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Can Games Make You Cry?

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Can Games Make You Cry?

Jesper Juul says, "That's a dumb question."

Juul, editor of the Game Studies journal and author of Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (MIT Press, 2005), was the keynote speaker for the second day of the Serious Games Summit.

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Even now, Juul insisted, at the very moment he gave his speech, thousands of people around the world are crying over games: because their character died, they were booted from a clan, or they had just lost. Players cry over games all day, every day. Next question?

Game designers may not accept this outburst of emotion as genuine, though, because the crying isn't from the predefined content. Instead, it's stemming from user-created factors, like social status, and from user-created content.

To Juul, this is just another failure of the "classic" model of game design, which focuses on specific goals (with specific failures) and fixed sequences of events. Juul sees the future in games like The Sims 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where players have no specific, required goals and are free to explore and play as they see fit. Or to put it another way, players are free to express themselves within the game.

All in all, it sounded like Juul wants game designers to focus less on creating specific experiences for players and instead create worlds and systems for players to create their own experiences and expressions.

I don't think he was specifically saying that the fixed, linear games are bad. But he certainly considers them "old school" and that the future is in designer-facilitated, player-created worlds.

At least, I think that's what he was saying. :)

In the last few minutes of his talk, he spoke on how what he had talked about could be applied to serious games. Open-ended games like this, he said, could still be used to push players in specific directions. The difficulty in reaching player-selected goals, though, must be carefully measured to ensure that the desired learning is taking place. Finally, he pointed out that while open-ended games can be used to teach systems and general skills, they are probably less suited for coursework that requires a lot of memorization.

I also learned in this session that you need to have a "dot" on your badge to be taking pictures. Except maybe not. Either way, I have a dot now, and will be sure to constrain my picture taking to the first 5 minutes (ish) of the sessions. Wee...

-David
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