quinta-feira, 31 de janeiro de 2013

Level Design

I'm an old school gamer. I started my gaming activities in the early eighties with the Atari console and pocket electronic games. Since then, I've played a lot of games in many different platforms, and there's a common element in all these games that attracts my attention: the "level design".

From simple to complex games, level designing is an important piece and essential component for a good (and immersive) experience to the player.

(Image source: BarryHevan's Game Design Blog)

As Adams and Rollings point out, level design is the process of building the experience that will be offered directly to the player, using components provided by the game designer. Level designers create the space in which the game takes place, the initial conditions of the level, the set of challenges the player will face within the level, the termination conditions of it, the interplay between the gameplay and the game’s story and the aesthetics of the level. (2007, p.399 & 400).

As Fullerton says, games that are organized into levels will need someone to actually design and implement each level. If your project is very small, you might design all the levels yourself. On a larger project, however, the game designer often leads a team of level designers who implement their concepts for the various game levels, and sometimes come up with ideas for levels themselves. And an important point: level designers use a toolkit or “level editor” to develop new missions, scenarios, or quests for the players (2008, p.361 & 362).

The Pac Man game for Atari (1982) has only one level. The ghosts get faster as each stage ends, but the maze is still the same. On the other hand, the God of War game for Playstation (2005) has huge screens where there are multiple challenges and a more complex level design with puzzles and many enemies.

An important point to highlight is: games can have simple level design and be as good as extremely complex games. Remember: the focus is on the player and how much fun he or she gets from the game.


ADAMS, Ernest; ROLLINGS, Andrew. Fundamentals of Game Design. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009

FULLERTON, Tracy; SWAIN, Christopher; HOFFMAN, Steven. Game design workshop: a playcentric approach to creating innovative games. Burlington: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2008.

quarta-feira, 23 de janeiro de 2013

Procedural rhetoric and games

There's a wide discussion about the persuasive power of games (video games, specifically). Frequently, we can see questions like "is it possible to learn from games? ", "could games change our ideas?" or "can you pass a conceptual/serious message through games?".

Well, the answer is “yes” if you consider video games as tools of procedural rhetoric.

As Bogost says (2007, p.3) procedural rhetoric is the practice of using processes persuasively. More specifically, procedural rhetoric is the practice of persuading through processes in general and computational processes in particular. Just as verbal rhetoric is useful for both the orator and the audience, and just as written rhetoric is useful for both the writer and the reader, procedural rhetoric is useful for both the programmer and the user, the game designer and the player.

We can see this kind of resource in educational, serious, persuasive, military and political games, among others. So, let’s work: I suggest an intensive navigation through these URLs:

Molle Industria/
Social Impact Games/
Persuasive Games

Go gamers!


BOGOST, Ian. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. MIT Press, 2007.

quarta-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2013

Narratology and Games

Narratology is an important concept inside the gaming universe. As Frasca says, there are several definitions of narratology, but basically it is the discipline that studies stories and storytelling.

Through the years, we saw video games evolving on content and narrative. From PONG (1972) to modern games, it's possible to see an enormous leap and this is also a sign of how the games have grown as cultural products.

The narrative in the first video games was very basic. In SPACE INVADERS (1978) you are a well skilled pilot trying to save the Earth from an alien invasion, but the game doesn't have any extra information and the player must imagine details of the action on his/her mind. I would like to make a disclaimer: I believe this is a very positive point in old video games - encouraging creativity in players.

In SUPER MARIO BROS (1985) it's possible to see a more structured narrative. Mario has a path to walk among different castles trying to save Princess Peach from the evil Bowser. Each stage has a connection with each other, and the game has an end with a short explanation to the player.

We saw a lot of evolution on gaming narrative through the years (Monkey Island, And Then There Were None, The Dig, etc.) , and in the last generation of video games we saw titles like HEAVY RAIN (2009) and THE WALKING DEAD (2012), where the narrative takes precedence over all other aspects.

In both games we can see a mix between movie and game. You choose actions and many dialogue lines to reach one of the multiple endings. In these cases the narrative takes the player down through an immersive experience of text and interaction.

In this category of games, combat and extreme action don't matter too much. The core is to find better answers for the dialogues between the characters and solve puzzles of different natures.

Below, you can see the gameplay idea of WALKING DEAD. You'll notice that the narrative is constructed to offer a kind of cinematic experience to the player.

It's important to highlight one fact: the gaming industry is evolving and this allows games with great variations. Maybe it's possible to say that there isn't a kind of game that is better or worse, and all games deserve to be studied to create a better gaming industry.

Now on to your opinion!

terça-feira, 15 de janeiro de 2013

Quote of the day

"Like novels, games don't come out of the blue. They come from a given designer, at a given time, in a given social situation".

Bruno Faidutti, in Appelcline, 2006 (Excerpted from the book "Eurogames: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games").

quarta-feira, 9 de janeiro de 2013


An important concept to discuss here is gameplay. Gameplay is the specific way how players interact with a game, in particular with video games. Furthermore, the game designer Sid Meier defines it “gameplay is a series of interesting choices” inside the universe of a game.

As Salen and Zimmerman proposed “a game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome”. So, maybe it's possible to say that the gameplay is the gear that moves the complex structure of a game.

Gameplay is a link between the game and the player. From a simple game to a very complex one, it's key to keep on mind the great importance of the experience of gameplay to transform the gaming moment in something meaningful for the players.


SALEN, Katie & ZIMMERMAN, Eric. Rules of Play: game design fundamentals. Massachusetts; The MIT Press, 2004

quinta-feira, 3 de janeiro de 2013


In 2012 I had the chance to be in many conferences, meetings and see excelent presentations about game design and gaming concepts.

I discussed many ideas with great professionals in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre (Brazil); Cannes (France); Santiago (Chile), Antwerp (Belgium) and Copenhagen (Denmark). It's possible to say that 2012 was a good year full of ludic discussions.

It was a year full of discussions and new doubts. So, in 2013, I propose an attitude to dwell on: "discuss more about games", instead of only "play games".

As I said in an old post "the games of tomorrow need answers that last". I think that a broader research about games will bring us better answers about how we can use games beyond fun and understand how they can change the world.

My point is that this is the century of playfulness, and more than just thinking of a way to offer games to a diverse audience, we should learn how to offer various languages of entertainment – where the game is also inserted.

Finally, I wish you a 2013 full of games and ludic interfaces. GO GAMERS!

Now on to your opinion!

quarta-feira, 2 de janeiro de 2013

Essential books about game design & gaming concepts - EPISODE VI

I recently purchased the great book "EUROGAMES: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games". EUROGAMES examines the form of eurogames, the hobbyist culture that surrounds them, and the way that hobbyists experience the play of such games. It chronicles the evolution of tabletop hobby gaming and explores why hobbyists play them, how players balance competitive play with the demands of an intimate social gathering, and to what extent the social context of the game encounter shapes the playing experience. Combining history, cultural studies, leisure studies, ludology, and play theory, this innovative work highlights a popular alternative trend in the gaming community.

It's very easy to read and it's not a theoretical book. Strongly recommended to board games fans.

WOODS, Stewart. Eurogames: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games. McFarland, 2012. (CLICK HERE TO BUY)

PS: Happy new year!