Browsing articles from "October, 2011"

Borrowing Mechanics for Serious Games

Oct 11, 2011   //   by Poya   //   Reflection  //  Leave a Comment

This entry is going to be somewhat disorganized and takes me a while to get to “the point”. So bare with me.

I recently bought a new laptop which is pretty decent for gaming. Ignoring the fact that I had to (soon after getting it) send it for repair, I got a chance to install StarCraft 2 and play for a bit and that has been great, especially since the original StarCraft was a favorite of mine years ago. I then started watching some actual StarCraft tournaments and found it quite fascinating. It really is treated much like a sport, especially in countries like Korea, with proper commentators and big live audiences. Following one of these commentators, I found a great game review YouTube channel which I have been watching in the past few days. It’s called WTF Is…. Here is what I like about it:

  • The reviews are done by a funny, funny British man.
  • Given my schedule and the fact that I didn’t have a great computer ’till recently, I can’t spend too much time playing games, but this way I can actually get an idea of what’s out there both in terms of game play and also graphics, etc.
  • The reviewed games are really varied. I mean there are some really different games in the list including lots of indie games. There are also many well known AAA games.
  • Did I mention the reviews are done by a funny British man?

Now the reason I bring this up is that watching some footage from different sorts of game (or better still playing them) can actually be a great kick-start for creativity. Every time I see something fresh and different my mind starts wondering about how I could use and extend it in another shape or form, and perhaps for an educational game. I have however come across a bit of a dilemma. Allow me to clarify; 90% of the games that are coming out both in the indie and commercial scenes, are…tactile…for lack of a better word. What I mean is that either they involve some form of combat, or you are controlling the movement of some entity (a person, a car, a ship, etc) and the game is about how well you can control that entity. Even pure puzzle games where you are simply thinking and making choices, are pretty rare these days. My question is: are such mechanics appropriate for an educational game, specifically one that is focusing on moral and spiritual values?

Let me clarify further with an example. A little while ago I played a bit of the highly addicting Plants vs Zombies game. “Tower defense” games seem to be pretty popular at the moment on various platforms. I think it’s definitely a very attractive mechanic for many indie game developers because once you have the basics done, you can create a lot of levels and content without too much effort.


So I was thinking, what about a tower defense game centered around giving and helping people? So you have some sort of station (maybe it’s an office, maybe it’s a home, maybe it’s planet Earth), and people (or aliens) approach it with various problems. Your weapons, in this situation, are no longer guns or peashooters, but it’s objects or things that would help the incoming people. This could be money, food, specific items, a hug, a kind word, etc. Again the details I haven’t thought too much about, but you get the picture.

I think it’s an interesting concept, but I’m still not sure if it’s quite right for the purpose. What’s fun about a tower defense game is timing as much as anything else. There are lots of things coming at you and you are trying to attend to them as fast as you can. Does such a mechanic allow you to think about the choices you make to help people? I don’t know. Perhaps. Perhaps it’d make sense if each person with a problem could be helped in multiple different ways but some more effective than others (the same way different plants have different effectiveness against different zombies in the example above) so the player would have to make more informed choices.

This is something that I also noticed with the Extremes game. Especially regarding the actions that they could perform at the bottom of the household UI…when I watched people play it, they hardly read what was there and decide. Rather they’d be clicking as many things as they could, as fast as they could. Obviously if the game is trying to encourage the player to think about a certain concept, the mechanics of the game needs to not only allow that, but encourage it.

Quote of the Week (Empty Words)

Oct 11, 2011   //   by Poya   //   Quote  //  Leave a Comment

Arts, crafts and sciences uplift the world of being, and are conducive to its exaltation. Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words.

Bahá’u'lláh