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Video (screencast): Games, Puzzles, "Contests"

The big difference in game design is between games with human opposition, and games without – two or more players versus one player. I briefly discuss the difference between games, puzzles, and "contests".

Lewis Pulsipher, Blogger

April 20, 2015

2 Min Read

Here is the text of the slides.  Obviosly, I say much more in the video.

Games versus Puzzles versus “Contests”

As said early in this course, the big difference in game design is between games with human opposition, and games without – two or more players versus one player (or “one and a half”, person and computer)
Uncertainty and unpredictability
Almost always a part of games with human opposition
Rarely a part of games without human opposition

Pure puzzles have always-correct solutions
There may be more than one, but each one is always correct
There’s always a “perfect move”
And once you’ve solved it, you’ve “beaten the game” and don’t play any more
Pure games never have always-correct solutions to the whole game
Though there may be occasions when there’s just one “best move”
You can play a 4 to 5 hour game 500 times and still enjoy it
When you can “speed run” through a video game, it’s usually because it’s puzzle-like, though it may not be a pure one
When you solve it, you “beat the game”

In a puzzle, the creator provides the challenge through the game
You cannot lose to a puzzle, though you may give up
In a game, the creator arranges ways for human opposition to provide the challenge
But the presence of humans means the “content” is never exhausted
Replayability is the opposite of “I beat the game”
This means there are winners and losers
Co-operative games (all players against the system) are usually puzzles

Parallel competition, competitors cannot  directly influence one another’s performance
Many Olympic sports such as diving, traditional speed skating, figure skating, traditional downhill
Any activity that can be measured in some way can be turned into a contest
Typing speed
Throwing distance
Hot-dog eating!

Contests versus races
Parallel competitions can be conducted sequentially (figure skating) or simultaneously (marathons, swimming)
Some races are contests, some aren’t quite
E.g. auto racing, a driver can block another from passing, or (NASCAR) tap his rear end to get him out of the way – not a pure contest
Description of a game as “Multiplayer solitaire” is a reference to a contest.

A Huge Topic . . .
I could talk for an hour about this (draft of 8,000+ words)
In your game design, keep an eye on where the challenges are coming from, how players can affect one another, and on replayability (which pure puzzles entirely lack)

This is an excerpt, one of 160+ videos, from "Learning Game Design", a 12-14 hour audiovisual course available online.

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