Praise for Chris Bateman

  • Jane McGonigal
    "the most thoughtful respondent in games, barring none"
  • Kendall Walton
    "wonderfully refreshing and inventive"

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Game Design

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I almost have a Plato style thought but I cannot quite articulate it. This is probably something for your next post as you insinuate, but I have the following considerations.

1. An obvious point to make to a game designer as yourself: not all games involve competition, or 'winning'. Likewise, not all games are necessarily on the continuum of co-operation or competition.

The great thing about gaming as a medium is that you can create really unique works which bend our expectations about what a game is, should be, and what our 'way to play a game is'. You sort of accept this point when you say that the different aspects in the 'toy chest' ontology vary.

2. What aspects are in the 'toy chest' (such as whether the player takes an externalised third person doll, first person, or the role of God) defines the nature of perception in the game. This is much analogous to how priming may prompt us to think in certain categories, or how the political discourse of the media limits us to a small range of 'official' options.

3. You've mentioned this in a previous post so I thought I'd tie it up here: the props have a certain sense of canonicity to them. Like moral rules, they can be bent or manipulated. Consider the case of Halo (I'm sorry I can't think of any other games being a Halo addict). Within the confines of the game are the structures such as the game engine and models and AI etc, as well as the props and parameters that construe what makes it a specifically combat, competitive/co-operative oriented game. But then the engine can be used in a non canon way such as machinima.

Considering the analogy between aesthetics and gaming, or between aesthetical thinking and moral thinking, I find this kind of thought fruitful. Subversion, like making a toilet, art.

I totally went off topic, but I think this terminology has much currency for explaining that kind of subversion.


Michael: Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

"An obvious point to make to a game designer as yourself: not all games involve competition, or 'winning'."

I have argued this now almost non-stop for about five years - I feel I no longer need to make this point! :) The point of these two posts is to look at how specific props dominate play - and part of that aspect is how certain props imply competition or winning. I think there's more on this next week.

"What aspects are in the 'toy chest'... defines the nature of perception in the game."

Does it? I'm open to this argument, but one could have the same toys and switch between a first person, third person "over the shoulder" or third person top down perspective, so I think there is a 'silent partner' in the renderer which has more say on this front. Perhaps this should also be considered a toy in this line of thought?

The issue of canonicity is an interesting one here... the ability to subvert the game resources is almost a measure of the playfulness of the game - in this regard, GTA outstrips Halo (say) by orders of magnitude.

Ernest once mentioned how Far Cry could easily be a tourist game - if you took out all the fighting. What I'm suggesting here follows similar lines - take out the enemy dolls and the guns and the rest of the props dictate *different* play.... I think there's some interesting possibilities to be explored here.

Best wishes!

@Chris: the issue of "perspective" needs a lot more attention, in my opinion (btw, inspiring exchange there, thanks!)

Just from intuition, I propose that I feel being watched while standing in front of the screen of my Wii - weird as I come to think of it.

translucy: the issue of perspective is certainly key to experiential elements of play, and I discuss this briefly in "Imaginary Games". But I couldn't fit it directly into the paradigm I'm using for these two pieces, so I brush it under the carpet somewhat.

Perhaps I'll pick this up as something to discuss after I get back from my "spring break" next month.

Best wishes!

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