All posts tagged: science of game design

Closed social affordances / Open social affordances in social systems design

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Introduction In social systems design, we often need to control how different players interact with one another. We want to heavily mediate griefing and toxicity between strangers. And we want to open up more intimate channels of communication between trusted friends so they can offer nuanced sympathy and support. “Closed” and “open” affordances are useful concepts for talking about this challenge. Here’s a brief introduction.  What is an affordance? An affordance is the possibility of […]

What actitivies can be turned into games?

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Techniques for designing consumer scales Recently, my amazing wife picked up a copy of Wii Fit. No, this is not a review. Here is something you may not know about my wife. For the past year, she’s been dealing with a rather serious, debilitating illness. One side effect is considerable and undesirable weight loss. On the positive side, she has enjoyed shopping for a new wardrobe to match her more petite frame. On the less […]

Project Horseshoe 2007 slides: Smashing the game design atom

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Here are my slides (with talking notes) from Project Horseshoe. I blazed through this in about 30 minutes since dinner was waiting and there is nothing more ornery than a crew of wild haired game designers in complete glucose crash. See if you can spot the source of the infamous ‘8mm’ meme that stalked the conference. Since it was Halloween yesterday, let’s start with a tale of horror. Not so long ago there was an […]

Constructing Artificial Emotions: A Design Experiment

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My latest essay on emotion in games is up on Gamasutra. There are pretty pictures about brains. You can read it here. It asks that simple, innocent question,”What can we do to make games evoke emotions?” The answers are more about applying the lessons of experimental psychology than the 300 hot tricks of screenwriting. While I was looking into this topic, I read an essay in Scientific American on ‘dangerous ideas’ and it got me […]

The Chemistry of Game Design

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It has been a bit quiet in the garden this summer as I’ve been busy working on a set of longer essays. The first, The Chemistry of Game Design, is up on Gamasutra this morning. You can read it here. A blurb from the article: ‘“…it was clear to the alchemists that “something” was generally being conserved in chemical processes, even in the most dramatic changes of physical state and appearance; that is, that substances […]

The Wii Help Cat: A lesson in interaction design

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The Nintendo Wii has an inexplicably complex help system. A cat wanders onto the screen periodically. If you move your cursor quickly towards the cat, he’ll run away. However, if you are careful, you can sneak your cursor up on the cat, your cursor will turn into a hand and you can grab him. When you do, you get a tip about how to use the Wii dashboard. From a simple efficiency driven point of […]

Building fun into your software designs

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I’ve been thinking lately about how game design applies to the broader topic of software development. Game design is all about creating pleasurable learning experiences and mastery of conceptual tools. Surely more traditional software could benefit from the design wisdom and theory that we’ve built up over the years in the game industry. The current state of the art technique for user experience design is the scenario-driven development. It isn’t all that good at creating […]

Millions of Peaches: The value of games

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Raph gave a fun, mildly inflammatory talk called ‘Influences’ questioning if games are fundamentally limited in their capability to explore the human experience. Such angst makes my geeky heart beat faster. What follows are the random late night thoughts jotted on the airplane ride back. My heavily editorialized version of the talk: What if games are only spreadsheets? You can reduce a game into mechanics, stimulus, inputs and lots and lots of numbers. As the […]

What are game mechanics?

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The phrase “game mechanics” sends a pleasant shiver down my spine. At the heart of every game are these mysterious whirring clicking mechanisms that deliver to the player pleasure and thrills. We use them, we build them, but I’ve never seen a good unified definition of game mechanics that gives us a practical base upon which to build great games. Here is one. It is clobbered together from a variety of influences though many of […]

Games are designer food for infovores

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I happened across this article in New Scientist discussing how the brain processes information. Research by Irving Biederman of Universtiy of Southern California in University Park and Edward Vessel of New York University provides some indirect scientific backing for many of the concepts I’ve discussed here such as: Games as drugs Burnout The pleasure of groking that Raph Koster has discussed so eloquently. They also claim to have coined the term “infovore” (which already had […]