P4K Grow A Game


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This presentation is to help facilitators in the Playing 4 Keeps program explain how games express ideas and how to use the Grow A Game cards.

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  • Lecture: In 2002, US District Court Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh ruled that games cannot express ideas and therefore are not entitled to First Amendment Rights.Processing: Do you agree with the judge’s ruling?Why do you think he would come to that conclusion?Many people still do not understand that video games have developed into a rich, expressive medium. When the novel was first invented many people thought it corrupted the minds of the youth and was a danger to society. There were similar reactions to cinema, television, and comic books. All new media go through a period of maturation as artists learn to communicate effectively through them and their use becomes widespread enough for society to accept their validity. If games can express ideas, how?Games express ideas in a number of ways: the plot, characters, and dialogue are the most obvious way. What characters do and say, especially in complex games like Final Fantrasy or Metal Gear, often develops many of the main theme of the game. The game’s goal also expresses ideas, who or what you’re tryign to save, prevent or defeat.Most importantly for us, the game’s mechanics, what you do in the game, express ideas, and we’ll discuss this more later. What are some ideas you’ve seen expressed in video game and how were they expressed?There are as many answers here as there games in world. This will be an opportunity for the students to demonstrate their understanding of games and communication. For some games, students may have differing interpretations of the games’ meanings. This is fine, games can be interpreted many ways and discussion or debate should be encouraged. The important point is to make sure the students are looking beyond just what is expressed in the games’ story and dialogue to see how more subtle elements express ideas. Who knows what values are? Values are ideas or beliefs that a person or group holds as important; principles to live byWhat are some values you can name? There are many, many answers to this question. To name just a few: Individualism, freedom, kindness, courage, generosity, cleverness, self-sacrifice, obedience, etc.Do you ever see any of these values show up in video games?The answer here is “yes.” Games express values just like they express other ideasDo you think game designers t in these values and ideas on purpose or by accident?Values and ideas make it into game both intentionally and unintentionally. All people have certain assumptions about the world, ideas, beliefs and values. Whenever someone designs something (whether it’s a product, a process, or a game) they automatically include some of these ideas in what they design. Then, they also have certain design goals that they include intentionally. As designers, it’s best to always be aware of what ideas and values you’re designing and so the purpose of the Grow A Game cards is to help designers think about all the values and ideas they want to design into their games and then do so intentionally.
  • Lecture:This is the standard process by which people design things. Everything that is made today is designed and everything that is designed goes through multiple iterations or refinements before it is finished. This is like when you write a paper for school. First you get an idea, then you make an outline, then a rough draft, and then a final draft. Making a game is a similar process except you may make a hundred rough drafts. This cycle represents the iterative process, or how a game is systematically refined through repeated design. For example: The Design Goal: A company wants to make a super-realistic flight simulatorRules and Constraints: They model physics for flying and define the capabilities of different airplanesDevelop prototype: They make a demo with simple 3-D graphics without skinsPlaytest: A dozen playtesters play the game give feedback on what they like and don’t likeRevise Goal: The designers decide which parts of the game are working and which parts need refinement or replacement. It turns out everyone likes the fighter jets and no one wants the glider so they make the game more of a military flight simulatorRepeat: This process goes on and on for a year or two until the game is great.
  • Lecture:This is the process we’re trying to do. It’s very similar to the last one, but at the beginning of the design process we want to set both design goals and values or ideas goal. There are things we want our games to do and there are things we want our games to say. We want to think about these things at the very beginning of the design process and then keep checking the whole way to make sure the ideas stay there. For example:The design goal: We want to make an action-packed game with the values of cooperation and sharingDevelop rules and contstraints: We decide to make a hockey game where if you don’t pass the puck within 5 seconds it slips away.Design for many play style: We make different modes for the game like single player, two player, coach mode, etc.Prototype: We get a nock hockey board and play two player nock hockey wit the rules we discussed. It seems to work so we make a simple digital versionPlaytest: We gather a bunch of friends, strangers, kids, adults, men and women to play the prototype. Verify values, revise goal: Looking at the player comments, we see that the game made people think more about getting assists and playing together. Many think that the change makes the game much harder, perhaps too hard. We decide to keep the passing rule, but make it 5 seconds before you have to pass.
  • Lecture:So now we know it’s possible to design with specific ideas and values in mind, but the big questions is why do all the extra work?
  • Lecture:In this program we will be specifically playing and looking at serious games. These are games about social issues or games that are meant for education. When making a serious game, designers always begin with a specific idea or issue they want the game to be about. For this reason, w will be using this game design model.Value or Idea-centric game design works when making any type of game though. This is simply a way to make more unique, interesting games that use new mechanics. We’re really just trying to make games better, more interesting, and this is one way to do this?Processing:Who knows what game this is?This is Portal. It was designed by a group of college students and was widely praised for being so innovative and unique. The game looks like a first person shooter but the game is basically non-violent and player has to solve puzzles to succeed.What do you think the main idea or value of this game is?Portal has many ideas in it, but one of the main ones is the importance of thinking for yourself. Can anyone think of how this is expressed in the game?In the game, a computerized voice guides you to a number of different puzzles that have to be solved by shooting portals and teleporting. The voice constantly discourages you, says you’ll never complete the puzzles, and gives you advice that if followed would get you killed. The only way to win the game is to think for yourself, be independent, and not listen to your critic. There are a number of other casual and commercial games that used an idea-centric design process and have been very successful.
  • Lecture:ICED is a game about immigration issues. The makers of the game wanted to help players empathisize with undocumented immigrants so they made game where you play as an undocumented worker. In the game the players has to survive all the difficulties of an undocumented immigrant and try to earn citizenship.
  • Lecture:In Darfur is Dying (another student project that was very successful) the player is a Sudanese person living in a refugee camp. The player must avoid violent gangs while trying to collect water for his or her family. The game has no win state, and every time you successfully collect water, there’s another day and another challenge.
  • Lecture:Hurricane Katrina: Tempest in Crescent City is a game that was designed by high school students in the 2007-2008 Playing 4 Keeps program. They wanted to make a game about Hurricane Katrina that shows how residents worked together, communicated, and shared resources to survive the disaster. In the game, you play as a former resident of New Orleans having a dream about being in the storm trying to find her mother. Along the way, the player must talk to residents to learn about the disaster and help distribute resources.
  • Background:This is a movie of Tempest running. Press the spacebar to make it play.
  • Lecture:As we said, though, commercial games have also used idea-centric design. Katamari Damacy is another game that began as a college student project and was produced for less than $1million. The main design goals were: novelty, ease of understanding, enjoyment, and humor. Lead designer Keita Takahashi has also said that one of the goals was to make a peaceful game and he specifically avoided adding power-ups or complex challenges.
  • Lecture:Bioshock is a game that was designed specifically as a criticism of Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy. Rand was a libertarian philosopher and writer from the mid-20th Century who developed a philosophy advocating unrestrained science and industrial development. She believed the individual should do as he or she likes without concern for the needs of others. Bioshock takes palce in a city bult to be an objectivist paradise, but instead turns into a disaster. This is a big budget action sci fi game that suddenly had game critics debating complex philosophical arguments.
  • Lecture:Grow A Game cards are a design tool that help people investigate the ideas expressed in games and develop idea-centric game designs of their own. There are four card categories in the deck.:Verbs - Verb cards have actions or game mechanics Challenges - Challenge cards have social issuesGames - Game cards have different games with brief descriptions of their main featuresValues - Value cards have different ideas or beliefs people think are important
  • Background: The instructions for this exercise will all be printed on the screen. Students should be given 2 or 3 minutes to discuss their ideas and then have a group discussion. Students should explain why they think different games have the particular value and how it is expressed in the game.
  • Background:For this exercise give the students slightly more time, 4 or 5 minutes, before presenting. Students should be thinking of a game mod that could incorporate the value on the blue card.
  • Background: For this final exercise, students should have a full 10 minutes to work. Circulate throughout the groups to ensure that everyone’s involved and contributing. There may be some difficulty at first encouraging students to develop ideas. Students are often hesitant to say their ideas out of fear of saying something wrong or stupid. Emphasize that good ideas only come while generating bad ideas. The key is lto come up with lots of ideas quickly and then discuss them as a group.Another important point is to ensuer students are developing games that use mechanics and goals to emphaisze their issues and values, not just the game narrative. Students will often tend to develop complex narratives without clearly developing the gameplay. Gameplay is the most important part and should express the ideas on the green and yellow cards. After students work for 10 minutes, each group should present their ideas and answer any questions that arise.Processing questions can be found in the workshop guide.
  • P4K Grow A Game

    1. 1. Value-Centric Game Design Grow A Game Workshop
    2. 2. “If games can’t communicate ideas, then why does he care who buys them?” (from: http://www.penny arcade.com/comic/2002/04/26) May 6, 2002 | quot;[There is] no conveyance of ideas, expression, or anything else that could possibly amount to free speech. The court finds that video games have more in common with board games and sports than they do with motion pictures.” -- U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Sr (decision overturned in 2003)
    3. 3. Image courtesy of Mary Flanagan and the Tiltfactor Laboratory, http://www.tiltfactor.org.
    4. 4. Why bother?
    5. 5. We have a choice to keep doing what’s been done before, or to explore new possibilities and make better games
    6. 6. Heidi Boisvert - Hunter College
    8. 8. katamari damacy value: peacefulness
    9. 9. bioshock ideas: individuality, objectivism
    10. 10. Four categories in “Grow a Game” cards: Verbs Challenges Games Values
    11. 11. 1. Let’s start. I’ll remove the blue Values cards from the whole deck, and shuffle them. 2. Draw a card from the Values deck and discuss with your neighbor a game that you think has this value in it.
    12. 12. 1. Now, I’ll draw one blue and one pink card + 2. Let’s brainstorm a game that could use the constraints of the Game on the pink card with the blue Value
    13. 13. Now for the real challenge We’ll draw 1 Challenge Card for everyone to use.
    14. 14. 1. Break up into groups of 3 or 4 and draw new Game (pink) and Verb (green cards. + + 2. Now each group should use it’s own verb card and game card together with the Challenge card everyone is using to design a game mod
    15. 15. Be Creative! Be Bold! Be A Little Weird!