Re: [-empyre-] this bounced earlier...

Hi all,

The discussion is already rolling fast with so many threads and keen points brought on that I'd like respond to:

Jeff - regarding the open ended game design problem

I think its in Huizinga somewhere defining play as something that occurs between fixed boundaries - ie rules - this definition carries very well to ground the difference between games and open ended "virtual" worlds (some MUDs, MOOs, Activeworlds, VRML spaces ...etc..)

A handful of brilliantly designed games - Grand Theft Auto, Morrowind (too far towards open in my opinion..), Ultima Online and Everquest have found the sweet spot between the rigid and open ended design approaches and I think game design will never look back.

I think the problem I have as a player/artist within Online open ended worlds is the motivation to act in an socially expressive way within that context. I will try to explain this as best i can - It's a case of self expression - take an exhibitionist, a street performer, a "club kid", or a elegant thief - these actors motivated by expression NEED, and RELY on the set of social rules and conventions to mark then in relief.

All of my earliest game intervention work was done in Ultima Online and Everquest - to my mind these represented at the time the gaming world's equivalent of global main street - I felt I was performing in public and my audience was deeply engaged in the conventions of the world - allowing any "Subversive" actions to operate as subversive by going against the game norms. - doing this in MUDs or any open-ended world simply would not have that psychological affect for me. I think in MMOs its really all about agency(vs the game creators and vs the other players) and maintaining a sense of identity.

I wrote some about this in a paper some time ago - its at the end in the "Player Artifacts" section:

Melinda - the difference engine =  game

Yes! this makes a lot of sense and I also believe that here lies the treasure trove of potential for "indi" games -

I have two thoughts on this:

This type of game model can work either as a cross culturally disseminated artifact - and this is usually done "up the hegemonby ladder" i.e. get person X who belongs to empowered group A to play the game and identify with In game character Y who provides a certain representation of person Z belonging to disenfranchised group B


 as an empowering device where group A and group B are the same group

I think in the first example (cross cultural) the key to designing these games successfully is can you pull offf Identification - ie create immersion and then empathy after immersion is broken - and this is so much harder to do with games than with film! The graphics have a lot to do with it but so do many elements like voice acting and the use of diegetic/phenomenological elements in the game - for instance In the design of Waco Resurrection the decision to use David Koresh's real voice - form his song "book of daniel" - was a KEY factor in our game design - as was the decision to texture the and model the dividians based on the actual faces of those that died in Waco (this never got implemented BTW).

I think this type of game model of course demands more tact and subtlety of message - like any form of cross cultural propaganda

For the second type of game which primarily functions as a form of internal-progaganda UnderAsh, Delta Force, Special Force, Ethnic Cleansing, America's Army, Conflict Desert Storm etc etc - the lack of subtlety is advantageous within the group that is already politically allied (ie the Quire...or the Nation) but this lack of subtly does not work as well when crossing over to a more indifferent (or hostile...) audience.

Where I can see this (hopeful) conversation going is to the depths of the paradoxes of cross cultural representations and propaganda mechanisms - the logic of "victim representation" which is the fuel that drives the Israeli/Palestinian/Arab propaganda war. It becomes a game of who can play Underdog better.

And yet - In the Israeli/Palestinian situation we are talking about a very imbalanced power balance - I appreciate and see the need for games like UnderAsh to exist (BTW I am an Israeli...) but while playing it as an Israeli I find that I was already "In the quire" (Ie believ in a two state solution and getting the settlers out at all costs) the identification (same for Special Force) I can say worked for me though killing the Israeli soldiers in the territories - was quite chilling and strange , as I did serve in the Israeli Army in the early 90s (though not in the occupied territories) - I think I can talk more about that experience later...


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