Our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Zoya Street on how game designers can think about user experience.
This week exemplifies that discussions about the interrelationship between interaction and narrative cannot simply be boiled down to the question of "ludonarrative dissonance." Here we have three pieces in one week that address interaction from the perspective of narrative pacing.
- Quantum Break is better TV than videogame | Kill Screen
Chris Priestman observes that Quantum Break is actually faster paced as a TV show, offering less excitement in moments that ought to be more action-packed.
- Storytelling Engines: The Story Arc Has Ended and Yet the Game Keeps Going | PopMatters
Eric Swain argues that emergent story arcs struggle to hew to the same pacing as the larger journey that the player takes from novice to mastery.
- Failure and rebirth in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter | Kill Screen
Levi Rubeck presents a lesson in the aesthetic use of high-friction game design.
"By removing the safety net of unlimited saves and transforming the “grind” from a necessary evil into a ludological metaphor for the player’s uphill battle to the surface, Dragon Quarter puts the player in the same viscerally anxious emotional state as the characters."
At the moment we're witnessing a fascinating critical engagement with the oft-cited conceptualization of perfect user experience as balance between frustration and boredom.
- Flow - Minicrit | YouTube (video: captions are auto-generated)
Heather Alexandra delves into the zen-like state of game engagement
- Adventures of Lolo | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Vincent K. addresses flow in this review of a vintage game
- Design and the Broken Game | First Person Scholar
Matthew Schwager complicates the notion of flow by analysing a game that seems to not fit its bipolar system.
"Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” is often conceptualized as opposite ends of a spectrum; they are non-overlapping experiences due to the inverse relationship of the variables (“skill” and “challenge”) involved. But, I found that Shelter made anxiety and boredom set in simultaneously—I did not have the skills to intuit where I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to accomplish, and so anxiety was running fiercely in my blood. However, once I scaled my attention up from the diegetic level of the game, I found myself, strangely enough, bored at the exact same time, for the simple reason that I knew a higher level of skill would not have altered anything about my experience."
Writers from various fields of expertise are taking a fresh look at not just educational games, but more broadly, the role of play in developing familiarity with a subject.
- Harnessing the Power of Video Games for Journalism | Nieman Storyboard
Rose Eveleth explores the facilities and limitations of games as a medium for communicating news
- How Democracy 3 is Simulating African Politics | ZAM
John Brindle shares a deep dive on an exemplary news game explicitly designed to educate the electorate
- The Minecraft Generation - The New York Times
Clive Thompson provides essential reading on Minecraft, childhood and the heritage of block structures as educational play
"[...]it doesn’t really feel like a game. It’s more like a destination, a technical tool, a cultural scene, or all three put together: a place where kids engineer complex machines, shoot videos of their escapades that they post on YouTube, make art and set up servers, online versions of the game where they can hang out with friends."