My last entry about design rules was neither deep nor thorough, but judging by the comments it seems to have found some resonance.
There are rules, and there are rules, and there are laws, and principles, and constraints, and axioms, and maxims, and on and on. Why, we have more words for rules than an Eskimo has words for snow. What I’m interested in is not so much what the rules are or how they can be classified (I don’t believe there can ever be a satisfactory classification scheme), but where rules operate and how they come to be.
I’m interested in not a taxonomy of rules, but an economy of rules.
It started with a comment from “Brian” on Grand Text Auto. When dealing with players who intentionally misbehave — swearing, flirting excessively, attempting to torture — while interacting with virtual characters, Brian stated this design maxim: “The user is always right.”
Next, Walter on Ludonauts mentioned The God Concept, a design principle advocated by Scott Miller at Game Matters. The God Concept (a rather inappropriate name) is for people who dislike the effects of chance and luck.
I would like to propose my own design principle. I’ll call it Brandon’s Half-Baked Law of Game Design Principles: “People who make up game design principles secretly hate games.”
In Salen & Zimmerman’s Rules of Play, the authors introduce the concept of flow as a kind of pleasurable experience. Flow is the state of mind where someone achieves a high degree of focus and enjoyment, they tell us.
Shortly after finishing the book, I had a brief exchange on the suspension of disbelief [Intelligent Artifice] in which flow was mentioned. It appeared that flow is a popular idea in the study of games.
Being unfamiliar with the origins of flow, I picked up Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (I first browsed through Beyond Boredom and Anxiety, Csikzentmihalyi’s monograph from 1975 detailing his research technique.)
Best read, non-fiction: The Mind’s Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism, Vincent Descombes, Stephen Adam Schwartz (trans). A well crafted argument. More people need to read this book. Let me repeat myself: more people need to read this book. Particularly all of you aspiring computer science majors and computational linguisticists. (Amazon customers who bought this book also bought: Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore.)
Worst read, non-fiction: The Language Police, Diane Ravitch. Ravitch’s stunning conclusion about how to fix education: better educated teachers. Sounds like the chicken and the egg.
Click here for the thing with the cat head.
I’m working on a game, and this is some code from one of the minigames.
Final notes on Salen & Zimmerman’s Rules of Play.
Unit 4: Culture is the final section of the book, and the shortest. This is the place where, typically, the subject takes on a certain urgency, culminating in an explosion of broad conclusions and/or open-ended questions. Nothing quite so dramatic here. Instead we get this unit on culture, and a set of activites which are related to games by rather loose connections.
Modalists: perpetrators of modal [inter]activity. In Modalist design, the user is a black box for input and output. Modalists train their users to obediently shift their attention towards a preselected target. Modalists encourage serial actions and schizophrenic behavior.
Anti-Modalists: corrupt and pervert the constructions of Modalist design. Anti-Modalists are concerned with the dismantling of Modalist classifications: art versus science, actual or virtual, mind and body, man against machine, trees versus rhizomes. Anti-Modalists do things right the wrong way (or wrong the right way). We embrasse the inappropriate.
More notes on Salen & Zimmerman’s Rules of Play.
Unit 3: PLAY presents six different schemas for talking about games with respect to “play”.
Editorial notes: This unit seems to be the real core material of the author’s interests. It is better edited and provides a more thorough discussion of the areas covered. Here we get 20-30 pages on each schema, almost twice the amount of material compared to units 2 and 4. The commissioned game notes by Kira Snyder reveal more interesting detail about the design process than the previous two.