We start out NetNarr segment on games and gaming with our own experiences of game play. Our time spent in games we can easily say is for fun, distraction, relief. But what makes them work to do this?
In the 1997 movie The Game the Nicholas Van Orton character’s experience had him wondering and muttering at every turn, “Is this a game?”
In a few weeks we will take on that question, but for now, in this week, we start looking at our own game experience, and investigate the experience.
For this segment, we will also learn to express our ideas also in the form of audio; by the end of the game segment you will each produce a mini audio documentary summarizing your game understanding.
What’s Your Game?
For our opening discussion, we ask each you to share in class attributes of a favorite game you play now or in the past. This need not be a computer/video game, it can certainly be a board game, a strategy game, even a physical game.
Think of how best to explain it to someone who has no awareness or appreciation for the game. How would you convince them it is worth playing? Consider sharing:
- Start with name of game!
- What is goal of the game?
- What genre would you say game is? how would you classify it
- Are the rules fixed, explicit? discovered? open ended? Are there rules that need to be learned in the process?
- What is the mode of play (solo, collaborative, synchronous, player vs player or player vs game?)
- Are character roles important? a back story?
- What is the motivation to play? winning? levels? status?
- What is unique about it / why does it interest you.?
- Is there some outcome or benefit beyond distraction / relaxation?
- What do you personally get out of it?
As each person is speaking, the one next to them tweets out the game, and something interesting about what the presenter said.
Discuss any important commonalities or differences between the games shared.
Play the Same Games Together
As a shared experience, we will all explore two relatively simple games. The point here is not to “win” but to understand our approaches to playing, especially if it is a new game.
Little Alchemy 2 is appropriate for NetNarr! In this game, you start with the four basic elements – air, earth, fire, water. By combining them together, you create new elements. Ultimately there are 661 things that can be made from what you started with.
Seedship is a text-based game of decision making in a world of interstellar constellation. Your goal is to find the best world for settling the 1000 humans on your ship. But every choice you make has consequences not easily predicted.
We are playing these games to engage in some discussion about how we go about playing games, do we seek shortcuts, what is our strategy? what keeps our interest, attention, how aware we are of the limits of the rules. What makes these games effective (or not)? How do these compare to the games you shared earlier?
Sound As Writing
Aren’t some of the best stories ones someone has spoken to you? What can we communicate effectively about the human experience in audio form?
We are not only studying games in this segment, we are also deploying more media skills by learning in the next few weeks how to publish, in addition to blog posts, short audio stories. Before we start recording and editing and mixing audio, it’s worth first spending some time appreciating how audio can be effective as a storytelling medium.
First, hear how This American Life‘s Ira Glass talks about the building blocks of a story
Next, listen to Radiolab‘s Jad Abumrad brief description of how radio creates empathy
Well, maybe that sounds like nice ideas, what about in practice? In this week (and beyond) several of our readings on games will be via audio. Start with a RadioLab episode on Games
A good game–whether it’s a pro football playoff, or a family showdown on the kitchen table–can make you feel, at least for a little while, like your whole life hangs in the balance. This hour of Radiolab, Jad and Robert wonder why we get so invested in something so trivial. What is it about games that make them feel so pivotal?
Listen to the whole episode, take notes.
But more than than, pay attention to the way they use audio. Do you notice sound effects? the style of editing? use of layering of more than one sound atop another?
Play The Checklist Game
Featured Image: Single frame from preview of Youtube video of The Game (1977)