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.
Saw that everyone was making virtual versions of physical classrooms but felt that it was quite pointless as it did not add any value to having lessons over a digital platform. Instead, I thought it would be more meaningful to create a real lesson on a real topic instead, so that the digital context can be fully harnessed.
One way of having a virtual class is to have one teaching the concept of acceleration. Games tend to use realistic physics in order to convey a certain realism in movements and motion. Minecraft is no exception.
Each block in Minecraft is supposed to simulate 1m in real life. I made a high tower of about 190m in the game. At each 10m interval, I made an indicator to show how high the tower is, using roman numerals.
Students should start off on the top of the tower, looking down. In front of him is a 1m gap, along with a tower of red wool. Basically, they should jump into the gap and fall to the ground while left clicking in front of them so as to break the red wool tower. Do ignore the gaps currently there as I only took the screenshot after I tried the thing.
As mentioned, while falling, the student should be breaking the red wool in front of him. This picture is a bad example. The student should face forward instead.
At the end when he is on the ground, he will be allowed to fly upward and see the gaps in the tower of red blocks. Using the indicators, his own counting, and the distance between each gap, he should be able to see that he falls faster near the bottom than near the top.
This essentially shows the effect of acceleration and shows how we do not fall as a constant speed. More can be done to show other forms on Newtonian motion.
Fugitive is an Augmented Reality stealth game for a Head-Mounted Display (Such as Google Glasses) that is set in the context of a shopping mall. The player plays as a Fugitive, hiding from agents that are out to catch him while looking for items to disguise himself and escape his pursuers.
When you enter your usual shopping mall, the lights begin to flicker and you feel that you are not alone. As you scan the crowds of people in the mall, you see a few suited Agents wearing shades despite being indoors. You feel this inexplicable need to run, hide and evade their attention as being caught by them would render your HMD useless for 30 minutes. There are no maps. No indicators. All you have to rely on is pure stealth and wit in order to outsmart and outmaneuver the Agents.
You make use of crowds to break the line of sight. You hide around corners move fast to evade their attention. As you evade your first Agent, a subtle change in lighting occurs, directing you to certain places like Clothes stores and Cosmetics stores, where you can Equip items there to create a disguise. As time goes by, the pursuit gets more intense and culminates in your escape via a number of different possible methods.
- The game will incorporate an adaptive difficulty that ensures that players can adjust to their “Stealth Mode” accordingly
- Agents will be rendered as realistic but ominous humans that behave far too purposeful for being in a mall
- Agents react realistically to crowds and will not “walk through” people
- There will be no weapons or fighting, only evasion and trickery
- The game would be able to access data on the types of shops in the mall and using the HMD, be able to identify items (such as a wig) within the store. These items can be Equipped by trying them on and doing a visual scan of it using the HMD.
First Person Stealth Thriller (Like Amnesia)
Head-Mounted Display such as Google Glasses
One particular part of the reading this week resonated with me:
The player for example is both part of the ordinary world and immersed in the world of the game: this is where the ludic experience matches the aesthetic experience. When we play we plunge enthusiastically into the world of the game, while at the same time we maintain a certain distance in relation to our own behaviour in play; this is why we can call that behaviour ‘playful’. This duality allows us to maintain less or more critical distance with respect to the rules; it allows us to see those rules as just the rules of the game which are always open to adaptation.
Ludic Experience = Aesthetic Experience
I think The Sims franchise is an extremely good example of ludification of life in a game. The premise of the game is very simple. A simulator of life that injects humor into the everyday activities of the digital people. Since the topic is on life, there is a very strong theme of “normal-ness”, where we are familiar with the elements of the game since we live them out everyday.
The Needs vs Wants mechanic of the game is a very good example of ludification. I picked up a little basic psychology over the years and a pretty common model to think about human motivations is the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Pretty simple but also quite boring.
This is where the genius of The Sims comes in. At every moment of the day, it becomes important to keep a close lookout for your needs. Basically, the needs that must be satisfied in the game is exactly like the needs reflected in Maslow’s bottom 3 levels.
Why should you keep your needs satisfied? So that you can better achieve your wants, reflected in the top 2 levels of Maslow’s. In reality, these higher level needs/wants are things like a good career, a big house, a happy family. Long-term things that grant you greater satisfaction.
And this is where the challenge comes in. We are all usually much more excited at fulfilling our greater goals in life, like having a nicer house. However, if we only focus on that while neglecting our basic needs, it becomes very difficult to actually achieve those wants. This becomes a challenge of time management and decision making, trying to balance our needs while trying to work towards our wants. Suddenly, everything in the game seems to make sense. In fact, everything in LIFE itself begins to make much more sense!
Distance in relation to own behaviour
The interactions in The Sims are actually very simplified. The complex intricacies in reality are definitely missing from the game. The avatars in the game also always react in highly exaggerated and humorous way, not like in reality. The portion on going to work is also always skipped. There are many elements of the game that are poking fun at various aspects of our lives. Unlike reality, we can skip the ‘boring parts'(Working and moving things around) and focus on the ‘fun parts'(making decisions about social relationships).
Because of this, there is a great mental distance between reality and and the game world, allowing one to be critical about the experience.
Rules open to interpretation
Mastering the rules and mechanics of the game allows the player to succeed and attain more things in the game. Whether or not one takes these rules into real life really depends on the individual. For me, after spending hours of my youth on this game, I find myself naturally categorizing my feelings and urges into wants and needs. This helps me to make better sense of life and my feelings. For most other people, life probably appears far too complex for them to use the simple mechanics in The Sims.