quarta-feira, 24 de abril de 2013

Games and simulations

Few weeks ago I participated of a discussion about important features in game design process. Among a lot of important topics, there is one that deserves special attention and asks for a highlight -- I'm talking about the idea of "simulation" in games.

It’s very common to read in some articles a few notions about this subject, but I think it's important to bring one conceptual definition to this discussion. First of all, we are talking about digital games and, in second place, all games are simulations by nature.

Becker and Parker, in their excellent book The guide to computer simulation and games say (2012, p.64) that in the computer simulation community all games are simulations, but not vice versa. If one looks at the algorithms of a fully digital game (i.e., one that is not a digital version of a traditional game) – those algorithms that actually make it behave the way it does – one will find that they are in fact simulations. While it is certainly true that most games have some aspects that classical simulations normally lack, that does not make them something other than simulations.

The quote above helps us to imagine this idea clearly. The programming code per se is a simulation tool that gives life to the game and to its interface, mechanics and dynamics.

The authors also state that (p.65), at least until recently, simulations did not normally involve the use of joy-sticks or other game-like control devices. Nowadays, we are seeing more and more simulation engines being built to take advantage of those very same devices.

In other words, the simulation field is getting wider and their practices have acquired new meanings every time. And it's even hard to say how much the games and features related to the idea of simulation affect areas beyond entertainment.

I think it’s necessary to understand better these different features to use games in a broader way. To initiate a deeper discussion I recommend the book listed in the reference of this post below.

Have a nice reading.


BECKER, Katrin; PARKER, J.R. The guide to computer simulations and games. John Wiley & Sons: Indianapolis, 2012.

quarta-feira, 17 de abril de 2013


Today I want to talk about one of my favorite ludic genres: puzzles. Puzzles are a good format to structure interesting choices in your games.

Puzzle games, by definition, focus on logical and conceptual challenges, although occasionally the games add time-pressure or other action-elements.

We have pure puzzle games like Tetris (by the way, Tetris is credited for revolutionizing gaming and popularizing the puzzle genre), Bejeweled and Dungeon Raid. We also have a hybrid format that mixes puzzles with another gaming genres, as we can see in God of War and Resident Evil (action + puzzle). It seems that a balance between action and puzzle is a great way to structure a good narrative/gameplay to your game.

Fullerton says (2008, p.324) that puzzles are also a key element in creating conflict in almost all single player games. There is an innate tension in solving the puzzle. They can contextualize the choices that players make by valuing them as moving toward or away from the solution.

Ernő Rubik, the Hungarian architect and creator of the magic cube, said a long time ago that “the problems of puzzles are very near the problems of life, our whole life is about solving puzzles”.

Inside the puzzle genealogy we have many different examples: textual puzzles, puzzles with numbers, visual/color puzzles and much more.

I’m studying some puzzle logics for a new iPhone game design project. Soon, I want to share some impressions and sketches about the game with my readers.

Now on to your opinion.


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

quarta-feira, 10 de abril de 2013

Beyond the entertainment

I believe it's possible to say games are far beyond pure and simple entertainment. You can find several examples of gaming use in the fields of health, politics, economy and social causes.

I want to share a great quote from Jesper Juul that helps us understand this fact. As Juul says (2005, p.8) games are usually well-structured problems, and this has led to them being used in several other fields.

The idea of “well-structured problems” is correlated with relevant contents, creative concepts, well defined interface and the coherent use of game mechanics in non gaming contexts.

Finally, entertainment is a language that creates a mediation between various aspects of our daily lives.You must understand this language to innovate in several other areas of knowledge.

Think about it.


JUUL, Jesper. Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. USA: MIT Press, 2005.

quarta-feira, 3 de abril de 2013

Essential questions to answer during a game design process

Regardless of the platform, every gaming project has some common elements that need special attention. The authors of the book Game Design (reference at the end of the post) created a good list of essential questions (2007, p.86-87) to a game design project.

These questions are important in order to give you a concept form as a game and avoid a poorly defined idea. Let’s check this useful content:

1.Can you describe the game concisely in one paragraph? Keep in mind that you need to explain the main idea of the game in less than 30 seconds. Try to describe your favorite games in one paragraph to exercise.

2.Can you summarize the story? You can find excellent references on the back cover of video game cases.

3.Which platform? Playstation or card game? Xbox or board game? Remember: a good idea can be multi-platform, sometimes.

4.Does it fit a genre? First Person Shooter, puzzle, 2D platform, survival horror, etc. What kind of game we are talking about?

5.What’s the target audience? There’s a difference between creating a horror game for adults and an puzzle game for children. You need to knowyour target audience deeply. This is very important: you’ll create a game for a specific audience, not for you.

Think about that in your next game design project.


THOMPSON, Jim; BERBANK-GREEN, Barnaby; CUSWORTH, Nic. Game Design: principles, practice, and techniques - the ultimate guide for the aspiring game designer. New Jersey: Wiley, 2007