G4C2008: values at play, applied

Celia Pearce (Georgia Tech) aims to cultivate “critical play” — especially difficult to break “gamers” out of their mold. Following are student games emerging from V@P process.

  • Robin Hood Portal Mod: Portal mechanic, avoidance verb, generosity value, class division problem. (Apparently, using portal mechanic to steal stuff and decide what to do with l00t).
  • Rockasaurus Rangers: Developed without the cards but values made aware from earlier learning. Main value: cooperation. Appropriated Rock Star-like mechanic.
  • Heroin Shooter: Appropriate WarioWare mechanic — minigames to prepare to shoot up. Two outcomes: (1) withdrawal; (2) overdose. No “win state.” In this game, danger of “Landlord Game” (inspiration for Monopoly) — game that made exploiting the renters fun.

Tracy Fullerton (USC) applied V@P curriculum in intermediate course to “small games with big ideas.” Main focus on verbs and values (tried to avoid existing mechanisms). Initial ideation followed by formal playtesting at design (not interface) with outsiders. Some ideas that did or didn’t make it through the process:

  • Pilgrimage: miracles and suffering to create belief
  • Cante, Florezca: nurture a plant in Picasso’s apartment
  • Leaving: about a breakup — praising and trust — different actions have different effects at different points in time.
  • Welcome to 35th St — subverting and autonomy — choices on how to deal with gang members, striking the balance between becoming threat and victim
  • Frankenfarmer — nurturing, politics — parody of Monsanto’s business
  • Hush — singing, human rights — mother calming babies to hide from 1994 Rwanda genocide. Won the first Make a Better Game contest.

Jamie Antonisse and Devon Johnson described the process of creating the Hush game. Singing as a very personal mechanic. Inspired by Darfur is Dying. Going for a powerful and personal experience. Make use of the universal experience of mother and child for emotional impact, possibly emotion as a gameplay element.

(I strongly recommend experiencing Hush — I would love to discuss this one at our next meeting. Pay particular attention to the sound design).