meaningful play and game design

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Meaningful Play and Game Design. Assigned readings: Chapters 3 & 4 (Rules of Play Book). Dr. H é ctor Mu ñ oz-Avila. How important is it to play?. Yes, we play to have “fun”, but By playing games we learn a number of skills:. Social Mechanical skills Communication skills - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Meaningful Play and Game DesignDr. Hctor Muoz-AvilaAssigned readings:Chapters 3 & 4 (Rules of Play Book)

  • How important is it to play?Yes, we play to have fun, butBy playing games we learn a number of skills:SocialMechanical skillsCommunication skillsFollow (or break) rulesWe learn that there is something at playDirect: winning a gameDirect/indirect: reward or impress someone

  • Meaning and PlayKey goal of successful game design:

    Examples of meaningful play:

    Create gaming experience of the player that have a meaning and are meaningful (meaningful play)Chess: intellectual duelingBasketball: Improvisational, team-based tacticsEverquest: dynamic shifting of individual and community identitiesWhat makes a game meaningful are not the rules of the game alone but the experiences of players playing the game(this is why iterative design is so crucial in designing a game)

  • Descriptive Definition of Meaningful PlayDescriptive: meaningful play emerges from the relation between player action and system outcome Player: action System: respondsMeaning of an action is the relation between action and outcome

    Is there meaningful play in something like this?Of course, we execute our moves/combos with an intended outcome

    This definition reflects an operational level

  • Evaluative Definition of Meaningful PlayEvaluative:Meaningful play occurs when relation between actions and outcomes are discernable and integrated into the larger context of the game

    This definition relates to the experience of the player

    Therefore the evaluative definition is the one we use in our analysis

  • Discernable The outcome of an action is communicated in a perceivable way.

    Good examples?Where the outcome was communicated

    Bad examples?Where the outcome was not communicated and should have

  • Integrated Actions taken by player have not only immediate significance but affects player experience later on.

    Good examples?Where the outcome has significance later onHow about chess?

    Bad examples?Where the outcome has significance no later on

  • Side Track: Massive Multiplayer Online RPGs (MMOs)Persistent worldRPG: players take rolePriest: heal other playersWarrior: draws attention of the MOB towards him/herMage: deal damage dude wut is ur DPS? (as many as 20 other roles in modern games)Character advances levels and gains new skills that facilitates its roleFundamental that each player master their avatars role to defeat some encounters20/40 avatars carefully following a plan

  • So What is Discernable and Integrated in MMOs?Discernable


  • Homework (next class)Describe a concrete example of a discernable outcome in an action (choose a game)Describe a concrete example of an action not having discernable outcome (choose a game)Explain what you think is the impact on play (i.e., players experience) for this game? (i.e., is it bad?)Describe a concrete example of an integrated outcome in an action (choose a game)Describe a concrete example of a in an action not having an integrated outcome (choose a game)Explain what you think is the impact on play for this game? Please dont use any of the examples discussed in classYou may use different games in your answers

  • DesignAs with game there are multiple definitions of what this meansDesign is making sense of thingsDevising courses of action aimed at changing existing situations (Herbert Simon)The conception of visual form

    So there are multiple elements: understanding, action, visual appearance,

  • Design: A Definition (the official)Design is a process by which a designer creates a context to be encountered by a participant from which meaning emerges

    Designer: person who creates the gameContext: rules, spaces, objects, narratives (lore)Participants: playersMeaning: meaningful play

    Crucial point of this definition: connect design and meaningful playWhen creating games we are crafting experiencesClassical example: RPG games

  • Controversy: MorrowindDesign decision:

    Monsters level as you level

    So monster encountered later in the game is tougher than same monster encountered early in the game

    In fact you can beat the game at very low level!

    Paradox: can beat at level 20 but not at level 40

    Is the outcome of actions integrated?

  • Design and MeaningMeaning in context of game design: assess the value or significance of play

    Meaning is crucial because the design results in a system of interactionspeopleobjectcontextmeaning

  • SemioticsThe study of how meanings are madeCreated by a linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (early 1900s)Example: symbols in rock-paper-scissorsAnother examples: classes in a game (mage, warrior)What does a mage represents? And a warrior?Four semiotic concepts:Sign represents something other than itselfSigns are interpretedMeaning results when a sign is interpretedContext shape interpretation

  • Sign represents something other than itselfWhat is the meaning of O in Tic-Tac-Toe?

    Games use signs to denote actions and outcome (capturing an opponents piece/falling king in chess)

    Chains of signifiers: sequences of signs

    Examples?Words (sequences of characters)Civilization signifies society evolution

  • Signs are interpretedMeaning of signs are not because of the signs themselves but because of surrounding context

    Players are active interpreters of signs in games

    Analogy: cursor changes in RTS games

  • Meaning results when a sign is interpretedA sign stands for something to somebody in some aspect or capacity

    Think of the role of a warrior or a mage in an MMO game

    And perceived meaning is controversial (designer versus some players)

    Paladins in WOW: clerics or holy warriors?

  • Context shape interpretationDesigner creates a context for the participant form which meaning emerges

    Classical example: word in a phrase

    Structure: set of regulations or guidelines that prescribe how signs are interpreted (example)

  • Side Track: Lore: Designing ContextPay for a License or Not

  • AdministrativeGame creation: Posted on web siteAnalysis of existing game design: Posted on web site