Profound games: metaphors to convey meaning

Akrasia - euphoriaAt last night’s monthly meetup, Doris Rusch shared with us the game her GAMBIT team built this past summer (Doris was the product owner). See Doris’s own writeup of Akrasia — a game about addiction. Her presentation largely covered the points she made on her blog post, but here are some major takeaways from her experience:

  • A rhetorical game should have a clear perspective: something specific to say.
  • When developing a game around a vision, meaning must precede mechanics — in contradiction to the usual approach to game development.
  • In playtesting and iteration, it’s important for the keeper of the vision to hold the team to the message rather than just respond to player feedback. The goal isn’t merely to get the game to “work;” if it’s to succeed at the core theme, it must hew to it as well.
  • One of the major questions that arose is: How do we know that the game is “successful”? (1) When players “get” what the game is about, or (2) When they “get” the experience? Ultimately, Doris concluded that the game need not be understood in the way the creators intend — “Interpretive richness is important for profundity.”

Several of us at the meetup had played with the game in beta state during the summer and were excited to see how it turned out. It’s worth trying — download Akrasia here.