You all thought I'd finished didn't you! I was just pausing. The last slew of talk posts were all for Thursday. This is a Friday talk but I actually have less to blog about on Friday. I heard fewer interesting talks, and several of those I did hear, I had heard before. Ethan Kennerly
of Fine Game Design
was invited to talk about, you know, actual
games rather than game theory ones. He was particularly interested in the connection between the game mechanics (or simulation as he called it) and the game story. So, for instance, in chess the simulation (rules) is embedded loosely in a battle/combat story. Obviously in some games the story aspect is more important than in others. Kennerly attempted to highlight some practical problems in game design, particularly those related to making the simulation and story match up in an aesthetically pleasing fashion which he felt might benefit from some sort of theoretical framework which would help game designers understand what they were doing. The areas he highlighted were:
- Correlating the simulation dynamics of risk and return to the aesthetic experience of play - so when a player does something risky in game mechanical terms they should understand it as risky on the story level.
- Developing a theoretical relationship between challenge construction, skill acquisition and the aesthetics of drama
- How does the combinatorial game theoretic heat of a simulation state correlate to the aesthetic experience of its users?
- How do knowledge games (e.g., ones of bluff and information acquisition) extend to model correlations of a user's aesthetic experience?
- How to make the dynamics of the simulation and story channel in a dramatic game reveal character and advance conflict toward a conclusion
The presentation was a lot of fun as well as being interesting. Kennerly kept getting us to suggest either story choices that might match a particular simulation or a simulation that might match a particular story.
He also brought with him a card game he'd devised for his son to help him learn mental arithmetic. It was a surprisingly complex to play, especially in a version where you played as partners, and had us all sitting around trying to do subtraction and multiplication in our heads.
On Friday evening four of us, including Kennerly, went out for dinner during which it became clear that three of us were roleplayers. We then went on to have one of those conversations which is very boring if you happen to be the fourth person at the table - though he asked for it somewhat by asking us to explain what roleplaying actually was
, which devolved into an argument about whether one-off freeform political type games counted as roleplaying; how character and mechanics should be balanced; and the extent to which the player's skills determined the character's skills. Not to mention the aesthetics of rolling lots of dice at once
in order to simulate a really big fireball