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 >>


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.


quarta-feira, 20 de junho de 2018

Two highlights from DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN

Right now, I am playing DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN, a new title by Quantic Dream studio. As its predecessors – Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, and Beyond: Two Souls – the game uses cinematographic language with its mechanics based on decision trees. During most part of the narrative, you must take significant decisions that will affect the course of the game and result in different ends for the story. The trailer below shows the gaming dynamics and main plot:

Besides the immersive narrative and beautiful graphics, I want to comment on two great features of this game.

1) The ending phase screens show the complete decision tree of each chapter. This is a very cool feature from DETROIT, you can observe in details what type of consequence your acts generated inside the gaming narrative. This visual aid helps players understand how each character works in the ambient. Below, there’s an example of this feature.

2) The opening screen always has an interesting content. Every time you start to play DETROIT, there’s one opening screen with a very sympathetic female android named Chloe giving you a technological trivia. I was playing it in June 7th and she told me that that day was Alan Turing’s (the British mathematical genius) date of death. Then, last Saturday morning she told me “this is a perfect way to start a good weekend”. The android also takes interesting surveys, asking players about the interface between human and machine. It is just a “content snack”, but it helps to contextualize the gaming experience in a more immersive way. Below, I’m sharing some of these moments:

Another great acquisition for my collection.


terça-feira, 29 de maio de 2018

Thinking about game design

I found this excellent graph in @joebaxterwebb's site. It's a synthetic and great game design lesson to think before gaming development. You can read the complete article HERE.

Sure I'll use in my game designing classes next semester. =)

Thanks, Joe for this great content.


quinta-feira, 17 de maio de 2018

MIND ALONE available for download

Today is a happy day for me. In a partnership with Sioux Studio (São Paulo) I’m launching my new mobile game named MIND ALONE.

I already wrote about this game here and now I’m presenting the final version, ready for download.

MIND ALONE is an experimental mobile game that uses puzzle mechanics to create a dark narrative about somebody trapped in their own mind. Each puzzle is a memory and the player needs to solve them to find hints about how it happened. Check the trailer below:

It’s the first game of a trilogy and it’s free for download on Apple and Android platforms.

We are just adjusting some puzzles – any feedback would be awesome.

One more for the portfolio and for the game designing classes!


sexta-feira, 27 de abril de 2018

Like a book made to play: the immersive experience of “Here They Lie”

Here They Lie is a Playstation 4 game signed by Tangentlemen and Santa Monica Studio. The game transports you to a terrifying parallel world from which you cannot escape. Inside this bizarre place, it’s necessary to explore a nightmarish city inhabited by malevolent creatures. In this experience, the point of view is first-person and you can only use an old flashlight as a weapon.

In the whole gaming narrative you must wrestle with life or death moral choices to uncover the mystery of the woman in yellow (a kind of Ariadne that guides you through the city maze and corridors inside buildings). There are two ways to play Here They Lie: classic version or using VR glasses (which enhances the immersion in the story). Check the mysterious trailer below:

Despite the beautiful graphics and soundtrack, Here They Lie caught my attention through the perfect balance between narrative and gameplay. You only run from the monsters; inside this dark dimension, you are only a voyeur, observing a scenario of pain and blasphemous acts. The only thing you really do is walking around the huge city capturing hints to discover what is happening. Where’s the fun in it? I think Here They Lie is the kind of experience that brings literature features to play.

For me, having played Here They Lie from the beginning to the end was like reading a book written with a Kafkanian and Lovecraftian touch. The situation is too absurd but, with the suspension of disbelief, you can accept that this strange world makes sense. The story grabs your attention and curiosity leads you to find the answer for some questions like: How did I get here? Who is the woman in the golden dress? What are the creatures with animal heads? Why did it happen to me?

Games like this one lead us to the multiple possibilities that we can experience today in the gaming market. We still have “triple A” first-person shooters with zombies but on the other hand, a huge universe to explore fantasy in a different way. We are leaving a privileged ambient of ludic possibilities. To play different games like this one is to create a richer repertoire for classes, gaming projects or gaming discussions.

Let’s play!