Design for Fun: What Makes a Game Good, and a Good Game?
04/29/2011 10:00 AM Bartos theaterDrew Davidson, Director, Entertainment Technology Center _ Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon UniversityDescription: Drew Davidson likes to play with blocks in his sandbox, as he demonstrates in a show"and"tell to interactive media colleagues. In this case, the playground is an online game called Minecraft, a two"year"young internet sensation with millions of followers, developed single"handedly by a programmer named "Notch," (A.K.A. Markus Persson).
Walking the audience through the game, Davidson shows what makes it irresistibly playable for so many. He also shares his interest in talking "about games in a formalized way, other than saying this game is 'awesome.'" Davidson wants to capture the game play experience, which he believes to be "radically different from anything else, because agency is involved." Minecraft takes place in the course of a 20"minute 'day,' and in spite of crude graphics, rapidly immerses a player in an entire world where all the features of the landscape can be built or manipulated for different ends-an activity called 'crafting.' Players can chop blocks to create shelters, whack trees to make axes, pull wool off of sheep and grow wheat. This is not a simulation game: bad things happen at 'night,' so there is an element of suspense and strategy.
The two elements of "creativity and survival," says Davidson, add up to a classic game play experience. Plus, he says, Minecraft "breaks all the rules:" it lets you play for free by yourself, learning how to craft by trial and error; interested players can contribute new elements because the code is freely available; and multiplayer groups can get together online to create projects and pool their worlds. It is "snackable, just like Lays potato chips," says Davidson. You head for the game frequently, but at the same time, the "complete play experience fits easily into life," because "it is simple to get in and out of the game."
Minecraft meets all the mechanical, aesthetic and design criteria for great gaming, says Davidson, enabling speedy involvement, deep immersion and long"term investment, and has great potential as an educational tool. Players can model their worlds on real life or complete fantasy. They may devise electronic switches to control tram systems, or fiddle with physics, sending waterfalls upward, and suspending structures midair. Ultimately, concludes Davidson, this game "taps into the ludic core of who we are," calling on players' storytelling and performance impulses.
About the Speaker(s): Drew Davidson is a professor, producer and player of interactive media. His background spans academic, industry and professional worlds and he is interested in stories across texts, comics, games and other media. He is the Director of the Entertainment Technology Center _ Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University and the Editor of ETC Press.
Davidson helped create the Sandbox Symposium, an ACM SIGGRAPH conference on video games and served on the IGDA Education SIG. He works with SIGGRAPH on games and interactive media and serves on the ACTlab Steering Committee, and many advisory boards, program committees and jury panels.
He is the lead on several MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Initiative grants and has written and edited books, journals, articles and essays on narratives across media, serious games, analyzing gameplay, and cross"media communication.
Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, The MIT Education Arcade
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