Games that are BAD for you!

Posted on

Many game designers (myself included) have been thinking about how to make games that aren’t just fun, but also make people better, and/or change the world for the better.  It’s hard, ’cause while we know of games that already try, it’s always harder to evaluate game MECHANICS for “goodness”, instead of just “fun”.

So I had a thought; suppose we find the games that benefit us (as humans), by trying to find the opposite of games that hurt or poison us (as humans).  And to do that, we first have to find, study and design games that hurt or poison us (as humans).

Clearly we’ll run straight into the embedded thinking we all share; games are Art, artists can do what they want, personal responsibility, who are you to judge, blah blah blah.

And I can’t help the thought that this workgroup might be creating Ultron, or otherwise Meddling in God’s Domain.

Still, I’d like to join a few brave, foolhardy souls in an examination and analysis of games that are BAD for us (so we can eventually make games that are GOOD for us).

Jimmy and Jane

Posted on

Let’s imagine two college students, Jimmy and Jane.

Jimmy got electronics kits from his dad when he was 8.  He was soldering when he was 10.  He always had access to the family computer, and was writing simple computer games by himself when he was 13.  Everyone around him said Jimmy has such a bright future with technology.

Jane had none of those advantages, but now they are sitting next to each other in a class called “Intro To Computer Game Design 101”.

Jimmy shines brightly in this class, exceeding the scope of every assignment and letting everyone cluster around his computer to see his latest and greatest.  Jane is confused, doesn’t know where to begin, and (with Jimmy right there) is intimidated into believing she isn’t ready for the class.

So she drops out.

Let me stress that 1) Jimmy and Jane have the same POTENTIAL, and 2) Jimmy isn’t TRYING to discourage Jane or anyone else.  Even so, this situation is a real world problem.  I know, ’cause I saw it happen in a class I taught.  “Jane” DID re-enroll the next year, completed the whole 2-year degree, and even shined as the best level designer (using UnrealEd) in the class.  But this is a particular sub-set of the problems facing goals of more gender diversity in our industry.

I’d like to work with a group to detail best practices to 1) nurture and protect Jane’s entry into videogame development, while 2) not punishing Jimmy for his advanced skills.

Computers are tiny and cheap!

Posted on

I just bought a raspberry PI zero.  It’s the size of a stick of gum, it’s a complete computer (plays minecraft and browses the web), and I got mine from Microcenter for $0.99 .  This isn’t unique.  Ardunio, beaglebone, CHIP, small cheap hackable computers have entered a new age.

So far, the game-related uses of this new age appear to be hand-held MAME players.  Meanwhile, everyone’s innovating over in the AR/VR space.

I’d like to work with a group to brainstorm how to use the new age of small cheap hackable (wearable, hideable) computers to make  innovative videogames.

Computers are fast!

Posted on

We have more computer horsepower at our fingertips than ever before.  But I still use a text editor to program.  And while 3D artists will use a more sophisticated editor to do their work, the point is still that we have way more cpu power than we realize (especially since our computers can run all night), and use it way too seldom for game design.  SETI@home and Folding@home are (now relatively old) examples of how to use brute parallel-ized computer horsepower to try to solve problems.

I’d like to work with a group to brainstorm how to use our computer power in innovative ways in the service of videogame development, and especially in the service of videogame design.

Let’s use games to solve real-world problems

Posted on

I pitched this last year and it seemed like it was everyone’s #2 pick so it never got picked up. I heard several of you mention your regrets that you didn’t go for it, so I’m pitching it again.

Let’s choose a difficult real-world problem that can be solved through game creation, and actually solve it.

Generative Systems, Meaningful Cores

Posted on

Entertain this juxtaposition for a moment. On the one hand, you’ve got ideas. Big ideas —themes rolling around your head so heavy, so important that you just can’t wait to share them with your players. On the other hand, you want to embrace the full range of interactivity that the medium of games affords you, and (for you) that means using generative systems to produce unbounded, novel, exciting, and surprising content.

I’m of the mind that you can do both of these things (and that they’re both worthwhile things to do) by embedding your themes in the hand-crafted units that your algorithms affix together. The collaborative roleplaying game Fiasco—which relies on procedural generation via pen & paper—does this tremendously well; its theme of ‘powerful ambition and poor impulse control’ manifests itself in the carefully hand-crafted units that players then algorithmically combine in the Set-up and Tilt (when you choose a Relationship, you don’t choose from among the full range of human relationships; no, you choose from a few such relationships, like ‘con-man’ and ‘mark’, that are inlaid intrinsically with the theme of ‘ambition’).

By outlining the storyspace in this way, we’re able to let our players tell their stories while exploring our themes. Wonderful! But Fiasco is relatively simple. How do we build complex generative systems with meaningful cores? How do we reap all the benefits of procedural generation while constraining the system to sufficiently invoke a vision, make an argument? Even more fundamentally, how do we talk about this stuff? Can we construct a vocabulary to articulate the dimensions of content generation?

Screw game design, let’s solve the WORLD’S hardest problems

Posted on

We like to talk a good game about how design thinking or systems thinking is relevant in all kinds of areas outside of game design, and how the world is full of (hackable) systems.

Let’s prove it. Let’s get some great design minds together to figure out how to game a real-world system.

Politics is full of systems. Could we get one or more game designers into a high-ranking public office?

Human biology is all about systems. Can we cure cancer?

Economic systems drive our lives. Can we figure out a pathway to get to a post-scarcity society?

Something along those lines.

Iteration with Metrics

Posted on

I’m interested in creating a formal model for how to incorporate player behavior into an economic or systems model.

For example, when creating an initial model there are several types of variables- predictors of behavior (20% of players will wan this), aesthetic settings (score should be in 1000s not 10s), balance knobs (enemies should do 50 damage).  Then you create your model, and it has several outputs- “Gold earned per second”, “Damage dealt per player” “Average HP for a level 20 enemy”.

When we’ve balanced systems, we tend to pick inputs and outputs we want to set for aesthetic or pacing reasons, and then we want to solve for the remaining inputs and outputs through monte carlo (or other method) of simulation.  If our collected metrics fail to match the model, we figure out whether a behavior predictor was wrong or if our model was wrong and adjust accordingly.

We’ve never done this formally (although I am sure several horseshoers have), but it would be really useful to have a good way of setting up this iteration that could be applied to many game design problems.

Techniques for “Workshopping” Games in Development

Posted on

Each year, many people come to PH with games they are working on, looking for input/feedback/advice/comments/pies-in-the-face from other designers. Until now, this activity has taken place informally – “around the edges,” so to speak.

I propose a working group where up to four people exchange games-in-progress prior to the weekend, agree to play those games before arriving at PH, and spend the weekend “workshopping” the games with each other.  (I myself have one such game – hence my interest!). These may be games of any type – card games, board games, digital games, or whatever.

This proposal is unusual in that it breaks some PH “rules,” most particularly that it be set up prior to the event itself. But I think that advance exposure to the games will allow for more thoughtful critiquing.

In keeping with the PH spirit of community, we would have to create a group report, which I imagine would start to catalog effective techniques for workshopping games (in much the same way that “rules” for post-mortems and “rules” for effective brainstorming have emerged over time).

Also in keeping with the spirit of community, I imagine there may be people who would want to join the working group who don’t have games to bring along themselves. I think that’s fine – my proposed limit of four games is so that the group has sufficient time to devote to each of the games, not to limit the number of people doing the critiquing. And, of course, if we have more than 4 people who want to do this with their games, then we can always have two groups, so long as each group allows time to collaborate on developing an overall report.

If you are interested in bringing a game for this working session, please respond quickly to the reflector so that we can begin the process of exchanging games in the few weeks remaining before we arrive in San Antonio.



Game Design Literacy for Modern Humans

Posted on

I propose that a certain amount of game-design literacy is required for successful adulting in modern western culture.

I posit that a certain amount of knowledge about games and how they are played is extremely useful with the prevalence of gamification in so many of our interactions with entities that have some power over us, whether they be banks, employers, or government agencies large and small.

This topic may also include interpersonal games that are played, especially (but not exclusively) as played on social media.

Know how games are played can help us play these games if we so choose, or help prevent us from being played by them.

Shared avatar games

Posted on

Twitch Plays has been moderately popular lately. Many people play a single character in games as divergent as Dark Souls and Pokemon. How far could these shared avatar games be taken?

  • Fun voting systems: Everybody Votes was dumb. What is better?
  • Differentiated roles: Games like Artemis where the ship is the shared avatar.
  • Weirdness: Someone once pitched a super human god character in an MMO played by a team of game masters simultaneously. One for combat, one for researching players from analytics, one for the voice. Able to appear in multiple places at once. Able to switch bodies.

Prototyping metagames and progression systems

Posted on

We’ve got lots of tools for iterating rapidly on high frequency loops at the heart of most games. Rapid prototyping and playtesting works great. However, lower frequency loops such as progression systems or metagames are harder to prototype and balance. Often issues only show up when the game is live and while spot changes are easier than ever due to analytics, structural issues may only get 1 or 2 passes over the lifetime of a game. So we typically reduce risk by just copying what we think another successful game is doing.

In the past, progression systems arguably didn’t matter as much. But now, when 30-day retention can make or break your company, these systems are now in the spotlight. How do we not mess them up? How do we innovate? What are the best practices? Are there new tools (like simulation approaches like Machinations) that could help?

discouraging the dick

Posted on

One of the most requested changes to my game would let users edit the name of their spaceship. When I finally added that, they immediately named their ships “dickbutt69” or something similar. I recognize that this is part of the larger axiom, that if you give game players a creative tool (even a text entry widget) they will immediately make something obscene.

But it annoys me, and I have anecdotal evidence that it harms the game ecosphere at least a bit. So now that we’ve all acknowledged that this behavior is innate, I’d still like to explore ways to minimize and discourage it.

The “Bruce”; reexamining the job descriptions within game production

Posted on

On the podcast “designer notes”, Bruce Shelley detailed his past work relationship with Sid Meier, which resulted in historic games. He would receive a near-daily build from Sid in the morning, play it til lunchtime, and spend the afternoon with Sid discussing his analysis.  He also built levels and game content.  As he described his job, it became clear to me that his role, while critical, didn’t FIT into any existing videogame developer “roles/jobs”.

Shelley describes a job that isn’t tester, designer, or producer, but does a lot of each. Just as importantly, his job could not be held apart from the rest of the team; it was a VERY tightly integrated support role for Sid Meier, who was doing the programming and iterative design.

I think we need more “bruces” ( I know I do). But we could also ask ourselves; how can we smash the pidgeon holes that the games industry stuffs us into, and make up our own job descriptions?

Computer horsepower and videogame logical correctness

Posted on

PART ONE: Over the last decade, I’ve marveled at the increasing computing power we all have available, and I’ve asked many colleagues the question: How can we use this raw computing power in the service of game design? The answers have been dis-satisfying. Most seem confused by the question. Some proudly talk about nightly builds and backups. Others describe how art tools are used.

My mind immediately goes to GA, genetic algorithms, a powerful (and computationally expensive) way to find optimal solutions to specific problems. Unfortunately, GA requires a “fitness function”, and most of the “fitness functions” I can think of (in regards game design) determine something AESTHETIC, which is really the domain of the human mind.

PART TWO: Imagine you’re making an adventure game. In act 1, the player gets a flashlight. In act 2, the player finds a trashcan, which deletes anything the player drops into it. In act 3, there’s a dark room that requires the flashlight to traverse it. Thus, the player can accidentally choose to make an unwinnable situation for themselves.

This is a “bug” in the game design, and there are a thousand ways to fix it. But how do we avoid making the “bug” in the first place? Talk to game designers, they’ll tell you “that’s what testers are for!”. But testers can be expensive, especially for indie developers, and they aren’t a magic solution.
But also, since this problem is a “bug”, I could essentially be asking for a game language that has “prove-able correctness”, a computer science problem that has never been solved (for general cases). So, way too hard to solve.

FUSE THESE: With the new computer horsepower we have available, I suggest we revisit the idea of testing games “brute-force” (examining every possible input combination) for correctness. I also propose that we use text adventure games as a first step, because of the limited and discrete choices those games are known for.

So I’d like to spend time examining the innate structure of text adventure games, and building a representation of text adventure games that facilitates computer “brute force solving”.  Understand that I’m not trying to “revive” text adventures/interactive fiction; I’m thinking about all videogames, really.

emotionally safe spaces in game development

Posted on

Arguably, there’s a new level of social awareness in videogame development, led by young indie and LGBT groups. More specifically, I’ve read of groups that ask for (and sometimes demand) an emotionally safe space”, for working or creative interaction. As a boy in Texas in the 70’s and 80’s, I can’t imagine I could have asked for such a thing. I CAN imagine that those three words would have been alien nonsense to any authority figure I had contact with at the time. Throughout my career, “emotionally safe spaces” also did not compute. Every shop I worked in cared most about work output; emotional safety meant the ability to close your office door, and stress was just part of the job description.

“Emotionally safe space”. Does it matter for videogame developers? And if so, what are best practices to achieve it?

Designing for live community play

Posted on

As designers, we still tend to think of our work like sending a rover to Mars: we create an experience, and others consume it in some far-off place we can’t see, then after a delay they report back to us on their experiences. Even most MMOs are created with that mindset until (and even after) the game goes live. With the rise of social media and game streaming, along with so many games now providing a live service even if it’s just leaderboards, achievements and stats, it’s time to open doors to new types of games and ways of playing.

The first example I saw of a community game was Twitch Plays Pokemon. A game of Pokemon is streamed live on Twitch, and viewers can vote in the chat for what the AI player should do next. It’s messy to say the least (hundreds of chat messages can fly by before you can read them), but the possibilities are immense. Here are articles from Polygon and Gamespot about the potential impact of this style of play.

Choice Chamber is an upcoming game using the community voting method to determine the play experience. It’s just the tip of the iceberg though: when you consider the combination of modular game elements–including narrative–with an effective method for viewers to vote and then witness the outcome, I believe we have the opportunity to create a new kind of play experience that unfolds like a live performance!

How can we match existing game models & systems to specific kinds of learning?

Posted on

It’s long been part of the broader game design conversation that “fun is learning”, and that what we do as game designers is create smooth, usable, graceful progressions through a learning and discovery process — but I’ve yet to see a discussion of what organic systems and structures (even conventions) that have grown out of games (for example tech trees, leveling systems, first time user experience, resource management) can be best leveraged toward learning whether in or outside of a game.

We are heading into a time when the fields of learning and game design are beginning to converge and interact in ways they’ve never interacted before, from a standpoint of mutual respect and idea-sharing. How can we create a feedback loop into this system where game design informs learning design, and where learning design leads to the creation of better games? It starts with a shared vocabulary, and an understanding of what systems create what kinds of emotional and cognitive experiences. These “cookbook” approaches have been discussed inside and outside of Horseshoe before (“Multiplayer Game Atoms”, “Psychology for Game Designers”, “Solving Big Problems”…), but this topic would aim to create a list of major game structures and discuss their specific cognitive relationship to learning processes possibly as defined by the work of Piaget, Vygotsky, and more modern theorists and structures (systems thinking, persistence, affective impact, social norms).

The flip side of the feedback loop is that by understanding what it is that is fulfilling about learning, what the learning state looks like, what is happening on a microscopic level inside a person’s thinking when they learn, we can create more compelling introductory systems, smoother progressions, and stickier elder loops. First time user experience remains a persistent problem in most games, and some of the answers could well exist inside the heads of teachers and education scientists. It seems likely that even in thinking of the “first time user experience” as a universal thing, we might well discover that a diverse approach toward a first time user experience depending upon the kind of learning desired is what is most effective.

Fixing Online Harassment

Posted on

The industry is currently, for lack of a better word, under attack. This isn’t an isolated case, but something that’s part of a larger system. If anyone knows how to analyze, understand, and ultimately control systems, it should be game designers. So maybe we should say, fuck “solving game design’s hardest problems,” and instead use our time together to solve some of the hardest systemic problems out there in the rest of the world, as they are affecting our industry anyway.

There were some idiots out there targeting a bunch of academics at DiGRA on the theory that they are some kind of secret shadow organization that controls the game industry, apparently oblivious to the existence of PH. Clearly, if we work on this topic, the standard Code of Secrecy/Blabbing will need to be considered carefully, to protect all concerned.

Imaginative Play

Posted on

What do the real life trends of cosplay and LARPing, escape the room and haunted house experiences, location-based and alternate reality gaming have in common?  Adults are craving imaginative play more than ever.  Wanting that uninhibited fun we had as children.
But many social stigmas and self-awareness impede us from letting each other have fun.

  • What are ways that we can allow each other to have more silly, indulgent, imaginative play?
  • Can we frame systems, rules or even just present games in a way that is disarming?
  • What new types of play will compelling enough to make it irresistible to join in?
  • What parts of these games should be physical or digital?

Three Cheers for Systems Design: Promoting the dismal science of games

Posted on

Many (though not all) game live and die based off their systems design. Yet this critical discipline lingers in the shadows, poorly understood and poorly promoted.  Over the years that I’ve talked about systems design, I’ve found it to be a bit like chatting about advanced math at a loud dinner party.  In almost any setting available to game developers, the conversation quickly shifts to rhetorically charged chatter about art, narrative, politics, business or even programming. There’s a place for that. But…how do we encourage a rich discussion about system design?

  • What is a fruitful place to discuss systems design? How to create a safe space?
  • How do we create a critical mass of serious and knowledgeable practitioners so the conversation isn’t washed away?
  • How do we elevate and promote the practice?
  • What are useful rules of engagement with more rhetoric-focused groups that only weakly understand or appreciate systems design?

Game balance

Posted on

Nearly every game project has, at some point, some designer doing work on balancing. Yet there is a dearth of resources explaining how we do it. Let’s get some heads together and figure out if any of us even do this in the same way, and if there’s a way we can formalize our methods so that others can make use of them.

(I realize balance is a massive topic, possibly beyond the scope of our ability to cover over a single weekend. If so, we can choose a suitable subtopic to elaborate on.)

Inventing Progression Systems

Posted on

Progression systems have seen all sorts of innovation lately. F2P, MMOs, and incremental games (In a Dark Room, Cookie Clicker, Gridland) all do fascinating things to ease the learning curve and keep players engaged long term.

  • Tools we can use to make new progression systems
  • Common and uncommon existing variations (leveling, unlocking, events, drops, etc)
  • Techniques for mixing and matching existing systems (feedback loops, internal economies)
  • Ways of introducing meaningful choice.
  • Common design goals for the progression system and how we might meet them.

Old vs. New: How to acquire new players with a largely veteran community

Posted on

I have a specific problem I’m trying to solve. I have a game that’s been running since the 90s and most of the player base has been playing for at least a few years. I’m in the process of redoing the game to make it more accessible, and my primary obstacle hasn’t been anything technical, but rather the community itself.

It’s a competitive game that relies a lot on teamwork and veteran players tend to be very impatient with newer players, which results in the classic poor experience (getting removed from games, yelled at, etc.).  Some ideas I’ve had to fix this problem:

  • segregating players based on experience
  • reducing exposure of new players to the community (disabling chat by default, etc)

However I’m not sure if this going to help or harm. I know that “making online MP a better place” has been a topic in the past and touched on this issue, but I would like to focus in on this specific problem in depth.

“Shall we play a game?”

Posted on

A few years back, when the Milo tech demo made the rounds, it was met with a mix of curiosity and confusion. While pet simulators like Nintendogs were adopted by the masses, and Seaman is a cult classic,  the idea of interacting with a lifelike virtual human, a child no less, it seemed to alienate more people than it intrigued.

On my current project, I’m working with social simulation software to create interactive prose fiction where the characters in the story react in real time. The medium is different, but for me, the goal is similar to project Milo’s — to create the illusion of life; to lull the player into forgetting that they are interacting with an AI. Early days, but a lot of fun, and the fact that it’s prose and not an avatar helps blunt the uncanny valley.

Ignore for now the challenge of how to make smarter AI characters. What I would be interested in talking about at Horseshoe is what new kinds of games and game-like experiences could we create around characters with all the expressiveness, vulnerabilities and spontaneity of human beings. And what are the ethical implications as empathy with AI characters increases alongside freedom of interaction?

Good Grief

Posted on

This may be a little weird, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the mechanics of grief. Mainly how grief is really weird in how it seems to completely disregard time, as in how you could have lost someone 8 years ago and then out of nowhere have the grief return as fresh as though it had just been yesterday. Such a strange, human system!

I’m interested in breaking down this experience and exploring the rules that may drive it. Mind you, this isn’t so much “make people sad when they play games,” or “make a character and get the player really attached to it and then off it. Grief!” but more looking at how grief behaves in the weirder sense and if we can extract that shared experience and do something interesting with it in an interactive context.

When do you kill a game?

Posted on

There are multiple stages to a game. Prototyping, Production, Live game.  And in each of these multiple moments, it might be a really good idea for the game to die.  Life is short, resources are limited and there are more games to make in the future.

  • When do you kill a game?  
  • What criteria do you use?  What are tools that make us murder intelligently?
  • What are the emotional costs and benefits?  Parents are always over invested in our sickly children.
  • What are ways of ending a game that open up the maximum opportunities for the future? Is the corpse worth preserving?  Can its essential organs be harvested and used elsewhere?

Creating games that command respect

Posted on

Have you seen Ian Bogost’s last presentation on fun?

I want to talk about this with my cogent and wise game design fellows!

Some quotes:

  • Fun comes from the work of working a system
  • Fun: the feeling of operating a system, particularly in a way we haven’t seen before.
  • Fun is related to structure, not to effect.
  • Fun is an admiration for the absurd arbitrariness of things.
  • Fun is a name for the feeling of deliberately operating a constrained system.
  • Shift the frame from play as an activity to play as a condition for certain media. Shift the frame from fun as an experience to fun as an exhaust that is produced when an operator can treat a thing with dignity.
  • Designing something fun: Conceiving of something worthy of being treated with respect.
  • Fun at its best: the whole world watches an abstraction give up its secrets.
  • The thing that makes a job fun is not finding the element of fun that makes it a game, but finding the element of fun that makes it a job. Jobs are fun when they are not games, when we treat them seriously.
  • We fail to facilitate fun when we don’t take things seriously, not because we take them too seriously. It’s not that we’re not having enough enjoyment.
  • Fun is measured in historical time. Fun cooks slow. It demands seeking out novelties within boundaries that have largely been erected for a long time.
  • Fun is a way of finding the air bubbles of freshness in something that is suffocatingly familiar.

I’m so excited by this kind of thinking. Can we talk about how to best design when adopting this viewpoint? I hate grinding but I appreciate the “job of playing”. How do I design a game that feels like the latter and not the former?

Game designs boosting creativity

Posted on

When we are in a creative mode, we  find new solutions to old problems, and we get new perspectives on things we take for granted. We create things that are truly new and unique, things that has not existed before, things that are both valuable, surprising and impressive.

How can games boost creativity?

We know some about what makes us creative. Random stimulus is one trigger, where we we combine seemingly unrelated concepts.  How can we use  applications such as wordNet or big data mining? How can we add real world bleed?

Another trick is to constrain the border in which you solve a problem or create something. We find new ways to work within the borders, or we find new ways to break them. If we made a game that gave the borders – what would that game be like?

We also know that we are better at solving problems when we cooperate with each other. What would game utilising this look like? And, would it be true even if the one we cooperate with is a machine, or a game system? Would we be able to enable the creation of truly novel things?

Lets map this out, and lets design!


… just to give some context:
Some Game Pre-cursors:
Conceptual blends and collaborative storytelling:
Tarot, StoryCubes, Dixit, Fiasco, and any table top RPG.

Creative construction:
pine-cones, LEGO, CreatorVerse, MineCraft, SporeCreature Creator…etc.

 Pretty related
The Voynich Manuscript (unknown)

The Book of Imaginary Beings (Borges)
Codex Seraphinianus (Serafini)
A book of Surrealist Games

 Attempts to understand Creativity
M. A. Boden, The Creative Mind – Myths and Mechanisms (2. ed.). Routledge, 2003.

A. Newell, J. C. Shaw, H. A. Simon, “The process of creative thinking,” in Contemporary Approaches to Creative Thinking (G. T. H. E. Gruber and M. Wertheimer, eds.), pp. 63–19, Atherton, 1963.


The Games of Tomorrow

Posted on

Facebook is so yesterday. Mobile is hot right now, but is becoming so red-ocean that it’s not a fun place to be. What are the new frontiers of gaming that will be red hot in 5 years? The ones that I can see are multi-screen experiences (e.g. living room TV + tablets), wearable computing (e.g. Google glass, iWatch), and neurogaming (pure thoughtwaves as user input). I’d love to spend Horseshoe discussing the gaming implication of these new techs.

Pejorative user names & market segmentation words hurt industry reaction speed

Posted on

The game industry is still young, but we’re already showing our age by getting stuck in unproductive ruts.

The game industry was far too slow in embracing female players, continues to lag in appealing to players of color (especially Latinos) and seems loathe to embrace concepts that don’t fit the mainstream mold.  (Case in point, journalists and produces continue to exclude the Wii, despite its amazing sales record.)

Much of this comes from the industry’s pejorative names for everyone who isn’t in our most devoted demographic.  “Kid games,” “Girl games,” “Non-traditional gamers,” “Whales,” “Girlfriend mode,” “nOObz,” “Match-3 players,” etc.  How can we help top-level executives and studio heads, for a start, to re-think who they build games for in terms of actual market data, as opposed to stereotypes about players that haven’t been true for decades, if they ever were?

How to make great in-situ digital board games

Posted on

How can we create new shared experiences around a table that make the most out of tablets and smart phones?

I mentioned this topic a couple of years ago. I think that with the advent of games like Spaceteam, it’s even more relevant now.

There are some crazy ideas out there (like ) but no real design framework that I can find.

  • Can we come up with designs that solve the lack of hidden information problem without relying on randomness or on each player having his own hardware?
  • Are there games where players can play simultaneously without making the experience a mess? (or maybe, as in Spaceteam, how do we create new and fun kinds of mess?)
  • Are digitally-enforced rules the gateway to more tactical/strategic yet more accessible board games?

I’d like to find out 🙂

Endorsement of game design & game development courses at Universities

Posted on

An ever-growing number of schools offer courses or entire programs dedicated to game design, development, engineering, etc.  But there are no clearly recognized standards in place for such programs, and no official body which can provide reviews of such programs.  Most students in such programs complete 1 finished game at best, so there is very little data available from which any such official body could draw.

Compared to established fields of study such as English, Art, or the Sciences Game Development courses suffer from a lack of industry credibility.

How could this situation be improved?  What steps could be recommended to University programs?  What steps could be taken within the game industry?  What existing models best fit Game Development as a field of study?