Wednesday, 17 October 2012

DD3000 DESIGN FUTURES #6: Authentic Experiences and Reality in Modern Games

Today we've been going through Authentic Experiences and Reality in Modern Video Games. The text that follows is taken from the notes I've taken during the lecture:

What is an experience?
- A single or series of events that evoke an emotional response that is memorable.
- There is no such thing as a completely forgettable experience.
- An authentic experience is one that is considered 'real'. However, Joseph Pine argues otherwise:"There is no such thing as an inauthentic experience. This is because the experience takes place inside us, it is our reaction to the events that are staged in front of us. So if we are in any sense authentic human beings then every experience we have is authentic"- Joseph Pine, 2004

 Joseph Pine's talk about What consumers want:

- Experiences can be shared with others, but they will be the exact same experience. E.g. When watching a football match, the fans of the winning side will not have the same experience as the fans of the losing side.
- There is no such thing as a 'completely authentic' experience, either.
- Pine argues that "as people who wish to serve our consumers, we have to render what the consumer perceives as authentic".
- By the very nature, videogames generally provide inauthentic experiences. They take place in artificial worlds, have boundaries etc.
- As games designers, he provide a 'fake reality', immersing the player in a fictional story, fictional environment etc.
- However, we never claim that this world we have created is the real world. Instead, players accept this and indulge themselves in the fake reality.

Why are experiences important?
"Games designers only care about what seems to exist. The player and the game are real, the experience is imaginary - but games designers are judged by the quality of the experience." (Schell, 2008)
- The game itself is not the experience; it only facilitates the experience through the player's interaction with it.

- Books and films are all linear experiences.
- There is a direct mapping between what is created and what is experienced.
- Games give their audience much more control over the pacing and sequencing of events.
- Therefore, more planning is required to ensure that players are given sufficient direction towards experiencing what the designers want them to experience.
- As designers, we mainly use Introspection; examining our own thoughts and feeling about our creations to compare them with the intended experience.
- Reflection, observation and evaluation = informed judgements about what works and what doesn't.
- Introspection is not perfect- what is true for us may not be true for others.
- We don't design games on our own. We work in teams, composed of several different people, each with their own opinions.
- Once released, anyone can buy and play a game, not just members of the intended audience. These people may intepret and experience your game in a way you had not even considered, e.g. a refugee from a war-torn country or a veteran soldier playing Call of Duty may have a different experience from the average gamer.
- 'Personal opinions cannot be trusted' also poses its own problems. For example, certain play testers may simply not be interested in the genre of your game, which will affect their opinion of it.
- You can't leave every decision to play-testing, especially early in the design process. Sometimes you just have to trust your own judgement.
- Before a game is finished, a play tester may dismiss an unusual idea. Rejected ideas = Missed opportunities
- Consciously measuring an experience can also taint the experience and give you a false impression.
- One way to avoid this is through non-evasive passive monitoring. Mapping emotions to a controller is another method.
- While games share conventions with films, TV and books, their interactivity provides exclusive opportunities.

Game Mechanics
- Mechanics are the core of the game. They can be categorised into 4 key areas.
  1. Space- The space that players interact with, the boundaries of the game.
  2. Objects- Things that reside within the game space that can be interacted with e.g. characters, items etc.
  3. Attributes- Statistics or components attributed to each object e.g. position, weight.
  4. States- Variables of the attributes e.g. percentage of health remaining.
- Mechanics define what is possible within the game. It is important that they function as intended so the experience is correct, otherwise the player will have a negative experience. This can be as simple as a badly designed control scheme.
Poor Game Mechanics = Frustration = Negative experience
- The best story, visuals and audio design cannot make up for poor game mechanics.
- Bugs are the nemeses of designers, affecting the game with adverse effects and unpredictability.
- Thorough and well-executed design can significantly reduce the number of bugs.
- However, there is no such thing as a bug-free game.
- The best games have had all game-breaking bugs ironed out, along with most aesthetic bugs.

- The plot is essentially the narrative. This can be shaped so that the player is encouraged to experience certain emotions.
- These emotion include:-
  • Triumph
  • Tragedy
  • Romance
  • Horror
- Unlike linear plots, games can allow players to have an active role within the storyline, letting them feel more involved and engaged.
- Characters are useful elements in allowing designers to create an experience. They can be broken down into categories:-
  • Major Characters
  • Secondary Characters
  • Tertiary Characters

- Aesthetics are essentially the visuals and the audio, acting as the bridge between the player and the game.
- They make up everything that is seen or heard in a game.
- Gives designer a chance to 'wow' the player and are essential for creating profound experiences.
- Historically accurate or environments that are loosely based on real-life are more believable by association, allowing for a more profound emotional connection.

Why is reality important?
- Games with believable visuals and audio are generally more immersive, making it easier for players to form an emotional connection.
Stronger Emotional Attachments = More Profound Experiences = More Memorable
- The idea of merging the illusion of authentic experience with reality has been explored greatly over the past few years.
- Over the years, developer have developed tricks and techniques to convince players to become immersed. E.g. in MMOs - Time Invested = Worthwhile Experience = Justified Payment of Subscription/ Extras

- Peripherals are physical hardware which allow players to interact with the game, acting as a bridge between reality and the experience.
- They are often themed to a specific game, e.g. Guitar Hero's peripherals, the Wii Remote
- Future peripherals may go further to blend reality with virtual space, e.g. Google Glass, Occulus Rift, Star Trek style Holodeck etc.

And that about wraps it up. Tune in next week for... whatever we learn then.

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