domingo, 20 de agosto de 2017

One game design exercise to rethink the past while looking at the present

This semester, I’d like to propose my students one interesting exercise from the book “The ultimate guide to video game writing and design”. Though I’ve made some modifications, the main idea is to recreate a modern game in an old fashioned way.

Some steps are necessary for this mission:

1) Choose one game from the last generation of consoles (Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch) and mobile devices (Android and iOS). The more complex, the better.
2) Try to imagine and recreate the game for the Atari platform (keep the essence of the narrative and few elements from the mechanics).
3) Using samples and print screens from Atari’s games, build a few simple interfaces for the game. This will be a big challenge. In some way, the interface must resemble some core visual elements.
4) Create a prototype for the cartridge cover.

Below, is one example that I created for this post using the game THE LAST OF US.

I tried to maintain the shooting mechanics with stealth. Characters must use the stairs simultaneously to reach the other side of the screen. In a minimalist way, I tried to keep the essence of the "clickers" enemies. Interface is very simple with stamina and ammunition.

The new game's cover is an homage to a very similar story - the movie LOGAN.

To the check the main idea from THE LAST OF US, watch the trailer below:

Many people are creating modern-retro-art for Atari games, you can check out some interesting examples in this link.



DILLE, Flint; PLATTEN, John Zuur. The ultimate guide to video game writing and design. New York: Skip Press, 2007

terça-feira, 8 de agosto de 2017

Ernest Adams - Agency vs Story

Visit to search through interviews with over 100 of the videogame industry’s most influential designers and visionaries.


segunda-feira, 31 de julho de 2017

The importance of studying games, or why I travelled half of the world to attend a gaming conference

From July 12th until the17th, I was in one of the world’s most relevant gaming conferences: DIGRA 2017. It took place in Melbourne, Australia, in the fantastic Swinburne University. I attended this event in 2011 in Netherlands (by the way, it was the first time I was in an international conference) and it was a transforming moment in my professional/academic life. This year was not different: another great experience.

When I tell people about a gaming conference, they ask me how this works. First idea that comes to their minds is a place to play the newest games from big publishers, or an event full of gaming events. Well, the idea is very different from that. In a conference like DIGRA, we talk about the game industry, game design and tendencies, but the discussion goes beyond those subjects.

This year, we had excellent debates about sexuality in games, gender in games, gaming classification, historical contexts in ludic experiences, sound design, game design, interfaces, analogic vs. digital games, philosophy inside games, social contexts in games – these are just a few examples of the whole content. How is it possible? Because games – in the contemporary scenario - became a potent media and a very important platform to socialize, interact and cast messages.

DIGRA main panel (july 6th - 2017). Pic by @vincevader

In a conference like DIGRA, the specialists are discussing all these points inside a greater subject: games. One thing is a common sense among all the researchers: it is very difficult to study it, but all of us are trying to create a more serious space to debate this. As a Brazilian researcher, I understand the importance to be part of the gaming studies field, not only in my country, but also in other parts of the globe. Networking is another important keyword in this context.

So, answering the question on the title above: I travelled half of the world to “power up” my knowledge and reach a new level in my academic research. On the next months, I’ll try to write and produce more about all that I have experienced in this event.

Next year, the conference will be in Turin, Italy. Follow the DIGRA Twitter for more information. Keep your eyes open.


domingo, 9 de julho de 2017

Time, entertainment and the state of flow

When we are experiencing certain activities, time passes differently. Time can go fast when we are playing an interesting game, or slowly if we are watching a boring movie. It varies from person to person, but all of us have different perceptions of the time passing. In this context it’s important to highlight that there’s one chronological time (seconds, minutes, hours etc.) and a subjective time (one that affects every single individual in an unique way).

This is a complex subject to discuss in a short post, so I want to talk about these perceptions related to the gaming field. To help me in this mission, I’ll summon the ideas of the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This researcher (1975) has developed the idea of flow to explain some time lapses we can experience when we are involved in some specific activity. Csikszentmihalyi (1975) explains that “flow” is a state in which a person is fully immersed in an action and highly focused to the extent that one can experience, for example, a loss in the feeling of self-consciousness and time experience. To help us visualize this concept, Csikszentmihalyi created a graph to visually explain the idea of flow:

Source: Tolstoy Therapy

In a synthetic way, we can observe that there are two axes in the graph above: one shows the degree of challenge and other shows skill and confidence levels. When we are experiencing a very stressful situation (like an emergency surgery, one very difficult test or a complex work to be done in a short period) we can enter a zone of panic and anxiety. On the other hand, if we are experiencing a very boring situation (a monotonic class, an annoying movie or a non-challenging game) we can enter a zone of complete boredom. Both extremes lead us to states of attention that - potentially - are harmful to our minds.

But there’s one zone of perfect balance between a stressful situation and a complete boredom state: the flow. When we experience a state of flow, we immerse ourselves in a state of mind that we can even feel the passing of time differently. Have you ever played videogames for three hours but inside of your head, only one hour has passed? This is one situation when a flow happens.

Games are excellent examples to illustrate this discussion. When we like the experience of playing certain games (analogic or digital), we can feel immersed in the state of flow. So, one important component of game design is how to engage players in the game experience so that they potentially access the flow state. There’s no recipe for this, but to test a lot of games with different beta testers that could show some interesting ways to do it.

I want to dedicate this post to all gamers that need to wake up early, but instead say “just ten more minutes” (and play for another hour). =)



CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, Mihaly. Play and intrinsic rewards. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol 15(3), 1975, 41-63. Online >> click here.

domingo, 25 de junho de 2017

Gamification loop

Source: Gabe Zichermann's gamification presentation on Slide Share (click here).


segunda-feira, 5 de junho de 2017

Keeping track of your gaming analysis: a personal approach to organizing notes for classes, meetings and projects

Working with game development requires a lot of references and annotations all the time. Sometimes, we need to find a good example for a game designing class; sometimes we need to reach for a fast good reference to explain some mechanics for a company’s gamification project. Or, maybe, we just need to remember a specific game to write an article or post about it. It helps a lot to have all that stuff at hand to create presentations, classes or academic content. In this post, I’ll share one method that I use to create and organize quick notes about the games I played.

1. Every single game I play is registered on an online document

I call this my “ludic journal”. I have one excel file on Google Docs where I register all played games in chronological order. For analogic games (card games, board games, dice games etc.) I write a note on the same day I played the title. For video games (console, PC, mobile etc.) I register it when I finish the game or when I have sufficiently experienced its core mechanics/narrative. It’s important to write fast to put personal impressions in the document. Usually, I write the game’s name, the day I played, give it a personal rate (one to five asterisks), summarize the game’s narrative/plot (if available), make a list of the core mechanisms and attach a pic. Like in the following example:

Type: board game
Date: December 11th 2007
Rate: * * *
Summary: Players are builders constructing the reign of Carcassonne in France. Using some special characters it’s possible to build roads, churches, castles and farms. When you finish one of these constructions, you earn points. The player with the most points wins the game. The game uses tiles and creates a very interesting design on the table and a random result at the end of each match.
Mechanisms: area control, area influence, tile placement.

2. Add tags to your notes

This second step helps me a lot. After describing the previous elements, I always create a list of tags for the game (a very personal “mix” of words to describe the game in its essence). This is very useful because it’s possible to find a game for a specific use doing a simple search for keywords in the system. Still using Carcassonne as an example, I wrote these tags for the game (tags, in this case, could be single words or even complete phrases):

Tags: Carcassonne; board game; tile game; France; historic context; build; competitive; area control; area influence; tile placement; clever graphic design; metaphor for architecture; useful for history classes; puzzle. 

This method helps me a lot to prepare content in many occasions. Last week I was preparing a class about “casual games”. A fast search in my document revealed 40 occurrences for this kind of game. So, I combine “casual games” with “funny narrative” and the system gave me 7 results. As I said: it’s a personal method. It could probably not be so useful for another person other than me, but this post is to inspire people to create their own methods.

3. I complement my notes using social networks

I like to create personal text registers for the games I have played, but I also like to organize visual references and gaming stuff in other platforms, too. My favorite place to store visual references is Pinterest. Check ot my GAMES, RPG and GAME DESIGN boards. It’s a very practical way to access ideas.

I’m preparing a second post about this subject with other personal methodologies to organize content for work. I hope it helped.

Now, on to your opinion!


domingo, 21 de maio de 2017

The Counting Kingdom: learning math could be fun

What an excellent surprise one student brought in the last “gaming analysis” class. The Counting Kingdom is an educational game for kids (6 to 8 years), that teaches basics concepts of sum and equations using a tower defense mechanics. It’s very easy: you need to cast a spell using some magic scrolls to stop the monsters. Each monster has a number of strength and the player needs to sum the scrolls to make an equal number and eliminate the enemy. Check the gameplay:

That’s a great example of how we can use a game-based learning strategy. It’s important to mention that a game like this one does not replace a math class, but it helps to complement and reinforce the studied ideas.