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Meaningful Play and Game Design Dr. Héctor Muñoz-Avila Assigned readings: Chapters 3 & 4 (Rules of Play Book)

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Presentation on theme: "Meaningful Play and Game Design Dr. Héctor Muñoz-Avila Assigned readings: Chapters 3 & 4 (Rules of Play Book)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Meaningful Play and Game Design Dr. Héctor Muñoz-Avila Assigned readings: Chapters 3 & 4 (Rules of Play Book)

2 How important is it to play? Yes, we play to have “fun”, but By playing games we learn a number of skills: –Social –Mechanical skills –Communication skills –Follow (or break) rules –We learn that there is something at play Direct: winning a game Direct/indirect: reward or impress someone

3 Meaning and Play Key goal of successful game design: Examples of meaningful play: Create gaming experience of the player that have a meaning and are meaningful (“meaningful play”) Chess: intellectual dueling Basketball: Improvisational, team-based tactics Everquest: dynamic shifting of individual and community identities What makes a game meaningful are not the rules of the game alone but the experiences of players playing the game (this is why iterative design is so crucial in designing a game)

4 Descriptive Definition of Meaningful Play Descriptive: –meaningful play emerges from the relation between player action and system outcome –Player: action  System: responds Meaning of an action is the relation between action and outcome Is there meaningful play in something like this?this Of course, we execute our moves/combos with an intended outcome This definition reflects an operational level

5 Evaluative Definition of Meaningful Play Evaluative: –Meaningful play occurs when relation between actions and outcomes are discernable and integrated into the larger context of the game This definition relates to the experience of the player Therefore the evaluative definition is the one we use in our analysis

6 Discernable The outcome of an action is communicated in a perceivable way. Good examples? –Where the outcome was communicatedoutcome Bad examples? –Where the outcome was not communicated and should have

7 Integrated Actions taken by player have not only immediate significance but affects player experience later on. Good examples? –Where the outcome has significance later onoutcome –How about chess? Bad examples? –Where the outcome has significance no later on

8 Side Track: Massive Multiplayer Online RPGs (MMOs) Persistent world RPG: players take role –Priest: heal other players –Warrior: draws attention of the MOB towards him/her –Mage: deal damage “dude wut is ur DPS?” –… (as many as 20 other roles in modern games) Character advances “levels” and gains new skills that facilitates its role Fundamental that each player master their avatar’s role to defeat some encounters –20/40 avatars carefully following a planplan

9 So What is Discernable and Integrated in MMOs? Discernable Integrated

10 Homework (next class) Describe a concrete example of a discernable outcome in an action (choose a game) Describe a concrete example of an action not having discernable outcome (choose a game) –Explain what you think is the impact on play (i.e., player’s experience) for this game? (i.e., is it bad?) Describe a concrete example of an integrated outcome in an action (choose a game) Describe a concrete example of a in an action not having an integrated outcome (choose a game) –Explain what you think is the impact on play for this game? Please don’t use any of the examples discussed in class You may use different games in your answers

11 Design As with “game” there are multiple definitions of what this means –Design is making sense of things –Devising courses of action aimed at changing existing situations (Herbert Simon) –The conception of visual form –… So there are multiple elements: understanding, action, visual appearance, …

12 Design: A Definition (the “official”) Design is a process by which a designer creates a context to be encountered by a participant from which meaning emerges –Designer: person who creates the game –Context: rules, spaces, objects, narratives (lore) –Participants: players –Meaning: meaningful play Crucial point of this definition: connect design and meaningful play When creating games we are crafting experiences Classical example: RPG games

13 Controversy: Morrowind Design decision: Monsters level as you level  So monster encountered later in the game is tougher than same monster encountered early in the game  In fact you can beat the game at very low level!   381B248E5BDBC5B&playnext=1&index= B248E5BDBC5B&playnext=1&index=19  Paradox: can beat at level 20 but not at level 40 Is the outcome of actions integrated?

14 Design and Meaning Meaning in context of game design: assess the value or significance of play Meaning is crucial because the design results in a system of interactions people object context meaning

15 Semiotics The study of how meanings are made Created by a linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (early 1900s) Example: symbols in rock-paper-scissors Another examples: classes in a game (mage, warrior) –What does a “mage” represents? And a warrior? Four semiotic concepts: –Sign represents something other than itself –Signs are interpreted –Meaning results when a sign is interpreted –Context shape interpretation

16 Sign represents something other than itself What is the meaning of “O” in Tic-Tac-Toe? Games use signs to denote actions and outcome (capturing an opponent’s piece/falling king in chess) Chains of signifiers: sequences of signs Examples? Words (sequences of characters) Civilization signifies society evolution

17 Signs are interpreted Meaning of signs are not because of the signs themselves but because of surrounding context Players are active interpreters of signs in games Analogy: cursor changes in RTS games

18 Meaning results when a sign is interpreted A sign stands for something to somebody in some aspect or capacity Think of the role of a warrior or a mage in an MMO game –And perceived meaning is controversial (designer versus some players) Paladins in WOW: clerics or holy warriors?

19 Context shape interpretation Designer creates a context for the participant form which meaning emerges Classical example: word in a phrase Structure: set of regulations or guidelines that prescribe how signs are interpreted (example)example

20 Side Track: Lore: Designing Context Pay for a License or Not Use popular lore Licensing popular lore Create own lore

21 Administrative Game creation: Posted on web site Analysis of existing game design: Posted on web site


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