Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

20 January, 2008

Weekend Design Challenge: What does gaming mean to you?
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 11:00 PM

Let’s go a bit more meta this week. Take a deep look inside you and figure out what gaming really means to you, both as a player and a designer.

Some thoughts after the jump.

This challenge is inspired by an article I read recently entitled, “Abstinence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder”. The author tried give up gaming for a week and it gave her time to realize what gaming truly means to her.

I thought about what gaming means to me. It’s more than just one thing to me, though. Sometimes I play a game to keep my mind occupied. Sometimes I play to spend time with my friends. Other times my gaming is work-related, something required to help me become a better developer. Sometimes I do find myself gaming out of habit, and sometimes I go with the flow since my work can sometimes really restrict my gaming time. It’s sometimes nice to slip into a few minutes of playing the DS or waving around with the Wii after a serious session of programming.

Sometimes games get a bad rap. Some might point to the author of that article and wonder, “Is she so addicted she can’t go without gaming?” I don’t think it’s merely addiction, however. A friend of mine thought it could apply to any media; my friend gets antsy if she doesn’t read a book for a few days, for example, but few people would consider that being “addicted to books.” (Most people probably wouldn’t consider that a bad thing, even if it were what they’d call it.)

I think understanding what gaming means to you helps you as a designer. It helps reveal some of your own biases. For example, since gaming is part of my lifestyle and because I use gaming as a social medium, I don’t mind things that other people might find excessively time-consuming. I like digging into algorithms and data, evaluating the “how” a game works behind the scenes. For these reasons, I tend to like more hardcore type games. On the other hand, my limited time means that I do have some motivation for playing more “casual” type games as well in small bites. These two motivations influence a lot of my work.

So, take a look at what gaming means to you. If you feel the need, feel free to post up a bit here in a comment. It might be interesting to see how designer types view gaming on a personal level.

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  1. If I’m honest with myself gaming for me is purely a release valve for my OCD tendencies. I tend to play because I want to make some arbitrary benchmark. if I sit back and evaluate what I’m doing at any given point in my gaming, I often find that I’m not actually having fun and I’m simply playing for the sake of giving myself something to do. For example in EvE online I’m grinding missions. It’s not challenging, it’s not particularly fun, I’m just racking up the Isk and the loyalty points with my faction. I don’t need either, it’s just a way to measure my progress – as meaningless as it might be.

    When I first start playing a game I do deconstruct it and look at the ways in which the designers have solved – or not solved – problems. I’m not a programmer so I look at games from a mechanical perspective when I analyse them rather than from a technical one. This deconstruction phase can take a long time and can even be concurrent with the part above. I often play just to nail down an understanding of a system – that can be another OCD trigger.

    Comment by IainC — 21 January, 2008 @ 6:56 AM

  2. As a player, it’s my “turn off” switch of real life. Turn off the problems, any concerns. It’s my selfish time. That’s why I tend to stay away from any deep community involvements and I’d rather have superficial relations with other players.

    As a hobbyist designer, gaming is my tool for creativity. I like to create, see the creations live, see others interact with it. To build, to put a personal milestone somewhere in time. Pushing myself to the next step and games offer me an endless bag of possibilities for creativity.

    Comment by Over00 — 26 January, 2008 @ 1:59 PM

  3. Gaming means, experiencing something I could never experience in real life. Not just for the escapism, but also for the stimulation and satisfaction of new experiences. Gaming is sort of like movies or books, but the interactivity makes it completely unlike the other mediums that came before it, and potentially more powerful (in the long run).

    Gaming means learning, it means having fun, it means competing against your friends (or random strangers, or just the machine itself), it means developing skill and reflexes and thought patterns. Above all, it means being entertained.

    From my point of view, gaming is still in its infancy–its formative years. Imagine being a moviemaker in the early decades of film, how exciting that must have been. That’s the kind of excitement I get from game development! The industry is firmly established now and becoming mainstream, but it still has a lot of learning to do about how to connect with audiences of all types and directly deliver incredible interactive experiences to them. Ultimately I think people will play virtual interactive entertainment which is on-par qualitywise, with what the noninteractive film industry produces today. Imagine being able to play a role in a nonlinear interactive VR story, through a high-fidelity virtual reality interface, playing with a combination of other humans (who you might or might not know in real life) and computer-simulated personalities. By then we’ll have figured out how to balance the agency of the player with the creative vision and intent of designers, I’m sure. :P But that might be 30 to 50 years down the road, for all I can tell.

    In the meantime, we’ll have to content ourselves with what we’ve got. In January, gaming meant to me: Mass Effect, Lego Star Wars, Assassin’s Creed. As it has for more than 10 years (and always will in the future), it also meant Super Mario Kart.

    Comment by moo — 3 February, 2008 @ 1:11 PM

  4. I guess what I described above is the Holodeck… sounds pretty fantastic, but ultimately I believe we’ll get there.

    Gaming is play, and play is as instinctive for humans as it is for many other species. As the technology becomes available, I have no doubt that we will adapt it to use it for gaming (or it might even be developed for that purpose in the first place; perhaps by the military)

    Comment by moo — 3 February, 2008 @ 1:16 PM

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