Reading Notes #3

1. Creating a perfectly level playing field is a complicated challenge.
1a): Describe a game that you believe is perfectly balanced (provides a perfectly level playing field).

Pong has a perfectly level playing field because both players have the same exact controls and the same exact limitations on movement.  In the basic game there are no power-ups,  both players move at the same speed in the same directions, both bars are the same size, the ball in the center is always at the same speed and never speeds up or slows down, both goal areas behind each player are the same size.  Neither player has any significant advantage over one another.  Even experienced players can lose against a beginner because they are both under the same limitations.


1b): Describe a game that you believe is un-balanced.

Call of Duty multiplayer matches, and other types of multiplayer shooter games are pretty unbalanced. Spawn positions are almost random, causing players to spawn right next to an enemy and lose right away.  New players jump in the same match as experienced players, resulting in  a low chance of getting any kills.  Experienced players with higher levels get better perks and guns – giving them a huge advantage over new players with little to no power ups and only weak, starter guns.  If you have bad internet connection your game will lag significantly, and other players with a decent connection have an advantage.  Players can “camp” in one spot and get easy kills, perks, and experience with little gameplay action.  There isn’t really any strategy or techniques to win every time.  A lot of the game is based on luck and how many hours your opponents have spent playing the game.   Most powerups earned by number of kills in these games are overpowered, giving the winning player a huge advantage over the losers.  No real way to really balance games between experienced players and beginner players.

1c): What are your thoughts about asymmetrical games such as Starcraft, Axis and Allies, Soul Caliber, Tekken, or World of Warcraft, which create inherently uneven playing fields but in turn provide diverse play experiences and strategies for the opposing sides?

I think uneven playing fields in games like these actually make the game fun and interesting.  I have played fighter games like Tekken and a bit of World of Warcraft, and have enjoyed them to an extent.   Uneven playing fields create competition, stress, and an incentive to play and improve.  One of my favorite fighting games as a kid was Super Smash Brothers, which had an uneven playing field similar to those in fighting games like Tekken and Street Fighter.  I remember my older cousin would always kill my character whenever we played together, because, like in most fighter-type games, more experienced players tend to have a huge advantage over beginning players.  However, losing to my cousin, gave me huge incentive to play the game every single day until I learned all the tricks, techniques, and strategies to finally beat him.  Uneven play experiences make players push themselves harder to reach the goal of winning.  Uneven playing fields also give small opportunities for unexperienced players to experience winning (ie. An unexperienced player at Call of Duty might make a lucky shot and kill an experienced player in game).  Diverse play experiences are fun, challenging, and make winning feel more rewarding.  A fair and balanced game like Pong is good fun for a while, but changing the playing field with power-ups can make the game far more interesting and dramatic.

 2. Roger Caillios’ system for game categories includes the following terms: Agon, Alea, Mimicry, Ilinx, Paida, and Ludus. Choose 5 games that are not mentioned in the reading and and categorize them according to Callios’ terms (see ROP pg 306 for an example of the table). You may want to create hybrid categories as some games involve multiple types of game play experiences.

Ilinx & ludus – An example is the Telephone game where you have a line of people that whisper the same sentence into each others’ ear and can only say it once.  Person listening has to repeat exactly what they hear to the next person until it gets to the last person in the line.  The last person compares the sentence they hear to the original sentence and see how close it is. The goal is to have the sentence exact as possible but since human hearing isn’t perfect and some people speak more muffled than others while whispering it is highly likely that the final sentence doesn’t match up.

Ilinx & paida -Playing music and jamming with other musicians without any sheet music.  Musicians make up music as they go without any rules or restrictions other than to make good sound.

Agon & ludus – Multiplayer online battle arena games like DOTA & LoL are competitive games between two teams that have a strict rule system.  Players have to destroy each other’s bases using only a limited set of abilities that have a time cooldown.

Agon & paida –  The game of tag is a ruled, competitive game in which players can run around freely in an open space and can move as fast or as slow as they want.  They are also not limited in their use of the environment – players can climb trees, hide behind structures, or etc.  The only rule is that the person that is “it” has to catch and tag another player, and then that player will become “it”.

Mimicry & paida – Cosplay is an example of free-play mimicry.  People dress up as their favorite characters from movies or TV just for the fun of it.  They may act like themselves or act as the character they are playing as.  Roleplaying rules and purpose of cosplay is left completely up to the person doing it.

Mimicry & ludus – larping – creating your own universe and own story and dressing up and acting it  physically in character

Alea & paida – Spot the Car is a game typically played by kids in the backseat of a car during a long road trip.  They will choose a car color and model at the start of the road trip and whoever spots the car while on trip gains a point.  The car color and model can be whatever they want, and they can even change it throughout the trip.  Gaining points is dependent on chance and probability of the types of car driving by.

Alea and ludus – The game of poker completely relies on chance and probability.  The number of card types in the deck determine the probability of the cards in your hand.  Whether or not you are first or last to receive a hand also changes the probability.  There are strict rules that determine the winner based on the cards you receive by chance.

 3. In trying to quantify elusive and subjective terms like “fun” the authors reference several “typologies of pleasure”, one particularly compelling model is Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow. Briefly describe the general theory behind flow and how it may be useful for designing and evaluating games.

Csikszentmihalyi’s theory says that flow is the state of being emotionally focused and engaged in an activity, such as a game.  Flow is an intrinsic motivation to become emotionally engaged into an activity – to a point where we lose our sense of time and reality.  The purpose of flow is to achieve flow – we become emotionally engaged in an activity just for the sake of doing it.  For example, we don’t play games and become emotionally engaged in them for a particular purpose or reason.  The game takes place outside of reality, so if you win in the game, unless you are betting money or etc, nothing changes in the real world when the game is over.  Game designers want players to achieve this state of mind while playing a game because when players are intrinsically motivated to play a game, it gives them purpose and reason to continue playing.  Game designers have to understand what can create and sustain flow in gameplay.  Components such as conflict, challenge, goals, control, space and time outside reality, can create flow and are under the jurisdiction of the game designer.