Reading Notes #3

1. Creating a perfectly level playing field is a complicated challenge.

a) Describe a game that you believe is perfectly balanced (provides a perfectly level playing field).

I believe puzzle games like Tetris provide a perfectly level playing field as they are randomly generated intentionally at the same level of difficulty per level to allow for players with skill and strategy to do better or worse. Players who are familiar with the skills and have acquired the dexterity and mental awareness, muscle and mental memory of the pieces and where they fit will naturally progress further in the game and be able to beat levels faster, while being confronted with the same level of difficulty and types of game boards.

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

A game that I believe is un-balanced is Mario Kart as all the characters have different skills and characteristics and some are simply predisposed to win over others – for instance, Toad and Peach are the lightest and fastest and are the easiest to win with, whereas the heavier racers, while stronger, simply cannot catch up even if the player has the same skill and dexterity.

c) 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 like Starcraft, Axis and Allies, Caliber, Tekken, and World of Warcraft which create inherently uneven playing fields but provide diverse play experiences and strategies for opposing sides – it adds an element of competitiveness and immersion and also reflects reality in a way.

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.

Agon: Tennis

Alea: Rock Paper Scissors

Mimicry: Dungeons and Dragons

Ilinx: Snowboarding

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.

The four tenets that compose Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow are “the merging of action and awareness,” “concentration,” “the loss of self-consciousness,” and the “transformation of time.” The general theory deals with the sense of pleasure that is derived from engaging in an activity in a controlled way. This creates the sensation of fun in games. It plays off the sense of immersion that one feels when experiencing a game, most successful when the suspension of immersion is so deep that actions become almost automatic, fully detaching the player from the real world and distorting the passage of time.