Tips and how-to guides for using the Windows Mobile platform
Jul 07 2008
We’re working on a pretty cool project at CIT now – developing models, practices and standards for using virtual worlds in the classroom, with a particular focus on the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.
We are using Croquet, an open source platform which has been created with education in mind and hope to make effective use of the possibilities that game environments have to offer. We’ll be making a concerted push away from building 3D classrooms, which is a fine first step. I’m quite interested in drawing on the work of Fuchs and Eckermann, creators of Expositur (which I’ve mentioned here before) to make the most of the space that we will be developing.
This is the general Croquet promotional video which shows how awesome this can potentially be.
If you’re interested in finding out more or contributing, let me know and we’ll see what we can do.
Jun 27 2008
Creating the First Person Learner: Educational Applications of the First Person Shooter game genre (Me, 2008)Posted by colinsimpson in activities, activity, casual games, collaboration, controllers, education, elearning, experience, first person learner, first person perspective, first person shooter, game design, immersion, interaction, language, missions, multitasking, research, second life, simulation, structure, training, VET, violence, what is a game, writing, tags: first person shooter, fps, game design, language, pedagogy
Creating the First Person Learner: Educational Applications of the First Person Shooter game genre.
Many students’ initial experiences of Vocational Education and Training (VET) involve spending large amounts of time methodically developing foundation skills and knowledge in their chosen discipline. They are often taught a specific skill, practise it for a period of time and when they have adequately demonstrated it, they are given the opportunity to develop more advanced skills.
This has echoes in the gameplay of First Person Shooter (FPS) games, which is generally highly structured, giving the player limited options in terms of the paths they can take and the decisions that they can make. It also involves developing skills in a scaffolded way.
This study investigates a potential use of First Person Shooter style games as a learning tools for students in the VET sector. It evaluates the elements of FPS game in terms of appropriate pedagogical strategies that might be applied to them and draws from a wide body of research into the use of games in learning.
Based on this evaluation, I have developed a game design statement for Mandarin Madness, an engaging and pedagogically sound FPS style game which can be used to support the teaching of characters to Mandarin language learners.
Computer games have been used widely in education since the rise of the personal computer in the 1980s with popular titles such as The Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. Games can immerse learners in challenging and enjoyable activities in authentic environments, offer positive feedback and enchance the learning experience. (Paras, 2003)
As the medium has evolved and expanded, so too has the range of uses that have been found for games, with a particular emphasis in recent years on Virtual World environments such as Second Life. (Kay, 2007) Interestingly however, the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre, one of the most popular types of games among game players (Nelson, 2008), has been relatively ignored in terms of its educational potential.
FPS games are played in the first-person perspective, which means that rather than controlling a visible avatar in the game world, the player feels more like they are acting in this space. This enhanced sense of immersion in the game experience gives players a stronger emotional connection to their actions in the game (McMahan, 2003) and therefore can offer a richer and more authentic learning experience. (O’Regan, 2003)
This study focusses on the possible uses of FPS games in a VET context because the parallels between the scaffolded nature of knowledge/skill practice in FPS games and in VET suggest that this kind of game could be beneficial to these learners.
The first step taken in this study was to investigate existing research on games and their use in education, with a particular focus on the FPS genre, informed by a set of questions developed after an initial scan of research in the field. This information was used to produce a detailed examination of the FPS game genre including the elements of an FPS game and potential educational applications. The questions used were:
Following this, I discussed potential VET usage of games in education with teachers at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT), the leading VET provider in the A.C.T. This was primarily to identify a suitable subject content area which an emphasis scaffolded development of knowledge and skills.
After speaking to teachers and education managers in the languages, automotive, horticulture, design and health sciences areas of CIT, I decided to try to design a game for language learners.
Learners of Mandarin at CIT are required to memorise five characters a week for a total of fifty for the semester which is currently done via an extensive drill and practice regime. This simple learning strategy seemed well suited to the Behaviourist oriented directed type of learning that I felt the FPS genre epitomised. I decided to give the game a working title of Mandarin Madness, partly because it’s self evident and also in tribute to the game Marble Madness.
My initial research into the use of FPS game environments also suggested it would be possible to add meaning to the experience by making use of cognitive learning strategies in the design of the learning space and activities. (Fuchs & Eckermann, 2001).
These discussions informed the next step of the process, which was the production of a game design statement. I applied the ADDIE (Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement, Evalutate) educational design process to my development of this statement in the interest of emphasising a “learner-centred approach” (O’Connell, 2008).
Jarvinen (2007) identifies nine elements that all games must have at least seven of to be considered games.
These elements can be found in any computer game and provide a structure for my analysis of the FPS games and their educational aspects.
McGrath and Hill (2004) provide a decent definition of FPS games in their paper about developing an emergency response simulator using the Unreal Tournament game engine.
“First person shooter games are organized
As mentioned already, the key difference between an FPS game and Virtual Worlds lies in the fact that the FPS player experiences the game with a first-person perspective of the actions of their character/avatar. The use of third-person perspective in Virtual World game environments can be seen to enhance the range of actions that the player’s avatar can perform in the game but it can equally be argued that this reduces the player’s sense of immersion in the game by removing them from the actions by a degree and this lessens their emotional connection to the experiences. (McMahan, 2003)
From a technical standpoint, one of the reasons that Virtual Worlds may be more widely used in education is the ease with which user-designed spaces and simulations can be constructed in them, which is a large part of their purpose. (Kay, 2007). The FPS genre is much more restrictive, with a singular focus on shooting games. Repurposing the game development software for other purposes can be challenging. (McGrath & Hill, 2004)
While both types of game are set in 3D worlds in which the player can interact with objects and other characters, Virtual Worlds tend to be designed more for multiplayer use with an attendant focus on social interaction, simulation and roleplay. (Kafai, Fields & Cook, 2007) FPS games take relatively different forms depending on whether the game is designed for single-player or multiplayer gameplay. This has a significant impact on the pedagogical approaches needed when considering FPS games for educational application and is addressed in more depth in the Player segment of the FPS game analysis below.
The Anatomy of a First Person Shooter game.
Jarvinen (2007) describes players as “Those who play, in various formations and with various motivations, by performing game mechanics in order to attain goals.”(p.135)
It’s interesting that he uses the plural rather than the singlular form in this instance as there are significant differences between FPS games designed for one player (single-player) and those designed for groups of players (multiplayer).
A single-player FPS game sets the player against a series of computer controlled opponents while completing a series of increasingly difficult tasks. These tasks guide the player from one location to another in the game and are invariably linked to a narrative. (Guttler and Johansson, 2003). This takes a fairly linear and scaffolded form, with the player practicing a skill (generally using a certain weapon) or devising strategies and reaching a point where this skill or strategy is tested. If they pass this test, they are given a better weapon (or other skill) and the cycle starts over.
Some FPS games (e.g Army of Two, Halo) offer a limited multiplayer form of this, having two players simultaneously collaboratively work through the story against the computer controlled opponents to the same ends. The players still develop their essential gameplaying skills in the same way but playing collaboratively has been shown to be highly effective in immersing players in games. (Campanella Bracken, Lange and Denny, 2005).
Multiplayer FPS games on the other hand generally involve a minimum of four players and can expand to hundreds of players in Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooters (MMOFPS). These games aren’t driven by narrative and either take the form of free-for-all deathmatches or team games where both sides attempt to achieve a particular goal such as capturing a flag from the opponents base. (e.g Team Fortress 2)
Steinkuehler (2004) conducted extensive ethnographic studies in multiplayer gaming environments and found that players learn how to play the game and develop their skills and strategies in collaboration with other more experienced players. This form of learning is more in line with Vygotsky’s Social Development theory.
For Mandarin Madness, I felt that players could work either collaboratively or competitively to collect objects with the correct characters on them in a large space when they were told the character (in either English or Mandarin). It would also be worthwhile providing a single-player version enabling the player to practice in their own time.
Game mechanics are the actions taken by a player to achieve the goals of the game. These include interacting with objects (e.g crates, opponents, doors) in the game environment (or the environment itself) and changing them in some way. (Jarvinen, 2007)
This ability to act and make creative decisions within the game is at the heart of a game’s interactivity and its appeal. (Gee, 2004) Without actions, a game is just a movie.
Educationally, this has strong links to theories of Embodied Cognition and Situated Cognition, which according to Rambusch, Jakobsson & Pargman (2007) holds that “sensori-motor activity is inextricably intertwined with higher cognitive processes such as learning, reasoning, problem-solving and decision-making” (p.158)
This is supported by research conducted by Kearney (2005) which measured improvements in cognitive activity – in this case multitasking – in two groups of study participants. Only the group that played the teamplay based FPS multiplayer game Counterstrike for two hours “showed a statistically significant improvement in their multitasking abilities”. (p.1)
This suggests that whatever is happening in Mandarin Madness, it is important that the players are able to be active and interact in some way. The main actions available in FPS games are moving (be that walking, running or jumping), shooting or hitting targets, opening doors and picking up game objects and moving them elsewhere. This suggests a shooting gallery level in which the player has to shoot only the nominated character as it appears on screen, scoring points for each hit and losing points for incorrect hits.
Game components include all of the objects in the game environment that a player can interact with including furniture, other characters and in-game videos (i.e. displayed on a wall in the game rather than as a cut-scene).
By using components which accurately reflect the reality of a learning activity or context that we are trying to portray, we can set the stage for the learner/player to carry out what feels like more authentic actions.
Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989) observe that “the activity in which knowledge is developed and deployed, it is now argued, is not separable from nor ancillary to learning and cognition”(p.32). This is a core facet of Situated Learning.
Another way in which Situated Learning principles can be applied in a game environment is via Legitimate Peripheral Participation. (Galarneau, 2005) This would involve the player witnessing an in-game video or 3D animation of an “expert” performing a task. The learner may even be able to repeat this action in the game however this would be dependent on the capabilities of the game engine.
For a learner trying to memorise Mandarin characters in Mandarin Madness, the characters could appear as three dimensional objects which they can navigate freely around and manipulate. Ideally, they would be able to stack parts of the object to create the entire character.
These objects may be accompanied by other objects which illustrate the meaning of the character. (Fuchs & Eckermann, 2001) (E.g the character for chair could be located on a chair, by a chair or in a group surrounding a table as chairs might ordinarily be found.)
The game environment, the (virtual) physical space in which the player experiences the game is another element which can be used to shape and enhance learning.
As with the use of authentic game objects, it would be relatively easy to design an area which reflects the reality of the learning situation and supports the use of authentic learning experiences in line with the principles of Situated Learning,.
The game environment can also be used to enhance the learning materials and experiences within a slightly more symbolic manner. This is a Cogntivist technique explored in some depth by Fuchs and Eckermann (2001) in their Expositur – A Virtual Knowledge Space project and has its roots in ancient Greek mnemotechniques. They developed a virtual space which “housed” exhibits from ten different museums around Vienna and added meaning to them by changing their context. This meant that
“ the user of the virtual museum has to jump into a water zone in order to hear about the extinction of an ancient fish once populating the Danube River. The user has to operate triggers and barriers to learn about the dangers of machinery provided by the Technical Museum. Or he/she has to walk down a spiral staircase to reach the hall of Sigmund Freud’s subconsciousness
In addition to the manipulation of context, Fuchs and Eckermann (2001) considered “the freedom of the user to go his or her own way in the virtual environment as an important feature that allows for individually shaped relational networks inside a complex field of knowledge”(p.84), which ties in well with Ertmer and Newby’s description of knowledge acquisition under Cognitivism as “a mental activity that entails internal coding and structuring by the learner”. (1993, p.58).
The game environment also includes the ambient sounds of the game, which can serve to enhance the player’s sense of immersion in the game environment, add additional meaning to objects and events and enhance the three dimensionality of the space. (Grimshaw and Shott, 2007)
For Mandarin Madness, the use of the space to enhance and reinforce the meaning of the characters would be an obvious choice. The colours, shapes, sizes, light levels and forms of movement in the space could all be tied to the themes or meaning of the characters.
The rule set defines all that is possible in the game as well as goals and obstacles.
Jarvinen (2007) defines it as “ the procedures with which the game system constrains and moderates play, with goal hierarchy as an especially important subset” (p.135)
Practically, the rule set is determined by the boundaries of the game software and the decisions of the game designer. It can include things like how, when and where a player might save their game progress, whether they can fly in a space, what happens if they step in the lava pool and how many times they can be shot before their character dies.
The rule set is interesting educationally because with the introduction of limitations and decision making comes the possibility of failure.
Gee (2004) sees high educational value in failure, stating that “Expertise is formed in any area by repeated cyles of learners practicing skills until they are nearly automatic, then having those skills fail in ways that cause the learners to have to think again and learn anew”.
One of the strengths of games and simulations as a learning environment is that failure becomes much safer – the learner is able to take risks that they couldn’t normally take in a real world environment and they are able to try again and again until they can see why something doesn’t work and consider alternate strategies.
The research conducted by Oliver and Pelletier (2005) in the course of testing a methodology for analysing how learning occurs in computer games revealed that the ability to apply a trial and error approach to problem solving in the FPS game Deux Ex was greatly enhanced by the player knowing that she was able to save the game on demand. This enabled her to overcome an obstacle and save the game, meaning that if she failed the next obstacle, she wouldn’t have to repeat the previous one as well and thus the cost of failure was significantly lessened. This freed her to experiment more with the approaches that she took because the cost of failure was reduced.
The rule set also determines the goals of the game and thus the learners motivations for completing the activities. The rule set can also be used to control the difficulty of the game.
It makes it possible to have alternate levels of challenge, which can enhance replayability and give the learner more control of their learning experience.
Sophisticated gaming engines make use of “adaptive difficulty”, which is able to monitor the player’s progress through the game and make it easier or more challenging for them if they are progressing with ease or finding themselves stuck.
The rule set is probably the most complex element of the game as the goals and activities are the essence of the educational design and require the most consideration. This is the area where the most suitable pedagogical approach to the learning requirement is applied and will vary depending on game style and content.
One design focus identified for Mandarin Madness stems from concerns about other educational software used by the language department at CIT. The issue is that the player should not just be able to random click in the game to complete it. Strategies for countering this include making the game engaging enough that the learners want to play and ensuring there are clear failure states.
Interestingly, research from Ravaja, Saari, Laarni, Kallinen and Salminen (2005) shows that players in some instances actually derive more pleasure from failing in a game than succeeding. This is at least partly attributable to the game feedback that was received upon failure, which involved their monkey (in the game Monkey Bowling 2) being shot off into space in a comical manner.
Information is classed by Jarvinen (2007) as “What the player needs to know and what the game system stores and presents in game states: Points, clues, time limits etc.”(P.135)
With the exception of direct instructions to the player on how to play the game, this includes score and health information persistently displayed on screen in the Heads Up Display (HUD) as well as visual and aural cues triggered by their actions. These cues might include pleasant or unpleasant sounds, flashes of light and colour and seeing the object physically moved. These can all be grouped under the umbrella term of feedback.
In terms of the learning, the feedback in a game is of equal importance to the actions that the player is able to apply to the objects in the game environment. If the player doesn’t receive any feedback when they act, there is no incentive for them to make that action. Feedback then can be seen as a strong Behaviourist element. (Gagne, Briggs & Wagner, 1992) By providing positive feedback when a player does something well, the designer hopes to encourage the player to repeat the action.
Games offer a variety of options for motivating, positive feedback. Rewards might range from the aforementioned pleasing sounds and visuals to accumulating collectible or better objects/powers as well as unlocking new areas of the game environment or progressing the narrative.
The capacity of the game to offer quantified feedback in the form of points scored or time taken to achieve a goal not only offers teachers concrete options for assessing learner progress but can also appeal to the competitive side of learners if a high score table is provided.
All of these elements would be incorporated into Mandarin Madness with a definite focus on quantifiable elements which would include such things as scores, time taken and number of attempts as useful information for teachers about learner progress.
Theme as it applies to computer games refers primarily to the narrative which underpins the events of the game and offers the player a context for their actions. It “functions as a metaphor for the system and the rule set”. (Jarvinen, 2007, p.135)
According to Ryan (1999):
Stories essentially come in three parts:
This structure can equally be applied to individual activies in the game, game levels or to the entire game itself.
Research conducted by Pinchbeck (2008) indicates that “there is evidence that story may have a direct influence upon cognitive operations. Specifically… games with highly visible, detailed stories may assist players in recalling and ordering their own experiences”(P.1)
Story provides players with an emotional connection to their actions within the game,(McMahan, 2003) which enhances their immersion and their learning. (O’Regan, 2003).
Given the more Behaviourist drill and practice orientation of Mandarin Madness, which consists largely of a series of basic gameplay oriented activities, narrative may not necessarily be all that useful in a competitive multiplayer environment. It would however provide a more immersive learning experience in a single player and even collaborative multiplayer game and I would be inclined to use some kind of collection quest in this case.
The interface is a tool which enables the player to access the game elements. (Jarvinen, 2007) In the case of computer games, this includes the mouse, keyboard and microphone.
In the broader video game world, it expands to game controllers (e.g. Xbox 360 and the motion sensitive Wii Remote), stylus and touchscreen (Nintendo DS), steering wheel controllers (for driving games), guitar controllers (Guitar Hero, Rockband), dance mats (Dance Dance Revolution) and in game arcades you might find scaled versions of motorcycles, horses or skateboards. The types of authentic activity that the latter of these devices offer has clear links to Situated Learning and Situated and Embodied Cognition and it is not surprising that they have also be found to enhance player immersion (Jonsson, 2005).
The type of controller being used determines the types of interactions that the player can have with the game. For Mandarin Madness, ideally the player would be able to use the mouse and keyboard to move through the game space, interact with objects and type responses to question – such as the English translations of the Mandarin characters.
The ability to use a microphone to practice pronounciation of the characters would also add significant depth to the learning experience.
An important issue in the use of games in learning arises when we consider the complexity of the interface. The controls of an FPS game generally involve using the mouse as the players eyes, the left mouse button to shoot, right mouse button for an alternate action, the space bar for jumping and the W,A,S & D keys to move in the game space.
If this control layout is considered overly complicated by non-gamers, this can present a major barrier to their engagement with of the learning game.
The Independent Game Developers Association (IGDA) considers this in their 2006 Casual Games White Paper. Casual games are simple games such as Solitaire, Tetris and Bejeweled which are favoured by people who don’t normally play other games.
The IGDA position on controls for casual games is that “where possible, should be limited to the left mouse button” (P.45)
This could work with the shooting gallery section of Mandarin Madness but other parts of the game would require the player to move in the space.
This does raise a serious question about using an FPS style game for education – that of who will be playing the game and whether complex controls presents a significant barrier to learning
Jarvinen’s (2007) final element of games involves “where, when and why the gaming encounter takes place” (P.135). To this I would add “and who is playing?”
I would imagine that Mandarin Madness would be played by learners in the language labs at CIT. They would initially be oriented to the game in a class session where they would learn to play both the single player and multiplayer version of the game together.
In the case of non-gamer learners, this could involve several players gathered around one computer providing support to each other, well in keeping with Bandura’s concept of Social Learning. This states that “most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action ”(1977, p.22)
An additional application of this principle could involve the game itself being incorporated into class activity, with learners in small groups (or even as a whole class) watching as one learner at a time plays a level of a game. Given the initial support of fellow students and the teacher, I feel confident that learners at all levels of gaming competence would be able to master the controls of Mandarin Madness.
Video games in general and the FPS genre in particularly have been subject to controversy in recent years in relation to perceptions about the impact of interactive violence on players of the games.
Thompson (2005) has variously described games as “murder simulators” and “mental masturbation” and claimed that the dual shock controller of the Sony PlayStation 2 “gives you a pleasurable buzz back into your hands with each kill. This is operant conditioning, behavior modification right out of B.F Skinner’s laboratory” (2006, p.12)
Research conducted by Endestad and Torgersen (2003) indicates that “it is action games and not first person shooter games, that predict violent behaviour” (p.10).
Eastin and Griffiths (2006) examined possible links between game playing and violence by evaluating gamers perceptions of aggressive/hostile intent in others directly after they had spent time playing either an FPS game (Unreal Tournament), a boxing game (Knockout Kings) or a car racing game (Gran Tourismo). They found that hostile expectations were highest in those who had been playing the boxing game and hypothesised that this was because the act of punching was far more possible and authentic than shooting. They also speculated that it could be because gamers enjoyed the FPS game more and “presence increases game enjoyment. As game enjoyment increases, hostility decreases due to greater desensitization toward game violence”. (p.461)
Regardless of the possible causal links between gameplay and violence, it’s entirely reasonable that violent and particularly gory content could discourage many players. This is not to say however that there may not be solutions to this issue.
I have discovered two FPS games which apply drill and practice principles to educational purposes (touch-typing and learning English) and which have aspects that could be considered violent. Typing of the Dead and English of the Dead are spin-off games from a popular arcade shooter, House of the Dead.
Players used light guns in House of the Dead to kill oncoming attacking zombies and other monsters while attempting to stop an evil businessman from taking over the world. Typing of the Dead cleverly replaced the gun interface with a Qwerty keyboard and the player “shoots” the zombies by quickly typing the words that appear about their heads. English of the Dead works on a similar principle but makes use of the touchscreen and stylus interface of the dual-screen Nintendo DS to have the player write the missing letters of the English words that appear above the monsters and below the Japanese equivalent word.
While the games are violent, the developers have made it more abstract (and thus inauthentic) by making the zombie blood green. They also provide the option to turn blood off entirely so that when the zombies are shot, they simply run away.
These options may not allay the discomfort of all gamers but are worth considering.
In the course of this research I strongly believe that I have been able to develop a pedagogically sound and engaging design concept for an educational FPS style game.
The full design statement for Mandarin Madness can be found in Appendix A.
Mandarin Madness offers learners an enjoyable and stimulating environment in which they are able to interact with a range of virtual objects and have an impact on the game world.
It offers Behaviourist oriented skills practice and positive reinforcement and draws on Cognitivist strategies for making information more memorable by giving it richer meaning through symbolic and metaphoric contexts. Learners are able to share their knowledge and skills in the multiplayer environment and can draw emotional connections from the use of the narrative.
The proof of a game is of course in the playing but on paper, Mandarin Madness works.
Jun 16 2008
One of the things that has come from the thought I have put into my project (full details to come shortly) into educational applications of FPS style games has been a real belief that first person perspective gaming is a richer experience than third person. This has raised a few questions for me.
Chief among these questions is that of why there isn’t more variety in terms of first person perspective gameplay? Puzzle games have it in that it is you interacting with the puzzle elements on the screen rather than via the agency of your avatar however this isn’t so far removed from simply doing a real puzzle that is sitting on the table in front you.
I know that whenever I play a first person shooter (and even moreso when I am playing other people rather than the computer A.I) I have a more intense emotional experience than when I play any other game. The feelings of fear, excitement and joy are richer in these games than any games that involve controlling an avatar, regardless of how good those games might be.
If I can have that level of emotional involvement in a shooting game, why shouldn’t I have it in other gaming experiences. Most importantly of all, why shouldn’t I be able to have these richly emotional experiences when I am learning something. The technology is clearly available so what is the problem? We live our lives in a first person perspective and if we benefit from making our learning experiences as authentic as possible, surely learning in first person perspective games is more authentic than any other game type.
Then again, perhaps this is exactly the problem. Playing a third person perspective game can ultimately be seen as a glorified form of playing with toys or dolls. We are able to do more with our avatar in them and we have more power over them, which may provide us with more of an escape from reality.
I recognise that driving games and flight simulations also offer first person perspective gameplay however they don’t allow the player to interact with objects and characters in the game environment on more than a superficial level and as such are a different kettle of fish. (And I rarely play driving games in anything other than 3PP for the aforementioned reasons of better control.
Is first person perspective too intense for us? Why aren’t there non-shooting first person games?
Jun 11 2008
This project is doing my head in a little – but in a good way.
The simple premise that I started with – that I want to see how it might be possible to use FPS style games for learning – has twisted and turned all over the place as I have tried to figure out how to accomodate learners who don’t normally play games, how to deal with the issue of violence in games (and what impact this has on learning), what kinds of learning activities might be suited to the FPS genre – initially I was thinking fairly straight forward drill and practice (although what form this might actually take is another matter) and what elements of games actually support learning.
I’ve taken side trips to the world of casual games in search of answers for making games easy and appealing to non-gamers – I think that casual games have a lot to offer but there are still a lot of key differences between them and an FPS style game – most notably in the controls. Casual games seem to work best with just the one controller – preferably the mouse while the FPS game controls may be overly complicated for novice gamers. I still haven’t resolved this issue in my mind yet.
Violence in games isn’t as cut and dried as you might have thought – some studies even go so far as to suggest that it can enhance learning for some gamers. (Not many but some). Action games are most closely linked to violent behaviour in gamers as well.
The application of learning theories to games is an incredibly rich and encouraging field – the more I read, the more it seems that games can do in terms of developing sensori-motor skills (which may be inextricably intertwined with higher cognitive skills like problem solving and decision making), motivation, emotional connection to the material, relevance and much more are all enhanced in a game environment.
Issues of story vs gameplay have been interesting – story appears to be important and separate (but equal) to gameplay elements in making a good game. How this relates to my initial leaning towards basic activities I’m still synthesising at the moment.
I definitely feel that I’m on the right track though and I’m a believer in the teaching power of activities and the rich worlds that games can offer.
The question of drill and practice is one that I’ve instinctively felt is important but I haven’t been able to properly solidify. I’m thinking about language learning here (although there are other scenarios where it could be useful) and the need for repetition.
This is what has drawn me to the world of casual games, the fact that the best of these games have high replayability (or addictive qualities if you prefer) and players are happy to come back to them even when they have finished. It’s not for the story then (most casual games don’t have one) but for the challenge and for the game play elements. The fun, the pretty graphics/sounds/etc, the rewards, the positive feedback and the sense of achievement and progress. I think a high score or fastest game table might also enhance this experience and encourage multiple replays.
This and the accessibility of casual games to non-gamers is why I’ve been floating around this area.
One of the limitations of the FPS that I’m feeling more and more is the general lack of ability to enter text. Typing of the Dead has it but that’s about it. Actually, scratch that – I’ve just done taken a look at this video for English of the Dead – an FPS based language game for the Nintendo DS that ingeniously uses the bottom interface of the DS for learners to write letters on. (Interesting that they don’t just have a keyboard displayed on the bottom screen for learners to use the stylus to “type” the letters with – forcing them to write the characters instead. Clever. (You can try a basic – and non-violent – version of the game here)
From Tony Hetherington
• A description of what was done, what was found — the
Jun 07 2008
The last post is getting a little long so time for another.
Larsen, T. (1999) Designing games for novice gamers Gamasutra (3338) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3338/designing_games_for_novice_gamers.php
On the other hand, several games let players start immediately without having to know lots of stuff about how to control the game. Many adventure games, in particular Myst, are easy to get started with and give immediate enjoyment. Novice players also have an easy time getting into 3D shooters such as Doom. Thus, it’s not surprising to see that these games reach a wider audience than other games with a higher entrance barrier.
So when you design games for novice gamers, a low entrance barrier is critical. The player should be able to start playing the game almost immediately and understand at once what is happening.
Visible Game Mechanics
Most people have played one board game or another, such as Monopoly, Ludo, and so on. In these games, the game mechanic is totally visible. In Monopoly, players roll the dice and move that number of squares. That square has an effect on the player that is explicitly written on the square itself or on a corresponding card. Novice gamers are used to visible game mechanics.
Themes and settings that seem quite acceptable to experienced gamers may seem weird or disgusting to people who aren’t accustomed to computer games. For example, experienced gamers are quite accustomed to excessive graphic violence and may think that more blood and gore make a game more entertaining. However, many others tout this excessive depiction of violence as a reason not to buy computer games.
An experienced gamer is often accustomed to managing many tasks at once. At one extreme are the strategy gamers who can handle up to 20 to 30 structures and 100 to 150 individual units at once with only a mild sense of panic. But even these people prefer to manage the units in groups because, intellectually, it’s easier to manage fewer objects — fewer objects means higher intellectual manageability.
Many independent studies in various professional fields conclude that seven is the highest number of objects that a person can comfortably keep in mind at once. This maxim applies to computer games as well. Maintaining an overview of what’s going on is easier if you have a maximum of (more or less) seven things on which to concentrate. If you’re making a game for novice gamers, you should pay attention to the game’s intellectual manageability.
Alternatives can also be arranged in hierarchies to adhere to the seven-object rule. At any one time, a player in a role-playing game may choose to move, rest, fight, or administrate his or her character. If the player chooses to fight, he or she can attack, guard, shoot, or use an item. At any level in the hierarchy, the player is never faced with more than seven alternatives from which to choose.
Ryan, T. (1999) Beginning Level Design, Part 1 Gamasutra (3329) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3329/beginning_level_design_part_1.php
Level design is the data entry and layout portion of the game development cycle. A level is, for all intents and purposes, the same as a mission, stage, map or other venue of player interaction. As a level designer, you are chiefly responsible for the gameplay.
Challenge comes from difficulty. The trick to good level design is to present challenges that are difficult enough to merit the players’ attention and make their heart or mind race, but not so difficult as to always leave them failing and disappointed. It’s a delicate balance based on what is perceived as the median player skill, and it is a variable constantly adjusted up until the game ships.
People don’t like playing the same level twice. Not only does it ruin the entertainment value, it also fails to spark the imagination. It’s therefore incredibly important that levels introduce some variation in the plot, challenge, setting, and characters (i.e. the enemies).
Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis
Stories essentially come in three parts:
Understanding and Developing the Thesis in Level Design
Each level in itself is its own story. As level designers, you set up the thesis by preparing the initial situation. You position the player and perhaps indicate his initial arsenal or force or set of spells or pieces. You render the setting with your map or your puzzle board. The setting and the situation can change over the course of the level as portions of the level are revealed to the player or new characters or other elements are introduced such as power-ups or new player or enemy forces. As games are interactive, you have to be very conscious about every possible situation a player can be in at any given time or place over the course of the playing the level.
Introducing and Refining the Antithesis in Your Level
The antithesis is where the players interact with your level. By positioning enemy forces and scripting their behavior, or by setting the timing and speed of the bugs they have to zap or the puzzle pieces they have to place, you are creating conflict. This should be where the core gameplay of your level is.
Synthesis – Making Your Levels End in a Satisfying Tone
Synthesis is the result of an encounter or the entire level. It’s a moment of reflection for players to evaluate the encounter or level and what they got out of it. Whether players fail or succeed, they should be able to recognize why and how they might do better next time. This keeps them interested in trying again or just replaying for a better score or reward.
Victory or failure should be obvious. Players should understand why they lost. Victories should come as the direct result of the final acts of the player, not as the result of something the player does midway through the level (the latter tends to make players bored). Ending the mission on a big, satisfying note leaves a player feeling good.
Everything the player sees or does must further the story. All of the players’ accomplishments should move them toward the completion of the story or pull them further into the conflict with the villain.
Most gamers have a short attention span, especially those who play console games. They don’t have as much patience with minor details and game subtleties. If you present them with too much detail, or if your gameplay hinges on the player understanding the significance of minor details (like a single dialogue message), then you will lose them… Spending a lot of time working on non-interactive details can be a waste of time and resources, although it’s important to put some effort into it because the player will pay some attention to it.
Ryan, T. (1999) Beginning Level Design, Part 2: Rules to Design by and Parting Advice Gamasutra (3332) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3332/beginning_level_design_part_2_.php
20 Rules to Design By
1) Maintain the vision.
The “vision” is the core idea of the game design.
2) Learn the design palette.
One of the first things you need to establish before you begin your machinations is the design palette. The design palette includes all of the art and game play elements at your disposal.
One grave mistake that all designers make at some point is to create mazes. Why is that a mistake? Mazes are one of the first forms of puzzles introduced in computer games. It’s old now. Because all it takes to make a maze is placing walls or other terrain that blocks movement, it’s the easiest game play to create. It is sort of a last resort when you are fresh out of game play elements and ideas. When you get to this point, stop. Try to improve your design palette by coming up with new ways to use existing elements or by pushing the game designer to create more.
4) A level will only ever be as good as you imagine it.
A great sculptor doesn’t begin chiseling a block of stone until he envisions in his mind what the completed sculpture will look like. The same is true with level design: there’s no point in beginning to design your map if you can’t truly see what you’re working towards. You might have a vague idea about what you are trying to make, but to start designing away without a clear vision can lead to a lot of wasted time and effort.
This isn’t to say that you should leave some time to experiment, but the core idea of the game play for your level should stand on its own. It’s also best to choose a core idea that leaves a lot of room for a variety of game play. When you implement the level, establish the core idea with broad strokes, and just make it work. With that done, decide if the idea has merit and whether you want to go further with the level. If so, fill in the fine details and experiment with subtle game play details. Often it’s the subtler elements and details that make the difference between a good level and a great one.
5) If there’s no difference, what’s the point?
Having multiple routes to the same goal is a good way of giving players choices and a sense of freedom while still ensuring they end up at the same point. Yet, if each choice exposes the players to the same types of enemies, the same rewards, and the same risks and costs, then players will only get frustrated and bored when they discover that there is essentially no difference.
6) Cater to different playing styles and abilities.
When presenting options, challenges or puzzles to players, try to offer multiple solutions that cater to different player styles and abilities. Some players play conservatively, while others like to play it risky.
7) Reward player imagination and efforts.
Players like to experiment and explore. The more solutions, secrets, alternate paths, and so on, that you provide in your level, the more satisfied players will be. It’s a great feeling when, as a player, you come up with a not-so-obvious solution that succeeds. Remember that players almost always go off the main route hoping to find shortcuts, hidden caches of goodies, or other unexpected items. When designing a level, try to think about what players may want to try, and give that to them. When they say, “What if…?” your level should respond with, “Yes, you can.”
8) Pay attention to level pacing.
Pacing is the introduction of conflict and tension, plus what some like to call the “adrenaline rush.” This follows closely the Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis model that we know from stories and films. The tension builds as the player (the thesis) interacts with the antithesis, and it crescendos right before the synthesis, where the reader, watcher or player breathes a sigh of relief.
Because games are interactive, forcing a certain pace into the level can be difficult. What if the players don’t do what you want them to do? What if they take too much time? What if it’s too easy and unexciting when it’s played slow or too intense if played too fast? There are some things you can do to remedy this without taking all the interactivity out of it.
Time limits add tension that’s immediately perceptible by the player. A time limit can force a player to move more rapidly, or adopt tactics that you want him to use, such as splitting forces to achieve multiple objectives. You can put in an artificial time limit – like a mission clock, a puzzle-solver clock, or a turn time limit. You can institute a realistic time limit into a level, like the time it takes a certain enemy or ally unit to move to its exit point, or the time before enemy reinforcements arrive to overwhelm the player.
Controlling the movement speed or distance a player may traverse in a turn drastically affects game play pacing. While you cannot just arbitrarily change this in your level unless you are doing a puzzle game like Tetris, there are other ways you can play with speed. Often terrain affects movement speed, such as swampy ground that slows you down, a highway that permits you to speed up, or an obstructed and twisty route that slows your progress. Giving units different movement speeds and/or movement restrictions can slow or speed up the players, if they have to travel with that unit.
9) Reveal assets carefully.
Keeping the player interested in the game requires careful asset revelation. Assets are the game’s eye candy, such as terrain objects, enemy and friendly units, upgrades, puzzles, and so on. All but the simplest games try to reveal these assets gradually to players, so as not to overload them on the first level, and to keep them interested in going on to the next level.\
10) Challenge the player.
Your job as level designer is to challenge the player. A level isn’t truly satisfying unless victory is at times uncertain. So you have to present challenges to players that really test their mettle and make them uncertain of their victory. When doing so, you have to cater to different player abilities (see rule #6) and to increasingly skilled and equipped players. Where your level is positioned in the game timeline or “level progression” should indicate how difficult it needs to be. In the first few levels, players learn how to play the game, so these levels should be a little forgiving. Levels at the end should be the most difficult to coincide with the increased skill and player resources.
12) If the player didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.
Don’t assume all players will read dialogue or mission descriptions, and don’t rely on their observation skills, powers of precognition, or capacity for logical deduction to understand what is going on in the level and what they should do. Players must see what is happening to understand it.
13) See through the player’s eyes.
Players usually watch most closely those objects that appear on a level’s “event horizon.” The event horizon is where new terrain is revealed and where enemies are engaging the player. Changes in the event horizon often trigger a reaction from players or influence their decisions, and changes elsewhere may not get noticed immediately.
For instance, if an enemy unit suddenly appeared in the middle of previously revealed terrain, it may not attract the player’s attention, at least until a blip appeared on the radar or the new unit attacked one of the player’s buildings. However, if the enemy unit appeared where new terrain was being revealed, it’s likely that it would be noticed right away. Likewise, a building isn’t really looked at except when it’s initially revealed.
While some players spend time examining previously revealed terrain, most people do not, and it becomes even less likely when the game takes place within a 3D environment. Players usually only observe what is in the “here and now,” and you should put yourself in their position to ensure that you don’t put imperceptible events in your level.
18) Be the adversary.
To a certain extent you have to be sadistic to the players. You should enjoy being the adversary, and think from the AI’s perspective. This will help you make much more realistic opponents that a player can understand. Players naturally put a human face on the AI, and so they expect the AI to behave like a human. When you script the AI to behave in a human fashion, it helps players successfully strategize and often draws them deeper into the game. It also evokes a little fear in players, as they don’t expect a game AI to recognize their weaknesses. As the adversary, you need to provoke fear in players and prey on their weaknesses. It’s what makes the game more challenging, fun and fulfilling.
Pinchbeck, D. (2008) Story and Recall in First-Person Shooters [Electronic Version] International Journal of Computer Games Technology Volume 2008 pp.1-7
However, what has been underrecognised is the dynamic, epistemological, and psychological impact of story and story elements
A simple study was carried out, whereby twenty-six
The darkness of the levels was the consistent feature
RES subjects found empathy easy too but struggled more
The need for closure was highly evident in both subject
Conspiracy, and its counterpart, amnesia, is a
Even though Cthulhu contains
Peters, J. (2007) World of Borecraft: Never play a videogame that’s trying to teach you something Slate 2169019 Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from http://www.slate.com/id/2169019/
When does a game stop being a game and turn into an assignment? Can a game still be called a game if it isn’t any fun?
Newsgames are an interesting idea, but this one is less informative than a simple article and less fun than doing the Jumble. Food Import Folly didn’t make me think long and hard about FDA policy—I just ended up left-clicking furiously in a half-assed attempt to “win.”
In taking the fun out of video games, companies like Persuasive make them less alluring to people who love games and more alluring to people who don’t. Your boss, for example. Many of Persuasive’s projects were commissioned by corporations as nontraditional job-training tools.
The graphics and game play in modern edutainment software have certainly improved since Mavis Beacon’s heyday. But the fundamental conceptual problem still remains: Animating mindless, boring repetition doesn’t make the repetition any less mindless or boring.
I think game designer and theorist Raph Koster has it right. “[J]ust strapping an incentive structure on rote practice doesn’t work very well, compared to … building a long-term goal structure, and then presenting challenges on the way,”
The basic issue here is that it’s easier to make a fun game educational than it is to inject fun into an educational game. In his 2005 book, Everything Bad Is Good for You, Steven Johnson argues that games like The Sims and Grand Theft Auto make us smarter by training the mind in adaptive behavior and problem-solving. Most overtly educational software, though, ignores the complexities that make games riveting and enriching. The serious-gaming types think they can create educational software from whole cloth. In reality, they have a lot to learn from Grand Theft Auto.
Guttler, C. and Johansson, T. (2003) Spatial principles of level-design in multi-player first-person shooters Proceedings of the 2nd workshop on network and system support for games (pp. 158 – 170) New York, NY: ACM
In this manner, the paper
Setting off from a theoretical
Secondly—and that is this text’s
The fact that the player is not dragged
The term gameplay is often used to judge
In single-player games in the FPS
Moore, C. (2008) How to turn your learners into compulsive completers Making Change – ideas for lively elearning Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from http://blog.cathy-moore.com/?p=204
Consider offering a series of rewards throughout a course or other linear experience. Each reward builds on the last to create a desirable collection–all of it imaginary.
Or turn the whole thing into a story
Of course, you won’t need separate rewards if you can make the entire course a story and use plot devices to make learners want to know what happens next.
Kuhlman, T (2008) Motivate your learner with these 5 simple tips The Rapid E-Learning blog Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/motivate-your-learners-with-these-5-simple-tips
Typically, people are motivated when their learning has meaning. For example, if I know that passing a course will equate to an increase in my income, I am motivated to pass the course. The same can be said for being motivated by personal safety.
Reward Your Learners. People are motivated by rewards. Figure out what type of reward you can give the learners and then build that into the course. Sometimes the rewards can be timed challenges or reaching a certain level of achievement. Other rewards could be actual merchandise, like winning an iPod. It all depends on the course.
Rewards don’t have to be tangible items. They can be simple things like affirmation and encouragement. The main point is to connect with the learners and find a way to have them feel good about some sort of achievement in your course.
Help Your Learners Perform Better. This ties into the previous point. Your course needs to have value and it needs to be relevant to what your learners do. People will be motivated to take your course and pay attention as they know it will help them perform better.
Your job is to connect the learner to the course content. If I’m taking a site safety course, I’m probably less motivated by clicking a button on a simple assessment than if I’m thrown into a real life scenario where I am challenged to work through some issues similar to what I’ll face at work. This type of approach connects me to the content, more so than screen after screen of bullet point information.
Set Clear Expectations for the Course. I’m amazed to see my children just click around on the computer screen to get what they want. On the other hand, I’ve watched adults fearful of clicking a next arrow not sure what will happen.
People tend to be leery of things they don’t understand, or if they’re not quite sure where they’re going. However, once they get a sense of what’s going on, they’re more apt to be responsive to the course.
If you want your learners motivated, then a good way to get them there is to let them know what to expect from the course that you want them to take. This all ties into the points above. You’re asking the learners to spend some of their valuable time going through your course. They expect clarity on what they’ll do, why, and what type of outcome to expect.
Tell Them They’re Wrong. Controversy gets our attention and is a good way to motivate. Challenge what a person believes, or even tell him he’s wrong, and you’ll see a person motivated to prove you wrong. Of course, this approach needs to be tempered with common sense.
However, there is a lot of value in challenging people and what they know. It’s just a matter of knowing how to do it in a manner that is appropriate. When a person is challenged it puts them at risk and they tend to pay more attention.
Create an environment where they can safely fail or make mistakes and you’ll challenge them and keep them engaged.
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2008, June). Behaviorism at Learning-Theories.com. Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from http://www.learning-theories.com/behaviorism.html
Summary: Behaviorism is a worldview that operates on a principle of “stimulus-response.” All behavior caused by external stimuli (operant conditioning). All behavior can be explained without the need to consider internal mental states or consciousness.
Originators and important contributors: John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, E. L. Thorndike (connectionism), Bandura, Tolman (moving toward cognitivism)
Keywords: Classical conditioning (Pavlov), Operant conditioning (Skinner), Stimulus-response (S-R)
Behaviorism is a worldview that assumes a learner is essentially passive, responding to environmental stimuli. The learner starts off as a clean slate (i.e. tabula rasa) and behavior is shaped through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. Both positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement increase the probability that the antecedent behavior will happen again. In contrast, punishment (both positive and negative) decreases the likelihood that the antecedent behavior will happen again. Positive indicates the application of a stimulus; Negative indicates the withholding of a stimulus. Learning is therefore defined as a change in behavior in the learner. Lots of (early) behaviorist work was done with animals (e.g. Pavlov’s dogs) and generalized to humans.
Behaviorism precedes the cognitivist worldview. It rejects structuralism and is an extension of Logical Positivism.
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2008, June). Social Learning Theory (Bandura) at Learning-Theories.com. Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from http://www.learning-theories.com/social-learning-theory-bandura.html
Social Learning Theory (Bandura)
Summary: Bandura’s Social Learning Theory posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. The theory has often been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation.
Social Learning Theory (Bandura)
People learn through observing others’ behavior, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors. “Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” (Bandura). Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences.
Necessary conditions for effective modeling:
Bandura believed in “reciprocal determinism”, that is, the world and a person’s behavior cause each other, while behaviorism essentially states that one’s environment causes one’s behavior, Bandura, who was studying adolescent aggression, found this too simplistic, and so in addition he suggested that behavior causes environment as well. Later, Bandura soon considered personality as an interaction between three components: the environment, behavior, and one’s psychological processes (one’s ability to entertain images in minds and language).
Social learning theory has sometimes been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation. The theory is related to Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory and Lave’s Situated Learning, which also emphasize the importance of social learning.
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2008, June). Situated Learning Theory (Lave) at Learning-Theories.com. Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from http://www.learning-theories.com/situated-learning-theory-lave.html
Summary: Situated Learning Theory posits that learning is unintentional and situated within authentic activity, context, and culture.
Originator: Jean Lave
Key Terms: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP), Cognitive Apprenticeship
Situated Learning Theory (Lave)
In contrast with most classroom learning activities that involve abstract knowledge which is and out of context, Lave argues that learning is situated; that is, as it normally occurs, learning is embedded within activity, context and culture. It is also usually unintentional rather than deliberate. Lave and Wenger (1991) call this a process of “legitimate peripheral participation.”
Knowledge needs to be presented in authentic contexts — settings and situations that would normally involve that knowledge. Social interaction and collaboration are essential components of situated learning — learners become involved in a “community of practice” which embodies certain beliefs and behaviors to be acquired. As the beginner or novice moves from the periphery of a community to its center, he or she becomes more active and engaged within the culture and eventually assumes the role of an expert.
Other researchers have further developed Situated Learning theory. Brown, Collins & Duguid (1989) emphasize the idea of cognitive apprenticeship: “Cognitive apprenticeship supports learning in a domain by enabling students to acquire, develop and use cognitive tools in authentic domain activity. Learning, both outside and inside school, advances through collaborative social interaction and the social construction of knowledge.”
Situated learning is related to Vygotsky’s notion of learning through social development.
Social Development Theory (Vygotsky)
Summary: Social Development Theory argues that social interaction precedes development; consciousness and cognition are the end product of socialization and social behavior.
Originator: Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934).
Key terms: Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)
Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory
Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory is the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), who lived during Russian Revolution. Vygotsky’s work was largely unkown to the West until it was published in 1962.
Vygotsky’s theory is one of the foundations of constructivism. It asserts three major themes:
Vygotsky focused on the connections between people and the sociocultural context in which they act and interact in shared experiences (Crawford, 1996). According to Vygotsky, humans use tools that develop from a culture, such as speech and writing, to mediate their social environments. Initially children develop these tools to serve solely as social functions, ways to communicate needs. Vygotsky believed that the internalization of these tools led to higher thinking skills.
Applications of the Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory
Many schools have traditionally held a transmissionist or instructionist model in which a teacher or lecturer ‘transmits’ information to students. In contrast, Vygotsky’s theory promotes learning contexts in which students play an active role in learning. Roles of the teacher and student are therefore shifted, as a teacher should collaborate with his or her students in order to help facilitate meaning construction in students. Learning therefore becomes a reciprocal experience for the students and teacher.
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2008, June). ADDIE Model at Learning-Theories.com. Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from http://www.learning-theories.com/addie-model.html
Summary: The ADDIE model is a systematic instructional design model consisting of five phases: (1) Analysis, (2) Design, (3) Development, (4) Implementation, and (5) Evaluation. Various flavors and versions of the ADDIE model exist.
Originator: Unknown. Refined by Dick and Carey and others.
Key terms: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation
The generic term for the five-phase instructional design model consisting of Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Each step has an outcome that feeds into the next step in the sequence. There are probably over 100+ different variations of the generic ADDIE model.
The five phases of ADDIE are as follows:
Rapid prototyping (continual feedback) has sometimes been cited as as a way to improve the generic ADDIE model.
Taylor, C. (2007) Reward Players, Don’t Punish them! Game Daily (70504) Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from http://www.gamedaily.com/articles/features/reward-players-dont-punish-them/70504/?biz=1
Over the past few years, I have noticed a new and fascinating trend in game design: Games are moving toward reward systems and very much away from punishment systems.
Punishment goes back to the days of coin-operated games, and even amusement parks. You got three baseballs to throw at the milk jugs, and you couldn’t win a prize unless you actually had skill. Otherwise, the game would have no meaning, and the game operator wouldn’t make a living.
(A blocker is a term that game designers use to call a part of the game that stops the player’s forward progression because of a complex puzzle, or arbitrary twist in the game.)
Video games will auto-save your game. Most will auto-load. When you die, you don’t lose all your stuff or all your experience points. We are making huge progress. We’re finding ways to be entertaining without beating the player down for being dumb and slow. And even though casual games have taught us a lot these past few years about making accessible and non-punishment oriented games, many of them can still get difficult quickly. But overall, we’re moving in a good direction.
O’Connell, M. (2008) ADDIE Design Process Canberra, ACT: Flex.Ed/CIT
The ADDIE process is an education design process that enables the design and development of your teaching and learning. This is a continuous process which includes analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation.
The ADDIE process is most effective when used to facilitate learner-centred approaches.
Jun 04 2008
Time has gotten away from me with this project and the research has taken a bit of a hit. I’ve been finding more and more things (that’s the easy part) but actually digging down into them to see what nuggets of wisdom there are to be gleaned is another thing entirely.
Rather than explore the papers in depth now, I’m just going to grab the most useful and salient points/quotes.
Violence and games
Endestad, T. and Torgerson, L (2003) Computer games and violence: Is there really a connection? Proceedings of DiGRA 2003 Conference: Level Up . Utrecht, The Netherlands: DiGRA
“The presented results come from a large, representative study, with approximately 2000
Design of games – flow, motivation and player action
Paras, B (2003) Learning to Play: The design on in-game training to enhance videogame experience
In an attempt to provide a robust definition of ‘game’, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (2004) looked at eight different definitions of game as provided by game historians and designers. They then deconstructed their definitions and isolated specific characteristics that were common to most or all of the definitions. They used their shared characteristics to construct a composite definition that reflected much of the best critical thinking in the history and theory
2.3.1 Behaviourist Stimulus Response
2.3.4 Learning Environments
Sound in FPS games
EGrimshaw, M. and Schott, G. (2007) Situated Gaming as a sonic experience: The acoustic ecology of First-Person Shooters Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference: FuturePlay . Toronto, Canada: DiGRA
Statements such as “the only thing the player knows about
We elected to treat audio
Furthermore, the action of the
Modes of listening are utilized for various sounds within
Using cutscenes VS not using cutscenes
Pinchbeck, D. (2007) Counting barrels in Quake 4: affordances and homodiegetic structures in FPS worlds Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference: FuturePlay . Toronto, Canada: DiGRA
Since the release of Half Life (1998), first-person
Modern first-person games 1 can be characterized by an
Presence in 3D games
McMahan, A. (2003) Immersion, Engagement and Presence: A method for Analysing 3-D Video games. In Wolf, M. and Perron, B (Ed.), The Video Game Theory Reader (pp.67 – 86) New York: Routledge
Technical literature on pres-
Steuer gives a useful outline of the provenance of the term presence:
Matthew Lombard and Theresa Ditton deﬁne presence as “the artiﬁ-
Quality of Social Interaction
“The art of V[R]E design is surely to provide users with carefully structured
Perceptual and Psychological Immersion
Theorists such as
The Use of a Social Actor in the Medium
I am currently conducting an experiment in how the sense of presence
(More of the same – presence in games)
Pinchbeck, D., Stevens, B., Van Laar, D., Hand, S., Newman, K. 2006. Narrative, agency and observational behavioiur in a first person shooter environment. Presented at Narrative AI and Games AISOB Symposium, Bristol, UK, April 2006
The relationship between narrative and play is fre-
Simply because we remember narratives well, it
FPS games were selected
Deus Ex (2000) ef-
Eye tracking was initially put forward as an ad-
Jenkins (2003) postulates four types of narrative
Narrative must be distinguished from story in
(The researchers got 5 players of different skill levels to play 2 levels of HalfLife2 and used eye tracking devices to record what they looked at during the sessions)
A number of key differences to observational
Fig 2: Novices tend to track objects with focal point
By contrast, experienced gamers restricted their
The suggestion that experienced gamers oper-
Non-human but moving objects seemed secon-
The evidence of hierarchical attention, especially
The fact that non-narrative devices are the
More stuff on how to tell story in games – cutscene vs non-cutscene
Cheng, P. (2007) Waiting for something to happen: Narratives, Interactivity and Agency and the Video Game Cut-Scene Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference: FuturePlay . Toronto, Canada: DiGRA
Since cut-scenes often follow
Building on this definition then, the standard
There are many unique aspects to King Kong. It
Frome, J. (2007) Eight Ways Videogames Generate Emotion Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference: FuturePlay . Toronto, Canada: DiGRA
The notion of emotional response relies on the extremely
Players take two
Is it this aspect of the observer-participant role that
I propose a
We can think of game emotions as
Narrative emotions are based on a videogame’s characters,
Although it is fairly intuitive that videogames can generate
The last type of emotion in the model is ecological
we may consciously know that
The different audience roles and types of emotion discussed
Sorensen, B. and Meyer, B. (2007) Serious Games in language learning and teaching – a theoretical perspective Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference: FuturePlay . Toronto, Canada: DiGRA
Games may provide the opportunity for going beyond
Two main conclusions from the research project Children
The Mingoville course contains 10 missions that take the
Magnussen, R. (2007) Teacher roles in learning games – When games become situated in schools Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference: FuturePlay . Toronto, Canada: DiGRA
Using learning games in education gives rise to a learning
In the manual the teacher’s role is primarily defined as a
We received several comments about the teacher manual
The teacher might not be aware of how changing the game
Jarvinen, A. (2007) Introducing Applied Ludology: Hands-on methods for Game Studies Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference: FuturePlay . Toronto, Canada: DiGRA
The theory of game elements is based on the
METHOD FOR IDENTIFYING GAME ELEMENTS
METHOD FOR IDENTIFYING GAME MECHANICS AND
Uncertainty factors as cues of non-trivial player abilities
The results which the method yields can be used for a
Rambusch, J., Jakobsson, P. and Pargman, D. (2007) Exploring E-sports: A Case Study of Gameplay in Counter-Strike Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference: FuturePlay . Toronto, Canada: DiGRA
From a methodological standpoint there are two ways of
studying and understanding gameplay. On the one hand
there is the handling of the game, i.e. the actual (physical
and motorical) activity of playing the game. On the other
hand, we have player’s meaning-making activities, i.e. their
understanding of the game in terms of how the game is to
be played, their role in the game and the culture around the
game [cf. 30].
This is an analytical distinction since in
practice both elements are closely related; the handling of
the game has an impact on players’ understanding of the
game and vice versa. For instance, our study shows that
players who become better at handling Counter-Strike start
taking playing activities more seriously which leads to more
practice and yet higher levels of proficiency
The idea of both elements being closely related is strongly
supported by theories of embodied and situated cognition
(EC/SC). According to these theories sensori-motor activity
is inextricably intertwined with higher cognitive processes
such as learning, reasoning, problem solving and decision-
making, i.e. handling and meaning-making are closely
related. Moreover, gameplay is a situated social-cultural
activity, spanning brain, body, and game environment .
It is distributed and coordinated across player, game
interface, game world and game structure  as well as
other objects and people. People are very proficient in using
the material and social environment and act in for their own
benefit [8,16] and the same goes for playing computer
games; the line between virtual game world and real life is not as clear-cut as often believed.
However, as video recordings and interviews revealed,
configuration of the equipment does have an important
impact on gameplay in CS. This has little to do with
players’ beliefs or feelings; instead, it has to do with the
isomorphism between how the physical environment is
configured in relation to the in-game environment. The
typical line-up at a tournament consists of five players
sitting in a row next to each other. Players can thus make
use of “neighbors” screens as well as their own; instead of
asking for others’ in-game locations and actions, they can
simply glance sideways. This is also the reason why the
virtual line-up of a clan inside the game to large extent
mirrors the line-up in front of the computer and how in-
game roles and positions to some extent become visible in
the clan’s physical line-up. This clearly shows how players
escape their virtual confines and take cognitive advantage
of the surrounding game environment
dominant discourses of identity in the community forum are
those of professionalism and athleticism. The professional
identity is expressed in the concern of the community to
come off as serious, dedicated and mature with a clear goal
and vision: to turn CS into an accepted sport with chances
for practitioners to make a living from playing the game.
Appeal to excellence, physical fitness, endurance, practice
and hard work constitutes the basis for a discourse of
Falstein, N. (2008) Design Language: The Portal Paradoxes Gamasutra (3616) Retrieved June 6th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3616/design_language_the_portal_.php
The basic gameplay elements are also quite minimal, a true mark of excellent game design. I often quote Einstein, who said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler” as guidance in game design, yet it is rare that a game follows that precept as well as Portal. The initial levels are perfectly tuned to just fly by, giving the player a sense of mastery and competence.
In fact, when I listened to the level design commentary after completing levels I was struck by how nearly all the changes and tuning seemed to involve adjusting the learning curve of the game; making things clear, introducing some elements more gradually in order to let players grasp them fully, reminding them with a simple challenge of game mechanisms introduced earlier on just before they are needed again.
It’s also worth noting how the simple icons at the start and at key points of each level give you the hints necessary to understand what you need to do without dialog or even text labels — yet another minimalist touch. Likewise, the type of enemies is severely limited compared to most first person shooters. I love the fact that they resisted the opportunity to add various types of guns and tools and powerups or complex double-jumps or climbing mechanisms that clutter so many examples of the genre.
Ultimately, one clearly positive lesson they followed is one I’ve heard echoed by such luminaries as Sid Meier and Will Wright; to iterate the design frequently and test it with fresh players over and over again.
This is an important way to keep from tweaking a game to be gradually harder and harder as the same testers grow bored and keep requesting tougher challenges. Project Leader Kim Swift has mentioned how they constantly adjusted the game to make it understandable to beginners.
This is a supremely accessible game — you may feel challenged at times (I know as a fairly basic action player I had trouble mastering some of the timing required at higher levels) but it was always clear what I had to do, and it never felt far out of my reach. Conversely, it felt tough enough that I had a very strong sense of accomplishment and victory — what Nicole Lazzaro refers to as Fiero — when I came up with ways to get through the levels.
Harris, J. (2007) Game Design Essentials: 20 Unusual Control Schemes Gamasutra (1937) Retrieved June 6th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2844/game_design_essentials_20_unusual_.php
There is a theory that the controls of a video game should do their best to get out of the player’s way. The interaction between the player’s mind and the game world should be as simple as possible… In the absence of such technology, controls should be standardized so a player can move from one game to another easily. They seek to develop a shared control language that applies across games: left stick moves, right controls camera, the major action button shoots, a secondary one jumps, shoulder buttons flip between weapons — that kind of thing.
Bogost, I. (2007) Persuasive Games: Casual as in sex, not casual as in Friday Gamasutra (2844) Retrieved June 6th, 2008 fromhttp://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1937/persuasive_games_casual_as_in_.php
Proponents argue that casual games both open up new audiences for games and make new styles of games possible, but the genre has largely floundered in copycat titles.
According to the IGDA Casual Games white paper, casual games are “games that generally involve less complicated game controls and overall complexity in terms of gameplay or investment required to get through game.” The group contrasts casual games with “hardcore” or “core” or “traditional” games — games “developed for and delivered on a dedicated game console” that “involve more complicated game controls and overall complexity in terms of gameplay or investment required to get through game.”
We might summarize the industry’s conception of casual games along two axes: design considerations and player resources. Because casual gamers don’t play many games, or don’t play them very often, they are unfamiliar with the complex conventions that might feel second nature to hardcore gamers.
These games attempt to minimize complexity and investment in player time, money, and control mastery. Casual games sport designs and controls of reduced complexity that take little time to learn and to play, that come at modest cost and are easy to purchase. Casual games typically offer short gameplay sessions, come at a lower cost than hardcore games, and allow play on more ordinary devices like personal computers and mobile phones.
The typical design values of casual games strongly resemble the early coin-op industry. Consider controls. Nolan Bushnell’s cabinet version Spacewar!, which he called Computer Space didn’t sell well. One reason for its failure was complexity. As Bushnell explains, “You had to read the instructions before you could play, people didn’t want to read instructions.”1 Pong fixed the problem. Bushnell: “To be successful, I had to come up with a game people already knew how to play; something so simple that any drunk in any bar could play.” The Pong cabinet features one instruction: “Avoid missing ball for high score.”
One can easily draw a connection between the taverngoing Pong player and the after-bedtime Bejeweled player. The IGDA SIG explicitly recommends mouse-only control for casual games (“The interaction between the user and the game should be limited to the computer mouse”). A mouse is something every computer user owns and knows how to use. Simple controls on existing equipment seem to be well-addressed design strategies in casual games.
A common design philosophy for casual games is “easy to learn, hard to master.” Casual games are supposed respect the value of their players’ time, making it easier to learn to play the game. But the notion of mastery raises doubt about low commitment in casual games. Individual casual game sessions often do require only short amounts of time: a round of Solitaire or Tetris or Bejeweled might take less than five minutes. But the maxim “easy to learn, hard to master” reveals that casual games actually demand significant total play time.
Players are expected to string short game sessions together, either at once or over long periods, to maximize performance. A casual games proponent might argue that the player might choose not to master the game, but rather just to play short sessions early in the title’s progression (“games you can play for five minutes or five hours”). But the business of casual games belies such argument: for one part, the typical cost of a downloadable game suggests that medium- to long-term player commitment is required to get value from a purchase; and for another part, downloadable games’ 1-2% conversion on try-before-you-buy purchases suggests that the vast majority of players are satisfied with the gameplay experience of the trial anyway. Mastery demands high, not low, commitment.
I’d suggest that the genre’s current conception of “casualness” suggests informality. If core or hardcore games are “formal” in the sense that they require adherence to complex gameplay and social conventions, then casual games are “informal” in the sense that they do not require such strict adherence. Informality is a kind of “dressing down” of an otherwise more “proper” gaming practice. But informality also underscores the likelihood of regular, repetitive engagement with that practice. This is the casual of casual dress or casual Friday, both of which articulate a respite from the formality of business or social attire and mannerisms. Casual Friday is a repetitive, habitual casualness: come as you are, but expect to do it every week.
Applied to games, casual as informality characterizes the notions of pick-up play common in casual games while still calling for repetition and mastery. This is why casual games can value both short session duration and high replayability or addictiveness. Casual games may allow short session play time, but they demand high total playtime, and therefore high total time commitment on the part of the player. Low commitment represents the primary unexplored design space in the casual games market.
Most game developers are “core gamers”, well versed in the complex logics of resource allocation. We tend to privilege simplicity and emergence in games, favoring sophisticated experiences that create new challenges each time we play. And perhaps one well-balanced, mastery-style casual game is less financially risky than many throwaway experiences. But such an attitude ignores the pleasures of the fleeting, the transitory, the impermanent. Casual games, perhaps, can do more by doing less.
Ghozland, D. (2007) Designing for Motivation Gamasutra (1419) Retrieved June 6th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1419/designing_for_motivation.php
The player has to “believe” in the game, identify himself with something and quickly get one’s bearings.
The tutorial is essential to guide the player in this development. This is an interactive part where the player becomes acquainted with the game. In general, the tutorial should be the first level(s) where the basics are taught; however, this should not be apparent. Motivated by his need to learn and to understand, the player will be even more receptive if the tutorial seems to be a “natural way to go”. A tutorial that only enumerates rules and controls is absolutely anti-immersive and not very motivating.
We have to offer challenges to the player in order to entertain him and test him along with rewards that would motivate him to continue playing. Motivating the player is also to understand his needs with the purpose of fulfilling them. It is thus to know but also “to control” the progress of his needs in order to increase them, vary them and modify them from the beginning till the end of the game.
A reward can take several forms but it must be in correlation with the universe and with the player’s expectations. A reward is related to a challenge, a test or an effort, and thus must be proportional to the difficulty to obtain it.
In general, shoot’em up and beat’em up style games are based on the player state P. The player’s characteristics (character, ship, etc.) are upgradeable but are not permanent. Everything the player can acquire is temporary. He can lose his bonuses at the end of the level or when he dies. The player’s objective is to keep his strength as high and as long as possible to defeat the final boss.
The need N of the player is high, and he has to increase his strength P through bonuses and upgrades. Challenge expectation C is directly linked to P: weak when the player has no upgrade and strong when he acquires enough bonuses. The reward R is represented by a consequent increase of fire power and hence by the decrease of the difficulty.
Here are 3 examples of the management of the motivation commonly used that will well illustrate the PNRC mechanic and its advantages.
The score system is a good way of how to manage the motivation. It is an integral part of a reward system, which allows both rewarding and confirming the success of the player (R). This goes from encouragement to applause, from score bonuses to experience points.
The player is rewarded by points and/or by ranking. The score determines the progression, and the bonus rewards the performance. The player creates a logical system where the game universe is organized and structured in form of point values. The difficulty of the challenge is measured by the number of points it brings and vice-versa. The player is then pushed to bigger and bigger challenges (C) in order to gain more points.
The system is an additional layer of the challenge/reward mechanic. Challenges (C) are trials where in order to progress the player must first successfully finish previous trials. The principle is that the player is in front of a locked door and he needs a key to open it. In order to succeed in this challenge he needs first to find this key (N) which, however, is a reward (R) in a different challenge. The key then becomes both the need and the reward and thus increases the motivation to gain it.
Giving a choice to the player increases the possibilities of both the game and gameplay. Motivating is also used to increase the player’s chances to find what he is looking for (N). Being able to apprehend the challenge before the confrontation is an enormous advantage. The fact that the player can prepare himself for the confrontation (C) is in itself a very motivating element.
Also, having even a partial knowledge of the reward before the challenge is quite interesting. The player can avoid the frustration of discovering a non satisfying reward or he can strive to gain a reward (R) that motivates him.
I am talking about positive motivation that pushes the player forward to a feeling of accomplishment. However, there are opposite motivations based on negative characteristics as well, such as addiction, alienation, anger, frustration, etc. It can be interesting to exploit these feelings sometimes, for deeper needs, but to build a complete system based on this would be destructive. At the end, the player would be left feeling bitter and would be repelled by the game.
With score system, key system and multi-choice, the motivation loop is a loop of positive reinforcement that feeds itself. The player is immersed in the game and pushed forward. He will live through a motivating experience.
Duffy, J. (2006) GDC: Top 10 Video Game Research Findings Gamasutra (2645) Retrieved June 6th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2645/gdc_top_10_video_game_research_.php
10. How does music impact a player’s effectiveness?
Cassidy, Gianna, et al. The Effects of Aggressive and Relaxing Popular Music on Driving
9. What do players really think about voice chat and its usefulness in gameplay?
Number 9, by K. Hew, M. R. Gibbs, and G. Wadley of The University of Melbourne, uncovered aural feedback that players actually found disruptive, such as noise, speech not intended for them, and trash talk. Poor voice chat usability, in other words, hinders the players’ attempts to be social, subverting the very goal of voice chat. Consalvo explains that the research participants slowly could adapt to the ambient and distracting noises, but usually removed their headsets when the sounds became “too troublesome.” If developers choose to use voice chat, she advises it be targeted in a way that’s very specific to the game.
Hew, Kevin, Gibbs, Martin and Wadley, Greg. Usability and sociability of the Xbox Live voice
7. Does the presence of other players make an online game more or less immersive?
Campanella Bracken, Cheryl, et al. Online video games and gamers’ sensations of spatial,
4. What strategies do gamers invent to communicate to other players in online games, and can games be better designed to support these strategies?
T. Manninen and T. Kujanpaa of University of Oulu, Finland, in the number 4 study looked at Battlefield 1942. McGonigal, strongly suggesting that developers read Manninen and Kujanpaa’s work in its entirety, is particularly fascinated by their area of research. This ethnographic study compiled data on how players gave cues to one another in the game and found players wanted to communicate in ways that the game did not support. Players wanted to coordinate with their teammates in ways that were not supported by the game mechanics. For example, players were unable to gesture to one another or make other non-verbal cues. They also could not interact with other players without violent physical contact. McGonigal notes that the workaround strategies players invent, such as pointing with weapons instead of pointing with hands or arms, are still limiting. Because players are already inventing ways to communicate in these alternative ways, McGonigal says developers need to seriously explore these possibilities to better meet their needs.
Manninen, Tony and Kujanpää, Tomi. The Hunt for Collaborative War Gaming – CASE:
3. Can alternative controllers, like eye tracking devices, offer a PC gaming experience that is more fun and involving than mouse control?
Number 3, conducted by Erika Jonsson at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, found players enjoyed playing Half-Life more when they used an eye-tracking device combined with their mouse control. “Use of eye-tracking could be a successful addition to your game, provided it has a useful function and is properly play-tested,” says Consalvo. Participants in the study actually earned higher scores in the game when they used the eye-tracking device.
Jönsson, Erika. If looks could kill: An evaluation of eye tracking in computer games. Master’s
1. How do game events marking success versus failure affect a player’s level of engagement?
Failure is remarkably important to game players. That’s what Niklas Ravaj et al. from the Helsinki School of Economics found when they compiled their research. Using the game Super Monkey Ball 2 for GameCube, they examined how player success and failure affected the player’s level of engagement. McGonigal calls their findings “counter-intuitive,” noting the participants felt more pleasure and excitement in active failure than in success. Passive failures, on the other hand, leave players feeling less engaged. So the ways in which developers make failure possible—either active or passive—will have a significant effect on how players receive the game. “It didn’t matter that within the game [the players] were doing really terribly,” says McGonigal. “There’s a certain satisfaction of sending a monkey into space.”
Ravaja, Niklas, et al. The Psychophysiology of Video Gaming: Phasic Emotional Responses
Wilson, G. (2006) Off with their HUDs!: Rethinking the Heads-Up Display in Console game design Gamasutra (2538) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2538/off_with_their_huds_rethinking_.php
“What is a HUD?” A HUD is simply a collection of persistent onscreen elements whose purpose is to indicate player status. HUD elements can be used to show, among many other things, how much health the player has, in which direction the player is heading, or where the player ranks in a race. This makes the HUD an invaluable method of conveying information to the player during a game. It is an accepted shorthand, a direct pipeline from the developer to the end-user.
However, millions of high-definition televisions have an Achilles heel that can hinder developers as well: burn-in. Burn-in can occur on different types of phosphor-based HDTVs, including plasma and traditional rear-projection units; it is caused by persistent onscreen elements that, over time, create a ghost image on the screen even after they are no longer shown. Hmm… persistent onscreen elements? Like a HUD? The short answer is yes—traditional HUDs can pose a risk to many who play console games for extended periods of time on their HDTVs.
Increasingly sophisticated home theater systems have helped create a sense of immersion for those that have them. More detailed graphics and more refined storytelling techniques can also draw a player into a rich and complex game world. However, nothing screams “this is just a game” louder than an old-fashioned HUD. It is not a part of the game world; it is an artificial overlay that is efficient, but often distracts the player from the environment in which he or she is immersed.
As video games attempt to reach new audiences beyond the core gamer market, developers are realizing the need to simplify interface design. While hardcore gamers might not be intimidated by numerous status bars and gauges onscreen, a casual gamer is much more likely to feel overwhelmed. Gamers looking for a “pick up and play” experience are not inclined to spend time figuring out what all those bars and gauges are for. The simpler and more intuitive the interface, the more accessible the game can be to non-traditional gamers.
So how do you replace the information provided in the HUD (in an FPL) (well presumably the article goes on to discuss this but my immediate reaction is to either have the player being able to pull out a PDA which provides this information or display it more subtly in images/clocks?/screens on walls in the space they are in – these wouldn’t be everywhere but frequent enough to keep them up dated. Another option would simply be to be able to turn the HUD on and off with an assigned keystroke.
Many elements found on a typical HUD are there not out of necessity, but out of convention; they represent a sort of “info overkill” that, for the vast majority of players, has no impact on gameplay at all. For every piece of information you offer the player, ask, “Is this information essential to the game experience?”
Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360) provides a good example of eliminating one type of unnecessary information. Although the game does feature some elaborate HUD elements, it’s also notable for what it doesn’t feature: a visible health meter. It seems illogical for a first-person shooter to not include a health meter of some sort; and yet, the game plays beautifully, relying on a very simple and intuitive visual cue that warns the player when health is dangerously low: the screen periphery turns red and pulses.
In a racing game such as Project Gotham Racing 3 (Xbox 360), the “in-car” view during a race allows for an entirely immersive experience that also incorporates player information (such as speed) directly into the environment via the car dashboard.
In Doom 3 (Xbox), while a player’s weapon ammunition count generally shows up as an overlay in the lower right corner of the screen, weapons like the chaingun include the ammunition count as a readout directly on the weapon model. When designing a futuristic FPS, there’s no reason why a developer couldn’t just put an ammo count display directly on every weapon model from the get-go.
In a third-person game, player health and/or damage indication can be shown in ways other than through a health meter. In many survival horror games like Eternal Darkness (Gamecube), player health—both physical and mental—is clearly reflected in the player-character model’s onscreen appearance and movements. This can be accomplished through texture, animation, and even camera work. These indicators may not seem initially to be as precise as a counter or bar, but if players are given enough distinctive indicators, the process can become intuitive very quickly.
Another way to convey player status info is through audio cues. This is an often underutilized method that can either reinforce a visual cue or offer a unique message that is not easily shown visually. For example, in Halo (Xbox), when a player’s armor loses shield protection, an audio warning reinforces the flashing visual cue of the health status bar. This allows a player to know he or she is in imminent danger without having to refer to the HUD. In Project: Snowblind (PlayStation 2), if a player dawdles instead of advancing toward the location of an objective, non-player characters offer spoken dialogue that encourages the player toward the objective.
Since HUD elements are meant to convey player status information, one simple solution is to only show an element when the player status changes. For example, a health indicator does not generally need to be shown unless the player is either gaining or losing health. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (Xbox) uses just such a health meter, to great effect. By the same token, God of War (PlayStation 2) features a HUD that disappears when the player is not near an enemy or performing an attack move.
The HUD elements that pose the most risk of burn-in are those that seldom change, such as graphical borders. These static elements also offer the least benefit to the player, since they are generally decorative and do not contain information relevant to the game.
Gee, J. (2004) Learning by Design: Games as learning machines Gamasutra (2056) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2056/learning_by_design_games_as_.php
So the question is: How do good game designers manage to get new players to learn long, complex, and difficult games?
Another answer that is not interesting, at least initially, is that some good games appear to be made only for people who are already adept game players. These games can be uninviting or frustrating for newcomers.
The answer that is interesting is this: the designers of many good games have hit on profoundly good methods of getting people to learn and to enjoy learning. Furthermore, it turns out that these methods are similar in many respects to cutting-edge principles being discovered in research on human learning
In the end, I have to admit, though, that I believe game designers can make worlds where people can have meaningful new experiences, experiences that their places in life would never allow them to have or even experiences no human being has ever had before. These experiences have the potential to make people smarter and more thoughtful.
Learning in Good Games
There are many good principles of learning built into good computer and video games. I list a baker’s dozen below.
Principle: Good learning requires that learners feel like active agents (producers) not just passive recipients (consumers).
Games: In good games, players feel that their actions and decisions-and not just or primarily the designers’ actions and decisions-are co-creating the world they are in and the experiences they are having.
Principle: Different styles of learning work better for different people. People cannot be agents of their own learning if they cannot make decisions about how their learning will work. At the same time, they should be able (and encouraged) to try new styles.
Games: Good games achieve this goal in one (or both) of two ways. In some games, players are able to customize the game play to fit their learning and playing styles. In others, the game is designed to allow different styles of learning and playing to work.
Principle: Deep learning requires an extended commitment and such a commitment is powerfully recruited when people take on a new identity they value and in which they become heavily invested-whether this be a child “being a scientist doing science” in a classroom or an adult taking on a new role at work.
Games: Good games offer players identities that trigger a deep investment on the part of the player. They achieve this goal in one of two ways. Some games offer a character so intriguing that players want to inhabit the character and can readily project their own fantasies, desires, and pleasures onto the character. Other games offer a relatively empty character whose traits the player must determine, but in such a way that the player can create a deep and consequential life history in the game world for the character.
Principle: Cognitive research suggests that for humans perception and action are deeply inter-connected. Thus, fine-grained action at a distance-for example, when a person is manipulating a robot at a distance or watering a garden via a web cam on the Internet-causes humans to feel as if their bodies and minds have stretched into a new space. More generally, humans feel expanded and empowered when then can manipulate powerful tools in intricate ways that extend their area of effectiveness.
Games: Computer and video games inherently involve action at a (albeit virtual) distance. The more and better a player can manipulate a character, the more the player invests in the game world. Good games offer characters that the player can move intricately, effectively, and easily through the world. Beyond characters, good games offer the player intricate, effective, and easy manipulation of the world’s objects, objects which become tools for carrying out the player’s goals.
Principle: Given human creativity, if learners face problems early on that are too free-form or too complex, they often form creative hypotheses about how to solve these problems, but hypotheses that don’t work well for later problems (even for simpler ones, let alone harder ones). They have been sent down a “garden path”. The problems learners face early on are crucial and should be well-designed to lead them to solutions that work well, not just on these problems, but as aspects of the solutions to later, harder problems.
Games: Problems in good games are well ordered. In particular, early problems are designed to lead players to form good guesses about how to proceed when they face harder problems later on in the game. In this sense, earlier parts of a good game are always looking forward to later parts.
Principle: Learning works best when new challenges are pleasantly frustrating in the sense of being felt by learners to be at the outer edge of, but within, their “regime of competence”. That is, these challenges feel hard, but doable. Furthermore, learners feel-and get evidence-that their effort is paying off in the sense that they can see, even when they fail, how and if they are making progress.
Games: Good games adjust challenges and give feedback in such a way that different players feel the game is challenging but doable and that their effort is paying off. Players get feedback that indicates whether they are on the right road for success later on and at the end of the game. When players lose to a boss, perhaps multiple times, they get feedback about the sort of progress they are making so that at least they know if and how they are moving in the right direction towards success.
Cycles of Expertise
Principle: Expertise is formed in any area by repeated cycles of learners practicing skills until they are nearly automatic, then having those skills fail in ways that cause the learners to have to think again and learn anew. Then they practice this new skill set to an automatic level of mastery only to see it, too, eventually be challenged.
Games: Good games create and support the cycle of expertise, with cycles of extended practice, tests of mastery of that practice, then a new challenge, and then new extended practice. This is, in fact, part of what constitutes good pacing in a game.
Information “On Demand” and “Just in Time”
Principle: Human beings are quite poor at using verbal information (i.e., words) when given lots of it out of context and before that can see how it applies in actual situations. They use verbal information best when it is given “just in time” (when they can put it to use) and “on demand” (when they feel they need it).
Games: Good games give verbal information-for example, the sorts of information that is often in a manual-”just in time” and “on demand” in a game. Players don’t need to read a manual to start, but can use the manual as a reference after they have played a while and the game has already made much of the verbal information in the manual concrete through the player’s experiences in the game.
Example: System Shock 2 spreads its manual out over the first few levels in little green kiosks that give players-if they want it-brief pieces of information that will soon thereafter be visually instantiated or put to use by the player.
Principle: In the real world, a fish tank can be a little simplified eco-system that clearly displays some critical variables and their interactions that are otherwise obscured in the highly complex eco-system in the real world. Using the term metaphorically, fish tanks are good for learning: if we create simplified systems, stressing a few key variables and their interactions, learners who would otherwise be overwhelmed by a complex system (e.g., Newton’s Laws of Motion operating in the real world) get to see some basic relationships at work and take the first steps towards their eventual mastery of the real system (e.g., they begin to know what to pay attention to).
Games: Fish tanks are stripped down versions of the game. Good games offer players fish tanks, either as tutorials or as their first level or two. Otherwise it can be difficult for newcomers to understand the game as a whole system, since the often can’t see the forest because of the trees.
Example: Rise of Nations‘ tutorial scenarios (like “Alfred the Great” or “The 100 Years War”) are wonderful fish tanks, allowing the player to play scaled down versions of the game that render key elements and relationships salient.
Principle: Sandboxes in the real world are safe havens for children that still look and feel like the real world. Using the term metaphorically, sandboxes are good for learning: if learners are put into a situation that feels like the real thing, but with risks and dangers greatly mitigated, they can learn well and still feel a sense of authenticity and accomplishment.
Games: Sandboxes are game play much like the real game, but where things cannot go too wrong too quickly or, perhaps, even at all. Good games offer players, either as tutorials or as their first level or two, sandboxes. You can’t expect newcomers to learn if they feel too much pressure, understand too little, and feel like failures.
Skills as Strategies
Principle: There is a paradox involving skills: People don’t like practicing skills out of context over and over again, since they find such skill practice meaningless, but, without lots of skill practice, they cannot really get any good at what they are trying to learn. People learn and practice skills best when they see a set of related skills as a strategy to accomplish goals they want to accomplish.
Games: In good games, players learn and practice skill packages as part and parcel of accomplishing things they need and want to accomplish. They see the skills first and foremost as a strategy for accomplishing a goal and only secondarily as a set of discrete skills.
Example: Games like Rise of Nations, Goblin Commander: Unleash the Hoard, and Pikmin all do a good job at getting players to learn skills while paying attention to the strategies these skills are used to pull off. Rise of Nations even has skill tests that package certain skills that go together, show clearly how they enact a strategy, and allow the player to practice them as a functional set.
Principle: People learn skills, strategies, and ideas best when they see how they fit into an overall larger system to which they give meaning. In fact, any experience is enhanced when we understand how it fits into a larger meaningful whole.
Games: Good games help players see and understand how each of the elements in the game fit into the overall system of the game and its genre (type). Players get a feel for the “rules of the game”-that is, what works and what doesn’t, how things go or don’t go in this type of world.
Meaning As Action Image
Principle: Humans do not usually think through general definitions and logical principles. Rather, they think through experiences they have had. You don’t think and reason about weddings on the basis of generalities, but in terms of the wedding you have been to and head about. It’s your experiences that give weddings and the word “wedding’ meaning(s). Furthermore, for humans, words and concepts have their deepest meanings when they are clearly tied to action in the world.
Games: This is, of course, the heart and soul of computer and video games (though it is amazing how many educational games violate this principle). Even barely adequate games make the meanings of words and concepts clear through experiences the player has and activities the player carries out, not through lectures, talking heads, or generalities. Good games can achieve marvelous effects here, making even philosophical points concretely realized in image and action.
When we think of games, we think of fun. When we think of learning we think of work. Games show us this is wrong. They trigger deep learning that is itself part and parcel of the fun. It is what makes good games deep. If games are to stay complex and yet sell to more and more people, then learning as a lens for game designers may be significant.
Kent, S. (2004) Manhunt to Mortal Kombat: The use and future use of violence in games Gamasutra (2056) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2056/learning_by_design_games_as_.php
For people to get into the games, they need to be aroused,” says Dr. David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family. “People might not get aroused watching a boring basketball game; but if the game is back-and-forth, seesawing into the last minute, then there is all kinds of interest in that game. I think that arousal and engagement go together.”
Walsh, whose organization creates an annual videogame report card monitoring the progress and enforcement of the ESRB rating system, sees violence as one of the most potent ways to immerse players in games. “I believe that is why there is so much of it. I think that the thing that is lacking is the creativity that is needed to engage the player without resorting to the tried-and-true recipe of violence.”
When discussing violence in games, terms like “comic” and “cartoon” come up often. According to Vance, the violence in many of the T-rated games is cartoon-like. “I think of it as being like punctuation, like an exclamation point,” says Boon. “It’s not necessary for getting your point across, but it heightens things.”
Sylvester, T. (2005) Decision-based gameplay design Gamasutra (2264) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2264/decisionbased_gameplay_design.php
Decisions are ultimately what make a game. The only thing that separates gaming from books, movies, plays, and music is the element of decision-making.
Analysis of the best decision-making games reveals some interesting correlations between game fun and the type of decisions presented to the player. These correlations are:
2. Tangible and Obvious Results
The process of designing a decision opportunity is not all a designer needs to do. The aftermath of a decision-making event is important as well. A player’s enjoyment of a game can be enhanced greatly by the amount and type of feedback that they receive from the game as a result of their decisions. This is why impressive explosion, gunfire and blood effects are important in FPS games, or why good puzzle games often include flashy effects to mark important events. Seeing an enemy die spectacularly is a reward for a decision well made, as is hearing the trumpet call at the end of a puzzle game well won.
Each decision can thus be evaluated not only on its difficulty and uniqueness, but by the power of the feedback that results from it. The same difficult, unique choice can be gratifying and interesting, or rather pedestrian based on the strength and tangibility of the feedback it produces.
There are many ways of delivering feedback to the player: visual, auditory, narrative, constructive, and so on. Some simple examples of feedback are the flashy effects that appear in puzzle games when the player makes points, the blood sprays in FPS games (though there is also a strong element of role-playing here), the accumulation of wealth or valuable items or character traits, the forward movement of a story or formation of an alliance, and so on. Feedback design is a well-developed and generally well-understood field of game design.
Multiplayer games, interestingly, have an inherent advantage when it comes to rewarding a player’s good decision. When someone else is on the other end of the line, winning a conflict comes with automatic positive feedback. Defeating a real live human being in any kind of contest, even anonymously over the internet, is a reward in itself. Good feelings associated with beating human opponents are a well-developed part of human biology. This, in addition to the uniqueness of human opponents, is one of the things that have made multiplayer gaming so compelling.
Decision Recognition, Evaluation, and Design
Game designers need to not only understand how decisions create a computer gaming experience, but also need to be able to create an experience that includes lots of unique, difficult decisions with strong feedback. Creating good decision-based games requires three abilities: The ability to recognize a decision point, the ability to evaluate how fun a decision is, and the ability to design fun decision-making play without compromising other aspects of the game (i.e. without requiring lots of new assets or making the game too complex and difficult to learn).
The first step is to recognize all the decision points. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially in a well-designed game which presents decisions very frequently. When reading a design document, try to imagine playing the game. You are essentially emulating the gameplay in a very inaccurate way using your brain. Think about what’s going on, what you know, what you don’t know, the challenges being presented, and the rewards sought. Go through the gameplay, step-by-step, instead of imagining the gameplay in an abstract way, or only considering the most interesting parts. Skip nothing; what you skip will most likely be a boring decision void. Get a feel for how much real time everything is taking. Finally, while doing all of this, you must recognize the decision points as the design presents them. Develop a feel for how often decision points come up. If your game is based on gameplay, but isn’t presenting a lot of decisions, you have a problem and you need to re-evaluate some aspects of your design.
Once you have an idea of how many decisions the player is making, and what they are, you can begin by evaluating those decisions. Consider each decision point separately, and determine how difficult each decision is, and how likely it is to recur. If the decision is easy it is worth little. If it recurs a lot, it becomes easy and thus is worth little.
Each decision must also be evaluated in terms of cost of implementation. To implement a decision system takes a certain amount of time spent by members of the development team. Many decision-creating systems also suck up CPU cycles. Another very important cost that can be associated with a decision system is the complexity that it adds to the game. A game element that requires the player to know something, or have some skill, or at worst, bind and memorize a key or virtual button, is a game element that is costing something.
Designing decisions is the trickiest part of the process, because the very nature of good decisions is that they cannot be directly defined. Decisions placed directly in the game will either recur too often and become non-decisions, or will only be seen a small number of times. An example of a directly-placed decision would be a situation where a player is presented with two separate attack routes which were both explicitly designed. One route will inevitably be more advantageous for any given player’s playing style. Once the player tries both routes, he learns which route is better. Thus, if the exact same routes are presented to him again, this becomes a non-decision, and the player’s brain becomes disengaged. All explicitly-designed decision points have this problem of staticity. The solution, of course, is to create a gameplay system that dynamically generates emergent decision points.
The goal with emergent decisions is to avoid explicitly defined decisions, and instead create a set of rules, characters, elements, and interaction rules, with a defined goal, such that interesting decisions will emerge from the system. Let me make this very clear: Game designers should rarely be designing decisions directly. The job of the game designer is to develop gameplay systems that present emergent decisions. Only emergent decisions can be unique over a long period of time. Static decisions cannot be relied on to provide gameplay interest, though it should be noted that they cannot be eliminated altogether.
If decisions aren’t part of your game, you should be making a movie.
Michael, D. and Chen, S. (2005) Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games Gamasutra (2433) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2433/proof_of_learning_assessment_in_.php
(Multiple choice questions) MCQs are not always the best choice, though. While MCQs can accurately gauge memorization and retention of a set of facts, they are hardly the best way to gauge whether the student is following a process correctly. This is a notable shortcoming because some disciplines, such as advanced math, are more about the processes used to reach the answer and less about the answer itself. Multiple choice math tests can only provide a list of possible answers and have no easy mechanism for determining whether the student figured the answer out properly or merely guessed well.
While a review of any collection of edutainment software reveals that MCQs can be easily tacked on to a video game, doing so does not take advantage of any of the features that make serious games compelling: engagement of the player, self-motivated progress through the material, and fun. Serious games represent an opportunity to move past this simplistic, narrowly focused type of testing. In fact, they can do so by combining other forms of traditional assessment with methods modern video games now use on a regular basis.
…even video games designed for nothing more serious than hour upon hour of mindless entertainment have a learning objective, at least at the beginning: teach the player how to play the game. These games also employ pass/fail mechanisms no less rigorous than many college entrance exams.
Tutorials present the player with the basics of how to control and interact with the game and then test the player on this information with a series of levels or missions. Tutorial missions often introduce only a few new game features or play elements at a time to avoid overwhelming the player. By the time the player has completed these first few missions, he or she has “learned” the essentials of the game and can be bombarded with ever greater in-game challenges. This process even continues past the tutorial, as later levels and missions in the game become more and more difficult.
Another form of assessment in entertainment games is scoring. Many games even offer comparisons between players with high score lists. These high scores can be a source of bragging rights for the player, but, more importantly, the scoring system teaches the player what is important within the game. A positive score indicates a good choice, a negative score a bad choice, and no score at all indicates that the attached action is probably unimportant. Though few classrooms stress the level of competition seen in most video games, the similarity to the posted test grades is unmistakable. In the same way, the education strategy of “teaching to the test” clearly identifies to the student what is important to learn and what can be ignored just like in-game scores do in entertainment games.
Both the medium of serious games itself and its newness create certain challenges that can make assessment difficult:
According to Ferguson, too many people assume that any game will teach and be helpful regardless of the software’s actual capability. The core questions to ponder, he says, are:
Because serious games have such challenges, serious game developers have turned to more sophisticated assessment methods. Of note, there are three main types of assessment used in serious games:
Unfortunately, the mere criterion of successfully completing the game falls short on a number of fronts. Besides the possibility of students cheating or exploiting holes in the system (a time-honored tradition in video games, but considered in a less positive light in classroom settings), it’s important to know whether the student learned the material in the game, or just learned the game and how to beat it.
In-process assessment is analogous to teacher observations of the student as the student performs the task or takes the test. In advanced math and science courses, for example, students are required to write out each step of the process they followed. Erasures are often disallowed in favor of drawing a line through incorrect steps and conclusions so that errors in the process can be more easily seen by the teachers. This is because the errors and corrections can be valuable indicators, sometimes more so than just giving the correct answer.
Serious games, or more specifically serious video games, offer logging and tracking potential that has seldom been available or even possible in traditional classrooms. Video games have long had logging features that allow players to replay their performance in the games. Modern games have even begun to learn from the player’s actions within the game, adjusting storylines, strategies, monster strength, and other variables to adjust to what the player has done and is doing. Serious games can take advantage of these features. For instance, Offshore Safety Initiative, located in Houston, Texas, performs detailed logging in its safety simulation software, tracking such data as:
Teacher evaluation is a combination of both completion assessment and in-process assessment. Despite the predictions (or fears) of some, serious games aren’t going to be replacing teachers anytime soon, and probably never. To that end, serious games should include tools to assist teachers in their evaluation of students. Such tools can include homework and assignment controls, grade tracking, reporting, and more. Like the process notes mentioned above, with detailed logging, properly presented, teachers can evaluate their students’ mastery of the material. The more data that is available, the less subjective that evaluation needs to be.
An important feature of this built-in assessment is the way the game adapts to the player’s behavior and gives the player the appropriate feedback. Players come to understand the connection between their in-game actions and the outcomes. Meanwhile, the teacher receives detailed assessment results to properly gauge the student’s progress. In addition, the assessment engine leads the student through a series of qualitative questions such as “You just choose to do X. What was your basis for this decision? Why did you not choose Y?” Thus, the teacher has a lot of information available to judge how well the student really does understand the material being taught.All of this creates what Corti calls “authentic learning.” Since the learning in the game is personally meaningful and relevant, the serious game provides the student with the opportunity to practice and apply skills needed in the real world.
Kane, B. (2003) 34 Ways to put emotion into games Gamasutra (2884) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2884/34_ways_to_put_emotions_into_games.php
The key, says Freeman, is to recognize that emotional power is not simply a matter of writing good dialogue, but comes from integrating emotional content throughout the structure of a game
Emotioneering involves what he phrased “the artful application of exact techniques,” and said that being aware of these techniques early in the development process would enable writers, producers, and game designers alike to inveigh their games with the emotional complexity that is currently missing in the industry.
1. NPC Interesting Techniques. These are techniques which make (major) NPCs dimensional and fresh, and thus interesting. The key here is to give each major NPC between three and five distinguishing inner traits which define the ways in which they see, speak, think, or act.
2. NPC Deepening Techniques. These are techniques that give major NPCs emotional depth and complexity. Many of Freeman’s techniques are divided along this Interesting/Deepening dichotomy – a split that Freeman basically equated to “breadth vs. depth.” Breadth comes from having a diversity of traits; depth comes from the degree to which those traits are emotionally penetrating. Examples for this category included deep regret, hidden secrets, and inner wisdom.
7. NPC to NPC Chemistry Techniques. Techniques which, with very little reliance on dialogue, make it feel like two NPCs have “chemistry” – that is, that they belong together as friends or lovers. For instance, two characters might think the same way, get into little spats, or talk about each other fondly when the other isn’t around.
10. NPC Rooting Interest Techniques. These are techniques which make us “root for,” or identify with, a given character. Examples: NPCs that find themselves in danger, that perform acts of self-sacrifice, or that are members of the player’s own group, team, or party.
15. Emotionally Complex Moments and Situations. Ways to put the player in the middle of situations that are emotionally complex. (Example: you’ve created an outlawed robot killing machine, knowing you may have to fight your own creation later in the game.)
21. First-Person Deepening Techniques. Techniques which actually give the player more emotional depth by the end of the game. Branching pathways and multiple viewpoints have this effect.
Freeman, D. (2002) Four ways to use symbols to add emotional depth to games Gamasutra (20020724) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20020724/freeman_01.htm
Remember in Braveheart when Mel Gibson charged into battle holding a handkerchief his wife gave him before she was murdered? That handkerchief is a symbol. This article will explore four different ways to use symbols to evoke emotional response from an audience.
A big part of successful communication between a writer and his or her audience is writing outside of the audience’s conscious awareness. No one expects the game player to pick out every sound used in a game’s sound design, nor every instrument utilized in a piece of music, nor every tiny shadow. So too, an extraordinary amount of what a writer does is designed to affect a game player emotionally but not be consciously noticed. This article will focus on the use of symbols, which are almost always employed in a way so that they’re just on the edge, or preferably just outside, of a game player’s conscious awareness. A workable rule of thumb is that no more than 25 percent of the players who come upon a symbol should be consciously aware that it actually is a symbol.
Symbol Type #1: Symbol of a Character ’s Condition or Change in Condition
This use of symbols is what I call a scene-deepening technique, because you use it in a specific scene and might never use the same symbol again. Its use can be either visual or verbal, meaning that there must be either something visual on screen or something said by one of the characters that reflects what an on-screen character is going through emotionally.
Hypothetical game example #1
Hypothetical game example #2
After great effort and many struggles and bat-tles, you have attained the highest rank a warrior can attain. At that moment, an eagle flies diagonally overhead in the sky. It’s a symbol of your lofty achievement. It’s important to reiterate here that it doesn’t matter if no one consciously notices the impact of these symbols. They deepen the experience nonetheless.
Symbol Type #2: Symbolic SubplotUsually at least one of the characters (although sometimes more) in a story has what I call an emotional fear, limitation, block, or wound. Quite often, this person is the lead character, although not necessarily. In the first Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker had to learn who he was (a Jedi knight), Han Solo had to learn responsibility and how to act as a member of a group (instead of operating solo), Princess Leia had to learn to be vulnerable in love, Obi-Wan had to learn he could still make a difference, and C-3PO had to learn courage. Each of these characters was forced to confront their respective fears, limitations, blocks, and wounds (FLBWs, for short).
A character’s path of growth through his or her FLBW is a rocky one; quite often the character resists growing. A character’s path of growth through the FLBW is called a character arc.
Some writers insert a symbol into the story that represents the character’s arc. That is, as the character changes and grows, the symbol changes right along with the character. Therefore, a symbolic subplot is a plot-deepening technique because it continues throughout all or most of the plot (unlike the symbol of the character’s condition or change in condition, which occurs in a single scene or a small part of the plot).
Using this Technique in Games
This question takes us right to the cut-ting edge of story-based games. To explore all the ways in which game designers are tackling or could tackle this problem would be an article in itself, if not several.
Furthermore, it opens up another problem. On one hand, how do you tempt players into seeing themselves in a role and making decisions appropri-ate to that role? On the other hand, how do you allow players to play the game the way they want to play?
Symbol Type #4: A Symbol That Takes on More and More Emotional Associations
This is another plot-deepening technique, as it too tends to extend throughout an entire plot. It can be either a visual object or a verbal phrase. One symbol of this type is a very familiar one: the American flag. What does the flag mean? It means a lot of things: democracy; courage; the right to live the life you choose; freedom of speech and religion; a nation ruled by law; Yankee ingenuity; and more. Yet when we look at the flag, we don’t consciously think of all these things, we just experience the emotions that these associations evoke in us.
When a symbol reappears over and over again during emotionally charged moments, some of the emotion rubs off on the symbol, and the symbol thus takes on more and more emotional associations as the plot advances.
Johnson, B. (2001) Great Expectations: Building a player vocabulary Gamasutra (3052) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3052/great_expectations_building_a_.php
At the start of a game, we can make some basic assumptions about what the player knows. These assumptions can be based on everything from movies, books, and other games, to the way things work in reality. When a player hits a button to call an elevator, they expect the elevator to come to them so they can get on. If they jump off a high building they may take damage or die. If they stay underwater too long they may drown. The player comes to your game with a vast amount of knowledge that you can use.
As designers, we can carefully build a vocabulary of game mechanics and shape what the player knows about the environment, and when they know it. For example, when the player pushes a button to call an elevator, they simply expect the elevator to come to them so they can get on. This would be normal. However, you could imagine their surprise when the elevator suddenly comes crashing down with a group of screaming scientists on board. We get the element of surprise mixed in with a bit of humor creating a memorable experience for the player. More importantly, we’ve expanded the player’s understanding of what can happen in this environment.
Think of this little scenario: In one part of the game we introduce a simple hallway. In a section just after the hallway, we introduce monsters that drop down from certain types of ceiling tiles. Later, we introduce monsters that can break through closed doors. Now, can you imagine the feeling the player will have when they arrive at a long hallway that has the same grates on the floor, the same ceiling tiles that monsters have been known to drop from, and some doors where monster may be waiting to bash through? Think of the suspense that can be created in the player’s every step. This ability to manage and manipulate the player’s expectations is a powerful tool for a designer.
NPCs can commonly be used to provide player direction/goals, open doors, provide clues, develop the story, heal the player, serve as a hostage or an escort, join the player in combat, and even, at times, provide a good bit of comic relief. Each of these examples can be used on its own or in combination with other functionality to create interesting game scenarios.
Establishing numerous forms of resolution can also be a valuable part of the player’s vocabulary. Resolution can provide a sense of closure that can be used to let the player know when they are ready to move forward or when they’ve accomplished a certain goal.
If we place a complete set of objects (let’s use a set of armor as an example) in each thematic region of a level or game, the player will feel as though they have achieved a certain sense of resolution when they find each part of the set. Not only can this be used as a way of rewarding the player for exploring the areas thoroughly, but it also implies that they are ready to progress forward. The player has been taught that if they are missing a certain part of a set, there may be other parts of the world that they have not explored. We can further elaborate on the player’s expectations by providing some extra bonus that comes with having a complete set. It could be a good thing, a bad thing, or perhaps even a humorous thing. It’s up to the designer to make the choice and carefully craft the experience.
IGDA (2006) International Game Developers Association 2006 Casual Games White Paper retrieved June 8th, 2008 from http://www.igda.org/casual/IGDA_CasualGames_Whitepaper_2006.pdf
Casual Games: Games that generally involve less complicated game controls and overall complexity in
Hardcore, Core (Traditiona) Games: Games developed for and delivered on a dedicated game console
When you are in the business of casual games, you are reaching virtually all demographic
The term “casual games” is used to describe games that are easy to learn, utilize simple
Typical Gaming Patterns
Pick up and drop games multiple times per day.
Keeping the play and consumption patterns of this worldwide mass audience in mind,
3. Characteristics of Successful Games
1. Key Design Elements of Casual Games
1.3 Depth & Complexity
1.4 Rewarding Players
Of course, the casual game designer shouldn’t confuse rewards with simplicity of play. The
1.5 Showing Progress
.6 Forgiving Game Play
Many downloadable, single-player games take the path of a “realistic” look. But some have
The question is, where do Casual Games fit into this larger polemic? Do we operate under
• Artistic merit. If video game-making is an artistic medium, we should be able to use
Casual Gamers love Aztec themes, right?
iii Rules for creating a compelling story
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you convey it within a dialogue as the players are scaling a wall, or climbing a tree
2006 Casual Games White Paper
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constraints provided by a casual audience for new play styles, both as modifications of tried-
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2.9 Other Arcade Variants
This genre includes a variety of traditional arcade-style gameplay.
• Cosmic Bugs (Retro64)
Gold Miner Vegas Edition (Intermix Media)
Cosmic Bugs (Retro64)
While this list is by no means exhaustive, even a glance at the games available in the casual games
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Popular Examples of Card & Parlor Games:
Ancient TriPeaks (ToyBox Games)
Mahjong Garden to Go (Pogo) 2006 Casual Games White Paper
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2.7 Casual Sports Games
Simple sports games that are very forgiving and generally accessible to the widest
• Backspin Billiards (Pixelstorm)
Redline Rumble 2: Detonator (Atom Entertainment/Richard
This genre includes a variety of traditional playing-card games and parlor game
• Ancient TriPeaks (ToyBox Games)
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Popular Examples of System Management:
Cake Mania (Sandlot Games)
Fish Tycoon (Big Fish Games)
The player controls a paddle, and uses the paddle to ricochet a ball into a set of
• Bricks of Atlantis (ArcadeLab)
Bricks of Atlantis (ArcadeLab)
Shattera (Alexey Saenko) 2006 Casual Games White Paper
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2.4 Shape Manipulation
Players are presented with a empty container divided into different shapes, and a
• Mosaic: Tomb of Mystery (Reflexive)
Mosaic Tomb of Mystery (Reflexive)
Runic One (Puzzle Lab)
The player is put in charge of a small ecosystem of objects that interact in a variety
• Cake Mania (Sandlot Games)
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Magic Match (Codeminion/Oberon)
QBeez 2 (Skunk Studios)
A notable specific case in this genre is the word game. In this case, the rules of the
• Acropolis (Gamehouse)
Babel Deluxe (Zylom) 2006 Casual Games White Paper
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• Shape Manipulation
Players are faced with a grid of a limited variety of objects. The objective of the game
• Chuzzle (PopCap Games)
• The Da Vinci Code (Sony)
Popular Examples of Matching Games:
Chuzzle (PopCap Games)
The Davinci Code (Sony)
2.2 Finding Subsets I (Puzzle Games)
Players are given a number of objects, a timed end point manifested as a clock, and
• 10 Talismans (NevoSoft)
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Luxor: Amun Rising (MumboJumbo) uses a musical
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The following table illustrates the many areas where sound adds value to a game.
User Interface Typically these are just simple rollover, navigation, and click
Easter Eggs and
May 31 2008
McGrath, D. and Hill, D. (2004) UnrealTriage: A Game-based Simulation for Emergency Response Institute for Security Technology Studies, Dartmouth College. Retrieved 31st May 2008 from www.ists.dartmouth.edu/library/58.pdf
McGrath and Hill describe the process they went through in developing an emergency response simulator using the Unreal Tournament game engine – from design to development and some of the issues they confronted along the way – something which seems not a million miles away from what I’m trying to do.
“The simulation involves multiple
This is a great example of the usefulness of games in learning – particularly simulations – because they allow you to recreate situations that would either be expensive or dangerous.
“Synthetic environments can
They discuss the process of using the Unreal Tournament editor and working with APIs and plug-ins for other tools – something I’m avoiding so far for the large part with FPS Creator. There is also a reasonably detailed technical description of the technical process they went through in modelling the actual terrain of a New Hampshire airport for the game.
“First person shooter games are organized
It’s interesting to note that they have had to deal with some of the same issues that I have – namely trying to convert a tool/engine designed for making “shooter” games to another purpose.
The assumptions made by the designers of
Other unique issues arise in this regard as well:
“However, the interaction with the nozzle
In looking at further developments of the game, they are considering the need for cooperative play to simulate the process of carrying stretchers – a task sometimes undertaken by 4 people at once. (Good luck with that one They are also mindful of the AI of NonPlayer Characters (NPCs) by using them in a simulation for management of the emergency scene:
Improved NPC intelligence could include
Overall, they seem to have developed a pretty good understanding of what they are working with.
“Benefits include low user