Reading Reflection #2
For this assignment, I played 2 games. NationStates and Sweatshop.
I think 2 concepts stood out quite strongly in the reading this week, Paidea and Ludus. My understanding of them right now is that Paidea refers to the learning through reflection and experience, whereas Ludus refers to the Game element, where a sport is made out of an issue.
In addition to these 2 concepts, it was also mentioned that there are a few approaches a game designer can take in order to turn Games into a tool/platform for learning and critical thinking. One of them is PMO approach that the author tries to explore, giving players the ability to create their own story and Oppressive Simulation in order for others to explore. Another approach which was not as greatly explored is one that adopts a more Forum Theatre-like approach, where players would play multiple times within one given situation. This latter form is much more common in games today as it requires less designing/creating on the part of the players.
NationStates is a browser-based game that allows the player to run his own nation. I feel that there is a very strong Paidea element to it as it allows the player to make many critical choices through the gameplay. The core gameplay lies in how the player, as the government, tries to deal with big political issues like civil rights, economy and military.
Through the choices made throughout the game, the player will slowly come to see the effects of his actions on the nation and how it affects various factors such as citizen satisfaction and the economy. Through the supporting forum function, players are able to roleplay and communicate in order to simulate a sort of international forum and conference that can further help them to explore international politics.
I believe that these features help to create a strong Paidea element to the game as players are constantly making critical choices and having to consider their impacts. While this may not create great social change or motivate any particular cause, it would certainly be effective to get players aware of the implications of political decisions made by their nation leaders, allowing them to see what the government is trying to achieve.
On the other hand, there is little to no Ludus involved. The only form of Ludus is a leaderboard where the nations with the top of certain characteristics get featured. But considering there is no losing or winning involved.
On almost the other extreme, Sweatshop has very strong Ludus elements but it has weak Paidea elements. The game is very appealing with its cute graphics and high level of polish. However, the game becomes very immersive for the player, resulting in them focusing on excelling at the game rather than contemplating the issues within. There is little alternate interpretation on the part of the player as he is put through a set of linear challenges with no alternative to the plot and happenings.
I believe that the lack of Paidea can be attributed partly to the strong Ludus elements such as an achievements system, points system, which keep the players so immersed that they stop looking at the issue at hand critically. At some point, the motivation to get a higher score becomes a greater motivation, which then transforms the player into a sweatshop advocate as he tries to achieve a higher score and time.