[-empyre-] game design: empowerment through constructed reality
markdangerchen at gmail.com
Fri Mar 28 01:49:11 EST 2014
On Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 7:44 AM, Mark Chen <markdangerchen at gmail.com> wrote:
> Thank you Sandra for inviting me to participate and for all the other
> posters for a very insightful month. I'm honored, of course, yet I find
> myself wishing I could be half as cogent and mind blowing as everyone else
> has been!
> I've been thinking about what I'd say for a while now, hoping desperately
> for some epiphanic moment of clarity. I write now not because something
> intelligent occurred to me but because I feel like I just need to say
> *something.* And yet! It occurs to me *right now* that I can treat the act
> of writing an email missive the same way I treat game design and, as I
> think about it, the same as I treat writing an academic article or making
> illustrations or painting. That is, to just start with a fragment and build
> up from there, to just write (or just start sketching game ideas or just
> start gesture drawing) and see what emerges, and to iterate and build up or
> When I think about people playing games, I think about empowerment through
> understanding, whether that's building an understanding of rule systems
> (aka systems thinking) or understanding different points of view (aka
> empathy). And when I think about game design, I think the potential to be
> critical of these understandings become sharper or better realized. But
> like playing games, designing games is a lot of trial and error, getting
> feedback, building up meaning iteratively until something starts to click.
> Just start somewhere and see what emerges through iteration.
> So, yeah, the concept of game sketches is pretty great. I hadn't really
> linked the process of game design to the process of making art
> (traditional) or writing explicitly like that before, but now I think about
> it, it makes a lot of sense.
> I am continually amazed when I see funded projects for learning games that
> completely misunderstand the nature of games and gaming culture. (Something
> I see a lot since my academic background is in games for learning.) Games
> have the potential to build empathy by providing people with meaningful
> interactions that lead to memorable experiences. They're not about content
> (which seems to be how educators assess the value of a game, probably
> spurred on by standardized testing); they're about processes and enacted
> experiences. These processes are inherently subversive, asking players to
> continually push at the boundaries of the rule space. The resulting
> experience for a player is potentially imbricated with multiple layers of
> meaning and understanding.
> And game design that's meant to convey something of the self is tricky
> such that the act of creation can help the designer understand him or
> herself better, too. Actually, it can go further than just exposing
> previously tacit awareness of self. Creating something transforms the
> creator, providing additional layers of self reflection and meaning making.
> (Much like how writing an ethnography transforms the researcher and becomes
> part of their identity and position in the world.)
> But there's a paradox: If a designer is honest and is making a game meant
> to convey lived experience or some sort of expression, there will
> inevitably be a striving towards "unplayable" games and "undesignable"
> games. How crazy is it to think for one second that we can get others to
> feel how we feel, to experience what we do? They're takeaways will be
> different because they're human and bring with them different layers of
> Okay this is getting really long, so I should probably end this post, and
> I apologize for its lack of clarity. :)
> Mark Chen, PhD | @mcdanger | markdangerchen.net
> Indie Game Designer, Ed Tech Researcher, Consultant, Adjunct Prof at
> Pepperdine, UW Bothell, and UOIT, Accidental Hero and Layabout
> This was sent from a PC with a full-size keyboard; misspellings and
> brevity are entirely my fault.
Mark Chen, PhD | @mcdanger | markdangerchen.net
Indie Game Designer, Ed Tech Researcher, Consultant, Adjunct Prof at
Pepperdine, UW Bothell, and UOIT, Accidental Hero and Layabout
This was sent from a PC with a full-size keyboard; misspellings and brevity
are entirely my fault.
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