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2007 Wrap Up

December 30, 2007

In no particular order, 2007…

  • Marked a return to my board gaming past. I play board games a few times a week now, and it’s had the effect of causing me to feel like I felt when I first entered the industry – that games were this incredibly plastic medium that could do anything. In a sense, board games caused me to fall in love with playing and making games all over again. No favorite game of the year for me. I have too many games to play still.
  • Elevated my modding interest. I frequently use non-digital game design exercises to challenge my students at SCAD and to teach them basic game design principles. After all, if you can’t construct a solid board game, I have no belief that you’re going to make the next Halo. More importantly, though, board games (and card and dice games etc.) expose game mechanics better than the digital medium. It allows me to teach pure design skills vs. ooo-wow-pretty-graphics skills.
  • Marked the creation of this blog. I’ve been in the industry since 1981 and online since the 1983, so I really have no excuse for not creating a design blog sooner. When I originally created the blog, I had no plan for its direction, but it seems to have developed one in spite of me.
  • Marked a fascination with Facebook games. I’ve been playing and studying a lot of Facebook games recently. The combination of social networks and casual gameplay and creates some interesting play and propagation dynamics that give me pleasure to study. I like to study games for the same reason I like to play games. They satisfy the same thing as far as my brain is concerned.
  • Involved the playing of dozens of indie games. In particular, Play This Thing has been a wonderful resource.
  • Saw me turn from a narratologist into a fairly staunch ludologist (the fact that I even mention this also implies that I’m embracing the academic side of my persona). Whereas before I’d sort of viewed stories as critical entities in some types of games, I now believe where stories are required there may not be a game at all. Unless you know me personally, you cannot imagine what a mindshift that is. I now believe that words themselves and stories and settings might just be a highly contextualized way to present rules. Even staunch ludologists, when asked to describe their game, will use these high density words and sometimes story to do so. It’s what we understand best. For instance, consider how many rules I convey in these three words: “turn-based combat”. What mechanics does a setting in the arctic tundra suggest to you? What game mechanics are suggested by a story based on revenge? In recounting the emergent stories of a game, are we not just talking about play dynamics as created by the rules? In a sense, I consider some word sets to be nothing more than pre-chunked rules, very ready for brain digestion. It’s a point I’m still having fun arguing (with myself), but suffice to say that I’ve truly crossed the line.
  • Involved a whole lot of game study. The amazing thing about entering academia is that I get paid to study and talk about what I’m studying. There are other things I’m paid to do, but this is a particularly hip perk. SCAD gives me a lot of flexibility to pursue particular topics like my old favorites censorship and creative freedom, and also encourages me to work on fairly whacked out stuff like the concept of “seeding story” for MMOs. (Regarding that, it’s still in research, so in answer to the question, “What’s that?”, I’ll answer in advance that given a few months, I might have a much better answer. For now, it’s just the name I gave to a concept that I’m toying with.)
  • Began my interest in using game design education to get at-risk kids excited about learning. This has proven to be an amazing experience for me, both personally and professionally. In the Spring of 2008, I will be doing an online discussion with a group of at-risk kids in NY. I’m really looking forward to that.
  • Saw me work on 3 indie projects and consult on 2 commercial ones. I’m about to start another project here in the new year that I’m particularly excited about.
  • Logged a whole lot of miles and do a whole lot of talks. I don’t fly, so if you hear that I’m going somewhere, it’s me and my car. This year, I went to California for GDC, Austin for AGDC, Atlanta for SiegeCon, Orlando for the IGDA, Charlotte for SCAD, Orlando (again) for SCAD, Atlanta (again) for Women in Film and Television, and Toronto for IdeaCity. Wow, that’s a lot of miles now that I list it all out there. On January 1st, I’m off to Baltimore.
  • Saw me purchase a BMW 3 series 2-dr black coupe with the sports package. To hell with the mini-van we probably needed.
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Patrick permalink
    December 31, 2007 3:45 pm

    The ludo vs. narrito schism sort of became passe a few years ago. Have you read Half-Real? If not, here’s a blog post by a collegue that will take significantly less time.

  2. December 31, 2007 4:00 pm

    I have read it. It’s a great book. The whole argument isn’t really much of an argument anyway since it’s hardly a vs. thing. For me, my comment can be translated another way: this year marked a significant shift in view of and study of games – I went from caring about game stories to a fascination with game rules.

    Since I was knee deep in crunch 2 years ago, nothing went “passe” on my plate.

    Among most game devs, I’d go so far as to say that this subject is completely irrelevant.

  3. December 31, 2007 9:41 pm

    Hello, I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog. I am trying to get my first job in the gaming industry and the information you have on your site has been really helpful. Thanks for taking the time to post this sort of information.

  4. December 31, 2007 9:44 pm

    Thanks, Eric. Much appreciated!

  5. February 25, 2008 5:50 pm

    Your mentioning of the shift from narratologist to ludologist got me on a never-ending train of thought on definition, capability, and future of games that still got me puzzled. So, I’d love it if you could help me a bit here?

    How do you define game, and do you believe games can tell as good of a story as a movie can?

    I’ve heard 1UP guys talking about this, and one of them likened capability of game’s storytelling as that of painting’s which is not its strong point as it is for novels. I must say I agree with him, based on anology where words are to novels as gameplay (game mechanics) are to games.

    I’m sorry to throw this at you now; you may already have enough to digest after long week of GDC!

  6. February 26, 2008 6:44 pm

    Hi Peter,

    There are so many definitions of “game.” The one I tend to stick by is Greg Costikyan’s as defined in his article: I have no words, and I must design (www.costik.com/nowords.html)

    I think that games give us a great place to tell our own story – to create our own story. I don’t think they *tell* a story as well as a book does.

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