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      Download the Game Design and Indie Game Marketing Freebook   07/19/17

      GameDev.net and CRC Press have teamed up to bring a free ebook of content curated from top titles published by CRC Press. The freebook, Practices of Game Design & Indie Game Marketing, includes chapters from The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, and An Architectural Approach to Level Design. The GameDev.net FreeBook is relevant to game designers, developers, and those interested in learning more about the challenges in game development. We know game development can be a tough discipline and business, so we picked several chapters from CRC Press titles that we thought would be of interest to you, the GameDev.net audience, in your journey to design, develop, and market your next game. The free ebook is available through CRC Press by clicking here. The Curated Books The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition, by Jesse Schell Presents 100+ sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game’s design, encompassing diverse fields such as psychology, architecture, music, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, anthropology, and more. Written by one of the world's top game designers, this book describes the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design, demonstrating how tactics used in board, card, and athletic games also work in video games. It provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again. View it here. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, by Joel Dreskin Marketing is an essential but too frequently overlooked or minimized component of the release plan for indie games. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing provides you with the tools needed to build visibility and sell your indie games. With special focus on those developers with small budgets and limited staff and resources, this book is packed with tangible recommendations and techniques that you can put to use immediately. As a seasoned professional of the indie game arena, author Joel Dreskin gives you insight into practical, real-world experiences of marketing numerous successful games and also provides stories of the failures. View it here. An Architectural Approach to Level Design This is one of the first books to integrate architectural and spatial design theory with the field of level design. The book presents architectural techniques and theories for level designers to use in their own work. It connects architecture and level design in different ways that address the practical elements of how designers construct space and the experiential elements of how and why humans interact with this space. Throughout the text, readers learn skills for spatial layout, evoking emotion through gamespaces, and creating better levels through architectural theory. View it here. Learn more and download the ebook by clicking here. Did you know? GameDev.net and CRC Press also recently teamed up to bring GDNet+ Members up to a 20% discount on all CRC Press books. Learn more about this and other benefits here.
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Electric Elephants and Communism: Clint Hocking on How Games Mean

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Clint Hocking gave a thought provoking and interesting talk -- complete with allusions to electric elephants, communism, and russian film icon Lev Kuleshov -- in an attempt to answer a question Chris Hecker raised during earlier GDC's. Specifically: How do games mean?

No that's not a grammatical error or a joke. It's a play on the question "what do games mean?"

There are many problems with the question "what do games mean?" The largest might be that we don't have a particularly good way to systematically answer it. The question of "how do games mean?" (or more gramatically: "how do games create meaning?") is more answerable, and more importantly, the answer is perhaps useful in creating games that are rich with meaning.

So how do games mean? I'll try to summarize Mr. Hocking's view here, although it's quite intricate. Mr. Hocking has an interesting answer to that question, but before getting to that, it might be instructive to look at the history of film.

Lev Kuleshov is an iconic figure in film. He's best known for discovering the Kuleshov Effect. From Wikipedia:

[quote]
Kuleshov edited together a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mozzhukhin was alternated with various other shots (a plate of soup, a girl, a little girl's coffin). The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression on Mozzhukhin's face was different each time he appeared, depending on whether he was "looking at" the plate of soup, the girl, or the coffin, showing an expression of hunger, desire or grief respectively. Actually the footage of Mozzhukhin was the same shot repeated over and over again. Vsevolod Pudovkin (who later claimed to have been the co-creator of the experiment) described in 1929 how the audience "raved about the acting.... the heavy pensiveness of his mood over the forgotten soup, were touched and moved by the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead child, and noted the lust with which he observed the woman. But we knew that in all three cases the face was exactly the same."[1]

Kuleshov used the experiment to indicate the usefulness and effectiveness of film editing. The implication is that viewers brought their own emotional reactions to this sequence of images, and then moreover attributed those reactions to the actor, investing his impassive face with their own feelings.
[/quote]

Here's the important bit in all of that: through the creative use of editing, the audience can be brought to find meaning in something that is otherwise ambiguous. Ivan Mozzhukhin's face was the same in all shots, but by allowing the viewer to interpret his reactions, the editing created meaning that was otherwise non existent.

So what does that have to do with meaning? Well in Mr. Hocking's view, films create meaning through editing. Narrative might direct the experience, but editing is the basic building block -- the "how", if you will -- in which meaning is constructed from.

Well that's great for film, but how do games create meaning?

Dynamics, would be Mr. Hocking's answer.

Wait what are dynamics?

Dynamics are the behavior of the game itself, the way it interacts with you in response to your actions. This is where meaning is created. In this sense, cutscenes or stories wouldn't be the primary creators of meaning -- because they aren't part of the behavior of the game. They can frame and reinforce the meaning of the dynamics, but they aren't where meaning is created.

As background for where this "dynamics" term comes from, one model of thinking about game design is the "Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics" model. You can think of it this way:

Mechanics = Rules
Dynamics = Behaviors that arise from the rules
Aesthetics = Feelings that result from the players experiencing the behaviors

There's the "message model of meaning", in which mechanics overrule dynamics. You could think of this as a more authoritarian view of how you should view the game, in which the designer uses the rules of the game in order to enforce a specific message.

There's also the "abdication of authorship" model, in which dynamics overshadow mechanics. In this model, player agency is maximized, but the trade off is that with extended player agency, the designer's control over the experience is reduced.

Games can fall upon a spectrum in this sense, with some games reserving the creation of meaning for themselves, while other games allow the player more control over what the meaning of the game is.

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