XEODesign, “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story” and “Why We Play Games Together: The People Factor”

Why We Play Games

This piece opens with a statement: “To create more emotion in innovative future games, we at XEODesign want to know more about the role of emotion in games and identify ways to create emotion other than story cut-scenes” (p. 1). The authors follow this statement with a series of thought-provoking questions:

[H]ow many emotions do games create? What makes failing 80% of the time fun? Do people play to feel emotions as well as challenge? If emotions are important to play, where do they come from? Do people modify games to feel differently? Is it possible to build emotions into games by adding emotion-producing objects or actions to game play rather than cut scenes? To what extent are game developers already doing this?

Their answers to these questions are a systematic exploration, and so in a certain sense thorough, though they also (perhaps in or because of the intervening years since this articles publishing) seem like just a start.

“Why We Play”’s discussion of things like “flow” and “fiero” reminded me of Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality Is Broken, which explores a number of the issues XEODesign explores in this article at great length.

Why We Play Games Together: The People Factor

XEODesign’s consideration of the in-the-room, observational, turn-taking social aspect of gaming struck me as particularly exciting. They advise designers to

[m]ake sure the game is fun to watch so those not playing have something to do. The game will be more likely to be shared if experienced players see new things in the game when a buddy takes over the controls. Support casual play experiences for the beginning game. Make it easy to start and spectacular enough to inspire commentary. (p. 1)

The authors also advise “[offering] a range of items and features that have a different emotion attached to them” (p. 1). They further explain this notion with one of the more fascinating formulations and phrasings I’ve come across in reading about games: “Not just a bigger gun, but also one that lets players say something about themselves and about their target” (p. 1)


James Gee, “Good Video Games, the Human Mind, and Good Learning”

Gee notes that his two main points in this chapter are 1) “that good video games… represent a technology that illuminates how the human mind works,” and 2) ”that good video games incorporate good learning principles and have a great deal to teach us about learning in and out of schools, whether or not a video game is part of this learning” (22). A couple of the ways that games accomplish these two things are: “a) they distribute intelligence via the creation of smart tools, and b) they allow for the creation of ‘cross functional affiliation,’ a particularly important form of collaboration in the modern world” (26). This point, in particular, stuck out for me, in part because of Gee’s further explanation: “This form of affiliation—what I will call cross-functional affiliation—has been argued to be crucial for the workplace teams in modem “new capitalist” workplaces, as well as in modern forms of social activism” (28). This formulation made me think of Hardt and Negri’s political conceptualization of Empire and Multitude and made me want to see if anyone’s written anything about such a potential connection…

Michele D. Dickey, “Engaging By Design: How Engagement Strategies in Popular Computer and Video Games Can Inform Instructional Design”

I found Dickey’s article to be one of the most exciting we’ve read all term. I now believe that one of my unconscious hopes in entering the DMDL program is that someone in the field was thinking about (and acting on) many of the issues that Dickey raises. Dickey’s thesis is that the strategies and tactics that computer and video game designers incorporate in order to thoroughly engage players in gameplay can and should be examined for potential uses in education—and instructional design—today. The path that Dickey takes through this landscape of possibilities (vast in 2005; even more vast today) is “an overview of the trajectory of player positioning or point of view, the role of narrative, and methods of interactive design” (67). A couple of points that stuck with me more than others on this path is the notion of utilizing narrative devices such as backstory and cut scenes in designing for engaged learning. Considering where in the design field I might take myself in the future, I wonder if the following statement by Dickey is still true: “little has been written about the pragmatic application of narrative in instructional materials, and how to create compelling narratives to support multiple learning activities in complex, multifaceted environments, and to sustain interest over time” (74). This point—as well as many others throughout the article, really—also made me think of (and made me think to look more into) the Quest to Learn charter school in Manhattan.