TITLE GAME MECHANICS IN SERIOUS GAMES - DIFFERENT OR NOT ?
SUPERVISOR HANNA ELINA WIRMAN
STUDENT ANDREA HASSELAGER firstname.lastname@example.org
Game mechanics in serious games – Different or not?
Table of content 1. Motivation
2. Project Resume
3. Why only computer games?
4. Definition of game mechanics
5. Game titles. Selecting games for analysis. 6. Analyze of game mechanics
a. The Serious Game Titles b. The AAA Titles
7. Game Designed based on Analysis: ‘Better safe than sorry’ 8. A Philosophy of fear
9. Game mechanics for ‘Better safe than sorry’ 10. Look and feel of the game
11. Production. Sprint Schedule 12. Conclusion
13. References Books
14. References Games
15. Appendix. Library of Game mechanics
16. Game Design Document for ‘Better safe than sorry’ Motivation My interest in learning games1 and serious games2, which usually are educational like learning games, but in addition often make statements and contain political views, has been steadily growing, because of their benefit as communicative tools. ‘Studies show that computer games have great potential in teaching both children and adults in various areas including science, mathematics, language and task specific skills.’3 As a matter of fact people learn from anything they interact with, including playing 1 Marc Prensky, Digital Game-Based Learning, 2003, p. 145. ‘Learning Games defined, as ‘Digital Game-Based learning is any marriage of educational content and computer games’. 2 Mike Zyda, IEEE Computer, From Visual Simulation to Virtual Reality, 2005. Serious games are games that: ‘played with a computer in accordance with specific rules that uses entertainment to further government or corporate training, education, health, public policy, and strategic communication objectives.’ 3
games. The active participation and interaction that is at the center of the experience when playing serious games is what differentiates learning games/serious games from more traditional forms of teaching. Given the narrative and interactive nature of computer games, the player can easily put herself into someone else’s situation, live their life, enjoy their happiness and suffer their fears. This creates an effect, which is very hard to achieve otherwise: Empathy. But the learning from serious games/learning games does not need to be limited to task specific skills. But they can teach much more than that, and even create profound social change. As Ian Bogost puts it: ‘In addition to becoming instrumental tools for institutional goals, videogames can also disrupt and change fundamental attitudes and beliefs about the world, leading to potentially significant long-term social change.’ 4
I’m also founding a game company, Play&Grow (playandgrow.dk), which is creating serious games. In this project I choose to look into the nature of game mechanics. The reason why I choose to focus on them is that I wanted to fully understand games and how they are constructed, and by fully understanding them, I wanted to be able to design them better. Knowing more about the mechanics I can create games that have a greater effect on the players, by emphasizing empathy via the use of game mechanics. (I will define game mechanics below). ‘The core mechanic is the essential nugget of game activity, the mechanism through which players make meaningful choice and arrive at a meaningful play experience’5, and also because ‘with games, innovation rises out of innovative set of mechanics made available and integrated with a theme.’6
Project Resume The aim in this project was to look at game mechanics in six game titles, three AAA titles7 and compare them to three serious game titles and see how they were different/similar. I looked at different definitions of game mechanics and used them to analyze the mechanics in the six game titles.
The aim of this project was to recognize game mechanics that serious games have in common, and compare those to the mechanics in AAA titles. And by doing so, I was able to see what mechanics are usually used for serious games. Taking these results into account, I created a serious game, where I tried to expand on the game mechanics, with the intention of completely breaking them, putting them together differently, or leaving them as they were. Creating the game started with a concept period, where I found a serious subject to create the game around. By a serious subject I mean something more than pure entertainment. Then I made a game design document and next I went into production using the SCRUM method. Marc Prensky, Digital Game-Based Learning, 2003, in computers in Entertainment. D. W. Shaffer, K. D. Squire, R. Halverson, & J. P. Gee, (2005). Video Games and the Future of Learning. In Phi Delta Kappan, p. 104-111. 4 Ian Bogost, Persuasive Games, 2007, p. ix 5 Salen and Zimmerman - Rules of Play, 2003 6 Aki Järvinen Games without Frontiers: Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design, 2008, p. 319 7 This refers to a game of the highest quality. IDG, IDG is a media company that collects information about technology, defines AAA titles as ‘those ranking among the top 5 titles based on unit sales of the year’
The game I have conceptualized is based on the Scrum method, which is a way of working with software production, that prevents getting piles of unfinished work in the end of the production. Part of the Scrum method is called ‘Sprints’, which is a period of four weeks, where a certain part of the production absolutely needs to be finished and ready for implementation. A release is a series of Sprints and in the end of the production you collect the Releases and you end up with a finished product. ‘Scrum is an agile process that can be used to manage and control complex software and product development using iterative, incremental practices. Scrum has been used from simple projects to changing the way entire enterprises do their business.’8‘Scrum organizes development work into three levels: Sprints, Releases, and Products. A Sprint is strictly 30 days (or 4 working weeks). A Release is typically a number of Sprints and may be as many as 6 to 9 Sprints. A product is a series of Releases.’9 I will use my own modified method of Scrum for this small production of a game. What I can use, in my small production, is the concept of Sprints: Finishing certain parts of the design, in a certain amount of time. Since I do not have to write code, and actually implement the design/code written, (as my game will only be on a visual/written non-playable stage), I choose to make my Sprints shorter, than the 4 weeks recommended. But still going by the same principle: That the piece of design assigned to be produced in a certain Sprint, absolutely need to be finished within that Sprint. (Please see Sprint schedule page 19).
Why only computer games? In this project on game mechanics the focus was on games that are played on a PC/Mac. Serious games are very rarely released on any other medium, than the PC/Mac, so I decided that all my games for this research should be playable on that medium. Many researchers draw parallels from computer games to board games, and other games in general, this is understandable, since they have common features, because they are all defined as ‘play’, ‘a voluntary activity or occupation executed within certain fixed limits of time and place, according to rules freely accepted but absolutely binding, having its aim in itself and accompanied by a feeling of tension, joy, and the consciousness that it is different from ordinary life.’10
However, this short project does not allow me to look at all these different platforms on which games are played. Therefore I have limited the focus on computer games and on the specific technical nature of them. ‘A video game is a game mediated by a computer, whether the computer is installed in a tiny keychain device such as a Tamagotchi or in a huge electronic play environment at a theme park.’11 References in the following to game mechanics refer only to the ones in computer games.
8 Ken Schwaber - www.controlchaos.com 9 David J. Anderson, Agile Management for software engineering, 2004, p. 251 10 Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element of Culture, 1955 11 Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings, Fundamentals of Game Design, 2007, p.18
Definition of game mechanics Games are often defined as systems:‘a system is defined as a set of interacting elements that form an integrated whole with a common goal or purpose.’12 A system is always greater than the sum of it’s parts, and that’s why ‘games can only be understood during play when their dynamics become evident’13, this is where game mechanics become important, because by studying them, you study what is the outcome of the game system in motion.
It seems that game researchers/ game designers disagree on a definition of game mechanics. There appears to be a division, when defining game mechanics, both a division between the more technical and the academic definition, but also within the field of academia itself. One thing everyone studying or working with games seems to agree on is that game mechanics play a very important role when working with games. Salen and Zimmerman (2003) proposed game mechanics as the ‘ essential nugget of game activity’ […]which allows players to make choices and interact with the game in order to achieve a meaningful game play experience'14.
Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen (2005) wrote that “the mechanic does not state how something should be moved or why; this is determined in the rules for the particular game’15. They continued with ‘rules are apart from the game mechanics’163, where Ernest Adams and Andrew Rolling (2007) describe game mechanics as what ‘describe the overall rules of the game’ 17
Diving deeper into the technical part of the game mechanics, it seemed there were some sub divisions, which were important to include. As the different kind of mechanics with different names, which of course, have different functions. ‘Often in games, the high order goals persist as distal goals, but low order goals are more numerous and frequent; they are embodied in challenges players repeatedly struggle with. Thus goals are present either globally or locally. This means that the overall goal for the game might be to escape a prison, where you are being kept as a prisoner, and by overall goal I mean the global goal, where a local goal might be to find a key, to escape the cell you are being held captured in. As game mechanics are the means to attain goals and, thus, by necessity directly related to goals, game mechanics are also available either globally or locally. The mechanics are what presents the goals to the player, and they work the same way as the goals; the global mechanic is an overall mechanic that operates throughout the game. The local mechanic is a mechanic that might only apply in one particular game play mode. Some games might have a combination of mechanics. The primary mechanic is the most important mechanic, or what you perform most in the game. That can be accompanied by a sub mechanic, which would be a secondary thing you do. In a car racing game the primary mechanic could be Maneuvering, and the sub mechanic could be accelerating/decelerating The primary mechanic and the sub mechanic are available globally, whereas a third type of game mechanics, a modifier mechanic, may be available locally, i.e. for certain duration or only in certain location. The combinations of these different mechanics are the core mechanics. ‘Core mechanics consist of the 12 Tracy Fullerton, Game Design Workshop, 2008, p. 111 13 Tracy Fullerton, Game Design Workshop, 2008, p. 115 14 Salen and Zimmerman, Rules of Play, 2003 15 Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen, Patterns in Game Design, 2005, 16 17 Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings, Game Design and Development, 2007,
possible combinations of primary game mechanics and sub mechanics, with the possible modifier mechanics.18
The global mechanics are what operates all over the game, what is in ‘charge’ of everything. They work regardless of what game play mode or level the game is in. They could be in charge of pausing the game, or detecting the victory or loss conditions in all levels. If all the parts making up the game would be different dolls in a puppet theatre, the global mechanics would be the puppeteer. In comparison the core mechanics describes patterns that happen over and over again in a game. It could be a game where your primary task was to collect different objects, the core mechanics would then describe the collecting as an overall pattern in the game, but they would not describe the specifics in how you had to collect each item. The core mechanics are the core behavior pattern, also called ‘the heart of the game’.
Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings (2007) suggests that the main things that make up the game, and what the core mechanics are in charge of is to: • Operate the internal economy of the game • Present active challenges • Accept player actions • Operate the artificial intelligence • Switch the game from mode to mode • Transmit triggers to the storytelling engine19
Furthermore, when defining game mechanics it seemed important to include both the game as a technology and the player. I would like to simplify that the core mechanics are the mediator between the payer and the game. Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings (2007) suggest that ‘the core mechanics of a game determine how that game actually operates: what its rules are and how the player interacts with them’20. Which means that the core mechanics will present challengers to the player, and they will know what to do with the input they will get from the player via the user interface, and perform an action they are programmed to perform according to the rules.
Taking all these definitions of the game mechanics into account, I wish to suggest a definition that suits my purpose of studying serious games best.
There are only a few ways that propose how to analyze the overall behavior of games, from a technology perspective. Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen (2005) state that the research so 18 Aki Järvinen, Games without Frontiers: Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design, 2008, p. 348+349 19 Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings , Game Design and Development, 2007, p. 320 20
Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings, Game Design and Development, 2007, p.316
far has not been taking it’s starting point in the specific technology of computer games, but rather taking it’s starting point in narratology, using terms from film and theatre. ‘Most academic research to date has studied games using terms and concepts from narrative fields such as literature, theatre and film.’21Adam & Rollings (2007) takes a technical approach to the analyze of games and of how a game is put together, but they do not give an extensive overall model to analyze and detect game mechanics by Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen’s – Patterns in Game Design (2005) analyses game mechanics and arranges them into patterns, ‘a model to support the design, analysis, and comparison of games through the use of game design patterns, descriptions of reoccurring interaction relevant to game play.’22 And then there is Aki Järvinen’s (2008) definition of game mechanics and his way of arranging them into a library.
Concerning my research I choose to look at the internal technical part of games. This is described by Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings (2007) as ‘The Internal Economy. An economy is a system in which resources and entities are produced, consumed, and exchanged in quantifiable amounts’23’, it seemed important to have an insight into how the internal economy works, in order to understand game mechanics better. Game mechanics are a part of the internal economy and they are formalized into a more easily accessible library by Aki Järvinen, which I used in my analyze. When analyzing the different games, I saw, how and if the game mechanics are different in AAA titles from serious game titles. The reason why I choose to focus on that part of the games, instead of for example how the user interface visually presented challenges to the player, is that I think it is much easier to change games by changing their graphics, and by changing the graphics is a ‘cheap’ (in both meanings of the word), way to make them look ‘silly’ or ‘serious’. To take Tetris, for example, where the core game mechanics would be arranging24, the game would certainly have a different meaning if ‘you the player are dropping innocent victims down into the gas chamber… As they fall to the bottom, they grab onto each other and try to form human pyramids to get to the top of the well. Should they manage to get out, the game is over and you lose. But if you pack them in tightly enough, the ones on the bottom succumb to the gas and die’25 or if you had to fit male and female bodies into sexual positions, which is what you have to do in sex Tetris By arranging the blocks (the human bodies) side by side and on top of each other, the player constructs crude representations of humans in coital positions. 26 All three games have the same mechanic at work, ‘arranging’, but the message in the game is different. What I mean is that it is easier to take existing mechanics and give them a different surface (graphics), then it is to change the mechanics.
In the analyzes of the 6 computer games chosen, I concentrated on the internal economy, which is managed by the game mechanics. Described by Ernest Adams and Andrew Rolling (2007) it is “a system in which resources and enti21 Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen, Patterns in Game Design, 2005, p. 3 22 Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen, Patterns in Game Design, 2005, p.1 23 Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings, Game Design and Development, 2007, p.331 24 According to Aki Järvinens (2008) Game Mechanics Library, see Apendix A 25 Raph Koster, A theory of fun for game design, 2005, p. 168 26 Olli Leino, Emotions about the Deniable/Undeniable: Sketch for a Classification of Game Content as Experienced, 2007, p. 118
ties are produced, consumed and exchanged in quantifiable amounts’ and also it is ‘ the internal economy of a game includes those resources and mechanics that the player knows about and tries to manipulate”.27 The internal economy consists of several important factors, where all or just some of them might be included in a game.
The parameters that make up the internal economy are: • Sources • Drains • Converters • Traders and • Production mechanisms. As defined by Ernest Adams and Andrew Rolling (2007), Sources are…if a resource can come into the game world, having not been there before, the mechanic by whom it arrives is called a source. In a simple shooter, the game begins with some resources, such as ammunition or enemies already in the game world, but more resources may appear at spawn points, designated locations where the core mechanics (the source mechanic) insert new resources into the game world and therefore into the economy. A drain is a mechanic that determines the consumption of resources. In a shooter game, the player firing his weapon drains ammunition. Converter is a mechanic that turns one or more resource into another type of resource. In the Settlers III the windmill converts grain into flour at a rate of one to one. A trader mechanic governs trades of good, generally between the player and the game. In a stocktrading game, the trader may be a faceless financial construct.
The above is a description of how, programming wise, a game is put together. Since I do not have access to the programming code written for the six games, I cannot make an analyze using the above definitions. Instead I choose to use Aki Järvinen’s definition presented in his Doctoral dissertation study, Games without Frontiers: Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design.28 His starting point is the core mechanics, which I also suggested as ‘the heart of the game’. While I now know of Adams and Rollings descriptions of what makes up the internal economy that will help me to understand the limitations that exists when creating game mechanics, and have a better understanding of Aki Järvinen’s (2008) game mechanics library.
Even though Aki Järvinen’s (2008) method leans towards the ‘game design pattern’ method defined by Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen (2005)29it is in some essential ways quite different. Aki sees detecting a game design pattern as being quite different from detecting a game mechanic. In his own words: ‘In the design patterns thinking games are analyzed with the purpose of detecting 27 Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings, Game Design and Development, 2007, 28 Doctoral dissertation study for Media Culture University of Tampere, Finland, 2008 29 Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen, Game Design Patterns, 2005, p. 1, a model to support the design, analysis, and comparison of games through the use of game design patterns, descriptions of reoccurring interaction relevant to game play
patterns within the game dynamics, and formalizing them in order to create tools for designing certain kind of game play (i.e. dynamics), analyzing mechanics focuses on detecting specific combinations of game elements and the combinations’ consequences during game dynamics. ‘30 In the game design pattern method Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen (2005) merged game mechanics into patterns. They detected game mechanics in a number of games, and formalized them into overall behavior patterns, by doing so they discarded some mechanics in order to detect a pattern. ‘Examining game mechanics and converting them into patterns. This included discarding a number of mechanics, merging some mechanics into one pattern and especially identifying more abstract or more detailed patterns.’31
I decided on using Aki Järvinen’s method since I do not assume serious games would have typical game mechanics. By ‘typical’ I mean game mechanics found in most games, and therefore I do not see the game design pattern method as very useful, since they already converted the game mechanics into patterns. Using Aki Järvinens method seems more ‘pure’, because he has detected the game mechanics in their original form. ‘The design patterns approach is a design-oriented problem-solving method, whereas the mechanics approach introduced here is analysis-orientated – with design consequences if one so desires.’32It will then be easier to draw my own conclusion and I will be able to see if serious games make use of different mechanics, or maybe just different combinations?
Aki Järvinen (2008) made a library that categorizes core mechanics: ‘The categories relate to a specific game element that is at the heart of the category.’33 The mechanic classes are presented with the following descriptions: •The mechanic title •Its category •Definition of the use and function of the mechanic •Examples from games that have employed the mechanic •Possible additional notes, such as common sub mechanics34 As I described above it will be easier and better for my analyze of the six game titles to go by Aki’s library. Knowing the internal economy that the core mechanics are a part of, and going by Aki’s library I will start playing and analyzing the six game titles. 30 Aki Järvinen, Games without Frontiers: Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design, 2008, p. 384 31 Staffan Björk, Sus Lundgren and Jussi Holopainen, Game Design Patterns, 2005, p. 4 32 Aki Järvinen, Games without Frontiers Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design, 2008, p. 384 33 Aki Järvinen, Games without Frontiers Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design, 2008, p. 384 34 . The METASCORE is considered a weighted average because they assign more significance, or weight, to some critics and publications than they do to others, based on the overall stature and quality of those critics and publications. http://www.metacritic.com/about/scoring.shtml
In the next section I describe how I selected the game titles, then I described what I found while playing the games and lastly I analyze my findings.
Game titles. Selecting games for analysis.
For this project, I chose three commercial titles and three serious game titles: Three games from the genre of serious games and three AAA titles. With the commercial titles I did not go for any specific genre. It was not so important to choose a genre for the commercial titles; since I only wanted to investigate whether they were different in game mechanics from serious games. After choosing I played each game for twenty minuets and took notes of what I repeatedly had to do while I was playing. After playing I compared my notes with Aki Järvinin’s game mechanics library, and found a match between my notes of what I repeatedly had to do and a mechanic that described the same action. By comparing the mechanics used in the different games I was able to explore possible differences between commercial and serious games types. Which I will describe later, in detail.
When selecting the games for my project I was aware of the fact that the amount of games I was able to analyze within the limits of this project would not represent the whole range of computer games available at the moment. Thus, the criteria for choosing the titles I wanted to compare were based on the reviews and popularity of contemporary games. ComON (comon.dk) made an average of all AAA titles reviewed and released in 2008. They have used Metacritic, a website that gathers all game reviews. ‘Each game featured on metacritic.com is assigned a METASCORE®, a weighted average of all of the scores assigned by individual critics to that game’35. ComOn has created a 2008 top-10 list, by the use of Metacritic. I decided to look at games on this top-ten list. The ComOn.dk list: 1. Grand Theft Auto IV 2. Little Big Planet 3. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the patriot 4. Super Smash Bros. Brawl 5. Gears of war 2 6. Fallout 3 7. Chrono Trigger 8. Braid 9. Persona 4 10. World of Goo
35 Aki Järvinen, Games without Frontiers Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design, 2008, p.322
This list contained not only titles playable on a PC, but also console. Because I have limited this project into PC/Mac games only, I replaced the console titles using the Blockbusters â€˜here-and-nowâ€™ top 10 list:
1.Spore 2.The Sims, Apartment life 3.Football Manager 2009 4.World Of Warcraft Battlechest 5.Frontlines Fuel Of War 6.Command & Conquer Red Alert 3 7.F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin 8.Warhammer Online Age Of Reckoning 9.World In Conflict Complete Edition 10.Saints Row 2
Finally, I ended up with three game titles:
1. Grand Theft Auto IV 2. Spore 3. Sims 2, the apartment life
For the serious games I could not find a collection of reviews anywhere, so I went by the ones that I heard most about (the ones that were most present on the internet). 1. The McGame 2. Ayuti: The cost of life 3. Airport Security
Method for analysis I played each game for twenty minutes. For the serious game titles twenty minutes is a long time, since they are all simple flash games. A flash game is using 2-d graphics, which does not require so computer resources, so they can be played online, without having to download any content, as you would have to in a 3-d game, whereas twenty minutes of play with a commercial title is on the short side, commercial titles often have quite large game environments that take a while to discover. In some cases I did not discover the mechanic of the game by playing twenty minutes, so I played the game for longer time.
The notes also include what the player repeatedly has to do in the game to advance. And after I played all six games, I compared my notes with Aki Järvinen’s game mechanics library.
Analysis of Game Mechanics In the following I will list the core mechanics I found from each game title. I will first discuss the serious games and then move on to the commercial titles.
The serious game titles
Ayiti - The cost of life In this game you manage a Haitian families life through 4 years. The family consists of a mother, a father and their 3 children. The goal in the game is to keep the family alive. Core Mechanic: Choosing.36Each season you need to make a choice for each family member. Do you want them to work (different options of work) or do you want them to go to school? (There are different options of schools). Storytelling.37 You create your own story; controlled by what choices you make for the family.
McGame In this game you are in charge of a McDonalds. The game consists of 4 environments you can switch between. Farm land: Planting Soya and raising cattle. Butcher: where you feed the cows, and inject them with hormones. The restaurant: Where you manage the employees. The head quarter: Where you make ad campaigns for McDonalds and bribe government’s employees. I think there are different core mechanics at work, for each different environment: Field environment makes use of the mechanic placing.38 You need to place cows and Soya on the fields. McDonald’s restaurant: Placing. You place employees to work in the kitchen and behind the counter. Butchers: Choosing.3915 The player is presented with making a choice between a number of options. 36 Espen Aarseth, critical cyberculture studies, 2006, p. 40 37 George Rodman, Mass media in a changing world, 2008, p.53 38 George Rodman, Mass media in a changing world, 2008, p.53 39 Game Informer, 2008
You choose if you want to kill the cows, feed them more food or feed them more hormones. Headquarters: Choosing.4015 You have a number of different people and organizations you can bribe.
Airport Security In this game you manage a security check at an airport. When a passenger passes through the security it reveals what his suitcase contains. You have a list of ever changing objects that are ‘dangerous’, and if some of them are in the passenger’s suitcase, you need to remove them. I think the mechanic that gets closest from the core mechanics definitions in Aki Järvinen’s library would be Arranging.41 However I wish there would have been a mechanic called Matching (like the card game, memory game). Because it seems more appropriate.
GTA IV In this game you play Nico Bellic, who arrives on a boat to a big city in the US, from Russia. His cousin lives here, and has written him letters about his mansion and all the beautiful girls in the US. Nico encounters another reality, when he arrives, and soon gets involved in all of his cousin’s dodgy affairs. Mechanics: Maneuvering.42 You maneuver the car around the city. Attacking/Defending.43 Nico has to defend his cousin (and himself) against the Albanian Mafia (opponents). Aiming/Shooting.44. I did not get so far in the game, that I got firearms, but already when fist-fighting, you aim at your opponent, with the mouse, in order to hit him ‘in the middle’. Choosing.45 One could state that the game is one long journey of choices. You get some missions pointed out, but you do not have to follow them. You could walk, instead of driving. You could choose not to help your cousin and go on a date instead, etc.
Spore Spore describes evolution from cell to space age. As I only played each game for 20 min, I did not get past the cell phase (phase 1). The mechanics in 40 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 93 41 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 131 42 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 45 43 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 61 44 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 94 45 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 111
this phase is a combination of Taking.46 This would describe how my cell needs to eat in order to grow. Also present as a mechanic is choosing.47 Which describes that you have to collect other cells and pieces of meteor.
The Sims 2 I was supposed to play ‘Sims-Apartment life’, but that was an extension pack, so I played Sims 2, instead, which has the same mechanics. In Sims 2 you start out by choosing which city you want to play in. Then you start creating your Sims family. You do so by choosing exactly how you want them to look, from their physical appearance to their clothes. Once your family is ready, you can start playing with them. You choose a house they live in, and then the game is choosing what they should be doing. I see a lot of different mechanics at work in the Sims 2. The top one would be Choosing.4820 Another overall one is Storytelling.49 You tell the story of your Sims life, dictating if they should work, party, have children and so on. Another mechanic who is present at times is Information-seeking. 50 You can seek information about the city you are in, by moving around and clicking on different houses/ areas/people. A fourth mechanic that is quite significant for the Sims is Moving.51 You move your Sims around in the environment.
Conclusion of Game Mechanics What I can conclude from playing the six games and looking at their mechanics is that it does not seem that serious games have different mechanics from AAA titles. This is unfortunately in contradiction with my presuppositions. What seems to be the difference, however, is that serious games have less complicated mechanics, only one or two mechanics, whereas the AAA titles make use of a whole range of mechanics. Since AAA-titles often have bigger game environments, and take longer time to play through, it makes sense that they would switch between different game mechanics.
It was surprising to me that the two game types did not make use of different mechanics. Could this be because ‘educational game mechanics’ has not been developed yet? It seems that there is only a ‘superficial’ change between the two kinds of games. With superficial I mean only a change in graphics and content, but not in the mechanics. By playing the six games I feel I detected the difference (or the non-difference) in game mechanics. As mentioned earlier I would have to play more games if I feel like I did not find out sufficient by playing six games. One thing I would still like to look at a bit closer, is to see if serious games only make use of just one or a few mechanics. To do this I played three more serious games. 46 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 88 47 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 70 48 Ian Bogost, Persuasive games, 2007, p. 242 49 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 124 50 Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Fear, 2008, p. 125 51 Lindsay D. Grace Associate Professor, Interactive Design, Game Art and Design, http://www. criticalgameplay.com/, 2009
The three titles I choose, was chosen by the same principle as the above titles: 1.September 12th 2.The Free Culture Game 3.Darfur is Dying.
September 12th In this game, you have a bird view of a city, where women in burkas and men in robe- looking clothes, resembling people from a Muslim Country are walking in the streets. Amongst them are a few men with machine guns, portraying ‘terrorists’. You see through a sight of a gun and you can now choose to shoot the terrorists or not. Once you shoot one of them, the civilians are gathering around the dead body, crying, and then morph into terrorists. – The more terrorists you shoot, the more you breed. The mechanic at play is aiming and shooting52
The Free Culture Game This game is designed as a big circle. Inside the circle are green people, whom you need to defend against becoming ‘passive’ consumers. The passive consumers are the grey colored people, in the outer circle. You need to distribute the knowledge to the green people; the knowledge is represented with yellow bubbles. You push the bubbles with your mouse towards the green colored people, so they consume it. If you do not feed them enough knowledge, they become part of the outer circle, the market. A ‘vectorialist’ is the device that controls the market, it continuously moves around the edge of the circle, eating the yellow knowledge bubbles. I would say that the mechanic here is Maneuvering53, even though it is not so obvious as if you were controlling a vehicle, for example, but by pushing the bubbles with your mouse you maneuver them in the direction you want them to go.
Darfur is Dying This is a game about the genocide that happened in Sudan, Darfur, where Janjaweed militias killed 400,000 people. The game also shows the condition of the 2.5 million survivors in the refugee camp. The game has two parts. In the first part you need to leave the camp to go for water, and every time a Janjaweed militia car comes nearer, you need to hide. In the second part you need to manage the refugee camp, in the face of a possible attack by the Janjaweed militias. The game mechanic for the ‘getting-water’ part of the game is Maneuvering�. And the game mechanic for the refugee camp is Taking�.
My conclusion after having played those three games confirmed what I earlier found out about serious games having one or two game mechanics. This is probably due to the smaller scope of the flash games, because the serious games that have extended game environments, like ‘Darfur is Dying’ and the ‘McGame’ are the ones with two game mechanics. ‘Games with few different types of components 52 Steve Egan, Educational Gameplay Mechanics at the blog: Learning science meets Game Design, 2008 53 Steve Egan, Educational Gameplay Mechanics at the blog: Learning science meets Game Design, 2008
imply simplistic actions possibly with a constrained set of game mechanics, whereas games with various qualitatively different components imply more choices and resource management.’� Another and very important conclusion I arrived at already after just having played the three first serious games, was that they made use of the same core mechanics as the AAA titles, that was confirmed after having played three more serious games. Is that because serious games are still at a development stage, where they have not yet had their own game mechanics developed? And are the current mechanics used the best ones for learning and conveying serious messages?
For further studies it would be interesting to see to what degree game mechanics mirror society in general, if the most popular game mechanics reflects popular culture in any way? ‘Computer games are simulations that in principle can contain any element of (popular) culture or reality that a game designer can think of.’�. It would be interesting to see if this only influences the graphic content of games, or also the game mechanics. The influence of media on humans has been approached from many disciplines. To mention a few; ‘the cultivation theory, predicts that media shape our view of the world more than our behavior. Heavy viewers of television, for example, tend to see the world as less trustworthy and more dangerous than do light viewers.’�, and the ‘gender analysis examines how the media construct and perpetuate gender roles.’�In this context it would be interesting to see if game mechanics will change, now that the market for games in general is expanding, as for example to include more games for girls. ‘Video games will be the fastest growing entertainment segment in the next 5 years, with global video game spending reaching $55.6 billion in 2008.’� It seems that core mechanics for serious games still have many areas yet to be discovered, for example within the subjects I suggested above. A limitation of conducting these studies would be money, since it would take a large amount of games implemented in order to ‘try out’ new mechanics.
In the next section I will start the design process of my own serious game, based on the findings I have done in my analysis.
Game Designed Based on Analysis: ‘Better safe than sorry’ After having played the nine games, and finding out that serious games often make use of one or few mechanics, I thought it would be interesting to try to put several mechanics into my own serious game. Even though I’m just planning it to be a small flash game, I thought it would still be possible to have several game mechanics and the fact of having many mechanics could emphasize the statement in the game. The statement being inspired by Lars Svendsens book, ‘A culture of fear’: ‘without trust you would not be able to do anything at all. Imagine a day where you have to calculate all the risks that might come your way, and make sure of the outcome in advance. You would hardly make it out of the front door in the morning.’� The ultimate goal would be to invent my own educational game mechanics, but that would be too big a scope for this project, so I will rely on Aki Järvinins library and make use of some of the game mechanics described there. My game is set in a one-room apartment, and it is about fear in every day life. The goal of the game is to get out of the front door. Before the avatar can leave the apartment, she has to make sure that everything is in order: That she is wearing sufficient sun lotion, sufficient clothes, that the gas stove is turned off, that she closed the window. Etc etc . All this is to illustrate how taking all risks into account, one would not be able to get out of the front door.
A Philosophy of fear
In Lars Svendsens book: ‘A philosophy of Fear’, he describes what influence fear has on our society today. First he argues why we live in a culture of fear, and then he defines what fear is seen in both a historical, philosophical and psychological context. He then argues how our fear society has led us to a risk society, he continues by writing how we are attracted by fear, to a certain degree, if we ourselves feel secure, we don’t mind seeing something ‘fearful’, like watching a horror movie. Then he goes to describing how the US uses fear in order to justify their military actions, especially in foreign politics. Next chapter is about how we need trust to survive, and that trust is a ‘social capital’. He ends up by stating that ‘our fear is the problem that comes with our luxury: we live such secure lives that we can worry about innumerable dangers that have practically no chance of making an impact on our lives’. � And he also writes that: ‘ I do not claim that we live in ‘the best of all possible worlds, but it could have been a lot worse – and it has been so for the greater part of human history.’�
Game mechanics for ‘Better safe than sorry’ It was not easy to choose mechanics for my own game. Especially because I wanted to see if I could make them different than then games I had played and analyzed. One road I did not pursue, but thought of as interesting was taking into account that the game is a system, and that I wanted to create ‘anarchistic’ game mechanics, that would ‘revolt’ against the system. Which would be game mechanics that would be ever changing, so the goal and game play in the game would also be ever changing. I ended up putting that idea aside, since I thought it would be rather difficult to construct and I might also end up with a game that would be very annoying to play.
For the game I choose the following four game mechanics: Sequencing�, Arranging�, Catching� and Taking�. I designed the game so the mechanics will come in a sequence one after another. This will change the pace of the game, and emphasize that it is a lot of different elements you need to get ‘in order’ before you can leave the apartment. The different mechanics work almost as separate mechanics for their own mini-game or level. Even though they include more or less the same objects from the game environment. Making use of different mechanics will also heighten the ‘stress’ you are supposed to feel while playing the game.
The game starts with the game mechanic Sequencing. For this part of the game I got inspired by these quotes in ‘A culture of fear’ by Lars Svendsen; ‘Without habits the world would not appear to be meaningful, because habits connect the world together into a whole against which individual things can stand out as meaningful’�, ‘Health care becomes an eternal battle against illness.’�. During the first part of the game, the game mechanic Sequencing makes sure you have to move your avatar around the apartment, to get a lot of things in order: You need to make sure the stove is turned off, you need to put on sunscreen, you need to close the window, turn off the television and to feed the cat. Everything will have to be done in a specific order, because if you put on sunscreen as the first thing, the power of it will have vanished by the time you have accomplished the other tasks, and you will need to put on new sunscreen.
For the second part of the game the mechanic Arranging is at work. For this part these quotes inspired me; ‘In our attempts to deal with the risk around us, we often choose means that are worse than the problem they are meant to combat’.�, ‘Trusting in your fellow human beings means that you feel secure when you are with them. When trust diminishes in a society, this results in greater social disintegration, with isolated and apprehensive individuals. Everyone is a potential danger to everyone.’�, ‘Fear is used as a tool for social control. What causes fear in citizens is not merely the terrorists that exist at some unspecified location but also public information about how dangerous these terror-
ists are.’�. You finally finished arranging everything in the previous part of the game: Now it is time to leave! Or at least that is what you think. First you need to set the alarm of your apartment. The game shows you a random line of numbers you need to remember, and then press into the alarm, to make it work. Once you remembered the numbers correctly, you can move to the third part of the game.
In the third part of the game the mechanic Catching is at work. This quote inspired me: ‘In relation to fear, an important feature of catharsis would be to teach us to fear the right things in the right way at the right time.’�. Ok, now you set the alarm, and this is where you think you will be able to leave..But what is that you see? A moth! You need to catch it before leaving. Imagine if it would destroy all your clothes, while you were gone. You need to move your avatar around in order to catch the moth.
The fourth and last part of the game you need to accomplish, so you can leave, is making use of the mechanic Taking. For this last part this quote inspired me: ‘People ought, basically, to be cautious about being precautionary.’�. Now you must be ready to leave. What else can possibly get in your way now? Oh no! You forgot that you put your keys a safe place, so you would not loose them. Now you have forgot where you put them. You need to find them. You move your avatar around, and move everything in the game environment in order to find your keys. Once you found them, you are finally ready to leave!
If you accomplished all four parts of the game within a certain time frame, you will be able to walk out the front door. If you were too slow, you will get a message saying, that you were too slow and your friend got tired of waiting for you and left the café. Then there is nothing you can do but stay in the apartment.
As a combination with Aki Järvinins library I used the questions Ian Bogost proposed in his book The Expressive Power of Videogames, in the section about Serious Games;
•What are the rules of the system? •What is the significance of these rules? (Over other rules)? •What claims about the world do these rules make? •How do I respond to these claims?
The overall rule in the game is to accomplish certain tasks, within a certain time frame. So time is an important factor, and it helps to emphasize the stress the player should feel while playing, this rule basically tells something about what kind of lives we live in the Western World, since apparently the avatar has the day off, but ends up spending the time stressing around to perform non-essential tasks. The player can choose to respond to those claims in the game, by simply not playing the game, which figuratively speaking could also mean not entering the ‘system of fear’ or choose to enter the ‘system’.
Look and feel of the game
I created a moodboard that describes the intended graphic style of the game. I choose a naïve drawing style for the game, to emphasize a feeling of being unworried, lightness and a return to some more basic values, getting out and enjoying the sunshine, the meeting with a good friend and not let unaccounted for fears play a big role. ‘The surface representation or graphical skin in a game is not a mere dressing for the abstract rules…’�
Message to take away from playing the game: The fact that a person or society does certain things to protect itself against a danger says little about the nature of that danger.’� We ought, however, to realize that our fear is not an objective reflection of reality, and there are strong interests that control the directions our fear takes.’�
Production. Sprint Schedule
I divided the design of this game into seven Sprints, as I described earlier Sprints come from the Scrum method of doing software production, and it is absolutely essential that the tasks assigned to a Sprint, is finished within the time of that Sprint.
Sprints: Week 11: Decide on game mechanics for ‘Better safe than sorry’. Explain game. Week 12: Draw graphic outline for game Week 13: Produce elements for game Week 14: Produce elements for game Week 15: Implement game elements Week 16: Create screen shot presentation Week 17: Visually explain process and function in game
Conclusion I must conclude that there is still a long way to go before there will be games with true educational mechanics. Even though an increasing critic of traditional game mechanics is seen, one example is Lindsay D. Grace Associate Professor, Interactive Design, Game Art and Design, who recently exhibited a collection of strategically designed video games: ‘Each game asks the question, what do common game mechanics teach us? Each of the games in the collection is designed to help reevaluate our perspective on game play experiences. Critical game play seeks to offer alternate perspectives on the way we play.’�
Other voices have raised the issue of not having educational game mechanics, Steve Egan states on his blog that ‘Part of the problem is the current entertainment game market, which is not conducive to true serious games. Though the mechanics are showing potential, and have for a while, they have not been used properly.’� His solution to the problem is that ‘Game players have to push the people behind the games in ways the market respects for serious changes to occur.’� A reason why more changes have not happened yet, could be found in an argument from Ian Bogost: ‘ Just as the commercial industry has no means to accept financially unsuccessful products and thus relegate such titles to the realm of cult, so the serious games industry has no means to accept disruptive products that challenge the very operation of the institutions it hopes to serve’. Here Ian Bogost criticizes the educational system in general, which one can agree with or not, but it is true that if games have shown so great potential in teaching and conveying messages, why has educational game mechanics not been developed more?
References Books A Philosophy of Fear, Reaktion Books 2008, Lars Svendsen
A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Paraglyph Press 2005, Raph Koster Aigle Management for Software Engineering. Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results, Prentice Hall 2004, David J. Anderson Critical Cyberculture Studies, New York University Press 2006, edited by David Silver and Adrienne Massanari. Digital Game-Based Learning, McGraw-Hill 2001, Marc Prensky Emotions about the Deniable/Undeniable: Sketch for a Classification of Game Content as Experienced, DiGRA Digital Library 2007, Olli Leino
Fundamentals of Game Design, New Riders 2007, Andrew Rollings & Ernest Adams Games without Frontiers: Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design, Doctoral dissertation study 2008, Aki JĂ¤rvinen
Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture, Beacon Press 1955, Johan Huizinga
http://www.criticalgameplay.com, 2009, Lindsay D. Grace http://blog.igenoukan.com/2008/10/educational-gameplay-mechanics.html, 2008, Steve Egan
http://www.metacritic.com/about/scoring.shtml, 2009, Metacritic
Mass Media In a Changing World, McGraw-Hill 2009, Third Edition, George Rodman Patterns in Game Design, Charles River Media 2005, Staffan BjĂśrk, Sus Lundgren & Jussi Holopainen Persuasive Games, The Expressive Power of Videogames, The MIT Press 2007, Ian Bogost Rules of Play, The MIT Press 2003, Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman
Airport Security, Persuasive games 2006
Ayuti: The cost of life, Gamelab 2008 Darfur is Dying, Susana Ruiz with interFUEL 2006
Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar Games 2008
September 12, Powerful Robot Games 2007
Sims 2, EA Games 2008
Spore, Electronic Arts 2008
The Free Culture Game, Molleindustria 2008
The McGame, Molleindustria 2006
’Better safe than sorry’ Game Design Document 1. Game Concept
2. Game Synopsis
3. Game element and features 4. Market consideration 5. Story synopsis 6. Platform
7. Look and feel. Moodboard 8. Use of colors
9. Game objective 10. Controls
11. In-game information
12. Character movement and interaction 13. Game world
14. Equipment and effects 15. Animation
16. Game script
17. Game walkthrough 18. Sound design 19. Flowchart
20. Menu systems
’Better safe than sorry’ aims to show the absurdity in the rituals we perform every day, in order to deal with society-constructed fears. The game is set in an extremely mundane setting, to emphasize the absurdity. ’Better safe than sorry’ is a single-player, web-based game, where you play a woman, in a hurry to leave her apartment, to go and meet with her friend. –Before she can leave her place, she needs to get some things in order. The game deals with the fear we have in every day life, which might be/might not be based in reality. There are four parts of the game you need to accomplish, in a certain amount of time to be able to leave the apartment and go meet your friend. In the introduction you can also choose not to play the game at all, which will get you straight to the café, where your friend is waiting..But can you deal with the fear that someone might break into your apartment, because you forgot to close the window? Or the other uncertainty factors that will remain, if you do not play the game.
With an urge to leave your home, to go out in the sunshine and meet your friend, you need to hurry up and take care of a few details, before you will be able to leave. Completing the four parts of the game on time will open the door to the world and let you leave!
GAME ELEMENTS AND FEATURES Each four parts of the game has a limited time within which you need to have played them through. If you do so you achieve your overall objective for the game: To get out in the world. And you win the game. Part 1:In the first level you need to move your avatar around and do 4 things in a specific order and within a specific time to win: feed the cat, turn off the stove, turn off the television, close the window and put on sun lotion. Part 2:In the second level of the game, which is a mini-game, you need to remember a series of numbers shown to you and then click them correctly in on the burglary alarm. Once you get it right, you can move to the third level, which is a mini-game. Part 3:Here you have to catch a moth, you suddenly find flying around. You move around with your mouse and once you get close enough, you can click the moth and smash it. Part 4: Next and last level is to find your keys. You need to move everything in your apartment around, by clicking and dragging, until you reveal your keys. MARKET CONSIDERATION The game is intended for an age group from 20-40 years old female (male), who play games online, and would be old enough to see the underlying humor in the game. The main concern is getting the game spread as much as possible; money is not an issue, since the game is intended to be available for free. STORY SYNOPSIS You have not seen your friend for a long time and you are so excited to meet her! But before you can leave the apartment and meet her you juuuust need to get a few things in order. And this is where the game starts: You need to get through the four parts of the game, to be able to leave and meet your friend. You choose to comply the parts of the game of your own free will, but it is also what keeps you from meeting your friendâ€Ś PLATFORM Online LOOK AND FEEL The game does not, at this stage, contain any developed visual style. But I created a moodboard, which suggests a graphic style for the game. The seemingly naive style of the drawings in the moodboard connects well with the objective of the game: To get the players to return to some more basic values. By basic values I mean enjoying the sunshine, the meeting with a good friend and not let unaccounted for fears take over. This style of drawings seems very playful, almost like something a child could have done; and thatâ€™s the feeling the game strives for: The same lightness and unworried feeling as a child meets the world with.
USE OF COLORS It would help to underline the message in the game to use ’emergency colors’, for ‘emergency elements’. For example to make the burglary alarm shocking red. It would visually work in the same way as the pink lipstick works on the girl in the moodboard. GAME OBJECTIVE The game objective is by playing the game to make the player realize that being over precautious can be pointless. Or in other words: ‘People ought, basically, to be cautious about being precautionary.’ On a smaller scale if the player questions her own daily routines that would be just fine. CONTROLS Arrow keys: To move avatar. Mouse hold and drag: Move objects. Mouse click: turn instruments on/off, smash moth, and feed cat IN-GAME INFORMATION The game starts out with a short tutorial, and for every part of the game, there’s also a brief tutorial. At all times the ticking time is present. You can access the menu at all times, which allows you to save, pause or quit the game. You can also turn the audio on/off. CHARACTER MOVEMENT AND INTERACTION Your avatar can walk around and interact with the objects in the game. Interaction consists of moving objects (only in level 4), and interaction with the moth in level 3. GAME WORLD The story is linear, and you need to solve the different parts of the game in their particular order to move on. EQUIPMENT AND EFFECTS No equipment. The ticking clock is an ever-present effect. ANIMATION Walk-cycle avatar. Moth flying. Objects moving. GAME SCRIPT: You enter the browser window of the game, and there’s a small introduction, where you aying have two options. One is playing the game, which means staying in your apartment and take care of the potential dangers. The other option is just to leave your apartment. Choosing this option will result on a text on the screen saying: But think about your open window, someone might break in! And so on. If you make the choice of leaving your apartment you will (ironically) get the feeling that you are living your life on the edge! GAME WALKTHROUGH
The four parts of the game consists of three sections with the same gam eenvrioment and one mini-game. Level 1_: You are in the apartment accomplishing the first mission, which is doing things in the right order and on time to be able to leave. Feed the cat, turn off the stove, turn off the television, close the window and put on sun lotion. Level 2_: Mini-game. You need to remember the code for the burglary alarm and type it in correctly. Level 3_: You are back in the apartment, where you need to catch a moth. The only thing added to the game environment from Level 1 is the moth. Level 4_: You need to find your keys in the apartment. The key is the only thing that is added to the game environment. SOUND DESIGN: Soundtrack (background music): There’s an ever-ongoing soundscape of ’stressing’ sounds. Ambulance, police, excited voices, traffic and babies crying. When you get something right you have a rewarding sound. At times the game gets interrupted by a cell phone ringing. Then you hear an angry voice. It is the voice of your friend waiting for you in the café. This is to heighten the stress. If you choose not to play the game, but leave the apartment straight and go to the café, you hear a happy tune, and someone whistling.
FLOWCHART Better safe than sorry. Introduction/Tutorials
START OF GAME
Level 2 (No matter results in Level 1, you continue to level 2)
Possibility to quit, save and pause
GAME PLAY Level 3 (No matter results in Level 2, you continue to level 3) SHORT TUTORIAL
Level 3 (No matter results in Level 2, you continue to level 3) Good on time. You win!! And get to leave..
MENU SYSTEMS: Introduction text: It is a beautiful sunny day ! You have the day off and the only thing you have planned is meeting your good friend in the café around the corner. But wait! You forgot to close the window, and it might also be a good idea to put on sun lotion before leaving… Start playing game / I don’t care about my cat, I’m leaving straight -Save game -Audio on/off -Quit game
A deeper look into the game mechanics of ‘learning games’, to see how/if they differ from traditional games. By game mechanics I refer to ”...