Exploring the gameness of a game

This is a quick summary of the Game Design course that I did under the guidance of Prof. Uday Athavankar.

Game design as a formal field is relatively new and different people have tried to create a common language across the field by structuring it. Prof. Athavankar, with his years of experience spoke to us about the formal way to look at game design, but what also came through from the lectures was that the ‘gameness’ of a game was very hard to come by though formal structures. It is assumed that the formalisation of processes can replace the creative designer, but, the designerly thinking, the leaps that we take, the connections between seemingly unrelated things, amongst other are what make a designer a designer and a game a game. More on this can be found on his personal blog under the posts — Taming Design Thinking [link].

Subjecting the process to a formal structure was not considered as the best way to get to a ‘game’. Our only ideals were prototyping and play-testing.

However, there were some formal parameters that were used to judge the game. The formalisation gave us a language to help understand and communicate the pros and cons of a prototype better while the process was left to us.

Play was defined as an enjoyable activity with no rules. Within this existed a game which is basically a structured form of play. And within the realm of games, we were to design educational games which aimed at either imparting knowledge or using content that a child learns in school.

Games are of two types — endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous game mechanics arise from the content itself while exogenous games is where a mechanic is applied to some existing content. Story is an important part of the game, and care should be taken to keep it endogenous.

The game mechanics should aim to create player player interaction, opportunities to create equality and inequality and scope for the players to create a strategy .

For example, connect 4 has high player player interaction as opposed to scrabble. Snakes and ladders has low strategy as compared with Catan. Chance for a player to create equality and inequality — chess has high but scrabble has low.

There are four characteristics of a game that should be balanced — thinking, skill, chance, knowledge/memory.

Based on these four, our first assignment was to analyse an existing game and redesign it. We chose scrabble, played it a few times and listed down the problems that we wanted to solve. They were

  • Game takes too long
  • Very less player player interaction for a younger age group to be interested
  • High reliance on knowledge/memory

We tried out multiple options to make the game faster and easier for a younger age group and play tested them.

Explorations

This is what we finally designed

Final Game

Team: Chinmay, Niharika, Prachi, Rohan

Next task was to design a game based on a chapter of 6th / 7th kids.

We chose nutrition.

We tried out a lot of directions

And endogenous direction evolved from teh topic which was for each child to make a ‘balanced diet’ for themselves using the different nutrients on a plate. So we designed the mechanic around that, maximised player player interaction and scope for equality and inequality and came up with Tif-fun!

Tif-fun

Team: Naveen, Utkarsh, Prachi

Next the aim was to create a digital game on WhatsApp

We made a simple game using the video call feature.

Rules: Both teams of 3/4 starts a video call with the others where one team member is the leader who will give instructions for that round. The two teams decide on a letter/shape randomly or alphabetically. They have to create the letter in the screen of the leader as the leader communicates instructions on the call. The catch is that each team in at least one frame should capture a member of the other team to win!

WhatsApp game

Team: Dhiraj, Aishwary, Ashish, Prachi

The next task was to make an educational game. We chose to teach kids about countries.

Rules: The AR globe will be visible on the marker that you and your opponents around which you move around. Each player has their globe at a different orientation. You are given a country to identify on a spinning globe, once you do that, your globe move a little slower. But if your opponents identify a country yours moves faster.

Atlas

Team: Aishwary, Prachi, Suraj

Thank You!

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