Concept #1: Don’t obsess over cosmetics, from Crawford, Common Mistakes in Game Design (Week 8 Readings).
In Crawford’s article, he argues that a common mistake amongst game designers is the tendency to obsess over cosmetic appearances. He argues that cosmetics should not be seen as the most important component in a game; rather, designers should focus on other elements, such as the level of interactivity of their game and its conceptualization around a topic.
In my final project, my group has decided to create an interactive story on Twine. Our goal is to create a project that will help students taking introductory-level philosophy classes at university or high school gain a better understanding of two ethical theories. To do this, we will be creating a story that forces players to participate in scenarios that directly engage with these ethical theories. For example, players will be forced to make the ‘correct’ choices according to the moral theory of utilitarianism in the first scenario, when they are faced with saving mankind from an overpopulated planet in a not-so-distant dystopian future. By literally playing out these scenarios, we hope players will gain a better understanding of how these moral theories might operate in practice, as well as the weaknesses of each theory. In this way, we hope to promote critical thinking skills in philosophy students by creating a game that engages with ethical content in a practical way in order to make these moral frameworks less abstract for students to conceptualize.
As our story will be created on Twine, we hope to use minimal embedded pictures and audio files in order to focus more on creating high-quality practical and relatable scenarios for students. In this way, we will be heeding Crawford’s advice and focusing on creating a game with more meaningful scenarios and content rather than stunning graphic visuals.
Concept #2: The meaning is derived from the context, from Salem and Zimmerman, Game Design and Meaningful Play (Week 8 Readings).
In their article, Salem and Zimmerman discuss how meaning is derived from the context within a game. For example, in their discussion of semiotic concepts on page 8, the authors argue that by assigning colours to buttons, players will eventually figure out which ones are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and attribute meaning to them based on how they are utilized within the game.
In our game, we hope to create scenarios that force players to understand the strengths and weaknesses of different philosophical moral frameworks. Rather than outright telling the player as soon as they enter the game that the way to be successful is by engaging with utilitarian ethics, we hope to be more subtle. Instead, we hope to incorporate semiotic principles such that players will be able to understand they are in world that operates using a utilitarian framework. For instance, we may reward players in some way when they make choices that follow utilitarian principles, or have signs in the game that say things like ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ with a government’s endorsement on the sign. In this way, our game will employ Salem and Zimmerman’s use of semiotics to help the player understand utilitarian ethics based on affordances within the game.
Crawford, C. The Art of Computer Game Design. Indianapolis, Indiana: New Riders Publishing, 1982.
Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E. (2005). “Game Design and Meaningful Play.” In J. Raessens and J. Goldstein (Eds.) Handbook of Computer Game Studies (pp. 59-79). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.