Reading Post #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).

Battleship- neither players have knowledge of the other player’s locations. Each player also gets to initially decide the position of their battleships, therefore they feel responsible for the choices being made in the game. The reward hierarchy is also cleverly designed as it gets easier to guess locations after a successful hit- this variable reinforcement reward factor keeps the game tension and player interaction high.

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

Little Fighter 2 (Hong Kong based free PC game)- The game was first released in 1999 and followed by regular updates until 2007. The game’s mechanics changed a lot over the years of playing as initially the power levels in characters drastically ranged, making some characters redundant as nobody wanted to play them. During campaign modes players also controlled the amount of items falling from the sky and could even hold a key to make it rain items. Though the game was riddled with bugs and ways to cheat, it was still well received due to the array of characters and fighting abilities each had to offer.

  1. 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 enjoy games that provide this type of experience as it allows players to role-play and virtually explore an aspect of interests through the character. Character and position preferences vary from person to person; games such as Mortal Kombat are an example of how characters have unique abilities which empower mechanisms of the game such as speed enhancement or bleed damage, where players choose characters either based on an affinity for a particular ability or because it is useful in the particular context. This style of game generates overall a much more diverse set out outcomes and game experiences.

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.

  • Runescape- ludus mimicry
  • Mahjong- ludus agon
  • Blockus- ludus agon
  • Pinata- ludus ilinx
  • Pinball – paida agon

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.

Flow is an emotional and psychological state of focus and happiness when a person feels a great sense of achievement and control of their life. Csikszentmihalyi’s psychological model of flow and its components is similar to many of the mechanisms that govern game design. E.g. The presence of action and awareness in an activity brings us into a “flow-state” where a person becomes absorbed by an activity. The book also mentions one of the big challenges of designing for autotelic pleasure is “The first seduction” of bringing the player into the world of the game and crossing the “magic circle”. He considers the different facets that contribute to how a player is drawn to play a game such as the social ideals it is connoted with as well as the formal elements. Having an understanding of the prerequisites that produce flow in a game experience is a good way of evaluating whether mechanisms in our own games are engaging enough.