertainment, games are used every day on trains, walking down the street, at home, even sometimes at work, and they hold so must potential to be more than they are and make a positive difference. I’m not talking about advertisements, or in-your-face learning, but intelligently and creatively inter-grading a deeper purpose in games for the good of many. This is a link to all my research so far on ‘serious games’ and game based learning. I’d advise you to have a look if you’re interested.

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Formal Abstract Design Tools by Doug Church

Reading the article from my understanding Formal Abstract Design Tools (FADT) is an idea of creating a tool/language used by game players, designers and developers to understand the fundamental aspects of the game more formally. It’l help designers identify what the game is about, what goals/vision you have for the game and what is fun about it instantly, and in a way that is better understood by other people.

I like this idea because It helps designers pick apart their ideas, innovations and mistakes and put them into a form that is easier to understand so that the designer can learn and benefit from them. The article suggests that a ‘precise vocabulary’ can improve the understanding of game creation. Using these tools can help designers shape your game.

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The Origins Of Serious Games Reading

This article covers where the term ‘serious games’ comes from in a very detailed and well researched way. It explains that the term was created as a way to label these types of games so they can sell, and be defined by what they are – which is meant for a purpose other than entertainment. In saying that it also points out that serious games, although it wasn’t a classified type of game yet, it had still been around since the beginning of game and play. Which I agree completely, in a sense many people see serious games at educational or games that are meant for more entertainment – in which almost all games have that to an extent. There are real world skills that we learn from almost all games – to experiment, explore, discover, problem solve and be creative. The term ‘serious games’ doesn’t only mean that only those games can teach you something or bring you more than education. It’s more a category of games that specifically is designed for another purpose other than entertainment – that its main goal is something else. Some of those focuses have been recorded in this article as education, healthcare, defence, art & culture, religion, corporate training, advertising. A question that brought up the need for the term ‘serious games’ “To illustrate a scientific research studyto train professionals and to broadcast a message: Were video games solely meant for entertainment?” 

Serious Games – Benefits And Techniques To Education In Games

Having education in games can benefit society enormously, and it should be easy seeing as instinct to play is hardwired into us. We instinctively play to learn. The question is how do we create a game that can combine education and fun without modern society being bored with it. We need games that can tap into our instinct to play to learn so we can enjoy learning.

In games we strive to pick ourselves up when we fall – and we need that in education. In education we need to duplicate that rapid feedback cycle that allows students to focus on fixing their mistakes and conquering the fear of failure. Yes games in education can make a subject more engaging, but also it can encourage students to take risks that lead to discovery, remove the fear of failure and prepare to innovate for the future. Games should be designed, are most of the time designed to encourage us to Experiment, Explore, Discover and Love Learning. We only need to notice and channel it so we can benefit from it.

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The illusion of choice

Quickly after the release of Bioware’s Mass Effect 3, there had already been movements developing to change the ending of the game. Players had created a Twitter feed, Facebook page, many polls on Bioware’s forums and even a petition going to change and demand a better ending for Mass Effect 3. This, in my opinion was fully justified. The players are attempting to seize control back of the narrative from the developers, that I as well feel was taken from them.

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Is World of Warcraft too addictive for children?

This is an incident I remember from a while back, a YouTube clip about a boys reaction to his World of Warcraft account being deleted went viral on the internet. After watching it you can see why it sparked so many discussions online. This guy totally freaks out, like his world has just ended. In the video he’s so upset he beats his head with a shoe.

But why is this video so believable? When I first watched it a couple years ago I thought it was a fake, but as I grew older and learned more about the game I can now say that the video was probably real. World of Warcraft has a huge reputation for being addictive, Iv’e heard stories online and I’ve witnessed this in my own life with people I know. This video sparked up the debate ‘Is World of Warcraft too Addictive for Children?’

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Button Mashing

The debate of button mashing. Is it okay to button mash to win? Does it depend on who your playing with and the experience level? Is it a cheat, or an advantage given to the disadvantaged?

A specific and recent example I can give is when I was with a group of friends playing Tekken, a popular fighting game of Sonys. So this is a combat game where you essentially beat each other up until one of you gets knocked out or the timer runs out. There are three ways of playing this game, that not many people are consciously aware of. The first is learning all the characters combos and strategically beating your  opponent. The second is getting a fair idea of what buttons do what, and then hitting them sort-of randomly to defeat your opponent so in other terms ‘button mashing’. The third is doing a mixture of both.

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Henry Jenkins is a Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts. He’s based in America and is well known for his theories of ‘world-making and ‘media convergence.’ Reading his article ‘Game Design as Narrative Architecture’ was very eye opening as to which side I would be on with the difference between strategic games and narrative games. In his article he tries to restore friendly relations between Ludology and Narratology, which is basically the games based on actions and events and the games based on a narrative.

He says that not all games tell stories. Games can be ‘abstract,’ like how a dance show tells a story but the story itself isn’t an establishing feature. For these games the concepts behind the narrative are most important.

Many games do tell stories. They want to evoke emotions, they use the familiarity with the goals of the genres entertainment to motivate us. In some cases, (these of which I love) the game designers want to create a series of narrative experiences for us.

“The ultimate goal” should be to develop understanding the differences in, and bringing together genres, aesthetics, and audiences, to give gamers broadest possible range of experiences.

“The past few years has been one of enormous creative experimentation and innovation within the games industry, as might be represented by a list of some of the groundbreaking titles. The Sims, Black and White, Majestic, Shenmue; each represents profoundly different concepts of what makes for compelling game play.”

Although, having an even balance between Ludology and Narratology is so important in games. I personally think that this article has made me really think about the two separate entities and how important each one is.

Jenkins also goes through his opinion of ‘Narrative Options’, There are the evoked narratives, “spatial design can either enhance our sense of immersion within a familiar world or communicate a fresh perspective on that story through the altering of established details.” Enacted narratives, “structured around the character’s movement through space and the features of the environment may retard or accelerate that plot trajectory.” And emergent Narratives, “game spaces are designed to be rich with narrative potential, enabling the story-constructing activity of players.”

I defiantly find myself liking games with more narrative, the more narrative the better. I’m not a very competitive person who is drawn to simply just ‘winning’ a game. For me there has to be a reason for why i’m trying to win. I enjoy immersing myself in a game, become a part of the world they have created but still maintain control of my actions.

When we were given the task in class to create a mechanics based table top game, I struggled to create something with no narrative. It was as if it would have destroyed my soul. So we bent the rules a bit when creating ‘Pure Evil.’ I don’t regret it, the game was more fun that way. I couldn’t imagine being happy creating anything else. Yes I enjoy a bit of ‘Tetris’, but it couldn’t sustain my short attention span like narrative games can, not even close.

The Article Game Design as Narrative Architecture by Henry Jenkins can be found here:

What Can Make a Person More Creative?

I watched a talk about creativity by John Cleese. It was probably one of the most fascinating and helpful things I have ever seen. Creativity is essentially what makes me who I am, I wouldn’t recognize myself if creativity wasn’t in everything I do. So when he described creativity and the creative process it felt as if he was describing myself, to me. It helped me understand why I do what I do, and how I can improve my own way of thinking and creative process. 

What I’ve learned from John Clesse

Creativity isn’t a talent or an ability that you do or don’t have. Its like a mode of thinking. John describes this as ‘Play.’ If you are not in play mode you are in closed mode, and you are always in one or the other. Closed mode is something you are in from day to day, where your mind is usually busy and/or anxious and completing tasks that are the most urgent and important. Play mode is relaxed and contemplative, a place where you go to ponder.

There are ways to create a creative atmosphere where your mind can settle into ‘Play Mode.’ There are just four things you need to create for yourself:

  1. Space. You need to create a space away from everyday life demands. Seal yourself off and make a quiet space for yourself where you will be undisturbed.
  2. Time. You need to create a certain time frame in which you will allow yourself to be undisturbed until a certain point where your normal day to day life can resume.
  3. Confidence. The fear of failure will always stop your creative process. To play is to experiment; the essence of play is to do whatever. So you can’t play, and be afraid that something you do might be wrong at the same time.
  4. Humor. Laughter brings relaxation and humor makes us playful. Just because something is serious, this doesn’t mean it cannot include humor. Humor is an essential part of spontaneity and playfulness. An essential part to the creativity we need to solve problems no matter how serious they are.

“You can’t be spontaneous within reason” -Allan Watts

While you are in you’re creative atmosphere, keep your mind gently focused on the subject at hand. If you keep your mind resting on the subject your mind will keep it in its subconscious and you will benefit from it later.

Working with other people can enhance your creative thought process, although if somebody there affects your confidence, it will have a negative effect rather than positive. Always make sure that the people that you share ideas with are the people that you like and trust, and never say anything to ruin their confidence either. Be positive, and build on what’s being said.

If you don’t know how to start or get stuck on an idea or problem, start generating random ideas and allow your intuition to let you know if something will lead you somewhere interesting.

In summary, he helped me understand that creativity isn’t a talent, but something entirely different that can’t be well described in simple words. Its something that requires concentration and open-mindedness. To be good at it, you must try hard to push your mind to limits you never thought possible, and all the places in-between. 

It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent, than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking, and it’s easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.
–John Cleese.