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July 2012 Miscellany

Thoughts about some game-related topics that are not long enough for separate blog posts.

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If you're into twitter, and game design, Reiner Knizia is worth following. https://twitter.com/ReinerKnizia. Many of his tweets are attempts to encapsulate his experience.

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I see that GenCon now charges a base price of $2 per event--but not for seminars

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Commercially viable game designs versus personally satisfying designs

I go to a college game club during the academic year. Recently a couple of the college students have designed their own games and brought them to playtest at the club. One of these is the past president, now a graduate student, who’s been working on games for several years and so it wasn’t surprising. His game that’s a combination of deck building and lots of dice rolling is quite popular. The other is more of a surprise, a 19-year-old woman who had not seemed very serious about games, who’s full of life and enthusiasm about all kinds of things, yet who buckled down and designed games.

Six words about chance/randomness in games

According to tweetdeck, one of the trending:worldwide topics on twitter not so long ago was six word stories. In the past several months I've asked people to say six words about game design, programming, wargames, stories in games, casual games, innovation (and plagiarism) in games, and zombie games.

This time the challenge is this: say six (interesting or amusing) words about chance/randomness in games.

Game Rules are a Pain in the "Watukas"

Here is an example of how a simple misunderstanding in the rules can break a game.

Dreamers

An amazing number of teenagers dream of making games for a living, if my informal surveys at local schools and colleges can be expanded to the entire generation.

There are all kinds of individual delusions (see http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2010/09/student-illusions-about-... ), but I’m talking about the big dream: “I’m going to be famous (and rich) as a video game maker.”

A Eureka Moment about Training, Education, Puzzles, and Games

I was thinking about a time when my department head came to my game design class unannounced to evaluate my teaching, and I wasn’t “lecturing” to the students. They were working on game projects. (This was not an introductory class.) She seemed surprised that I wasn’t lecturing, but that may be because she typically taught introductory computer literacy style classes such as how to use Microsoft Office. Classes that teach use of specific office software can be taught more or less by rote: if you want to make something bold you highlight it and press control-B or click the Bold button. If you change margins you do thus and so. And so forth.

These intro software classes don’t have to be taught entirely by rote but commonly they are, complete with what I call “monkey books”.

Origins 2012–-“Diminished”

This is not a “convention report” per se, as I had no interest in the banquets and awards, nor in the special guests, nor (with few exceptions) in new games and announcements about games. The featured guests were media people--film and TV--rather than game people, though Wil Wheaton does a boardgame videocast (which I have not seen). The others were Felicia Day and Adrienne Wilkinson. There were only two game design guests of honor (Rob Schwalb and Jeff Tidball), quite a departure from days past, one artist (Sandra L. Garrity), and one author guest (Aaron Allston, formerly a D&D writer). SF author Timothy Zahn was scheduled to be around as well. In years past Reiner Knizia, Richard Garfield, and Jim Dunnigan have been guests of honor, but if people of such stature in game design were present I did not see or hear of them.

Attending Origins in Columbus

I'll be at Origins in Columbus OH next week. I'm fairly easy to spot if you'd like to talk, at 6'6", 305 pounds (I was impressed with the size of NFL offensive tackles until I became that size), bald on top (not male pattern baldness, just a general lack of hair), mustache, glasses. I may be wearing a hat at times so the baldness may not be evident.

I am giving four different (free) talks about game design, Friday at 7 PM, Saturday at 11AM and 7, and Sunday at 10AM. One hour to talk, then up to an hour for questions. See the program for topic details.

Do Games have Dramatic “Acts”or “Stages”

Do Games have Dramatic “Acts”or “Stages”
Do games “naturally” fall into three parts as dramas supposedly do?

The classic idea of film and stage play plots is that there are naturally three parts (often called simply Act I, Act II, and Act III rather than use descriptive names). These Acts involve first introducing the protagonist, then introducing the problem or antagonist(s), and finally resolving the conflict and sorting out the aftermath. Wikipedia (accessed 20 May 10) describes it this way:

Phases in Games

[My thanks to “Sagrilarus” of Fortress:AT for the question that stimulated this attempt at classification.]

Phases (sometimes called stages) in a game design are important. These are distinctly different periods of play through the course of a game. They provide at least a perception, if not an actuality, of change, growth, and learning. Phases help the feeling that there's more variety in the game, as well. They help avoid a perception of "sameness" in the gameplay. A game that is "too long" may feel too long because there are not enough phases, not because any specific amount of time has passed. In contrast, many short games have only one phase.

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by Dr. Radut