Reading + Screenings

In preparation for the next unit read the chapter and watch the two talks below. They are three very different perspectives on designing and understanding non-digital games. Write a short response (not a summary, not a review or a statement of appreciation/dislike) in the comment section.

How Settlers of Catan Created an American Boardgame Revolution – Ian Schreiber

Life and Death and Middle Pair: Go, Poker and the Sublime by Frank Lantz

Train (or How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design) by Brenda Brathwaite

  1. Settlers of Catan is meant to engage many players of varying age at once. Its “Eurogame” elements, like strategizing teamwork and various victory paths keep it accessible. I find this universal quality to be an element of Lantz’s gaming into the sublime. All people are welcome to enter the meditation state and journey to enlightenment (in many of the world’s religions). We can use games as a way of teaching the mind to anticipate and engage with the meditation state. The long, arduous task of mastering a game of strategy can take years, just as the meditative practices in religions do. I think this process of mental preparation is paralleled in art making. At a base level, the urge to create (which Brathwaite says is common to all game designers) spurs any person to enter into the spiritual contract of art-making. Creation takes massive mental concentration and preparation. In my experience, executing creation is a highly meditative activity, which allows me to escape the physical realm and graze enlightenment, if only during the moment of creation. Immersed play also lets a person experience a spiritual escape and connection with what is beyond them. Play then becomes essential to human spirituality in the modern era.

  2. What stuck out to me was the fragment of Lantz’s talk that discussed the ‘suffering and redemption’ aspect of poker. In particular, I was surprised when the ‘greatest poker in the world’ stated that he was addicted to the moments when he would “lose so much money he couldn’t breathe”. Lantz then comments on how many people are under the impression that games should be “pleasure dispensers”–when in fact it is the suffering from games that makes them ‘fun’. In a sense, Lantz makes a good point in that frustration is what makes a victory feel sweeter. However, frustration in excess certainly would not make a game enjoyable. While I do not believe that all games should be “pleasure dispensers”, I think for the most part pleasure should be easily derived without too much frustration.


    2. Oh also I find it interesting how, in Brenda’s talk, she told the audience at one point to “imagine games are not fun”–which is in line with the popular belief that all games are ‘fun’ by default. This really made me think about the definition of a ‘game’; namely what makes a game a ‘game’ if it’s not ‘fun’.

    3. On the topic of fun, here’s a pretty informative video about it. Paolo’s game also gets a mention, amusingly enough:

  3. I remember board games as a family always had two levels of play – one that referred to the game and it’s rules/strategy and one that referred to the people playing. There were the people in my family that would never play (my grandmother, who grew up with 3 brothers who constantly cheated and ruined games for her forever) and my sister (who would play until she realized she was losing and then “lost interest”). The subject matter in these materials really spoke to those levels plus the personal level – that when you play a game you’re also engaging in self-exploration. It’s nice that games like Catan cater to all levels and really become a social interaction venue, where there is no alienation for being new or unskilled as that doesn’t matter as much. Lantz’s talk also reminded me that playing games can be dangerous to health – this struck a chord. When I play games (usually sports) I operate on a go hard or go home principle, often pushing through injuries when I should really stop and heal. The idea that gameplay can overpower you and take you to a place where you push yourself speaks to the power of games. Brathwaite’s talk was perhaps the most interesting to me, suggesting that games aren’t always a safe space or an oasis. They can be evocative and emotional on all ends of the emotion spectrum during the game itself. As a final and somewhat unrelated note, I really liked that she uncovers how games can evoke emotions very well in people. In my research in psychology, we had a lot of trouble getting people to reliably experience and express emotions because a) emotional reactions are highly individualized and what makes one person laugh can make another person angry and b) that emotions and expressions are highly social activities that are the result of or a reaction to other people and often take place in their presence. The idea that a game like Train can make people have such a unique and somewhat singular experience is really interesting.

  4. One thing interesting to me from Brenda’s talk is how she fully takes advantage of every last nook and cranny of the analog game, when it seems like almost every modern analog games pave over these. For a topical example, consider Settlers of Catan. You can accidentally knock over pieces or cards which maintain critical game state, and that would be an inconvenience. Although it’s not much of a problem to those with any reasonable amount of caution, it can still happen. Additionally, for a beginner learning Catan, or even for more advanced players of yet more complex games, you might accidentally misremember a rule, or forget to do something. You might accidentally reveal private game state information to another player if you hold your cards at the wrong angle. Plus, all this carefulness with physical objects can seem like extra work, when you really just want to play the meat of the game. In this way, the “advantage” of computer-controlled games is the elimination of such human error. But, in Train, not following the instructions, or even accidentally knocking over a piece can be taken as part of the game. Breaking the glass window is part of the game. Having to fumble getting pieces into the train is part of the game. These are all intentional, and as a result, they seem to form a much richer, more engaging experience.

    Interestingly, Lantz dives into the significance of the *playing* of the game, whereas Brenda dives deep into the significance of the *meaning* of the game. Schreiber looks at the popularity of a game. Each of these provides a different sense of valuing of a game. And the three valuations are not competing, but seem to be different, equally valid ways to value a game.

  5. Schreiber’s piece reminded me how I usually shy away from games because of my short attention span. (This is probably why I didn’t enjoy playing Corporate America on Thursday.) I fit into the description of a kid in his article. I agree that games like Settlers of Catan are successful because of their appeal to both kids and adults, and I think his analysis of why the game is successful is interesting. But I’m not really absorbing much of his words because the only thing that overcomes my short attention span is the crowd I’m playing with. I appreciate a game more for how it facilitates or complicates a social situation. I guess measured randomness, constrained play time, and game complexity can do that, but the way Schreiber talks about it makes it seem like brain capacity is more important in game design.

    Lantz’s discussion was rich in dichotomies and opposing forces. This made his views of Go and Poker seem very spiritual and romantic–which is an amazing view considering how game theory can be stripped down to technicalities sometimes. It’s interesting to think of games as sacred, because it emphasizes the role they play throughout human history and how they transcend themselves as products… Deep stuff. This is on a completely opposite spectrum from Schreiber, who talks about games with very low stakes.

    I really appreciated Brenda’s discussion about using games to convey an experience or an emotion. Her views on the connotations surrounding games remind me of Sicart’s text. They both fight the general perception that games or play should be “fun” or exist in a separate in context from serious topics. Brenda, however, diverges in how she emphasizes that the medium is the message. While Sicart talks about play as a behavior of humans, Brenda discusses how games have the potential to use play to transform an experience further. Her game, Train, makes excellent use of this transformation. She truly designs for the meaning behind the game, and I find it amazing that those who figure out that meaning don’t give it away to the other players. That shows how much they appreciate its significance.

  6. The Catan article was pretty relevant to me since I played a ton of it this summer while living with two of my high school friends in Berkeley. We played it countless times and never got bored of it. Reading the article allowed me to think about what exactly it was that made the game so addicting for us.

    In the Lantz talk, I was really interested in his discussion of games as a spiritual or meditative process. All games have patterns or mechanics of some sort, and when we absorb ourselves in these patterns that are provided through the game, it becomes a meditative experience. On a very basic level, meditation itself involves bringing the mind to a different state than the default state, and by immersing the player in a different world or a different system of thinking, games do that by their very nature. They carve out little spaces in life which become their own reality, separate from actual reality. One thing that is slightly different in meditation vs. games is that games have the potential to be a kind of collaborative meditation as well as a solo meditation. Conventionally, meditation is often viewed as the search for individual enlightenment, but if we extend the meditation comparison to multiplayer games, wherein everyone is immersing themselves simultaneously into the virtual world of the game, it becomes a space for shared focus and thus shared enlightenment.

    In Brathwaite’s talk, she discussed using games to capture and express powerful emotions that aren’t necessarily “fun” to experience. I hadn’t really thought about how in mainstream thought, there’s this preconceived notion that games have to offer the reward of a fun experience to the player. It really shouldn’t have to be this way, as games create alternate realities for players to experience, and only creating fun alternate realities is really a limiting way of approaching game creation. It would be interesting to try to find the reason for why this prevailing belief that games should be “fun” even exists in the first place. Perhaps it is because other common entertainment like books/films are passive, while games are interactive. Books and films do not involve the viewer’s interactive will to participate. They merely present uncomfortable emotions for the consumer to observe from a distance, whereas in games the player is forced to personally decide to interact with uncomfortable emotions. Perhaps humans are inherently afraid of willingly exploring their darker emotions and so interactive experiences like games are commonly designed to shield the player from emotional difficulty.

  7. At their cores, Schreiber’s article explores what makes particular games appealing; Lantz’s presentation explores what can make games deep and complex; Brathwaite’s talk reveals what makes games powerful. All three talk about these topics through the lens of design instead of “art” (though the latter two nearly touched on it, thank god they didn’t).

    Schreiber’s caused me to reflect on the popular and more importantly replayable games out there–boardgames, card games, MOBAs, roguelike games, even rock paper scissors–and attribute their successes to some of the elements of Eurogames discussed in the article (e.g. variety, measured randomness, multiple paths to victory, constrained playtime). About Lantz’s–I had actually played Go several years ago but never really examined it closely in its design, so the talk made me more appreciative of the game. There’s a perspective I didn’t enjoy though–the gamer’s perspective, as in he was telling us to have a certain mindset before playing poker. Isn’t that the game designer’s responsibility to design the game so that gamers approach it with the mindset that the designer wants?

    Brathwaite’s boardgame abstractions of historical tragedies didn’t really sit right with me. Oh, I’m sure I’ll have similar reactions to Train as the observed ones, and as a design it’s a success, but it just seems like the game is riding on the emotions that are already present within us about the tragedies. Yes, there are elements that we can manipulate in the game as the end state can be interpreted differently on each playthrough, but we make those choices because we’re aware of the history linked to the game. If you’re making a game that captures and expresses difficult emotions, isn’t it better to have the game avoid a direct reference to a subject humans already feel very strongly about so that we can abstract even further and have even deeper discussions about it?

  8. It really struck me how Brathwaite showed that meaningful non-digital games could be made “easily & quickly”. While I don’t agree with her statement that there haven’t been any digital games that expresses difficult emotions, I agree with her that it seems to be far easier to make a non-digital game that expresses difficult emotions than it is to make a digital game that does. If Train were made into a digital game, I am confident that it would not work. Players wouldn’t feel the say emotions and the game wouldn’t have the impact it does as a board game.

    Schreiber also touches on this by breaking down classic board/card games to their mechanics and what makes them unique. The ease and clarity of his compare/contrasts of the games is only possible because the games are non-digital. Trying to do a similar breakdown comparison of Halo vs. Call of Duty would be far more difficult and would lead to inconclusive results. The games are too complex and there is too much window dressing (story, art style, UI design, audio, music, etc.) to be able to say in a short paragraph what differentiates the games. While Tetris vs. PacMan would be far more doable, it still not as easy as the non-digital game comparisons. This could just be intrinsic to the involvement of a computer to manage the game (act as game master).

    This leads into what Lantz was saying about wanting there to be digital game that incorporated in elements of what Poker & Go can teach a player. He also posed the question of why can’t the next Call of Duty/Halo/etc. do this? These games are far too well developed and complex to be able to easily introduce such a non-concrete gameplay element. While there have been message/critical games that have made attempts to do things similar to this, I am skeptical if the questions posed by games like Papers Please or Spec Ops: The Line have the same impact as games like Train and The New World.

  9. Ian Schreiber’s article deconstructed what it means for a board game to be “fun for the whole family”. It discussed properties like “measured randomness” and “minimal downtown”. it certainly puts into words what we all experience when playing a good board game. While I found this informative, I enjoyed how Frank Lantz and Brenda Brathwaite’s talks, spoke to a games’ ability to be expressive and intoxicating.

    Frank Lantz mentioned at least twice how playing Go or Poker was like “injecting something into your mind.” You will be so absorbed in its accessible sense of purpose and the hypnotizing effect of seeing your own thinking that the little person in your mind will stop muttering about your damn bills, job, and significant other. I like how this touches on something a little more desperate than the desire to have fun. Instead, it talks about a mix of pleasure and pain that creates a good game and those strange people who like the feeling of loosing everything that they have over and over again.

    Lantz showed a short animation of the pieces of Go moving across the board. I found this combined with the concept of seeing your own thinking a bit inspiring. I have the beginnings of an idea about capturing time lapse images of people playing very simple games with a voice over of their internal dialogue.

    Lantz briefly mentioned a film theory idea and how it might apply to gaming. He mentioned it so briefly, but I am sure that it could of been the subject of another talk. I will paraphrase how he stated the idea: The magical moment in film is when the camera points at reality and it isn’t just “a midget” it is “that particular midget.” The implication being that when something becomes a particular rather than general reality, you form a special kind of appreciation and attachment. I wonder how this concept really does apply to gaming. The fact that the player can often point the camera somewhat creates this effect. However when you point the camera at a character in a game there is more of a feeling that that character is a general rather than specific reality. The character it more stylized than in film and there is an implications that there could be exact replicas.

    I liked how Brenda Brathwaite talked about her process so honestly. I sympathized with the struggles that come when you have to get down an dirty with every detail of a project. Like how she struggled to dye the irish players the exact right shade of green. As a disclaimer, I like work that has some bite to it, in fact I often have the impulse to draw back from any piece of work that is too shiny or too “fun”. It has to have something abject like Mike Kelley. It has to be campy and complex like Cindy Sherman. It has to be ironically sterile like Hans Hacke. (But I digress) The point is, I appreciated how Brenda Brathwaite used the vehicle of a game to represent a difficult situation without needing to make it light, fun, and shiny.

  10. Brenda’s talk really moved me. I admit I am not big on board games, and her talk had a rather strong title, so I went into it with some bias. However, I realized that I did not understand the true possibilities of the gaming medium until she described what she did. I always knew games have the power to move us have some educational value, but when she showed me how those can be combined together in such a cohesive way, I was blown away. I almost regretted watching this talk, because now I know what her games such as Train are about and hence will never get to experience them myself (not like it is that possible to begin with). Before this, I always thought of board games as chores, something I am almost forced into in order to be a social with others. I do enjoy playing them, but deep down I wished we could be doing something else. Now I understand the benefits of the board game genre, and how players can be the greatest aspect of games, rather than their rules and presentations.

  11. Ian Schreiber’s article is clear and informative — I never considered non-competitiveness as being a strong suit of a game. However, the article’s brevity is a shortcoming. He described how design decisions in Catan, such as non-competitiveness and balance of luck and skill can be effective in general, but not how their specific implementation in Catan was so successful. That is to say, any game can have non-competitiveness as well as chance and skill involved, but why and how are they particularly effective in Catan?

    Lantz’s talk focused on our abstraction conception of reality and how an intricately designed game system can alter or hone it, while Brathwaite talked about her games which focused on concrete historical events translated into a game system. Personally, Lantz’s analysis resonated with me more, as he touched on functions of games that only games can have — the total immersion of a person’s thought pattern — while Brathwaite’s work evoked emotional responses previously trodden by other media.

    The purpose of Trains seems confusing if not a bit disingenuous. By playing along with the game, are we supposed to feel guilty by the end? Is this guilt what long dead German train engineers should be feeling, or is it supposed to be a to be a historical lesson? If the latter, the game is only effective because we already know our history so we know the emotional connotation associated with concentration camp, so the lesson is redundant. It seems like the emotional responses were a result not of smart design choices per se, but of invoking a touchy historical issue. The middle passage game sounds more honest and effective, as the system encourages emotional attachment to the pieces as a family and actually contextualizes the gameplay in a meaningful way, instead of hiding the context.

    1. Is my name different now?

  12. I’ve never personally played Settlers of Catan before. I remember seeing many of my high school friends play the game at our high school reunions and it was always the preferred choice. I enjoyed the parallels that Schreiber made between Catan and many other games such as Magic and Bohnanza. It’s interesting to see how the gaming industry thinks while creating new games. I think Catan is a very smart game because of its measured randomness property and the time limit that keeps players engaged while keeping each game unique.
    Compared to Go in Lantz’s lecture, Go is a lot more spiritual, strategic and mentally provoking than Catan. It is almost like meditation and its similarities with Poker are hard to overlook. Both games need a lot of skill and have a “board” the players play on. Lantz’s talk taught me that Go and Poker require a lot of reverse engineering and reading your opponent. Players must be patient in both games (especially in Go) since each move is adding to an elaborate plan.
    I found the darkness in Brathwaite’s lecture very interesting. I always thought of games as an entertainment or something fun to strike up conversation. However Brathwaite’s games are more of an artistic experience that explored human emotions like a movie.They combine history and taboo subjects like racism and massacres and turn them into very meaningful person experiences.

  13. It’s interesting for me, four years removed from first seeing Brenda’s talk about Train, to see where game designers have taken things since. There has been a slight (SLIGHT) impetus toward the physical, the visceral, the “meaningful” connection created when playing with abstractions. Games like “Papers, Please” seem obvious after viewing Brenda’s talk. Even things like “Spec Ops: The Line” are coming closer and closer to touching that deep spot in our guts that isn’t reasonable or rational.

    Ian’s article gets to how a very good game can generate these sorts of “extra-game” actions and activities. Catan might not get its players near where Train does, but on a smaller scale, it’s brought millions (?) of people closer to having an emergent conversation out of the game they are playing. “You never trade with me!” isn’t a terrible leap from “We just arrived at Auschwitz” in the context of having a player relate an abstracted action to a meaningful event.

    I always view things from the lens of the author / audience. Frank and Brenda both have a deep relationship with the idea of a game’s “rules” authoring an experience for the audience. They see games as an authored space for for interaction which can lead to unknowable results. Games these days, especially video games, are highly controlled experiences without a lot of emergent play. They’re too concerned about edge cases and Narrative Arcs. Following the example of these three authors, it seems that we as game designers have a lot of opportunity to improve this situation, and it doesn’t take a huge lifestyle simulation to make it happen.

  14. In Frank Lantz’s talk on Go and Poker, he uses the phrase “Poker hurt me”, and discusses how games like Poker and Go are, in many ways, self destructive for the player. They are like a machine that expands in your mind until the self is dissolved and only the game is left; completely losing the self into the act of play.

    I never thought of this type of play as self destructive, but rather meditative. While Lantz does talk about the spiritual and meditative qualities of Poker, Go and other similar games, he focuses more on how addicting the “painful” qualities of these games can be. He quotes one of the world’s best Poker players, who said that he is addicted to the moment you can’t breathe because you’ve lost all of your money. The strange balance between meditation and addiction is something I’d like to look more into as I create more work for this class, as many of the games that I find to be soothing and meditative are, in many ways, addictive and painful.

    Again with Super Hexagon, while I often find myself completely lost in the spiraling obstacles of the game, the objective to the game is inherently…to lose. To lose with the best time, but still to lose. Many of the games discussed in these talks have a clear objective, where someone wins and someone loses. Like Super Hexagon, many of these games are a sort of “martial art” that you must hone, and once you achieve a certain level of skill you can go into the zen zone of play. But many of the games that I find myself playing do not really have a clear “win”, and they are often played as solo games. Sure, I can beat my own 300 second high score on Super Hexagonest, but even once I do that, I still lose eventually. These games inherently make you a loser, yet they drag you back in to keep losing.

    Like Poker, Super Hexagon is painful. Temple Run is painful. Fly Catbug Fly is painful. Despite the beautiful, zenlike gameplay that I can reach during a solid 3 hour run of Super Hexagon, the soft “Game Over” that I hear every time I lose does kind of become addicting. You can’t ever truly win. You can only beat yourself. There is something in these games that makes you want to kick your own ass because you are the only opponent.

  15. It was interesting to read Schreiber’s article and watch Brathwaite’s talk in sequence. While Schreiber highlighted a few of Catan’s strong points within a framework of thinking that equates a board game’s traditional (and commercial) success with how much fun the whole family can have, Brathwaite created a very different purpose for her tactile games – to generate an emotional response, and one that specifically wasn’t “fun.” As someone who has “played” Settlers of Catan multiple times but has never been motivated to pay enough attention to properly grasp and remember the rules or made any emotional investment in the game, I wonder what my experience with Train would be like. For all the reasons of why Catan is a great board game (the measured randomness, the non-confrontational-ness, the universal appeal, etc.), the game itself is only important to you if you choose to care about it and all of your miniature fake settlements. Would I be able to muster such indifference in the face of a game that represents such a tragic event, an issue so much larger than the game itself? Simply by definition, I need to care about this game, because its purpose is not for me to have fun (I have a choice in that), but for me to reflect on this horrific event and to internalize its magnitude. I don’t think I could extract myself from these feelings, and so blowing off the game’s importance or deciding not to invest myself emotionally in the gameplay is not even an option in this case. While I don’t think Brathwaite, despite her claims otherwise, is necessarily the first person to use games to express and provoke these uncomfortable feelings, I do agree with her that her explorations of using the medium in this way has shown how powerful games can be when made with such a goal in mind.

    I really enjoyed Lantz’s talk. I thought it was a nice extension of a few of the topics touched upon in our readings on subversive play. He described the transformation of discrete thoughts into the complex system that is your mind as you play Go, which reminded me of something said in the one article from The Baffler. Lantz made so many thoughtful points about what he called the peculiar beauty of games. That games are a lens through which we can see a model of thought; that they serve as an escape from the “tyranny of instrumental reason”; that they need not be elegant like Go and can even be vulgar and shameful and addictive like poker as long as they are deep enough to provoke insight. He said so many beautiful and inspiring things that I just want to regurgitate them all right here. If I ever end up making games, I will certainly try to “leave space for the emergent and infinite when considering what kinds of games to make.” Brathwaite actually ended her talk with a similar remark in response to the question of why not program Train – she said, “how do you make room for the infinite variety of human choice?” Gameplay reflects the way we think and feel, and it’s important to make games that encourage that.

  16. From Frank Lantz’s talk, I thought the aspect of Go using Play as Conversation as a very interesting concept. The game is a conversation about the state of the universe as both of the players alternatively define it. How the pieces are placed say a lot about what I as a player believe to be true about the state of the world, and where I believe the most benefit I could gain exists. But the other player can then choose to agree or disagree by responding to my play defensively, or countering with a stronger statement about the game, forcing me into the defensive. The cultural weight of Go, the visualization of thought itself, the battle of profit and potential create a complex, powerful system that computers are still very bad at playing.

    From Brenda’s talk, “people made worlds before electricity.” This is why board games are of utmost importance if you’re looking to design video games. Board games are often 20 years ahead of videogames in terms of some game design elements, and it’s clear that many videogames draw direct inspiration from board games (Civilization), or more subtle, indirect inspiration for harvesting game mechanics, or currency exchanges, etc. The simplicity of the medium to make something quickly gives it huge power. You can change a game mechanic on the fly rather than spend hours in code, you can switch out a piece of art, add new pieces, consider the game in a more physical context.

    As for the Catan piece, the combination of those game mechanics and historical context made this game very popular. Looking into the mechanics that make “Fun for the whole family” ACTUALLY fun for the whole family is important design analysis. Measured randomness equalizes a playing ground quite a bit allowing children an in, the game has multiple ways to win and has fairly simple rules, making it “easy to learn hard to master” in a lot of ways; this gives children the opportunity to not get frustrated and adults the ability to contemplate their decisions, both strategically and tactically. There’s not much downtime, making it an exciting game, and the game does have a fairly good limit to how long it can take.

  17. Ian Schreiber –
    it’s kind of interesting that Catan is so popular now. I’ve never heard of Catan but I am guilty of being one of those people who do not give board games much credit. Personally, I’ve never felt invested in board games (but I guess Jones on the Fast Lane is just basically an online board game…) so I was surprised when he gave the statistic that there are more games of Catan out that World of Warcraft subscribers. I was especially interested when he began to discus how Catan is competitive but not confrontational. This is an interesting concept only because much of the multiplayer video game world has to do with confrontational competitiveness – pokemon battles online, Smash Bros, Mario Karts, MMOs. Board Games, especially, should be mediums that are extremely confrontational (most board games I’ve played are like this and that’s mostly why I don’t like multi-player games) so it’s interesting that Schreiber suggests this is a pivotal idea that contributes to an effective game. However, still, I feel that Schreiber’s idea that board games have the potential to grow more popular than video games is unrealistic for me. I feel that the only course for games is online or mobile simply because everything is mobile now. I don’t even carry school books with me anymore- I have a kindle for that. people need games to be portable now or games aren’t going to become huge or mainstream.

    Frank Lantz –
    Melanie has said that she doesn’t approve of Lantz’ call to approach games as if you were approaching a sacred place. I do agree that games have a mood set for them through design – I wouldn’t approach a cute, bright-colored game like angry birds like I would a game like The Last Of Us. However, I think Lantz is talking more about shedding our society’s pre-conceptions that games are just a mindless pastime that don’t have much effect or relation to real life. I feel like Lantz wants more people to think about games and become “architects” for games. He wants people to think about a game rather than simply accept a game. I do agree though, that Lantz should have said it a bit deferent. Rather than changing how you approach a game, you should shed pre-conceptions about a game before approaching it. Don’t think of it as a game- it is an activity that, for the next fifteen minutes, will engulf you.

    Brenda Brathwaite-
    Brathwaite’s talk goes right with the the themes of the other lectures. Only, this one was really interesting to me. Lantz talked about the potential for appreciation of games and to critically approach games whereas Brathwaite gives a specific answer to how we can approach game. Games and rules and design, she starts out by saying, helped her daughter understand Black history in a way black history month at school could not. Games are interactive and demand a high level of work from the player’s part. Because of this, the design and rules of a game can potentially teach and engage the mind in a way other mediums fail to do. I feel like the is a concept I’ve always thought about but couldn’t put into words till now. After playing a really good, really engaged game, I always spend a day or two stuck in the game’s mindset – developing strategies, seeing things that aren’t there, etc. So I’ve always accepted and known of the power of games but never had a label to these thoughts. Anyway, I think this potential in games is something gamers in general can accept easily. Others though (those people who look down on games as a waste of time) would be harder to convince. Brathwaite’s talk has brought this idea to light and it will be interesting to see if tis idea progresses and how it will reach those closed ears.

  18. Brenda Brathwaite’s talk about how game design can be used not only as a problem solving technique but also as a way to project emotions challenge socially accepted ideas, and engage the world around us echoes much of what Latz talked about in his discussion when he called game design the world’s most powerful art form. In a way I felt that she delivered Latz’s speech better than he could simply because Latz made too many large claims in his speech without giving anything substantial to back it up. In his effort to convince the audience to not see video games as simply a fun pastime, he mentions that video games are poised to become the most important art form of our modern time. I was interested to see where he drew his conclusions from but as I continued, it seems that in an attempt to bring in more examples, he creates even broader statements. As he talks about chess and go as an art form/discipline form he also talks about the “lives destroyed by chess and go” and how go is ‘escapism’. He does not support these claims whereas Brathwaite provided varied examples from personal stories, other artists, and commercial games.

    I also felt that Brathwaite’s narrative was easier to understand since she refrains from making broad statements that she cannot answer and only says at the very beginning that she is here to share her thoughts on how game design can be applied in non-traditional ways. And I do believe her point about game design being a way to engage new ideas(I think everyone in this class agrees). I was most interested when she said that any situation can be translated into a game; When I think about it, many games, in essence, are situations. Tetris is a situation where you’re building something with falling bricks and as unlikely as that is I can now start to see how waiting for the bus, or trying to wash dishes, can count as games

  19. I enjoyed these three pieces, but Brenda Romero’s was, for me, the most sobering. Her work is an elegant study in how an outsider looking into a cultural event can produce a thoughtful piece of work that maintains respect for the gravity of that event. She designed her games beautifully; I appreciated how much research and thought went into every aspect of the games from the color of the game pieces and her choice of materials to her deliberate wording of the rules. Above all, I appreciated how respectful she was of her subject matter. Her deceptively simple-looking games were able to convey the tragedy of the events that they discussed in a respectful yet memorable manner.

    If I was to pull a takeaway from all three pieces, it would to be mindful of the stage you set around the games that you design. In all three readings, the authors discuss the effects of a game that can be persistent in a number of interesting ways both before the players have started and after they’ve finished playing. The most compelling games do not sit isolated in their own little universes; they extend outside of the act of playing the game into a surrounding culture consisting of both what came before the game and what sprang up after it was created. The mindset and expectations that a player has when they enter the game, the discussions they might have afterward, the further studies or other games they might seek out after playing, and possible later iterations of the game are all interesting possibilities to keep in mind when designing a game.

    With all that in mind, as a designer refines their game, they should be thoughtful of such decisions as choosing the subject matter, pulling in cultural background, designing carefully thought-out mechanics that fit the subject, and developing an atmosphere around their game. They should consider how the players enter into the game and how they will change after having experienced it. Equally, they should think of how the players will change the game. After a certain point, carefully structured development of the game will begin to give way as a more organic cultural tangle begins to grow around it. While the game designer cannot necessarily control which direction this growth will progress after they have released it, they can absolutely set the stage for the culture to grow in a particular way through careful choices made during the development process.

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