Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Week5: Agenda

  • 9am-10am: Play Bully
NOTE: The graphics cards in these computers aren't quite able to display the cut-scenes. For instance, when you start your game running, there's a short movie introduction - the visuals will lack colour and show up all wonky. You can skip it or listen to the audio. Once the gameplay starts, everything seems to be okay - so just get through that first part and you should be good to go!
  • 10am-10:30am: Discussion about videogame controversies; how this links back to earlier discussions about ESRB ratings, story, etc. 
    • Q: What do you think the role of the library should be in addressing and/or responding to these types of controversies?
    • e.g. Libraries protect challenges books, and increasingly films, audio, etc. Should they take a more active role in protecting challenged games (against bans, censorship, etc.)?
  • 10:30am-10:45am: Talk about presentations (and group assignments if any questions/issues)
  • 10:45am-12:00pm: Group work! (extra time today: it's our LAST CLASS before presentations)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week4: Agenda

  • 9:00am: PLAY SPORE!!!
  • 10:00am: Debrief on the gameplay experience. Discussion of the game in relation to this week's readings, discussion of the concepts of "educational" games and "games as learning engines" (James Paul Gee's arguments), etc.
  • 10:30am: Discussion of the role of educational (formal/informal) games in the library - how important (or unimportant) is this idea in building collections? For your playlists? In your game designs? Why?
  • 11:00am: Group work. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Page: Homeplay

Be sure to check out the newest addition to the course site, the HomePlay page - wherein you will find a list of free-to-play, browser based games that you can play at home, and use to think about alternative forms of game design . At times deceptively simple, I propose that these games show that there's more than one way to explore narrative - and the relationship between narrative and game mechanics.

See what you think!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Week3: Games and Narrative


- This week's workshop starts with a session of Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor (BE SURE TO PLAY ON JR DETECTIVE SETTING - due to limited time). For anyone who doesn't have a terminal, we'll supply notebooks - or you can download the game onto your laptops.

- Debrief on gameplay. Thoughts about linkages to readings and this week's themes.
- Chat about this week's readings (Bizzocchi - see below)

Q: What role will narrative play in your design-a-game projects? In your playlists??

Work on Projects:
Design-a-game - finish playing through the tutorials, get started on your game/level!!! 
Playlist - should have a theme established by now. Start narrowing down your choices

This week's reading was written by Jim Bizzocchi – a prof at SFU's School of Interactive Art and Technology. I chose the article because it provides a really approachable framework for studying narrative as an integrated feature of digital games, one that can be applied to a wide variety of game types and genres. A key component of Bizzocchi's argument is the distinction he makes between narrative arc and narrative framework:

Narrative arc: is the sequence of events that make up the plot in film, books, etc. (although of course these elements are not always in the same order). He breaks down narrative arc into a series of steps, which include:

  • "the setup introduces the characters and the storyworld they inhabit 
  • the complication introduces a challenge to be overcome 
  • the development is the long phase that dominates the bulk of the storytelling, as the protagonist works towards her goal 
  • the resolution or climax is the culmination of the struggles of the development phase, often resulting in some form of victory or defeat 
  • the denouement or falling action ties up the stories loose ends, and allows the narrative experience to gracefully end" (Bizzocchi, 2006, p.3)

Bizzocchi argues that the difficulty in applying this model to digital games is that “its power depends in large part on tight control over the design and implementation of details," and that “tight control over details is precisely what the interactive process does not afford” (p.3) (I would qualify this to: or at least affords to a lesser extent).

Bizzocchi outlines what he calls a “more modest framework of limited narrative parameters” for game studies – which can include examination of the following features (although we should note here that this is still a work in progress):

  • "storyworld - what is the environment within which the game unfolds
  • character - who are the beings that populate this game world 
  • emotion - both the emotions shown by the games characters and those elicited in the player 
  • narrative interface - how are narrative sensibilities instantiated in the appearance and the functionality of the interface design 
  • micro-narrative - smaller moments of narrative flow and coherence that occur within a broader context of game play" (Bizzocchi, 2006, p.4)

The game that we're playing this week is a pretty straightforward example of narrative in games - some may even call the Nancy Drew games "interactive stories" or "interactive narratives" rather than "games" - although they do contain a ton of puzzles, hidden objects and exploration elements, which qualifies them as games in my book. That said, it will be important to think through the different ways that stories can be told through digital game design/play. Through experiential elements, or dramatization, through text or through environment, events or cut-scenes. 

Another key question for this week will be how the groups have thought about narrative in planning for the assignments. 
  • What is the role of narrative in the selection process for your Playlists? 
  • What types of narratives (if any) have you discussed incorporating into your game design experiment?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Simon's Gamasutra Articles

(Image of Woozworld (copyright 2011), borrowed from Gamasutra)

As discussed in class, here are some links to articles written by your classmate, and resident game industry expert, Simon Ludgate for Gamasutra (very cool, very informative industry online magazine). In particular, you might want to check out the following, which discusses real-world/in-game economies in kids' online games: "A Visit to Woozworld."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Agenda for Week2 Workshop (1006)

- This week's workshop starts with a session of World of Goo. For anyone who doesn't have a terminal, we'll supply notebooks - or you can download the game onto your laptops.

- Debrief on gameplay. Thoughts about linkages to readings and this week's themes.
- Chat about this week's readings:
  • Bryant et al.'s designing for preschoolers article (usability, design strategies, & later on...assessment)

  • ESRB Rating Systems: thoughts on process, uses, problems, oversights, etc.

  • - How to bring these issues into the game design experience (and evaluation of titles AND DIY game design programs)
    - Possible Additional Discussion points:
  • Difference in the "process" each team goes through (Bryant et al. user-centered design, informed by theory, iterative process involving kids, parents) (ESRB coding videos of the games for certain types of content - yet "E" comes to mean so much more)

  • From preschoolers to elementary-age....big developmental changes. How would the challenges Bryant describes change over time - how to accommodate for this - how to anticipate without training in child development theory, child education, usability, etc.

  • Usability and user-centered processes - how can these concepts be incorporated into collection development OR research OR tech assessment 

  • Work on Projects:
  • Experiment with the different game design programs. 

  • Assign specific tasks and roles to different team members.

  • Start searching for play list games. 

  • Etc.
  • Revisiting the ESRB - Redux

    Since we're going to be talking about the ESRB tomorrow, I thought I'd point out an article I wrote about the system last year for an online magazine (and good source for gaming news/reviews), The Escapist. In the article, I argue that the ESRB is running the risk of causing its own obsolescence - at the time, it became the centre of a small but fiery debate, both in the comments section of the magazine itself, as well as on other game community blogs and news sources. I later wrote a response on my blog, Gamine Expedition, which you can read here if you're interested.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    DIY Game Design - Samples & Tutorials

    100 Game Maker 8 Games (in 10 min)

    A small collection of tutorials for (some of) the various programs suggested for the Design-A-Game project are available on the instructor's Youtube MyChannel, in the INF 1005/6 Playlist. For example:

    Following tutorials and playing a number of existing games/levels - both official or player-made - are both really crucial for learning these programs. Playing existing levels will help you to conceptualize what is possible, what the various components/tools can do, and give you ideas of where and how to start. The official/provided tutorials are not always quick or easy, but well worth going through. And please do "cheat" by looking up player walkthroughs, cheats, tips, etc.