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Game Theory

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Notes about games.

Last TendedJun 2021
PlantedApr 2021
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Definition of a Game

Mark Rosewater, head designer for Magic: The Gathering, defines a game as something that contains the following components:

  • A goal(s): Players need motivation. Something to direct their actions.
  • Restrictions: A challenge(s) that keeps a player from simply completing the goal. Fun comes from figuring out how to overcome challenges.
  • Agency: A game needs to have decisions, and those decisions must matter. Allow the player to decide how they are going to play the game.
  • Lack of real-world relevance: A game is something that you opt into doing because you want the experience of playing it.
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No Tutorials

Hamish Todd states game developers can teach using mechanics & level design. We don't need to use words. People play games for adventure. Adventure is self-driven (agency), exciting, the unexpected happening & discovery. People are curious by nature & get joy from discovery. Being told what to do destroys agency. Being told what will happen destroys discovery.

Learning to play a video game is part of the game. It is a significant part of the pleasure of the game. If a game is any good, you will never stop learning how to play it.
- Raph Koster
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An example of this is people watching competitive Starcraft because players are still discoverying new ways to play. You could also argue 1 of the reasons speed-running is popular because of discovery. Players are constantly exploring, looking for new glitches that will shave time off their run.

Tutorials misdirect motivation. A player is motivated to play the game. When faced with a tutorial, the motivation changes to do whatever is required to remove it. Although tutorials are supposed to make things simplier, they make things more complex by adding a new phase to the game. Tutorial & game phases are 2 different things. It would be simplier if these 2 phases were just merged into 1. Other disadvantages are many players won't read the words you write and not everyone can read.

An example of using level design & mechanics to teach was shown on a Mega Man level. The player is put into an area where the only way to progress was to use a new mechanic. The game then lured the player into an accident that showed them a new mechanic.

As a game developer learning exercise, he proposes to take a vow of silence. Make a game without any words. This forces the developer to get deep understanding of how to use mechanics & level design to teach. He doesn't say that words should never be used in games, however, you should try to avoid being dependent on them. The game should be playable if the words are removed. The best examples of this are Portal & Braid.