Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Marriage - A Review

(cross-posted at Gameology.org)

The Marriage, a game developed by Rod Humble, has ignited a very welcome discussion on games as art, and their capabilities to convey more complex and delicate matters. In case you are not familiar with the game, you can download it and read about its background, rules and interpretations on Rod's website. Here are some passages explaining the game experience:

"The Marriage is intended to be art. No excuses or ducking. As such its certainly meant to be enjoyable but not entertaining in the traditional sense most games are. This means I am certain to be perceived as being pretentious by some who read this, my apologies. This is also a very difficult game to understand, again my apologies, I have tried to assist those who are interested but frustrated with the rules summary below."

"Initially you have two squares a blue and a pink, on screen.
Soon different coloured circles will enter and leave the play space.

You have two controls.

1.) When you mouse over the blue or pink square the blue square reduces in size and both squares move towards each other.

2.) When you mouse over a circle it disappears and the pink square gets smaller."
The general game flow will be balancing the need to have the pink & blue squares “kiss” to insure the pink square does not fade from the marriage versus the blue square needing to touch the circles to insure it does not fade."

"The game is my expression of how a marriage feels. The blue and pink squares represent the masculine and feminine of a marriage. They have differing rules which must be balanced to keep the marriage going.

The circles represent outside elements entering the marriage. This can be anything. Work, family, ideas, each marriage is unique and the players response should be individual.."

Having played the thing myself, and having read some comments on several websites, here is some of what I think of the game:

The Marriage is art. Although I spoiled my experience by reading the game meaning before actually playing it, I was delighted to see how Humble managed to express his views, in a elegant way, on such an intricate subject as marriage.

Apparently, the economy of possible actions within the game has upset some players, who argue that a handful of variables cannot handle the complexity of the relationship it tries to simulate. I can understand it does not illustrate the total experience of being married. But at the same time, it is enough to express the author's view, if not in its totality, at least regarding a specific feeling he must have had at some point about a personal issue.

The Marriage feels, to me, like poetry. On a personal note, it fits within my interest in unorthodox game modes and non-games. The Marriage is an auteur game, for I've seen, through playing, how Humble perceives marriage and - maybe that's the point - how Humble perceives his personal experience of being married. This is not something we see everyday in games.

Monday, May 28, 2007

New blog on games - Ludonauta

Ludonauta, by Diogo Ribeiro, is a new blog on game critique and analysis. From Portugal, the website is written in Portuguese, although Diego has made an exception for his current entry for the Round Table.

Check it out.

Two more Wii flash games website

An anonymous comment tells me that there´s a new Wii flash games website around: Wiiscape (http://www.eiksoft.com/wii/index.htm)

Plus, here´s the link to a Brazilian Wii flash games website: WiiClube

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Goals (and yes, I like them)

Judging by the name of this very blog, you could imagine I would open this post stating that goals are an overrated, unnecessary, passé elements of game design. Truth is, I've held this vision for quite some time, but I must admit I am re-working that.

There are (roughly speaking) two different ways to describe a goal: (a) an in-game state desired by the player, made possible by his/hers actions; or (b) an in-game state desired by the designer, made possible by the player's actions.

Now, it could be hard for a game designer to avoid (a) doing the player's job (by not giving him time to breath or make his own path, regardless of the game's main flow), or, on the other side of the spectrum, assigning his own job to the player (by not giving enough guidance and/or stimulus). The second set of sins are not, as I could have thought before, qualities.

There could be interesting games (can they be called games?) without goals (some are listed around nongames.com, here), but this is not a reason to say goals are not important. They certainly are central to games, electronic or not. Take a look at Bateman's entry to understand better why. That other forms of digital entertainment, in spite of video-gamic influences, move away from explicit goal-oriented action, that's a related story. In some cases, I would say goals are still there, only less celebrated as the epicentre of the experience. In fact, I guess that, lately, more and more games follow this approach. Non-games does not equal non-goals.

"Buddhist" approaches to game design seem to look out for a balance between old-school goal-orientation and fashionable sandbox style. Two other Round Table posts develop this subject:

"You can starve yourself without goals, or you can bloat up and choke on goals. Siddhartha Gautama to the rescue in the form of the middle path. The good news is you can find a hybrid between a total lack of goals and a ridged structure that never changes." (from Inverse)

"Goal-orientation plays on sequential logic, I must do A to get to B to find C to get to D - all the way down the art asset laden alphabet. Freestyling relies on pattern recognition, messing around and finding the form(s) you like. The closer you get to the perfect union of the two, the more these fundamentally different orderings of nuerons (sequential vs. parallel) interact. When that happens, you get subjunctive thought, which is the "what-if" cognition that dreams are made of. Thats where the money is. Thats where the art is. Get deep in the middle." (from King Lud IC)

This balance, I would say, is a safe bet on how large, successful games could (should? would?) be designed from now on. Although I have a feeling that money and art could on the extremes as well.

By the way, there is an extensive list on the right column of this blog, entitled "TO READ ABOUT PLAY/NONGAMES". If you really are into the subject, you should check some of the links out (not to mention, of course, the other articles of this Round Table session, listed on a drop-down menu by the end of this post).

I could not finish this post without promoting flora, could I? It's a free-form, creative play style game, after all. You can play the online demo here. And if you are into the GreatGamesExperiment, why not check its page over there?

Check out other Round Table posts on the same subject:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Importance of Being Boring

Gamasutra has an excellent article by Ian Bogost about the need of more boring games. From the title only, my cynical self tells me I´m already giving a fair contribution to this field.

A quote:

"As a medium becomes more familiar, it also becomes less edgy and exciting. This is what Marc Ecko means when he refers to movies as demystified. Over time, media becomes domesticated, and domestication is a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, it allows broader reach and scale. It means that more people can understand and manipulate the medium."

The article is very good and makes a point I could really stand for. Check it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Flora: play it NOW on this very post!

Here is the online demo:

The "Can You" feature may be unavailable. Other than that, that's the full demo. Enjoy!

If the window is too small for you, try it on its proper website.

(also available at the Great Games Experiment. If you enjoy it, don't forget to rate it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Flora Online Demo - direct link

For you haing trouble with flora´s website (I hae no clue on what´s going on), here the direct link to the online demo:

English version
Portuguese Version

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

flora - Atitude.com

Se você chegou aqui por causa do programa Atitude.com, aqui está o link para flora.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

flora - play online demo version now!

Here´s the link to the website:


No downloadable install program available. Instead, a playable flash demo.

Thanks a lot to everyone of you who helped me making this demo.

Monday, May 14, 2007

48 hour research - game addiction

Ok, here´s my problem: I have (less than) 48 hours to learn more about game addiction. Apparently, I will be taking part in a debate about it. Not sure if that´s about online-gaming only. I have found:



Overall, my current position is that game addiction is a reality and, although overinflated, exageratted by sensationalist media, is not taken seriously by part of the industry and researchers - something that actually harms the reputation of this field.

I know about the de-tox clinics, death cases (mostly in Asia for some reason). I also know about the positive effects of online gaming - or most gaming for that matter - socialization, participation, development of cognitive skills, etc.

What else can be said? What kind of clarification can anyone give me?

Thanks a lot!

Slowly coming back...

After (close to) a month without posting, I´m trying to get back to nongames.com. I´ve got a thinking blogger award (a courtesy from Pensar Videojogos´ André Carita), but that will have to wait for a future post.

I could have news on Flora this week. Fingers crossed.

And since I haven´t got much time to develop any interesting idea, I´ll just comment some interesting things I´ve seen in blogs I follow.

a) A discussion that seems perfect for nongames.com is going on at the round table this month: "How crucial to game play are goals?". A first submission is already online - Marcus Riedner, from Inverse, has a nice, critical post on the dark side of the lack of goals, and the importance of achieving balance.

b) I would love to see Bateman´s Nine Basic Players applied to that discussion, by the way.

c) King Lud IC´s Dugan has created a MySpace account for his creation CuttleCandy (check it), featuring a playable flash demo. So far, its gameplay feels to me like a mix of fl0w and Zuma. I´m curious to see how it develops.
Copyright, Chico Queiroz