The Gamification of America, Part 2
This is the second part of a presentation I gave at the USC Institute of Multimedia Literacy about my career and recent developments in the game industry. In Part 1, I discussed how indie development and digital distribution now allow for a greater variety of games, much as it was when the game industry was in its infancy.
Of course, this begs the question, “what is a game?”
For me, a game must have many of the following elements:
- Be fun to play
- Have goals for the player to reach
- Have rules for obtaining those goals
- Provide choices in how the player meets those goals
- Present conflict that is an obstacle in meeting those goals
- Gives the player feedback on whether the player is meeting those goals
- Has a clear “win” or “lose” ending state based on whether the player has achieved those goals or not
- Fun: For many people, especially the artistic.
- Goals: Whatever you set for yourself.
- Rules: None. You don’t even have to use a brush or canvas.
- Conflict: Your ability to put onto the canvas the picture that’s in your mind.
- Choices: Infinite.
- Feedback: What you and others think of your work.
- Win/Lose: Whether you like how your painting turned out.
- Fun: For many people, especially grandmothers.
- Goals: Earn more coins than you put in.
- Rules: Put in a coin, pull the lever.
- Conflict: The odds of getting matching objects that pay off.
- Choices: None.
- Feedback: Pictures of fruit and other objects that line up in the viewing window; coins that are won.
- Win/Lose: Coins at end vs. coins at start.
- Fun: For many people, especially kids.
- Goals: Reassemble puzzle pieces to form a picture.
- Rules: All pieces must lock into each other correctly.
- Conflict: Correct orientation and placement of each piece.
- Choices: Many at start, few at end.
- Feedback: Visual and tactile clues about piece placement.
- Win/Lose: Play until you put the puzzle together correctly.
- Fun: For many people, especially ones who are alone.
- Goals: Place down all the cards in the deck.
- Rules: Some cards are placed down in a particular layout; the remaining cards must be placed on a placed card that is precisely one numerically higher value.
- Conflict: There may not be a placed card that is of the right value.
- Choices: There may be more than one card that is of the right value.
- Feedback: The numerical value placed on each card.
- Win/Lose: Player wins if all his or cards are placed, loses if not all of his cards are placed.
Let’s look at four activities and examine whether or not each is a game.
For me, there are too many subjective or ill-defined elements to consider painting to be a game. To turn this activity into a game, I would add in the rules of Pictionary: require the player to paint an image representing a phrase and within a limited amount of time (or with a limited number of guesses) have other players guess what that phrase is from the painting. Thus, I will have added more concrete rules, goals, conflict, feedback and win/lose conditions.
Where this activity fails as a game for me is the lack of choices given to the player. To make this more of a game, I would allow the player multiple pulls at the lever for each coin put in, but allow the player to push a button to freeze one or more images after each pull. Thus, the player has is provided with choices for improving his or her odds before the final payout occurs.
Where this activity fails as a game for me is that there is no loss condition: you simply play until you achieve the win condition (or give up). To make this activity into more of a game, I would require the player to complete the puzzle within a limited amount of time.
This is the most game-like of the four activities.
In Part 3, I will examine each of these elements that make up a game more closely.