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Without A Goal The joy of expressive games Jesper Juul Assistant Professor, IT University of Copenhagen

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1 Without A Goal The joy of expressive games Jesper Juul Assistant Professor, IT University of Copenhagen

2 We’ve got it nailed We know why games are fun The Complete Theory of Video Games Games have goals. Players enjoy the challenge of working towards the goal. If the challenge matches the player, the player is in a state of flow. Sid Meier, Raph Koster, Marcel Danesi, (Juul), many others.

3 Flow (Csikszentmihalyi) The game has the right amount of challenge = the player has fun.

4 Conclusions “The complete theory of video games” Challenge = fun. Thank you

5 And yet... Why am I playing all these games without goals? Why am I customizing my character? Why am I ignoring the goal? A goal provides meaning. Without a goal, meaning must be provided in some other way.

6 About this talk ”A complete theory of video games” Look at goals in three games: Scramble, ChuChu Rocket, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Sims 2. Do games force into following their goals? Other attractions than goals What does it take to make an expressive game? New kinds of experiences?

7 Why does this work so well? ·Clear rules, goals, and outcome: Clear goals and feedback as in Csikszentmihalyi’s flow. ·Clear goal and outcome: Clear sense of accomplishment / clear attachment. ·Negotiable consequences: Lets players try things out “safely”. ·Clear rules: Structures social interaction; provides a framework for interaction. ·Goals provide a sense of direction.

8 Designed challenges: Chu Chu Rocket

9 This is not about story Video games are half-real. A fictional component and a rule component. Game-as-real-activity and game-as-make-believe. Video games are real activities where players actually win and actually lose. “I would like a game that can make me cry”: Thousands of players are crying right now for winning or losing, for getting kicked out of their guild! And video games are fictional worlds that players imagine. Think of fiction (imagined worlds). Not story (sequence of events). Narrative is the new interactive.

10 If it’s not broken, why fix it? Clear goal also means clear failure. Games have a tendency to become overrational: Optimize your strategy, that’s all. Goffman: [games] participants forswear any apparent interest in the aesthetic, sentimental, or monetary value of the equipment employed, adhering to what might be called rules of irrelevance. Goals may run counter to what the player wants to do: Players may care more about the aesthetic or sentimental value of game choices. “This character looks stupid!”

11 What is a goal? Player effort Valorization of outcomes (some of the possible outcomes are better than others) Player attachment to outcome A goal is an imperative in an activity. You should work towards the goal. A soccer ball does not have a goal (not an activity) Soccer has a goal

12 Let’s try ignoring the goal Scramble (Konami 1981) Must follow goal Narrow playing style (must hit fuel tanks)

13 Sorry, the economics of arcade games require enforced goals. The player must face an imminent threat. The home games change this over time.

14 Games in a modern style Sims 2 = Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Practically the same game Raising a familiy vs. being a west coast gangsta Sims 2: No goals / San Andreas: Optional goals

15 Now, it's the early 90s. Carl's got to go home. His mother has been murdered, his family has fallen apart and his childhood friends are all heading towards disaster. On his return to the neighbourhood, a couple of corrupt cops frame him for homicide. CJ is forced on a journey that takes him across the entire state of San Andreas, to save his family and to take control of the streets.





20 Or...

21 San Andreas Has a goal Player free to do something else, something interesting Some players simply drive around Game is a menu between “sandbox mode” and “story mode” Want a mission? Drive to the blip on the radar

22 They're born. They die. What happens in between is up to you. In this sequel to the bestselling PC game of all time, you now take your Sims from cradle to grave through life's greatest moments. Create your Sims. Push them to extremes. Realise their fears. Fulfil their life dreams. Take your Sims from Cradle to Grave



25 Sims 2 is NOT a doll house! No goal. (No “This is what you have to do”.) In a doll house, I can make whatever events I want In Sims, my plans fail all the time It is NOT a story tool But: The resistance is a challenge like in the “complete theory” Failing is more interesting than succeeding. (Better story!)

26 Game-like activities that are dull without a goal Rubik’s Cube Grand Theft Auto just driving around without performing stunts or picking up missions. (I think) Playing with Conway’s game of life. Building new things out of a wooden puzzle.

27 Games as languages Vocabulary, syntax (rules for combination), meaningful to someone. Conway’s game of life: Small vocabulary, flexible syntax, it’s just dots Scramble: Small lexicon, rigid syntax San Andreas & Sims2: Large vocabulary (lots of objects and potential events), flexible syntax – with resistance, recognizable & meaningful (people, emotions, violence, performance)

28 Game-like activities that are fun without a goal Musical instruments Lego Tangram Sims GTA trying out stunts, other stuff. Sequences of games with goals without keeping score.

29 How to make an open, expressive game Succesful games without goals are deeply expressive. How to: Vocabulary, syntax, resistance, familiarity. Stunts, combos, people, emotions, creatures, clothes. Stuff that people usually care about! Must pass the test: Is A emotionally different from B? Cheat codes: Less resistance, more expression

30 Conclusions No goals / optional goals / multiple playing styles / expressive play How to: Vocabulary, syntax, resistance, familiarity. Is A emotionally different from B? Games 5.000 years of experience vs. new puny media – novels, theatre, cinema. Games have the strongest emotional impact. Innovation in video games: Moving away from the arcade model, moving to new kinds of experiences. New Book: Half-Real. MIT Press 2005.

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