Strategic Ambiguity

Papers Please and The Virtues of Silence

A principle of game design theory is that constant feedback from the game-system is critical for a particular design to be ‘good’ (Salen & Zimmerman, 2005). From a usability standpoint, I agree, but problems arise when narrative information is conveyed with the same rigidity and specificity as an ammo count. This is one of the reasons that ludonarrative dissonance occurs in modern video games, which is broadly defined as the phenomenon in videogames where narrative elements stand in contrast to the interactive elements (Hocking, 2007; Yap, 2014:13). As a result, the story presented can become incoherent. Continue Reading

Rethinking ∆Flow

in Relation to Narrative Within The Last of Us

Flow is an immediate, task-based construction. Csikszentmihalyi argues that flow exists in a ‘flow channel’ residing between anxiety and boredom, both of which measure challenges as they relate to skill level (ch.4). He believes people experience anxiety if challenges are too great for their skill level, and boredom if their skills are too great for the challenges provided (ch.4). Within the flow channel, however, “the difficulty is just right for [their] [. . .] skills” (Csikszentmihalyi ch.4), and people can become “completely absorbed by the activity” (Csikszentmihalyi ch.3). The exact activity matters very little; all that is required to enter the flow channel is an actionable task that possesses clear goals, adequately matches a person’s skill level, demands a certain level of concentration, and gives immediate feedback (Csikszentmihalyi ch.3). Indeed, flow is simply a task loop – goal, action, feedback – immediately registered by the player, traversing upwards through the flow channel as both skills and challenges increase in tandem. Continue Reading