A Different Kind of Game Feel

A Review of How Games Move Us

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We often talk about emotions in terms of a spectrum. Certain films, games, and other cultural texts are said to run the gamut of the emotional spectrum, making us laugh and cry. But very few analyses or explanations actually go beyond the binary oscillation of happy/sad to look at the full range of emotions on display in a particular work of art. Katherine Isbister seeks to identify both the emotions at play in games and how designers can seek to achieve them in her book How Games Moves Us: Emotion by Design. Instead of targeting the commonsensical notions of games making players angry or joyful, she looks at social emotions such as pride, guilt, and complicity to understand the special power of games. Continue Reading

Engineering Evolution

What Self-Determination Theory can tell us about Magic: The Gathering’s Metagame

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In the world of collectable card games, something curious is happening. Over the course of the last two-and-a-half years, three of the largest and best-respected card game developers—Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight Games, and Blizzard Entertainment—have been scrambling to adjust the release cycles for each of their wildly popular (and staggeringly lucrative) card games. In the case of the latter two companies, these adjustments might be dismissed as the developers ironing out wrinkles in the new, untested systems that undergird their products’ popularity; doing so cannot, however, account for the fact that Wizards of the Coast’s previous model was employed to great success for over two decades, and that both Fantasy Flight Games and Blizzard Entertainment based their business models on adaptations of Wizards’ original system. So, then, why the change? Why now? Continue Reading

First Person Podcast Episode 16

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This month, for a special Valentine’s day episode of the First Person Podcast, we discuss the hit mobile dating sim, Mystic Messenger! We discuss some of our experiences playing the game and have some general discussion about dating sims. How do you choose routes in dating sims? Who does the genre appeal to and what are its audience limitations? What kind of relationships are portrayed in dating sims? Continue Reading

Spatial Experientiality in Journey

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In constructing an immersive experience for its players, Journey gives its in-game space a starring role. In the absence of text, voice acting, and general lack of traditional narrative exposition, players wishing to draw out the game’s story are to depend solely on the game’s spatial design. Journey starts with an unidentified protagonist in an unidentified land. A cut-scene brings a distant mountain into the players’ focus, marking the mountain as an end destination. Continue Reading

First Person Podcast Episode 15

Get Decked

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This month’s podcast is all about card games. We discuss everything from collectible card games (CCGs) like Magic the Gathering, to living card games (LCGs) like Android: Netrunner, to deckbuilding games like Ascension, and digital card games like Hearthstone. Why has this genre of game endured? What are the differences between the different business models? Which games have we been currently playing and which are the ones we had more time (and money) to play? Continue Reading

More Than Affordances

Limitations and the Systems They Create: A Review of Ian Bogost's Play Anything

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Throughout my time in Grad School, I have been intensely curious about the word play and increasingly disenchanted by the idea of game studies. If play and culture are inexorably intertwined then it seems to me that studying games does little, whereas studying play in things that are not games can give unique insight into culture itself. However, in order to really get at this concept one would have to embrace the work of Johan Huizinga in a way that is often overlooked, discarded, avoided, or reduced to absurdity – the magic circle. When I found out that Ian Bogost was writing a book specifically about this concept of play, I was excited to see what he had to say on the subject. To that end, Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, & The Secret of Games may be one of the important books on the study of play I have found. Unfortunately, the book will most likely remain largely ignored because it is nearly impossible to pin down what the book exactly is. Continue Reading

Sonic Meditation

How sound design in Inside creates a mindful experience

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When I was younger, and I found myself feeling dizzy from too many thoughts swirling in my head, I’d sit on the stairs of our house and listen to the outside world bounce off the curved walls of our foyer – birds chirping, cars driving by, the stiff bones of our house settling – until inevitably, the noise fell to silence. I’d be sitting there alone again, until I’d hear something else and focus solely on that sound. It became a ritual. Continue Reading