Last week, I wrote my intro that I will be writing my reflections on a book about game design: “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses”. Here’s a short intro of the book on Amazon:
“Good game design happens when you view your game from as many perspectives as possible. Written by one of the world's top game designers, The Art of Game Design presents 100+ sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game’s design, encompassing diverse fields such as psychology, architecture, music, visual design, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, puzzle design, and anthropology. This Second Edition of a Game Developer Front Line Award winner:
Describes the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design
Demonstrates how tactics used in board, card, and athletic games also work in top-quality video games
Contains valuable insight from Jesse Schell, the former chair of the International Game Developers Association and award-winning designer of Disney online games
The Art of Game Design, Second Edition gives readers useful perspectives on how to make better game designs faster. It provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again. ”
The book is written by a world-renowned game designer, Jesse Schell. He used to work for Disney and created several theme park projects as well as DisneyQuest. Now, he is a professor of the practice of entertainment technology at Carnegie Mellon University.
There are a lot more aspects to game designing described in this book than I imagined. Based on the table of contents, I think this book did a pretty good job in covering all the important components of game design, and the writer’s rich background in the industry most definitely helped. I don’t know if there’s more to the process of game design than this book covered, maybe that’s for each game designer to find out when they are making games themselves.
The first aspect of game design I want to discuss is the experience the designers created for players through the games. In the first few chapters of this book, Jesse described how important the experience is to games.
The first thing about games is that game itself is not the experience, it CREATES the experience. Players want an experience, and as designers, we make our games the medium to convey the experience. And if we can’t deliver the experience, no one really cares about what’s left in that game. The endeavors of creating an experience can be seen in other forms of entertainment: movies, novels, music, etc. What’s unique about games is that the designers give a great deal of control to the players, while movies and books are only linear entertainment. Game designers do this, not surprisingly, for experience as well.
This idea sounded a bit counter-intuitive to me at first. But when I reflect on some games I’ve played before, I realized that it is the experience that mattered. When I grinded on 2K, it’s the experience of playing on the biggest stage of basketball and the dream of all basketball lovers; when playing COD, I loved the competition between me and my friends and I swear I almost punched my computer when Shepherd betrayed and killed Roach. All the feeling and experience were real, while games remained virtual in that screen.
People have a hard time describing what they feel. Our brains are not able to remember everything about experiences, there’s always a hazy feeling about them, making it even harder to tell someone else about it. In order to learn about experiences, we can start by observing our own. However, there are also problems with that. When we are immersed in an experience, we can’t really observe it without knowing that we are observing it. It’s like when you are not focusing on your breath, it just happens by itself; as soon as you think about breathing, you have to breathe consciously because it doesn’t happen spontaneously anymore. The book provides a few ways of better observing one’s own experiences, here’s the few I find more valid:
Do the same experience twice. For the first time, don’t analyze anything. For the second time, start analyzing. The author suggests twice is enough, but I think a good experience needs to be analyzed many times, and maybe focus on different stuff for each time. For example, for one time, just focus on the language of characters, and for next time, focus on the gestures the characters show when speaking about different topics.
The silent observer. This one is a bit more tricky. It requires you to “look” at yourself during the experience. The simultaneous observation is the most accurate, but it's hard to perform because it interrupts the experience so easy.
All these techniques require practicing. I haven’t found a good opportunity to practice these tricks, maybe I’ll find one in the summer. Seems like a weird feeling, analyzing myself. I will update on this topic when I’ll actually have mastered them.
This is pretty much the content of this week. I will continue on the subject of experience next week, focusing on where the experiences take place.