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Blogged Out: Theory, Tragedy, Tragedy

Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at ...
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at theories of fun, greek tragedy and geek tragedy. - MMO design veteran Raph Koster (author of 'A Theory Of Fun') has been blogging furiously over at his new website URL. Koster covers a lot of ground, charting Koster's ideas and opinions on a whole host of game design issues, especially from the angle of MMOs. A recent post highlighted discussion on the Only A Game blog, which itself includes lots of game-theory discussion tertiary to their '21st Century Game Design' book. Only A Game attempts to better understand audience personality types for games, so that titles can be better tailored to a larger number of people. Koster takes issue with their definitions, which seem to overlap to some large degree. "I certainly agree that 'there [do] appear to be issues of personality to take into account when considering how and why people stop playing games.' But I suggest that those personality differences lie principally in approaches to the issue of mastering a possibility space, and in one's affinity for given learning styles, and whether a given game accommodates that learning style. In other words, I'll quit some sorts of games early because they don't mesh well with my learning style, and I'll quit others because I have exhausted them - and with different games, I may well exhaust them in different ways." You can also read Only A Game's responses to Koster's comments. - The consistently thoughtful blogging of Brett Douville this week ponders some (somewhat spoiler-filled, for God Of War players) aspects of stories in games, noting that God Of War's theme and actual story are slightly out of sync. The protagonist's final glory isn't exactly in keeping with the tragic milieu of Greek heroes. "Had he descended to Hades and thrown himself in the River Lethe, rather than ascending to Godhood, the story would have tied itself up in a rather more interesting way," says Douville. "It would have maintained the questions of destiny and fate, and provided the hero with a different out in choosing oblivion over a lifetime of painful reminiscence. It would also have been in better keeping with Greek stories -- such as that of Oedipus, who puts out his own eyes when he learns what he has done." Indeed, it's interesting to note just how few games aim for a tragic or poignant ending. Perhaps a quick college course in Greek Classics should be on the agenda for all aspiring script writers? - Meanwhile, Brian 'Psychochild' Green from Meridian 59 has a few things to say about the nature of the customer service rep's work on an MMO. As far as he's concerned they get a bad rep, and are easy targets for grumbling players. "One thing I don't think people really understand is what a typical CS representative goes through. People are quick to damn game administrators for not caring about customers, but we often take a lot of steps to make sure we do our jobs to the best of our ability. However, we are still a business and we need to make money." Of course it's money that makes the (virtual) world go round, and as Green's post demonstrates, the dance between player wanting to get what he thinks he paid for, and the customer service rep trying to make sure that he continues to pay for that, will be ongoing. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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