Highest Rated Comments

franklantz19 karma

Yes! You are nothing but a sad, dumb pigeon, and this is a great truth that your love of games has led you to recognize. Everyone is a sad, dumb, pigeon, but you are sad, dumb pigeon who knows they are a sad, dumb pigeon. And this is a superpower. Who knows where this dangerous knowledge might lead you?

When you play a game, you enter into a tiny operant conditioning chamber, allow it to shape your experience, and then leave. Then you reflect on that experience. Then you play a different game and compare them to each other.

What would it be like to live your life like that?

franklantz13 karma

This is a really interesting problem. On the one hand, you would think that a game would be a great way to explore the topic of climate change, for example. After all, a game is a system, it can embody the systemic, dynamic, emergent properties of the topic. It seems like that would be great. My friend Ian Bogost has written extensively on this, and (at least) used to be optimistic about this possibility.

However, in practice, games that model real world systems are almost never genuinely compelling or persuasive as rhetoric. Why is that?

I think it's because simulations tend to fail, as rhetoric, in one of two ways.

Either they are pre-determined, you have to build the outcomes you want into the rules of the system in a way that feels like you are begging the question - the player senses that they aren't really exploring a rich, emergent, interactive model of the real world, they are being fed a fixed result that only looks dynamic.

Or they are out of control, and end up generating a lot of unpredictable behavior that don't correspond to the rhetorical point you are trying to make. If it's a real system, players are going to discover all kinds of weird, unexpected behaviors in it that don't really line up with the real-world system you are trying to model and don't line up with whatever point you are trying to communicate.

Therefore games like Pandemic, for example, are a great use of the theme of infectious disease, but aren't really making any substantial points about that topic in a straightforward way.

It's an interesting problem!

franklantz7 karma

Here's my standard answer to the question "what games should I play?" from a person who isn't currently a gamer but is curious to know what's up.

You should find out, from your friends who play games, a game they are playing, and play that. It's so much more important to have a good context for playing a game than to play the "right" game. Playing with, or alongside, other people will motivate you to pay attention, to dive deeper, and give you a framework for reflecting on the game, thinking and talking about how it works and what it means.

franklantz6 karma

We never did this at NYU, but one idea you could try is to have a big faculty-managed game project with a giant code base that you have students contribute to. This would give them a sense of what it's like to add features, do versioning, and track bugs on a big software project. It's the kind of thing you can't learn without doing.

franklantz6 karma

There is one essential book missing from that stack - The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. Even though it's not about games per se, it is the most important book about the thread that connects those books together and every game designer should read it.

A couple of books I might add to that stack if I were taking this picture today are Games: Agency as Art by C Thi Nguyen, and Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game by Graeme Kirkpatrick.