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Blog Update 2

As you may know the gaming blogs that I have been following throughout the semester for the class are Grand Text Auto (GTA) and Critical Gaming Project. (CGP) Since my last blog update, there have been many interesting posts on the GTA blog, but CGP went on vacation I guess, with only 4 posts since October.


Once again I’ll begin my update by discussing gamification, since that’s something that both blogs talk about most frequently. In one of there recent posts, CGP takes a critical stance on the situation claiming that “the problem is, gamification assumes a rattomorphic view of gamers in the appropriation of techniques and principles from games.” The article describes this as “pop behaviorism,” or conditioning through rewards and incentives. According to the post, this type of conditioning only works for the short term and ultimately back fires leaving the person unsatisfied. Therefore, gamification is as he likes to call it corrosive, and it’s also potentially dangerous in that by presenting something as if it’s a game, you create this “game layer” that really doesn’t exist. CGP is concerned about this because games are becoming increasingly more gamified themselves which will only lead to disaster leaving the gamer resenting the game. Likewise, in following the other blog, GTA also recently blogged about games and reward systems. According to this post games are by definition all about rewards. According to GTA, as well, people like receiving instant feedback and instant gratification for doing something good in a game, just like the rats in the CGP post.


Another interesting thing that each blog discusses in a number of posts are these various ideas for unique game designs as well as an opinion on already uniquely designed games.

In a post on the CGP, the way in which some games are designed around time, and how various games are designed in different ways depending on how the creator of the game expected players to spend their time in the game. They use World of Warcraft as an example of how game creators allow players to spend their time doing different things, however, I was better able to relate to the post thinking about Skyrim. There’s so much to do and so much to see I often times find myself just roaming around for hours looking at cool stuff.
GTA also offers up a couple posts in which the writer discusses various unique game designs. In one of the posts, they discuss the unique up and coming Telemetry-Supported Game Design. This design was used in most recent versions of Madden Football. Telemetry is designed to give designers feedback and help them answer the following questions: How do players interact with the game? Which features, modes, and content are players experiencing? Why do players quit playing the game? The way in which the game interacts back to the player makes it very useful in sports games like Madden where the computer can mold itself to the gameplay style of the player.


Another interesting post on the CGP that sort of deals with game design as well, is the post about multiple forms of interaction in games, but honestly I read it and enjoyed it and just wanted to write about it. The post talks about recent developments in the gaming world that with their design allow players to interact with the device/game more fluidly. It talks about the Nintendo DS and its revolutionary touch screen also containing a second screen, buttons, wifi, now a camera, and a microphone. Its versatile design allows for a number of ways in which one could possibly play a game depending on its design. The post also talks about how the Androids and iPad/iPhones have a built in accelerometer which adds a whole new spin to ways in which games can be played. The post ended with a particular question that I felt was interesting. “That being said, while this is all pretty theoretical, I wonder if this transition between different modes of interaction could be emulated in an analog game. Or perhaps this feature is unique to digital games?” I feel like many analog games for sure have the potential to go digital, especially with the gaming world increasingly moving towards more interactive forms of gameplay, like with the PS Move, the Wii, and the Xbox Kinnect. Not to mention that there’s already Yahtzee! for the iPad/iPhone where you shake the phone or whatever in order to roll the dice. Furthermore, I also have the Monopoly game on my iPad and it’s so much more convenient than the real thing and faster too!



MW3 and Doritos/MT. Dew – Double XP points – Is this considered cheating?

A number of classes ago we discussed an article called “There is No Magic Circle” by Mia Consolvo. In class we talked about how people pay other people to level them up in World of Warcraft and whether this should be considered as cheating or not. Likewise, I came across an ad for Mt. Dew and Doritos, which I linked above, offering players double xp points in the new Call of Duty: MW3. By buying these products players get a code that they type in and for a period of time how ever many xp points they get is doubled. Is this a form of cheating? Should players be able to simply buy something and move through the online rankings easier by getting more points in the game. For example, I could potentially lose a game and have more kills than the other person but they bought some chips to snack on for the day and so now they get double points and therefore have to make half as many kills. Since some players are benefiting from it while others might not be able to makes it sort of unfair, and I believe Consolvo would consider it a form of cheating.

Super Mario – Linear but not so Ludus?

At the beginning of the year, we discussed the article written by Caillois in which the author presents this idea of a Paidia/Ludus spectrum. Basically, on one end of the spectrum you have Paidia which deals with games that are sort of closed, structured, and highly rule-based. On the other end is Ludus, and this deals with games that are more open and free. In between these two ends, then is a spectrum on which different games fall in relation to each other. On to my point, in class we talked about linear games, like Super Mario, where you go from start to finish on a path to the end of the level, without really having the ability to be freedom to explore or play differently, and how they are generally thought to fall more on the Ludus end of the spectrum because its linear and in a very much closed playing space. However, I’d argue that Super Mario falls more towards the center of the spectrum than given credit. Of course it still have many Ludus qualities to it. You are still limited to what Mario can physically do in the game and it is two-dimensional so you are also limited in that you can only move up, down, left, and right. However, on the Paidia side of things, you can have very similar games, but for an experienced Super Mario player, you can play through the game several times and experience it differently each time. If you know where certain hidden items and places are in the maps, a player can quickly skip over several levels at a time or they can decide to not use them and play through the whole thing. Players can also make the choice to take a shortcut and as a result they play through a level or two without fire power or big Mario, for example. Also in later additions like Super Mario 3, you are given the ability to go backwards which helps you, for example, get a fire power back that you just lost. You are also given Yoshi and players now have the choice to play through levels with the help of Yoshi or not. All these choices and different ways in which you can play the game, I feel opens and frees up a significant amount, and gives the game a more Padia sense.

Blog Update 1

The two gaming blogs I have been following lately are Grand Text Auto and Critical Gaming Project. The authors of both blogs introduce many similar themes and prominent theories prevalent in the gaming community throughout their series of posts. They offer ideas of how various aspects of games and gameplay affect society and culture, as well as talk about different events going on that relate to their discussion.

One of the major topics discussed in both blogs is the idea of “gamification.” Gamification is a widely discussed term in gaming research that refers to the use of games and their design in order to engage audiences into solving problems. The authors use this idea to describe how games can offer different techniques and ways to solve problems that apply outside of the gaming realm and in the “real world.” In one of CGP’s recent posts, a scientific puzzle game, called Foldit, was used to help biochemistry researchers “unfold” some of the most complex protein polypeptides.

The authors of both blogs, also frequently post on different events, like DiGRA, GAMER colloquium, and IndieCade, that focus on ways we can use this gamification to educate and solve problems. Although the authors seem to believe that this could be potentially good, however, they have their criticisms. According to CGP and Grand Text Auto, it not only has the potential to lead to exploitation, gamification can also affect people’s choices and decisions.

Another major theme shared between the blogs is how games greatly influence and shape society and culture through how they influence perception and decision. The role of choice alone within games is another interesting topic that is discussed. Grand Text Auto, in one post, describes how simple board games you play as a child can influence your perception or decisions you make later in life. According to the post, the simplistic choices you are given that deal with what you can be if you go to college as opposed to job opportunities you receive without college education affect children’s perceptions about college. “It provides children with the misconception that college automatically qualifies them for some vague “upper level” job (in this case, a doctor or accountant) while not going to college makes them fit for more “common” jobs.” So by gamifying “life,” the creators inadvertently impacted players’ perceptions on society.

Another aspect of choice is how a player chooses to express themselves in a particular game. Games allow players to express themselves in a number of ways. One of the more obvious ones through choice. In games like Fable, Oblivion, and Mass Effect, you are given a vast amount of choices, from you looks, what you do, whether you’re good, evil, or somewhere in between, to even your sexual preferences (considering Grand Text Auto devotes an entire post to how you can be gay in Mass Effect.) But CGP is critical about the amount of choice offered to a player. In discussing the game Deus Ex, they describe how when players are faced with too much choice, “decision fatigue” sets in. Players are then compelled by the overwhelming amount of options at their disposal and then they soon lose the willpower to complete the game. And it no longer becomes fun.

One last important theme expressed in both of the blogs, were the components to a fun game. What makes a game fun? As we’ve discussed in class, likewise, the authors of both blogs comment about how games are fun when there’s just the right amount of challenge, when they are better designed with adequate rules and basic design, and when the game keeps the player engaged.

Portal Analysis

Portal Analysis

Portal is a single-player first-person shooter that takes place in this futuristic testing lab. In the game, you are given special gun that allows you to shoot portals which are used in various mind-bending ways to solve the series of puzzles that make up the game. Portal is a unique game in many ways. It’s a shooter, but instead of shooting bullets, which I’d say is somewhat of a norm, you’re shooting portals. These portals act as a sort of short cut from place to place. This took me a little bit to understand, but I found that once you accept the fact that if you walk through a blue portal you’re going to come out of an orange one; then the game is actually a really good game and a lot of fun for the player.
Portal is a fun game for various reasons. You start out the game with no clue as to who we are or what goes on at this testing center. This mystery of what’s going on helps keep the player engaged, and the fact that it’s first person gives the player a sense of presence, and immersion. This engagement and sense of immersion are important aspects of the game, that according McMahan are what make it a good game. Aesthetically the test center is set up pretty simple, not much look at.

The controls are quite simple for a first-person shooter; you can jump and duck, pick things up, walk around, and shoot portals. The levels start out easy, but gradually increase in difficulty just enough to make it a challenge but not impossible. The rules of the game help maintain the challenge throughout the game. You’re only aloud to shoot portals on certain kinds of surfaces, and as the game progresses the amount of those available surfaces seems to diminish. You also have to watch where you walk, because there are some areas where that floor is consumed with this black substance that kills you. In addition you must also be wary of fiery energy balls and turret robots that may cross your path. The gradual increase in difficulty and the challenges in the game, according to Koster, are what makes Portal a good game as well.

In the beginning levels you are given a single portal and the game places an additional portal in specific places where you’ll need it. Over the course of about 8 levels you learn that you can transport things like box’s and energy balls through portals to open doors and complete levels. In Testing Chamber 10, the game introduces a very important rule to the Portal experience, based on the notion of momentum. From here out (and throughout the sequel Portal 2) you must use the portals to fall from a very high wall portal and into a portal on the ground. The momentum you gain from falling is then exerted when you come out the higher portal to shoot you across the map to an otherwise unattainable place. This notion of momentum then adds another challenge to the puzzle for the player to overcome.    – this is an example from later level but I feel like it best shows the idea of momentum in the game and the things you can do with it.

With regards to Caillois’ concept of a Paidia/Ludus spectrum, I’d say that Portal starts out much on the Ludus end of the spectrum. You are limited to a single portal and are given a second one where you’ll need it. This helps in getting the player adjusted to the unique gameplay, but is set up and structured so the player completes the puzzle just how the creators intended. However, this soon changes in Testing Chamber 11 when you receive an additional portal to shoot with your gun. This opens up numerous ways of completing the levels and causes the game to shift more towards Paidia, but only slightly. Although now its up to you as to where your portals go, you are still limited to the rules of the game. The amount of surfaces for your portals can go gradually gets limited and you can only have one of each portal (blue/orange) open at a given time.

In Test Chamber 15, the game introduces another hazard for the player to watch out for, turret robots. If the player crosses the path of one of these robots they are instantly sprayed with bullets. This also causes a shift towards Paidia, however at a much smaller scale than in Test Chamber 11. A robot can be defeated a number of ways. You can simply go around one, walk up from behind and knock it over, you can pick it up and drop it, you can drop items through a portal on it, you can have portals set up to where energy balls hit them, or to where if there’s multiple robots you can even set it up for them to shoot each other. Regardless of how you fancy defeating turret robots, the wide range of options the player is given to do so create the slight shift in the game to Paidia.

In Test Chamber 19, the game changes considerably. You go about the level like you would any of the other levels, however this is considerably changed when you learn that this was the last chamber and you are to be incinerated. It is here where you look up and instead of staying in the “quote” game, and escape using your portal gun. Up until now, the object of the game has been to finish the set puzzles in the testing center for some “cake.” Now you have a new priority, escaping.

The game’s storyline and narration, as well as the extras also add to the gameplay experience. In the game, the “person” in charge comments over and over about how you get “cake” once you finish the experiment. However, the game offers some foreshadowing to the final level with a few dead end areas, that seem like they aren’t part of the puzzle, and contain scribbled messages on the walls claiming “the cake is a lie!” Along with the witty jokes that are made from time to time, these narrative features help work with the simulation aspect of the game to keep the player entertained and engaged.

Once the game is beaten it’s not just “groked” the player also has access to a number of challenge levels. These levels add challenge to the player by timing them, limiting the number of portals one uses, and limiting the number of steps a player takes. These challenges keep the player entertained and playing even after they’ve beat it, thus making a good game.