quarta-feira, 27 de março de 2013

Culture of play

It is undeniable: games are part of our culture and our everyday life. We are living in an age where entertainment and work cross paths in every moment. I think it’s possible to say that certain audiences are living in a kind of “culture of play”.

My idea in this post is to discuss briefly and cast light on this subject and recommend an excellent text for further reading. I think that, in a first moment, we need to understand this “culture of play” and the idea of “play” itself.

This complex idea requires a multidisciplinary approach. To understand the “culture of play” in the mediatic scene and contemporary world we need mostly to search for knowledge in sociology, anthropology, history, psychology and other sciences.

As Ehrmann says (1968, p.55) in an antropology of play, play cannot be defined by isolating it on the basis of its relationship to an a priori reality and culture. To define play is, at the same time and in the same movement, to define reality and to define culture.

So, a good starting point for a rich discussion can be found in the reference below.

Have fun!


EHRMANN, Jacques. Homo Ludens Revisited. Yale French Studies, No 41. Game, Play, Literature (1968). pp. 31-57. Stable (download here)

quinta-feira, 21 de março de 2013


Today I’ll talk a little bit about a recent independent work. I’m a researcher/teacher in a communication university from Brazil but also a game designer. I recently started a partnership with my friend Rafael Verri to develop mobile games, and I would like to talk about our first project: TÍZ, a game for iPhone.

TÍZ (“ten” in Hungarian) is a dice rolling puzzle with ten sided dice (D10). It’s a very simple game with very intuitive interface. In TÍZ, the player can play alone versus the computer or versus a friend. The goal is to arrange the dice in lines on the board to create sequences. A sequence without connection between the numbers (like 2, 5, 9) is worth 1 point, an ordely sequence (like 5, 6, 7) is worth 3 points and, finally, a sequence with equal numbers (like 7, 7, 7) is worth 6 points. The player who gets 18 points first wins the game.

The video below is the game tutorial where it explains the mechanics and dynamics of TÍZ.

I was responsible for the game design and creation of aesthetics. The original version of TÍZ is an analogic board game with real dice and the whole idea started with a simple prototype -- my attention was focused on the core mechanic.

As Fullerton says (2008, p.188) the core gameplay mechanism, or “core mechanic” can be defined as the actions that a player repeats most often while striving to achieve the game’s overall goal. Fullerton (2008, p.189 and 190) also stresses the importance of creating prototypes to see the “soul” of the game.

The core mechanic was the starting point of the project, but we have some additional features that complete the whole game. I want to highlight some important details about the creative process of TÍZ:

1.The internal logic of creating lines with three dice and a sequence of numbers came from tic-tac-toe, Sudoku and poker.

2.The score was created from the logic of triangular numbers (click here to learn more). This resource is very helpful and lots of games use this idea for scoring.

3.The layout was designed based on minimal abstract arts from the artist Josef Albers (link here).

4. The balance of the game was made with many playtests. I insist that this is a very important part of the creative process. (check this previous post about this subject here). It’s necessary to have multiple views on the gaming dynamics to detect errors.

There's no secret or mystery. We need to play and study a lot of games to create new ludic experiences.

Download TÍZ now! Go gamers!


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

quarta-feira, 13 de março de 2013

The experience of YEAR WALK

Year Walk (2013) is a weird game. Better yet, Year Walk is a weird ludic experience.

The game is the fourth project developed by Simogo, the publisher that was responsible for launching the wonderful Beat Sneak Bandit in 2012. Year Walk is a double screen mobile interface: you can play the game on your iPad and there’s a free app for iPhone called “Year Walk Companion” (a kind of illustrated guide for the wandering monsters of the story). Both are enjoyable in their own way, but together they create an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The narrative of the game is about an old Swedish folklore legend and the gameplay is a first person adventure about glimpses and visions of the future with a very unique touch screen interaction. Year Walk tries to create an aura of supernatural feelings where you need to solve cryptic puzzles, touch and listen in search to foresee the future, and finally discover if your loved one will love you back (!). But wait, it’s not a beautiful saga with a happy ending. As I said in the begging, it’s weird (and freaky).

Check the trailer below to understand the atmosphere of the game:

And why talking about this game? Year Walk is a good example of how such a strong narrative/story can complement the idea of gameplay. The game design and gameplay are very important in this case, but the narrative is the core of the ludic experience.

As Richard Dansky says (2007, p.2), in the context of game development, story is often confused with design. The story is what happens, the flow of the game that can be separated from the game mechanics and retold as a narrative. To complement this idea, the author says (p.5) that on the most basic level, narrative strings together the events of the game, providing a framework and what can alternately be called a justification, a reason, or an excuse for the gameplay encounters.

As its best, narrative pulls the player forward through the experience.

Now on to your opinion.


BATEMAN, Chris (editor). Game Writing: narrative skills for videogames. Boston: Thomson, 2007.

quarta-feira, 6 de março de 2013

Reinventing games

What happens when you mix Bejeweled with elements of medieval fantasy? The answer is Dungeon Raid (2011), a puzzle roleplaying game.

Dungeon Raid was created for mobile platform (iOS and Android) and it is a challenge to your strategy skills. The game interface is very simple/intuitive and the only thing you need to do is trace a path, match the tiles to collect the treasure, buy and upgrade weapons and defeat monsters. In the video below we can see the gaming dynamics and mechanics:

Dungeon Raid
is a good example of how such a classic game idea as Bejeweled can gain a new skin for a new audience. So, we can notice the importance of a good repertory to create a game. Even casual games like this one.

Besides good dinamics and mechanics, Dungeon Raid has a very important narratological component: each time you play the game a new short story is presented to explain your motivation to enter the dungeon.

As Bissel reminded (2010, p.93), a good game attracts you with melodrama and hypnotizes you with elegant gameplay.

Now on to your opinion.


BISSEL, Tom. Extra lives: why video games matter. New York: 2010, Pantheon Books.