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).

G4C2008: values at play

Mary Flanagan (Tiltfactor, Values @ Play) — “a humanistic approach to game design.” How to think about / change existing gameplay to incorporate human values? How to embed human values/principles into design processes such as game design? Some of the values include privacy, creative expression, diversity, cooperation/, commons, community/collective decision making, altruism/sharing, inclusivity?

V@P recreating iterative design process to examine human values.

Studies to test impact of V@P curriculum on designers. “Grow a game” brainstorming cards. (Verbs, Challenges, Games, Values). Stages of Concern Instrument to measure changes in attitudes about values-conscious design.


  1. The big issue with making activist games is a perceived conflict between fun and the seriousness of the social issue (don’t want to make light of that issue). Going too serious leads to strange unintended consequences, e.g. Jena 6 game ends up seeming racist — therefore need to maintain the values.
  2. Students’ three strategies: (1) the unwinnable game; (2) appropriate mainstream games for activist purposes; (3) most difficult to accomplish — invent new mechanics

See V@P public contest — deadline July 1.