Monday, March 19, 2012


Today you discussed various game definitions based on Jesper Juul's work and you learned how to pronounce the name of one of the most influential play theorists: Johan Huizinga. Also, we discussed the magic circle and how considering it can help you create radical games. Lastly, through the Madness session you got feedback from everyone in the room on your most recent Radical Game idea.

Homework for next Monday:

  1. Comment on the class below: what did you learn? How does it help you design more radical games?
  2. Prepare your game for Monday, it will be an ongoing game exhibition!
  3. You will also need a webpage and a video for your game. I said you will also need a paper, but for now, you do not need to write a full paper, but an abstract that you put on your webpage for the game please.

Here is how to write this abstract:

An abstract is usually <150 words and consists of 5 sentences:

  • Motivation:
    Why do we care about the game? This is where your learnings from gaining empathy comes in: games are always designed for a reason and for someone. Thinking about these might help articulate the motivation for your work.
    Example: Games that support exertion can help address the obesity epidemic.    
  • Problem statement:
    What problem are you trying to solve with your game? Even though games often do not seem to solve a problem, they do: this can be ranging from preventing the player from getting bored, to you opening designers' eyes on what games could be if they would only listening to you.
    Example: The problem with Exertion Games is that although people enjoy them, they do not play them for long enough to experience health benefits. 
  • Approach:
    How did you go about solving or making progress on the problem? You can answer this by articulating why the novelty of your game helps you make your point. Why did you have to create a new, novel game, instead of just buying one to solve your problem?
    Example: In order to address the problem, we designed an Exertion Game that supports long-term use to demonstrate that this is possible.  
  • Results:
    What's the answer? What have you learned from designing your radical game? This is your contribution.
    Example: Our experience of designing the game suggests that 3 aspects are important when designing for long-term use of exertion games: easy to understand high-scores, more bosses than in non-exertion games and offering players calorie counters. 
  • Conclusions:
    What are the implications of your answer? Is it going to change the world (unlikely), be a significant "win", be a nice hack, or simply serve as a road sign indicating that this path is a waste of time (all of the previous results are useful). Are your results general, potentially generalizable, or specific to a particular case?
    Example: In conclusion, our work can help designers create better exertion games, which means players profit more from the benefits of playing these games. 

Inspired by the advice on how to write a good abstract.

As an example, this is what Chad and Josh wrote for Bubble Popper (this is a bit too long):

Exertion games, digital games that involve physical effort, are becoming more popular. Although some of these games support social experiences, they do not consider nor support body contact, mostly due to technical limitations. We believe ignoring body contact as part of a social play experience limits the richness of exertion games. To explore this design space, we present Bubble Popper, an exertion game centred on a merged physical-virtual space that supports considering and facilitating body contact. This is achieved without the need for sensing body contact, hence Bubble Popper also demonstrates how to consider and facilitate body contact with very simple technology. Through reflecting on our design process and play observations we analysed what impact physical space, screen size and physical disparity between input and digital display can have on body contact and how to design games that aim to consider and facilitate it. Our results aid game designers creating richer exertion game experiences, supporting players profiting from the benefits of playing these games.


  1. Is this where we post our critical reflection for this week? Are we even supposed to do one this week? Oh well I'm putting it here anyway! >:D

    I was very interested by the topic of how the established educational authority and the pressures and risks placed on us as creative thinkers tend to force our thinking into a mold. I don't fully agree with it because I believe that any viable idea (whether derivative or not) still has an element of originality to it. Yes some games have more than others, but over time I think this adds up. Given time, after FPS after FPS I can see whole new game genres and play styles evolving. But that's just me.

    A point I wanted to raise when we were talking about how much research and involvement a designer has to have when making a game (e.g. The example given was having used a gun to make an FPS) was this: I believe that for the first FPS designers would have had to have had some experience with the activity (I.e. shooting a gun), but this would not be as necessary for designers who were producing the second, third or fourth generation of FPS. Instead I can see designers extrapolating from the initial game and adapting it for a game experience. For instance, in a real world war scenario I'm fairly sure that once shot, stabbed or generally wounded: a soldier wouldn't continue fighting, however in games this happens all the time. Although it would be cool if a game incorporated this sort of realistic mechanic, I could see it as becoming more of a simulation than a game. Sometimes realism has to be suspended in order to produce a fun game, so I don't see it as a requirement if you're producing an already developed genre.

    Regarding the class readings/presentations. I personally don't see why a presentation is all that necessary. It seems that people get far more out of the articles and their topics by reading the papers on their own and then having an open discussion about them in class. This is essentially what eventually happened anyway. Just a thought does anyone else agree? Because I think we could get a lot more out of it if we just sat around talking about a topic like we did today.

    - Alex Johnson

  2. Just a few words on "winning" in a game. As you know I don't think "winning" is that integral part of a video game & the "playing" is the most central part of the experience. I think people confuse the idea of the "outcome" with the idea of "winning", suggesting that winning is the primary outcome we expect from a gaming experience. But games are made out of varying degrees & qualifications of outcomes. One game that represents this is Tetris, as in there is no real way(primarily) to "win" at Tetris, the game is over when you "lose" but the outcome we get from Tetris is our player score & how many lines we made.

  3. Just starting by picking up on what Alex finished with. I to feel that having an open discussion is much more interesting than a straight up presentation but that happened anyhow so no harm done. Plus it's probably a little late in the game to suddenly change the assignment setup.

    Moving on, Madness still proved that rapid feedback is the best way to go and I think it's something that should be practiced much more both in university and the industry. It's great to see an idea resonate differently from one person to the next, and each point raised can be incredibly useful.

    Looking forward to next week when we'll get to see everyone's creations at work.

    1. In regards to the 'open discussion', I think the goal is to have everyone read it, but the two people in front study the paper in a much more in-depth fashion, possibly bringing in extra references and activities into it. Basically, have two people become experts on the paper, allowing them to facilitate a productive, directed discussion about the paper. This way, the discussion can stay on topic and cover all the main themes, and prevent the discussion from being sidetracked or stalled.

  4. Great madness session everyone, well done. In regards to the papers, they were meant to be a class discussion from the start, not presentations, which is why we require EVERYONE to read the papers, not just the groups in charge of that week's discussion. See Point 1 on the Class Contributions post for more info:

    Alex, my take on the designer's role and the magic circle is as follows. Designing a game is an iterative process (Adam Nash has told us this many times), and I believe it's the designer's responsibility to make sure the integrity of the game is there, that it works, that it is fun. This is why we prototype, and sometimes even paper prototype. We make the game and test it, we step into the magic circle and assume the role of the player. However, I don't believe designers step into the magic circle like players do, I'd say they always have one foot outside the circle. As a designer of your own game you are always aware of the behind-the-scenes mechanics in your game and may not (or cannot) be able to approach it like someone outside the development team would. And this is why we require play testers :-)

    And with the whole shooting a gun to know how to create a gun (being shot?). That's the role of the artist, if the artist has a good idea of what a gun being shot from a first person view looks like, great. Otherwise they will need to do some research into what it looks like, and if the game requires it, what it feels like. And if that means shooting the gun yourself, great.

    Ahn-tu, you raise a good point as well. But perhaps "winning" in Tetris is beating your last hi-score?

  5. i am sooooo sorry i came in late. i set the clock at 6 30. woke up. reset the clock to 7 30. woke up at like 10. so i missed out on half of the, what i presume, madness session. i wish i could say something but i werent there so.

    i was there for the one with the smell and the... dog i think? wouldnt the excess scent and etc be detrimental to the dog?

    also in regards to chad's train game. just want to mention the possible difficulty of placing anything standalone electronics on a public transport because, of course, if it has flashing lights, it is a bomb. of course, this will not be an issue if you end up integrating it to the system and the public trans port people approves it. regarding the point that was made that people will just break it, my solution will be use a projector of sort to display it on to the white(relatively white) walls. the projectors will be housed in a similar fashion to the security cameras on the train. this eliminates the need for expensive screens or the repairs that will inevitable be necessary. because kids are assholes and they like to break stuff. i knew a guy whose group/gang was called, literally, wRecking Stuff Constantly.
    regarding my point that the game should ease public transportation is an idea that the public transport commitee dudes will appreciate...or not, if they are all old geezers.

    i also thought getting people to talk to each other is great and i think that is a huge plus for the game. whatever it takes to, as tim said, stop the zombies is good. personally, i sleep on trains though :P.

    you also need to flesh out what the actual game is and have to consider the general public transporter. is the game too loud and activity heavy? cos those kids in wifebeater shirts(or as civilised people call it "singlets") who always do chinups loudly are pretty annoying. (maybe i just hate kids...)
    i dont think it has to be any overt activity at all. could be something you could do sitting down for all it matters.
    in regards to the six rules that came up. i like to interpret it as more of a guideline, not to follow but, as a point of reference where a designer could sway to and from in varying degrees to give something new. whether or not it is a game or not. this is the same thing that comes up in art history classes. "is this art?" "no. its a urinal. leave me alone". i mean, i guess it is good to have some definition but we dont have to break our backs following it or purposely not following it. or spend time precisely defining it. seriously. it changes ALL the time.

    1. in regards to the whole winning/losing and how it is important in a game. i had a vid i've seen ages ago that illustrates this perfectly(not to mention it has a song) but i cannot find it. it's going to bother me for the rest of the week. since i cant find it, i would have to explain it myself. to simply put, its the journey that matters, not that you have finished the game and have gotten to a conclusion. one example of this is fallout 3 when it first came out, without the dlc/expansions. what happens at the end is(spoiler derrrp) that you get to the water plant and release the waters of life (or the waters which will kill every mutant in the wasteland). then the game ends. ENDS. i flipped out, threw away the last 3 hours i have played and decided to never play the final mission. i was going to pretend that it didnt even exist. now, i can honestly say i had more enjoyment out of the first moment i have gazed upon the wasteland on the scenic overlook than i had finishing the game. i loved that game like my own child. seriously. and it wasnt about "winning" or saving the wasteland or something grandeur. it was the enjoyment out of watching giant molerats scurry around(animal friend perk ftw) or the random convos you hear(i especially enjoy this in skyrim. got my sneak up so high from just eavesdropping bandits). in fact, "winning" that game actually felt like losing.
      i have this exact delema with mass effect right now actually. terrified of playing me3.

      anyways. this notion of winning would really have to depend on the game. i mean, if the game is linear and has a finite conclusion, the logical thing would be that reaching the end is the winning clause. or something like a highscore in a shoot'em up games. getting killed is bad but you have to get killed or defeat the game entirely to have your highscore placed. and if you do score a highest score, that is a win for you. even though your result had no results on the other people's result and vice versa. and if it is open worlded, then there is no one true goal and so there is no one true win nor is there a true loss(unless you die and the game just decides to delete all save files). the feeling of fulfillment that comes from winning any other game comes during the game. actually, it doesnt even have to be fulfilment so to speak.

    2. also. about the whole "STUDENTS WHY U NO MAKE RADICAL GAMES" comment from floyd. i want to elaborate that this isnt so much of a choice but rather a forced circumstance. i mean. surely NO ONE wants to make Call of duty 17 future terrorist wars. and yet we are mostly forced to take a lay-low approach mostly due to time constraints. if we had all the time and all the knowledge in the world, surely we would make something else. but the situ isnt like that. most of the resources and examples available to us are first person style or third person style. engines such as unreal and crysis and source are all fps and they are one of the major games that you can mod. there is no wide market for games to play with tadpoles or leaves or whatevers. we COULD research something different, some new control mechanisms. but the thing is we have so little time.

      and there is of course the constant "SCOPE IS TOO BIG SCOPE IS TOO BIG SCOPE IS TOO BIG SCOPE IS TOO BIG" from the teacher. and they are absolutely right.

      so it is just a risk/reward situation. risk spending time trying to do a fabulous mechanism, the mechanism doesnt work, the mechanism was integral to gameplay, the game doesnt work then you die. OR you follow a preexisting game mechanism, make do by changing this here and there, you have a working mechanism and a working game.

      there is also the fact that this is a group activity. when discussing ideas, the idea tends to settle just about where everyone is comfortable of doing. that means something not radical, aka mediocre. one person could really argue all they want but if something doesnt sound feasible to the group, then the idea is rejected. something along the lines of "too many cooks spoils the broth"

      but its cool if all your team mates dont care about grades and just want to go crazy. but that doesnt seem to happen.

      [/weak excuses]
      also. i think the title "Heart of Gameness" was a reference to "Heart of Darkness" a novel. although why that is makes no sense.

      PPS: sorry for wall of text.

      PPPS: the replies are because my post was too long, i had to chop it up

  6. I was muling over what was mentioned regarding entering the magic circle as a designer and was just wondering whether the exercise that we took part in, in week two, which focused on using empathy to create games counted. Since, I found myself adhering to the rule and answering all the questions whilst at the same time found myself constantly putting myself in the shoes of my partner. Moreover if such is the case then wouldnt any form of brainstorm or any engrossing activity be perceived as entering some kind of “temporary” world within the real world?

    On the topic of presentations, I’m guessing that floyd had anticipated a presentation that stepped away from the article and focused on how concept was “radical”, as well as encompassed good points that allowed for a good class discussion. However, since we suspected that only a few had actually read the article, found ourselves kind of running through it again before turning our attention to what really matter. Though, seeing as we ended up having a rather interesting discussion, i suppose it didnt really matter how the presentation began.

    With that said. i think that i shall stop here.


    Looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with next week :)

  7. It was cool to hear everyone's opinions during the last ~half an hour of the lesson, so I'd agree with Lex and Adam. I think I was sort of mulling things over for a while after that class too, maybe because of how involved it was. But yeah it was a lot of fun.
    In terms of the magic circle thing, I think it's really hard to experience the game at the same time as you're analyzing it from a design standpoint, but maybe that's just me. So since we can't directly design the experience to begin with I think realistically designers would spend like 99 percent of their time outside of the magic circle.

    The madness was really interesting too. It seems like quite a lot of people are doing projects that play with senses that 'regular' games don't or can't interface with, us included, but I still thought they were interesting.

    The game that Ahn Tu presented might have been my favourite. It's something that's novel and could only recently be the kind of game that people could play on their home console, and it sounds like they could genuinely make it fun while teaching them a useful skill and maybe even a little bit of empathy for the deaf.

  8. After both presentations and the huge discussions that followed, i think one thing that stuck with me is the lack of vocabulary we have to describe 'games' and 'play'. But i found having these long discussions and mulling over these topics is the right direction to take to develop our understanding of games. And to start developing games 'outside the box'. I really enjoyed the discussion about the magic circle. This idea has stuck with me, especially the idea we can't pin point when and where the magic circle starts and ends. Does it have a beginning, or an end? Or are we always in some sort of magic circle no matter what we are doing?

  9. My takeaways from last week's class were that it's important to have a foundation of what it means to both be a game (Juul) and what it means to play a game (Magic Circle). Clearly, defining either is tricky business, and, as the borderline cases in defining games shows, the edges are fuzzy. However, if the goal is to make a radical game, then it's important to actually define what is and is not a game - if everything can be thought of as a game, then the term becomes meaningless. As radical games are much more likely to run into that boundary than Call of Duty is, cognizance of this border is thus more essential to the radical developer.

    Of course, many radical games push and explore that limit, much as art has done in the past century, and the discussion of what makes a game is potentially interesting, although likely a topic widely explored by art criticism. Still, is Dear Esther a game? Or The Graveyard? Are they any different than walking through a museum with letters, or a piece of video art? Is it valuable to the wider public to be exposed to these ideas through games, taking something thoroughly explored in one field and radically using games as a medium to present it to a new audience?

  10. I think that it is hard to make a definition for game, because they are always evolving and changing. Games used to be fictional, an just for fun; But now they have evolved even into careers. But it is good to know these 'features' that most games have in common, the features create a kind of 'boundary' that can now be more easily pushed to create new and exciting radical games.

  11. Final version of our abstract, for anyone who may be interested, is as follows:

    Exertion games, digital games that involve physical effort, are becoming more popular. Although some of these games support social experiences, they rarely consider or support body contact. We believe overlooking body contact as part of social play experiences limits opportunities to design engaging exertion games. To explore this opportunity, we present Bubble Popper, an exertion game that considers and facilitates body contact. Bubble Popper, which uses very simple technology, also demonstrates that considering and facilitating body contact can be achieved without the need to sense body contact. Through reflecting on our design and analyzing observations of play we are able to articulate what impact physical space layout in relation to digital game elements, and physical disparity between input and digital display can have on body contact. Our results aid game designers in creating engaging exertion game experiences by guiding them when considering body contact, ultimately helping players benefiting from more engaging exertion games.

    This, along with the 4-page short paper was submitted to the Fun and Games 2012 conference. Now we wait.