terça-feira, 4 de dezembro de 2018

A brief discussion about newsgames

In contemporary times, games have undoubtedly taken a protagonist role in different areas. We can find games as educational tools, in marketing campaigns, training employees in companies or just entertaining certain audiences. Games are a powerful media and a rich platform to share meaningful messages.

Based on these thoughts, games also can be used as a platform for journalism content. It is possible to think strategically the use of games to spread news, discuss current events or critically think about one specific subject discussed in the media. This category of game can be considered what some specialists call “newsgame”.

About the use of games in this field, it is relevant to emphasize that “journalism can and will embrace new modes of thinking about news in addition to new modes of production. Rather than just tack-on a games desk or hire an occasional developer on contract, we contend that newsgames will offer valuable contributions only when they are embraced as a viable method of practicing journalism – albeit a different kind of journalism than newspapers, television, and web pages offer” (BOGOST; FERRARI; SCHWEIZER, 2010, p.10).

In the book entitled “Newsgames: journalism at play” (2010), Bogost, Ferrari and Schweizer discuss several categories of this type of game. In this post I want to highlight one of them: the “current event games”. According to these authors, this kind of newsgame aims to dwell over some fact occurring in this moment in the world using a ludic interface.

One interesting case of “current event games” that we can bring to this post is the experimental game September 12th. Created by the Uruguayan game designer and researcher Gonzalo Frasca, September 12th suggests a reflection about the day after the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11th; the interface shows a Middle-Eastern village with some terrorists with weapons and civilians and the only thing you can do is aim and shoot bombs to kill the characters. The interesting thing is: every time you kill a terrorist you also kill civilians and other civilians around – when noticing the fact – become new terrorists in an infinite cycle of death and violence (BOGOST; FERRARI; SCHWEIZER, 2010, p.11, 12 & 13).

In the video below it is possible to understand the gameplay:

Once again, games are occupying an even more relevant role in the contemporary scenario. The gaming use for news is one more aspect to reflect on how ludic languages can reach different audiences in the quotidian life. If you are interested in this gaming category, I strongly suggest the site Molle Industria to try other examples of newsgames.



BOGOST, Ian; FERRARI, Simon; SCHWEIZER, Bobby. Newsgames: journalism at play. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2010.

domingo, 4 de novembro de 2018

Three gaming interfaces to pay attention to

In this post, I want to discuss some gaming interfaces and user experience features in games. I will use my three favorite games for this present post, but the subject is broader and allows a bigger discussion that I intend to return to, next month.


In the horror-fiction game Dead Space, the interface is something to pay special attention to. The character’s (Isaac Clarke) main statuses are disposed in a very strategic way: the life meter is located on his back in the shape of a spinal light, the weapon ammunition is showed as a small number when you aim the gun and, finally, the game has an interesting resource that is a luminous laser to help you easily locate the way the character must go (and it saves time in the complex scenario maze).

HERO (Atari)

This one is a relic from the beginning of the video-gaming era. HERO is an interesting case of user experience (UX) and interface with very limited constrols. Atari’s joystick has only one button and one directional stick; with only two resources, HERO’s designers implemented a wide range of possibilities: when you press the red button in the joystick the character uses its laser vision to kill enemies; by pressing down the control stick the character launches a dynamite do open walls and, finally, when you hold the control stick up the character flies using a jetpack. A very rich interface and UX created using minimal resources.

Entwined (PS4)

One of my favorite indie games Entwined is a great case of interface and usability. All the gameplay is based on how you can manage the two control sticks from PlayStation’s joystick. During the whole experience, you must control the two mystic entities by only using circular movements; the user experience is focused on coordinating two different positions simultaneously (a challenge to your dexterity). Entwined is an incredibly created game, using only circular movements in two control sticks, a master class of game design.

On the three cases related in the post, we can clearly see the ideas of how games must strategically use concepts from the user experience field. To finish this conversation I want to share some content from the site nForm about this subject:

The user experience is not one simple action – it is an interconnected cycle of attempting to satisfy hopes, dreams, needs and desires. This takes the shape of individuals comparing their expectations to the outcomes generated by their interaction with a system. Managing expectations then becomes key to successfully providing a satisfying “return on experience” that delights users and generates shared, sustainable value”.


segunda-feira, 15 de outubro de 2018

Five excellent documentaries about gaming culture and gaming industry

1-) Indie Game: The Movie - is the first feature documentary film about making video games. It looks specifically at the underdogs of the video game industry, indie game developers, who sacrifice money, health and sanity to realize their lifelong dreams of sharing their visions with the world.

2-) Screenland - A documentary series that immerses viewers in the artists, makers, designers, players and coders who are revolutionizing the new digital worlds through screens all around us.

3-) Atari: Game Over - For the documentary, the filmmakers excavated the landfill site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where many E.T. game cartridges were buried. The excavation dig took several months of preparation, and was finally carried out on April 26, 2014. Although the digging had only been planned to go as deep as 18 feet, it actually went to 30 feet. Around 1,300 of the approximately 700,000 games buried were unearthed.

4-) King Of Kong A fistful Of Quarters - the documentary follows Steve Wiebe in his attempts to take the high score record for the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong from the previous holder, Billy Mitchell.

5-) AlphaGo - In October 2015, AlphaGo became the first computer Go program to beat a human professional Go player without handicaps on a full-sized 19×19 board. This documentary shows this awesome battle between human versus machine.


segunda-feira, 1 de outubro de 2018

About hyper casual games

In 2014, I wrote a post titled “Casual games for casual players”, analyzing important features a good casual game must have. This category of games had a boom with the rise of mobile media (smartphones and tablets). Probably the most iconic case that we can discuss here is the Angry Birds phenomenon: a beautiful game with rules you can understand in a second, a high level of replay, and available for a cheap price. Angry Birds became a model in the app stores and after that we could observe a great number of casual games that explored different business models using these simple mechanics.

We have many casual games in different platforms today, but there’s a new idea rising strongly: the hyper casual games concept. These categories of games, according to Johannes Heinze are “games that are lightweight and instantly playable”. Note the difference: the hyper casual are instantly playable; this makes a big difference in today’s gaming context.

Companies like Voodoo and Ketchapp Games (both French) are two good examples of how to explore business models using hyper casual games. They are creating very simple and addicting games. You play them and, if you like them, there’s a possibility to buy a premium version of the game without ads, or you can play it and watch the ads.

One good example of this kind of game is the awesome Helix Jump (one of my favorites). Check the gameplay trailer below:

Here in Brazil, companies like Sioux are investing in this gaming category. They launched a very interesting title named Overjump. Do the exercise: watch the video and notice that in the first 8 seconds you already understand the mechanics.

The most important point of this discussion is the rising of hyper casual games parallel to a big triple A titles showing us that we are living a great moment in the gaming industry: a moment full of opportunities.


segunda-feira, 3 de setembro de 2018

Game Design activity sessions – Part 1: remodelling a space war on a blank paper sheet

When I was a child, there was a game we used to play during the free time in between classes. It doesn’t have an official name, but my friends and I always called it “Space War”. Basically, the game’s main idea is:

1) in a regular blank paper trace a dividing line right in the middle of it;

2) Each player (and it’s a two player game) draws 3 to 6 spaceships (represented by triangles) randomly on their side;

3) the oldest player starts: they must draw a small circle on their side, this is called a “shot”;

4) on the next step, this player must fold the paper sheet;

5) after folding the paper the player must guess the place their opponent drew the “shot” and draw another small circle pressing the pen firmly on the area;

6) finally, the player must unfold the paper to check if the “shot” hit the target (the spaceship/triangle); then, it’s the other player’s turn to play. Important rule: one “shot” only hits a spaceship if it is completely inside the triangle area.

The diagram below shows, in images, the basic rules and game dynamics:

Ok! After trying this game and understanding it, your mission in this exercise is: trying to modify the basic gaming mechanics by adding power cards and dice, giving the ships new abilities and trying to create more uncertainty in a match. Think big and modify the space game with creativity (and try to think of a less stupid name for it).

You can share the results with me by mail, if you want >> vincevader@gmail.com


quinta-feira, 9 de agosto de 2018


I have already discussed in this post and this another post how anxiety and fear, which are disturbing feelings by definition, can play a major role in the designing of digital games. People’s desire to experience horror/terror games, or games that present many stressful situations, has created an interesting and profitable market niche, congregating a large number of players who are really enthusiastic about this kind of experience.

There are other disturbing feelings that can be strategically used in the process of game design. Today I would like to talk about uncertainty in games.

In this context, I ought to mention the book Uncertainty in games (2013), written by Greg Costikyan—the man behind classic games like Paranoia and Toon RPGs.

Costikyan (2013, p.16) argues that in real-life situations—like when we’re shopping online, electing a congressman or using software for work—we want no uncertainty, “we prefer simplicity, surety, and consistency.” While we always look forward to eliminating uncertainty when it concerns quotidian situations, products, and services, when it comes to games “a degree of uncertainty is essential” (COSTIKYAN, 2013, p.16), for it is a key factor in creating an immersive and entertaining experience for players.

How would you imagine a version of Dark Souls where enemies could be killed by a single weak blow from your shitty level-one weapon? Would you like to play a Super Mario Bros. game that lacks deadly cliffs and requires jumping just to collect coins?

Costikyan (2013, p.17-71) analyzes different kinds of games and explains that sometimes uncertainty comes from programmed random results; other times, uncertainty lies within opponents and how they perform; ultimately, uncertainty may result from the player's own abilities in the game.

I strongly recommend the book cited herein, and I would like to invite you to analyze ten of your favorite games (digital or analogic) in the light of this post. Try to figure out what kind of features caught your attention in those games—uncertainty was probably one of them.



COSTIKYAN, Greg. Uncertainty in games. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2013.

sábado, 21 de julho de 2018

My presentation for DIGRA 2018 - Playing with a brand: the Brazilian McDonald's paper tray case

I want to share my expanded abstract for DIGRA conference 2018. I'll be in Turin in the next week for the event. =)

• • •

Playing with a brand: the Brazilian McDonald's paper tray case

McDonald’s, board game, Facebook bot, paper tray, marketing

Taking communication, marketing and entertainment as leading and intertwining landmarks of contemporary culture, this paper discusses an advertising piece from Brazilian McDonald’s restaurants, which uses a gaming interface to cast a branding message to its consumers. Acknowledging the prominence of digital networks in today’s mediapolis (Silverstone 2006), where mass self communication (Castells 2009) poses new challenges to understanding current modes of sociability and consumption, our focus will be directed to one promotional board game presented in the paper used to protect the food tray in McDonald’s Brazilian restaurants. Created by the Brazilian advertising agency DPZ&T and launched in October 2017, the game uses a “race to the end” mechanic and could be played from one to four players using a Facebook bot.

Figure 1: McDonald’s promotional paper tray using a board game with a Facebook bot interaction.

To play the game, one player must scan the special code using the app “Facebook Messenger” in their smartphone. The code starts a special bot that sends quizzes, enigmas, and trivia questions about McDonald’s to the players. Each correct answer allows players to advance their pawn in the trail. The player who wins the race receives one special chance to earn a prize (pack of French fries, ice cream etc.) from McDonald’s.

In the first part of the presentation, following the thoughts of Fullerton et al. (2008 15-16), we analyze the game design process for a promotional game. Based on information provided by the agency, we discuss the conceptual stage and the necessity to align gameplay with the marketing message; we also discuss how a prototype is created in this case, and how the beta test sessions occurred. In the end, we present technical information about how the final version is implemented with the interface between the board game (in the paper tray) and the Facebook bot (in the smartphone).

In the second part of the presentation, we highlight the strategic use of entertainment languages by companies in their marketing campaigns in the contemporary scenario, and how social media and mobile devices contribute to accelerate the process in this ecosystem. Following the idea that the quotidian is filled with playgrounds (Bogost 2016) where we can access entertainment anytime/anywhere, we discuss how companies like McDonald’s are managing these aspects to promote brand and sell products.

In conclusion, we present data and results from the McDonald’s paper tray board game. Since the game uses a digital interface, it is possible to collect data from the players, geo-locating information and inserting questions about the brand to test how players know about the company. We discuss how these data collected can be used in future campaigns or new promotional actions using games.

BIO: Vicente Martin Mastrocola, PhD. works as a graduation level teacher at ESPM São Paulo (Brazil); Vicente also works as a game designer, developing games for mobile platforms and analogical board games/card games. In the first semester of 2016, he studied at Paneurópska vysoká škola (Paneuropean University) in Bratislava (Slovakia) as part of his doctorate research.


Adams, E.; Rollings, A. (2009). Fundamentals of game design. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Bogost, I. (2016). Play anything: the pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom, & the secret of games. New York: Basic Books.
Bogost, I. (2010). Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Castells, M. (2009). Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford Press.
Fullerton, T., et al. (2008). Game design workshop: a playcentric approach to creating innovative games. Burlington: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
Silverstone, R. (2006). Media and Morality: on the rise of the mediapolis. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.