Saturday, November 08, 2008

ideas for the Fun & Games senior seminar - Spring 2009

So there was a less-relevant-to-me speaker during the conference and I used the time to make some notes about the upcoming senior seminar. This isn't the final set of ideas - nothing is set in stone yet. I haven't played with the concepts on the concept map yet. These are just a string of random ideas I had - topics, questions to answer, possible projects

The idea for the seminar came from a conversation I had with someone from Microsoft - I think it was John Nordlinger who's the program director for research and helps organize Microsoft's cruise for computer scientists interested in videogames. He mentioned that the games industry was really interested in creating fun products but didn't have the time or resources to study the concept of fun. He thought that colleges, students and professors would have the time and skills. Sounded fun to me. I want to get some professors together to talk about how fun plays out in their field, even if professors have fun. I might still try that out - but figured it was easier to get a seminar going so going to start with that. Hopefully the students will be able to deal with a really open structure class - there's no right answer, there's no one answer. We may go round and round and the picture may still be murky when we get done - gota figure out how to let them know that's normal in research and in a lot of projects they'll do in real life. We gotta be happy with baby steps.

here's some needs
  • Raph KosterImage via Wikipedianeed readings about fun, entertainment, humor, media psych, media entertainment, effects of personality/demographics, characteristics of media, context variables, player reasons for playing - right now leaning towards reading Raph Koster's A theory of fun for game design
  • need interviews with different kinds of people to see what they say about fun
  • need articles about definitions and the process of defining things, how to figure out what's important
students divided into research teams - collect some data using different methods, present that to class, write that part of the reportsome questions we could try to answer - give each group a question to answer, they have to find readings, lead discussions, each group gets a question, has to do something in class a couple of times on their topic
  • what's fun
  • how do we recognize it
  • how can we measure it
  • how can we increase the chances of people having fun?
  • how can we imporve the fun people are having
  • do different people experience fun differently
  • is fun experience differently depending on teh medium being used
  • can work be fun
  • can work be made fun
  • does fun change as we add other activities in the game, as we add multiplayer
  • what role does flow play in fun

things I want to do in class
  • list and organize words and phrases that you associate with fun - probably use the mindmeister or draw on paper - somehow we have to get the ideas together on one map
  • interview people (video, audio) - how do they define fun (in general, not with regard to videogames specifically) - they might give you examples which is ok but you have to try and bring them around to a definition
  • look at picture tagged fun in flickr/facebook - what do they have in common?
  • different teams collect different info about fun and create initial understanding of definition
  • then do a round of projects/readings/discussion looking at how we measure fun, how we know when someone is having fun
  • end of the semester is a round of how we can make games fun, what developers should do - this part of the class is explicitly about videogames, goal is to combo the general research into something useful for the industry
  • students create report at 3 time points - collect data, analyze, write - we need a report format
  • do focus group with the guys from qual about games, fun
  • for each group's time leading class (1 week per topic or multiple weeks for a bigger set of topics
  1. 1st day - tell us what we know already, present results of lit review, written review goes into the final report, in class give us the highlights
  2. 2nd day - discuss the problems, what we don't know
  3. 3rd day - get class to discuss how we find out more

can we involve other classes - get them to take our survey, participate in our wiki description; can we invite people from SL, watch people play all kinds of games - what evidence do we see of fun?

I'd like to set up a youtube channel and invite people to post their video responses/reactions - people could use VidNik - makes uploading to Youtube easy
want to create a site for ongoing conversation ouside class, maybe a wiki page or a forums page, some place to put in raw data, links to videos, transcripts, initital analysis, our sketches, our more finished reports, other people's conversatins, interim findings

Here are some readings suggested by folks from the IGDA Game Education SIG and the Women in Gaming SIG. I need to organize and put some topic labels on (probably get to that over the Thanksgiving break)

  • Pierre-Alexandre Garneau. "Fourteen Forms of Fun" -
  • Anders Hejdenberg. "The Psychology Behind Games" -
  • Jonathan Frome. "Eight Ways Videogames Generate Emotion" -
  • Image of Nicole Lazzaro from TwitterImage of Nicole Lazzaro. "Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story"
  • D. E. Berlyne. "Curiosity and Exploration" Science, July 1966
  • Rowan Hooper. "Just How Exciting Is It?"
  • Various usability engineering presentations: (They used to have video presentations online; I'm not seeing it today...)
  • Marc LeBlanc. "Tools for Creating Dramatic Game Dynamics" The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology
  • Katherine Isbister. Game Usability: Advancing the Player Experience
  • Joseph W Kable & Paul W Glimcher. "The neural correlates of subjective value during intertemporal choice" Nature Neuroscience, December 2007
  • Michael C. Dorris and Paul W. Glimcher. "Activity in Posterior Parietal Cortex Is Correlated with the Relative Subjective Desirability of Action" Neuron, October 2004
  • Costikyan's "I Have No Words and I Must Design": - this is one of the first writings on what makes games fun, so it's a great place to start. It also begins the all-important process of building a critical vocabulary to talk about games, something that is sorely lacking in our field (though not for lack of trying).
  • Church's "Formal Abstract Design Tools": - Building on Costikyan's work, Doug Church introduces the important concepts of player intention and feedback(among other things).
  • LeBlanc et al's "MDA Framework": - one of the most influential papers dealing with the concept of "fun" that I know of. If you read nothing else, read this. I'd even put this ahead of Koster, seriously.
  • Falstein's "Natural Funativity": - Most writings in the field try to identify what kinds of things we find fun. This article gives a great theory for WHY we find them fun in the first place.
  • If you want to talk about Flow states (a la Koster), you could always assign some readings from Csikszentmihalyi's original work. - we have a video in the library of hte flow stuff - video 7521
  • "Design Elements in Contemporary Strategy Games" and "Contemporary Perspectives in Game Design" - game design books written by George Phillies and Tom Vassal - these are available as PDF's, ebooks, and as paperback trade books
  • The Origin of Myth by Joseph Campbell
  • Jesper Juul's "half-real"
  • Maslow's hierarchy of needs - some basic psych explanations for motivations
  • Chris Crawford's article "The Core Argument" at
  • Sutton-Smith trips through the topic in "The Ambiguity of Play"
  • Jesse Schell's new book "The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses" - the part about harnessing your creative subconscious has been especially recommended, along with the design lenses - this book is great overall and for my fun class. The first few lenses involve fun.
  • an out of print bookd by Elliot Avedon The Study of Games from the 1970's - here's the link. It's an anthropology of play - and the author makes the case that games are a culture's way of making sense of the world they experience. I like that take on it. Jesse Schell uses Avedon's definition of games too.
  • I have been trying to find some older articles about games and leisure activities. Here are a few that I've found and read so far: Leisure Time Activities of Economically Privileged Children by Cramer from Sociology and Social Research journal in the 50s, Games in Culture by Roberts, Arth, and Bush from American Anthropologist from 1959, and The Social Significance of Card Playing as a Leisure Time Activity by Crespi from American Sociological Review in the 50s
I found some interesting videos on YouTube too - I put them on a play list under my account (kgregson) called fun and games. I found one on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Flow. Notice I found a couple about architecture. Someone suggested having the students do a project where they look at lots of other fields and see how fun plays out there. The videos are a way to intro the idea of fun.

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