[MUD-dev] Fun in Games

David Kennerly kallisti at tahoesnow.com
Fri Apr 26 22:02:12 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

Before continuing, I hope you, Raph, could help me eliminate the
unintended quarrel:

Raph Koster wrote:
> David Kennerly wrote:

>> A fine game does not preach.

> my main quarrel with your entire premise is that online worlds
> aren't just games.

What did I write that was construed to the contrary?  The scope was
not so broad a subject as online worlds.  In a sentence, the scope
is delimited: From the point of view of fun, the game is the type of
the all the arts.

Continuing to clarify:

> Nonsense.
> a first person shooter about a white supremacist who shoots blacks
> and Jews
> is explicitly designed to tell people how to feel

The shooter mod you mention does not sound like a fine game.  If it
is not a fine game, it has nothing to do with the art of the game.
Badly designed games may be bad in many ways.

Even when bad, a game is not an active agent.  So it is misleading
to suppose that

> making us enjoy the morally reprehensible is quit within the art
> of the game.

Because this playfully animates the game.  In paraphrase:

    There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral game.
    Games are well designed, or badly designed
    (Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray, Preface).

Wilde was writing about art and society, but the paraphrase applies.
The game is a form of art.  It's design is an art.  Although I
applaud the intent to increase the design of the game, to write

> we as designers tend to explore only a very small subset of the
> possible means of doing so.

Criticizes without helping and might mislead.  Fine games have
portrayed the human condition.  It has done so through it's own art,
which has been often misconceived.  It's apples and oranges to
compare a comic's (or other narrative's) portrayal of the human
condition to a game's portrayal of the human condition.  More
applicable than a comic book comparison is the statement: The
average card game does a better job of portraying the human
condition than the average video game.  I'm not interesting in
asserting this, but it is a non-misleading statement; it promotes
artistic thought in the medium of the game.

The Prisoner's Dilemma is a brief example of a game portraying the
human condition, which reveals some origins of how selfish entities
behave altruistically (Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of
Cooperation).  Whereas, shoehorning narrative situations is the way
to begin a good narrative about the human condition, but not
necessarily a good game.  Two examples of reinforce the misleading:

> an online game set in a concentration camp, or an online game
> where you live the role of a woman in colonial Williamsburg in
> Virginia.

Such a narrative, as a book or movie may portray the human
condition.  But in the medium of a game, a variant of a Prisoner's
Dilemma or Shubik's Dollar Auction (Poundstone
<http://www.heretical.org/games/dollar.html>) applies, not narrative
seeds.  While an online world offers broader scope than a game,
loosely proposing these scenarios, as is, offers no help to design a
good game within an online world.

Shoehorning the principle of the movie, book, narrative, or other
inapplicable medium onto the game perpetuates bad games.  In another

Brandon J. Van Every wrote:
> David Kennerly wrote:

>> For example, What game is analogous to Schindler's List?  I don't
>> know,

> The reason you don't know is it hasn't been written.  That's an
> opportunity, not a problem.

If it is written, it won't be recognized.  It won't be recognized
any more than a sandwich would be a recognized as the song that is
analogous to it.  Non-interesting Qabbalistic correspondences or
superficial qualities, such as licensing and merchandising, don't

While cross-training builds skill, a lot of knowledge carried over
doesn't apply:

> I think even though movies are linear, they have an important
> concept to contribute to game designers: pace.

I agree with your aim to improve pace and to use movies to
communicate the experience of good or poor pace, but beyond the
customer's experience of pace, can you provide an example of
applying the same skill of writing of a well-paced movie to the
design of a well-paced game?

The similarity of writing movie pace and designing game pace exists
in theory but not in practice.  One designs a well-paced game
indirectly, secondhand.  That is, to pace a game well, one designs a
system whereby the players' actions pace their own experience well.
Whereas, a movie paces directly, firsthand.  The writer, director,
and editor pace the audience's experience well.  Pace is a virtue
shared by narratives and games, but employing pace is dissimilar to
each.  Each art requires unique study.

If so, then a screenwriter who is not also good game designers will
not pace a game well, and a game designer who is not also a good
screenwriter will not pace a movie well.  Final Fantasy or Wing
Commander come to mind, but not necessarily for their pace.  Instead
of product attributes, including pace, the most valuable cross-over
knowledge between games and movies might be production skills and
team management.


MUD-Dev mailing list
MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

More information about the MUD-Dev mailing list